On June 21st, I attended the wedding ceremony of Guo Lina and Li Ang. I know a professional wedding host, Mr. Zhong Yi, who introduced me to them. They allowed me into their wedding to make documentary style photos. This report will follow this modern Chinese style wedding from the early morning to the end of the wedding celebration. More photographic reports on weddings will follow in the next few months. The first wedding related story was published in this blog in June.
I intended to publish all photos in black and white, but now I start and end with a photo in color in order to avoid unhappiness being sent to the newly wed couple. When I sent a selection of the wedding photos to the couple, the bride replied to me that they really liked the photos, but if I could please also send some photos in color for the older relatives (which I did after that). The black and white colors of my images could be associated with unhappiness, whereas the traditional Chinese red, the yellow and the pink colors are associated with happiness and joy.
A slideshow with the photos in larger format can be found on antonhazewinkel.com.
The wedding took place in a hotel in Beijing. In the lobby a huge portrait of the couple welcomes the visitors. Both the bride and the groom have separate rooms where they prepare themselves for the ceremony, surrounded by their parents, other close relatives and their best friends.
Much of the attention and efforts are of course spent on the outfit and make-up of the bride.
When all preparations are ready, the groom will try to enter the room of the bride. However, the friends of the bride will keep the door closed. First the groom has to say a lot of nice words on the friends and give them enough “hongbao-s” (red envelopes with money that will be divided among the friends).
Before making a passionate reconfirmation of his intention to marry the bride, the groom first has to find the bride’s shoes that are hidden in the room. Once he finds them he puts them on the bride’s feet, makes his plea for marriage again and they are ready to go to the ceremony.
It is 10am. With growing nervousness and cameras all around, the couple is on its way to meet the guests who are waiting around the hotel lobby area.
After greeting everyone, a photo shoot session takes place in the lobby of the hotel. First the closest relatives pose with the couple and after that everybody else.
While the bride, accompanied by a few friends and a younger cousin, is kept apart from all the guests, everybody else is entering the dining hall and is, once again, welcomed by the groom.
When everyone is seated, the wedding host starts introducing the couple, visually supported by a slideshow on video with old youth photos of the couple and glamour photos especially made for the wedding.
While the bride’s outfit is being checked for the last time, the wedding host entertains the guests. Then the bride is ready and the groom is ready to welcome her after a short speech.
Then the lights are dimmed and a spotlight reveals the bride entering and meeting the groom. They enter the front of the stage, make their wedding vows and exchange rings (note: the civil marriage usually has taken place several weeks, or even months, before the celebration ceremony).
Two speeches follow from an aunt and an uncle, each representing one side of the two families. Next to wishing the newly wed couple happiness and good fortune, they talk about the past, deeds and characters of the couple, with plenty of jokes in between.
The couple pours sparkling wine in glasses for a toast.
After the toast, the couple leaves the dining hall. It is now time for the bride to change her wedding dress into a traditional Chinese red colored dress. I followed her with my camera into the dressing room which caused, with her still being a bit tense, a moment of confusion …
After a quick clean-up the bride, now in a red dress, and the groom are ready and present themselves again to their guests. What follows is a ceremony where the bride and the groom present tea to their new parents in law.
Several speeches follow while tables are constantly being served with more food and drinks. After that it is time for the couple to toast with a drink at every table. The drink for the first toasts at the most important tables is MaoTai, an expensive strong alcoholic drink made distilled from fermented sorghum. However, while the guests are drinking this strong alcohol, the couple drinks from their own bottle which, according to the wedding host, usually contains only water.
Before or after the toast, every guest discretely gives a “hongbao” to the couple.
More toasts. In the end the MaoTai is replaced by red wine.
At most tables, the guests play little games with the couple.
Everybody eats and drinks. Parents of the couple also make a round of toasting at the tables.
It is 1pm. The wedding celebration is nearing its end. A few last photo shoots and guests are slowly leaving.
While the party goes on for some, others start collecting presents and decorations that need to be taken home.
Also all good food and drink leftovers are packed for taking home, like Chinese always do in restaurants. The groom changed into a t-shirt and jeans outfit and says goodbye to the last guests.