Analysis of a Chinese Wedding

Keith and Carmen pouring Champagne First I’d like to congratulate Keith and Carmen! I would also like to thank them for inviting me to their wedding and being part of the bridal party.

I initially thought this was going to be awkward and boring, given that I only knew a handful of people at this wedding (a number I can probably count on 1 hand). It didn’t help that I was a groomsman who didn’t know the groom that well. I also had no idea what to expect nor knew what my responsibilities were. But I had a blast and it was extremely fun. I’d also like to take this time to apologize to Kyle as I accidentally chipped his tooth. More about that later.

To give a little back story, I’ve been to Chinese weddings before, but usually relatives who were a generation older than me. My family and I were invited because my dad was invited. So my parents always took care of the gift and we just went there to eat. I always found them to be very boring. This is my first official wedding that I was the main invitee that I attended. Next week I have Xyon’s wedding to attend in San Diego, once again as a groomsman, so I’ll be able to compare.

However to truly experience what a Chinese wedding is, you really have to be in the bridal party (bridesmaids or groomsmen) and it’s a lot of fun! I do have to say the bridesmaid did a lot more work than the groomsmen did.

Way too early in the morning

The whole wedding thing starts way early in the morning. I had to be at the groom’s place by 8am. It takes about 30 minutes to drive to his place. I decided to give myself an hour to get dressed (I usually take 20 mins to get dressed, but given that I’m unfamiliar with a tux, I decided to give myself some extra time). Going to bed at 2:30am didn’t help and even though I set my alarm clock for 6:30am, hitting the snooze button twice got me till 6:48am. Despite only having 4 hours of sleep, I didn’t really feel tired at all today. I guess when you’re having fun, tiredness doesn’t really enter the equation. I mean it’s already 3:50am and I’m still typing this stupid blog post instead of sleeping. In another 2.5hrs, I’d be up for 24 hours. I guess the reasoning is I probably want to write down everything I can remember now before I forget them tomorrow.

The Tuxedo

The tux is basically a traditional western wedding tux, with a jacket, pants, vest and tie. One thing I’m not quite sure of is if it’s a Chinese tradition for the bride and groom to pay for the tux rental. For Xyon’s wedding, the groomsmen had to pay for the tux rental. Not complaining here, just noting a difference, as I even asked the rental place if I owed them any money.

While putting on the tux, everything was fine and dandy until I got to the cuff links. The cuff links themselves were fine as I figured out how to put them on pretty fast, but it came with these 4 tinier knobs which I had no idea what to do with. After searching for cuff link/accessories online, I found out these were called studs and studs basically replaced buttons on the dress shirt. It also took me awhile to figure out that in order to use the studs, I did not have to use the actual buttons. Too bad when you’re wearing a tie, you basically never see the studs.

With that said, I was ready to head out.

At the groom’s house

The groomsmen met at the groom’s house just as a gathering point, as we’ll be leaving for the brides house shortly. It was also a good place to help figure out how to wear the tuxedo for people who didn’t know quite exactly what to do. They tied a groom and bride Mickey Mouse + Minnie Mouse to the front of the wedding car. As groomsmen, we all got a red envelope from the groom’s family. It was time to head out.

At the bride’s house

When we got to the bride’s house, apparently there’s wedding games that the groom and groomsmen have to play in order to get into the house. It apparently involves many embarrassing acts. Ours included doing the hula dance, singing songs, doing push-ups while there’s a plate of whip cream below your face, and some other random stuff. Even though the groom and groomsmen had to do all this stuff, the bridesmaids had to think of them. Not quite sure which is harder. And of course there’s the bargaining of how much it’ll cost to allow the groom’s party to enter the house. After several back and forth, a price was reached (all in fun), and we were finally allowed in.

When we finally got to see the bride, she was in a traditional Chinese red wedding dress, despite the groom being in a tradition Western tuxedo. I noted that the traditional Chinese red wedding dress actually is short enough so you can see the shoes. Xyon had commented that in a Western wedding, a regular wedding dress covers your shoes and you actually never see them, yet women would spend like $300 on that pair of wedding shoes. Apparently during the photography session, they would have a dedicated section where they would just take pictures of the bride’s shoes.

Another thing I noted was that the bride didn’t have a red cloth covering her face. I guess modern times doesn’t require that anymore.

Once in, there was the tea ceremony which basically is the bride and groom giving tea to all the elders in the bride’s family. In return, they get presents (jewelry) or red envelopes. Since there were many elders and only 1 tea set with 4 cups, the bridesmaids had to work together quickly washing the cups for the next set of elders. I told Kyle that we’ll probably have to do that for the groom’s family.

Apparently as groomsmen, we also all got a red envelope from the bride’s family. It was then time to head back to the groom’s house.

