Having just come back from an American wedding, I thought it appropriate to talk about the differences and similarities in Chinese & American weddings. Just as the Western world has influenced many other facets of Chinese culture, it has also influenced some facets of Chinese wedding culture. All of the information presented below is from a few of my Chinese colleagues reflections on their own weddings.
Let’s start with the Wedding Dress
Nowadays, many brides in large tier cities like Beijing wear white dresses due to the influence of Western culture. In Chinese history, the bride’s dress is a deep Chinese red throughout the ceremony and reception. Now the bride will slip into a red dress after the ceremony. These dresses are just as elaborate, if not more, than western dresses. Traditionally, Chinese brides will have something red accompany their outfit, just as some American brides wear “something blue” to accompany their dress. The bride will change into a couple of dresses throughout the evening of celebration.
A traditional Chinese wedding is held in a very large banquet hall within a restaurant that is rented out before hand. Nowadays, some couples are choosing to have their events in outdoor locations or other picturesque places. However this is much less common in smaller cities.
The Ceremony & Reception
Unlike American weddings, the Chinese groom & bride are able to see each other throughout the day and between everything leading up the ceremony. The atmosphere is much more relaxed and the bride and groom can be seen talking with each other and guests before everyone is seated for dinner.
For the American bride and groom, the wedding ceremony, complete with the exchanging of vows of love, is the most significant part of the day which is done with ceremonial silence. However, for a Chinese couple the most important part of the day is the wedding reception replete with a feast and wishes for prosperity and there is no ceremonial silence. Unlike American weddings, the ceremony and reception are wrapped up in one event which takes place in one event space.
Both Chinese and American banquets have formalized seating arrangements with the most important tables set together at the party’s front or on a stage.However, a Chinese menu is very much more expansive than the American wedding feast. In some cases, there is a 10-course meal with starters, shark’s fin soup, Peking duck and lobster, crab claws, fish, sweet red bean soup and sweet buns; each dish holds symbolic meaning. Guests often take a bag or box of leftovers home with them as a sign of appreciation for the good food.
Entertainment at Chinese weddings revolves around playful games and efforts to embarrass the newlyweds. However, after talking to my two Chinese colleagues who recently got married, these games are becoming less and less popular in mainstream Chinese wedding culture. Western entertainment has put a lot of emphasis on doing different forms of entertainment like dancing or having photo booths at weddings.
There is no such thing as a wedding registry for Chinese couples. The gifts are all about lucky money given in small red envelopes. As my Chinese friends put it, ” China is all about the money.” And there are no checks or gift cards, just cold, hard, cash. A couple can quite literally rack up an entire big box filled with paper notes. I’ve been told that some Chinese couples will spend their time after the reception counting how much money they have received from their family and friends.
After the Reception
There is no formal send off of the modern Chinese couple. No one lines up to make sure they get in the car that will help send them off to their honeymoon. In fact, the bride and the groom are usually the last people to leave the party. While honeymoons are becoming more popular among Chinese couples who live in big cities like Beijing, it’s not common in smaller cities and towns. Often the couple will head back to the house of their parents will they will relax with their family and friends.
One of my colleagues decided to take her wedding party to sing karaoke after her reception! A chinese party is not complete without karaoke.
Have you been to a Chinese wedding? What was it like?