A Chinese Countryside Wedding
11 Dec 2009
Chinese weddings are very different from American weddings. For one, everything is red and most countryside weddings take place at the homes instead of in a church or like the city Chinese weddings at a fancy restaurant. I was invited to take part in my friend, Gavin's wedding. I came the day before so that I could experience everything.
Early in the morning, they carried out the pig they had been fattening and killed it, they saved the blood to make a special dish and put some on fake money to offer to the ancestors. They then had to dehair the pig by knife and then blowtorch. They also killed many chickens, ducks, fish, and a snake and prepared the meat to cook within the next day. I helped cut up vegetables as the men prepared the food. It was interesting to be able to talk to the aunts and feel a part of the family preparation. We prepared the house for the party by bringing all of the "fancy" furniture down, putting lucky red sayings on the doorways to the house and putting up a tent. Many villagers came to watch as well as dogs to eat the leftovers.
The next big event came as we prepared to go to the bride's house. We had to prepare many gifts all colored red or wrapped in red ribbon (it is a lucky color). The gifts ranged from chickens, ducks, wine, noodles, candles, cigarettes, cakes, clothing and brushes, and a red umbrella. We lit a flame from the family altar and took it with us in the specially decorated car. The drive was super slow on the countryside roads in our procession of cars with the Chinese word for blessing and wedding on our cars. We arrived very late at night and it was dark except for a few lights outside their home and no one was outside.
Then started the next tradition, getting the bride's family to open the door to the groom. It was quite the show, as I looked in through a side window at the family huddled by the door with relatives on a chair to accept the red packets of money (hongbaos). This continued for a long time of laughing and "arguing." I gave several pennies from America and 120 Yuan ($18). Finally they opened the door and we brought in the many gifts and set them on the table and could see the bride. She was much younger then I thought, barely looking like 18, but I learned she was 21 and pregnant. Her father was disabled from a farming accident so never left his bed, but uncles and aunts and sisters helped her.
They provided a huge meal that we ate nearly blindly without lights. I tried everything, without really knowing what I ate, but it tasted good. I love Chinese countryside food. After eating came the actual wedding which consists of the groom and bride's family discussing if the gift is sufficient. They lit the candle from their altar and looked at all of the gifts and then talked about how much extra money he should pay. It was quite funny for me, because Gavin kept saying no to 80 Yuan ($10) and I thought this was the dowry price, but later I learned he had paid the family 12, 000 Yuan ($1, 500) besides this amount. When the family was satisfied, they set off a long string of fireworks to signify to others the noise of celebration. Their daughter was married.
I thought that the next practical event would be her coming home with her new husband, but again I learned that there is a tradition that we can only take her home after 4 am. We had to wait another 5.5 hours. People started gathering to play cards, drinking games, and watching TV next to the coal stove. I played some of the Chinese card games for about an hour and then they said we could go to an uncles house to sleep. This was welcome news, but I learned that of all of the people that went there, only I was to have the bed. I slept in the huge family bed alone while everyone else talked and finally slept on the couches in the living room.
I was waken at 3:30 and the festivities began again. We had to gather up the gifts from the bride's family (blankets for the wedding bed) and the bride's lifetime belongings (they fit in one carry-on sized bag. She was wearing her new red clothing and was protected wherever she went by the red umbrella. They served us food again and then we got into the cars still tired and started out on the slow trek back to the groom's house. We stopped several times along the way for traditional events, like the groom carrying his bride across the line from her village to his and him singing a song for her. The groom kept a lit torch from her family altar and we enjoyed the trip, no matter how tired we were.
Upon arriving at his home, we started carrying things in as the family set off fireworks right next to us. It was the loudest thing I have heard, fireworks from one foot away. After that, I was whisked off to a relatives house and directed to a cousin's bed and I thought nothing of it because I was so tired.
In the morning, I awoke to rain but the festivities and preparation continued. We kept chopping vegetables cooking meat and eating. I spent lots of time playing with the kids and trying to talk to the bride because she was left almost alone and afraid in her new bedroom. They provided cigarettes, candy and sunflower seeds until your pockets and mouth exploded. Then came the meal. So many people came and ate, people from her village and villagers and friends from almost everywhere. It was great food and fun to experience.
I have gotten a great appreciation for the hard work that goes into planning and having a wedding in the countryside of China. It is a great celebration for all, but hard work for the families. The next celebration to come is when there baby arrives in March. I hope I will be able to come and be a part of that celebration too. Many blessings to the married couple and there hard life ahead as farmers until they can find different jobs. Gavin wants to start an English school, something that is quite difficult in China but anyone can do.