PREPARATION AS A BRIDESMAID
I hope you enjoyed what will be my last "CHINA Year 2" Blog!
Coming up: South Africa, Summer in the USA, & CHINA Year 3!
On June 10th I had the privilege of serving as a bridesmaid in the bridal party of my friend J in Qingdao. I was so honored when she asked me to be in her wedding. She was actually the first national friend I made when moving to China. I had been in country for 2 months when we ended up being week-long roommates as chaperones on a middle school trip around Shandong Province. Therefore, my first impressions of China, and my many questions in regards to those impressions, were kindly answered and enlightened by J.
Last year, I used to ride the bus home from school with her and was excited when she first talked about reuniting with a former classmate – now her husband – through a school safety trip to Shanghai.
PREPARATION AS A BRIDESMAID
My roommate Grace and I were both asked to be bridesmaids and had fun preparing for the wedding together. Some of the hilarity of the wedding lies in getting our bridesmaids dresses.
When I saw the pictures of the dresses I told J, “I don’t know if that dress is going to fit me. You must remember that I do not have an Asian body.”(read: There’s a lot more of me to fit into clothes than you find on your average Asian girl, haha). J assured me it was no problem and she would order me the largest size dress. I ended up trying on an Chinese dress marked at 3XL… (a humbling reminder to me that size should not determine happiness), but I found myself a little worried when it was too small! This is why when I visit America I spend a lot of money on clothes. It’s feels impossible to find things that fit me in China. The 3XL was sent back and I ended up wearing a Chinese 5XL!
REFLECTION: I share this story, first because I think it’s kind of hilarious. I’m definitely not a tiny, but imagining I would ever wear a 5XL… it’s all about perspective and I feel it’s a good lesson to share. What do clothing sizes even mean? I see my students (and to be honest adult women in my life as well) who put a lot of their confidence and identity in what size dress or pants they wear. It’s a number that doesn’t really mean anything. What matters is being healthy and taking care of the physical body that the Father has given to you. I share this story second to give you an insight into just another unique occurrence in my life as a foreigner in China.
Now to the wedding!
The rehearsal was what you would expect. Figuring out who would enter when and stand where, the order of the ceremony, etc. However, when some of the logistics were being decided I ended up having a conversation with some of J’s friends (they spoke English). One of the girls asked me about my beliefs on marriage. She herself revealed she didn’t believe that a marriage that lasts was possible. I found myself sharing that the reason J and her fiancé are making the commitment to one another isn’t just about love and romance, but based on a shared spiritual foundation that I also believe. I was able to give her insight on this good news and felt humbled that my Father had perhaps called me to be at this late night wedding rehearsal perhaps in order for this conversation alone to happen. I ask you to remember this girl in your thoughts* as I feel she was really curious how someone could truly believe in a marriage that lasts based on these principles.
The morning of the wedding was the most fun. Grace and I arrived at the hotel (the bridal party and a majority of the guests stayed in the hotel that night) in our bridesmaids gowns at around 7 AM. J had been up since 4 AM preparing.
Most Chinese weddings are held in hotels (due to their being very few ch-rch buildings in China – the ones that do exist being run by the reigning powers). I attended the rehearsal dinner at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel that was hosting the wedding. We had a very traditional Shandong meal with lots of variety of meats (mainly types of fish, oysters, and mussels) with some steamed vegetable sizes such as celery, cauliflower, and cabbage. The dinner was filled with people (not just immediate family and bridal party) as the bride and groom organize the dinner for all friends and family who are attending the wedding from out-of-town. We then went to the hotel to rehearse for the wedding. J and her fiancé had a wedding party of seven bridesmaids and groomsmen each.
A Chinese bride will wear many dresses on her wedding, having anywhere from 3-6 outfit changes throughout the day.
A Chinese bride will typically start out in a traditional red Qipao dress on the morning of her wedding. Red is a lucky color in China, representing happiness, love, honor, etc. Qipaos will also be decorated with gold designs in the hopes of bringing the couple future wealthy. J wore a gorgeous 3 piece headpiece on her head that are usually worn by a bride in a Chinese wedding.
