The average Chinese wedding reception is very different from those held in the West. Characterized by a series of risqué games, a lavish banquet, and plenty of baijiu (strong rice liquor), the Chinese way of celebrating recent nuptials is colourful, boisterous, and above all, fun.
The bride and groom traditionally marry in a registry office or function room earlier in the day, by which time the reception guests will have started to gather in the banquet hall of the hotel or mansion where the festivities are to take place. Often the bride and groom have their photos taken before the reception, but many couples save it for another day and move straight on to the celebration.
Once everyone is gathered in the banquet hall (which will be adorned with red decorations for good luck, and 囍 or “double happiness” symbols) the master of ceremonies will make an opening speech introducing the couple as man and wife, and welcoming the guests. Unlike most Western weddings where a modest crowd is the norm, Chinese receptions often number into the hundreds of guests. It’s expected that people will bring their whole families, making for a cordial, often lively atmosphere.
The banquet consists of eight dishes, as eight is the luckiest number in Chinese numerology. The feast usually starts with shark fin soup as a symbol of wealth. Next comes roasted suckling pig, signifying virginity. Lobster claws are served for their lucky red color, while squab pigeon stands for peace and tenderness. The Chinese word for sea cucumber sounds like the word for “good heart”, while fish sounds like “plentiful” – both are served to wish good luck and love to the couple. The food is usually so abundant that guests are given doggy bags to take home, a sign of the generosity of the host.
After the banquet come the wedding games, which are usually racy in nature and involve good-natured embarrassment for the bride and groom. Popular games include the couple popping balloons between their bodies, and locating each other in a group using only touch.
All in all, the Chinese wedding reception is a lively event filled with tasty food, colourful decorations, and bawdy games.