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!
Not long ago I would have been completely embarrassed to post a blog like this, but in the day and age we live in I feel I must make a statement. Today, I was flipping through radio stations in my car on the way to school. To my surprise and shock I was confronted with an alarming desecration of something I hold sacred. In the lyrics of a popular new song, I heard these lyrics:
“Do you want to stay the night? Doesn’t mean we’re bound for life.”
Call me naive and old fashioned, but I was aghast. Is this the message our culture is sending out to young men and women across the world?! Assuming staying the night is insinuating sex (I think we call all agree this is a legitimate assumption), are we really cheapening sex to this? Is sex really to be labeled as nothing more than this idea of a simple pleasurable act with no lifelong significance? I’m sorry, despite the fact that I may not be married or even in a serious relationship, that is SO WRONG.
Sex, to me, is the most intimate physical act that a man and woman can engage in. Degrading sex to some more or less meaningless night of pleasure and experimentation is so ruinous.
In my life, I have on more than one occasion explained to non-Christian friends the reason I believe in abstinence and waiting for marriage. I have many a time explained the significance and meaning behind my purity ring I wear on my ring finger reading, “TRUE LOVE WAITS.”
Being a woman myself I feel I can most intimately talk to girls about this subject. Ladies, sex can be a beautiful thing when in the context that God created it for. I personally am saving myself because I long for the day when I can present myself as clean and pure to my husband. Having been with no other man on the face of this earth, I can give my husband, the man I love, the dazzling gift of whole self. I so look forward to saying the words, “I saved myself, all these years, only for you.” By keeping myself pure for my husband I am showing my love for him long before we’ve even met. I want sex to be something I share with only ONE person in the whole wide world. In the entire universe, my husband will be the only man to have that part of me…
How breathtakingly beautiful that thought is to me.
How dare the culture we live in mar the loveliness of sex and marriage with some perverted thinking of selfish, fleeting pleasure. Sex is not without consequences… and I’m not just talking STDs and babies here. When you have sex with someone you are giving them a piece of yourself. The Bible describes sex as the becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The Bible talks even more significantly about how sexual immorality, lust, and sexual impurity can destroy lives. Sex is not something to EVER be taken lightly.
Sex, when in the context of marriage as God created it to be is the ultimate joining together of a husband and wife. Sex is the joining of body, mind and spirit. In the Old Testament sex was viewed as a way "to know" (a husband or wife). Without the Godly dimension of marriage, sex loses part of its meaning and purpose. When you keep your body as a gift first to God and then to your husband, only then can truly experience the true wonderment of this inexplicable joining.
In 2010, I made a written commitment to purity, to save myself in order to honor God, and one day bless my husband. Purity is a daily struggle, something I must make a regular, conscious effort to maintain because the Bible tells us even our thoughts are dangerous when it comes to protecting our sexual purity. The Bible warns that the thought of lust is equally as damaging and sinful as the physical act (another whole blog post in and of itself). Drastic, but ever so true… In order to guard myself against sexual immorality, I must protect my eyes, my thoughts, and my heart. A difficult objective for anyone in a culture that tells me sex is really nothing more than a means of individuality and instant gratification for my using. Yet, I know it is SO MUCH more than that.
So much more could be added on this subject, but this is what God has led me to say. Reader, hear me out. Please don’t do as culture demands and give away such a precious gift so easily. Don’t listen to the lie that sex is not valuable or important. It is worth more than you could ever imagine. Wait and save it for that one person God has in mind for you. He promises he will bless you if you do!
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. (Ephesians 25:28)
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