You know when I mentioned my Chinese husband? Well, he IS of course my husband, we registered last year. In Chinese culture though you aren’t properly married until you have your wedding ceremony, you know the elaborate party with hundreds of guests. My way leading up to the wedding has not been smooth, to put it mildly. Here is what I found…
First of all, this post is not about an inter-cultural marriage. I have been married for nearly a year now so not nearly long enough to be giving verdicts on how stressful/successful these type of marriages can be. It is about my upcoming wedding ceremony-the proper one, the whole extravaganza…
Let me start by saying-it is going to be SO DIFFERENT from what it would be like in Europe, where I’d plan it mostly myself, possibly with the help of family and friends. Here, in China, I can plan very little myself (mainly due to the language barrier) and so I had to, reluctantly, leave it mostly to my OH and my parents-in-law. They are very kind to me, bless them, and I know they have tried to accommodate me and my wishes, but my ideas are just too different from their vision of what a wedding should be and they were only willing to compromise on some things so in the end the ceremony will be much more…extravagant than I would want it/imagine it.
Naturally, a lot depends on the financial status of the family(ies). My parents are very relaxed and I’m sure they would have let me marry in whatever way I want, was I doing it in Poland or UK. They wouldn’t have been able to help much financially but then I never wanted a big, expensive, elaborate event anyway so nothing to worry about there. My OH’s family, on the other hand, enjoys a certain social standing and due to this, they feel obliged to (want to?) show off their wealth and position.
To my OH’s constant surprise, I have never been one of those girls that dreams of getting married and has an idea very early on about what dress she’d like to wear, etc. It never really interested me. It still doesn’t, really, but of course I had to do some research when I found out that we would need to hold a ceremony this year.
After browsing Pinterest for days I had an idea in my head of what I would want the wedding to look like even though I knew perfectly well it would never ever happen in China due to cultural differences, the lack of resources and various other factors. I can dream though and so my perfect wedding would be outside, possibly in some lovely garden, with a fresh-flower pagoda, home-made cake, maybe some cupcakes for everyone, subtle, light-coloured decorations and plenty of music.
My actual wedding is not going to resemble that at all. Not even in the slightest. First of, in China it is very uncommon(dare I say, unheard of) to get married outside. It’s just not done. It has to be in a posh hotel or at least in an elegant restaurant.
For some reason, real flowers seem to be impossible to get and very expensive so it’s normal to have fake flowers.
The customary wedding gift is money, as in many countries nowadays, and every guest, upon arrival, needs to fill in a special sheet with the details of how much they are offering us-not so customary, in Europe at least, anymore. The purpose being that we can offer the same amount when we go to their/their relative’s wedding. They find it fair, I find it the opposite. And weird. And humiliating but that’s just me.
There is NO CAKE. Nowadays more and more Chinese couples do opt to include the cake-cutting element in their ceremony but it is still not that popular and, as I found out, the cakes on offer leave a lot to be desired. Most suppliers clearly haven’t jumped on the wedding cake bandwagon yet.
There is NO MUSIC apart from, wait for it, the song sang by the newlyweds. And maybe the music in the background of their love story video.That’s it. That obviously means no dancing either.
Let me go back to the singing and video part. It is quite common for the couple to sing a chosen song together(99% of the time it will be one of the soppiest songs you’ve ever heard). It is also very popular to play a video depicting the story of your love, so (vomit-inducing) cute photos, clips recorded by family and friends and possibly even the sweet exclamations of love by the couple themselves. All this is for the guests entertainment. After all, who would want to come to a quiet, romantic, simple ceremony?
I know that there usually is some sort of entertainment at most weddings, regardless of where they’re held. It could be games and dancing, like in Poland, could be best man’s funny speech and even a special first dance(we’ve all watched that video of a couple suddenly switching from a typical soppy tune to ‘I love butts‘ )but normally, whatever the entertainment is, it is focused on the couple, not on the guests.
What else awaits me in just under two weeks…ah yes, how could I forget the multiple photo shoots? Not one but two in one morning. That’s in addition to the one we already had recently. I fail to understand the need for anyone to have so many photos of them taken but hey, that’s the way it is.
And then there is majiang. By far the most popular game in China, which one can’t escape even on one’s wedding day. After the ceremony, which lasts for whole 20min, everyone will spend the next few hours playing this game. Typically there is little talking and a lot of smoking involved. So far, so boring. Fine if you can play the game but not so much if a)you can’t, b)you don’t want to spend your wedding day just like any other afternoon with family, in a cloud of smoke.
Evening simply means dinner with closer relatives, in my case about 100 of them…
There are too many other elements to mention and anyway, this is all very subjective. A lot depends on the number of guests you have, whether your/your husband’s(or wife’s) family is traditional or religious and how big the event actually is. I am lucky as my OH’s family is not religious and not that traditional but they do have A LOT, and I mean A LOT of family, friends, colleagues, business partners and others, who they thought it was appropriate to invite to our wedding(nevermind that I’ve never met 99% of those people-in fact my husband only knows about 20% of the guests).
Obviously the day appears to be as far from my vision of a wedding as it is imaginably possible but believe me, my OH’s family have already made compromises, for example, we will have music, our music; we won’t have our love displayed on a huge LED screen for everyone to watch, we won’t be singing any songs (that we’re saving for the afternoon Karaoke) and we will most likely have a cake.
You may feel a touch of negativity and sarcasm whilst reading this post, and you’ll be right.Truth be told, I have not been particularly keen on the whole experience. Sad but true. I’m sure there are many foreigners out there that would really enjoy a wedding like the one I’ve just described and would see nothing wrong with any of the particular elements of it. I actually know some mixed couples whose wedding ceremony, held over here, looked quite different so it is very individual. Many foreigners would possibly even opt to wear a traditional Chinese outfit, something I considered but eventually left behind as the qipao (a tight, traditionally red, silk dress) simply didn’t suit me.
This is simply my point of view and my personal experience. I’m pretty sure I will cry (hopefully from happiness) and enjoy my wedding day after all, regardless of all this craziness surrounding it.