A laowai at a Xinglong wedding

6 May

I went to my first Chinese wedding reception today. My day started out as I woke up to visitors standing right outside my door weighing themselves on the scale that was sitting next to the water dispenser. It was two nieces of my Xīnglóng (兴隆) Māmā(妈妈). I dazzled them with my poor Chinese and my white face and we as a result had to take many pictures. We were able to see the arrival of the bride and the fireworks involved from the porch off Duan’s bedroom. The bride was carried on the back of the husband all the way from the car down the street to an apartment. I asked 兴隆 妈妈 whether she knew them and how old they were; little did I know I was later going to their wedding reception.

When we arrived at the wedding, the girls I met earlier in the morning waved their hands furiously to get us to come and sit by them. Although I thought I was not appropriately dressed for attending a wedding reception, according to western standards, I noticed that besides the wedding party not many people were dressed up.  Apparently we were to sit by the girls and as I walked through the large hotel dining hall everyone’s eyes were on me. It was like there wasn’t even a wedding taking place at that very moment.

Posing with the happy couple

Duan Laoshi and I sat down at a table with 10 other middle aged to older men who were all very welcoming. One of the little girls motioned that she wanted to pour me soda when Duan Laoshi said, “You drink, báijiǔ (白酒)!” then he conceded because he saw the girl so preciously holding out a new glass for me. At one point, the mother and father of the new husband came and gave their good wishes. She realized she had overlooked me in her address to the table and said, “Oh lǎowài (老外), you also drink well and eat well.” The table was of course filled with men who Mr. Duan knew if they weren’t his family already I thought they had some connection one way or another. Every time I was introduced to someone I had to take a sip of 白酒. When you don’t need to gānbēi (干杯), you call it “yīkǒu” (一口)… one mouthful.

Enjoying the wedding feast

The wedding reception itself (the performance part of it) only lasted a few minutes but we were a little late so I don’t know how long they really last. Of what I understood it was much like a western wedding, pledging to be a good husband and likewise a good wife to one another. Then they lit a bunch of candles on a candelabra shaped as a heart. It was all very tacky but I couldn’t help but get a little caught up in the adorableness of it. (Might be because I am a woman and prone to bouts of sentimentalism or the fact I had a bit of 白酒.)

 By the end of the wedding reception, and I mean THE END (we were the last table to leave), I had drank plenty and ate plenty, just as the mother of the groom had requested and was ready for a nap.

[This story was contributed by LtL Chengde Immersion student Hanna.]

Vocabulary explained:

Xīnglóng (兴隆): An area of Chengde, located in Hebei Province.

Māmā(妈妈): Mother

báijiǔ (白酒): Chinese liquor known for its unique flavor and potency.

lǎowài (老外): Foreigner

gānbēi (干杯): Cheers! It can also mean to empty your glass.


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