Saturday, August 22, 2009

Our Traditional Wedding Feast

Firecrackers in the street in front of the bridal car.

The bride out of the car getting ready to go up to her bridal chamber.

The groom leading the bride through the throngs of relatives and guests into his home.

The line of well-wishers outside the bridal chamber waiting to have their picture taken inside with the bride.

Cousin Jill in line downstairs waiting to go up to see the bride.

A well-wisher having her picture taken with the now cross-eyed bride.

The first few courses of the wedding feast on the serving table outside the house. Cooking stoves are in the road to the right. Door to the house is to the left. (Notice the banner with the 8 Immortals over the front of the house.)

The bride descends to attend the wedding feast.

The bride and groom scarf down a few mouthfuls of food.

Toasting the guests one table at a time.

There are 21 tables in the street and living room and one at a nearby restaurant.

Well-wishers come to the head table to toast the bride and groom.

Passing out candy and cigarettes as guests leave the feast.

After the church wedding, some of our friends, who were not going to the dinner, took care of all the clean-up for us. The Liu relatives, my American relatives, and our closest friends boarded the buses and cars to head down to Chung-li for the traditional wedding feast. The bride was supposed to arrive only after everyone was seated. Liu Yuni and I stayed behind with one of the fancier cars, so I could make my spectacular entrance. The weather had turned cold and a little rainy; two of Liu Yuni’s friends ran home to get coats and came back to ride in the car with us. I was a little worried about how my parents and American friends would do at the party with the Liu relatives, but we kept waiting around until his friends returned. In those days, there were no cell phones in Taiwan, so we had no way to contact them to find out when they were coming. It turned out that their home was two bus rides away. We did not set out until almost an hour after everyone had left.

Once started we sped down the highway from Chung-li to Taipei. The guests were all seated at the tables drinking soda and beer and eating watermelon seeds and talking and laughing. They had divided themselves among Mandarin, Hakka, and English speakers. A number of the neighbors realized that we were getting married and invited themselves over for the feast. All the tables were filled to the overflowing with guests. Smaller children had no seats of their own, but ate from their parents bowls and ran around among the tables. Liu Yuni’s military unit had not yet arrived when we got there. When they did get there, Liu Yuni’s eldest sister and brother-in-law had to take them to the restaurant at the corner and give them their own special feast so we could keep our promise to his commander.

The bridal car was decorated with a flower wreath on the grille. A number of the boys in the Liu clan with Liu Yuntian were waiting at the outermost alley in their neighborhood with baskets of firecrackers. When they saw the car turn in off the county road, they lit the first string of firecrackers and ran ahead of our car to the next intersection. They heralded us in with long strings of firecrackers at every intersection. Several tables for the closest relatives had not been set up yet because the bride had to drive under the tents to get out of the car. As our car pulled into the tent, two uncles lit large strings of firecrackers on the road in front of the car. We sat inside the car until the firecrackers had stopped popping, and then the car drove in under the tent. I was handed out by Liu Yuni and led into the house. Since everyone had seen me in my red silk dress, I was now in my maroon and red winter coat as my second outfit of the evening. Liu Yuni’s sisters and mother took me off his hand and led me through the tables and up the stairs to my bedroom where I changed into my chi-pao (cheongsam) and then sat on the bed.

The car was moved out of the tent, the other tables were set up, and the appetizer course of the wedding feast was served to the guests. I sat in my bedroom for the first three or four courses while everyone took turns coming up to see my bridal chamber and have their pictures taken with the bride. I gave lucky US pennies instead of red envelopes to the children. Finally, Liu Yuni’s sisters came to bring me down to the feast. I was seated at the head table with my relatives, teacher, Liu Yuni’s parents, and the English interpreter. I got to eat a few bites of food, and then people started coming over to toast the bride. (I was only given tea to drink.) Then Liu Yuni, Pa Liu, Eldest Sister, and I had to go around to all the tables and toast all the guests. When we had finished the tables in the living room and tent, we walked to the restaurant on the corner and toasted Liu Yuni’s army buddies. We got back to our table, and I ate a few more bites in between people coming to toast us. By this time, some of the guests had finished already and were beginning to leave. Liu Yuni and I had to stand at the outside end of the tent with trays of candy and cigarettes and say good-bye to all the guests. By the time, everyone had left, the cooks were cleaning up their pots in the gutter, and the feast was over.

