Non-Traditional/Traditional Chinese Wedding

To continue my month on love and dating…. as luck would have it one of my very good friends got married yesterday.  As most of you know about me, I am always all up in the mix when it comes to all things Chinese.  So, I happily agreed when my friend asked me to not only come to the wedding but to be in the wedding.   I was very excited to be a part of a traditional Chinese wedding.  Since, my wedding was very non-traditional.

I was told ahead of time that I would have to prepare a song to sing in Chinese, and certify the wedding (a chinese tradition) and they wanted to add some Western vows.. just to be cool… and wanted me to officiate those.  I realized that I have  quite a few parts in this ceremony.   Let me just tell you guys how this day began…. Maybe you can picture how exhausting it was.

I live about 2.5 hours away from where the wedding was being held.  My husband and I were asked to bring a few people with us in the car.  (since we have a car now.. we are the unofficial taxi)  We had to leave our town at 6:30 am .. to be able to arrive at the groom’s home at 9am promptly.   Taking into account Chinese traffic.. we arrived in Hangzhou at 8:55am...(right on time) … when we arrived at the groom’s home… we were told via cell phone… that we needed to go to the bride’s home for the first part of the custom.

Once we found the bride’s home, there were about 6 black BMWs  with little pink flowers and bows on them.  These cars were lined up along the road waiting to escort the bride to her new home.  The groom was sitting in a bright red BMW convertible parked outside the bride’s home, it also had a large heart shaped bouquet on the hood.   The groom has two groomsmen, my husband, another mutual friend, and myself to be with him at this time.   It seems that we all needed to go get the bride from her home and bring her to the groom’s home… (her new home his current home).   This process is not as easy as you would think.    We had to climb 7 flights of stairs…(after waiting outside the building for an hour).   After, I almost died walking up these stairs in heels,  we were stuck outside the door, due to the fact that the groom needed to answer questions, and pay money to get into the apartment.   Once inside, there were two doors, with the double happiness symbol.   He had to select the correct door…(we helped him because we saw the light under the door).   Once the correct door was selected… he had to answer another series of questions… and pay more money…. this went on for about 20 minutes.    He had to do 20 push ups, and say “I love you” in eight different languages.   (we also helped with that…. since I knew spanish, and how to say it in japanese.. it helped).   Finally, the door was opened.    The groom then had to get on his knees and beg the bride to be his wife.  She in turn made him drink some concoctions and say some silly things before she agreed.   He also gave her the bouquet at this time.

After all that drama that lasted another 30 minutes, the bride and groom had to take some photos with everyone.  Then began the tea ceremony.  The bride and groom had to get on their knees and give the bride’s mother and father tea, they in turn gave them red envelopes with money inside… and a solid gold ship to represent a smooth sailing marriage.   More photos and then it was time… for the groom and the groomsmen to find the bride’s new shoes.  (evidently, the mother of the bride buys some new shoes and then hides them and they need to find them in the room somewhere)   After, 15 minutes of looking for golden shoes, they finally find them and get some bags and the bride and walk her down a red carpet… all the way down the stairs to the waiting cars.  Fireworks and streamers are shot in the air and more photos are taken.  Once the bride is in the convertible… the mother puts the shoes on the bride’s feet and kisses her good-bye, many tears at this time.  Then we all scrabble to get into the cars and drive her to her new home.

Although, they only lived a block apart…. the cars travel around town for 30 minutes, I guess to kill time and to get on my nerves.  When we finally arrive at the new apartment, there is another red carpet that we need to follow.   This time we have an elevator..(thank god) once in the new apartment, there is another tea ceremony for his parents.   Tea is drank and money is exchanged.  Then it is time for lunch.

We all head across the street to a hotel, where lunch had been prepared in a large room with about 8 dishes of food prepared in the traditional chinese family style.   Big tables with food piled on a lazy Susan, and everyone takes their chopsticks and eats from all the dishes.  Not very sanitary but it gets the job done.

We then all pile into those black cars again and head across town…. 1 hour away…. to a park.   It seems this park is very popular for weddings since there are about 12 other couples with their cars and photographers taking photos.   The bride and groom take several photos here …I start to get a little tired and a headache… so we leave early and head for a drug store… and the hotel for the wedding party.

Once we arrive to the hotel, we meet the parents ,who were setting up the room.   Since, I had to sing a song…I went directly to the music guy to practice.   Then proceeded to practice my speech with the interpreter.   I didn’t want to mess this up.

Finally, after waiting another hour…. the bride and groom arrive to practice their show.  Although, the celebration was supposed to start at 5:30pm… everyone was on BP Time (Black People Time) and it did not start until 7 pm.   I was surprised to see several foreigners there and out of the 12 foreigners…5 were Black American… (we must have had all the Black Americans in the Province all in one spot….hehehe..I am surprise they didn’t riot)…The show began .. with the host doing some silly jokes in Chinese, the groom and bride saying some funny things about each other.    Then they bowed to the audience… bowed to the parents… and bowed to each other.    The parents sat down… and the bride and groom….exchanged rings, cut the cake, lite a candle together, and open champagne and made a toast.   They walked back down the catwalk… and the bride gave the bouquet to her …Matron of honor.  (no tossing of the bouquet here).

