My Chinese wedding was according to the tradition of the Ming Dynasty. You have 2 traditions that are the most popular in China now: that of the Ming Dynasty and that of the Qing Dynasty. Because the Qing Dynasty was Manchurian, this tradition is more popular in the north, the Manchurian region. In other regions, with the Han Chinese, the Ming Dynasty is the most popular.
The day itself began, for my husband, at 6am to get the person who would do my makeup and hair. 1 hour later, he picked me up from his place to bring me to his uncle’s place to get ready there. Normally, I should have slept the night at my parents’ place, or I would have spent the night at his uncle’s place, but we had a big dinner and went to bed a bit late.
At his uncle’s place, the beautician made my makeup and hair. It was beautiful! I thought it would have looked too fake and too much, but she did a wonderful job! I put on my dress and shoes and felt a bit emotional to see my transformation into a bride.
Slowly, more and more family members came and they were all taking pictures of me. I was surrounded with people taking pictures with their phones and cameras. I felt like a movie star!
We had to wait longer than expected. Normally, Eric would come to pick me up in a carriage around 8.30am, but he finally came around 9.30am. They blocked the door, so he couldn’t come near me and they were all asking for a ‘hongbao’ (red envelope with money in it). He had to shove it under the door. They were shouting it was not enough, and eventually he could push open the door and had to distribute a lot of ‘hongbao”. I had to wear a red cover over my head, so I couldn’t see anything and he had to lead me out of the house.
Eric had an open carriage, carried by 4 people. I had a closed carriage also carried by 4. Before our carriage there were 2 lions and then people holding banners with best wishes written on them. The whole procession went through the village. Inside the carriage I could take off my cover, but still, it was a hot day and it was hot in the carriage. People were trying to get a glimpse of me. It all felt surreal, like I was transformed into some Chinese princess.
Finally, arriving at Eric’s place, I had to wear the cover over my head again and he had to carry me inside. We stopped at the entrance gate and I had no idea what was going on, but apparently someone was carrying 2 buckets of water and went around us 3 times. Then, someone put something over our head and we could move inside. He had to carry me till our bedroom. There, he could put me down.
We could take a rest till the ceremony would start. By then, it was 11am and the ceremony would start half an hour later. I had to wear other, even more traditional clothes. When the ceremony started, we had to sit in front of the stage under a canopy. We first had to draw eyes on the lions with a brush dipped in red paint. Then, I had to go into the carriage again with the cover over my head. There was a lion performance and Eric had to shoot an arrow on stage (I saw the pictures later). Then, he had to come to my carriage and carry me to the red carpet. On the red carpet there were 3 ornaments: I had to step on the first one and step over the next 2. I can tell you, with a cover over my head, it was not so easy.
I had to step on stage after that, which again, Eric had to tell me every step. Once on stage, Eric could take of the cover, but with a stick. He had to pull the cover up first from the right side to have a look, then from the left side and then finally entirely.
I had a headpiece on that represented the head plumes of a phoenix (the female symbol of yin yang) and of course the cover was stuck on the headpiece. So, finally the beautician had to help us out.
After this, we had to bow three times to the guests and three times to Eric’s parents. Normally, the parents of the groom or on one side, the parents of the bride or on the other side, but my parents were not present, so his father sat on Eric’s side, his mother on my side. At last, we had to bow three times to each other. Then, Eric had to give his father a cup of tea and his father had to give him a ‘hongbao’. The same with me: I had to give his mother a cup of tea and she gave me a ‘hongbao’.
Then we had to ‘drink’ a cup of alcohol (but that was really fake, because there was nothing in the cup). At last, we had to cut a string of hair, Eric a string of mine and I had to cut some of his (which was not easy, as his hair is really short). We had to put it in a small bag. This is the symbol of our union (a little bit like the exchange of rings in the West).
The ceremony was over and he had to carry me again from the stage into our bedroom. Which was more difficult now, because the skirt of those traditional clothes was obstructing movement.
After that, I could change into my original wedding dress again. The beautician helped me with changing clothes again. I was a bit embarrassed then, as it was a warm day and even the half hour I was wearing those traditional clothes, sweat was dripping from me. But, I was relieved to finally take them off.
When I came out again, people were sitting at the tables, enjoying their lunch. A huge lunch and I was hungry, but I had to go to every table and pour a drink for each one of them. Eric had the ricewine and I had the soft drinks in my hand. 2 others joined us to give the ‘lucky candy’ and ‘lucky cigarettes’. Fortunately, I didn’t have to toast with every table. Normally, it’s a tradition that the couple has to toast with every table and they would get really drunk, but it was lunch time, so many people still needed to drive. And Eric can’t really handle alcohol (after a half glass he is already drunk. People were very surprised to see I could handle alcohol that well), so he didn’t want to toast. There were 160 people, so there were many many tables. After having served everyone, we could finally sit down ourselves and eat. It was delicious!! I kept on eating. I didn’t count them, but I guessed there were around 20 different dishes and each one of them looked too good not to try.
After lunch, Eric had a presentation about us: from the beginning of our relationship till our honeymoon, but he was too enthusiastic about the pictures and showed way too many! So, many people left already during the presentation, which I didn’t mind. I know this is the Chinese way: after the meal, everybody gets up and leaves.
The local tv was there to shoot a video of our wedding. The wedding company had arranged this, because it was good publicity for them and we didn’t mind. This way, I had a video to show to my family. After the presentation, we went with the cameraman to a parc to take some pictures of us together. The parc’s entrance fee was 80rmb/person, so he just shot some pictures at the entrance of the parc and we left. The cameraman went back and I had a friend from Holland who joined my wedding. He was with us and his train would leave that evening, so we decided to go to a coffee shop for the afternoon. I was so glad I had him! I had someone to talk to, because Eric was too busy with talking to his family members and I didn’t understand much of it as they were all talking in their local dialect. And, I hadn’t seen my friend for 2 years, so it was nice to catch up!!
After we dropped him off at the train station, we went back home. We ate the leftovers with some of his familymembers that were still there and then 1 of his neighbors wanted to play games, but no one was really enthusiastic about it. We did one, where he bound a candy on a string and I had to get it with my teeth and give it to Eric. Of course, he circled the candy around Eric’s face, so it seemed I was kissing Eric all over. In the end, I could catch it and that was the end of the game and of all other games. People just wanted to talk and then left early. In China it’s not like in the West where it goes on till late at night (or actually till the next morning).
I am very glad that Eric gave me this wonderful day! I know it sounds like a cliché and I never believed it myself when other people told me, but your wedding day is truly the most beautiful day of your life!!