Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Chinese Wedding

A few days after Jia and I obtained our Chinese marriage certificate, we celebrated our wedding in Urumqi with family and friends (mostly hers).

Before the celebration, we had a few more things that needed to be prepared. Jia had already booked the hotel--the Yindu Hotel, which was one of the nicest hotels in the city. To save some money, she contacted a friend who worked at another hotel to supply us with soda, wine, and baijiu (he agreed to buy back any unopened bottles). After picking up the drinks, we went in search of firecrackers--we had to set off a long line of them before we entered the hotel for the reception--and purchased a roll of 1500. We also had to purchase cigarettes to be places on each table--I didn't want to buy them, but I was told that guests would be very disappointed if we didn't have them (fortunately, most of Jia's friends were kind enough to smoke outside).

Jia stayed with her aunt and uncle who lived just down the street from our hotel, so it was easy for me to pick her up. Because my Chinese wasn't too good, I didn't have to play all the painful games that grooms must endure on their wedding day. Traditions include refusing to open the door until the groom answers questions and slips hongbao under the door, hiding the bride's shoes, and other obstruction tactics courtesy of the bride and groom's friends. The worst test I had to endure was carrying my bride down four flights of steps to the car (why couldn't they have lived in a building with an elevator?).

The firecrackers were lit as our car arrived at the Yindu Hotel. We stood at the entrance, waiting to greet our guests as they arrived over the course of an hour. We got to see how other people in Urumqi celebrate their wedding as another couple hosted a ceremony next to us. We had a bit of a laugh as we saw the bride in her Western-style white wedding gown next to the groom who wore dress slacks and short-sleeve shirt and tie. I was tempted to offer my services as a stand in with a tuxedo--they could later edit the photo with his head.

Before I arrived in Xinjiang, Jia also hired a photographer and MC for the day. I was a little confused about the MC, but Jia explained that he was just there to host the reception and provide a little humorous fun. To prepare me, she told me what questions the MC would ask so I could prepare my answers. Unfortunately, he spoke too quickly and didn't go in the order I was told--Jia had to translate a lot for me. He asked me questions like "How tall is your bride?" and "What size shoe does she wear?" The MC also came with a local musician from the university--she played a few instruments and was quite impressive.

After being roasted on stage and exchanging rings, dinner was served. Jia and I didn't get to enjoy dinner as we made our rounds and toasted our guests with wine and baijiu. My brother was disappointed as he thought he'd have to drink for me, which is the custom for the best man. After we toasted everyone, my brother made his rounds and tried to toast Jia's friends who became scared by the foreigner who wanted to drink baijiu.

I finally got to shovel some food into my mouth after two dozen drinks. I wish I could've eaten earlier because the food was excellent (or so I was told).

It was still early when the celebration ended. We decided to continue the party elsewhere after changing at the hotel. We rented a huge room at the local KTV--it had a projection screen and foosball table. We enjoyed more drinks and a buffet for a few more hours with about half the guests.

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