Tips on planning a Chinese Wedding – Everyone loves a good wedding, none more so than the Chinese. From huge banquets with luxury cars and a shot of baijiu for the bride and groom at every turn, a wedding can attracts hundreds of guests with both proud families keen to invite everyone they know.
But as China becomes a world player and the youth are heading overseas for schooling and jobs, what happens when the westernized brides and grooms return to China for their wedding? A clash of cultures and misunderstandings can often cause unnecessary upset, and with two in every three enquiries we receive being from overseas Brides, here are our answers to our top 5 common issues we discuss with our happy couples.
“I don’t want the Chinese traditional look, but my mum does…and she’s paying”
Eek! You want the big day you’ve always dreamed of, but your mum might have other plans, and as she’s holding the purse strings you feel it’s an uphill battle. How to get the wedding you want without offending your family? Chances are your mum is planning the wedding she never had, or your parents want to show your nearest and dearest how proud they are of you by throwing a big bash. Remember what’s traditional Chinese to you is normal to your mum, and she may not fully understand the look and feel you want. By simply saying “I don’t want a Chinese wedding”, your mum may feel you’re neglecting her, or even disrespecting your cultural heritage.
A great way to overcome this is show your mum your plans – get her involved! Show her the theme and colour scheme you want so she understands that just because you don’t want the red banquet hall with red flowers and red dress, it doesn’t mean you’re eloping. A great suggestion is to find a happy medium where you can add in some elements of a Chinese wedding to a more Western décor. Show her just because it’s not going to be Chinese in style, it doesn’t mean it won’t be the celebration of a lifetime, and point out how she can help – she can still get involved with the centerpieces and dress, they’ll just be more to your taste.
“I thought everything would be cheaper”
Ah, this old chestnut! Outside China, I think it’s fair to say people regard this country as a cheap place – after all, isn’t everything made here for next to nothing? But the reality is, if you want anything of an international standard, you will have to pay above New York prices for it. Finding the right reliable suppliers is no easy task, and for mid to high end goods and services, there are huge premiums attached, usually from an outrageous import tax or simply supply and demand.
‘Budget juggling’ is what we call it when we move around what you planned to spend and where. Just as amazing flowers and imported alcohol are the main big budget surprises here, there might be some elements such as a photographer you find ridiculously cheap. It’s true that unless you want local wine and 5 day old flowers, you will have to increase your budget in those areas, but the good news is it’s easy to make savings in other areas where China really shines – photography for one. Due to the booming wedding photography business, there are thousands of companies vying for bookings, so using this to your advantage means a few bottles of champagne. Stay focused on your overall budget, but be prepared to shuffle around your cost expectations.
“Shall I get my dress here or in China?”
Unless you’re coming to China months before hand…..getting it in your home country really has its benefits – the same goes for your bridesmaids dressed if they are coming with you. You don’t want to be running around China in the week or so before your wedding trying to organize dresses, and the same principle of ‘if you want quality you have to pay for it’ applies…it might not be as cheap as you think. Yes there are wedding markets here, but they can take days to navigate, and no one wants to be rushed into choosing their wedding dress just because they are running out of time and need something to wear. Wedding dress shopping isn’t something that can be conquered in a day, take your time back home and enjoy the experience.
Whether you’re accustomed to it or bringing your foreign fiancée along who has never heard of the stuff, the thought of doing a traditional baijiu toast with a few hundred people on your big day is enough to strike fear into the heart of any hardened drinker.
Although looking similar to many other spirits, baijiu is far stronger than its Asian counterparts and even more potent than western spirits such as Vodka. Would you or your fiancée even consider downing a few hundred shots of vodka at your wedding? No, we didn’t think so!
The get out clause can be alarmingly simple – tradition is to go from table to table accompanied by bridesmaids and groomsmen to toast your family and friends. Give the groomsmen the bottle so they can control the pours for the bride and groom, and even more importantly, as baijiu is clear, you can replace it with water. We have often provided mock baijiu bottles so the bride and groom don’t add a trip to the ER to their wedding itinerary!
“There are 20 tables for my parent’s friends and family….and 2 for mine”
This dilemma isn’t exclusive to Chinese weddings where the happy couple are coming from overseas, it can happen back home too! It occurs more frequently here as the practicality of flying all of the bride and grooms friends over can be a financial and logistical nightmare. It may be only a handful of friends back home make it to your China wedding, but you still want to make them feel a part of it.
Most likely your parents will be inviting people you’ve not seen for years – we’ve seen primary school teachers and local government officials you’ve never met being invited, and the pressure to spend time with them over your friends can be enormous. If your friends don’t speak Chinese, as a general rule we would say don’t split them up. Keep all your friends together so they can enjoy the big day without sitting in an awkward silence or not doing anything for the risk of offending anyone.
Explain to your parents that you want a more balanced turn out – limit the total number of tables your family has and ensure they stick to it. Get your non Chinese speaking guests involved by hiring a bi-lingual emcee or photographer; in major cities this is easily done. If they understand what’s going on, they’re more likely to enjoy themselves and start mingling with your parents friends anyway!