Yep, this time my collaboration entry is so long that I decided to split it into two! This is a good time to refill that coffee / tea you were drinking in Part #1, because now we’re starting Part #2. ☕🍵
Disclaimer once again: I’m writing more on Chinese weddings in Southeast Asia, where I’m at, so this might not apply to all Chinese weddings! And it might not be as detailed as how some could be (since we didn’t follow all the traditions). 😅
The topic split is as follows:
- #1: The engagement, registration, pre-wedding photoshoot, bonus: if you’re attending a Chinese wedding banquet, and a surprise section
- #2: The wedding ceremony, wedding banquet, and a surprise section #2 ⬅ You are here!
Wedding Tea Ceremony
This is it, the ceremony where the couple would be considered married the moment it’s over! It’s usually held in the morning (around 8am or 9am) while the banquet is usually in the evening of the same day (around 7pm or 8pm). Often only family members and close friends are invited to the ceremony, and just like the betrothal gifts part, there are a lot of traditions involved. 😀
The night before, both the bride and groom would stay at separate houses (typically their parents’ houses) and prepare for the day separately in the morning. Kind of like to emulate the olden days when couples stay with their parents until they’re married?
On the bride’s side, the bride will have her makeup done (usually professionally) and put on the wedding dress. Once the bride is all dressed up, both her parents will put the veil on for her (traditionally a red veil, but nowadays a white veil and a white gown is common too), and it’s to be left on until the groom arrives. 😀
As for the groom’s side, he too dresses up for the wedding and leaves for the bride’s parents’ house with his groomsmen (also called “heng tai” or brothers). He would be chauffeured by one groomsmen in the bridal car (decorated with flowers) while others will be driving separate cars behind the bridal car to make it look like a lot of people are going to pick up the bride! 🚗🚗🚗
Now, the type of car obviously wasn’t part of ancient traditions, but modern culture has turned out in such a way that it looks “better” when a couple arrives in an expensive luxury car, to show how well-to-do they are. Because not everyone have one of those, they might borrow a relative or friend’s BMW or Mercedes (hey, they’re considered luxury cars here!) or even rent one for the day. And not just the bridal car, the groomsmen’s convoy cars too, so possibly the only time you’d see so many expensive cars together at a time (outside of a car show room) is during a Chinese wedding. 🚗🚗🚗
Me? Well, I didn’t bother with the whole “luxury car = more societal value” thing because I honestly didn’t get why – why would I want to pretend we were richer than we are now? Plus I thought my husband’s Toyota Prius C is a pretty good car (plus it’s hybrid and more environmental friendly than a non-hybrid car!), not to mention I’d be worried about spending money to mend dents in case we bumped into stuff while we were in a borrowed car. 😅
Groom’s Arrival at Bride’s House
If you hear lots of cars honking down your street early in the morning, chances are a Chinese groom has arrived to pick up his wife on their wedding day! 🚗🚗🚗
Back in the days, a Chinese wedding (or any Chinese celebrations, really, even the grand opening of a store) involve lots of firecrackers and gongs and loud noises as the procession accompanies the wedding palanquin to the bride’s house! It was to increase the celebratory mood and believed to ward off evil spirits, so in our modern day weddings, we do the same by honking on the bridal and convoy cars as they arrive, though thankfully it’s not done throughout the entire journey. Imagine honking all the way on the highway. 😆
When the groom’s car arrives at the gate of the bride’s house, he’s not supposed to open the car door himself – the bride’s younger brother (if there isn’t one, a younger male cousin / friend will do) will open the door for him, to show the bride’s family accepting and welcoming the groom, and the groom reciprocates with an angpow for the brother. 😀
Bridesmaids, Standing Between the Groom and His Bride
What, you thought the groom could just waltz in and pick up the bride? In order to let him take the family’s beloved bride away from them, he’d have to show how determined he is!
