If you’re new here in China, there are a few things you really must do to get a feel for the culture. One: you must eat with a Chinese family, ideally in their home. Two: you must go shopping in a completely Chinese market, in the depths of a non-tourist district. Three: you must attend a Chinese wedding.
Recently, we were in attendance at my husband’s cousin’s wedding. My daughter was one of the flower girls and my son was the ring bearer – two practices borrowed directly from Western customs. Oh, and there was also a cake that they cut, although it was fake. Fake cake – not so tasty! Besides these components, there was a raised “aisle” down the middle of the hall on which the bride and groom entered on slowly to an eardrum-splintering rendition of “Here Comes the Bride.” …Chinese weddings have a pageantry all their own that is very specific to this culture.
Imagine the final sequence of a romance game show, but with a banquet included. There’s an MC in sparkling attire. There’s entertainment to offset the costume change and then the bride emerges in a new dress. There are prizes on every table: delicious food, expensive liquor, little candy bags. And the huge LED screen behind the stage is an ever-changing backdrop framed by lights, glitter balls, and a strangely robust camera crew filming guests from all angles. Great fun!
Cigarettes are given out to the attendees to symbolize happiness (xi, 喜), because “to smoke” (吸) has the same sound. The only critique I have is that this tradition should be updated. Seems a cruel and ironic joke to use an object capable of slow murder to symbolize long lasting matrimonial happiness!
Photos: Courtesy of Ember Swift and Kdriese