The bridesmaids posed for photographs with J. Then J was situated on the bed in her hotel room. After a while all her friends and family show up and crowd into this tiny hotel room. The bridesmaids were asked to hide her shoes somewhere in the room (more on that shortly). Then all the friends and family stand in the doorway of the room blocking the way of the groom and groomsmen when they arrive at the door to “pick up” the bride. Upon the grooms’ arrival, the friends and family being to grill the groom with questions!
Children asked questions like, “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” To which the groom replied, “I am here for love!” Then the brides friends and family asked questions like, “Who will wash the dishes?” and “Who will do the cooking?”. Then came the more personal questions in which the groom is having to “prove” himself worthy of the bride. “What is the bride’s favorite verse?”, “What is the bride’s love language?”, “What is your favorite thing about the bride?”, “What is the bride’s favorite thing about her job?”, the questions went on and on. Some of the friends and family gave the groom challenges to complete! “15 push-ups!”, “Sing the bride a love song!”
Meanwhile, J was sitting out of sight inside the room listening to his answers. If she didn’t like an answer she could make him elaborate or do the challenge better. J teased her husband-to-be by telling him his singing was bad. If the groom “fails” a question or challenge, his groomsmen are there to help him out. When J told him his singing was bad the groomsmen got beside the groom and sang a song together with him until J approved it. This time was full of a lot of laughter, but also provided a heartfelt insight into the couples love and connection. I was told in some other Chinese weddings the groom even brings little red packets (of money) to pretend to “bribe” the friends and family into letting him through to reach the bride.
Finally, the groom reached his bride sitting on the bed. Except! The bride cannot be married because, as you heard earlier, her shoes have gone missing! The groomsmen scour through the room trying to find the brides shoes so that she can be married. One shoe was found inside a lampshade. The other was on top of a the high hotel curtain rods. The groomsmen lifted up one of the men in order to be able to reach it. It was so funny to see these grown men running around looking for the shoes like a childhood game of hide and seek. Finally, the groom was able to put the shoes on his bride and lift her off the bed. The wedding could now begin!
BUT! The bride had to change into her second outfit now! J’s second outfit was a traditional white wedding dress. She looked like a princess. The ceremony began, not too different from what you would expect in a western wedding.
The bridal party marches in. A group of flower girls and boys come down the aisle (all children of J’s international co-workers at our school) and two of them carried a sign that said in English “Here comes the bride”. J was then escorted down the aisle by her mother (J’s father passed away when she was young). The rest of the ceremony included a message from J’s fellowship leader, a choir made up of brothers and sisters whom she fellowships with, words of encouragement from married friends who the couple look up to, vows by the couple and the exchanging of rings. The wedding itself was mostly in Chinese, but a few parts were translated into English for the many foreign friends J had in attendance.
Two “differences” in the ceremony included a moment when the groom and bride honored their parents by performing a ritual tea ceremony and verbally thanked their parents for investing in them and preparing them for this life step. The bride and groom also opted to perform a duet together at the wedding and sing a spiritual song about the Father’s love. It was lovely and such a unique, personal touch to the wedding.
After the ceremony, there was time for attendees to take pictures with the newly married couple. Then J was off to change into her next dress before the wedding banquet. The wedding banquet, catered especially for friends and family from out of town, welcomed any and all guests with a great feast of all different foods.
It was a really special experience to get to share in J and her husband’s special day. I loved witnessing the Father’s presence in their joining together. The cultural experience of the day was so much fun and I learned a lot about the way the Chinese value family and in all things hope to honor those people who have invested in their lives. I’d like to get better at that. I hope you will keep J and her new husband in your thoughts as they begin to live out their lifelong commitment and seek to follow in the path of JC, setting an example to those around them, as well as, future generations.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoyed what will be my last "CHINA Year 2" Blog!