The bridemaids (also called “ji mui”) would prepare a series of games (called wedding door games, or gatecrashing games), which the groom and his groomsmen would have to pass in order to get to the bride who is being kept hidden in a bedroom. Some say these games are to test the groom’s resolve to marry his bride, and others say these originated from the casual, lighthearted icebreaker for the bride and groom who were strangers in an arranged marriage back then. Either way, it’s all in goodhearted fun. 😀
The games could be simple but fun ones, like having to answers questions about the bride and punished with eating a cake while doing a pushup with every incorrect answers, or having the groom sing a super cheesy love song loud enough for the bride to hear! 🎤
I didn’t know this at the time, but sadly there are ji mui who seem to think the idea of fun would be to humiliate the groom and groomsmen, or that the games are an opportunity to earn a lot of money by asking for angpow from the groom. (Here’s one such horrific article, though I’m marking it with [❣️❗️] for all the cringing it made me do. 😅)
But not all bridesmaids are like that! My sister (my official gamesmaster 😛) is pretty nice herself, so when I told her to go easy on my husband then (they already knew each other many years by then), she devised 3 games that were simple yet fun:
- Makeup On: Guys don’t usually put makeup, so here they’d have to put on makeup to look like animals, like a panda! 🐼
- A Game of Chance: The Harry Potter book series has jellybeans that could be any flavour – like, any flavour – and my sister managed to procure something similar; a box of jellybeans had flavours ranging to something fruity to something like pepper, earwax and vomit. (Don’t ask me what that tastes like, I don’t wanna know. 😅) They’d have to brave a few similarly coloured jellybeans to pass!
- Singing: I can’t remember what song it was, but my husband had to sing a love song as he was climbing the staircase to the bedroom I was in! It was hilarious because my husband can get pretty off-tune like me. 🎤
Because I was in the room, I only found out how the games went through photos later on. 😛
And once the groom finally arrives at the destination, he gets to lift the bride’s veil and is rewarded with a kiss as the spectators clap! Sounds like a fairy tale, does it? 🦄
After all the games are done and over with, it’s time for the tea ceremony!
What happens during a tea ceremony is; the the couple serve tea to the relatives who take turns sitting in pairs starting from the oldest generation, and the couples are served tea by younger relatives and those in a younger generation. Every pair who is served tea gives an angpow for good luck and prosperity and also a sign of accepting the new spouse into the family. 😀
As the couple leave the house and enter the bridal car, a bridesmaid would hold up a red umbrella to protect the bride from evil spirits, and family members would scatter rice onto the umbrella to attract good luck. ✨
At this point the couple will be chauffeured in the bridal car to the groom’s house, and the bridesmaids will join the journey in the groomsmen’s convoy cars. 🚗
Tea Ceremony, Continued
The tea ceremony continues at the groom’s house when the couple arrives with the groomsmen and bridesmaids, this time for the groom’s family. 🍵
After that, the family will have a baby boy (or a young boy, if there is no baby) to jump on the bridal bed! (I can almost hear the cry of “Whyyyy?! The nice new bridal bed!!” in the background. 😆) This tradition exists because of the family’s wish for the couple to have a child soon, because the only time children would jump on the bridal bed is when the couple has a child. I’d say it was the only time my nephews got to jump on the bed with permission. 😛
Why a baby / young boy and not a girl? Well, that’s because Chinese culture favours boys, both back then and now. One reason is; back in the olden days, newly wed couples would move in with the groom’s family and would only meet the bride’s parents again on every 2nd day of Chinese New Year, which meant a married woman would only be obligated to take care of her in-laws, not her parents. (I don’t agree with this part of the culture, but that’s another story. 😅)
Venue & Menu
Unlike many weddings that have a buffet-style dinner, Chinese weddings are usually held in either a Chinese restaurant or a hotel ballroom / banquet hall with a sit-down dinner, with round tables that can seat 10. An 8-course dinner will be served throughout the 2 – 4 hour banquet, placed in the middle of the table atop a Lazy Susan so the guests could help themselves. (It may go up to 12-course, though we went with 8. 🍽)
Each of the course may be any of the following, chosen for their meanings:
