Guest Post: The Traditional Chinese Wedding That Changed Me & My Dating Preferences

Have you ever attended a wedding that changed the way you thought about yourself — and who you want to date? That’s what happened to Joanna Scarpuzzi, who writes, “Even though I thought I had grown up under much Chinese culture and influence, nothing had prepared me for the experience that this wedding was.”

Do you have a story about a life-changing wedding — or another guest post you’d like to see featured here? Visit the submit a post page to learn more about how to have your writing published on this blog.

Joanna Scarpuzzi
Joanna Scarpuzzi

Growing up in a mixed family (my dad is White-American, and my mom is Asian-American), I was excited to see who my siblings and I would date and eventually marry. All of us kids were homeschooled until were in 9th grade so our circle of friends was pretty small. I remember my sisters and I having crushes on White boys and Asian boys alike. My brother, also, dated a Chinese girl, a mixed girl, and a White girl, in that order.

It wasn’t until we were college age that our preferences became more evident. My sisters felt that Asian culture was too traditional and exclusive dated White boys. I, on the other hand, moved to China in 2010 to teach at an international school in an attempt to learn more about my Asian roots. During my six years abroad, if someone were to ask me if I could see myself married to a Chinese man, I would have told them, without a doubt, yes! I loved everything about Chinese culture: the food, the language, the community aspects, the filial piety.

Then, I attended a traditional Chinese countryside wedding. A group of us foreigners spent a weekend at a hotel awaiting the wedding festivities for our friend and coworker. The whole time we were there, we were not allowed to do anything remotely relating to helping with preparations. We were treated like honored guests.

The morning of the wedding, we joined the friends and family in the courtyard of the house. Cousins climbed up on the roof to bang pots and pans and set off firecrackers to welcome the wedding party.

After a short traditional ceremony in the courtyard, the bride and groom were ushered into their wedding chambers where they sat on a red-blanketed bed with posters of naked babies on the wall behind them. On that bed, they played some teasing games while the groom’s friends and relatives tossed nuts and dried fruit at them.

It was during this time that I realized how very different I really was. Even though I thought I had grown up under much Chinese culture and influence, nothing had prepared me for the experience that this wedding was. It was so different from my expectations for weddings, and made me realize I would not want a wedding like this, which made me wonder if it was really just the wedding or if it was something more.

It was this experience that caused me to ponder on the fact that perhaps I wasn’t being honest with myself when I told people I could see myself ending up with a Chinese man. Maybe I’m more independent than I thought or maybe my version of being raised the Asian way was a mixture of East and West. Maybe I wasn’t willing to give up being “comfortable” in America to truly connect with my roots. Whatever the reason, someday I hope to find a man who embraces my world, a perfect blend of Chinese and American culture.

After living in China for the past six years, Joanna Scarpuzzi is now back in the US and writes about teaching and her experiences with culture, specifically Asian culture.

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

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19 Replies to “Guest Post: The Traditional Chinese Wedding That Changed Me & My Dating Preferences”

  1. oh wow… i’d love to read more of your blogs…thank you for sharing your experience.. have a great day.. thanks Jocelyn for sharing her post.

  2. Thank you for sharing the story! I am glad you got to go to China and enjoyed the time there. Very interesting indeed. Well, I think you never know until you meet the one! I always dated Asian girls and never really thought of dating non-Asian. It’s not that I am not attracted to them, it’s timing most of the time. I went out with a few non-Asians and my wife was the only one I dated. Cultural differences is definitely something you need to think about. And enjoy and embrace your diverse background!

  3. Interesting! From the teaser paragraph, the ending was the opposite of what I expected. Wonderful that you realized what you wanted out of life…at least, in that aspect. 🙂 Maybe you would like Singapore (where my husband is from). It’s more “Western” but definitely holds onto a lot of its people’s Chinese roots.

    Makes me think of T. S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Sometimes we need to leave home in order to know it and see it and love it for what it really is.

    1. Thanks, Christine! You are right, I LOVE Singapore! Actually, that is where my Asian side of the family is from. When I was living in China, I would go there every Christmas break, and it was my home away from home.

      1. Singaporean Chinese tend to be more open contrary to popular opinion, particularly the Singaporean Chinese women.

      2. Oh that’s so cool!! Haha! 😀 We haven’t been back since Christmas 2014 and I’m so ready for another visit! Glad you had family there to visit over the holidays. 🙂

  4. I thought this article was going to talk about how cool traditional chinese weddings are. Whoops haha.

    I’m in the middle of planning a traditional Chinese wedding (though my future mother in law is handling most of it) and I’m going by the only Chinese wedding I attended a few years ago. I really liked a lot of the traditions. For example when the groom comes to get the bride from her home, we (her friends and family) locked the door and kept telling the groom and his party to give us money and THEN we would open the door and they would slip little hongbaos under the door. And we hid the bride’s shoes and they had to find that as well and they kept asking us for help and we were like, “Money first, please.” HA it was so much fun.

