Pingyao, Wedding

Pingyao Wedding

 

On a typical rainy September day in Pingyao we visit the  wedding of Ma Zhiai  (bride) and Wu Huabing (groom).

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

In the morning the groom visited the bride’s home to meet her relatives, prepare for the wedding and have lunch with the guests. When we arrive, workers are disassembling inflatable arches on the street that marked the walking route of the wedding couple to the bride’s home.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

A few hundred meters further to the east, the groom’s home is being prepared for the second part of the wedding day. A big inflatable gate with golden elephants on both sides marks the entrance to the street of the groom’s home. In the courtyard of the house a stage has been setup where local artists sing festive songs.  Because of the heavy rain, there is no audience in front of the stage; everybody stays inside the house.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

When the couple enters the house, the bride is wearing a festive red wedding dress and the groom a dark suit with a pink tie. Under the groom’s suit collar there is a paper with imitation gold ingots and coins, folded to the outside in the shape of a little crown. It is an old tradition, but when asked, the elderly people do not know exactly why they do this, they just know that in order to ward off evil they have to do this.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

At this point all of the groom’s family elders have to hide, not to see the bride, because the bride has to recognize every relative. The groom went through a similar test in the morning at the bride’s home. After the bride and groom have finished their made up they enter the lobby of the main building where two straight-backed chairs are setup for a tribute. Behind the chairs are two men sitting behind a table. They take care of collecting and administering the (financial) gifts to the wedding couple.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

The bride and groom are standing in front of the chairs. Family of the groom will appear one by one, or if married, couple by couple. The groom introduces the family by the type of kin (e.g. “cousin”) and the bride will greet them with their names. Gifts are received as plain cash or as cash in red envelopes. If relatives are older, the bride and groom should also bow while addressing them. To spite the new wife, some older family members will let the couple wait a while before showing up. The process is quite lengthy and takes almost an hour.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

As the last family members to pay respect to, the groom’s parents appear. The father must be dressed as a traditional character, such as the Monkey King or a pig. His relatives will dress him up and will paint his face in a clown’s make-up. The outfit is further decorated with a big red flower and a banana with two bell peppers symbolize his male productive organs. This whole process is called “pa hui” (*) and is meant to make the father of the groom realize that the bride is not just a girl he could fall in love with anymore, but that he should know that she is his daughter now. At the same time, the way the father is dressed and made-up “ugly” should prevent the bride feeling attracted to him on this wedding day.  The mother of the groom also gets some make-up, but this is for fun and has no traditional meaning.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

After the meeting with the groom’s parents, the ceremony has ended. The couple and the guests will go to a restaurant for a festive dinner and after that the bride and groom will be sent to their own room in the house of the groom’s parents.

 

Pingyao Wedding

 

Text: Xie Bing

(*) 扒灰, “pa hui”, literally means “incest between father-in-law and daughter-in-law”  

 

 

Beijing, The wedding of Guo Lina and Li Ang

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

zhong yi

Beijing, Wedding host training

Sound file of a vocal exercise during the training:

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Chen Feng works for the company XingFuYaoLan as a trainer. She trains her students how to become a (professional) wedding host and wedding planner.

 

She tells that she graduated in 2000. During her college life she was an excellent singer and worked as a host at the same time. After her graduation she continued to be a wedding host. Four years ago she became a trainer and a wedding planner.

 

Next to the training (of future competitors), her company takes care of all aspects of a wedding. The photography and the video recording of the wedding, the make-up of the couple and the decoration of the environment; the organization of the wedding party, including a professional host; and flowers are important. Recently she had a client who liked elephants, so they arranged for a big elephant made of flowers.

 

These days weddings in China are mixed in style. They have both Western style elements and traditional Chinese elements. Less than 10% of the clients still want a traditional Chinese wedding, of which the costs are much lower by the way.

 

Normally they plan the wedding according to the client’s request, but the wedding planner takes into account what is most popular at the time and, of course, what budget the client has given them. For the biggest weddings they charge around 100,000 RMB and for the average wedding between 10,000 and 20,000 RMB. As a wedding planner you will have a small basic salary and commissions on each wedding project. A project can last as long as half a year, so planners work on several projects at the same time.

 

As a trainer, Chen Feng teaches her trainees how to become a wedding host. The training takes half a month, from morning until the evening. 80% of her students come from other provinces and want to learn about the latest wedding styles as Beijing is more fashionable then cities in the provinces. Not all trainees join the training to become a wedding host. For instance now she has a student who wants to improve his skills as a sales representative. He will learn how to make better use of his voice, improve pronunciation, how to tell a story or make announcements and how to use the right body language.

 

To stay up-to-date, Chen Feng reads a lot, not only about current developments but also about the ancient Chinese civilization. The interaction with her students helps her also to further develop and to recognize new trends.