An American in Huxian: Story of an American/Chinese Wedding

In the wee hours of the morning I, unfortunately, woke up. The make-up artist would be around at 5 am and I had to be somewhat ready to greet her. 5:30 am the photographer would arrive. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before; so much to prepare before the morning of the wedding. My husband had called his wrestling team students to help with decorating the fancy hotel room my husband would be picking me up from.

When (almost) everyone had finally left me alone to shower it was already very late. I had barely closed my eyes when my alarm went off at 4:30. The make-up artist was my friend and my husband’s cousin’s wife. She is a sweet woman with a lot of experience with doing make-up. With her expert hand I went from a tired panda to someone I couldn’t even recognize in the mirror.

Before I knew it I was decked out in my traditional red dress with fresh red flowers in my hair. The photographer took some videos of my bridesmaids and I while I tried eating a bit on the side. My aunt was there taking pictures with me and was the one who saved the day by bringing me food. My new aunt is quite the character, always making sure I’m well fed and avoiding the “bad” relatives. She’s taken me under her wing ever since I met her, for which I’m eternally grateful.

Finally, I settled down on the bed to wait for my husband. My bridesmaids quickly locked my shoes in a box and hid it in the closet. Before long the bridesmaids made a mad dash to lock the door before my husband and his groomsmen were able to burst through the door.

They’re here!

The groomsmen and my husband banged on the door while my bridesmaids demanded red packets of money be passed under the door before they would open it. Finally after they’d sent enough money under the door, my bridesmaids cleared out of the way as my husband comes barreling through the door with a giant group of people behind him. I get a small glance before the bridesmaids close the door to my room and demand more red packets.

After finally letting the boys in, friends and family file into the room to watch the next part. The wedding announcer has my husband kneel at the foot of my bed with flowers to beg me to come with him and marry him. His friends bully him from behind making him speak up and be more specific about who he is marrying. Finally, I accept his flowers and the onlookers demand a kiss. I kiss him on the forehead and the lips after more pushing from the crowd.

Photo credit:Yuliia Trehubenko

Now my husband must find my shoes before he can carry me out of the hotel. My bridesmaids have prepared a series of hilarious games for my husband and his groomsmen to play before they can get each set of keys for the locked box with my shoes inside.

Ring toss time

We play and laugh through each game and finally they have all four keys. After paying off the bridesmaids with more red packets, they are directed to the box with my shoes inside. He puts on my shoes and my aunt puts the rather unfortunate veil over my head, at this point I can only see my feet.

My husband picks me up and carries me to the elevator where my aunt sticks a packet of coins in my hand. I’m unsure what the coins are for but I decide to figure it out later. Once in our borrowed bright blue Porsche 911 I am able to take off my veil and once again see what is going on. My husband tells me a coin or two should be dropped out the car window at each intersection and the coins must be gone by the time we reach his house. This tradition is to ward off ghosts, or so my husband says.

We wait as all the wedding guests get into the cars behind our car and then our procession takes off. The hotel is very close to my husband’s house, but according to tradition the cars can’t go back on the same road they came to pick me up on. So we proceed to do a large circle through the town which gives me time to drop my coins out the window (can’t have any ghosts at my wedding of course).

Eventually we must stop and hand out cigarettes and Red Bull to all the guests in our procession. At this point my husband is dragged out of the car and pushed around by his friends. In this town it’s common for the groom to get “beaten up” by some friends and relatives on his way to his house with his bride.

I sit in the car and wait as my bridesmaids come check up on me and chat. Eventually my husband escapes the rowdy guests and gets back in the car with me and we set out again. Pretty soon his friends try to stop us again to push my husband around some more but I have other plans. I tell him to slow down and wait for them to get out of the car and then we shoot off in the little sports car to escape them.

see ya!

A bit of a car chase ensues as one of his friends tries to stop us from running away. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a car before. We are laughing like maniacs when we are finally caught by his friends.

Another tradition is for them to tape a groomsman and a bridesmaid to a pole and they managed to catch one of my bridesmaids and a groomsman to do just that. Now this tradition I am not fond of. Maybe it’s all in good fun but violence is violence and this tradition tends to get out of hand.

The bride is not able to get out of the car so I’m yelling from inside the car at the hooligans taping my friend to a pole. They happened to grab my friend with spine problems so I’m frantically yelling for my husband’s friend to help her. Finally my husband and his friend explain the situation and they let her go. They make me sit in the hot car for what seems like forever until my friend yells at them to hurry up or else. At this point we are just around the corner from my husband’s house. I put on my veil and am blind to the world again.

I see nothing but hear the music blaring and the wedding announcer announcing our arrival. My husband leaves the car and I wait for when I am able to leave the car. This tradition I am less familiar with. An elderly gentleman walks around the car chanting and pouring what I think is boiling water around the car before I am able to get out. I have seen this many times before and I assume it’s kind if like a blessing.

Finally, the loud music hits me full force and my husband helps me ascend. Of course a wedding wouldn’t be the same without some kind of wardrobe malfunction. My veil grew a mind of it’s own and decided to jump off my head and I was able to get a small look at the huge crowd witnessing the foreigner’s rather embarrassing moment (yay me).

Pre-veil mishap. Photo credit: Yuliia Trehubenko

My husband helps me recover quickly and I blindly make my way to the house along the red carpet. I cling to my husband for dear life, no partly because I’m deathly afraid of tripping in front of all these people and partly because I can’t see. Once inside we do three bows to my husband’s ancestors, three bows to my husband’s parents and three bows to each other as a sign of respect. These bows are called jugong (鞠躬)and the announcer announces each one and we follow his lead.

