I promised I would put up a post about my wedding and so here it is. I can’t quite believe it’s gone. The preparations seemed to be a never ending chain of research swiftly followed by disapproval, frustration and disappointment with the odd positive moment of relief.
Everyone who knows me was perfectly aware that my Chinese wedding would be very far from my ideal vision but I was trying to make the best of it and I know that my parents-in-law, often persuaded by my husband, really tried to compromise and organize things to my taste as much as possible.
The chaos started at 4am in Guangzhou, when we were leaving for central China, and didn’t finish until a week later when I was on a plane heading to Europe (actually that was chaotic too but that’s a separate story). After showing my guests around we were required to attend the make up trial session. Now,at this point my Chinese friend was not yet there and so imagine my poor husband desperately trying to translate my requests and wishes to the stylist and conversely pass her opinion to me.I felt sorry for him but had no choice. What I found is that my requests were only just taken into account and to my disapproval, the stylist was pretty much following her own preferences, both it in terms of hair and make up.
I’m not as shy as I used to be and certainly wasn’t going to accept a bright orange lipstick as part of my wedding make up look! I made my wishes loud and clear, otherwise I truly believe that she would have left me looking well…hideous. It was much easier once my Chinese bridesmaid arrived though, which is not to say that there were no conflicts. Once again, it was proved to me that in China it’s the ‘professional’ who’s right and the client’s opinion is more or less ignored. Make up and hair done (to various degrees of satisfaction) we drove to a photo shoot. Now, my husband’s city is not famous for its beauty, particularly recently since it’s become one of the most polluted areas in China, but there are a couple of lovely parks there and so we were convinced that surely we’d be having our wedding shoot done in one of them. How wrong were we!
First of all no one could find the bloody place. Second of all, once we found it, we wished we hadn’t! Whoever described that patch of grass with a few trees stuck in the middle, surrounded by apartment blocks as a park, should look this word’s definition up in a dictionary!It was hot, the place was ugly, the staff didn’t give many instructions; all in all, we were all glad when it was over. FYI, the apartment blocks were NOT Photoshopped out the photos.
The wedding rehearsal. It was long. Very long. And tiring. After spending a whole hour on matching the music we chose to the different parts of the wedding ceremony(I would have never thought it takes so long!)we finally got to practice the event itself. Our host (I still can’t believe I had one) didn’t even pretend to be excited and made it perfectly clear it was just another wedding for him. Can’t blame him really but his indifference kind of rubbed off on me due to the tiredness and lateness of the hour. Instructions given and practiced, we were finally able to go to sleep. It was midnight…and I had to wake up before 6am to get ready for the filming and stylist teams!There goes my rested, fresh and bright-eyed look, I thought.
The morning of the wedding could not pass smoothly, of course.The stylists decided to charge extra at the last minute (NOT HAPPY), mine and my bridesmaids’ hair was a total mess and I had to resort to using some of my own make up as the supposed ‘professional’s’ tools clearly had never been washed!I know these issue happen everywhere but seriously-charging top dollar for mucky, old brushes and sponges that have never touched soap and a selection of never-heard-of, dodgy dupes?!
Then we had another photo shoot, this time in one of the nice parks BUT in probably the ugliest part of it. What exactly went through that photographer’s mind when he was planning it all, I have no idea. That shoot went much better despite the horrendous heat. Oh, I almost forgot to mention how we got to the park. It was in our bombastic-fantastic Hummer!Oh yes, you read it right. To my absolute horror, my OH went and booked the worst possible vehicle for the occasion. It was disgusting and I wish I just meant the looks. Another case of-pay top price, get crap service.The car had not been cleaned, it stunk and the driver didn’t even put the AC on so we were melting inside. Imagine how fun that trip was…!
