My Cousin’s Big Fat Chinese Wedding, pt. 2

Yo!

Sorry about the late follow-up to this post! Been busy being a dragon this past week: just joined a gym, classes started back up and my new DJ residency is taking off; so a pretty good start to the new year!

Anyways, let’s rewind about 6 weeks and head back to Humen, Guangdong, where my lovely cousin Li Xi and her new husband Wu Hai-Feng had their BOSS wedding. Like I mentioned in the last post, my cousins are pretttttttty wealthy. The day of the wedding was both exciting and exhausting for everyone, especially our family (both my uncle and grandma came down with the sickness the night before!) After the morning ceremonies and pigging out at lunch, we all booked it to the hotel where the evening reception was to take place and came down with the ITIS for a bit (gotta rest up before the next feast!)

BALL SO HARD

Finally, it was time to make our way to the ballroom; my mother dressed in her traditional red & gold chi-pao while I suit-ed up in a matching red tie. Sidenote: you’ll notice in the pictures from the slideshow below that most of the guests did not dress up for the wedding. In China, it seems that only the bridal/groom party and the parent’s of the betrothed wear formal clothing while other guests wear whatever they choose. Given the black on black two-piece, my spiky fauxhawk and shiny studs, it was pretty clear I wasn’t a native of the area. I am pretty sure guests started snappin’ pictures and asked my family if I was a famous celebrity from the states, lol.

Rather than describe the magnificence of the venue, check out the following slide show. I can’t begin to imagine how much time it took to put this all together:

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The ceremony itself was unlike anything I’ve been to before; it really felt like a red carpet event and pretty much played out like one as well. It opened up with mingling and pictures with the bride and groom at the ballroom threshold (when you see it in the slideshow, be sure to check the hilarious typo in the back drop – why must they use English phrases if they can’t read it???). After getting seated finally (900+ guests in 88 tables!) the lights dimmed and a cute slideshow of the wedding couple commenced (played to the song ‘Beauty and the Beast’ lol).

Wu Hai Feng gettin' all emotional and ish

Finally, after half of the courses were served, they began the wedding march. Similar to western weddings, the bride is escorted by her father down the aisle, however, instead of meeting the groom at the altar (in this case, canopy?), the groom approaches them to proclaim his love and ask for the father’s blessing. You can see in the pictures that Hai-Feng walked across the catwalk (to the tune of his favorite band) to face them and say his vows. It got pretty sappy here and he made everyone cry with a very sweet and sincere speech (I’m not gonna lie, I teared up a bit). My uncle, who is not the most eloquent speaker, responded in his typical jokester fashion saying something along the lines of: “Hai-Feng, you are a good dude and I like you because you have no bad habits” (snicker snicker).

My uncle crackin' jokes

After that, I was ready to get back to dominating the feast in front of me, but not 2 minutes into my lobster tail, I was ushered up by Li Xi’s mom to be part of the toasting party. I guess I was honored, but have you ever toasted 88 tables before? IT TOOK OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF!!! Later I found out that my aunt said I had to represent our family b/c  no one else on her side dressed up, lol. There was this toasting “master” who led us to each table, yelling random nonsense and filling our cups with iced tea (from a cognac bottle, haha). Finally after 5 glasses of faux Remy Martin, I returned to a table of cold, but nonetheless tasty dishes, which I pigged out on as the guests began to leave. You sure do work up an appetite pretending to get drunk.

Had to toast 88 tables... don't worry, not real booze

So here’s a quick and incomplete tally of all the absurd displays and expenses:

  • A ridiculous laser-light show opening with acrobats
  • Custom sand animation depicting their love story (couldn’t post the original but the link shows pretty much what it was like – it was definitely my favorite part!)
  • The master of ceremony was apparently a celebrity TV host from Guangzhou
  • Really piercing performances by Peking opera singers
  • A professionally shot music video performed by the bridesmaid and 24/7 photography & videography documenting the entire weekend
  • 12-course meal that included shark fin soup, giant abalone, dragon-tail lobster, roast baby pig and many other delectables
  • Times that by 88 tables!
  • And wedding gifts included a 2012 Audi TTS 2.0, set of Cartier watches, traditional solid gold necklace and bracelets, and over 500,000 in cold, hard RMB (that’s one huge hong bao)

All in all, I was told that the entire ceremony (including gifts, hotels, performances etc.) totaled to around 8 MILLION RMB (that’s about 1.3 million USD o_O). Good thing in China, it’s the groom’s family who pays for the wedding, lol

FOOD

So after digesting all of that extravagance, I began to think about the institution of marriage between East and West. Obviously, there are the cultural traditions that separate us as well as the lack of religious context. But why was it so necessary to be this grand? Though I had a blast, I couldn’t help by think how wasteful and over-the-top the whole event was (they threw out the entire CAKE!). I learned that showcasing your wealth is just something that is done in China. To display success and fortune is a part of Chinese culture; and contrary to Western values, it isn’t really considered arrogant to do so. I guess you could say that Chinese people place high esteem in material wealth; so if you got it, you might as well flaunt it. It think this traces back to China’s focus on valuing family lineage and honor through tangible measures of success.

Let me remind you again that this not your typical Chinese wedding, so forgive me if I may be over-generalizing. One thing is for sure: my cousin is never going to have to worry about money the rest of her life!

Still dreaming of that crispy pork,

John

p.s. My grandparents asked me if my wedding was going to be like this, to which I respond, 哎吔! 不会! (rough translation: AW HELLLLL NO!)

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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