WIPA Chinese Cultural Experience Event
I had the honor to be a part of an educational and immersive event held by WIPA SoCal. Their mission was to plan an event that featured the wedding traditions of different cultures. It was truly a night of beautiful colors, meaningful rituals, and memorable moments. Together with Carol, of The Blushing Details, I assisted in the Chinese Cultural Experience and all of its many details and decor. Here is a summary of everything behind the scenes from the procession to the door games to the tea ceremony to the reception.
The Tea Ceremony Procession
The Door Games After the Procession
Chuangmen, also known as door games, is a key highlight of the day’s festivities. Once the groom arrives to the bride’s home, the bridesmaids typically prepare games to test the groom’s determination to marry the bride and to win approval from the bride’s family. The tasks vary but typical games involve testing the groom’s knowledge of the bride. He may also have to eat something spicy, sour, bitter, and sweet in order to prove that he can go through every stage of marriage. There is also one challenge that involves pain. The groom will also have to hand over a red packet with money for the bridesmaids to “surrender” their friend. Only upon winning all challenges will he be allowed to enter the bride’s room where the final challenge is to locate the missing bridal shoe to put it on the bride’s foot, and then carry her out to the living room for the Chinese tea ceremony.
The Tea Ceremony
It is traditional for the bride to wear a qipao, also known as cheongsam in Cantonese. This is a one-piece Chinese dress that has its origins in China. The style of the qipao has evolved over the decades and you will see variations of them. The dress features a high neck and is made of silk with intricate embroidery.
The Meaning Behind Chinese Banquet Dishes
Most banquet menus consist of 8 or 9 dishes not including the dessert. The sound of 8 in Chinese is similar to the words “prosper”, while 9 is similar to “long-lasting”, whether in life or marriage.
Chinese cold cuts: This platter consists of 5 items — jelly fish, bean curd, 5 spice beef shank, seaweed and pork slices. It is arranged to represent a dragon and phoenix [Ying and Yang] to symbolise the union of two mystical creatures. The phoenix represents good luck, beauty and female energy. The dragon represents strength, creativity and male energy.
Shark’s Fin Soup with crab meat or Eight Treasures soup: Both of these contain expensive ingredients; this signifies the future prosperity of the marriage.
A Whole Fish: Fish is a must for every wedding banquet as it symbolizes abundance. This is a way to say to the couple: “May your off-spring be as plentiful as the fish of the sea.” To Chinese people the marriage is not complete unless it bears fruit, in which the couple have children and the more the merrier. The fish must also have a head and tail. This signifies that all projects that the couple engage in have a start and a finish, that come to a successful completion.
Abalone, sea cucumber and vegetable stir-fry: These have a very smooth texture and are from the ocean. They symbolize “smooth sailing” for the couple’s relationship and close family ties. The Chinese phrase for ‘sea cucumber’ also sounds similar to ‘good heart’.
Roast Suckling Pig: This symbolizes fertility. “May the wife have many babies to suck at her breast.” Suckling pigs in China are equivalent to sacrificial lambs, they are “young and innocent” symbols of virtue and purity.
Prawns: In Chinese, prawns is pronounced “ha” — the sound of laughter. You eat prawns to generate more laughter and happiness amongst friends. Honey prawns (even though non-traditional) are even better, as you will get “sweet laughter”. Lobster is also a good alternative to prawns.
A Whole Bird or Poultry: This can be chicken, duck, quails or pigeons which symbolizes peace and unity between people.
Noodles: Noodles are long and symbolize long life.
Stir-Fried Rice Dish: Rice is a stable food in China. A large dish of rice symbolizes a plentiful supply of food throughout the couples life.
Sweet Red Bean and Lotus Seed Soup: Red is the color of happiness. Beans and seeds are elements of fertility and growth. This dessert is very sweet because you don’t want the relationship to turn sour.