First Chinese wedding... and first time to meet the family!
One of my girlfriends friends got married over the weekend. As the bridesmaid (in China generally they have a single bridesmaid they call "sister"!) my girlfriend had to organise and be on hand, helping the bride with everything and anything on the day. She also had to dress up (unusual for her, she is very down to earth and doesn't wear makeup etc normally) and look pretty in front of the cameras, which I think she secretly relished!
The wedding was held in her hometown of Shizong, about 100km due east of Kunming. We hopped on a train on the Thursday night, arrived 2 hours later and found a hotel. The first night was one of not much sleep though due to a Karaoke bar downstairs, a main road being 10m away and some weird effect which appeared to amplify all sound into our paper thin glass windows. That was enough of that hotel, so the next day we booked into another one. On the way though we walked through my girlfriends hometown and checked out all her old haunts!
Old high school:
Old primary school (we couldn't go in as the guards said we would be too much of a disruption to the students... they were right!):
After looking around a bit we headed to the brides house where all the gals were getting prepared with makeup/hair/dresses, all of the things that a bride does in any culture! I was left witht he family of the bride who were pretty happy to have me in their home anyway and fed me lots of yummy tea! The family didn't speak much English and all communication that I heard was in the Yunnan dialect, which while close to standard Chinese, is only really recognisable by a native Chinese speaker. As a lao wai that can't yet speak standard Chinese speaker, I didn't have a shot! Some of them switched to standard Chinese though after they realised I spoke a little and I had some (fairly one sided) chats with them.
After about an hour, the groom showed up! This is a fairly big event as all the sisters (while there is 1 bridesmaid proper, all the friends are sisters!) play tricks on him and stop him from getting to the bride. He has to bribe them with hong bao (red packets containing money!) and complete their challenges to gain access to the bride. I thought I would help and was the main force behind him not being able to get access through the front door! Eventually I relented though and let him throught (he was a bit shocked there was a lao wai stopping him!) but my girlfriend waylayed him on the steps making him answer a question for each landing up the stairs. Ha haa, was very funny. At the top he still had to get into the brides room, which took a lot of pushing and answering questions again. Eventually he got in there by slipping more hong bao under the door!
The groom trying to get in:
He made it!
I aren't too sure about the ceremony in the room but there is a lot of talking and a few speeches before he gets to take his bride. Traditionally in China the bride will come and live with the mans family, so there is a traditional carrying of the bride to the mans home. Her feet are not allowed to touch the ground during the trip there so the groom has to carry her!
Your carriage awaits:
Finally they all left in the car and I was with the brides family again. After another hour it was time to go to the restaurant for dinner - 1 of 2 today, lunch for the brides family, dinner for the grooms. As the date was 11/11/11 though, there were many weddings at these popular venues!
The wedding party arrived after a short wait and we all piled into the restaurant for lunch. My girlfriend and the best man are supposed to welcome people and make sure everyone is happy which they did well, plastering everyone with snacks and ciggerettes outside! The lunch was OK (I didn't eat much after eating a chickens head!) with a few speeches and lots of photos. They have an MC which coordinates everything and it all goes smoothly. After lunch my girlfriend and I went back to the hotel to rest a little. We then went back to the brides house and hung out again before dinner.
Dinner was very similar (but the food was much tastier!) with a few speeches, chit chat and lots of eating! Afterwards it was off to a Karaoke bar where there was a bit more drinking and singing. Fun fun!
Chen Mins best friend Song Wen:
The boys at karaoke:
The next day we had a bit of a sleep in due to the nights activities and the night before getting very little sleep. Well Chen Min had a sleep in, I went running! There was a nice temple on a hill nearby when we came in, I decided to run up to it through the town. I got a few looks and some help from some local teenagers to get up to the temple, then came back the same way to the hotel and showered. We then took off to have lunch in one of my girlfriends favourite haunts before going to meet my girlfriends aunty, dad and step mum! Her dad was a bit nervous but he seemed to relax after a while and he eventually he said he approves of me (whew!) and that he just wanted his daughter to be happy. I guess we have his blessing then!
After a while we took off to the market where lots of Chen Mins relatives sell fish and pork. We hung out there for a while and I got to see all the action of a small town Chinese market, which I am pretty used to but like all the same! Once all the meet and greets were done we grabbed a couple of cousins that Chen Min wanted to hang out with and went walking around the town. Walking around was interesting with lots of people shocked to see a lao wai in their home town, but I am used to all the stares. Chen Min was getting a little tired of it though! After lots of chats we went back to a restaurant nearby Chen Mins dads house and had dinner with all the family. It was really fun as all the aunties and uncles were catching up, eating, drinking, and talking about Chen Min and I as a match and how that would work in the future. It appeared that they all thought it would all be OK though as no one got particularly testy! One aunty suggested however that I should shave my beard off as I would look younger! OK, something to remember for spring festival when I will be back here next! After dinner we hung out in a local pub with one of Chen Mins friends and drunk beer while they caught up.
Chen Mins uncle, a fish farmer/seller:
Dinner! So good, but so much meat!:
A cheeky cousin!
At a bar with another friend:
With Chen Mins sister at the local reservoir:
The next day was more hanging out and seeing family, we finally left at around 4pm on a bus back to Kunming. What a good weekend!