I have in the past published photographs relating to Country Weddings in China, the story for which was written by Jerich Yang. I have even written about my trip to the Philippines to attend a Wedding.
Today however, I will relate a story about a big city wedding that I attended the other week. It was a spectacular for sure. There were 800 guests, various forms of entertainment, and even some foreigners providing entertainment.
|The Bride and Groom - Frank and Shirley|
|General view of the hall with 800 guests|
Yancheng, the city in which I now work, has a sizable number of foreign teachers (and foreign businessmen) who make a habit of dining together every Saturday night.
|One of many forms of entertainment at this spectacular wedding|
There are of course a number of Chinese who attend as well.
One of them, a businessman, invited us all to attend his wedding.
I had been to country weddings before, but nothing prepared me for what I was to experience at this wedding.
Not only was it big; 800 guests, but live entertainment was provided throughout the evening.
The very first 'official' entertainment was provided by we foreigners.
We had been provided with 'wind chimes', which we had to take up onto the stage.
At the appropriate moment, we were required to shake the chimes and shout out a traditional welcome/ blessing/ salutation to the bride and groom.
|Foreigners on stage to give their best wishes to Bride and Groom|
In China, at least officially, one gets married by filling in the appropriate forms and paying the necessary fees.
|The Bride offering me a toast. Both Bride and groom go to every table to toast.|
The traditional wedding takes place over a period of three days, and involves lots of traditions.
One of these traditions is that the Groom and his relatives storm the Bride's house and 'Capture' her.
This leads then to another tradition; 'handing over large sums of money.' The first time I went to such a wedding was in Hubei in a little village called 'Shakou'.
After we had absconded with the bride, I had to travel back to the Groom's house in a van loaded with quilts, pillows etc.
This turned out to be fortuitous because the axle on the van broke and we ended up running into a huge tree.
This was also fortuitous, (hitting the tree I mean) because it stopped us traveling down the embankment into the river.
Anyway, back to this Big City Wedding. The reception was held on Thursday 25th September at 7:30pm. 800 guests turned up to the "Picturesque Scenery Gourmet Garden" (Jiefang Nanlu Shanping Shuixiu) in Yancheng to celebrate the festive occasion.
If you think that 800 guests is a lot to accommodate, then let me just point out that this establishment was holding 3 wedding receptions that night. If you look carefully at the following photograph, you can see the three archways under which each couple stood; greeting guests upon their arrival. Our couple were located immediately below the stairs in the left of the photo.
|Inside the Foyer of the Hotel|
|Lobby of the Hotel|
|Stairway from foyer to Reception Hall |
Upon arrival, guests met the Bride and Groom in the hotel foyer, and then proceeded to their allocated tables. This meant that the Bride and Groom were standing in the foyer for quite some time. This at least gave us foreigners a chance to get our bearings so to speak, and to be cued up on the entertainment we were to provide. Just prior to the entrance of the Bride and Groom, the foreigners had to congregate at a lovely blue canopy (a chuppah of sorts), in preparation for preceding the couple down to the stage.
|View of the stage.|
At the appropriate moment, off we went; a long queue of assorted nationalities holding 'wind chimes' aloft as we walked down the aisle to the stage. While the happy couple were standing at the chuppah, we shook our chimes and chanted ... er.. er.. well I forget what we chanted but it was something like 'happy wedding'.
Then the groom joined us and thanked us and performed some ceremony involving one of those static electricity globes which lit up a sign, and then we were shepherded back to our tables.
|Bride and Groom bowing to Parents|
While we were returning, the Bride and Groom made their formal entrance. Part of those formalities involved paying due respect to certain personages, including their parents.
I can't pretend to know or understand all that went on (it was all in Chinese), but after some time, the official duties ended, and we all commenced our meals. I am happy to report that I personally was able to eat almost everything that was served. That is saying something! There are so many dishes in China that I can't or won't eat, that when I am invited to a formal restaurant dinner, I usually have to have a full meal before I go.
|Guests at the next table|
Another quite unexpected thing, was the entertainment.
There were two different "Bian Lian" (Face Mask Changing) performers; one an adult female and one a young person (I think it was a boy).
"Bian Lian" from Wikipedia:
Bian Lian is part of the more general Sichuan opera. Performers wear brightly colored costumes and move to quick, dramatic music. Their faces are vividly colored, for they are wearing masks. However, within a fraction of a second, their masks change - revealing completely new and vibrant visages.
