Our first Chinese Wedding!

27 11 2009

We just got back from our first Chinese wedding, my (Missy’s) desk neighbor, Nicole- her English name. Instead of both of us blogging about this or doing our normal thing of putting it off, we decided to discuss it right now and transcribe our thoughts. M is Missy. J is Jeremiah.


J- You start.

M- (frown)

J- Don’t say frown. So how about this wedding?

M- Jeremiah had an incredibly shitty commute home today. It got to the point where I called him to see if he was injured in a ditch somewhere.

J- …By terrible Chinese driving. Please continue.

M- Our invitation said the wedding started at 18:18 and I was told the hotel was about 20 minutes away by taxi. Jeremiah arrived home at 5.30 a little worse for wear. I was on the fence about what to wear and had my cocktail dress on when Jeremiah told me his teachers said weddings were very informal. So I changed out of the cocktail dress and into a different dress (and still turned about to be the fanciest dressed after the bride.) We headed downstairs at 6 and hailed a cab. I’ll turn it over to my date for the rest of the taxi ride.

J- So we had one of those rare occurrences where the cab driver actually spoke a bit of English, and I thought it was funny because Missy was trying to talk to him in Chinese while he talked to her in English. Anyway, we turned off onto Mufu Lu and headed down toward the river, where the hotel was, we think, when, BAM! we run into a wall of traffic. Well, not literally. So we stop, but unlike usual Nanjing traffic experiences, it doesn’t start moving after a minute. Or five. Or 10. So after about 40 minutes, we called Missy’s co-worker Sarah, to let her know that we were running late. The traffic jam finally let up after about 70 minutes, I think, and we passed the cause of the traffic jam. Or maybe not. From what we could tell, it was just a couple semi trucks moving rocks or something. That held traffic up for an hour. Oh, China. Anyway, we finally made it to the hotel, ran inside, pass about 200 astonished Chinese wedding-goers and found our seat, which of course was the second-furthest table away the door, defeating our attempt at being sneaky. So the wedding was …

M- I’m sorry, I have to add a teeny tidbit about how we watched multiple cars (and vans!) pull up onto the sidewalk, through trees planted about 8 feet apart into the sidewalk, go 20 feet and stop short because there was a fire hydrant in the middle of the sidewalk. This happened over and over.

Onto the wedding! Well, we missed it. But we got there right as the banquet was starting. We stood lingering in the doorway where a few hundred people were seated in a brightly lit ballroom when we were spotted by my fellow teachers and dragged up to the front to be seated at the table next to the family with other honored guests. I asked what happened in the ceremony and was told the bride stood under this gazebo thing in the middle of the room, and the groom walked down the red aisle and get her and walk her to the front of the room. Here they drank champagne with their families and BAM, they were married. If you remember from previous posts, Chinese couples get legally married a few months before the wedding banquet happens. Pretty quickly after we sat down the bride and groom reappeared and the ‘host’ (who is hired to entertain and run the evening – like a charismatic lounge singer/game show host) led them in some bows. They bowed to their families, then bowed to the guests and then turned to bow to each other. When they bowed to each other, the groom unhinged his waist and did a ridiculously low bow and a boing sound effect played. That was when we realized the host came with a dude on an electric keyboard to play songs and add sound effects to the entire evening. I know. AWESOME.

We were able to snack on a few boiled peanuts before being told it was time to sing. Jeremiah quickly pulled out the guitar and we were ushered onto the stage. The bride and groom were going from table to table and toasting with each guest so it wasn’t an audience atmosphere like in America. People were loudly toasting and talking which was great for us. We probably got more attention than usual – just because we are enormous and goofy looking. Back to JW…

J- We sang a hit song by a famous American band known as the Ka Pen Das (I’m not positive about the words, but that was the pronunciation) called “Close To You”. You’ve heard it in their American incarnation, The Carpenters. Anyway, they seemed to like the song, though as Missy said, we weren’t exactly the focal point. So we sat back down and did extensive toasting with the other guests at the table. Quick China note: If someone toasts you, you want to have your glass lower to show respect. The meal was interesting. A neverending flow of different kinds of food, including the standby, Nanjing Salted Duck, a variety of soups, some veggie dishes, some fish, and so on. I also tried Sichuan style bullfrog. It tasted like chicken, just like everyone says.

Sichuan style means hot and spicy, incidentally. We took some pictures with the bride and people at the table, and then the host starting throwing out stuffed animals, starting off with little ones and working his way up to big ones. We scored an “I Love You” bear and an elephant. In addition, the host asked Missy to ask him a question, which her co-worker Sarah translated and he made into a song. The question? “Who is your favorite American singer?” Do I need to tell you what his answer was?

M- Yeah- the host was fantastic. I really think I should have been born a Chinese man so I could hire myself out as a Chinese wedding host. This guy got to do his own show all evening while the bride and groom went from table to table. This is also a great picture to demonstrate how overdressed I was.

He would ask trivia questions and name that tune and the whole room would start screaming and jumping with their answers. All for stuffed animals. He made up tons of songs on the spot to the same easy tune, and Jeremiah forgot to mention that the second verse of our song included his favorite American guitarist. You get one guess.

My favorite weird food was, what I’ve now named, the Vagina Mushroom. Take one look and you tell me otherwise.

So the host is still tossing larger and larger stuffed animals to the crowd, a la the T-shirt Launcher at a baseball game. The bride went and changed clothes AGAIN. She started in a white dress for the champagne drinking, was in a red wedding gown for the bows, and then changed into an ill-fitting but beautiful teal pleated ball-gown number. Her hair changed each time too. I discovered that the dresses are rented which explains why the teal gown puddled around her feet and was bunched in the back by safety pins. (Renting a dress makes a hell of a lot of sense, if you ask me.) My favorite thing about her look were her nails. Each nail had a pea sized 3-D white rose sculpted on it, unfortunately my picture doesn’t do them justice.

The family table is behind her in this picture. Check out how proud her grandma is. Super cute.

Anyway, the weirdest part of the whole thing was that it was over so quickly! They brought out 15 or 20 dishes of food over the evening and ended with some fruit. I guess the fruit is the signal to get out because we looked up and half of the room was gone! As soon as we noticed, our table got up and gathered their coats in lightening speed, and we were out the door. People were already breaking the whole she-bang down before half of the people made it out. Amazing –
especially to a woman who used to work 8 hour weddings as a catering director. A two-hour wedding??? Sign me back up!! Okay, I’m sending it back to my man for the final round-up.

J- One thing we forgot to add – when we were done playing, the host gave us both “lucky money envelopes.” It was just a red envelope with Chinese characters written on it and an undetermined amount of money inside. We were a little worried that they had paid us for playing our one song, but the host started tossing the same envelopes out to the crowd, and our fears were abated somewhat. It was only 8 RMB, incidentally. Eight is a lucky number in China, in case you haven’t guessed yet. So once we’ve attended our second Chinese wedding in January, we’ll let you know what is different.




2 responses

28 11 2009

I felt like I was at the wedding! Renting and two hours sounds good. I’m going to one tomorrow…it’ll be an hour at church and then a whole hog with the fixings at the community center…that will last as long as anyone is there!!!

2 12 2009

Great story! you guys are having a real blast it seems. What fun exploring and experiencing a new culture. As usual, it looks like you have befriended everyone. Gee, I’m not too surprised.

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