Wedding Bells in Hong Kong

My best friend here, Kai, was married at the end of March to her British love, Matthew. From beginning to end, the ceremony was this lovely blend of Hong Kong and UK tradition. Although I was battling a vicious case of food poisoning which decided to attack me the night before her wedding, that didn’t stop it from being one of the most beautiful and interesting ceremonies I’ve ever seen.

The bridesmaids all converged upon the bride’s parents’ home early in the morning of the wedding. The groom and groomsmen were there too, but they had to stay outside the house. Kai had just finished having her hair and makeup done, and she was enfolded in a traditional, red brocade Chinese gown with wide, flowing sleeves and a high neckline. Her hair was done up in intricate swoops and coils. Once she was ready, she was ensconced in her parents’ bedroom, where she was to sit with her father while the groom had to pass a series of obstacles to prove his worth as her future husband.

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The bridesmaids were in charge of doing their best to stop Matthew from winning Kai’s hand. He had to play several games, including passing an orange under his chin from one groomsmen to another without dropping it. He had to answer a series of difficult questions about Kai to show how well he knew her, and he also had to pay the bridesmaids a handsome sum of money before we would let him go inside the house.

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At that point, he retrieved Kai from her father, and they both came downstairs among cheering and clapping for the tea ceremony. During the tea ceremony, Kai’s parents and many aunts, uncles and cousins were each served tea in turn by both Kai and Matthew. In exchange, they showered the to-be-married couple with gifts of gold. Kai was laden with many necklaces, several watches, and various bracelets and other pieces of jewelry. Decked out in gold, the long tea ceremony over, everyone piled into a rented van to drive to the wedding registry wear the actual legal ceremony would take place.

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This portion of the day was very straightforward – both the groom’s and the bride’s family and friends all entered a small room lined with chairs with a table in the center. Matthew, tearing up (and making all the rest of us cry in the process), read the prescribed vows. Kai put her hand on Matthew’s arm and repeated her own vows. After signing the marriage certificate, they were wed!

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Many pictures were taken both inside and outside before some of the party headed back to Kai’s parents’ house for a lunch (and much-needed nap time for me and the bride, who had also been having trouble holding down food and water that day…) of roasted pork and various cakes.

Later, we got back into the vans to head to the banquet, which was held in a beautiful venue with many white tables with flowers and overlooked a river. Everyone who hadn’t come to the more intimate wedding ceremony of the morning was invited to the banquet. People milled about, chatting and laughing, waiting for the bride to appear. When she did, it was in a stunning Western style white gown, with exquisite beading and a short train trailing behind her. Kai and Matthew entered the room to great applause. The bridesmaids and groomsmen were introduced, speeches were given, and Kai and Matthew welcomed everyone to help celebrate their married life. We also watched a lovely video comprised of pictures of the two of them from the time they were infants to when they finally found each other.

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There was some dancing before the banquet, which was a never-ending parade of delicious Chinese dishes, including the traditional suckling pig and bird’s nest soup.

Hours later, at the end of a long, beautiful day, everyone piled into the vans to head back to their respective homes to finally give Mr. and Mrs. Matthew and Kai some much-deserved privacy!