Once my Chinese boyfriend and I became engaged after a long courtship, visions of an interracial Asian wedding in his whitewashed, bucolic country home in China danced through my head. I longed to experience a traditional, intimate Asian wedding, just like his mother and grandmother had done years before. But with a personal twist — a Buddhist vegetarian banquet, prepared by a chef from one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Shanghai.
Little did I know, I would end up having a big, fat Asian wedding banquet in an urban hotel in China, with more than 200 guests and a menu of carnivorous delights, including a turtle standing on all four legs. (Editor: At least you didn’t have to contend with Secret Service security measures like former Vice-President Al Gore’s daughter, Sara Gore, had to deal with in her interracial Asian wedding to Chinese business man Bill Lee!)
True, we still had a day that was as explosive as the red firecrackers set off before we entered the hotel. But, looking back, I wish my Asian groom had helped me understand just what getting married in China really meant — in terms of family, wedding traditions and much, much more.
Which leads me to the first of my “7 Interracial Wedding Dos and Don’t for Your Asian Groom:”
#1 Do Tell Your Bride About Any Asian Wedding Expectations (Within Reason):
This is the major reason why my dream interracial wedding failed to come to life — because it clashed with the expectations of my Asian groom’s family, and the general culture in China. For example, I discovered that, if you’ve left your rural hometown in China, it’s inappropriate and embarrassing to the family to marry at home. And also, that it’s impolite to give your guests anything less than an artery-busting dinner of almost nothing but the finest meats (including, in my case, a whole turtle).
I didn’t mind the expectations (especially since my Asian groom made sure I had special vegetarian dishes at my table). And most White women with Asian men understand that you have certain Asian wedding traditions, whether cultural or just for family. But we will mind finding out about it long after envisioning our fantasy Asian wedding. We do, after all, come from a culture that says we get this one perfect day for ourselves, to be a princess.
Now, I did end my first do with the phrase “within reason.” Which brings me to my second point…
#2 Don’t Let Your Family Hijack the Wedding Plans.
I’ll never forget this one White woman engaged to a Chinese man, whose mother wanted to dictate a large chunk of their wedding — from the structure of the ceremony to the wedding photography to even the style of her dress and the shoes she would wear. Every time the White woman posted something about it on this forum, I could almost imagine her screaming between the lines over her future mother-in-law.
Your family members might think they’re entitled to plan the interracial wedding, because they come from a culture with, say, thousands of years of uninterrupted history. But you just might make your White fiancee history if you ask her to surrender ALL the major details to your relations.
This is the time when it pays for you- the Asian groom- to play mediator, and find a little common ground. Maybe that might mean having two separate ceremonies — one to please your family, and another please her. Or compromising, such as making sure your vegetarian fiancee has a few extra special dishes at the table, or adding a tea ceremony to your Asian wedding to please your family. Whatever that means, I say…
#3 Do Balance Western and Asian Wedding Traditions.
Combining two cultures on a girl’s singularly most important day of her life is no cakewalk. It takes finesse to craft a beautiful interracial wedding, compromise in choosing what to keep and what to weed out, and the wardrobe changing ability of supermodel strutting her stuff on the catwalk.
I walked down the aisle of my interracial wedding in a white satin gown, just like the weddings I attended growing up, and changed into a red qipao later to honor my Asian groom”s culture.
Talk about your traditions, and make room for something that the both of you consider meaningful and important to the wedding, something that reflects your cultures, and your personality. But remember…
#4 Don’t Blend It So Much, It Becomes Muck.
As Rob is from New Zealand and I’m a South Indian Hindu, our wedding is going to be a bit of both. But here’s the conundrum – when it comes to East meets West weddings, where do you draw the line? I have a deep fear of fusion weddings being décor and food disasters – by trying so hard to be in the middle, it ends up being neither here nor there.
A Korean-Italian banquet might seem ideal, but, let’s face it — spaghetti with Kimchi meatballs might just be a little too bewildering.
Instead of trying to mush everything together, balance things out — for example, have a Korean banquet, but then make sure the reception includes an American-style DJ and dance music.
Whatever you decide, when it comes to your fiancee…
#5 Do Let Your Bride Be a Princess, Asian-Style.
Such as, having three dresses to wear for the ceremony. Or getting your hair restyled and makeup redone every time you change a dress. Ah, my inner princess cheered when I discovered this was standard for most Chinese weddings.
If your own interracial Asian wedding traditions include a little extra attention for the beautiful bride, be sure to let her know — and let her indulge.
But make sure, in the process, that you…
#6 Don’t Forget Your Own Wedding Threads.
I’ll always remember what my uncle said, after we showed him the movie of our wedding. “You’re flopping around!” he laughed, referring to my Asian groom’s rose-colored tie, sans tie tack, that waved around during our procession through a city park. My husband had been so focused on me that he overlooked one small, but critical, detail in his own outfit.
You should look as sharp and stunning as your bride, whether that means a tuxedo or a tailor-made tangzhuang jacket or even just a simple tie tack for your tie.
And after both of you look fabulous, remember…
#7) Do Have Fun!
One of my Chinese friends once described Asian weddings as the most exhausting experience in the world. I should know. After all, I lost my voice on the wedding day, had to toast more than 200 guests, and barely touched the vegetarian dishes made just for me (at a banquet that even my finicky father loved).
So, instead of a marathon of matrimony, make sure you and your bride take the time to smell the bridal bouquet, and, most importantly, savor the wedding banquet. After all, you only get married once.
Unless you’re like me and and said “I do” on two different occasions. And in that case, I’d say you’ve just doubled your happiness.
Writer, Chinese translator and founder of Speaking of China, Jocelyn Eikenburg still loves dressing up in her red wedding qipao for Chinese New Year.