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        Kidnaping of the bride in the early morning

Last week-end, I participated in my first Chinese wedding. Though I already had a chance to see photographs on Shanghai streets during shooting sessions (read my article about it), I never attended a real marriage myself before this Saturday. So I am happy to give you my first impressions bellow.

What is different from Europe?

The Chinese wedding is very different from the western one. First of all, there is no real wedding “ceremony” like in Europe as the marriage is actually registered in an office in the mere presence of the couple and their witnesses. This is only after this official registration that the newlyweds will seta party for friends and relatives.

IMG_2247 IMG_2244

On the day of the reception, the broom and friends go to the bride’s parents house in the morning to stage a “kidnaping” of the bride. In fact, this is the opportunity to handle “red envelopes” to the family members at every door before getting to the bride’s bedroom. 

Then in the afternoon or evening, there is a reception. This is where I was invited. I was actually very impressed by the number of attending guests: Some two hundred and fifty people, which is considered a rather limited figure in China! The reason for this, I was told, is that you do not want to hurt people while not inviting them . So you will often invite neighbors, colleagues, professional contacts in some cases to make sure you secure your “guanxi” (relation network).

Red envelopes




        Photos with fancy clothes   

Another characteristic are “red envelopes” (hongbao). When invited to a wedding reception, Chinese tradition makes it necessary to handle a  red envelope containing money to the newlyweds. The amount of money must of course exceed the cost of the diner but it will represent a far bigger amount for close relatives. Indeed, family is a pillar of Chinese society, so family members usually contribute to the starting capital of every young couple. The amount of the red envelope will therefore depend on how close you are with the bride or broom. Professional connections can also be tightened on this occasion through giving a substantial gift to a business partner.

Photos and animation

Photos play a very important role during Chinese weddings. First, the reception room is decorated with photos taken in the weeks before the wedding by professional photographers. They include all kind of postures or clothes. In addition, the newlyweds will make photos with guests before the dinner starts at the room entrance.


    Video consents: click to view  

Then the party is monitored by a professional animator. This person will organize games for participants and stage the exchange of consents in front of the guests. After that, the newlyweds will show their official certificates to the audience and propose a toast to the wedding. Finally, the dinner starts. The animator sets up lucky draws and singing sessions  (China is the country of KTV). As for the bride and broom, they will circulate between  the table to have a drink with everybody, which requires, you can imagine, a certain physical endurance!

The dinner ends after two hours or so, so that everybody can return home safely. As in China most parties end early, weddings are no exception.


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