|The very happy couple|
We took an overnight train and arrived at 4:30am after very little sleep. Fortunately, since many people in China travel by overnight train, most hotels will let you check in early in the morning. Usually not 5am early, but the receptionist had pity on us, so we were able to settle in and get a few more hours sleep.
|Our yummy fish stew|
At the end of the meal, the girls said they would be going to a rehearsal later today, but they weren't quite sure when or where. We were wondering where we need to go tomorrow for the wedding, so they both ended up on their phones calling around to see where exactly the wedding was supposed to be. Fortunately it turned out to be just across the street from our hotel.
The next morning we dressed Juliana in her pretty dress and headed across the street. Most Chinese weddings are just a banquet with some different rituals included, depending on the part of the country, but the first part of this wedding would be a Christian ceremony similar to American tradition. A meeting room at a fancy hotel was decorated and chairs were arranged alongside a red-carpeted aisle. As we came in we were handed small bags of candy, traditional Chinese wedding favors, and a program. We noticed a poster-sized picture of the bride and groom in traditional wedding photo pose.
|The bridesmaids in their fancy white dresses|
|The bride enters with her father|
|The couple singing together|
Afterward they ask several family and friends to come up and give blessings. A few days before my friend had said, "Hey, you could say something at the wedding!" and I said, "Um, ok." So fortunately I had a little advanced warning to find some (hopefully) appropriate things to say. In a strange turn of events I spoke in Chinese while someone translated me into English!
After the ceremony everyone wanted to get pictures with the bride and groom, then we headed over to the restaurant for the wedding banquet. We were very surprised to find the banquet was going to be held at a Brazilian barbeque restaurant! It didn't really seem Chinese or Nigerian, and it certainly wasn't traditional, but it was good. We helped ourselves to a buffet style mix of Chinese and Western food and then waiters came around to the table and cut off pieces of meat - rib, bacon, tongue... The especially funny part about this restaurant, a chain we went to once in Weinan, is that the whole restaurant is German themed! I'm not quite sure where that fits in.
As we ate the bride and groom went around to each table, accompanied by a bridesmaid with a microphone. They toasted all the guests and the guests said a wish or blessing for the new couple. In much of China, instead of giving gifts guests bring money in special red envelopes. A friend from Inner Mongolia had warned me that in her hometown they just forego the red envelopes, though - a bridesmaid waits at the door to collect your money and write down the name and amount in a large book. This makes it easier to know how much you need to reciprocate later.
I didn't get to see too much of my friend during the weekend. I expected she would be busy with the wedding, but she really wanted us to come over to their new home after the wedding to visit. Unfortunately our train left earlier than she thought so by the time the wedding festivities were over, there wasn't enough time. I was still glad to be able to attend her wedding though. In a few months we will attend the wedding of another Yangzhou friend - one I expect to be much more traditional. I am glad to have these friends that I have known for almost 8 years now and have been able to keep up with since we have parted. Once you become close to someone in China, you have a friend for life.