    My fiancé’s family is really open minded and accommodating so I think the wedding will be really fun and what we want it to be.

    They keep teasing that they’re inviting tons of people. We visited a hotel as a possibility to have a wedding and I when I said, “It’s really nice!” My future father in law said, “No, it’s too small.”
    When I asked how many people this space held, they said 300 people and I’m like…how many people are you inviting?! Future father in law laughed and said very seriously, “EVERYONE WE KNOW.”

    Pray for me, seriously.

  5. Joanna, I think you’re wise and honest to learn something about yourself after attending a traditional Chinese wedding. After having been an expat for twenty years, I understand how expats can go overboard in either direction. We can be wimps and critics, unable to adapt to a new environment. Or we can insist on being so tough and adaptable that we never stop to ask ourselves whether that’s the kind of change we want for ourselves and our lives.

    Second point: Chinese culture is varied. Although my Chinese husband was born in China and educated in Asia, by the time I met him, he was more like the international school variety of Chinese. In 1983, when he returned to his hometown, Xiamen, after a 44 year absence, both Xiamen and my husband had changed so much that he couldn’t imagine living there again. I wrote a post about that homecoming:

  6. Hi Joanna,

    It was a great post. When you lived in China, did you date a few Chinese local men? What was your experience with them? Were you able to navigate through the language and cultural barriers? Please advise.

  7. Hi Fred,

    Thanks for reading my post. When I was in China, I did not date any Chinese local men, so sorry, I don’t have any advise for you.

  8. Hi Nicki,

    Thanks for reading my post! You are right, Chinese culture is varied. I grew up having friends who were mostly second generation Chinese whose parents were from places like Taiwan and Hong Kong, so that is kind of what I was expecting to interact with when I moved to China. I was wrong, however. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time there and learned alot!

  9. K.

    Thanks for reading my article and sharing about your own upcoming experience with a traditional Chinese wedding. Since I was not close family, I didn’t get to see all the fun, behind the scenes things that occur. Good luck with your wedding! Maybe when it is finished, you can write a blog post about it for us to enjoy reading!

  10. Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for answering my questions. Why did you not date any local Chinese men? Did any of them hit on you? What was your response? Or were you not interested?

  11. Hi Joanna,

    I am always interested to read about mixed asian/western kids as the hubby’s Chinese and I’m English and planning on starting a family soon…hearing a bit about what it’s like to be mixed feels like some small preparation for having mixed kids 🙂 :-)!

    I just wanted to say that from my experience in China they do have a very ‘one-size fits all’ approach to the wedding celebration – it seems like everyone does exactly the same thing (and have been doing it like that for centuries!). However I can only say that from my experience it’s not a reflection of how men and women approach their own marriages, as my husband is very open-minded and progressive in his attitude to marriage. Also all of the Chinese couples we know have very different marital dynamics so the ‘one-size fits all’ attitude to ceremonies doesn’t seem to carry over into the marriage itself…

    I have no idea why they have this ‘wedding by numbers’ attitude – it might be about keeping the older generations happy and also for simple economic reasons and time-constraints? Our wedding party was arranged by a company that had limited options and neither of us had the time to organise things differently. I imagine that planning a unique ceremony must be quite time-consuming and costly.

    I wouldn’t be discouraged by these boring wedding parties if I was you, as there are plenty of interesting and open-minded Chinese men who would value your mixed culture background!

  12. Great post! Thanks for writing from a unique perspective – especially with the preference differences between you and your sister. I’ve found in my (limited) experience that women with both Asian and European-American heritage make really good partners! Really really good. =]

  13. Hi Joanna,
    I wanted to let you know that some people can do a unique wedding outside traditional Chinese wedding.
    My son, an American, got married this past May to a Chinese girl in Beijing. It was not a Chinese wedding. They planned it themselves. It took place at a resort vineyard an hour south of the city, close to her parents’ village farm. I bought her a white wedding gown in West Palm Beach, FL which she wore for the ceremony and later changed to a red dress. They wrote their own vows and had one best man and one best woman, and a master of the ceremony –all foreigners. Lots of tables, lots of food, lots of drinking. The bride and groom drank fake alcohol for the table toasts so as not to get drunk. They hired a deejay who played all American classic rock and pop, and all the international mixed crowd danced. The father of the bride did sing one traditional song. There was a slide show of the couple. Each table or group of friends came up on the dais to have a picture taken with the bride and groom. The village friends of the bride’s family went home after eating and delivering their red envelopes. I had a great time.

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