- Appetiser platter: The meal starts with a platter of half hot and half cold dishes, usually 1 hot and 1 cold (called hot-and cold combination) or 2 hot and 2 cold (called four seasons combination), which may include lobster, pork slices, bean curd, jellyfish and chicken feet. This dish represents the union of Yin and Yang and are often artistically arranged to resemble a dragon and a phoenix, symbolising the couple. 🎎
- Shark’s fin soup: Represents wealth and prosperity (because real shark’s fin is really expensive). Because of the cruelty involved in shark fin hunting, many places now replace shark’s fin with crab, and I asked for a vegetarian / crab one in my wedding. 😶
- Fish: Represents abundance, usually steamed and served with scallions, ginger and soy sauce. 🐟
- Sea cucumber and abalone: Abalone also represents abundance like fish (except it is also an expensive dish), and sea cucumber in Cantonese sounds like “good heart”. ❤
- Roasted pig or duck: Roasted pig represents fertility for the couple to have children, and duck symbolises happiness and fidelity. They are usually roasted to a bright reddish-brown for good luck (remember the symbolism for red?) and served whole to symbolise a full and lasting union between the couple. 🍖
- Roast chicken: Represents the phoenix, the dragon’s counterpart. The bride and groom is usually referred to as the phoenix (bride) and the dragon (groom). 🐉🐓
- Lobster or shrimps: Lobster translates literally to “dragon shrimp” and represents the groom. Shrimp represents happiness and good fortune, and bonus points to both for being red!
- Noodles or rice: Usually served at the end before dessert, long strands of noodles represents longevity and rice symbolises abundance of food. 🍚
- Dessert: Usually quite sweet to represent a sweet marriage for the couple that will never turn sour. May be red bean soup, red bean pancake or yam pudding, or a combination of the above. 🍡
Of course, the menu would give them fancier names than the ones I did here. 😆
Invitation & Seating
When an invitation (often called the “red bomb”) is given, the guest is expected to RSVP within the couple’s time frame so that a seat can be allocated for him/her. And after most of the guests have RSVPed, the couple (and often their immediate family) will arrange the seats accordingly. They’d try (or at least, I did) to arrange the seats in such a way that every guest will be seated with someone they at least know, and put the close ones together and the distant or conflicted ones separate. This is to ensure the banquet will go on smoothly, since most people will stay seated at their table. 🙂
So when you know this aunt and that uncle don’t go well together, don’t put them at the same table and make sure to put them on the opposite ends of the hall!
Bridal Couple Entrance & First Dish “Performance”
This part might be a surprise to those attending a Chinese wedding for the first time. 😛
When the event finally starts, the emcee will announce the couple’s entrance. After the lights are dimmed, a song plays and the guests stands and claps as the couple enters the banquet hall and walk along the red carpet to their table. 😀
Once everyone is seated, the lights remains dimmed as a dramatic song plays! (Usually The Final Countdown, certainly dramatic!) The restaurant / hotel servers enter with the first course on huge plates topped with candlelight, form a line in front of the guests before walking to place the dishes on their respective tables. Some may even go the extra step and have an actual mini-performance and include fireworks!
Actually this isn’t part of Chinese tradition; from what I heard, it was a restaurant / hotel who started this thing to make the food look more incredible! Wonderful! Dramatic!
So when it comes to our wedding, I thought, “Well, two could play this game!” So guess what song we had played?
Yep, it’s the main theme of Pacific Rim. 🎼
Mini-Movie of the Couple’s Childhoods and Morning Wedding Ceremony
More of a slideshow of chronologically-arranged photos with music! A service offered by the photographer, s/he would arrange two different slideshows to be played at the wedding banquet during dinner:
- A slideshow of the groom’s photos on his childhood and how he grew up, followed by the brides’ and then their dating photos. ❤
- A slideshow of the wedding ceremony, which is usually held on the morning of the same day, so you can imagine how much work the photographer has to put in to have it dome by the evening banquet!
These are usually arranged as if to tell a story, with a love song such as this popular one. Sounds nice and all, though these may also be played when dinner is running late and the guests are hungry… sadly, like mine. 😅
So the guests are eating, chatting and listening to the music, which may be a live band (more expensive) or a Spotify playlist from a phone (like what we did 😆). Around after the third dish, the couple will head up to the stage (yep, we didn’t get to eat much in ours 😅).