Dinner was served while the bride changed into yet another dress (she had 5 dresses that she changed into and none of them were your traditional Chinese dress).… she had two wedding gowns that were white and different styles, she had a silver, sparkly gown… 1930’s style… kind of gangster woman-ish, she had a deep, burgundy wine dress that was an empire waisted dress.  All were very beautiful and her hairstyle changed with each one.   Dinner consisted of about 12 dishes of food, 27 tables, with wine, beer, sprite, coke, orange juice, and white rice wine.  We were the dry table… so only cola and juice for us.    They passed out cigarettes, and had little boxes of candy for all of us.

During dinner the bride and groom came back out… and it was then my turn to give my speech and do the vows for them.   (it went well… they were very moved) … we went back to our tables.. and the host decided to play some silly games with the people in the crowd.   After that…. the entertainment was called up on stage.  Two male Chinese singers…(not very good… they seemed to have drunk a lot before hand)… a dancer…he did a…kind of Michael Jackson impression….(poor MJ would turn over in his grave if he saw that one).… a very handsome, Black American man did a love poem in Chinese ..(had a nice James Earl Jones voice)... and I had the last spot… to perform my traditional Chinese song .. in Chinese of course…. I think I surprised everyone with my performance…. I got a standing ovation.   (I could see Michael’s smile from the stage)..One person told me they had never heard a foreigner sing that traditional song before.. and especially in Chinese….(I was a little proud of myself)

Then there were some more eating … toasting the couple….(they had to go from table to table.. toasting everyone)… more singing from the host… and they threw out … stuffed animals to everyone.   (I actually received a stuffed bear for my singing) …. There were a few children… so there was a game for them… and the smallest child.. received the largest stuffed Bear…(bigger than him).

At 9:30 pm… we decided that we were too tired to continue and we still had a two-hour drive back home.  So, we said our good byes and headed home.   All in all, it was an extremely interesting and long day.   It makes me very happy that Michael and I didn’t have a traditional wedding.   It also made me wonder if all of that was really necessary.

The time it takes and the money spent for all of it was overwhelming. My friend told me before it started that he spent 5000rmb for each table at dinner (27 tables)..I told my friend… he could have given me the money and I would have cooked something….. and another 10,000 rmb to rent the cars… not counting that he had to remodel his entire condo, pay the parents money to marry their daughter, pay for lunch at the hotel, buy a new car and all the photographers, rings, dresses and movie guy.   Not counting the formal photos they took before, that were similar to mine.

Chinese weddings are a long drawn out process and I guess this is why they rarely get divorced…. Why waste all that money?  I think it was nice that my friend added a bit of Western flair to his wedding to include his Western friends… and the fact that he introduced me as his best friend… meant a lot.. in front of more than 270 people.   It just tells me.. that in the future of Chinese more and more young people are opening up to people of other countries… I see big changes in the future of China…. more intergration and more unity.. good things indeed.


until next time……


11 thoughts on “Non-Traditional/Traditional Chinese Wedding

  1. Maria

    Hey Jo

    Absolutely loved this article. I watched a wedding programme oand in it an American Chine (Chine American) couple wanted to respect their traditional chinese culture by including some aspects of it in the wedding. Its so romantic…One thing I appreciate about chinese weddings is that its not just about the couple who are getting married, but their family and friends as well. It is so inclusive in that regard and appreciative of the role that families and friends play in a marraige. Absolutely romantic!! I definately would incorporate some of the chinese as well as african traditions to my wedding ceremony=)

    All the best to you and Michael


  2. A lot of this is very similar to our wedding we held earlier this year – though our big ceremony and meal were at lunch, so everything was over by 3 in the afternoon!! 🙂

  3. Wonderfully accurate description of a Chinese wedding! Almost exactly the same things happen here in Malaysia in a Chinese wedding. The teasing of the groom before being allowed to go fetch the bride from her room can be even more grueling. But it is all done in good fun and meant to extract angpows. The traditional tea ceremony is a nice gesture of respect to the elders, except that here in Malaysia most people now don’t knee down when serving the tea. And we don’t have teddy bears. But we do have singing at the wedding. Which Chinese song did you sing? You should also have wowed them by singing Teresa Deng’s 月亮代表我的心 (yueliang daibiao wode xin) “The Moon speaks For My Heart” though many translate it directly as “The Moon Represents My Heart.” I once heard (on you-tube) a white man singing the song at a Chinese wedding and he was impressive for a non-native singer. It seemed that you did that too with whatever song you must have sung at the wedding!

  4. xl

    My cousin’s wedding was almost exactly like this one you described, also in Hangzhou but minus the performances from Westerners. They had an MC who hosted all the games and activities and there were also lots of stuffed animals involved (whats up with that???). Anyway, I didn’t go since I’m here in America, but they filmed the whole reception and mailed us a DVD (5hrs long!) so my parents and I could watch it. (we watched about 20min of it before we realized we have stuff to do)
    One thing I noticed that bothered me was the casual way some of the people were dressed! Members of my immediate family were dressed up but I noticed that alot of their friends, distant relatives, misc. other people were wearing jeans and tank tops!!! Did you noticed that at your friend’s wedding too?

    1. @xl… this was very true…. people were even wearing shorts and jogging suits…. these people spent all this money for this wedding.. and the just came in their at home clothes… I was very upset about this actually. At least the foreigners came dressed up… to show some respect for the bride and groom….

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