I am a sucker for weddings.
There’s the massive amount of preparation necessary, which means lots of organizing and planning and the possible purchase of loads of office supplies to make the organizing and planning more productive and fun. There is the choosing of colors and cakes and centerpieces. There is flower selection and venue selection and photographer selection. But, more than anything, I love the dresses- whether long and flowing sheaths or fluffy and frothy ball gowns or traditional with a splash of color, I could thumb through bridal magazines all day long, critiquing each aisle-bound set of attire. (Just Friday, I was headed home from the consulate, in a cab rather than on my scooter, because it was mail delivery day and we got not only an awesomely large care package from Thad’s sister, but also a couple of his birthday gifts arrived. I know if I were truly integrating into the Chengdu culture I would have loaded it all up on my bike and headed out, but I just can’t put that much on my scooter and expect to make it home in one piece! I’m doing well to make to and from work each day when I have nothing more than my mere person with which to be concerned. Anyway, as I was headed home on Friday, I noticed, not far from the consulate, a brand new shop had opened up. What kind of shop you may ask? A wedding dress store! I will definitely be heading down there on my lunch on Monday to check out dresses in the windows. Oh, and buy a smoothie on my way, as the new bridal shop is right next door to the new smoothie shop, from which I carry a VIP card!)
But, back to weddings.
I love them.
So, several months ago, when I got an eVite for two of our friends getting hitched in Guiyang, I think I RSVPed before the entire page had even loaded on my somewhat lagging Chinese internet. Of course we’d be taking the one-hour flight to the capital of Guizhou province to attend the ceremony! (The fact that Thad was the best man, while important, didn’t play in to my decision at all. It was a wedding. I was invited. I was going.)
Thad and I had the chance to attend several wedding banquets when we were in Peace Corps in Gansu, but we never participated in the morning part of the ceremony, which includes the groom breaking down the door to his bride’s parents home, after offering money and promises to do all the household chores; tea being served to the parents and grandparents, followed by the newlyweds bowing to these elder members of the family; the giving of red envelopes filled with money as a gift to the new couple; and the serving of and eating of gooey balls of dough served in a warm soup, called tangtuan.
I was super excited to find out we got to ride with the wedding party in the decorated cars. I see these caravans headed through town all the time, sometimes covered in flowers and other times draped in balloons. We were lucky enough to hop in a balloon laden car to make the trip to the bride’s father’s home and then again heading back to the bride’s mother’s place. I can definitely check that off my Bucket List! (Okay, I don’t actually have a Bucket List, not because I don’t think it is a good idea, but because it has become so much of a fad, I just can’t bring myself to follow the herd that way. I tend to do the same thing with books. As soon as it becomes uber-popular, I am suddenly not interested in reading it, even if everyone tells me it is great. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Haven’t read it. 50 Shades of Gray? Too ridiculous. Harry Potter? Only got through the first two before the hype became out of control. I know. I should be less of a snot. But, maybe I’ll make myself a “Pushing Up Daisies” list. That way, not only am I making a set of goals for before I die, but I can adorn said list in every shade of pink and purple Gerber daisy known to man! I think I may just be on to something here…)
The morning wedding ceremonies were followed by a brief afternoon rest, during which I may or may not have gone to the ATM with Thad’s debit card, thinking I knew his PIN, and finding out I was not correct in that thought process only when the ATM gobbled his card and would not give it back after entering the wrong number twice. (Notice it was his card that went in the machine. I need mine for online shopping!)
An evening banquet wrapped up the day’s festivities. There was no ride in a balloon bedecked car, as the dinner was held in the hotel we were staying at, but it did entail a lot of food and even more alcohol. After walking up the aisle together, Lulu wearing a beautiful knee-length red dress and her hair curled and up in a dainty bow, they addressed the crowd of nearly 200 guests. (Three of which were not Chinese- Jessica, Thad and me.) A Chinese wedding does not include vows the way a western wedding does, which is, after the dress, my second favorite part of a weddings. Whether it is “Till death do us part” or “To infinity and beyond” (which I think would make a great addition to the traditional American vows), that part of the event where the bride and groom turn to each other, hold hands and promise to love and cherish and honor and all the other gooey and sappy stuff that brings a tear to the eye of even the most stalwart guest, this is what I missed the most when comparing the ceremonies of the two cultures.
Lulu sang for John and John put together an adorable video, fashioned after the introduction to How I Met Your Mother. The evening seemed to be a success. Toasts were made and then more toasts were made. And then, a few more toasts were made.
While a traditional Chinese wedding is not a white wedding, and it is true that nothing in this world is fair or safe or sure, I do think Billy Idol would agree that it was a nice day to start again.