Whilst both performed on stage, the adult came down into the audience and continued to perform. In these next 3 photos you can see the change occurring. If you copy the photos to a file and then have all three open, you can manipulate them to achieve the magical effect.
All three photos (like most photos in this article) were lifted from videos I took at the reception. Take a good look at the people in the background in all 3 photos. You can see that there is very little variation in their movements as the mask is changing.
|No. 1 Face Changing Act. Look at the faces in all three photos and note how quick the change took place.|
|No 2 Face Changing Act|
|No. 3 Face Changing Act. These are still shots lifted from a video I took.|
In addition to the two 'Bian Lian' performers, there was a spectacular female violinist using an electric violin.
|This is just a little boy.|
She performed not only on the stage but also danced quite avidly around the tables whilst playing. She was a consummate performer.
There were also different singers who sung a variety of modern songs on stage, as well as a coterie of guests who performed Karaoke.
Not to be outdone by the nationals, Eleni, the Greek wife of Marko, an Italian businessman, performed a song in Chinese.
Not to be outdone of course, our 'other Aussie', Sam, and his own Chinese Bride performed a karaoke duet in Chinese.
Whilst the 'formalities' of the reception were many, and the 'official entertainers' were superb, the informality generated by the 'performing guests' were what really made the night in my opinion.
|Violinist running amok amongst the guests|
Another formality of the evening involved the Bride and Groom and their parents visiting and toasting each and every table.
|Groom Toasting guests at our table|
With 800 guests and with approximately 12 guests per table, that amounted to visiting around 65 tables.
At each and every table they had to drink a toast and one can only imagine how they must have been faring by the end of the night.
In China, drinking is almost a necessity. I read somewhere that the Chinese custom of 'Gambei', or draining the glass, originates in the belief that if you get a guest drunk, then you can trust them to speak the truth.
Frankly, on those rare occasions when I have gotten myself drunk, I have found that utter gibberish, not truth, is the most likely thing to come forth from my mouth.
Being the 'two pot screamer' that I am, if I were to have to toast every table, then even if I had only one sip at each, I would still end up staggering drunk.
|An Adult Female|
By the time the bride and groom made it to our table, thay were more than two thirds done toasting, and seemed pretty steady on their feet.
The evening went well for the guests, and the foreigners were as pleased to have been invited, as were the guests to gawk at them.
The whole thing must have cost a pretty penny, some or most of which would have been recouped through the Chinese custom of given 'Red Bags' of money.
The trick for the Bridal couple is to get more than they paid out. Under normal circumstances they would end up in the black, but on this occasion one could only wonder.
As for the foreigners, they all enjoyed themselves immensely. Whilst some caught up with friends and others of us made new acquaintances, all of us had a wonderful time.
The food, wine and conversation flowed freely. I even managed to meet the local proprietor of a dance studio and arranged to take lessons. I'll have to get back to you later on that though.
Like all good things, the wedding reception came to an end, and in traditional Chinese style, it ended abruptly. As soon as the Bride and Groom exited the reception hall, everyone just stood up and left.
I have experienced this abruptness on many occasions, and should not have been surprised. I was nonetheless surprised. I guess it had something to do with the 'western' style of the reception that lulled me into a false subconscious premise.
|I just couldn't help taking this photo. I was dancing at the table and she just kept laughing.|
The waiters had only just placed another dish of food on the table when it seemed that the whole room headed for the door. I am pleased to say that the foreigners did not follow suit. Instead we hung around chatting with each other, taking photographs of each other, and of course, finishing off the last of the wine.
Why, I seem to remember one of the foreign guests wrestling a Chinese woman for a half bottle of red left on one of the tables. Oh well! You get that even in the west. ha ha ha ha!
It was a wonderful night and I am so glad that I had the chance to experience it. I got to meet some new foreign and Chinese friends.
I will just finish here with a few photographs of foreigners who attended the reception. I thank them for their kind permission to publish them.
|Marko and Eleni - Italy|
|William and Amise - South Africa|
|Sam and Amanda - Australia and China|
R.P.BenDedek is the pseudonym of the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist at Magic City Morning Star News. An Australian, he currently teaches Conversational English in China.
Photographic Stories from China at Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.