After standing outside and welcoming our guests (which consisted of my husband chatting with them and introducing my family, then me saying “Ni hao,” and “xie xie,” and then my family shaking hands, looking at me for an explanation of who they were and me shrugging my shoulders), my father and I made our way upstairs to a private room where we waited for our cue. My hair and makeup lady gave me a last once-over and fluffed my dress. The music started.
The hosts welcomed our guests and introduced a photo slideshow we’d put together of some of our childhood pictures and some photos of the two of us together through our relationship. They introduced my husband and he danced his way onto the stage (it was the first time he’d ever danced in front of his parents and he was so nervous, but they were nothing but proud!).
At the cue of my name, my father walked me down the staircase to my waiting groom, where my father presented my husband with my hand and they shook hands. My dad and I hugged and my husband and I headed to the stage.
It’s funny the things you notice during something like a wedding. I know all the little customs we included, and I can watch the video if I start to forget exactly what order we did them in, but the strangest memories are never caught on video. For example:
-At one point, during a speech by one of my husband’s leaders, I looked out over the crowd towards the tanks that hold the fish used to cook some of the dishes. One of the cooks was attempting to catch one at the time, and he almost got it, but it jumped out of the net and onto the floor at the last minute. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing as I pictured a fish flopping along the floor interrupting our wedding!
-My father gave a short, touching speech thanking everyone who helped us with our wedding and welcoming my husband to the family. One of my colleagues translated for him, and as I looked out, there was not a dry eye amongst my other colleagues, including my boss.
-Our wedding decorations included a bubble machine at the back of the stage. Unfortunately, it was placed a bit too close to where we were standing, because when it was turned on, we were constantly spitting bubbles away from our faces! It’s a wonder you can’t see it in the video. My brother got a huge kick out of the look on our host’s face as she stood in the midst of this storm holding a microphone for our vows and trying to look dignified while bubbles flew up her nose!
One of the memorable moments that was caught on video happened during the bouquet toss (and it’s all my fault!). We planned to have our kiss on stage and then exit up the staircase, tossing the bouquet from the top of the stairs. Since this is not a common tradition in China, I had to explain it to my single, female colleagues and encourage them to get up and try to catch the flowers when the time came. Thankfully, most of them were game and excitedly gathered below. Unfortunately, I didn’t toss the flowers hard enough away from me, so they fell straight down, where a random man from a table nearby reached out and caught them. He was pretty proud of himself!
After changing clothes, toasting each table, and standing at the doors to thank our guests for coming as they left, we finally had an opportunity to eat! We made our way to a private room at the back of the restaurant where my husband and I dug into the food like we hadn’t eaten for days.
A final memory from that day: my parents teaching the members of the wedding team who ate with us the western custom of clinking your glass to signal that you want the new couple to kiss. This novelty kept all the Chinese people amused for a very long time, and made it hard for us to eat more than two bites in a row!!
The rest of the day was a blur of scrubbing hair and face, packing, and eating pizza at 9pm as we got ready to hit the road bound for Inner Mongolia the next day.