There’s something about May. It’s not that it’s especially romantic or terribly alluring. But I suppose spring is an optimal time to say one’s vows. Maybe it’s just me. But May does seem to be the time for weddings. I’ve been to three in the past month.
Each were unique in their own way. One was a traditional Chinese wedding, another a cross-cultural wedding, and the last a Christian Chinese wedding.
Most of what I remember from the first one is food and fireworks. Queenie’s cousin got married south of Guangzhou, and when we arrived, we went into a massive banquet hall (400 people there) and ate a lot of food. There was no ceremony at all. One of her uncles strongly insisted I drink baijiu, which turned into a slight spectacle (me politely refusing and him strongly insisting) since I wasn’t interested in having the Chinese version of vodka.
The next day, around 6am, we (mainly relatives and close friends of the couple) entered their apartment, ate jiaozi (dumplings), and waited for the groom to arrive. The bride and her friends were preparing the bedroom for the groom. My job along with some other guys was to prevent the groom from entering the apartment, until he paid enough hongbao (money in red envelopes). Not a bad deal for me.
He climbed up the steps with his friends and generously slipped red envelopes through the door crack. Finally, we accepted his offer, and he entered the bedroom. He was forced to do a series of pushups and find his missing shoes. Then it was time for pictures. I guess he had passed the test. He could marry the girl now.
The next day we drove to another province to celebrate the wedding in the groom’s hometown. It was a small village with rice fields scattered around the town. As we entered the village road, we heard fireworks bursting in the air and then we saw plumes of smoke rise into the air as thousands of red firecrackers exploded on the road and covered it in a red, shredded blanket. I liked the grand reception.
Once we arrived at his house, we saw massive bowls of meat and vegetables being prepared. This feast would be for the whole village. We ate too much for lunch. Afterwards, Queenie and I walked around the village so we wouldn’t fall into a food coma.
Several hours later, it was time for dinner. This time nearly the whole village would come. This feast would last for hours. So we had to eat first. It’s a sad thing to be given so much food and not desire to eat it. I hadn’t digested lunch yet. But I could always make room for some more food.
After my stomach expanded more than I thought it could, I slowly got up and walked around the house. Later, there would be fireworks. Not the cheap bottle rockets, but legitimate rockets that were similar to a Fourth of July celebration. The groom’s dad had spent thousands of dollars on them. You only get to celebrate your son’s wedding once in life.
As the sun disappeared below the horizon, the fireworks spectacle began. It was impressive and deafening. Each time one exploded, the sound would ricochet from one concrete building to another until it faded into the hillside. Some of us climbed on top of the roof and watched one firework after another explode above our heads. It was quite entertaining and a little unnerving. Later I realized pieces of the fireworks were literally raining down on the roof. Next time I’ll bring safety glasses.
As the fireworks display began, the bride and groom could finally have dinner. Apparently they had waited for all the guests to eat first. Certainly the opposite of a Western wedding. I had hoped to hear more of their story or watch an official ceremony. But it was not to be.
The next day we stopped for breakfast at the groom’s house and took several family pictures before heading back to Guangzhou. A few remaining fireworks said farewell to our caravan.