Back at the groom’s house

Once we got back to the groom’s house, the bride had to step over a burning pan of fire. I remember this tradition in TV dramas, but I forget the reason. They were also given lettuce and some other random vegetable I couldn’t make out, while bowing their heads. Never seen this tradition and had no idea what it is.

The rest was very much the same thing. It’s the tea ceremony for the the groom’s side of the family as they give tea to the elders and the elders wish them luck and fortune and give them gifts. Interestingly enough, the bridesmaids continued with the teacup washing. I guess they don’t trust us guys with the cups as breaking one of them would probably be very bad luck. Less work for us. We just sat around looking cool.

Lunch

The bride and groom had lunch with the groom’s family, while the rest of the bridal party went out to get dim sum. 2 hours later, it was time to head back and head off to the ceremony/reception location.

Ceremony

The ceremony wouldn’t start until 5pm, but we got there around 2:30-3pm. The bridesmaid went off to help the bride get ready for the ceremony, while the groomsmen were suppose to help set up the ceremony/reception area, but we found out that we were more trouble than help, so we just ending up idling around and chatting.

5pm finally arrives and it was time for the ceremony. The ceremony was actually a very traditional Western wedding ceremony. The bride had changed into a normal white bridal dress. There was going to be a judge to be the officiant of the wedding. Before it started, the judge came to us and basically told us how he wanted us to walk down the aisle, where to stand, and so on. I had forgotten who the bridesmaid I was supposed to pair off with and apparently so did 2 other groomsmen. The only one who remembered was Kyle. It was a good thing the bride and bridesmaid remembered.

One thing I found out early on is that married men can’t be groomsman in a Chinese wedding, though they can be brothers (兄弟). I thought it was a pity that best friends can only be groomsman for the one who gets married first.

So the groom and the best man were standing at the “altar”, best man holding a pillow with the rings on it. One by one, the pair of groomsman and bridesmaid walk down. The maid of honor walks down alone. Finally the bride is walked in by her uncle (her father couldn’t make it to the wedding). The judge does his little speech, they say “I do”, they exchange rings, and then they kiss to seal the deal.

After the ceremony, they did the pouring champagne pyramid thingy, bouquet/garter belt throwing, and finally the cake cutting. I found it a bit weird that the cake cutting occurred at this point of the wedding as I would’ve expected it to occur near the end of dinner and the cake itself was dessert.

Photo session

When I first got the schedule, it showed the ceremony ended at 6pm, but dinner didn’t start till 8pm, and was wondering what happened during those 2 hours. Apparently a lot of photo taking. Basically the bride and groom would take pictures with everyone; with close relatives, individual families, friends, etc. They did this with both sides of the families.

While this was going on, people were eating cake. I would have to say the cake wasn’t really that good. The frosting felt like rubber and my fork couldn’t cut it. I did eat the cakey part though as that still tasted like regular cake.

Reception

At the entrance, there was a stand where guests would sign in. There were 2 boxes, one marked groom and one marked bride. As I mentioned in a previous post, instead of a wedding gift, people gave money stuffed in red envelopes (apparently called 人情 – favor). The booth was supposed to be manned by the bridal party, but once again the bridesmaid did most of the work. It’s not like the groomsman did nothing. Okay, who am I kidding, we mostly did just stand around. But the groomsman did help with setting the photo-session area by moving and setting up chairs.

When the photo-session was finally done, the bride and groom gave their speech and dinner started. The dinner menu was very traditional Chinese. For some reason, balloons were popping every so often. We decided that every time a ballooned popped, we had to drink. It was rather amusing. We started throwing crab shells at the balloons to make them pop so we would drink.

Drinking

Somewhere between the photo-session, alcohol was released and all hell broke loose. The only hard alcohol was cognac and that stuff burns, even if you’re sipping it. I decided to add ice to it and make it on the rocks. It was a bit better. Then along comes Hanna and a group of us cheered. She basically took 2 shots of cognac straight down, while the rest of us just sipped. For the next half an hour or so, she kept saying we cheated her as we supposed to go bottoms up when we cheered. All the while, she kept on pouring more cognac into my cup. Evil! I finally gave in and drank half my cup of cognac and she was now satisfied. I was now tipsy and that’s when the fun really began.

Before the bridal party actually got to eat much, it was time for the bride and groom to visit table to table. We had to drink in place of the groom, because as groomsman, we’re not suppose to let him get drunk. At this point, Kyle’s been limiting my alcohol and I’ve basically switched to white wine. People think I was drunk, but I think appear more drunk than I really am. It’s not like I’m acting, but for some reason I get giddy and happy when I slightly inebriated. I’m pretty sure I was just tipsy. I would have to say the only time I’ve gotten drunk was still in Texas. Though one can still have a lot of fun while being tipsy. All in all, I probably had 5 shots worth of cognac and 3 glasses of white wine. One interesting thing I found out is, I didn’t turn red!

