I have a question about weddings. I am in my late twenties and recently engaged to my Chinese-American boyfriend,which I am really excited about.
But the wedding worries me. Initially I wanted a simple ceremony. I was raised Christian but he wasn’t, but I wouldn’t insist on a church. just maybe a simple ceremony then banquet with friends, some photos outdoors, etc. But when I suggested it to my boyfriend, he said his parents would never agree to it (his parents are from China), that they expect a big traditional Chinese wedding. I heard Chinese weddings can be very elaborate,exhausting with a lot of drinking, more than one dress,lots of guests etc. Seems overwhelming and not my style!! I haven’t brought it up in front of his parents but I feel kinda stuck now. I just really don’t want all this fuss and don’t understand why we cant make it simpler. I’m not sure I can survive a huge Chinese weddings. What should I do?
Congratulations on your engagement!
We come from a culture that celebrates the wedding as a reflection of the bride’s style, taste and personality. But, on Chinese weddings, you must understand — it’s not about you, it’s about the family.
In China, the wedding is a reflection of the family. Chinese weddings are often enormous, extravagant to-dos because it makes the family look better — or, in other words, gives them good face.
The wedding can also reflect the status of the son or daughter getting married. For example, in my husband’s hometown in the countryside, if someone has at least graduated from college — meaning that they left their village, and are on the road to success — they must marry in a place outside of the countryside (i.e. a hotel), which demonstrates their position. No wonder my in-laws refused to let my husband — working/studying in the US — marry me in their countryside home (as I had originally suggested).
If your Chinese fiancee’s family is traditional, you’re going to have to just take a deep breath and do the wedding they want. That means you’ll have to attend probably two banquets that day, spend most of the evening toasting other guests (instead of eating), and put up with some slightly naughty wedding games.
That said, there are ways to simplify things or negotiate them to your tastes.
Concerned about the banquet food? So was I — I’m a vegan and wanted an all-vegan banquet. Unfortunately, as my husband told me, that would be insulting to the guests, who expect to indulge on expensive carnivorous delicacies. The compromise? We special-ordered vegetarian dishes for my table (too bad I had no time to eat).
You don’t have to drink, as long you as keep up appearances. My Chinese husband and I have notoriously low alcohol tolerances — so we had one of his friends fill our liquor glasses with spring water. Everyone thought we spent the evening downing shots of baijiu.
Who says you have to have multiple dresses? I know of one Western woman engaged to a Chinese man who dreaded having to wear more than one wedding dress. After some discussion with her inlaws, they agreed to let her wear only one qipao for the entire wedding.
Your inlaws may welcome your input on decorations for the wedding, as mine did.
So, talk to your fiancee and find out what, if anything, you can change.
Or, you could put your personality into a separate ceremony or banquet. Traditionally, the lunch banquet is held at the bride’s home or with the bride’s family in another location — it is usually much smaller, and just with close relatives and friends. That might be your opportunity to be you. Find out if you can plan it, and how much freedom you’ll have to personalize it.
If your future in-laws don’t leave you much room to customize the lunch banquet, then see if you can plan a separate, smaller ceremony that reflects you. As always, check with your fiancee, first, to make sure you’re not insulting anyone.
Whatever happens, remember — the wedding is an opportunity to create goodwill with his family. The best wedding gift you could ever give your future in-laws is your understanding (with a close second being stamina). Good luck!
Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.