Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Wedding Story

Jia returned from her business trip to China, and it was just in time as we celebrate our anniversary in a couple days (the Chinese wedding anniversary). And I realized I never wrote anything about our weddings (Chinese or American--yeah, we had two).

The summer before I started working at the graduate school, Jia and I planned our wedding--actually, she did most of the planning as I had no idea what needed to be done in China, nor could I communicate effectively in Chinese to know how to plan a wedding. All I had to do was set a date for my family to fly to China and pay for the whole celebration. The date was one of three lucky dates my mother-in-law obtained from a monk at a Buddhist temple.

A month prior, I had to visit the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou to obtain a notarized document stating that I was not currently married to anyone else, which then had to be translated and notarized in Shenzhen by a disgruntled government employee who questioned why he should notarize such a document even though we were paying for the service. After pleading with the notary for almost an hour, he agree to stamp the document so we would stop bothering him.

I met my parents and brother in Beijing and we flew out to Urumqi, as Jia's hometown is a two-hour bus ride from there. Before we could have our wedding reception, we had to visit the government office to obtain our marriage license. We only had four days between the license and the reception, unlike Jia's friends who waited almost a year for their reception. While my family was treated to an extended foot massage, Jia and I took a bicycle taxi across town with her friend (it was her job to take photos).

The government office was not what I expected. The first room had a lot of wedding decorations for sale--this was where we got our forms to fill out and our photos to be included in the marriage license. We then entered a larger room to wait our turn. We were the only couple getting married. The room was split in half by a banister. Jia explained that our side, which had rows of chairs in pairs, was for weddings, and the other side, which had a line or chairs around the perimeter was for divorces. I think the setup would be a great idea in Vegas.

When we were finally called to the desk for our marriage license, the clerk reviewed our documents to ensure everything was in order. She then insisted that we read a statement that claims we are not related--I thought it was funny, but the clerk insisted that I read the Chinese, which Jia had to help with as I only recognized every third character. A simple statement that should have taken two minutes took ten. The clerk disappeared for a few minutes to prepare our marriage license. When she returned, she proclaimed us husband and wife (or so I assumed considering my limited Chinese abilities). The first thing I did was look at our marriage license, which is written in Chinese and Uyghur. The clerk looked amused as Jia and I posed for photos with our marriage license in front of a large government emblem.

That night we celebrated with a banquet with Jia's relatives and friends--it was partly to make up for those who couldn't travel to Urumqi for the reception. We finished off the evening with a night out at Clone City--a large club featuring plenty of shanzhai (counterfeit) alcohol. Jia's friend had a ticket for a free bottle, and I was excited when it arrived at our table as it looked like Jack Daniel's. However, it turned out to be Jack Conte and it smelled like baijiu (my brother and I didn't drink it). They did have real alcohol, which was sold next to the shanzhai bottles (the price difference was a few hundred Yuan for the real thing and 10 Yuan for fakes). We decided to settle for Tsingtao.

1 comment:

Vivian said...

Hi, I came upon your blog through someone's link on Twitter (sorry, I lost track who). You have such an interesting story, hope you don't mind me following.