Coming up: South Africa, Summer in the USA, & CHINA Year 3!
This past week has been our spring break and I am exceedingly grateful for the time off of work. Below are some of the things I've been up to over my break.
Along the coast of Qingdao city is an islet called Maidao (This "dao" is the same 岛 in Qingdao 青岛and it means island). Maidao used to be a somewhat barren, unused area that has been recently renovated with paths and flowerbeds that create a beautiful park overlooking part of the city coastline. I enjoyed an afternoon picnic and wander with some friends on my first day of break.
A group of expats (made up of current and former colleagues and their families) met up for a game of paintball. I’ve never played paintball before, but it was both exhilarating, challenging, and painful. I have more than a few bruises on my legs to show for getting shot, but the game itself was a lot of fun. Three of my students (children of my colleagues) were along and it was fun for them to target me as their teacher. Nothing gets your adrenaline pumping like trekking around a wooded hillside, dodging bullets, and aiming to shoot rival team members who could be waiting around any corner.
One thing a little weird (but hilariously “China”) was that we were playing paintball in the middle of an open park. So, at any point in the game we may have to stop and freeze when an innocent old couple or young family would go walking through on a footpath in the middle of our game. A liability that would never stand in the USA, but somehow we managed to play and not injure any unsuspecting park-goers (though one lady was definitely was displeased at being caught in the crossfire when it interrupted her afternoon dance).
I ended up spending one morning and afternoon in the hospital with a close friend who was visiting me. She fainted during a routine bloodwork procedure at the international hospital in town. The doctors were concerned about the reason for her fainting and asked me to come in and stay with her while she had some tests done on her brain and heart. Thankfully everything checked out as normal and we were able to leave the hospital together that afternoon. I contemplated how the L-rd had managed my plans so that I would be available that day to be with her at the hospital. Being in the hospital is no fun, but it’s even less fun in a foreign country with no family and limited friends. I am thankful I was able to be there for her that day. Please be uplifting this friend as she continues to face some physical challenges in her daily life.
My roommate and I hosted a game night with some friends. We had lots of laughs playing games like “Guesstures” and “Codenames”. My roommate brought back some chocolate from her recent visit to Japan. ROYCE’ Chocolate is identified by some people as the best chocolate in the world. It is so exclusive that it can only be bought in the Duty Free section of Japanese airports. Listen, I’m not chocolate connoisseur, but I do think that this chocolate somewhat ruins all other chocolates I’ve ever tried.
We had four countries represented in the seven friends at game night. China, America, Slovakia, and Korea! It's so fun to have friends from all over the world!
Weifang Day Trip
I was privileged enough to go with two families from school on a day trip to the city of Weifang in Shandong Province. Many of you may remember that I have traveled to Weifang twice before on our school’s seventh grade fall trip (see previous blogs). We visited the Wexian Internment Camp and the Eric Liddell Memorial, as well as, the Weifang Kite Museum in the World Capital of Kites. We had a delicious Korean BBQ lunch. It was wonderful to get “family” time in with beloved friends and their children.
I bought a handmade, hand-painted kite from the Kite Museum. My roommate and I returned to Maidao Island to try it out. It was Grace’s first time flying a kite and the wind was perfect! It brought back a lot of memories I have of flying kites with my family as a child.
Other Spring Break Highlights
Movie watching, daily group yoga, archery practice, book reading, babysitting opportunities, and beachside walks beneath city lights. I enjoyed time with friends, as well as some unstructured alone time.
HOW ARE YOU?
My brother Timmy captioned this photo in this way: "Congratulations Nick! I'm so proud of Nick and the life decision he's made. Nick has decided in his future to help people and become a traffic cone, so that people drive safely on the road. He's a real servant to the people. #trafficconeuniversity #classof2022"
My family and grandmother celebrate Kelly graduating from Wingate University with a Bachelor's Degree in Biology! She even was chosen to formally pray for her fellow graduates as a part of the ceremony.
Fans Of Faith
If I Made Movies
Third Culture Kid