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Nice Day For a Red Wedding by Justin Mitchell
Thinking of getting married Chinese style? It will be one for the ages, but as a guest at three previous all Chinese weddings and the latest one, my first Sino-American union, in a backwater city called Shaoyang, three hours by bus or black taxi from Hunan Province's capital city of Changsha, I can only say don't forget the goldfish and watch out for road apples while marching in the wedding procession through the city behind the groom astride his rented pony and his beloved in a sedan chair hauled by eight beefy women.
 
The date was auspicious, as the Chinese say, October 1 National Day, and two years to the day that James met Jingjing at a Modern Sky rock festival in Beijiing.
Both share a love of rock ‘n roll (she can quote Pink Floyd lyrics in an instant, rare for a Chinese woman) and a true love for life together.
 
Chinese woman, Chinese wedding, Western man.Pulling off the production, though, was a true test for any relationship. I’ve been married twice (don’t ask) but aside from the one all-Chinese wedding where the wedding ring was choppered in via a radio controlled helicopter as the theme to Star Wars blasted on the PA, this union was the most awesome wedding ever.

Logistics were an enormous hurdle. Twelve of James’ family and friends (only one of which had been to China before) flew in from the States. Their culture shock and getting them ferried from Beijing to Changsha and then to Shaoyang was, as James put it, “a killer”.
 
“That took a lot of baton waving from a podium halfway across China. And then when we finally arrived in Shaoyang, plans shifted again - holiday tourists co-opted our vehicles, so we had to scramble again. It was a lot of fitting too many people with excessive luggage into modestly sized cars.”
 
Food was another problem. General Tao’s Kung Pao chicken and chop suey isn’t “Chinese” and Hunan is famed for its spicy dining. “Arranging meals was a tremendous juggling act, especially since I was dealing with a bunch of picky foreigners who couldn’t eat chili peppers, whose cuisine is characterized by chili peppers,” said James. “Having to literally follow waitresses back into the kitchen to communicate with chefs not to put chilis in anything often occupied most of my time and deprived me of eating a meal myself.”
 
Fatigue and famine began to take its toll on James. And did I mention that the wedding production began at 8:30 am.  Who gets married at 8:30 am except if you’re drunk and in Vegas? Chinese do, routinely, and they’re sober.
 
Part of the traditional marriage ceremony involves the groom dressed in a traditional suit – in this case a Sun Yat Sun suit or “Zhongshan” in Putonghua with a poofy red ribbon and bow tied to the front like a bad Elton John costume and a hat with two feathers sprouting from the top.
 
“The ribbon is Huanese tradition,” explained James. “I’m gift wrapped.”
 
Let the parade begin, and let's go kidnap the Chinese bride.The next ritual is “kidnapping” the bride. The friends and family followed James on his rented shitting pony to her family’s apartment as a wheezy band dressed all in orange played and people on the streets stopped to gape and shoot pictures of the foreign-Chinese wedding parade. Traffic stopped, people cheered from stalled buses and taxis.
 
Jingjing’s apartment has no elevator and her room was six flights up.
 
James and his parents and best men and others made the hike and then watched the rites begin.
He knocked at the door and was met by Jingjing’s parents and girl friends who asked him what he wanted. Armed with red envelopes carrying small denomination yuan, he began tossing them to the women while asking to marry Jingjing.
 
They scrambled for the money laughing and made him answer a few pointed questions.
 
“Who will control the money?”
 
“Jingjing will.”
 
“Who is right even when she is wrong?”
 
“The wife is always right.”
 
He was finally granted access to her bedroom where she was lovely, so lovely, in a traditional Chinese bridal gown and made up to kill.
 
“God, she was beautiful,” James recalled. “Suddenly I wasn’t tired anymore.”
 
The groom drags the unsuspecting bride from her home, fighting all the way.He carefully put her shoes on her feet and then lifted her piggyback style for the long climb back down to the waiting parade where fireworks were continually blasting to blow away evil spirits.
 
“We did not rehearse any of the parade stuff, so I was winging it all primed only by videos I had seen of other traditional weddings,” said James. “As for carrying JJ down all those stairs, I hadn't slept for three days, had eaten very little, and my best men knew it. So as I was going down, Dean stayed in front and Li Wei in back in case I fell in either direction. But I made it. I was proud of that until I mounted the horse again and felt my pants split wide open. Luckily both my pants and underwear were black.”
 
The procession marched on with two foreign friends holding a gold fish each in two bowls to be joined together in one bowl later as a symbol of union if they didn’t die first from parade stress – “There were so many tiny details,” James said. “At one point I wondered ‘how did we decide on gold fish?”
 
Jingjing was gracefully helped into the sedan chair and amid good natured chaos from onlookers we made it slowly back to the hotel where the wedding banquet – complete with a rented emcee and posters of the couple – were awaiting all.
 
That’s when the “Western” element kicked in. Music is important to them and it began with a classical piece.
 
“That was Mozart's Piano Concert in C, first movement,” said James. “I wanted to start it with something classical to contrast  (sister) Leah and her boyfriend’s Colenso's chosen theme song, which was "Satisfaction" by Benny Benassi, but I did not want to play Pachabels Canon in D or Bachs Air on a G String because they're tired wedding pieces that everyone uses to add some instant sophistication. I chose the Mozart piece because it had an explosive intro, almost a royal fanfare in the horns, yet obscure and had personal meaning to me - I used to play it on the piano at home in high school imagining I was playing with an orchestra.”
 
What followed was a mix of Beatles, U2, Pink Floyd, Bee Gees, Gram Parsons and more including a classical Chinese song that sounded like baby peacocks being strangled, between food and talent shows (James’ sister is a professional cartoonist and drew a quick portrait of Jingjing’s father, while best man Li Wei did calligraphy and one of James’ aunts did a Western line dance lesson for anyone who cared to mount the stage for “Electric Slide” and “Boot Scoot Boogy.”)
 
“Jingjing's dad has a crush on American culture, especially cowboys and the west,” said James. “So the more western culture the better. Instead of Double Happiness cigs, he handed out Marlboros, Camels and Lucky Strikes brought from the US to all his friends. They were a hit.”
 
Food was a small issue, though at the table I was at. All foreigners new to China and they were picking through it very, very carefully, though a couple of his uncles had no problem downing the baijou before noon.
 
“When was the last time you had a good steak?” one uncle asked me.
 
“Uh, about two weeks ago. In Beijing,” I replied.
 
“I guess I could get used to this. Helluva wedding!”
 
James’ father agreed. “This is like The Godfather!” he enthused. “A wedding on steroids!”
 
Indeed. And all before noon.

And they were wed, surely to live happily ever after.

Justin asked us to prepare a video for the newlyweds and we happily obliged. To view the video please click here... Also, if it is not showing in HD please click on the little "Change Quality" button and switch to 720p HD. Then open it to full screen. It is much more enjoyable that way.


From: Original         Author: Justin Mitchell         Time: 11/19/2012 2:44:58 AM

 
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