May 1st, 2001

eLouai

E-mail to the Guests

I had a few e-mail messages drafted up with Bowen. These messages go out to the Western guests to explain some things about Chinese wedding customs. The other guests are our parents' friends who mostly know the drill. =)

The first one is about my gifts - "please do not feel obliged to give them a gift, they don't need anything, etc." Etiquette Nazism says it is a capital crime for the Bride and Groom to mention gifts. Even if we're saying that we don't expect gifts because that, in itself, implies that gifts ARE usually expected... hey, _I_ don't make up these things, okay?

So, I got my Maid of Honour to mention it for me. I'm not going to be a stick-up-the-butt about it if my friends ask me directly. But everyone draws their lines in different places, so I'm trying to do the right thing.

The second one is about the general outline of how the Ceremony will go. It's a large wedding, we'll end up ignoring a lot of people just because it's a large wedding.

The third is regarding the outline of the Banquet. I've been to too many Chinese wedding banquets where the Westerners had started getting obnoxious due to hunger (just before the banquet) and lack of understanding. I agree that manners and behaviour are up to the individual and I really don't think any of our Western friends are nearly the idiots that I've seen. But all the same, I believe a little understanding goes a long long way.

eLouai

Messages from MOH to Guests (Banquet Menu at the bottom)

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Subject: The Wedding - July 7, 2001
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As this is the first time some of you will be attending a Chinese wedding, I thought it would be nice to give a little information as to what to expect at The Bride and Groom's wedding. If this is your first time, I hope this will be informative for you and I hope to have an opportunity to meet you, as well as answer any questions or concerns you may have.

The Bride and Groom will be having a very large wedding and they intend to take the time to talk with everyone at the wedding. Large weddings such as theirs may seem impersonal. Please know that they appreciate and thank you for being there on their special day.

The wedding ceremony at Shaughnessy Heights will start at 11:00 a.m. and will end at approximately 12:00 p.m. After the ceremony and outside of the church, there will be a receiving line.

Between the conclusion of the ceremony at 12:00 p.m. and the banquet beginning at Top Gun at 5:30 p.m., there isn't anything planned. Although this might be considered an etiquette faux pas, The Bride and Groom would like to explain and apologize ahead of time.

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Subject: The Banquet
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At the Banquet, you will be sitting at table N. Guest A, Guest B and Guest C will also be at your table.

The Bride and Groom have asked me to explain a few things with regards to the Banquet. We realize that not everyone is acquainted with Chinese wedding customs and there is usually some confusion even when everyone does know. So, we want to alleviate that as much as possible.

Upon arrival at Top Gun at 5:30 p.m., there will be a registration table near the entrance. Usually, this table is covered in a red tablecloth with another large piece of embroidered cloth on top of it. This is the Guest Silk. It is either red or pink and is equivalent to a Guest Book. There should be at least one person at the registration table, who will ask for your name. After you give your name, you will be offered a pen to autograph the Guest Silk. Please sign it anywhere you can find a space.

After autographing the Guest Silk, there should be a "reverse receiving line" that starts nearby. After the receiving line, guests will be ushered to their tables by one of the ushers or usherettes wearing small red, pink or yellow corsages or boutonnieres. If an usher/usherette is unavailable, please feel free to wait or wander in to seat yourself. The tables will have numbers on them as well as a list of the guests' names.

There is an old Chinese joke/rhyme that makes fun of how late Chinese wedding banquets start. Chinese weddings tend to average 300 guests and all the guests want to mingle with the two families as they are arrive at the banquet. There is also usually a lot of confusion as to where people are sitting, who is sitting with whom, people wanting to move, switching tables, people arriving late, etc.

Usually, guests arrive at 5:30 p.m. The banquet should begin at 6:00p.m. starting family introductions and the food should come out immediately afterwards at about 6:30 p.m. As with many weddings, the food may come out much later. Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but it might be advisable to have a small snack at around 3:00-4:00 p.m. just in case the banquet starts a bit late.

If you've had any experience with Chinese food at all, you'll know that the Chinese eat unique and interesting things. As a warning, there are dishes that may not appeal to a Western palate. However, please understand that the dishes served at wedding banquets have special symbolism and there are reasons why these dishes are served. The Bride and Groom hope that this will be an enjoyable experience for you.

