So, we had finally made the decision on where to get married and how many times. I had also managed to gently impose on Mr. Li the necessity of a proposal. Next question; the rings.
First of all, Chinese women traditionally wear a wedding ring, yet with the custom of the proposal not existing until recently, neither did the concept of an engagement ring. Furthermore, it is up to this day not very common for Chinese men to wear wedding rings, as opposed to the West. Cynics might blame the high number of affairs among married people partly on the fact that by escaping the public declaration of ones status temptation might increase as the commitment is more easily ignored without a physical reminder, but luckily we are not cynics (or are we?)
Anyway, this cultural difference created the next confusion, as we faced decisions such as two rings or one for me, one ring or none for him, and which ring was to be used when? My future Chinese mother-in-law and Mr. Li both were incredibly understanding of our custom, agreeing to an engagement ring and wedding rings for the both of us.
So, now we had decided upon the number of rings, the dates of using them had to be considered. Sure, the engagement ring was easy, as it would be used at the engagement. But would we start wearing the wedding rings after we had gotten our Chinese wedding certificate, or during the Chinese wedding ceremony (which are separate occasions in local culture) or wait until the day of the German wedding?
Since the exchanging of the rings is an integral part of the German ceremony and wearing them beforehand feels like cheating to me, plus the fact that it is culturally acceptable for Mr. Li not to be wearing a wedding ring, I believe the best solution in this case is for me to use my engagement ring as the Chinese wedding ring and wait until the German ceremony for us to slip the “actual” wedding rings onto each other’s fingers. I say “actual” since really it is just a metal object to which we ascribe a certain meaning and in fact any and every ring could be a wedding ring in my personal opinion.
Phew, one issue sorted. Next up, the ring purchase dilemma. In China, diamonds are incredibly rare, ludicrously expensive and according to my boss (who got married in China and therefore knows what he is talking about) disappointingly small. Mr. Li and his mother’s immediate suggestion was to purchase the ring in Europe instead.
This is not surprising as Europe has become one of the top destinations for Chinese nouveau riche to go on a jewelry-shopping spree of unimaginable proportions to spending-conservative Europeans. When my mother-in-law arrived in the UK for a visit she almost bought up an entire store of jewelry on Oxford Street; as like most other Chinese tourists she did not know when she would be back and it was, in her eyes, an irresistible bargain. The Chinese shopping mania abroad has actually become a little bit of a running gag amongst those of us with Chinese in-laws and on occasion “war stories” are traded of how much money was spent and how many hours were shopped on what was essentially a trip through Europe’s shopping malls, culture and tourist attractions being not even slightly interesting to the purchase pros.
Returning to the ring dilemma. The rings were an eight-hour flight away in good old Europe, and sending such an expensive object via DHL or worse, the Chinese Post (who, I might add, do not even think Wales is a country and that it is the same as sending the letter to Scotland or Ireland; and not the Northern part) did not sound like a very promising undertaking, As luck would have it, my parents were due to arrive in China only a month later at the time. And so, with a little help from the internet, a ring was selected, pre-ordered and finally picked up by my parents in person, who will bring it over with them in a few weeks. I actually like the idea of having an engagement ring, which has traveled as far as I have; my German ring in China.