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White Wedding by Justin Mitchell

 A China pop quiz.
What features a radio controlled helicopter, the Star Wars theme, a harmonica, a magician, two lounge singers, an emcee from the "China Coal and Mine Troupe" dressed like an Elvis imitator, a dose of Confucian filal piety and about 200 guests?

1. A wedding.
2. Birthday party
3. A company retreat/team building session.
4. Funeral

If you picked No 1, you're a winner! You win a carton of premium Hongtashan (Red Pagoda Hill) cigarettes (gifts to the male attendees). If you picked 2, 3 or 4 you receive our consolation prize - two cartons of Hongtashans! 

It was my first Chinese wedding and easily the most bizarre and entertaining nuptial event I've attended, though a New Age one outside of Sheridan, Wyoming where the thoroughly white bride and groom recited vows based upon their "bear totem clan" is a close second. It was also the earliest - held at 11 am on a Friday.

But the bear totem wedding had no radio controlled helicopter flying in to the Star Wars theme to deliver wedding rings to the groom who almost fell down in his rented white tux trying to catch it. Nor did the bear totem groom wait solemnly while the wedding's emcee -- a second string CCTV cross talk comedian and graduate of the China Coal and Mine Troupe named He Jun who was dressed like a sequined Elvis imitator presented him with a mysterious slim long case that contained ... a harmonica.

"What the fark?" I mouthed to the only other foreigner there - a British pal, Danny, who'd been shanghaied into being a best man, based he suspected on a combination of his good nature and "exotic" skin color. He's a black guy. "I think it might've been a token thing," he said wryly.

But I digress. The groom, call him B, put the harmonica to his lips and wobbled through a shaky rendition of a vintage and still popular love song, The Moon Represents My Heart made famous here by the late Teresa Teng, a Taiwanese pop singer.

I'd have preferred some James Cotton or Magic Dick blues harp, but whatcha gonna do? I'm only a guest here and the 22 year old recent college grad standing next to me was sobbing into her already soggy tissue and looking repeatedly at her empty ring finger, yearning,I guess, for her turn at the altar with a toy chopper ring delivery system.

The tender 60-minute outdoor windblown ceremony also included a band of four young, leggy women in knee high suede boots and hot pants "playing" a flute, two violins and a portable keyboard to pre-recorded music, as well as frequent sound effects from a real keyboarist who hit the "boiiingg!" sound button to underscore every corny punchline from the emcee.

Gotta admit thohgh that I got a bit misty eyed when the bride and groom both knelt before their mothers and told them how much they appreciated their love and care. It hit a sincere and very traditional note that even the corny murmuring ocean sound effects didn't diminish.

In the banquet hall the levity continued. A magician entertained with some "Magic 101" stunts (interlocking rings, wand-into-flowers, etc) but closed out with a great finale of transforming a newspaper into a live squirming 8-inch grass carp that he threw into a nearby fish tank. Turning fish wrap into fish. Not a bad trick and I left with free ciggies and a gleaming hunk of carved jade won in a Lucky Wedding Draw.


From: Original         Author: Justin Mitchell         Time: 3/5/2010 4:10:19 PM

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