Even though Hanna would get us to drink a lot, she wouldn’t drink much herself. She did make a promise that for every love song we sang at the karaoke, she would drink. So near the end of dinner, I went up and sang 童話 (光良). I figured 秋天別來 (伍思凱), 對不起不是你 (陳慧琳), or 愛上一個人 (鄭秀文) wasn’t really suitable for a wedding as they’re sad love songs. It was a bit weird singing 童話 as I was all giddy and I’m not usually giddy or even happy when singing this song. It turned out okay I think… And as promised Hanna took her drink.

Basically people had begun leaving while the bridal party was still eating dinner. As I mentioned, I had a blast. I’m pretty sure the alcohol helped. I also met some really cool people, especially the other groomsmen and brothers. Oh yeah, about Kyle’s chipped tooth. Somehow I managed to throw a thumbs up knocking the wine bottle he was drinking out of and chipping his tooth. I felt really bad about it, even though he was really cool about it. Once again, I’m really sorry.

For 2 hours before leaving, I had basically stopped drinking, and had been drinking a lot of water and tea. People still didn’t believe I was well enough to drive even though I could pass any of the sobriety tests. They finally relented and my driving was fine, or at least I think so. I mean I did make it home back in one piece. I had to drive Hanna, Flora, and the bride’s mother back home, so they could probably speak more about how my driving was. And given the fact I can remember all this speaks for itself on how drunk I really was (or maybe I’m just a drunk with a good memory).

I’ll end this blog post with the words of a much wiser man, “Don’t bring your wife to a wedding.”

5 thoughts on “Analysis of a Chinese Wedding

  1. I’m not sure your definition of drunk lines up with reality.

    I’m not sure what preconceived notions you’re bringing along, but I get the impression that you only think you’re drunk if you have memory loss, pass out, feel terrible, etc. That’s when you’ve drank too much, or “fall-down drunk”. Which is not the same thing. If being drunk totally sucked, people wouldn’t do it.

    Which brings us to the personal physical reaction to drunkenness. There are lots of different reactions. Some people get quiet, others loud. Some get angry, others happy. You can become poetic, sarcastic, caustic, sincere, musical, just about anything. Sounds like you tend to feel happy and giddy. Congrats. That’s a great drunk personality.

    If you felt euphoric, and your inhibitions were lowered enough to do things you might not normally have done, and the people around you thought you were drunk, then you were drunk. It’s a socially defined thing that has very little to do with field sobriety tests or your actual BAC.

    I recommend you examine your feelings around drunkenness to decide why you resist being labeled as drunk. It’s not uncommon AT ALL for drunk people to insist that they aren’t. I remember some early times drinking when I was insistent that I was not drunk, but that mostly had to do with the fact that I had always been the sort of person who insisted drinking was not for me and who valued control over my actions and emotions; the idea of being “drunk” contradicted those personal values I held.

    Also, you weigh very little and it sounds like you drank quite a lot. Generally, your weight is very tied to your ability to consume alcohol, unless you drink very often and have developed a head for it. For example, I would expect that if you’ve drank 4 shots of hard liquor within 90 minutes, that you will exhibit symptoms of drunkenness. I mean, you only weight like 140 lbs, right?

    Anyway, I recommend making up your mind about whether you think it’s ok for you to be drunk or not. If you don’t want to be drunk (not the same as being *A* drunk), you should really not have more than 1-2 drinks at a social function. If you’re okay with it, you should stop insisting during and afterwords that you’re not drunk. Having your friends who have probably never seen you drunk be delighted to discover that you’re drunk is A-OK. It is not the same as having your mom or significant other say “You’re drunk!” in that voice that means you’re in trouble.

    Especially given your east asian decent, drinking is a big part of your cultural heritage, whether it was part of your family’s tradition when you were growing up or not. My mom still hates that I drink (even though I’m 30!), and I don’t do it around her. But I have come to realize that as an anxious, uptight, snobby control freak who has trouble showing emotion when sober, occasionally being drunk is a nice break from all that.

    /rantrantrant

    P.S. I wasn’t actually there, so I have no idea whether you were drunk or not. 😉

    • I believe you’re right. I’ve always associated some bad connotations with being drunk and the fact that I have to admit that I’ve lost control of myself is something I’d hate to admit. Maybe after a few more times, I’ll be more willing to admit it. ;p

  2. sounds like you had a good time! you should post more pics from the event if you get them. i want to see you in a tux.. and karaoke-ing 🙂

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