After lunch, the whole group returned to the hotel. It was time for the bride to switch outfits for the first of many times in the coming hours. While the dress she wore in the morning was more practical in terms of skirt length to enable her to move around easily, dress number two had a train any peacock would envy. We were allowed to rest for an hour in the meantime, during which the bridesmaids decided to take an afternoon shower and a nap. The thought of having to reapply my make-up was too terrifying for me to have any desire for a shower and after all, we had mainly frozen throughout the day, there was no sweaty work-out involved as far as I remembered, so I was happy to just lounge about on a chair and stare into space. This was also a time to sort out the question of the red envelope. According to most of my sources it was not customary for bridesmaids to give red envelopes to the couple; however, I had been receiving conflicting information as others said they did give money. Luckily, I had prepared some just in case, since suddenly a red envelope frenzy broke out as two of our party of four announced they had not brought a red envelope and began plying open those they had been previously given in order to recycle them for their own purposes. Then of course there was the question of the amount to give; in Beijing it is customary to give about 1000, whereas in Nanjing, where living costs and salaries are lower, the money present will also be lower. In addition, the amount will vary depending on how close one is to the bride and groom. My foreign ignorance of what was appropriate in this situation did not help either and I broke into a small panic for a short while, envisioning the end of my friendship with Cherry if I offended her with too little money. Luckily, Mr. Li was at hand (or rather on We Chat) to calm me down. After our short respite it was time to go down to the main hall, in which the reception would take place. We met downstairs at 4.30pm to practice our grand entry. Bridesmaids and best men were partnered up and had to march onto the stage, instructed by the host of the evening on exactly how to walk, where to stand and how to position the hands during the ceremony (crossed and just below the bust in case you were curious). The poor devil was highly disappointed in our ineptitude at synchronicity; the day before he had hosted a military wedding.
“Those guys were perfectly in sync during their entrance. You guys are ok,”
he announced, barely able to hide the disappointment from his voice. The practice session came with its own little drama, as three out of four bridesmaids (including myself) slipped on the slick surface of the stage. Delightful images of my being unable to hold my balance and landing on my backside in front of the entire hall of hundreds of people to make an utter fool of myself popped into my mind, filling me with immense dread. I had been less nervous going into my final exam at university. I further managed to earn a portion of extra disapproval from Mr. Host, as I was wearing shoes with an ever so slight indication of a heel, as opposed to my three comrades in their killer plateaus. While they had spent the majority of the day suffering the hell that is a high-heeled shoe and were switching back and forth between a comfy second pair and the vanity footwear, I was still jumping about the place like Bambi. But of course this meant that I, with my naturally stumpy statue, looked like a dwarf compared to the already tall Chinese girls in their even taller shoes. Now, this is no news, at 1.56m I generally find myself at the short end whenever I am in the presence of almost anybody in this world; but it did unleash great disapproval from el maestro that I had not even attempted to conceal my shortcoming by wearing a pair of break-your-necks (or your ankle, at least).
“No I do not have a higher pair of shoes with me,”
I said decidedly exasperated and possibly ever so slightly grumpy. Ah well, there was nothing to be done anyway. After a couple of test runs, Mr. Host decided he had done all he could for us, handed us a flower coronal to be placed on top of our heads and sent us on our way. The aforementioned head ornaments were received with scepticism among our group of young women but after a few minutes of pulling and tugging, they had been more or less aesthetically arranged and the show could begin.
Missed the previous post in the Southern Chinese Wedding Series? Read it here.
Want to continue reading? Find the final part of the series here.