Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China
We visited China recently to attend the wedding of one of our closest friends (formerly translator and life-saver). Davi and his blushing bride Cherry graciously invited us back to spend a week with their family and friends to celebrate with them. Naturally, we accepted their invitation!
We packed our bags with our finest dress clothes and stuffed our suitcases with gifts for the happy couple. We weren’t sure precisely which day the wedding would be on, but we booked our trip for a few weeks. We quickly realized that we knew absolutely nothing about attending a Chinese wedding. We didn’t know if there was a ceremony, what activities to expect or what to wear. As a result, we ended up embarrassing ourselves quite frequently.
Thus we bring you this post about one of the most fascinating weeks of our lives. Here are some things we learned and some things that happened to us. Perhaps they will help you out if you ever find yourself in the unlikely position we were in.
1. Be ready for some extended fun.
*A Chinese wedding is a week-long affair. Most of that week is spent eating or sleeping in a food-induced coma. There are at least two separate weddings, one with the bride’s family and friends in her hometown and one with the groom’s family and friends in his hometown.
2. Don’t get too fancy.
*Only the bride and groom dress up. Everyone else just wears casual attire (preferably with an elastic waistband to account for all the eating and drinking). Many goofy/endearing photos are taken.
*We quickly discovered that we were more elaborately dressed that all of the attendees and resolved not to be as serious/intense about it for the next three wedding related events.
*We knew the bride wore red, but I had no idea that she changed 3 times throughout the course of the first night and that she had outfits selected for the entire week… poor Cherry. She somehow managed to look radiant for the entire affair.
3. There’s a lot of honor involved.
*The bride and groom have to walk around and drink a toast with every table at the party. The groom must match his elders drink for drink.
4. The presents are different than you’d expect.
*There are few formal gifts (and no housewares exchanged). Giving hongbao (red envelopes of money) is customary. Close relatives will also place a piece of gold jewelry on the bride as she walks around to each of the tables.
5. Learn your Chinese drinking games. They will prove essential.
*Davi’s childhood friends got so fixated on drinking with K that we had to come up with an impromptu game to slow things down a bit. We managed to learn one but were too slow at translating the numbers into english and then hand signals that we lost frequently, and adapted rock paper scissors into a drinking game.
*When Davi’s friends got too drunk, we played (coconut milk) drinking games with the little girls that were spectators to the entire ordeal.
6. The bride and groom get busy pretty early.
*Davi’s uncle was trying to explain a Chinese tradition to us and the translation program came up with “ritual suggestive teasing of the bridegroom.”
*Davi and Cherry were only out of the bedroom for 6 hours out of each day. If you were curious, matrimony is working out for the couple. They are already expecting!
7. There are fireworks. They are frequent and loud.
8. The food is delicious and mysterious.
*Davi’s grandfather’s did all of the excellent cooking, although sometimes we were rather uncertain what we were actually eating. Once, a plate of entrails got placed in front of us and we were curious what it was. After some furrowed brows and quick thumbs in a translation app, someone said “I think maybe is duck ass.” It was then we saw the puckered sphincter of the duck and knew they were correct.
9. Be sure to get your exercise in.
*To pass the time, K learned to dig bamboo on the hillside and, though he did a terrible job, got to eat some of the little sprouts that he found (see below).
10. Sometimes the whole thing is a ruse.
*They already received their marriage certificate from the government before either of the ceremonies.
Do you have any interesting Chinese wedding experiences? Write to us and tell us all about them!
Happy Spring Festival!