As we entered the church, the pastor was explaining that the bride and groom had selected a special day to get married. "Today is November 11," she said. "It is single's day."
Typically Single's Day -- 11-11, is a day that the single people of the world (or at least China) celebrate their singleness. This couple decided to redefine it as their wedding anniversary - a day when two singles would be single no more.
We hadn't planned on crashing their wedding. We were just trying to go to church. We didn't know that a wedding had been scheduled in place of the normal service. Still it was interesting. It's hard to blieve, but in this, our seventh year living in China, it was the first Chinese church wedding I've seen.
Much like an American wedding, the couple exchanged their vows by responding that they "yuan yi" (agree) to promises to cherish, love, respect, honor and not leave one another for the rest of their lives. After completing their vows and exchanging rings, the bride and groom held their hands up to show off their rings for a moment. They also lit candles, which the pastor explained represented two families that were coming together to create a third family. And, though they hesitated a moment when the pastor
told the groom he could kiss the bride, they -- somewhat embarssingly --
There were also a few other differences from a typical American wedding. For one, nobody other than the couple getting married and the pastor appeared to be wearing special clothing. Secondly, there was a huge archway of pink balloons strung up across the aisle. And all the children in the congregation stood along both sides of the aisle, undoubtedly to wish the couple success in child-bearing -- a must in any Chinese wedding. Some alternated between standing still and dancing back and forth with impatience. Also notable was the timing. As I mentioned: it was held during the normal church service. And, as is typical in a Chinese church service, prayers were filled with "A-mens" changted in unison after each phrase and the whole congregation concluded the service by reciting the Apostle's Creed. The videographer couldn't help but notice the foreigners standing in the back while scanning the crowd and made sure to spend a considerable amount of time with his camera aimed directly at us.
As the wedding came to an end, we made our way out of the building. At the door, gifts of watermelon seeds, peanuts and candies were shoved into our hands.