Previously in Part 1 I wrote about the events leading up to the wedding day and the various ceremonies that take place to get traditional blessings on the wedding – now the focus switches to the main event, and the amazing banquet that takes place…
At about 6pm at a local restaurant the bride and groom, along with their respective parents, welcome the guests to the wedding. A large electronic sign outside that perhaps on other days reads: “Hot Fresh Food” has been changed to announce the wedding. Most tables are arranged like they would be at a wedding in the UK, with a head table and stage in the main room, although rather interestingly there are some private rooms as part of the wedding party used here too, where some of the more important guests get a little more privacy. It is very important that the bride’s father’s family and business associates get good seats, and the ceremony is opened with a speech from his boss, and he even cracks a few jokes in English to welcome us!
The ceremony then takes place, with China’s answer to Ant or Dec providing a more TV presenter style to the ceremony than perhaps a religious figure as we would be used to! He guides us through the bride being given away by her father, vows to each other, the exchanging of rings, pouring a champagne tower and of course the all-important kiss. After a speech from the best man and another speech from the groom, offering traditional thanks to all the guests for coming and wishes of good luck in the future, the banquet begins, and my what a banquet!
In the traditional Chinese style, dishes are placed in the middle of the table and shared, with drinks of rice wine (“Baijiu”) placed beside each person and only drunk (and drunk down whole) when a toast is raised, and believe me, a lot of toasts are raised!
I could not believe then, with frantic waitresses running around at rapid speeds to keep the food hot, how dishes and dishes and more dishes and more dishes were continually placed and replaced on our table, and I counted no less than 21 savoury plates! There was: Turtle floating in a soup, River fish, Spicy red chilli soup, Sweet pumpkin, Oysters, Rice with fish, Dumplings and steamed buns, Peanuts, Sweetcorn, Garlic Broccoli, Mushrooms, Spring rolls, Tofu, Mango and fruit plates, Chicken in a soup, Chicken stew, Sweet soup, Deep fried pork, Pork in breadcrumbs, Spicy pork, Duck pancakes, and slices of beef! This really was a feast to end all feasts and we all enjoy the plethora of magnificent food!
During the eating and drinking the bride has changed her dress from a white wedding dress to a red wedding dress, and goes around each table receiving more red envelopes with money from the guests. This is what is often provided instead of wedding gifts like we may receive in the UK. Then, as is tradition, the bride and groom and their parents circulate every table and toast each guest to say thank you for coming, a feat that leads a few of the glasses of rice wine to be replaced with water to ensure the bride and groom are still standing at the end of it!