If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in China, congratulations. You probably won’t be attending the legal part of the ceremony, which is usually carried out at a government office. You’ll be going to the party, which is the good part.
What to wear?
Chinese weddings are often more flexible than Western weddings when it comes to the dress code. The bride and groom will be dressed up in full wedding getup, but you don’t want to outshine them, and you don’t have to.
A rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the couple getting married, the smarter you should dress. The father of the bride, for example, will invariably be wearing a suit.
For gents, dressing smartly is still a good idea, but you certainly don’t need a tuxedo, and you might well not even need a suit. At a wedding I attended in Shanghai, smart trousers, shoes, a shirt (no tie) and sweater seemed to be the most standard attire. Chat to other male guests and see how formally you’re expected to dress.
For women, the same flexibility applies. You’ll want to dress nicely, but you won’t want to outdo the bride. Both men and women will want to avoid wearing white, which is the colour of mourning in China. One of the brides outfits may be red, the colour of weddings in China, so you may want to avoid that, too.
What to give?
Money. But don’t hand over a huge bundle of cash. Give a hongbao (red envelope).
While giving a hongbao is simple enough, deciding how much to give can be tricky. Around the 500 RMB mark would probably be acceptable for a work colleague. As each wedding is different, the best thing to do is chat to Chinese friends who are attending the wedding, to get an idea of what is expected.
What to eat?
Everything. A typical Chinese wedding banquet will seat the guests around round tables. There will be generous amounts of meat and fish dishes; this is a time to stock up on protein, rather than worrying about healthy eating.
If shark fin soup is served at the wedding, you’ll have to decide between the ethical and environmental implications of eating the dish, and the risk of offending your hosts. If you take a stand for the sharks, you’ll have Yao Ming on your side.
At the Shanghai wedding I went to, there was no shark fin soup. There was lobster, beef and pork. There were Chunghwa cigarettes for each guest ( just placed on the table, smoking optional), and beer, wine, baijiu and Minute Maid orange juice.
Clearly this is different at each wedding. I was surprised by the ceremony I went to taking up just a few hours in the evening (all the guests left by ten pm).
There was a ceremony on the stage and an exchanging of rings. The bride and groom came around to each table to toast us. Meanwhile the wedding host broadcast his voice though a microphone, organizing games to keep the kids entertained. Your Chinese wedding may, or may not, be the same. Enjoy.