My good friend Joe (周京京) and his wife had their wedding party on May 10th…ALL DAY. The activities began with me meeting Zack, a former coworker and good friend, and Joe at Joe’s house at 0730. I came to the rescue with my tie tying abilities as meager as they are, since I was able to come the closest to an actual knot. After everyone was dressed we went to a small hole in the wall restaurant for breakfast.

After finishing breakfast we hoped in the cars that Joe’s family had rented for the day, three cars at 2,000 RMB, and we went to go pick up his bride. In Chinese culture picking up the bride is not as simple as pick up anyone. Joe lead us to the room and knocked on the door but she refused to open the door. Joe began putting small sums of money, really just for show, under the door but she still refused to open the door. With the chain on the door so that Joe couldn’t push the door open someone handed him a piece of paper with a few of her demands. First, he had to read them aloud through the door and then he had to sign it as if it were a contract. Some of her demands included taking her shopping, eating her food even if it was bad, and buying a house/car/diamonds (this should not be taken seriously). After awhile the bride’s room at the hotel was opened and Joe was allowed to entered followed by his best man Zack.

After entering the room Joe presented a bouquet of flowers to Lulu, his wife, and they exchanged some words while she held an apple. Once the awkward pinning of a rose on the bride’s dress by the groom was over Joe was required to serve tea to the bride’s parents, as a symbol of filial piety. After the tea had been served then the groom and best man were told to find the bride’s shoes before they were allowed to steal the bride to go join the groom’s family. Zack found one shoe in a drawer close to the door into the room but apparently that was the wrong shoe and were told to keep searching. Eventually, people starting thinking that the groom was taking to long and the cousin of the bride pulled the shoe down from behind the top of the curtains. After finding the shoe the groom was allowed to “kidnap” the bride in order to take her to the groom’s home for the same tea ceremony. The bride was then picked up by another male family member and was carried piggy-back to the cars waiting downstairs. The bride still not wearing shoes was placed directly into the car and the groom placed her shoes on her feet. At this point in time more family joined us there was less room in the two wedding party cars so I got moved to the photo/video car because I had brought my camera that day.

We drove around Nanjing city for about forty-five minutes driving down certain roads like “peaceful road” for good luck, but I think this was more for trying to get one’s money’s worth out of the flat day rate for the cars. We returned to Joe’s home, followed by a small caravan of people, only after I had to give directions to the driver on where to go… Once we got back to the groom’s home Lulu was now required to perform the tea serving ceremony, which both bride and groom had to be walked through even though it has supposedly been a part of Chinese history for a long time… The bride and groom had to then endure a thirty minute picture taking session both with and without the groom’s parents mostly centering around the marital bed. Once the photographer had decided that he had gotten enough pictures we went to a normal fast food, maybe one step up from a KFC, restaurant within 100 meters of the groom’s home. Now I found this especially funny since the bride was still wearing her wedding dress and had her makeup redone while we were eating there.

The next thing on the itinerary for the day was to take the official wedding pictures at Xuan Wu Lake, very typical for couples that get married in Nanjing. Joe, Lulu, the best-man, maid of honor, the bride’s cousin, the photographer, the cinematographer, and myself all arrived at Xuan Wu and immediately began the feel the mid-day Nanjing heat and humidity. We, the Chinese photographer and I, took several pictures but then it turned into wedding party picture time. I personally found this to be a lot of fun since they really just wanted us to act goofy which resulted in a dance sequence and several attempts at multiple person jumping pictures.

On the brink of melting in the humidity and sun the photo shoot finished and we headed back to the cars where two older men came up and congratulated the couple and I may have heard them wrong but I think they then asked for the customary packs of cigarettes. Neither the bride nor groom had brought any so they had to given from what was allocated to the wedding party. We loaded back up in the cars and went to the Hong Qiao Hotel where the wedding dinner, the real center of the day and acts as both the ceremony and reception in the West, would happen in a few hours. Everyone went up to the room that had been reserved for the bride to sleep in the night before and also to change in throughout the dinner. Both I and Zack having been up the with Joe since 07:30 that morning were already tired and it was only about two in the afternoon. We laid down on the bed with our heads facing inwards since we didn’t want to take off what probably would have been a fairly stinky set of shoes and went to sleep since we had about four hours before the next event started.

I woke up to a room full of guests that had shown up for the dinner around four from my MUCH needed nap. There was a lot of waiting around, a typical theme in China, and many of us who had gone to lunch with the bride and groom, including the bride, went to KFC for a small snack considering many of us, including the bride and groom didn’t know exactly what was going to happen that night and when we would be able to eat again. Which rang true since the groom had told me that the dinner was starting at 6-6:30 but didn’t start until 7 or just after. I’m just glad I wasn’t Zack since he was required to preform during the wedding as the best-man and had multiple things sprung on him within one hour the the dinner beginning, but was able to role with the changes with grace.

At this, and maybe most, dinner there was a person who seemed to play the part of both wedding coordinator and ring master for the night. Zack was asked questions by the ring master about Joe to help introduce the groom. Joe entered the room and the ring master lead Joe and Zack through a series of questions. Once the questions ended Lulu was presented and given away by her father. A speech was made by Joe’s uncle which I didn’t understand, unfortunately another theme to this night besides the lack of a concrete plan was that I didn’t understand a lot because my Chinese listening is extremely lacking. Zack was then brought back up stage for the exchanging of the rings, interesting since I rarely ever see Chinese people wearing rings. After the exchanging of the rings there was also an exchange of gifts between the bride and groom. Lulu received a very nice bracelet and Joe received an apron that said “I love my wife” in Chinese and a spatula. After the exchanging of the gifts the parents of the couple were brought up on the stage and both fathers were asked to give speeches and then all four sat back down. The next event of the dinner was, not unlike in the West when a couple lights a candle together, the couple pouring different colored sand into one vase.

Dinner was served with full Chinese gusto, too many dishes that included very traditional dishes to ribs and fries.

It was also Lulu’s birthday and Joe had bought her a rather large cake and followed Zack in less than pleasant sounding attempt at “Happy Birthday.” Cake was first served to the parents and the bride and groom by their children and then to the bride and groom themselves, Lulu seemed to especially enjoy the cake but I never saw her eat much else.

As dinner went on Joe was forced my social obligations to make his rounds to each table drinking full glasses at each brief stop, understandably he was highly intoxicated. Zack’s duty as best man was to follow Joe around with a bottle of alcohol making sure he had enough to drink for each table. I was sitting with most of the other foreigners, a Malaysian, Mongolian, Syrian, and Saudi who were all Joe’s Chinese language students. At first I was curious about whether or not the two men from predominantly Muslim countries would drink until the Syrian pulled out a bottle of cognac and stared to fill the glasses of everyone at the table. The drinking and eating went on until 22:30 and by that time Joe had drank enough that everyone was his best friend and had lost his bride, who had gone upstairs.

Once Joe had lost his bride Zack and I agreed that it was time to go home. After fourteens hours of celebrating Joe and Lulu’s marriage Zack and I headed make to my place, since he was staying with me while visiting form Taiwan. It didn’t take long for me to fall into a deep deep sleep only to interrupted by having to get up for work at 06:30 the next day. That was mu first experience at a Chinese wedding and thankfully I got out of there unwed and sober, not something I had expected.