The following is pretty much how all the Kunming weddings I’ve been to have been organized (these pictures are from my sister-in-law’s):
First the groom and his family come to the bride’s home. Through begging and bribery (the hong bao – little red envelopes of money – shoved under the door), the groom has to convince the bride and bridesmaids to let him in – they usually make the most of this, getting him to serenade his true love, agree to do all the washing up for a year, etc.
Once the groom is allowed in, he has to find the bride’s shoes which have been hidden somewhere in the bedroom.
|Once the shoes are found, the groom washes the bride’s feet – supposedly because this is the only time he serves his wife, who now has a lifetime of servitude to look forward to. But this is a throw back to less enlightened times, before the glories of Communism and equality of the sexes.
The bride and groom offer tea (敬茶) to the bride’s family, and in return receive hongbao.
|The groom then has to carry the bride from the house to the car. She’s not supposed to touch the ground, which can be a killer if it’s a sixth floor apartment.|
|Next the entire wedding party is chauffeured around the city in expensive cars (rented mostly, with a few lent by well-to-do relatives). There is a stop off for photos somewhere scenic, beside Dianchi Lake or at the Expo Gardens, before going to the hotel.|
The hotel is the venue for the main event, a feast for friends and co-workers. The bride and groom greet guests at the entrance accepting more hong bao, the bride gives a cigarette to male guests, and lights it. The tradition of giving red envelopes of money means that the couple getting married actually make a profit, and the more people you invite the more money you get. This has led things to getting out of hand (there are even cases of people holding a second wedding when they are a bit short of cash).
When the guests arrive at the hotel banqueting hall, the couple go up on stage and are teased by a compere, usually in a good humoured way (like the best man’s speech in a Western wedding), and the parents are invited up to say a few words.
The bride changes again (she changes several times throughout the day – Western white wedding dress and red Chinese qipao/cheongsam is standard), then they go round all the tables toasting (敬酒), often changing again to see people off (送客).
|The last event of the day is nao xin fang (闹新房), which much like a stag night is a chance for the bride and groom’s close friends to torment them before they become mature adults.|
Traditionally it takes place in the bedroom of the couple’s new house, but nowadays usually the hotel where they had the banquet will provide a room because it gets messy – food fights, people getting drunk and sick – so the hotel can take care of the clean up. The bride and groom have to play various games, such as the bride having to move an egg from one of the grooms trouser legs to the other using only her mouth, or the groom has to find peanuts hidden in the brides clothes. Luckily my brother-in-law had drunk himself unconscious by this point, and so was spared.
The photo above was taken when the couple were still in the restaurant toasting every table. Their friends gave the bride a glass of baijiu and wasabi – at this point, the bridesmaid (or best man) can take the couple’s place when drinking.