Around 11am it was time to start welcoming the guests. Hundreds of unfamiliar faces, vast majority of whom wanted a photo with me.After all, it’s not everyday they get to post a photo of themselves with a foreigner on Weibo/Wechat, not to mention with a foreign bride!I totally understood their eagerness and patiently posed for pics while a team of dedicated aunts and cousins efficiently dealt with the wedding cash (every amount noted down so it can be returned later).
The time had finally come. I stood behind closed doors, my heart beating like crazy, waiting for the cue to come out. The ceremony was short and very emotional. My voice was shaking and my throat could not produce sounds properly although I’m told my Polish and other guests were able to just about understand what I was saying to them (in Polish and English). Even though I rehearsed again and again the words I wanted to say to all Chinese guests, when the moment came, I totally forgot them!My mind went blank. I couldn’t rely on my OH or my bridesmaids as they were nowhere near but in hindsight I feel that this moment made the event more like a real life event rather than a well-rehearsed TV show.
The most interesting part was the ‘tea ceremony’, which in our case was simplified and resorted to basically me announcing ‘That’s father, ‘that’s mother’ (in Mandarin) and passing a cup of tea to them. I was very grateful that I didn’t have to kneel in front of everyone as I know most brides in China do.
With the lovely but slightly awkward ceremony over, it was time to get changed into another dress and toast with everyone, all 50 tables!(my bridesmaids sneaked in a bit of food for me so I could actually eat something; I’ve been told it’s not always possible for the bride to eat on her wedding day!)This is an important part of the event and I was happy that it went well and was over quite quickly. Most wedding guests left swiftly after that.(oh, in case you’re wondering both my husband and I were toasting with water as there is no way anyone could make so many toasts with actual alcohol and still be standing at the end of it)
Afternoon was rather strange as everyone was doing their own thing. Unlike UK and Poland, where after the main meal everyone turns to the dance floor, here some guests headed for the booked majiang tables, others went to the local karaoke club and others simply went to rest in their hotel rooms. There is a certain pressure on the newlyweds to accompany at least some guests to their activities but fortunately, my family let me take the afternoon off and rest (which in reality meant chatting for hours with my bridesmaids:P).
The day ended with dinner in a local restaurant, just as if it was another family meal. Except that we had our cake! It wouldn’t be possible to share the wedding cake among 500 guests and so we saved it for the evening and enjoyed it with a group of close friends instead.
Overall impressions and tips:
- wedding planning companies in China will try to rip you off at every opportunity, from cars through cakes to picture frames and decorations. We were given broken photo frames and repeatedly reassured that they were ok. Nobody in UK would have accepted that keeping in mind it cost a fortune.They will also not provide all that was included in the package (Have you seen any of the macaroons we ordered?). Worst of all, they know they can get away with it as a)hardly anyone complaints, b) there is such a huge demand that they will have plenty of clients regardless of the opinion they may have.
- It’s China so don’t expect crisp and snow-white cloths and chair covers. What you get will be old, tattered and, more often than not, dirty. Let’s not even mention the carpet. It’s like that everywhere, even in 5* hotels (apart from maybe the international chain ones)
- Always have a picture of what hairstyle/make up you want and stick to it. The stylist will undoubtedly try to change it to her liking (who cares about the client?) so don’t be afraid to express you opinion. They won’t be offended and even if they are, who cares, it’s your wedding and you know best what will make you feel comfortable/pretty.
- Get one of your friends to keep an eye on the staff responsible for the music. As I was getting changed I realized that the same song was playing over and over again even though we had a full list of songs prepared-the member of staff decided that his phone was more important than our wedding/his job.
- In China it is unheard of to keep the food, which wasn’t eaten during the ceremony. That’s a lot of potential food waste. Chinese will absolutely not consider giving out leftover food to family and guests, as it is done in Poland for example, instead they will feed you with the same food for days until it’s all gone. After all, it’s all paid for. Be prepared to enjoy this ‘delicious’ turtle soup for days to come:)
What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Expecting too much? Do you agree with my tips?