Attended my first Chinese wedding on Sunday night. Haven’t been to an American wedding since like 1991 but i know it’s different.
This Shanghai wedding happened in a restaurant instead of a church, at 6PM on a cold Sunday on The 5th floor of a skyscraper in the Ba Bai Ban section of Pudong (east side of the river/modern buildings, many without residents/ghost town at night/where i work during the day). I really needed to use the bathroom when I got there and the first floor had a confusing sign that said “to lift” in a really tight font.
Smoking is allowed and somewhat encouraged at Chinese weddings. In fact, two expensive packs of cigs (changhua, limited hong shuang xi) waited at every table, next to wine, beer, sprite, and cold appetizers. In many ways, a wedding is as much about the union of two souls as it is showing/giving face. More expensive cigs and better food for wedding guests = more face.
Aside from the sound problems inherent in almost any event in China involving microphones (talent show, wedding, commencement), the show ran smoothly. Started at 6:00PM and the bride and groom walked down the aisle at 6:15.
Before the marriage ceremony, the video-controller lady streamed a 5-minute cartoon about wedding etiquette from Youku, the Chinese YouTube. The animation starred the Kung Fu Panda characters, who told us to shut up when important stuff was happening, clap after it happens, eat in a civilized manner, etc.
After this, the bride and groom came down the asile. I did not recognize the bride, though she’s my colleague and I see her every day, It’s amazing what makeup can do, and wayyyy better to see a girl who never really wears makeup suddenly put some on than the other way around.
Instead of a priest, their souls were bound together by..some dude who didn’t know how to hold a microphone. At some points in his speech, mothers covered the still-developing ears of their children; not for content, just sheer volume due to unfortunate speaker placement/EQing/aforementioned mic-holding struggles.
I was the only white person there, and thank god these people were super respectful and didn’t ask me to do any dumb white people shit. Nor did they try to get me drunk on baijiu, or make me smoke cigs..no drunk older men tried to convince me to go to the hooker spot after. I did join in one group game on stage, gave hi-fives to the youth, gave a short speech but used some English because I was slightly drunk and I always confuse the Chinese word for wedding (hun li) with the word for divorce (li hun), and won a Haibao-blue neck pillow, a gift I’ll really appreciate on my 14-hour flight to chicago today. Good fucking call on giving gifts that guests will actually use but likely wouldn’t have bought on their own.
As for gifts TO the newlyweds, it’s straight cash, in a hongbao (red envelope). That’s the same red envelope that corrupt officials get their bribes in. Fuck a coffeemaker, sheets, etc. No trips to bed bath & beyond, just a quick stop at the ATM.
I didn’t know how much to give, so I asked the lao bai xing (common folk) who responded anywhere bwtwem RMB200 – 1000. I decided RMB300 was reasonable. Hopefully this covers the cost of the food, which was BOMB.
Unlimited lobster and steak, crabs of all sizes, hongshao yarou (something like thick cuts of soft duck bacon), giant fish, cold chicken, vegetables, tripe..didn’t touch the cake though. Looked like shaving cream.
Chinese people don’t eat rice at banquets. It’s too filling. Gotta save room for all that tripe. Chinese in China don’t eat fortune cookies either – ever. That blew my mind when I found out.
Here’s a song about weddings by someone I’ve been listening to constantly lately – The Dream
Terrius Nash – Wedding Crasher