Chinese Wedding Days & Wedding Nights

The wedding fun continues (Part 1, Part 2)! Today we will wrap up with a few odds and ends about the activities surrounding the wedding day and the wedding night, before we begin to look at marriage in China.

I realized this morning that I had almost forgotten an incredibly important part of getting married in China, wedding photos.The name is misleading; they aren’t pictures taken at the wedding, instead they are taken months in advance in clothes you don’t even own.

My wife and I experienced this joy/ordeal for ourselves last year in Chengdu. We opted for the cheapest package (I think 2-3,000rmb), which included 3 outfit changes, 2 indoor backdrops and 1 outdoor photo shoot. My Chinese friends have gone with more pricey packages that included a massive wardrobe and a lengthy road trip to a scenic spot (closer to 10,000rmb).

After taking literally hundreds of photos they airbrush you to the point that your friends barely recognize you. The end result is a collection of massive photo albums, a few posters, as well as the option to feature yourselves on a variety of knickknacks. Wedding photos are absolutely required for it to be considered a proper wedding. (an example of wedding photos)

In China it is also common for people to be married long before the actual wedding. Marriage in China simply refers to having all of your paper work completed, and since it is not usually connected to a religious ceremony, the paper work really is the most important part. One of my Chinese friends in Guangxi was married a full year before his weddings.

Nope, that’s not a typo, I really did mean weddings. Chinese people are often described as practical, and weddings are no exception. It is not uncommon for the bride and groom to hold 3 weddings to celebrate their marriage (One in his home town, one in her home town, and a third in the city where the live). These weddings are also held at the most convenient times for the family and friends, and so they are not always close together in time. Each wedding requires months of planning and years of savings.

This leads to another interesting change. It’s not such a big deal now for the bride to be pregnant at the wedding since they are already married (but if they weren’t married, it would be scandalous). The woman is still expected to be a virgin when she gets married, while men are encouraged to be “playboys” (their word choice, not mine). I was a bit surprised when I was talking with a Chinese co-worker just a week after his wedding and he told me that his wife was 3 months pregnant. In the US this would be a juicy bit of gossip, but in the city at least, it’s nothing to be ashamed of in China.

On the wedding night the bride and groom’s friends follow the new couple back to their home/hotel and harass them for hours, making them play a variety of embarrassing games. My Chinese friend explained that in one game the groom has a piece of string tied around his waist with a chopstick dangling from the other end of the string. The bride lies on the floor with an empty beer bottle between her legs. The objective is for the groom to carefully insert the chopstick into the bottle. I thought my wife was going to die when she heard this described, and was so thankful that we decided not to be married in China.

Once the couple finally kicks the friends out of the hotel, they will hang around outside making noise and generally trying to be a distraction. How romantic. Then married life begins, which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow.

18 responses to “Chinese Wedding Days & Wedding Nights”

  1. Michelle says:

    Haha Chinese wedding is funny, isn’t it. But we gonna have a western-Chinese wedding in China for my fiance is an American.
    We’ve taken the wedding photos, but we have to wait for another month to get them. I’m afraid my photos won’t look like me.

    • Tom says:

      I had one friend who I honestly did not recognize in her photos. She had freckles, which they removed, and she wasn’t wearing her glasses. Then with the make up and expensive clothes, it was like a completely different person. On the other hand I thought my own wedding photos turned out great, so maybe they won’t change too much.

  2. Michelle says:

    I changed my glasses into contact lens too. The long eyelashes made my eyes look much bigger. My fiance likes your blog very much. Of course me too. Enjoy your time in China.

  3. Pelo says:

    …And I thought American weddings could be over the top!

    Beautiful photos, by the way. This post was both amusing and informative!

  4. JF says:

    OMG I love it! hahaha I was actually laughing out loud at the chopsticks game. Perfect timing of these posts for me, ’cause this is exactly what I have been interested to learn about recently.

    Does anything else happen on the day or the night that is notable? Do most Chinese weddings have the video and pictures displays of the couple on the day? Is it really just pretty much eating on the day? I just dont get exactly how the day is composed other than eating food and meeting and greetings guests..

