This has been my second time spending the Spring Festival in China. And just the same as last time, I was heading to my Chinese friend’s hometown, only this time it was to attend her wedding. When I first came to China I met a very nice Chinese girl in my University, who helped me to settle into China and became a really good friend. Therefore, I was very happy to be able to attend her wedding as we hadn’t seen each other for around a year. I was even so lucky to meet my friend from Belgium, who had also been studying with us at that time. She had extended her travel through China just to be able to attend the wedding. The three of us had a lot to catch up with and it was nice to see each other together again and that we still had such a close bond.
First of all, it is a very unusual thing to get married during Chinese New Year in China, as it is their most important festival for the family and many people would not have time for a wedding. However as my friend’s now husband is from France and he works in another country, they had to get married during a time where he could get off work and would be able to come to China. Although the groom is from France, it was still a very Chinese wedding and the only foreigners were two of his former colleagues, my friend from Belgium and me. We were seated on the main table with the parents and the couple, which is a great honour. This was my first time at a Chinese wedding, so there were a few things very amusing for me.
To me it was more like a show than a ceremony. At first they showed an informational video (which seemed to be taken from a TV documentary) about France and the region where the groom comes from, this was then followed by a picture slide show of his family and friends. Later, they also had a small video of his parents giving their blessings to the couple, which was really nice, considering his family was not able to attend.
The ceremony started with a drumming performance by four girls in red glittery dresses on the stage, which made me feel more in a circus than at a wedding.
Finally the groom marched down the aisle to the Star Wars main theme, which was framed by blue lit angel cherubs. The bride then entered with her father taking her to the middle of the aisle to angel like music. The groom then had to come and fetch her by bowing to the father and kneeling to his beloved. The two of them proceeded to the stage where they stood behind the ‘altar of love’ lighting a candle together and pouring champagne into a pyramid of glasses. After that, they stepped on a small round platform to perform the exchange of the rings. All of this was accompanied by the host talking non-stop and two camera men following their every move.
That’s for the ‘classic’ part, because what followed then was an alternation of singing and dancing performances by the group of girls who changed into a variety of costumes, or the couple being called to the stage for small games. A tradition for Chinese weddings is the groom and bride have to go around every table to toast the people, the couple was involved in so many activities, they were hardly able to sit down and eat of the masses of food that kept coming. And even when they got the chance to sit at the table, the camera men asked them to feed each other or kiss. There were also people coming over to the table to toast again which happened throughout the whole evening. My Belgian friend and me just sat in the middle of all of this and tried to grasp what was going on.
One of the games on stage showed a Chinese wedding custom, the bride had to sit down in a red carriage and the groom and his friend had to carry her through the hall. Traditionally the bride would be carried to her wedding like this by servants in a closed carriage, so she would be shielded from the eyes of the people.
At some point a cook entered the stage with a huge fish on a plate to majestic music. With a magnified voice he stated into the microphone: The fish has arrived! He then received a red envelope from my friend’s mother. Later my friend explained to me, that during the whole meal there had been no fish (which they would usually have during New Year). This fish was only for her family to take home and eat later to bring them luck, especially for the New Year.
Then all of a sudden people started leaving, as the main event seemed to be over. Within 5 minutes the hall was empty and people started cleaning up already. No party until dawn, no dancing, no cake. This wedding left me a little surprised and confused, but it was definitely an interesting experience. I would say it was a Chinese wedding with a touch of western culture. My friend was wearing a white western wedding dress at first, then later changed into a red 旗袍 qípáo, and finally changed into a more comfortable black dress in the end, which I heard is very common for Chinese weddings.
I have never been to another Chinese wedding, so I cannot say in which aspects this one differed from typical Chinese weddings, but it was very special for me and different from anything I experienced before. If you have the chance to attend a wedding here, I am sure you will enjoy it and learn more about Chinese culture.
Want to experience a crazy Chinese wedding party? Then apply now. Come to China and find Chinese friends, who might get married soon 😉