yesterday evening i enjoyed myself at a chinese wedding, really enjoyed myself in an almost american let’s dance and party at the reception kind of way. why is this worth noting?
other shenzhen weddings that i have attended have been more formal, staging important relationships through explicit ritual. for example, the last wedding i attended included two sets of tables (bride and groom’s sides) for parents and elders, brothers and sisters and their families, including in-laws, bosses and colleagues, business associates, friends of parents and elders, friends of bride and groom. in short, a crystallization of the relationships – formal and emotional – that had made up the lives of the bride and groom. toasting (who went to which table to drink with whom) allowed guests to formally acknowledge these relationships even as they deepened the affection both for the couple and between guests. importantly, monetary gifts to the bride and groom were correspondingly classified with the closer and higher ranking guests giving more and the more distant and lower-ranking giving less.
(so yes, i always ask a knowledgeable friend how much i should put in a red envelop before i go to wedding. and yes, i am as frequently told, “put in what you feel.” to which i reply, “i don’t know what i’m supposed to feel.” my ignorance about the monetary expression of my feeling occurs because giving either too much or not enough means i have misinterpretted the nature of my relationship with either the bride or groom and thus can lead to awkwardness, misunderstanding, and even hurt feelings. sigh.)
slight detour through my anxieties aside, the point is that yesterday’s wedding had a much stronger emphasis on being happy than on making social relationships explicit. yes, parents and grandparents came and yes, bosses and colleagues showed, but the majority of the guests were friends of the bride and groom, who as generation 80 kids were only children (thus no siblings and all those relationships), as under-30 years of age not very well established socially (thus not many business associates), and also most had grown up in Shenzhen with party habits. moreover, the bride is young, almost generation 80 young and so many of her friends did come to party.
perhaps more importantly to the general high high high of the evening, the bride and groom were theatre people. this meant that when a guest stood up to congratulate the couple, it was a performance and not the usual blah blah of more formal weddings. there were solo songs, chair dances, a cross-talk routine, a magic show, humorous impromptu speeches, and videos that spoofed the happy couple in a good natured way. indeed, even throwing the bouquet became a chance for telling jokes and performing; the group was on in the most satisfying way.