    • Tom says:

      Maybe Tim will be able to answer this question for us in a couple of months.
      My understand is that the wedding day starts pretty early with the groom and his friends trying to get the bride to the wedding. Along the way she plays tricks like hiding her shoes, or forgetting other important things. The banquet is almost always at noon, and lasts several hours. Then most of the guests leave except for family and your closest friends. They stick around for dinner, and stay late into the night harassing the newly weds. It’s all in good spirit, and I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun for everyone but the bride and groom.

      • Tim says:

        Here’s our plan:
        She’s from a different city than where the wedding is being held (we’re holding it in the city I work in – it’s cheaper here) so we won’t have the crazy, over-the-top, early morning fiasco like finding the hidden shoes or carrying her away from her father. Our early morning will be spent prepping food with our friends and my family (she actually won’t help with that, gotta go get her makeup done).
        Ceremony at 11am. That’ll last about an hour and then it’s food time. We’re doing a buffet, which is different for China, but it’ll be fun. We’ve talked about playing some simple games and maybe some singing (which is traditionally one of the worst parts of a wedding for two reasons: they always turn the volume up to 11 and second, the person can never sing…)
        Before the ceremony and during the meal we’ll have a slideshows and videos of us showing through a projector. We probably won’t have any dancing, we’ll save that for our American reception.

  5. Pelo says:

    I forgot to ask a question! What was I thinking???

    If a Chinese marries a foreigner, and the couple wants to live in another country, how easy/difficult is it for this to happen? Is it harder for Chinese citizens to get visas, passports, etc. in China than it is for citizens of other countries? Is there an exorbitantly long wait with mounds of red tape?

    • Tom says:

      I might not be the person to ask about this, but my understanding is that it’s a pain for anybody to get a US citizenship, visas though are much easier than full citizenship. Citizenship I think just requires paperwork and patience. I have a friend who is marrying a Chinese man, and they filed their marriage already in China so they could get a jump on the paperwork.

    • Tim says:

      We are planning on applying for an immigrant visa for Michelle right after our wedding (even though we’ve been legally married in China since February). Since we still live and work in two separate cities (I’m on a contract and she can’t find a good job here) we want to be able to provide solid evidence that the marriage is legitimate. The job of the visa consular is to catch the fraud and we want to make sure our application is perfect.
      We have changed our plans on which visa to apply for several times. Originally we thought the Fiancee Visa would be good, but then I would have to file the application in America. We thought about a tourist visa, student visa, and finally decided on an immigrant visa. Should she get approved, she’ll receive a Green Card on arrival in the States, without the sometimes years of waiting that takes place.
      My personal opinion is that it’s much easier to get approved for a visa if you’re already married, plus I can file the application in China, cutting several months off of the process and it’s way less paperwork than the Fiancee or Student Visas.

      • Tom says:

        Thanks for clearing that one up. My wife and I instead have the joy of trying to find a moment when we don’t need all of our visas to be active so that she can get a passport in her new name. She also doesn’t have a driver’s license with her new name on it, which makes it a pain to get things like insurance without photo ID’s. It’s not easy getting married when you don’t really stay in one place.

  6. […] Read on – What happened to Traditional Chinese Weddings? and Wedding Days and Wedding Nights […]

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  9. Jay says:

    About those games played by the newlyweds….. look up the word, “Shivaree”. I’ve seen similar games played by newlyweds at the behest of their frineds in several weddings in the midwest.

    Shivaree is the most common American regional form of charivari, a French word meaning “a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds” and probably deriving in turn from a Late Latin word meaning “headache.” The term, most likely borrowed from French traders and settlers along the Mississippi River, was well established in the United States by 1805; an account dating from that year describes a shivaree in New Orleans: “The house is mobbed by thousands of the people of the town, vociferating and shouting with loud acclaim…. [M]any [are] in disguises and masks; and all have some kind of discordant and noisy music, such as old kettles, and shovels, and tongs…. All civil authority and rule seems laid aside” (John F. Watson). The word shivaree is especially common along and west of the Mississippi River. Its use thus forms a dialect boundary running north-south, dividing western usage from eastern. This is unusual in that most dialect boundaries run east-west, dividing the country into northern and southern dialect regions.

  10. […] Chinese wedding days & wedding nights […]

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