No, not my first Chinese wedding. I mean my first Chinese wedding — of other people — I’ve ever been to.
Recently, my good friend got engaged and invited me to Hainan, the tropical island paradise of a province, and I was to attend his wedding. Always wanted to go that island, and always wanted to to one of those big festive Chinese weddings I’ve heard so much about. Made plans and I dusted off my old dress jacket and off we went.
Flew into Haikou city, the capital. To be honest, not my favorite city. People usually go to Sanya, the more touristy locale apparently overrun by Russians. I did enjoy the beaches in Haikou because they’re relatively deserted, and there were some decent natural hot springs, but overall it was a bit of a dead city. Really tricky to just find restaurants.
Then came the big day. The train at the airport conveniently goes right to the nearby small town of Wenchang, the bride’s hometown, which is actually better than Haikou. Plenty of places to eat. We were even nicely gifted with a hotel room.
The ceremony was at the adjoining big hotel. Look, he’s a celebrity.
The big day. That’s me, and my lovely date.
300 people in attendance. All the bride’s family. My American friend only had a relative few friends from the Shenzhen scene. We did get to sit in the front, VIP.
It surprised me how matter-of-fact the proceedings were. The groom did admit he found some of the rituals awkward. All the guests came in, paid a hongbao (red envelope, typically filled with *cash*), as if it was basically a show.
A show indeed. Here is the happy couple wearing undergoing the shaking-hands-with-guests-at-entrance move, with her in a red dress initially.
All in all it was a very structured affair. She changed into a white dress inside, but it wasn’t a Christian affair by any means. No priest, not quite walking down the aisle. The MC host of some wedding company was in charge, and it seemed like he did this sort of thing onstage all the time.
One thing checklisted after another. Pour the champagne, cut the cake, take pictures with the family. All with appropriate accompanying soundtrack.
And the cheesey singer! You should have seen his hair…
Lastly, the bride changed to a traditional Chinese dress. The last section involved the couple taking shots at each and every table.
In a mix of cultures, cross-cultural pollination at its best, I decided to spur on an impromptu Jewy “hava nagila!”
It was very pleasant, and it was over before I knew it. On the dot, it closed down and most of the guests up and left. Like a show alright.
Also, there was a lot of food. But… sadly not very vegetarian friendly.
It was a very interesting thing to behold and I’m very grateful to have been invited. In truth, the best part was the afterparty that night: Going to the beach for barbecue and swimming with the real friends and close family. My personal favorite.
Congratulations to Alex and his beautiful bride Ivy, wish them all the happiness in the world 😀