In the previous post ''Love and Romance in China'' I talked about wedding industry and what it takes to find a suitable partner in Chinese culture. Today I'm going to talk about the wedding itself, how is it celebrated, what traditions do they have and what's the difference between countryside and city weddings.
First time I attended a wedding in China was in 2016, more specifically, October 3, 2016 in a rural area and the second was exactly 2 years later, on October 3, 2018 in the city. I'm not sure why both were on the same date, maybe was just a coincidence, but that was stuck in my mind so I decided to talk about it exactly today, October 3, 2020. The countryside wedding was a bit weird for me so I'm going to start with that one.
'' What is going on? '' was popping in my head over and over during the wedding, and no, wasn't just my lack of understanding the language, things got pretty confusing and weird. Here's how it started.
My friend Ioana and I got invited to a wedding somewhere in a rural area where we didn't know anyone apart from the bride, the wedding took place a bit far from our city and our Chinese language skills were down to zero, but we decided to go for it. We took a train from Wuxi to Xuzhou and 2:20 hours later, we were there. The moment we stepped out of the train people started starring, pointing at us and whispering. The whispers were useless, we anyway didn't understand anything. People in that area weren't used to see foreigners so we became a walking attraction.
In front of the railway station the engaged couple welcomed us with open arms asking if we were hungry. After a small talk we went to eat at a restaurant then drove to a small village outside the city where their family was waiting for us. A small room has been arranged for Ioana and I to sleep there, but the idea of sharing the bathroom with everyone and having no privacy wasn't really appealing so we managed to convince them to book a hotel room in the city, we arranged to meet next morning for hair and makeup appointment then went to sleep.
I am not a morning person, so guess how excited I was to wake up at 6 a.m. to go to a beauty salon. Ok, beauty salon might be a way too fancy word for something which looked more like a disorganized personal vanity room. The makeup artist which was also the hairstylist took care of the bride first and the result was stunning. Next was Ioana and somehow the lady didn't manage to do the same magic so we decided to do it all by ourselves.
Two hours later we were done and all three of us were looking stunning. We took some pictures, the bride with a beautiful black hair, an impeccable makeup and a white princess dress, Ioana with curly sexy eyelashes, rocking in a beige long dress complimenting her body shape and me. Have I mention how in China the bride wears 2 dresses? A white one and a red one? Yea, they wear red dresses on the wedding day, that's the tradition, red is a lucky color. Did I know that? No. Did I wear a long red dress? Yes.
Looking gorgeous, we jumped in the car and headed to the parents house where we had to wait for the groom to come. The whole time I was wondering when we're going to eat something so I had an imaginary rehearsal in my head which didn't really match with the reality. The groom didn't show up, kissed the bride then 5 minutes later drove to a good restaurant where we partied the whole night. This is how it went instead:
We arrived at her parents house and we locked ourselves in a bedroom with all her female friends and relatives looking like they forgot to get dressed, some were still wearing pajamas. In the meantime, the groom came and tried to ''break'' the door to get inside. In exchange for opening the door, the women asked for money and after a considerable amount of red envelopes were slid under the door, the men were let in. The groom knelt down in front of his bride and started to declare his love for her, at least that's what I think it was, I didn't understand anything. The photographer took some pictures then the bride received some weird gifts such as ten-packs of cigarettes and chickens, live chickens. What?! Why?! Anyway, after this we went outside where fireworks and firecrackers were shot. Loud firecrackers popping at our feet during day time. Weird. There was a red carpet from the main door to the car and after a short speech given by the parents, the married couple walked to the car and drove to what I thought would be a restaurant. I also thought everyone is going to change their clothes before the event. I was wrong.
We arrived at the ''restaurant'', a recently built house in a small village where we almost didn't make it by car. The guests were already there and a live band playing the instruments accompanied everyone in the house. I stepped in the living room and there was sawdust all over the floor, weird, but I was too hungry to think about it. All I could see were the round tables filled with Chinese dishes, not my favorite at that time, but when I'm hungry I can eat anything. Before we started eating, the bride gave us a tour of the house then changed her white wedding dress into a red one. I didn't see any bathroom, but again, I was too hungry to think about it.
Time to eat, finaaaally. We sat 9 people at a big, round, spinning table filled with traditional dishes, beer and baijiu- traditional Chinese alcohol . In China, everything is served in the same time, appetizers, soup, desserts, are all on the table. I wasn't a big fan of Chinese food, but everything tasted like it was brought from heaven. I had some doubts if I should try the turtle dish, yes I said turtle ( check out the ''Weirdest things I've eaten in China'' post ) and it tasted way better than I expected. A glass of beer later I went to look for the bathroom, couldn't find it so the bride asked her mother to take me to the toilet. We went outside and had to walk for a while, maybe the high heels and the long dress weren't the best choice. She was keep screaming ''lai,lai,lai'', but I had to hold my dress and walk carefully so my heels won't sink in the mud. 5 minutes later she pointed at a wooden outdoor toilet. I hesitated when I saw the hole in the ground, but I had no other option. I'm not going to get into details, but obviously wasn't my best experience :)). That was the moment when I understood why the bride didn't drink anything the whole day.
Few hours later, Ioana and I were back at the hotel, changed our clothes and headed to a KTV where we met the rest of the guests. A KTV is their favorite place to spend the night, basically is the Asian way of clubbing. You rent a room with a big TV screen for karaoke and you can drink , dance and sing the whole night. We partied until midnight and next morning we took the train back to Wuxi.
When my friend Jannie got married, I was prepared for the event. Woke up early in the morning, dressed casual, no makeup, no hair done and went to her home. She looked beautiful in a red, traditional Chinese dress with a big smile on her face waiting for the love of her life to show up. This time the men didn't force their way in, instead the groom had to go through some kind of test to prove he is husband material. Was something similar to the truth or dare game and after he got the ''approval'' we took off to their new apartment where the parents were waiting for them to drink a cup of tea together. Sill too early for fireworks and firecrackers, but it's China, so you can shoot them anytime, anywhere. After spending some time at the new apartment, everyone headed to the wedding venue. Not me though, I had to go home and get ready for the event.
I managed to get dressed and get my hair and makeup done in less than an hour, then headed to the wedding hall. I didn't learn my lesson last time so I was wearing again a red dress. Luckily nobody noticed, or at least that's what I like to think. Anyway, this time the location was different, a beautiful, well decorated restaurant with waiters and stuff, exactly how you imagine a wedding. Nothing surprising, but I was expecting worse so for me was a more than pleasant surprise. Was a spectacular show where pictures of the couple were displayed on a screen then the bride was walked by her father down the aisle. The groom said few words and the father gave his blessing. Lunch was served and pictures with the guests were taken.
That was it, simple but memorable. I'm still in touch with my friend. Hopefully one day I can go back and visit Jannie and her beautiful family. I managed to create a compilation of the weddings so don't forget to watch the video!