I have attached a full listing (next e-mail) of each dish that will be served along with major ingredients. Please let The Bride and Groom know if you have any special dietary requirements or food allergies. You can contact The Bride directly at ... or The Groom at ... They will do their best to alert the staff at Top Gun to accommodate your needs. It is important to The Bride and Groom that everyone has something to eat!

The banquet will be trilingual: Cantonese, Mandarin and English. The Bride and Groom have made an effort to provide translations into all three languages, but there will be spontaneous jokes and exchanges that may be difficult to translate on the spur of the moment. Hopefully, no one will feel left out.

Chinese banquets usually end at around 10:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with a toast. The Bride, Groom and their families will go around to each table and do a quick toast. Then, they will form another receiving line at the door to see the guests off. Sometimes, there is a dance after the banquet, but since The Bride and Groom aren't the dancing types, they will not be having a dance afterwards.

While we would love for you to stay until the end, we completely understand and would not be at all offended if you must leave before this time. Just make sure to find The Bride and Groom to let them know you are going, as I am sure they would like to thank you for being a part of their special day!!

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Subject: The Menu
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1. Combination Appetizer Platter
- Roasted Suckling Pork
- Jellyfish
- Stuffed Pork Leg
- Beef
- Ham

2. Pan-fried Prawn & Scallop with Vegetables

3. Stuffed Shrimp Meat on a Crab Claw

4. Shark's Fin Soup with Crab Meat

5. Lobster with Superior Sauce (cream based sauce)

6. Braised Chinese Mushroom & Sea Cucumber with Vegetables

7. Deep Fried Chicken with Prawn Chips

8. Steamed Rock-Cod
- garnished with ginger, green onion and cilantro

9. Honeymoon Fried Rice (shrimp & chicken)

10. Pan-fried Egg Noodles

11. Red Bean Soup (dessert)

12. 2 Dessert Cookies - I think the wedding cake will come out along with the dessert cookies.
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eLouai

The Gift Etiquette Message

First of all, The Bride and Groom would be infinitely happy enough that you can be at their wedding. They are going to live with The Groom's family after the wedding, so they don't need anything. Please don't feel that you need to get them a gift.

That said, here are a few options if you insist =)

Chinese tradition is to give a newlywed couple money. Most of the guests are giving them money in red envelopes. It's not considered tacky or impersonal at all. Amounts vary wildly and depend on a lot of things.

Geek toys and uber stuff are always welcome =) I'm managing their online ThinkGeek WishList =) I put it here: http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~bowen/thinkgeek.html

Let me know if you decide to get something from this list so that I can take it out. All prices are in $USD and do not include shipping and handling. If you come across one that says "This product cannot be shipped outside of the USA", please let me know. They purposely didn't pick items that couldn't be shipped here, but ThinkGeek sometimes changes that. Either that or The Bride was too busy wiping the drool off her shorted keyboard to notice...

And, in line with Western tradition, she's registered at The Bay. You can look at her registry online. I have instructions at the link above.

Or go to any one of the store locations. Find the Gift Registry machine. Key in ... (or as many letters as it asks for. I think it's the first 4 letters of the last name with the first 2 letters of the first name, but I can't be sure). Print out their list. Then you find an item that hasn't been bought yet, that is within your budget, etc.

You have to tell the Bay cashier when you go to pay for it, that it's for The Bride and Groom. They have to manually enter it into their databases.

They don't have a lot of stuff on their list (even picking THOSE out were like pulling teeth *sigh*). If there's nothing in those lists that you would like to get, please feel free to get them something else if you know there's something else they could use or want. If they can't pick out their own gifts, they deserve to get 7 toasters and 6 fondue sets. =)

BTW, if you see something that's HORRENDOUSLY big and expensive in their Bay registry (like a refrigerator or a piano), they didn't mean it to actually be bought by anyone. The Bay has a special deal for Wedding Gift Registries where if the item isn't bought by the wedding date, the couple has the option of purchasing it within X months after the wedding date for some discount. Or something like that. I forget what the terms are exactly, but the problem is, these items must be in their registry, so they'll show up to anyone who looks at it. If it looks inappropriate to you, it was meant to be ignored.