Yesterday Dave and I attended a Chinese wedding, the third one for me and Dave’s fifth. Now I understand a little of what goes on (they are all in Chinese) I will try and describe the event. A lot of our friends have experienced their children’s weddings lately and thus this blog may be of interest, not only in pointing out the differences but also in describing the similarities between Chinese and western weddings.
We arrived at the wedding hall on the dot of noon. Dave had been told what time as the invitation was all in Mandarin, even the taxi driver had trouble reading it and we ended up asking a pedestrian to explain it for him.
Their are many wedding halls scattered about Taipei, the wedding reception is planned by them in consultation with the bride and groom, hotel ballrooms are also available for the same service. In the old days and even today in the countryside, these receptions are held in the street under a a big tent awning.
On entering the huge room, filled with round tables and a large stage at one end, we were greeted by the parents of the groom, as his guests. We then handed over our “Hang Bao” or red envelope; filled with a set amount of money depending upon the relationship of the giver to the bride or groom: to a receptionist seated at an entrance table and Dave signed his name on a large sheet of paper which included all the guest signatures. At our table were people of similar rank to Dave, or English speakers, or people who worked with him. A young couple sat with us with a 7 month old baby girl whose English name was Doris. She was beautiful with a rosebud mouth and big dark eyes, Doris helped to amuse us while the speeches went on, she was fascinated by our strange language and looks as this was here first meeting of “westerners”, so long as she could see her mum she was happy to sit on our knees. Eventually she fell asleep but she was not alone quite a few children came with their parents. Most parents work and as the wedding was on a Saturday afternoon this is family time so children are included.
Although the tables were laid for 10 we had only 8 at ours,(not counting Doris) however most had their full quota leaving a guest count of about 200 people, this is average for weddings of this kind, one we went to recently had almost 400 people. The invitation of guests to help celebrate at Chinese wedding receptions is not only for friends and family but also for people that make up the general community surrounding both families. This was shown clearly in the choice of the two people who gave speeches. One was the brides boss the other the grooms boss.
At about 12:30p.m. the proceedings began with the bride and groom entering the hall and walking toward the stage accompanied by the strains of the wedding march, they were attired in a beautiful long white dress and dress suit. Arriving on the stage they exchanged red cords and placed them on each others white gloved fingers, all the while a presenter was explaining and introducing them and their parents who joined them on stage. While all this was taking place the food was being served. Each table was equipped with a central lazy Susan upon which the dishes were placed, usually two at a time, for us to help ourselves.
Everyone was encouraged to take the leftovers home with them as all the dishes were considered expensive and rare and taking food home is normal in this case. The wedding hall provided containers to use.
Twelve dishes were served during the three hours of the reception, they were auspicious dishes usually served at weddings and include; though not in this order, Sharks fin soup (unfortunately still considered an important dish), lobster with various delicious sausages, dish of prawns in sauce, sweet rice balls, dish of various hard shellfish, pig in the form of large chunks of pork with fat and skin attached (once you remove the fat and skin this is delicious), chicken, chicken soup, plate of fresh fruit, chocolate cake. While we were enjoying the food the wedding party were touring around the tables each time receiving a toast, they were drinking red fruit juice we had red wine or fruit juice.
One of the traditions at the Chinese wedding reception is for the bride to wear 3 different dresses, all long. In this case the first was a traditional white wedding gown as worn by westerners, the second was a lovely pale grayish/pink. The introduction of this gown was made by the happy couple arriving in the banquet hall from the second level by an open lift with wrought iron railings around it. It was after this arrival that the speeches were made. Later the third dress made its appearance, emerald green, and again the lift was brought into service only this time it stayed at the first level while the bride’s posy took the spot light. Four men and four women, all single, were called up and each was given the end of a ribbon the other end of which was attached to the posy in the brides hand, at the appointed time they pulled on their end of the ribbon to find which two remained attached to the brides posy. These lucky two were given cinema tickets to use on a date with each other, both parties were strangers until this event. It will be interesting to see what becomes of this date. Yes we know the man, he is very eligible!
By now we had all eaten our fill and the time was up, it being 3pm so everyone got up to leave, it always surprises me how quickly everyone exits, no one hangs around as they all go off to do other things later in the day.
At the beginning of the reception and before it began as well as during, the bride and groom were featured in their own video shown on a large screen hung above the stage. It consisted of still photos taken of the couple in various poses and outfits as well as photos of each when they were younger, the whole accompanied by a sound track of love music.
I must explain the above is a Chinese wedding reception, the actual wedding ceremony, whether civil or religious, is usually attended only by close family and is taken care of earlier in the day.
An interesting way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.