My Cousin’s Big Fat Chinese Wedding, pt. 1

Welcome to my first feature post of BANANA LIFE!

As you all know, I traveled to China this past December to attend the wedding of my dear cousin Li Xi and her boyfriend of 8 years, Wu Hai Feng. Now, having only been to a few traditional western weddings in my lifetime, I really did not know what to expect with this one. All I knew was that there was gonna be A LOT of food, and A LOT of red & gold.

There was a "hong bao" with every invitation!

Well, I was certainly correct on those two accounts. What I didn’t realize until a few weeks before traveling to China was that my new cousin-in-law is an RMB-illionaire (seriously, his family is DIDDY-loaded). I learned that Hai Feng’s grandfather was a very famous chief of medicine and founder of one of the biggest hospitals in Humen (his hometown in the Guangdong province) and his father owns a very successful glass manufacturing business (which he will one day run). In addition, my uncle (Li Xi’s father and my mom’s older brother) has risen to be one of the top business managers of a corporate and residential interior design firm in Dongguan, Guangdong and is doing quite well for himself as well. Put these two families together and what do we get? I’ll let the following picture speak for itself:

I can tell you with 99% confidence that this was and will be, the most extravagant wedding I ever go to.

But before we get into the details of the actual evening ceremony, I wanted to share some of the customs that occurred prior to the extravaganza depicted above. I was overwhelmed when I heard how much had to be done to prepare for the wedding. As Li Xi said to me when I arrived a few days early, “太多麻烦!” (translation: way too much trouble!)

NOTE: Some of the traditions I am about to describe are specific to the Guangdong province, so they should not be generalized with all of China. And obviously, this is not a typical wedding since the two families are each BALLIN’ status. I just don’t want to get your hopes up when you get invited to a Chinese wedding and expect the same level of craziness, haha.

Pre-Wedding Customs:

  • The bride must buy 6 new outfits that must be packed in a red suitcase and taken to her new home to be worn during the week following the wedding. The clothes are then never worn again and discarded.
  • The bridal party must drink a sweet herbal soup consisting of the following: lotus seed, white wood ear fungus, lily bulbs, and dried red dates sweetened by rock sugar (tastes better than it sounds!)
  • The groom’s family gives the bride an herbal bath mixture that she must use the night before the wedding. The bride must also eat a roasted chicken prepared by her grandmother that same night (I have no idea what this symbolizes).
  • The bride’s hair must be brushed and done up in a bun –the style of chinese married women– by another female member of the family who is both happily married and financially successful (in this case, my mother). During this time, my mom must also drop some knowledge on her about how to be a good wife, lol.
  • The groom’s family must decorate and prepare the couple’s new home (in this case, an entire floor of their 5-story mansion o_O) with new bedding, furniture, and shiny things.
  • A bridal dowry of cash (a whole lot of it) is placed in two red buckets and strung across a pole to be carried in the ancient tradition. One of the elder members of the bride’s family must carry it to the groom’s home on the day of the wedding.

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Wedding Day Rituals

On the morning of the wedding, Hai Feng, whose family lives about 40 minutes away from Dongguan, caravanned over with his groomsmen to take us all back to his family’s mansion in Humen. While Li Xi was being prepped by my mother and accompanied by her nine bridesmaids in her newly bedazzled bedroom, I hung out with my aunt who filled me in on the wedding day customs:

  • Before the groom’s party could take Li Xi away they had to engage in a traditional “wedding door game”. Basically, the bridesmaids must block the door and prevent the groom and his party from entering. The only way the groom is allowed to enter is by correctly answering questions asked by the bridal party and offering hong bao. In ancient times and apparently some regions now, the groom’s party will force their way in by breaking down the door or windows; but given that my uncle just finished furnishing the home he said he’d kill any one who tried, lol.
  • Once in the bedroom, the groom must kiss the feet of the bride and find a hidden pair of red shoes before carrying her out of the threshold. Only then can all the parties leave for the groom’s home.
  • While traveling, the bride and groom must carry a red umbrella in order to ward off evil spirits as they cross the gates of their new home.
  • Relatives shower them with confetti and rice as pass by, which apparently is to attract the attention of the golden chicken, a symbol of health and success.
  • Lastly, the newlyweds must perform a ceremony where they burn incense and offer food and tea to their ancestors.

And FINALLY, we got to go and pig out at LUNCH 🙂 YUMMMMM

MID-DAY FEAST!

Whew! And that takes us up to around noon, lol. After food coma-ing for a bit and resting up at the hotel, we then got ready for the evening ceremony, which as you could probably tell from the picture above, was a tad insane. But I guess you’ll have to wait until next time to hear about that!

再見!

-John

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