Chapter 12: Double Happiness needs a Double Party
We dragged out of bed early on Saturday morning. Yaaay! We're married!
Oh no, we've got two parties to throw today.
The hotel had a breakfast buffet, so that was one less issue to worry about. Cantonese Twin 2 showed up just after with her Mary Kay bag to attack my darling's face with an inch thick coating of assorted stuff. Then Cantonese Twin #1 (aka Scooter Girl) showed up to get her face done while my darling went to the hair saloon next door to the hotel entrance. Her parents took our darling daughter across the street to the Carrefour building to have her hair done at one of those places that sells over-priced hair clips and promises to do your hair up with them for free at any time (and always wants to sell you new hair clips since the ones you bought last week are now out of style).
I then got a phone call from my darling. "I need to talk. Can she hear you?" I retreated to the farthest corner of the suite. "I hate the makeup she put on me. If I take it off, will she be offended?" I told her to blame the hair saloon for ruining the makeup, returned to the front room, and generously suggested that Cantonese Twin 2 could leave that big heavy makeup bag in the suite so that she wouldn't have to carry it around - thus giving my darling a chance to redo the makeup to her own liking. I then had the twins help me carry all the clothing, candy, gold jewelry, and other assorted items over to the restaurant.
We carried all the stuff into the VIP banquet room that had been reserved. Workers were busily arranging the tables. The person in charge (via the translation of my twins) seemed blissfully unaware of the initial discussions with one manager and the discussions with another manager the night before. He was convinced that the clothing would be changed in and stored in the smaller VIP room (the one that smelled like an overused stale ashtray
). The workers were planning on using the changing room in my VIP room to shove the dirty dishes into (completely ignoring the separate alcove that was obviously designed for this purpose
). Happily, since Twin 2 had been there the night before, I told her to re-explain reality to the guy in charge and to say that there would be absolutely ZERO changes from the agreed on plan.
Happily, no one on the staff was ready to deal with the wrath of a crazy foreigner backed by 2 loyal and potentially vicious local girls, so they caved in pretty easily. Naturally, after I'd wasted 20 minutes getting everything back to just like had been agreed with the manager the night before, the manager walks in. She seemed pleased that everything was going exactly according to plan.
There still were some minor setup issues. Thankfully, my lovely bride arrived and managed to straighten out most of the last few items. We then changed our clothing (her into a white dress from the wedding studio, me into my Mao suit - temporarily minus jacket since winter finally gave up about 4 days earlier) and headed up to the front of the restaurant to greet our guests. This left her parents and another dear friend from her hometown (the lovely and talented woman who first introduced us) in charge of the banquet room.
We had 8 seats available at the head table. Me, my darling bride, our lovely daughter, and her parents took up 5. There was some talk of fitting in her uncle's family, but that would have been 5 more into 3 places. I also mentioned that none of my US family could make it, but that I counted some of my dearest Chinese friends as sisters and brothers. Our dear friend who introduced us got place #6 and the Cantonese Twins took places 7 and 8.
The Twins and my little Bluebird of Despair had a table just inside the restaurant entrance to handle gifts, signing in guests, handing out bags of wedding candy, etc. We stood just outside the entrance beside the wedding poster from the photo studio. I had a camera just across the doorway from us set up and used a remote to take pics of us and the guests as they arrived.
The universe was kind and decided to rebalance some of the karma from all the issues on Friday (either that or I'd left less options for Murphy to take advantage of my official Family Curse this time). Guests arrived, most within the 30 minutes we'd allotted, and no other massive issues arose. Just after 12:30, we moved everything from the front of the restaurant and went back to the banquet room. I slipped in for a moment, set the camera to video mode, and parked it at the front of the room, pointed down the red carpet towards the entrance doors, and ran back out. While I tried not to sweat too much during the 2 minutes I'd need to wear the jacket, our darling daughter
went into the room and introduced us in English and Mandarin. We came in, crossed a predetermined line on the floor, and the confetti cannons . . . didn't fire. The safeties were still on and there was a bit of a struggle to arm them. Finally, 4 non-sequential pops happened and we got a nice coating of metal foil (a guest's son had nailed us with one at the front of the restaurant earlier - that one was all paper).
We greeted the crowd and our daughter took back one of the microphones and asked everyone to wait a moment. We then retreated to the changing room, switched into our traditional red outfits, and came out again. This time, crossing the pre-determined trigger line worked a little better and the confetti cannons went off mostly at the right moment.
