Tuesday, March 10, 2009 ;
8:58 AM
8 Mar

三八妇女节 (Women's Day)

Chinese wedding of church friends - long post

We were so privileged and honoured to be invited to a local Chinese wedding. Furthermore, we were asked to be the 娘家人 (Bride's family entourage) since the Bride did not have relatives here in Tianjin and only her parents were coming over from her hometown.

And ds1 was asked to help carry the train of the bride's gown.
The customs and culture are different here, and the bride said they usually have a boy carry the train.

Since we already had suits for the boys, we readily agreed. ds1's suit was bought in Utah, and still fit him, since he is still sooooo thin! ds2's suit was bought by my sis for ds1 in 2006 when ds1 was my sister's ringbearer at her wedding. Now ds2 can wear it. Just nice.

When we arrived, ds1 wanted to sit together with his favourite 阿姨 (ayi), a regular church member who plays very well with both boys. They are seen cracking the nuts and eating candy together.

Since it is very interesting and a new experience for us, I will attempt to describe all the details.

Initially, the table had candy, chocolates, pumpkin seeds, guazi on it. The kids ate far too many, but I had to close one eye since we were busy introducing ourselves and exchanging niceties with the new acquaintances at the same table.

Then Dh and I went to the bride and groom. Dh handed them 2 red packets with amounts matching the auspicious date picked by the couple to have their wedding (338 each). We asked around before deciding on the amount and were told perhaps 200 per person is good. However, for both of us, it became 400 and we felt 400 as a total was very inauspicious for Chinese.

I took pics of them. The groom at once struck a cool pose when I clicked the cam. haha.

The bride, joking with ds1 and telling him what to do later (no rehearsals before this at all). So you can see ds1 fingering her dress, and earnestly listening to instructions. What a difference from 2006 when he was just 3+ and not cooperating at the last min at my sis' wedding. He has grown, indeed.

I took a pic with 2 others at our table. They are mom and daughter. All the lady guests of the bride will wear the red pin in our hair. Very interesting and fun custom. I see that in all weddings here too. See I got mine as well!

The flower girl, delighted with her basketful of petals.

Then the march-in started. ds1 was very attentive indeed, keeping pace and never letting go. Only thing it was so hilarious for us, cos he was holding one side of the train only. Anyway, his role is pretty "for show" only.

The ceremony itself was pretty long. I think more than an hour? But it was meaningful and interesting. Here are some video excerpts. ds2 was sitting on my right side, so footage seldom had him in it, but sometimes you can see ds1. Both boys were trying hard to keep still and be attentive, but it was tough for them because they didn't understand anything, couldn't see the action, and they were hungry. haha. So they fiddled a lot with the chopsticks and stuff. However, ds1 at least was quiet throughout, whereas you sometimes can hear ds2 talking to himself.

This 1st video shows the couple holding a long lighted candle then using it to set a heart-shape formation of linked candles on flames. Symbolises igniting the passion and love.

Before this, the couple had poured neon pink liquid from 2 separate jugs into a single glass pitcher. As they poured, a neon pink LOVE pattern was made visible in the glass pitcher. Similar to the unity sand or candle ceremonies I've seen in other weddings. Western in origin?

Then the couple each gave speeches and were made to do some local Tianjin wedding customs. Both bride and groom were not Tianjin natives, but they were asked to imitate the Tianjin accent and act out separate skits on how the natives get married. This drew a lot of laughter from the audience. Even though I couldn't catch all the jokes, just the imitation of the unique Tianjin accent made me laugh too.

Then both professed their love to each other, in personal ways, and were asked to repeat the marriage oath after the master of ceremony.

Then they were asked to kiss passionately, while spinning around, for the entire duration of the audience's applause, but it kind of didn't happen in the video. I think the couple felt shy. :-) In Chinese, the MC used the words 热吻 which sounded more passionate than the English way of saying "kiss passionately". haha, just my opinion. Sometimes different languages can express something much more adequately and succinctly than others.

This segment is new to me. Not sure if it is typical of weddings here, but it is very touching and meaningful.

As you know, parents are very important and respected figures in the Chinese culture. And since most only have one child here, a wedding is a very big event. That's the only wedding the parents will ever get to hold - they have only one child to give away in marriage.

Since Chinese parents typically sacrifice a lot and put in all their effort in bringing up their only child, I think it is a very emotional affair for them too.

I see both sets of parents fighting off tears, tears of joy and pride.

Especially during this segment. The groom and then the bride take turns to present a bouquet of flowers, to his/ her father first, then mother. I took vids of all 4 exchanges but chose the groom-mom exchange and the bride-dad exchange to post here.

Before the bouquet is presented, the groom/ bride first expresses his/her gratitude to his/her parent for their upbringing and love. The words they use are so beautiful, so moving, so heartfelt, it kind of caused most of the ladies in the audience to wipe a tear or 2 off their faces as well. I also found myself tearing up.

Then they present the bouquet and give the parent a hug. Awwww, so lovely.

Then the bride's turn. The bride took a lot longer for her speech to both parents because she was just so much more emotional and anyway she is the more talkative one of the pair. She broke down and had to collect her emotions to continue her speech when talking about the love and bond between her father and herself.

However, the touching moment was spoilt by ds2 who kept exclaiming to himself right beside me "yummy orange, yummy orange!" so I stopped filming halfway. He was pouring himself yet more orange juice. I don't know how much candy and drinks the kids had while Dh and I were paying attention to the proceedings!

