Part 1, Wedding Traditions: Culture Shock!

18 Sep

Ever since I became engaged, I’ve been thinking about certain traditions which I would like to incorporate into mine and Mr Big’s wedding. Mr Big is quintessentially a Kiwi with some Dutch in him, and so didn’t really have anything to put forward. When I asked his parents, they were also very easy-going about traditions as well, and didn’t have much to put forward either (except for one, which will be talked about in more detail in the next post!).

As an atheist, Mr Bighorn also doesn’t have any spiritual or religious traditions that were significant to him. As a Buddhist myself, I also didn’t really have any religious traditions for the wedding (although, funnily, a lot of people assumed we’d get married in a temple). As I was born and raised in Australia, despite my Chinese heritage, and my parents having originated from Indonesia, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself traditional.

However, my parents definitely are, and during the early (and much later) parts of our planning, have pushed particular traditions onto both Mr Big and myself.

Because of this, Mr Bighorn and I suffered from what one could call ‘culture shock’. Urban Dictionary defines ‘culture shock’ as ‘the shock of moving from one culture to another, often associated with laws, traditions, food, music and general lifestyle choices‘.

We couldn’t believe the amount of traditions we needed to do! It baffled us, but after doing some research, I’ve come to find that Chinese wedding traditions are filled with symbolism, all to do with either respecting Elders or bringing some form of happiness (joy, luck, prosperity) to the newlywed couple.

For those Chinese brides beginning to plan their wedding, or in the midst of navigating the traditions thrown at you from every which way, here’s a list of the wedding traditions Mr Big and I came up against. It’s definitely not all of them, but it’s the ones which, to my parents, were the most important:

The Auspicious Date

The word “auspicious” means “promising success”, and therefore, the auspicious date promises the couple success in their marriage. Therefore, by being married on the auspicious date, the couple will have a good marriage.

In Chinese culture, the bride and groom’s birthdays (time and date of birth) were typically used to find a date that would be considered the most “auspicious” – bringing them good luck and prosperity in their union. Unfortunately, the date needs to be figured out by a Chinese “soothsayer”, and the only two who ‘serve’ my family live in Indonesia and Thailand. That meant constant International conversations through 5 million grapevines (I may be exaggerating here). This tradition gave both Mr Big and I stress and constant headaches, but we stuck it out, as we both knew how important it was to my parents.

The whole process took approximately 6 months, as the soothsayers told us that, as we got engaged so “early” we couldn’t get a date in 2013/2014 until much later in the year. The only dates they were giving us were late 2012, and Mr Big and I wanted a long engagement. So waiting we did.

We finally got our date in September 2012 and the date ended up being close enough to a February 2014 wedding that we were ok with it. For those brides out there whose parents are wanting them to get auspicious date, try to stay patient and stick to your guns. I gave my parents an ultimatum at 6 months – if we DIDN’T get a date by 6 months, we would either: a) try to find our own soothsayer, or b) try to calculate the date ourselves (there’s a great app that does it for you!).

Cutting the Ribbon

This tradition will take place on the morning of the wedding and is symbolic of my family, and more specifically, my eldest sister, MoH M&Ms, “letting me go”. This is because, in Chinese culture, it’s customary to ‘get married in order’, so M&Ms is supposed to be married before I, however, as this isn’t 16th Century China, that just didn’t happen. I’m the second-born of three daughters in my family, making me the middle child. My eldest sister, MoH M&Ms, has a boyfriend, but she isn’t married. To counteract the fact that I’ll be getting married first, I have to be “let go” by the unmarried eldest.

To do this, a red ribbon is strung along the front door and M&Ms cuts it, therefore allowing me out. I then present her with a gift and am let out of the house. In our wedding, this is then immediately followed by the next tradition:

The Auspicious Time

This tradition, like the auspicious date, is meant to give the bridegroom couple good fortune. With this tradition, a certain time is appointed to the bridegroom couple in which the groom must pick up the bride from her parents’ house and take her to his parents’ house. This tradition has given us the most grief, as it was only brought up later into planning, and therefore, became something of a logistical nightmare.

