Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Pseudo-Bridesmaid in a Chinese Wedding

Lynn was one of the first friends I made when we moved to China two years ago.  She worked as an assistant teacher at our English school, so we saw each other every Saturday.  Her wedding ceremony was on April 2.  I say ceremony because it's typical for Chinese couples to be legally married months before the ceremony takes place.  This was our third Chinese wedding to attend, but this one was special for me because Lynn asked me & our mutual Chinese friend Lisa to come to her parent's house for all the pre-wedding festivities.  The rule for choosing bridesmaids here is that they can't be married.  So since Lisa & I are married, we got to be there as her "unofficial" bridesmaids.

The morning started for me at 7:45 AM when I walked through puddles and misty rain to the bus.  Lisa & I met at the bus stop by Lynn's parent's house and walked the rest of the way together.  By the time we got there at 8:30 AM, the house was already full of her relatives.  Most of them were sitting on the couches, chomping watermelon seeds and drinking tea or beer.  

Lynn was in the back bedroom getting her hair & make-up done.  The process involved a lot of sparkles & rhinestones.  

There was even a crimping iron.  It's been a while since I've seen one of those!

The finished product!  Lynn is such a skinny little thing that she had to be sewed into her dress so it wouldn't fall off.  The clasp on her arm-bracelet had to be bent so it wouldn't fall off either.  I have a feeling it did though since I didn't see it on her for the rest of the day. 

Lisa & I decided it is impossible to look pretty or thin when next to Lynn on her wedding day.  But we took a picture together nonetheless.

Then the fun began!  The groom was supposedly on his way to retrieve his bride from her parent's house, but before he could do so, he had to pass a series of tests.  In preparation for these tests, the bridesmaids (the real ones & the pseudo ones) hid Lynn's shoes around the bedroom for him to find.  

When he finally showed up, the bridesmaids lock the door and won't let him in to see his bride.  He had to pass red envelopes with money in them under the door to get them to open it.  I was later told that these bridesmaids were too easy to get passed.  Lisa told me it took her husband over an hour to get through her bridesmaids when she got married.

Finally he made it passed them in all his groom-ly glory.

After he found Lynn's shoes, they moved to the living room to take pictures with family and eat dumplings.  While the bride and groom eat the dumplings, everyone asks them "生了吗?" which pretty much translates to inquiring if the dumplings are raw. The character for raw 生 is the same character used to talk about giving birth.  I'm not sure if the dumplings were actually raw or not.  Surely not.  Either way, hopefully they'll have a baby soon enough!  At least, that's how their parents feel. 

Then they set off downstairs to the line of a dozen red cars that were to escort us to the restaurant where the wedding was held.  I thought it was nice that someone had taken the time to lay out a pretty heart on the pavement.  

 But then the lovely heart blew up.  Why was I surprised? You can't have a wedding without fireworks. 

Lisa & I rode in style all the way to the wedding.  I'm so used to riding my bike, the bus, and an occasional taxi that riding in a "real" car is a little strange for me.

Chinese weddings are usually held at restaurants.  The ceremony is not usually the solemn affair that we're used to in America.  

The wedding officiant is more like an MC than anything else, cracking jokes & entertaining the crowd.  This guy looked like he'd be pretty good at his job. 

In fact, the word that would describe Chinese weddings best is 热闹, which translates best to "hot & noisy."  Before, during, and after the ceremony, there is eating, drinking, smoking, laughing, and talking.  From an American perspective, it seems a little rude to have so much raucous going on while you're trying to get married but that's the way they do things here.  No one appreciated the 热闹 more than little Christin.

The bride & groom finally arrived, and the wedding began.  

One interesting aspect of Chinese weddings is that the parents are very involved in the ceremony.  It is representative of the fact that the relationship between a young married couple and their in-laws is extremely close.  During the ceremony, the couple bows to both sets of in-laws, promises to take care of them when they are old, and calls them "mama" and "baba" for the first time.   

After the ceremony, we were escorted to a private room in the restaurant for a meal with our good friends John & Rachel & their daughters.  There was so much food that there was no way we could have eaten it all.  Lynn changed her dress and started making the rounds to visit all the guests.  The parents of the couple visited as well.  We made it home by around 3 in the afternoon, Kevin with a full belly and me ready to eat.  Though my stomach was empty, the day was certainly full of culture and fun.


David said...

What a great "peek" into the culture. Thanks!

jscorbin said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful cultural experiences, Beck. Helps us feel connected!

P.S. - Don't think I'd buy a used car from the MC.


The Foster Family said...

Loved reading about the wedding! Thanks for posting.

Susan/Mama said...

I loved the pictures of the exploding heart. Somehow, I don't think that wedding dress was traditional Chinese wedding attire. Keep those photos coming.

becky marshall said...

Titus calls Duane, "Baba". Is that Chinese for Father?