Then finally, there was the bowing segment. I don't know if it is just modernisation or the fact that the couple are Christians that they don't follow the traditional 一鞠躬,拜xx, 二鞠躬, 拜yy,三鞠躬,拜zz... (bowing to Heaven and Earth and parents etc that I see in movies), but they bowed to each other with different phrases.

The 1st part was not caught on film, I was too late in switching the cam on. But the 2nd bow is for: 风风雨雨,相亲相爱, 用不分离 (overcoming all obstacles in life to love each other for eternity).

3rd bow was for: ....... 真爱一生 (true love for life).

And then it was time for 交杯酒。(Sipping some wine from individual glasses, then linking hands and exchanging glasses to sip from? Correct translation?)

Then it was time for the march-out. This was pretty standard, lots of paper confetti. Only thing different here was the MC would keep shouting and cheering and saying all kinds of exhortations very loudly.

I am always amazed at their vocab. They can say many many different words, sometimes all in fours (like a 成语 or 谚语 or blessing), and go on and on. And it's so natural and smooth for them. I always have a problem at CNY, when I say 祝你身体健康 (wish you good health), I'd have to stop and think what other good things to say after that.

Some people, when they give out red packets, they can go on and on also, wishing the child all kinds of good things. I'd go, "祝你快高长大,学业进步", that's about all I can think of.

Good to replay such videos before a festive event next time, and memorise more phrases to use. haha.

After the couple exited, loud and catchy music was played, and ds1 got out of his seat, stood on the red carpet and danced. It was funny, so I quickly took out my cam to film but once he caught me filming him, he shyly stopped.

Other pics taken:

The bride had 3 gowns. The first was the cream one. Then a maroon evening gown, which I don't have pics of! And then this last one, a red qipao. Change in hairstyle too. She had time to sit and play with the boys. I remember my wedding was a big rush from table to table. Nicer to have less tables huh? Can get more intimate with guests. But we didn't have a choice back then, too many relatives and friends.

ds1 having fun with the 嘉宾 (VIP) ribbon and orchid corsage he stole from his favourite aunty, who was one of the witnesses who got to sit right in front.

The food was served after the ceremony was over. The service was far too fast. Not like in Singapore where each course takes a long time in coming up, and we finish each course, have the plates cleared and the next course brought in, here, everything is served altogether.

The dishes I can remember having: (this is a Sze Chuan restaurant)
First series: cold platters -
1. jelly beancurd
2. spicy cold chicken
3. kimchi
4. cow or pig's tongue (I did try it because the aunties all said it was very good, but I didn't really appreciate it)
5. lotus root with glutinous rice
6. tofu slices with mushroom
7. pickled carrots (looked like watermelon or papaya to me!)

Next in series: hot dishes -
8. whole duck (the kids loved this)
9. sliced beef with green chilli peppers
10. braised pork knuckle (super huge!)
11. whole steamed fish
12. whole sweet and sour spicy chilli fish
13. curry crabs (the curry was very very delicious! crab meat was fresh too)
14. gigantic tiger prawns
15. stir fried mixed veggies (celery, broccoli, cashew nuts etc)
16. piping hot soup in mini-steamboat still heated with flame (fresh mushrooms, chicken and other yummy things in a milky soup base)
17. sea cucumber (I didn't appreciate this either but the rest seemed to love it)
18. spicy silky tofu soup Sze chuan style

Final series: - desserts hot and cold -
19. Golden fried corn kernels with fried green peas (truly yum! I boxed this too)
20. Fried sesame seed rolls with yam paste filling
21. Mooncake (we think it is, cos it has red bean paste, pastry exterior and salty egg yolk in the center)
22. Mixed Fruit Platter

23. Final final final dish??!? They brought in a huge bowl of rice AFTER the desserts! Or rather, almost together with all the desserts. And true enough, at every single table, I see the huge bowl of rice, almost untouched. What a waste!

And because there more than 20 courses, the lazy susan could not hold everything in a single layer and the waitress will just keep piling the dishes on top of each other. The aunties at the same table will exhort us to eat very quickly so that the dishes can be cleared!

So it was like, from 3.45pm to 6pm we were starving and now we were stuffing ourselves as quickly as possible.

Dh was disappointed that he had only a few mouthfuls of his favourite 青椒牛柳 (sliced beef with green chilli peppers) when it was totally covered by 2 different fish dishes and he could no longer help himself to it. haha.

But as he grumbled and grumbled, at the end of the banquet, when there was food left over for about 20 more people, some guests started asking for boxes so Dh followed suit and he packed him the whole dish of sliced beef home. Haha. He was finally happy.

The other guests at the table seemed to like all the different dishes as us, so we happily boxed up what our favourites were. They took the sea cucumber and so on, while we were happy with the beef, fried corn, and mooncake. haha.

As we adults were still chatting and eating, both ds were done, and ds1 went to play with a little girl. We were glad to see that, perhaps he will be a good older brother should we have another baby. hee hee. He was gentle with her and kept making faces and playing with her to make her laugh.

Then the both of them went crazy dancing on the small stage at the front of the hall. Since the whole place was already very noisy with loud music and guests' chatter, no one seemed to mind them. So they were happy.

ds2 seemed to like the glittery and shiny 喜喜 paper confetti words, so he picked all of them up in various colours and kept coming back to his seat to store them. He said those were his treasures. Fortunately he did not ask to bring them home. :-)

When we reached home, our clothes stank of cigarette smoke, it wasn't so obvious in the smoke-filled room at the restaurant but when we reached home it was! The smell filled the whole house. So before we washed them and took our showers, we took family pics.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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