An American in Chengdu

Wedding | November 13, 2009

On Sunday I went to a wedding reception. Apparently it was an auspicious day to get married because the words for the date sound like “will get rich” in Chinese, but I can’t confirm that, as I can’t actually read this article. It’s also prestigious to have foreigners at one’s Chinese wedding, which was why I was invited: I’d never met the bride and groom before, but the bride works with my friend Lee. Lee told me it would be very traditional, and that even he wasn’t sure what to expect. I think most urban Chinese now have somewhat Westernized weddings, with ceremonies held in hotel ballrooms or even churches, and the bride in a white dress. This was not to be that kind of wedding.

At 9:00 am the guests met in front of a hotel near campus and boarded a bus. After an hour or so of driving we arrived in a village, and the bride met us in full regalia. Many group pictures were taken, red envelopes full of money were given to the bride, and men (family members of the happy couple, I assume) handed out Panda Pride cigarettes to the male guests. Actually smoking the cigarettes didn’t seem to be obligatory, though–Lee simply carried his and abandoned them on a table later.

We had to walk the last half-mile or so down a narrow concrete road to the bride’s parents’ house. We milled around the courtyard for awhile, the bride disappeared and reemerged in jeans and a sweater, and then the groom came out in costume for his round of picture-taking. Some fireworks were set off on the road outside, sending a tall plume of smoke into the air.

Eventually the food started to come out, and our corner of the courtyard arranged ourselves into drinking and non-drinking tables. As we ate the dishes of food kept coming out, and had to be constantly rearranged to make room, and finally new dishes were simply stacked on the edges of others. Lee had asked the bride to arrange some vegetable dishes for me, which was embarrassing, but perhaps necessary given the traditional meatiness of wedding banquet food. The vegetables just kept coming until they were stacked three-deep in a pyramid in front of me.

The gifts kept coming, too: a little red change purse filled with candy for each guest, red embossed hand towels, a whole platter of Panda Pride cigarettes. These last were handed out by the bride herself, who gave them to women as well as men. I left mine on the table, though I couldn’t help admiring the tiny red panda stamp.

After lunch some of the guests, with the bride’s permission, raided the vegetable patch. Then we all wandered back to the bus. There was no ceremony–I gather it’s common for the actual marriage to take place months before the celebration.


1 Comment »

  1. That is so cool. I mean, that’s the good part of the wedding, right? The food?

    Comment by Helen — November 22, 2009 @ 1:44 am

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    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.
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