For the American bride and groom, the wedding ceremony, complete with the exchanging of vows of love, is the most significant part of the day. However, for a Chinese couple the most important part of the day is the wedding reception replete with a feast and wishes for prosperity. This difference is one of many between Chinese and American wedding parties.
In earlier times, an American wedding reception or party was held at the bride’s home. However, since the early 1900s, receptions have moved toward neutral venues such as halls, ballrooms and, if the weather is nice, pavilions in a garden. Chinese weddings, however, take place in large restaurants which have been reserved for the occasion.
While the dishes served at an American wedding party can vary, many receptions feature pre-determined menus supplied by the banquet hall. The style of serving can vary from a formal meal with several courses to a buffet-style event. Both Chinese and American banquets have formalized seating arrangements with the most important tables set together at the party's front or on a stage. A Chinese menu usually includes a 10-course meal with starters, shark’s fin soup, Peking duck and lobster, crab claws, fish, sweet red bean soup and sweet buns; each dish holds symbolic meaning. Guests often take a bag or box of leftovers home with them as a sign of appreciation for the good food.
During a Chinese wedding reception, the host will make announcements during the feast to entertain guests and the newly wedded couple. The giving of toasts by the bride, groom and others is a modern addition to the Chinese wedding. It is taken from the American style of toasting. In America, during the reception, there are speeches made from the bride’s father, the groom, the best man and, often, the maid of honor.
Dancing and Other Entertainment
Dances and entertainment form important parts of both wedding parties. However, they take place at different times. For an American wedding, dancing occurs after the banquet. For Chinese parties, the entertainment is provided before the meal. First, the guests at a Chinese wedding sign in to the reception and are greeted by the bride, groom and their families. They can then play games such as poker and Mahjong or they can socialize with other guests and take photos with the bride and groom. Many Chinese wedding parties also have lion dances. Conversely, the entertainment of an American wedding is introduced by the first dance of the bride and groom; some couples will practice for months to get the dance right. Toward the end of the song, the happy couple’s family and guests will join them on the dance floor to celebrate their nuptials.
In American weddings, couples often make a gift list. As an increasing number of couples live together prior to marriage, they have less need for home basics, meaning that some modern couples ask for charitable donations or contributions toward the honeymoon instead of gifts. In China, money has always been the best form of wedding gift. The cash or check should be presented to the couple in a red envelope with the givers’ names on it. The amount of money should avoid unlucky numbers such as four, and should instead involve a combination of lucky numbers such as eight and nine.
An important part of an American wedding is bidding the newlyweds goodbye. This is often celebrated by decorating their car with ribbons, streamers and washable paint, and cheering as they drive away. The party may even continue after they leave. However, in China, the bride, groom and their families form a guard of honor by the door as the guests leave about 20 minutes after the tenth and final dish has been served; it is considered rude to leave a Chinese wedding before the final course is served.
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