Sorry that it has been so long since I posted, but I was having a little trouble with the local ISP. Now, I think, the problem has been resolved.
Ting’s wedding was held on May 1st (during the May Day Holidays). The venue was a hotel ballroom on the north side of the city. I’ll try to describe it as best I can.
My invitation was hand-delivered by Zhang Tingting a couple of weeks before the wedding and read as follows: ” Mr. and Mrs. Zhang Xuede (Ting’s parents) and Mr. and Mrs. Gong Zhaoqin request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their children Zhang Tingting and Gong Zhenyu to Yongle Great Restaurant (2d floor) on Sunday, the first of May 2011, at eleven twenty-eight.” Why 28 you ask? Because eight is considered an extremely felicitous number.
The parents, and a few of the guests milled around the front entrance a few minutes before 11:28 to await the bride and groom’s arrival. (Those milling fell into several categories: the parents, people with cameras, people with assignments, people who wandered in off the street, non-people, and people who can best be described as aural masochists.
The entrance to the hotel was fronted by two large air-filled red arches that announce there’s a wedding/s at the hotel that day, and those arches were surrounded by, at least, 3.5 tons of explosive devices. (I hesitate to call them firecrackers because “cracker” doesn’t do their sound output justice.) The Chinese are VERY fond of fireworks, and while you’ll sometimes see a roman candle or two flying off into the sky, most often the fireworks are selected for their ability to torture an eardrum and not their aerial beauty.
Ting and Zhenyu missed the :28 mark and we had to wait 10 minutes for the next :08 mark. Upon arrival, the pops, kabooms, bangs, etc. began and continued for several minutes. They exited their limo, stepped up on the front walk, hesitated for a moment until the last of the explosion-borne debris had settled to the ground, and walked through the arches. Once through both arches, they turned, retraced their steps to the front of the first arch, and paused while a number of photographers snapped, flashed, and did photographer things. Once the snappers had finished their flashing, the band (see gamblers above) began to play. They were enthusiastic.
The couple moved into the hotel and went directly to the entrance to the 2d floor ballroom where the wedding would take place. They, along with those women acting as bridesmaids, and the emcee for the wedding (This wedding was a secular wedding. Zhenyu and Ting actually were legally wed some weeks before by registering their marriage with the Chinese government’s civil authority. This ritual is the formal introduction to family and friends of their marriage and not a religious event – as we in the western world tend to think of it.) As for Ting, Zhenyu, their families, and the rest of us, it was a formal/informal ceremony.
After all the guests had been greeted and had moved into the ballroom, Zhenyu and the emcee took to the stage. Ting, with her parents, moved to the back of the room and stood under a ceremonial bower. After greeting the audience, Zhenyu, introduced Ting and her family. Then, the emcee cranked up the PA system, and Ting and her father, followed by Mom, walked to the stage. After getting all the family onstage, the group toasted the audience, the band, the emcee, etc., and the audience reciprocated.
Following the general toasting, the “honored guests” of the two families came to the stage to (Well, I’m not actually sure what the honored guests did or were supposed to do. But, since I was the Zhang family’s honored guest, I can tell you what I did.) First thing I did was talk Wang Kai Jing (see Danger! – a following post) into interpreting for me. I said all the normal stuff that you say when you’re the honored guest at a Chinese wedding ceremony. I have no idea what Kai Jing said. Significantly perhaps, Bob was followed by the Karaoke machine.
The guests then were fed an 8-course meal (8 again) and all the tea and Báijiǔ, (a potent grain alcohol that resembles corn liquor distilled without the insect parts removed) you could consume. You only consume a half-jigger full for each toast. After three or four of these tiny glasses of Báijiǔ, your face turns bright red and you’re toast!
While the rest of us were fattening up, Ting and Zhenyu visited each table of guests for a round of personal toasting. (Both, fortunately, do not drink alcohol. They were allowed apple juice and tea.) The Karaoke machine provided a backdrop.
How can I end this? The bride was gorgeous, and her her husband quietly assumed the role that most husbands assume at their wedding – he stayed in the background. The three of us had dinner a week later, and I found him to be quiet, funny, and confident of his role in Ting’s life. He writes and markets computer games and has his own company. Ting will continue to teach at Qingquan School until a family-oriented responsibility forces her to temporarily retire from teaching. She will, in the Chinese custom, retain her family name. Their children will take Zhenyu’s name of Gong. Zhenyu will continue to make money.