The ceremony was conducted by our darling daughter in Mandarin and English. We'd intended to do the rings first, but our daughter hadn't noted that change on her draft copy of the script, so I ended up kissing the bride first. Somehow the safeties got stuck again, since the next round of confetti was supposed to happen 3 seconds into the kiss. After a few seconds too long, I looked up to see some consultations going on regarding one of the safeties, then they all opened fire. I took the opportunity to grab a second kiss as the foil rained down over us. We then exchanged the rings and went back to the table with all the alcohol
, and cake (that table just needed a slot machine and a stripper to get a complete set of vices into one place
). We cut the cake, I opened a bottle of champagne, and poured 2 glasses. We then stepped forward, thanked our guests again for attending, raised our glasses to toast them, and then intertwined our arms to drink the champagne as the final round of confetti went off (at the correct moment). By this point, the confetti was ankle-deep in a few places and we were both covered with it. In a statement that would have been interpreted as screamingly gay in most countries outside of China, I leaned over to my beautiful bride and whispered, "I'm all shiny and sparkly."
I think I ended up drinking some of the metal foil.
A buffet for a wedding has some advantages. You only pay per person, not per table. There are no delays waiting for food to come out. There's one BIG disadvantage if it's your wedding. You can't easily get to the food without getting stopped for pictures, toasts, and general chat. I figured that this would happen, so planned ahead and had eaten more than usual for breakfast.
My biggest worry with such a large guest list was getting embarrassed one way or another. If too many people showed up, the room would get too crowded. If too few showed up, I'd look not just like an idiot, but like an unpopular idiot.
The room was set with 84 places and there were 66 people in attendance. That worked out just about perfectly.
The head of my local charity group and almost all of the board of directors attended. Amy, the girl I bungee jumped off a mountain to impress attended (I'd only seen her that one time before and she's married now, but she still showed up). My police/security buddies from DragonBoat racing attended. A dozen or so other villagers attended. All but a tiny handful of my dearest Chinese friends attended.
No foreigners were in attendance, but the groom had suspiciously non-Chinese looking hair and eyes.
We made the rounds and toasted each group. I'd previously grabbed a large glass, filled it mostly with Sprite, and poured a little baijiu in on top, both to kill the bubbles and to convince anyone who sniffed the glass of the authenticity of its contents (one party mostly taken care of, but I still had one to go).
As we began winding things down, Scooter Girl was eating yet another plate of food (I think no one feeds her when she's not in Dongguan). I found one remaining unfired confetti cannon and showered her with foil. Guess I'll have to buy a few more to do midnight confetti assaults in the village.
My initial plan was to not set any alcohol on the tables, just to have people go back and get it from the drinks cigs, and cake bar at the back of the room. Some helpful person at the restaurant set out a wine glass (50/50 mix of wine/Sprite - China's greatest contribution to international wine culture
) at each place setting. This, combined with the party being at lunch time ended up resulting in far less alcohol being consumed that we'd planned for. Only 3 bottles of baijiu and less than 6 bottles of wine were consumed. Happily, the otherwise incompetent place that sold us the baijiu does take returns of unopened cases, so 2 cases can go back. I'll be bringing a bottle or two of red wine to any village dinner parties for the next couple of months.
Someone must have liked the cigarettes
. I only saw a few smoked in the room, but both cartons were empty by the end of the party.
Finally, we ended the lunch. With a number of friends, we hauled the remaining alcohol down to someone's car to ship back to my house in the village. My wife and her family needed to buy something (Advice - always hold your wedding next to a couple of super-centers
), so I ended up carrying stuff back to the hotel with some friends before heading over to KTV.
I really have to wonder what the hotel clerks thought. They saw me come in and out with my bride several times. Then in and out with one or both Cantonese Twins, with and without my bride. Now I was leading in 3 guys and a different girl in (the Twins had gone ahead to KTV). Ah well, I might as well give people things to speculate about.
Finally, I arrived at KTV (only a 2-3 minute walk from the hotel) and my lovely wife and our darling daughter arrived a few minutes later. The room could handle 50+, but we only ended up with 25-30. As usual, Twin #2, ScooterGirl, had maxed out the volume of both the music and the microphones.
. I'd figured out the song selection controls at this KTV during my birthday party well enough to find English language songs by title, but am still working on the other items.
I decided to test the range of Chinese hearing during the chorus to Yesterday Once More
by pushing my voice up past Helium-sucking Alvin and the Chipmonk's style into the edge of the range of "Only audible to dogs." I believe I was successful in damaging a few people's ears.
A couple of my former coworkers from the Translation Center did pretty well in duets with me on some other songs in English.
Happily, there was some slow dance music, so I did get to dance with my bride a little. Then some thoughtful person loaded up some disco and I sat down and was quite . . . pleased to see how amazingly well a number of the girls could dance.
Finally, the party wound down. I left the Twins and a couple of others still singing (the room was reserved until 7) and went out to dinner with my wife, daughter, and the in-laws before dragging ourselves back to the hotel. Our room had little bits of metal foil confetti everywhere from things brought back from the lunch and other pieces falling off of our hair and clothing.
Just as we were laying down for the night, my darling bride remarked "We survived it!" I think she was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
The honeymoon will be some time this summer. We need a few months of rest to recover from the wedding.