Photo credit: Yuliia Trehubenko

Now it’s our turn to be bullied as my bridesmaids and I make our way up to my husband’s room. I stand blindly on the stairs as my husband’s friends and family tell the bridesmaids they must sing before we are allowed up. My bridesmaids are troopers they sang their hearts out to get us up there. At some point I managed to break through the crowd on the stairs and get to his room. I think they were just afraid I’d fall down the stairs since I’m still blinded by the veil but I wasn’t going to stand there forever since my feet were burning from wearing heels. If you ever have a Chinese wedding do NOT wear heels. There are plenty of beautiful shoes without heels on them.

Once in my husband’s room, we both sit on the red bedding covering the bed. A dragon and phoenix are embroidered on them in gold colored thread. This is a common thing to see during Chinese weddings. The dragon represents the groom and is a symbol of wealth and strength and the phoenix represents the bride and symbolizes grace and the renewal of life.

The next few traditions I had to look up after my wedding to figure out their meaning. First I am offered a bowl full of water with a green onion (I assume) inside. I am having an internal struggle wondering if I need to drink this water when my mother-in-law comes to my rescue and tells me I need to wash my hands in the weird onion water.

The next thing for me to be confused about is brought before me. I’m offered a red comb, which I stare at confused as my hair is styled to a T and I’m pretty sure my friend would kill me if I ran a comb through it and destroyed it. Once again saved by the MIL as she explains I need to just pretend to use it.

This next tradition I had actually seen before (or at least paid attention to last time I attended a wedding). Some of the kids from my husband’s family brought us a bowl of noodles and pretty red chopsticks.

Photo credit: Yuliia Trehubenko

We pull a Lady and the Trump scene and eat one noodle together until we kiss and a cheer goes up in the room. I looked up these traditions after my wedding so let’s go in order and I’ll explain.

The washing my hands in the onion water tradition took a lot of digging to find the meaning. Google had no idea what I was talking about, so I had to switch over to searching in Chinese. This is a rather odd tradition that has also been around an incredibly long time. This symbolizes the bride will have a prosperous life after marriage and that the couple will have a happy marriage life right off the bat.

The hair combing ceremony dates back to ancient times and represents the bride’s passage into adulthood and this is supposed to symbolize the bride’s readiness for the next stage of her life as an adult. The noodles, as usual, represent longevity. Noodles are eaten on birthdays as well to represent a long life.

Finally the crowd clears out of the room and my friends and I take some pictures together waiting to be able to get over to the banquet hall for the “western style” ceremony in my poofy white dress.

Just one problem, my poofy white dress and my cocktail dress are both still left at the hotel. So we’re already late to the banquet hall and no one thought to grab my dresses (awesome). My bridesmaids rush back with my husband’s friend to the hotel to grab my dresses and pack their own belongings as we were supposed to check out of the hotel by noon.

In the meantime, I sit anxiously in the changing room waiting for my friend/makeup artist. Finally, she shows up and quickly starts on my hair and makeup. After much poking and prodding she’s almost done until we discover the hairspray she used that morning was missing. After a few phone calls I find out the hairspray had ended up in my husband’s aunt’s bag though there’s a huge “but” in there. She left her bag at my husband’s house which was now locked since everyone and their dog was at the wedding.

My friend and one of the bridesmaids tries to find hairspray at the nearby stores and fails, so we make do without. While I’m trying to nibble on snacks as I hadn’t eaten all day, my husband and his (to be nice) not always helpful sister are pestering me about lots of my guests not showing up. Unfortunately, they decided to work on the highway for a year starting right before my wedding so getting to my wedding was a bit difficult for many of my friends.

In all, I think only three tables of my friends made it, including someone who biked from Xi’an to my wedding and my landlord.

You rock Francis!

I tell them to just move up some of my husband’s guests near the front and to leave us in peace. Finally I am being cinched into my dress (I mean who needs to breathe?). Once again I step into more uncomfortable, but really pretty, heels.

We come and stand in the formation we had rehearsed the night before and I take in the room. There are hundreds of people crowding around with their phones taking pictures and videos. I recognize a few people but most are strangers.

Behind the mass of people I see my parents and my brother up on the big screens. I will forever be sad they couldn’t attend but I’m grateful they could be there one way or another. I see some other relatives back home also watching the ceremony. I hold back tears as this is the final stretch of what my husband and I had been working towards for years.

I am snapped back to reality as my In-laws start up onto the stage. Next it’s our turn. Despite all the people staring on, I feel happy. I’m finally at my own wedding with all the people I love there with me in spirit, on camera, or in person.

The next part goes by in a blur while I try not to cry my eyes out. We exchange rings and are given a cool new addition to our outfits. I get two red sashes tied to me and my husband does as well, along with a snazzy black hat. All of which we remove soon after. I call my in-laws “mom” and “dad” for the first time and my Aunt’s daughter helps translate as my husband does the same for my parents.

Hello mom and dad

My husband’s parents give me a giant red packet and we stand and listen to many speeches. My feet are burning so I wait patiently standing like an ostrich under my dress. Finally we make our way off the stage and I must, once again, go change.

I refuse to wear my heels anymore so I slip into the hotel slippers and walk around in my cocktail dress with thin white slippers on. We use baijiu (Chinese Rice wine) to toast each table. Doesn’t sound too bad until you realize the place has a lot of tables. By the end, my husband is tipsy and I’m exhausted. When we finally get home my husband crashes right away. I eat and then pass out as well. Chinese weddings are full of traditions and beauty, but that was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Kaylee Fitzgerald

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