Numbers are important in China. The unluckiest of them being four, pronounced si (like the sound a snake makes). The word death shares this same pronunciation, though with a different tone.
The most auspicious number in Chinese is eight. You want an eight in your phone number? You pay more money. You want to get married? Best to do it in August, preferably on the eighth. You want to host the Olympic games? You schedule the opening ceremony for August 8, 2008 at 8:08pm. Eight is a number that represents wealth and good fortune; the Chinese take these things very seriously.
My August 8th of 2008 went quite well. I managed to find myself at a wedding, not surprisingly. The number of people getting married skyrocketed that day. Lots of eights and the opening of the Olympics. . .a day that lucky only comes around once in a lifetime.
This was the third time I've attended a Chinese wedding. This time I was attending the wedding of one of Ming's high school classmates. Don't ask me his name, I forgot, as I usually do with Chinese names. The whole ordeal lasted less than two hours. Definitely not as fun as an American wedding-no Chicken Dance. No Holky Polky. And definitely no YMCA. There was, however, plenty of alcohol.
We arrived at the hotel banquet hall just before noon and seated ourselves at a dinner table in front of a small stage at the front of the room. On the table there was already a spread of appetizers, a plate of candy and nuts, a plate (?!) of cigarettes, two bottles of baijiu (vile tasting Chinese liquor), and a few 2 liter bottles of soda. Mama cracked open the liquor and poured us a couple of glasses. That woman doesn't waste any time.
A few minutes later the happy couple entered the back of the room. Confetti and bubbles filled the air as they walked down the makeshift aisle on each side of which were half a dozen tables. A short speech was made. The couples parents were seated on the stage. After the speech the couples took turns bowing to each others parents. Then they bowed to each other. Rings were exchanged. Unity candle lit. I don't think there was even a kiss. . . and waaa-BAM. It was over. All that was left to do was eat. And drink.
The couples came around to toast us (as well as some annoying man with a camcorder. I hate those people with camcorders). The groom's mother also toasted us, but drank Apple Fanta out of a wine glass, which I consider cheating. I toasted Mama and Mama toasted me, with biajiu, several times. I began to feel a little woosy, thus switching to beer. I stuffed my face with fried shrimp, meatballs, stewed beef and potatoes, fish, and fresh fruit. The food at Chinese weddings definitely trumps American ones. But there is no cutting of the wedding cake because there is no wedding cake. No bouquet tossing. None of the embarrassment of the groom trying to remove the guarder. No sappy sweet father-daughter wedding dance. By 1:30pm everything had wrapped up. Ming had to go to work and I was left stumbling home to await the most awesome opening ceremony ever. The Chinese may have got it right with the Olympics, but they still have a lot to learn about throwing a good wedding.