"Wish You Happy Every Day": An Expat's Life in China

A Chinese Wedding in America
April 18, 2015, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Asia abroad, Chinese culture | Tags: ,

A Chinese wedding in America is really nothing like a Chinese wedding in China.  Having made such a sweeping generalization, I should probably note that I have only been to one Chinese wedding in America and one Chinese wedding in China. 

I had been mightily impressed by the Chinese wedding in China.  We sat at one of many dinner tables in a large dance hall, squinting under the purple LED lights to watch the bride and groom walk down the “aisle.”  After the Emcee had elicited enough applause for the newlyweds, we enjoyed a slideshow of the couple’s wedding pictures, ornamented with computer generated hearts and set to the background of a sappy piano piece.  True love, indeed.

On the other hand, the wedding that I went to just a few weeks ago outside San Jose was very Chinese; absent were the wacky emcees, nightclub lights and hearts.  And because Lipeng was there as a photographer, we both got to see every stage of this auspicious day.

In fact, we were the first to arrive, and were greeted by the bride in her PJ’s and hair rollers.  To distract us, I think, her mother served us each a bowl of tangyuan, a glutinous dumpling dessert traditionally served on Chinese New Year and, apparently, on the morning of weddings. (By the way, YUM!)

Slowly more people filled the apartment, close friends and bridesmaids and groomsmen, and, SURPRISE, some of my former students!  (The bride was also a student at our school. But I did not expect that . . . ) Not one, not two, but five!  At least none of them had failed my class. That would have been awkward!

Once the bride had been properly pampered, it was time for the first phase of the wedding.  Out she came, decked in a traditional red dress and headpiece, with matching tassel earrings.  (The groom, who had been busy collecting all the necessary people, hastily changed into his matching ensemble in the living room.) Everyone cleared to the edges of the living room, and Lipeng began positioning the cameras.  The bride’s parents sat together on the couch as the bride and groom stood before them.

It was time to begin the serving of the tea.

The bride gets ready. Photo by Lipeng Chi.

The bride gets ready. Photo by Lipeng Chi.

First, the bride and groom knelt down to the set of parents.  Someone counted, “one — two — three,” and at each interval the couple bowed, head to the floor.  Then the best man and the maid of honor each handed the couple a small cup of green tea.  The couple served it to their parents, saying, “Ba, ma, please drink the tea.”  After their parents accepted the cups and took a sip, they returned them to the couple, who then passed them to their respective counterparts.  Then their parents each produced a large red envelope of money and presented it to the bride and groom.  To conclude the ceremony, their parents helped the couple to their feet and wished them luck and happiness in their future together.

After the tea came the dumplings.  Two dumplings were served to the bride and groom on a small plate. They then both fed each other and kissed.  It’s really very sweet.  Then, the bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up facing each other and followed suit.

The serving of the dumplings. Photo by Lipeng Chi.

The serving of the dumplings. Photo by Lipeng Chi.

These two ceremonies were performed in the apartment of the bride.  At their conclusion, we were all whisked away to the church, where the formal Western-style wedding took place.  Nothing much there to report; you all know how that one goes.  All the same, it was lovely (and outside, so no crazy nightclub lights).


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