The three things that made it difficult for us was: the fact that our wedding was in the Hunter Valley, and therefore, nowhere near my parents’ house (in Sydney) and Mr Big’s parent’s house (in Christchurch, New Zealand); we wanted to keep the tradition where Mr Big and I don’t see each other until the ceremony; and finally, our ceremony is supposed to be starting at 11AM in the Gardens, and that was the exact time that we were given to enact the traditional “picking-up-of-the-bride”.

We were able to get around these problems, but to say it didn’t cause Mr Big and me grief would be lying. My tip to those who need to do the auspicious time tradition would be to get a clear idea early into wedding planning so that you know what you need to do. If you have to pester and prod, pester and prod!

As for how Mr Big and I navigated through this logistical nightmare, this is what we did:

Problem: Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley, my parents’ house is in Sydney, and Mr Bighorn’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand – how do we do this tradition?

Solution: Because we were having a “destination” wedding, my parents compromised with this. Instead of Mr Big picking me up from my parents’ house in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and (literally) flying to Christchurch, New Zealand, Mr Big would pick me up at the place of accommodation where my parents would be staying. The most important part of the tradition was that Mr Big would take me away, so all he really has to do is take me over the threshold of the villa to the outside.

Problem: The time the tradition needs to be performed is at 11AM – our ceremony starts at 11AM!

Solution: We’ve been told by a gazillion married couples already that it’s ok for the bridegroom couple to be late to their own wedding, as long as both of them are late at the same time. We’re approximating we’ll be about 15 minutes late to the ceremony, so it’ll officially start at 11:15AM. I’ve asked the venue if we’re allowed to push our timing back 15 minutes and they were very accommodating. We’re also going to ask our celebrant to also announce that we’ll be late if it so happens that we are.

Problem: We’ve agreed to not see each other before the ceremony – or at least, Mr Bighorn is not meant to see me before the ceremony. But the tradition means we have to see each other before the ceremony!

Solution: Not necessarily. Mr Big is going to be blindfolded as he steps up to the villa. When he answers, I’ll be able to see him, but he can’t see me. This means, though we’re with each pre-ceremony, he won’t have technically seen me. Also, we’re hoping there’s enough time for photos like this:

Not-First-Look

What people have dubbed the “Not First Look”. Sigh, so pretty… / Image courtesy of thebridaldetective.com, photography by Jill Lauren Photography.

 Though this has given us the most grief, we’ve made our peace with it, and are even taking advantage of it! Hopefully it all works out.

The Chinese Tea Ceremony

I’ve mentioned that we’ll be having a Chinese tea ceremony in a previous post and I’ll be explaining what this is in some detail in another post.

Logistically, this is giving Mr Big and I the most grief, as it’s dependent on certain key members and we’re having a hard time pinning the timing of these guys down. Otherwise, Mr Big and I were more than happy to include this. We love the tradition behind it, and being from a Dutch and Chinese family respectively, it was important we celebrate our connections with our elders as much as the connection between ourselves. Again, I’ll be explaining these in more detail, but it’s a beautiful ceremony!

Toucan Recaps: The Ceremony :  wedding boston Teaceremony

Mrs Toucan’s beautiful Chinese tea ceremony. Photography by Robert Mirani.

And those are the Chinese wedding traditions! We’re excited about some, like the Tea Ceremony, and a little bit anxious about others, like the auspicious time tradition. But we’re both hoping it’ll all work out in the end. With enough planning and contingencies, Mr Big and I have made sure that anything that can go awry will be handled.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the more “Westernised” wedding traditions we’ll be having!

What do you guys think of these traditions? Strange, fascinating, both? 🙂

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2 Responses to “Part 1, Wedding Traditions: Culture Shock!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [Part 2] Wedding Traditions: Something, Something. | The Wedding Rollercoaster - September 27, 2013

    […] my last post, I talked to you guys about Chinese wedding traditions that we’ll be including in the wedding. In […]

  2. Rock On! | The Wedding Rollercoaster - October 23, 2013

    […] Our ceremony will have a number of alternative and folk rock songs strewn throughout. Since the last post, GP managed to cull about 40 songs from the massive list I gave him (I’m a bad decision-maker, what can I say!). We shifted some songs around to the reception, since we really liked some songs, and some we culled completely (for example, “Teardrop” by Massive Attack – I love that song, but it’s actually sad… and I didn’t realise that until now, doh!). Our pre-ceremony music will go for longer than 30 minutes, about 45, but that’s purely because we’re worried we’ll be late. […]

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