I’m willing to bet a lot of you have been to plenty of western weddings in your time. I’m talking about your traditional American or British-style wedding; the ones usually shown on TV shows and in movies, etc.
As a result, I bet you’ve noticed that these weddings all tend to be quite similar. They follow the same customs, have pretty similar themes, and so on. Today, I want to take a little trip into Chinese culture to explain some of the key differences between a typical Chinese wedding and one from Western culture. It’s just a bit of fun, and a chance to show how two things can vary so much, even though they’re essentially the same thing!
The Food Menu
We all know that the food menu is what most of us look forward to at weddings. In your traditional Western affair, there’s usually a three or four-course meal to enjoy. You get a typical little starter or two, the main course, then the dessert. Pretty standard, right? It’s still bigger than your normal meal, and it’s usually delicious.
Well, wait until you feast your eyes on a Chinese food menu at a wedding. It’s very very long, and usually features at least ten courses – if not more. The tables are filled with different dishes; it’s almost too much for you to comprehend. The dishes are beautiful and represent some of the finest Chinese cuisine – it’s very different from your typical western menu.
At your typical western wedding, there will be a variety of musical entertainment for guests to enjoy. Normally, this involves wedding bands playing live music or a DJ blasting out some tunes for everyone to dance to. It’s a real party experience where guests are dancing with one another, everyone is singing, and passersby could be excused for thinking they’re walking past a nightclub.
In Chinese weddings, things are a little bit different. Some do now have dancing and singing, but these are usually heavily influenced by the weddings over here. Traditionally, the reception is more about the food – and there can be some music, but people aren’t really getting up and dancing everywhere. Is this because of the sheer amount of food consumed? Perhaps! But, this doesn’t mean wedding receptions are dull affairs, there’s usually entertainment in the form of some different games. The married couple gets involved, some of the kids play, and it’s almost like a huge family get-together.
It’s not unheard of for someone to host a wedding with less than a hundred guests. In fact, even that figure may seem like a lot to you. Some western weddings can be very small, with immediate family and close friends as the only guests. It almost feels like the hardest part of planning a wedding over here is limiting the guest list. You want to invite lots of people, but it’s just not the way things are done.
Contrast this with a Chinese wedding, and you will be stunned at how many people attend. There are some weddings with hundreds of guests all packed into the same location. It’s really treated as this massive event; if you know the person in some way, then you’ll probably be invited. In a way, this is reflective of Chinese weddings on the whole; they’re grand celebrations. The idea of a small and intimate wedding in Chinese culture just doesn’t exist.
I’ve always found traditional western weddings a bit strange in the way gifts are handled. The married couple almost have a list of things they’d like, then guests decide what to buy them. Sometimes, guests who aren’t as close to the couple will buy their own gifts. Either way, the main way things are handled is by giving actual presents to the newlyweds.
At Chinese weddings, there are no presents like this. I wrote a post about the whole concept of Chinese wedding gifts before, and I mentioned how money is the main gift. Guests give money to the married couple, and they use it to help pay for the wedding. When you think about it, it makes more sense; you’re going to need plenty of help paying for the wedding and planning the rest of your life. Do you really need three new sets of plates or frying pans? Nope!
Are you surprised by these differences? It’s funny how something like a wedding can change so much between cultures. If you can think of any other differences I haven’t included, then please feel free to let me know!
Disclosure: This is a featured post.