Monday, October 10, 2005

Miss Betty's Gettin' Married!

On Saturday I had the privilege of attending my friend Betty's "ding hun" - a Taiwan engagement party. Getting hitched in Taiwan is a big to-do, with the bride throwing a huge party about a month before the wedding, inviting her friends and family and the groom's family, and going through a traditional procedure to celebrate getting engaged. Pity the family with lots of daughters, because bashes like these don't come cheap! I now understand why the Chinese custom is to give money in red envelopes rather than a gift, and why the very least amount of money you can fork over is $1200 (around $36). And there are rules for the money amount, too. For weddings, one cannot give an odd number, so no $1300, $1500, $1700, $1900, etc. But, since 4 is an unlucky number (the pronunciation is almost the same as the word for death), you also can't give $1400. Not realizing what a feast I would be treated to, I opted for $1200, but I have now determined that more red envelope money will be going Betty's way!

Charlene and I arrived at the restaurant an hour before the banquet was scheduled, because we wanted to see the tea ceremony. The bride, dressed in a beautiful evening gown, hair and shoulders dotted with glitter, false eyelashes aflutter, must serve tea to members of the grooms family (men on one side of the room, women on the other). She was assisted by her mother and her aunt (someone had to hold up the train of that dress so she could walk). After waiting a few minutes in another room, back she goes to the tea room to collect the tea cups, which have now been filled with red envelopes.

Now the formal engagement ritual. Back to the tea room and seated on a chair in the middle of the room, feet up on a little stool. Here comes the groom to bedeck his lovely bride with jewelry - a gorgeous gold necklace along with two gold bracelets, a gold ring, and a diamond engagement ring.

There was another little ritual that involved feeding each other some sort of small fruit, but I didn't really understand what was going on, so I can't elaborate on that part. It was cute, though, similar to American couples feeding wedding cake to each other at the reception.

At noon the party finally began, and the huge banquet hall was packed. The wait staff began to bring out the plates of food, and oh my, what fabulous dishes. I don't know the names of them, but we had an appetizer of crispy skinned duck, BBQ pork, chicken; some little round balls that were warm and sweet, made of some sort of dough; a whole lobster on some glass noodles that was scrumptious (and if the photo upload program hadn't decided to stop working after the first one, I'd show you what it looked like); a dish of mixed seafood and red and yellow bell peppers in a nest made from noodles; a very tasty noodle soup; Japanese-style unagi eel on rice that was incredibly good; a whole steamed fish; shitake mushrooms and greens in a nice sauce; some bamboo and carrots; and then dessert - superlicious cold sweet soup made with mango and tiny tapioca balls (I would have taken a pot of that to go). We also had a very nice Bordeaux to drink along with some fresh kiwi juice.

During the feasting, the bride changes into another outfit, this one a fancy pink tulle with a hoop skirt and pink lace gloves for her hands, and she and her groom, along with their parents, make the rounds of the tables and drink a toast (or two or three) with each table. No wonder they give them teeny tiny glasses to use!

As the party begins to wind down and people begin to leave, the bride assists her father, and then her mother, in doling out candy to the guests and to the many children who have come. Each person who has come has been given a huge bag containing a large box of specialty cookies (two layers!) that has on the bow a lovely little silver heart set with a cubic zirconia, suitable for using on a neckchain, and a box containing a large "bing" - a circular cake with sesame seeds on the outside, apparently a traditional wedding food.

Since the photo upload here was giving me fits today, I've made a small gallery at my photo site where you can see some of what I've talked about. Here's the link: http://www.pbase.com/500fan/journalwed

3 comments:

Romita said...

Sounds like you had a great time. the food looks yummy! I wish Betty and her groom all the best!

velvet said...

*I finally found a way to post!*

You got to attend a Chinese wedding; Cool!

Hmm... it seems a bit different from the ones we have in Singapore. We don't have a "ding hun" party. The dinner is usually on the day of the wedding itself. In the morning the groom collects the bride (this itself is pretty interesting), have the tea ceremony for the bride's side; then they go back to the groom's house and have the tea ceremony for the groom's side. For us, it's considered a honour to attend the tea ceremony, especially if you are served tea, because only close family is invited.

Usually, over here, they give a red packet at the dinner reception. And the average is about S$100 per pax. (That's about NT$2000?)

The food looks yum... =) haha And the cookies look GREAT.

Hope you had a great time!

velvet said...
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