A few months ago I blogged that we’d be having a Chinese wedding banquet in the autumn and that it would mainly be organised by my Chinese mother-in-law. At that point, I’d semi-begrudgingly agreed to the whole thing, a date had been chosen, and a venue booked. When I arrived back in China last month with 4 month old baby Z, progress was as follows: a date had been chosen and a venue had been booked. That’s all. Total progress in those few months was zero.
I was happy that I’d get to help plan and make key decisions, but surprised by the lack of urgency. I remember back to my sisters wedding in 2013, they were busy every weekend for months and months ahead of the big day (granted they did a lot DIY). I was relieved that we’d be getting a wedding package with a wedding planning company 礼仪 and we went to see one with 5 weeks to go, but couldn’t agree on price. So we saw a few more with 4 weeks to go, but couldn’t agree on price. Then with 3 weeks to go we went back to see one we’d seen before, saw a couple more, but couldn’t agree on price. I was getting worried, but evidently I was the only one worrying about time scale and the in-laws were just worried about the price. At 2 weeks to go we finally signed a contract with a wedding planner, even more expensive than the first one we saw. Definitely the best choice, and the choice of R and me, but I do feel maybe if we had gone with the first one we saw we could have saved a lot of hassle!
When I agreed to having the wedding, which I wasn’t that keen on having just had a baby, and not wanting to spend the early months worrying about losing weight and looking presentable, plus the fact that me and R felt perfectly satisfied with our low-key wedding day last year, I had three main requests: no seafood, no host and no smoking. The first one I quickly conceded. I was told that seafood is VERY important in Dalian, and providing I don’t have to eat it, and with the concession that my family’s table have a different menu (they tried sea cucumber 海参 on their last visit and unimpressed might be an understatement), it could be worse. If the guests will like it, then that’s good.
My second request of no host went down ok. We had our own ideas of involving family members to welcome us to the stage and to conduct the vows etc, and said family members were happy to be involved. Until MiL called them, put the fear into them, and then they weren’t happy to be involved. So we felt we had no option but to get ourselves a host. But with firm instructions of no romantic rubbish, no filling gaps with speech, no loud 婚礼现在开始! kind of stuff and no standing on the stage. I forgot to request no sparkles on his clothes… We’ll see how it goes! It’s a compromise anyway. We were met with a few ‘you think you’re so innovative, but not having a host is nothing new’, so I wondered what the big problem was, if it’s nothing new. But we never said we wanted to be innovative, we just want our wedding to reflect us.
My third request of smoking was the most important to me. After all, my 6 month old baby will be in attendance, as will my pregnant sister, and for that matter all my important people. And I know one evening in a smoky restaurant isn’t the end of the world, but surely it’s easy enough to just ask people not to smoke?! Apparently not, and for my in-laws it’s an issue of face. Over the last 5 weeks we’ve gone round and round in circles on this. I know the wedding is more about them than me (after all, me and hubby have a grand total of 2 tables between us, whereas they have the other 16 tables), and I don’t want them to lose face, but I also don’t want to compromise on this. After all, it’s about health. So the no smoking signs have been made, no cigarettes will be served on the tables, the restaurant and wait staff will be told, the host will mention it and we’ll hope for the best. Phew.
Another thing which shouldn’t actually surprise me given the emphasis on conformity here in China, is the disregard for personal choices. I sent our wedding planner some pictures of the kind of bouquet colours I want, and she replied that those colours don’t look good ‘不好看’. However, I do think they look good, that’s why I after doing my research I asked for them. When I tried on my wedding dress, I chose the most simple non-sparkly non-puffy one in the shop (despite MiL’s advice that the more sparkles the better). I also said from the beginning I didn’t need a make-up artist, as from experience Chinese make-up artists don’t really know how to make me look my best, but MiL kept insisting I must have one, and that I must wear these shoes, must do my hair like this. I just want to look like me.
I’ve had a few moments of ‘why won’t they just listen to me? I’m the bride!’. But I’m forgetting this wedding isn’t really about me.