First, the groom will pop the champagne bottle (it turned out well considering my husband didn’t really practice 😛) and the couple will fill the champagne glass tower. Once that’s done, the emcee will invite both sets of parents onto the stage to start the yum seng session! 🥂
Yum seng / yam seng is a Cantonese term that directly translates to “drink to victory”,and in this case everyone shouts yum seng with their glasses high to congratulate the bridal couple and to wish them a happy marriage. Because the longer we hold the yum part the more blessings will come, everyone will compete with each other to have the loudest and the longest yum part so that it becomes “Yuuuuuuuuuum SENG!”
The couple and parents will do 3 yum seng toasts on stage, each one louder than the last, to signify a wish for the couple to have a blissful marriage, a wish for the couple to have eternal love, and a wish for the couple to have a child soon. After which the couple will go from table to table and do yum seng with each table’s guests. 🥂
It’s a lot of fun, and one might also get a lot of people trying funny stuff like “Yuuuuummmm–(breathe)–mmmmmm SENG!” and “Yuuuuuummm–yumyumyummmmmm SENG!” What’s even funnier for me was, we had a lot of fun guests who knew each other across several tables, so when we did yum seng for those tables, the guests from the previous one followed us and we had such a big yum seng party by the time we got to the last table of the batch! 😆
That’s a Lot of Traditions! Want to Know More?
Yep, it certainly is a lot of traditions, and I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few stuff in this post since, well, we were pretty laid back and didn’t strictly follow them. Plus we were kinda asking Uncle Google ourselves. 😅
Must we follow all of these traditions, though? It really depends on the couple and their parents; some chose to follow everything strictly, some don’t. For me, the important part was that the major steps were followed to make my family happy (I initially wanted a simple and quicker buffet-style wedding, but oh well!) and that it wasn’t too much for us to go with these steps. 🙂
For those who want to know more, I suggest asking Uncle Google! I also recommend a Southeast Asian Chinese movie (with English subtitles) called The Wedding Diary, where a guy from a modest background proposes to his wealthy girlfriend, and due her parents’ protest, he declares he’ll prove he can take care of her by holding a grand wedding! Except he routinely busts his budget due to unforeseen circumstances… it’s an example of how a wedding could go really wrong. 😅
Surprise, More Photos of Me!
Yep, I’m posting more photos of me! Well, surprise! 🎊🎉🎈🎊🎉🎈
Note: Every person in the pictures is blurred out aside from my husband and I, because being a private person myself, I wouldn’t want pictures of me to randomly appear on the internet! (One reason why I don’t like social media. 😅) Those who attended my wedding, you know who you are. 😛
A mini story; when we were in the bridal car on the way to our house, here’s the funny part: a car actually honked at us as they passed by on our right, and when I turned, I saw a couple of grinning boys giving us the thumbs-up! It was really funny. 😆
Most brides have at least 2 dresses to change into during the banquet (to show how well-to-do they are), but I decided to stick to just the red dress because it’s easier, plus why would I want to show how well-to-do I am? We went with that super red dress, because my husband said everyone needed to be able to tell I was the bride from a mile away! 😆
Whew, that’s a long one! Hope you enjoyed this, and do let me know what you think. 😀
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter
It’s nice of you to make this more readable to others by splitting this into two posts, even though you had your own reservations of this! 😀
Read More on Collaboration with a Purpose: Diversity
(Links will be added when they’re up!)
- Barb Caffrey @ Barb Caffrey’s Blog: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…
- Divyang Shah: Diversity
- Ipuna Black: Kindness, Love and Respect
- Jane Love @ Harmonious Joy: Everyone is Unique
- Jothish Joseph @ TheJothishJosephBlog: How Diverse is Diversity?
- Mylene C. Orillo: How I Found Diversity in Writing
- Sonyo Estavillo @ ‘Lil Pick Me Up: Why Writers and Readers Should Diversify Their Reading List