Now it was time to take my relatives to the hotel. The next morning we were going to drop my parents off at the airport for their flight home, and then we would head off on our honeymoon with my cousins. As we got into the car to take them to the hotel, my parents realized that their luggage was in one of the uncles’ cars, and it had already gone back to Toufen (a town an hour south of Chung-li). Of course, they didn’t know which uncle they rode with, and things had been so confused that no one remembered who had driven them. We called the uncles and cousins whose cars had been used until we found the person with my parents’ luggage. We left my relatives at the hotel, and then Liu Yuni and I drove off to Toufen to get my parents’ luggage with their passports and plane tickets. It was after midnight by the time we had delivered the luggage to them and gotten home. And we had to leave with my parents for the airport very early the next morning. But Liu Yuni and Pa Liu had to count the money gifts and figure out how much we had to spend on our honeymoon. We got very little sleep that night, but it was NOT anyone’s typical wedding night.


Travis Erwin said...

Candy and smokes. What a combo.

Teresa said...

Political Correctness has not hit my in-laws. They are unabashed smokers and sugar-junkies!

murat11 said...

Teresa: I knew we were related (at least by marriage) - I'm a sugar junkie, too.

I think your doing luggage duty late into the night was your personal version of sweeping the next the morning.

Love the pictures. I see no guardians of the food tables. Were they pink-slipped after the cakes?

It all sounds like a wonderfully festive - and exhausting - time. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

Teresa said...

Murat: I honestly don't know who stayed to clean the church and who came on the bus. There were twenty-two tables seating 10 to 12 adults each and children under the age of 15 were running loose grazing from table to table. It was a zoo. I do not know if the guardians of the food tables came or not. They were invited to the feast. I have so many pictures I could have filled my blog's quota and then some, but my children would be upset because they want to appear on the blog, and the sooner the better. I need to leave room for pictures of bald "halfie" babies. You are only seeing a small fraction of the guests. And I tried to post pictures of the Liu cousins because some of them look at the blog pictures.

I should have known from your Nawlin's comments that you were a Southern sugar junkie. Do you love pralines and pecan pie? Those are forms of ambrosia worthy of odes and haiku.

murat11 said...

P-ray tell, where be the
R-ush of sugarbabies,
A-lchemical wonders,
L-ingering riverside pleasures,
I-n between the gusto,
N-earing the bliss
E-ven kisses might miss -
S-earing the hearts with treasure.

No contest.

Teresa said...

Murat: did you do the poem in under a minute?

murat11 said...

Of course, I did: pralines were ever a glorious muse...

Jill said...

What fun to read about the wedding from your much going on that I had no idea about. I really, really enjoyed the experience of being at your wedding and now wish I had been adventurous enough to try the soup with the entire turtle floating in it. :)

one of your four "American relatives"

Teresa said...

Hi Jill,

Glad to know you enjoyed the experience in Taiwan. I was certainly glad you and your dad were able to come. I thought you were quite brave to try all the things that you did. I think you were only in junior high, and some of the food at the wedding and on the honeymoon was NOT made for tourists.

Thanks for sharing.


Barrie said...

Fascinating. especially with the photos. So, a question: candy and cigarettes aren't typical wedding favors?

Teresa said...

Hi Barrie,

Candy is definitely a typical wedding favor. In more urban, upper-class weddings the cigarettes may or may not be there, depending on whether or not the people smoke. The Liu clan are country-folk, fresh off the farm, and in the 80s cigarettes were all over Taiwan, so cigarettes were required for the men. In mainland China smoking is still quite prevalent, and I'm sure cigarettes are the norm. In Taiwan, it depends on the family.