On January 2nd, 2017, in a small town in Foshan, I married my beautiful wife.
We got married in her hometown here in Guangdong, and invited her whole family, all of our friends and colleagues, and basically had a huge party out on the streets! In China, the wedding ceremonies and customs can vary by province, and then by area within the province, and then by town/village! So it’s not really possible to generalize a ‘Chinese’ wedding, given the wide variety of customs across this vast country. It’s becoming increasingly common for couples to hold their wedding celebrations in hotels/restaurants these days, but we chose to hold the ceremony in the village.
In this post, I’ll be giving a linear overview of how our wedding day unfolded in this small rural village.
Before the wedding itself, there was a lot to prepare. One that stood out to me was that I needed a new wallet and shoes, which were sent to the hometown to be filled with twigs from an evergreen bush.
We hired a camera team and make up artists for the day. They did an amazing job, and not only took some wonderful photos, but created a wedding video, which I’ll embed at the end of this blog post.
Bridesmaids getting ready.
The roof of the 李 family hall.
First up, I should set the scene. I have it on good authority that I’m the first foreigner to be have been seen in this village, so for 50 or so foreigners to suddenly descend on the place and party on the streets with the locals must have been some sight.
Groomsmen getting ready in the villa.
First up, my groomsmen and I ate a meal in the family ancestral hall, before heading over to to my bride-to-be’s home.
My dad being introduced to the latest addition to the 李 family.
As is custom for the region, we weren’t granted access to her house until we completed a series of challenges. These challenges were set up by the bridesmaids, who blocked our access to the house:
We had to complete a series of tasks such as eating chicken feet, passing seaweed down the line only using our mouths, drinking vinegar, and finally I had to sing my favourite song with about 15 lollipops stuffed into my mouth.
Ridiculous scenes, and the whole village turned up to watch!
Challenges out the way, we then needed to give the bridesmaids 红包 (red packets) before they’d let us near the front door. We started small, and eventually gave them larger amounts until they were satisfied I’d be able to provide for my new wife!
Finally, we were allowed into the house…but this wasn’t the end of it! The bridesmaids had hidden 红包 all over the place, and only once we’d found them all could I go into my bride’s bedroom.
As all this was going on, guests were in the house, eating snacks and checking out our wedding photos (it’s customary to have these done before the wedding, in a professional photo studio).
Once in, I had to locate my bride’s missing shoe…which was tied to a piece of string hanging out the window. I retrieved the shoe, put it on her foot, and we exchanged rings!
My bride’s shoes had to have pins in them, as did her hair. This is called 防四眼 – fan si yan (literally meaning ‘protect four eyes’ a pregnant woman is two people, so four eyes. One way of warding off evil spirits at a lucky event is by placing pins on your clothing.
Another aspect of this belief is Two ‘lucky’ things or events can’t be put together. For that reason, we weren’t able to attend our friends’ wedding as it took place in the same month as ours.
Now, we all set off to my parents’ house (we’d rented a villa nearby in lieu of my family home)
All of the guests followed us in cars and a rented coach. My best man got the door, and we all went up into the villa.
Once inside the villa, my wife and I served my parents a cup of tea and some candy. In return, they gave us 红包 (and one to the village elder who was orchestrating the whole day).
With that done, it was back to my bride’s home to serve them cups of tea. So we all got back in the cars and coaches, and headed back to the village.
I then had to give lucky candies to my wife’s family members, two at a time. They’d sit in front of me and I used two hands (respectful) to give them the candies, as well as accepting their 红包.
It was now time to eat, and party. Everyone gathered at the family building, where we had a team of cooks serving up vast quantities of food. All in all, there was around 300 guests at this point, so the tables spilled out of the hall and around the pond outside.
During the meal, my wife, her bridesmaids, myself and my groomsmen went table to table thanking the guests for coming, and toasting everyone.
This basically means that traditionally, the groomsmen should toast the guests with Baijiu, and the bride and bridesmaids should share tea with everyone.
I personally didn’t go for the 白酒 (bai jiu) as I’ve drank it before when I was best man at a wedding and it just destroyed me! Never again. I stuck with the safe bet and drank beer for my toasts!
During all this madness, we also had a photo area set up for guests to take pics with us.
We had an absolute blast at our wedding. It was an incredibly busy and hectic day, but one full of smiles and laughter – we couldn’t have asked for more.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our wedding. Have you attended a Chinese wedding? How was it? Let everyone know in the comments below!