Q: Ahem...going to Chinese wedding - any tips on how to prepare?
So...I got invited to a Chinese wedding. It'll be my first time and I've no idea what it's gonna look like or what I should prepare.
Should I dress real fancy or more casual? Should I bring an actual gift or just money in an envelope? Will I be expected to sing Karaoke or something?
Chances are I'm going to be the only laowai there. I'm mentally shielding myself for the worse...
First time I was invited to a wedding, I dressed up in a nice suit and tie.... I outdressed even the groom (just in case being the only laowai didn't make me stick out enough). Only the red envelope is needed.
As far the wedding itself, after a pretty quick service then food was served and the bride and groom went around to drink with each table. So prepare yourself to drink with at least everyone at your table and the tables closest to you. The closer guests stayed stayed around to gamble the rest of the afternoon and then partake in dinner and more drinking.
I've seen some more traditonal and some more western than this; but from my experience this would be my bet about what you see.
red envelope full of pink maos. closer you are to the bride or groom the more you are expected to give. remember everyone will know exactly how much you gave and it will be the topic of discussion the entire day, week, month . etc.
Many have told you already, basically prepare a "hongbao" (or red envelope) and be ready for heavy drinking.
Tips on hongbao, at least place inside enough money to cover what you think it will be the cost of your meal and drinks. Depending on restaurant or hotel area chosen, it will be at least 100 yuan bill and possible over that, depending on how close you know the bride or groom. Normally, it is consider good ettiquete to place only brand new looking bills inside envelope, and you can handle it to whomever is at the welcome table at the entrance, or place it yourself if a basket is there for that purpose, or handle it to the bride or groom when they come around to your table to do the brindis, drinking and photos. If you will be tbe only "laowai" present there, I am sure they will make arrangements to sit you at the family table, which is consider an honor. You will also give "face" to the bride and groom to have a "laowai" present at their wedding.
There is no need for you to use coat and tie, unless the bride or groom is really into "serious money" and the location is at a real plushy place. A nice pair of slacks and shirt will be enough. at the table, I am sure many locals will insist in having a brindis will you, so be prepared for heavy drinking (the idea is to get drunk). It is consider unpolite to refuse a brindis. also, you will get many offers of cigarretes, very common. In fact, there may be one or two packs of cigarretes on each table.
I normally stay one to 1-1/2 hours, then make my exit, since I do not have any idea of what is said around me.
One thing do, NO KISSING or HUGGING the bride, please !.
Here are some of my suggestions, more or less like other people :
1) hongbao : as previously said, the closer you are to the groom or the bride, the more you give. And when I mean "the more", it can go up to a couple of thousands of RMB. Naturally, it also depends where you're attending the wedding. If it's in the country side of China, you're not required to put that much money, a 100 yuan is enough.
As on how to present the notes, you need to use new 100 yuan notes, but other notes are also appreciated if you want the amount to mean something for the couple : for example : 660 yuan, 990 yuan (except 440---4 rimes with death here in China).
2) if you're very close to the bride and she has lived abroad for a long time, you may eventually kiss the bride. During our wedding, friends and relatives used to kiss my wife many times and she didn't mind, her family too as she explained them the reasons of the kissing. If you're not close to the bride, then definitely no kissing.
3)Don't wear anything better than the broom, stay elegant but not showy. You'll see many people either men or women wearing jeans. I believe it's too make that all the cameras are turned to the bride or the broom and nobody else as it's a special day for them.
4) Depending how close you're to the broom/bride, they may invite you to share their happy time since the morning when the broom goes to take the bride at her parents place and enjoy the games that take place there.
5) I have attended several Chinese weddings, including mine, and they never last more than 3 hours, so don't feel too sorry if you leave earlier.
6) Since maybe a year or two, the trend is that Chinese weddings have their "laowai", more as symbol of "I have a laowai in my circles". If you're the only one, you're in someway representing all the "laowai" on earth So behave well
7) As for drinking, it's indeed considered impolite to refuse to cheer with any of the guests, the family, relatives, well anybody attending the wedding. However, you are not forced to drink alcohol, you can have your glass of juice or other soft drinks.
I was with a tour group, who just happened to have reserved a table in a room where there was a wedding. The bride said it was ok. Although we were only wearing casual clothes, the normal guests weren't dressed up either. The service was very quick, we were even allowed to eat while it was going on. Since we were not actually guests, I can't tell you much more than that, but it was definitely an interesting experience. Almost like watching a cheesy drama on tv, with a stage and everything.
I was at a wedding on the weekend. Experienced the whole build up. Starting the night before with fireworks delivered and set off outside the brides parents home. Early start the day of the wedding. Balloons tied everywhere outside and red paper squares cut and placed over all manholes in the vacinity., apparently to stop evil spirits or the like. Groom arrives with friends and attempts to enter but is denied for a while and then the whole show about forcing his way in and proposing to the bride. A bowl of noodles was then offered.
The bride was then carried down the stairs to the waiting group of cars(1 stretch Hummer and 10 or so Audis) and off to the reception. Dress was very casual, many in jeans and joggers, no ties.
An MC and a few singing acts plus the wedding show itself, consisting of vows, exchange of rings,sharing of wine and lighting candles with a sword, followed by a few speaches. I was asked to deliver one and happily obliged. The couple have taken me to many places in China and my words were translated by my girlfriend.
As others have said being the only laowai will require plenty of drinking and there will be smokes offered as well but you can politely refuse. The bride and groom will come around and offer a cigarette to each person and that was when the red envelope was given to them. At this stage everyone accepted the gigarette from the groom and let the bride light it without inhaleing and then the non smokers just put it straight out, from what I saw.
Was a pretty enjoyable experience.
If you are close friends with the bride and/or groom, try to give 999rmb or 888rmb in your envelope (if you can afford it). It means prosperity, good fortune, and longevity. If you're invited as a co-worker or something, just throw 100rmb in an envelope and call it a day (or 99rmb).
If you need to get a gift, make sure to get them in even numbers (except of 4 - bad luck) and NEVER GIVE A FAN. I've heard it means bad luck and an omen that the couple will break up.
Other than that, just be prepared to drink your own weight in Baijiu.