Wedding Guests: China vs Europe

Right, so finally it’s time to get back on topic: WEDDINGS! That is after all what this blog is all about, isn’t it? The only excuse I have for not keeping up my writing until after both weddings have happened is that now I have both wedding experiences; the better to compare. This is what I intended all along! *wink wink*

So, this is the first in what I think will be many comparative posts on our two weddings: the wedding guests.

Now, if you’re not already aware, there is a difference between your average Chinese wedding and you average European one (and by average I mean non-celebrity, mere mortals like myself) in terms of the guest list. While in Western media there is an on-going joke about how everyone wants to be invited and how the guest list gets out of hand at a wedding, generally I have found that most weddings of my friends and family have fitted into the reasonable-sized category. Mostly around 40 to 70 guests, I’d say. At our German wedding we only even had 25 guests; and that nothing to do with us wanting to save every Yuan we could and all to do with the fact that we decided to keep it highly exclusive, VVIPs only, you know, like the highly exclusive people we are. (You think they bought it?…No? Damn.)

Now in China, even daring to consider having such a small number of people at your wedding is an irredeemable insult to your ancestors. And you ancestors’ ancestors. And you ancestors’ ancestors’ accountant. Again, it’s all about that face, ‘bout that face, no trouble. Hoping Meghan Trainor won’t throw a copyright lawsuit at me for borrowing her legendary lyrics for inspiration. Anywho, digressing again. At a Chinese wedding, lots of people equals face and so the more people attend the wedding the better. Not only that, there is actually a financial incentive to make it as bloody big as possible.

Let’s have a wedding to make some money!

What on earth, financial incentive?! Yes, indeed. While in the West, we are busy losing hair about whether or not to invite Great Aunt Beryl, because that will mean another 60 or so Euros each to pay for her, and her husband and her two brat kids, in China you’ll be sure as heck hoping that Great Aunt Beryl brings her cousin twice removed and their whole clan. Because of the Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes filled to the brim with cash, rather than another embroidered gold toaster to “start married life together”, a Chinese wedding is seen by many here as a) an opportunity to make rather than spend money and b) earn back the money that they’ve spent on other people’s weddings – as you did with Great Aunt Beryl’s two brats. I have to say, they’re really onto something there and thankfully my mother decided to “go Chinese” in terms of wedding presents in Germany and our 25 exclusive guests generously followed suit. Thank you for that!

Intimate Affair vs. Catwalk Spectacle

Now, if you are more of the type of person who prefers an intimate affair for a wedding with just your closest friends to give it all more weight and meaning, the Chinese way certainly isn’t for you. In China, the parents-in-law will literally invite anyone and their dog (as long as the dog brings its own Hongbao of course), with the big company bosses being particular favourites since they rake in the most money. It means that on average 200 people will show up at your wedding, 90% of which you’ve never met before in your life. Especially from our Western perspective, we can quickly feel like this makes the wedding incredibly impersonal and just doesn’t feel right. Indeed, Mr Li was completely won over by the intimate ceremony idea. To this day he will tell anyone who is willing to listen how he much prefers the intimacy of Western weddings.

On the other hand, if, like me, you enjoy feeling like an A-List celebrity walking down a huge catwalk with 200 pairs of eyes on you, this will probably be one of the best days of your life. Especially considering that people even paid money to look at you, it’s almost like you’re Beyoncé…well, minus the voice of an angel and the sexy dance routine. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never get this much attention again!

Feeling like Beyoncé – if only I could walk sexy in this dress..

9 thoughts on “Wedding Guests: China vs Europe”

  1. This is interesting – that it’s seen as a way to make money, I’ve never thought of it that way! We’re not inviting anyone from Hong Kong (the majority of my fiancé’s family) because his Mum told us we would be expected to pay for thier flights, hotel etc.


    1. Oh yes – if you have a wedding somewhere else and the family need to fly in or book a room that’s very true that it’s expected – whereas of everyone lives in the same town that’s not an issue 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. No wonder my in-laws were upset we didn’t want to invite their third cousin once removed fin the UK.

    Of course, when we did invite him, he sent his regrets and a lava lamp.


  3. How much I prefered our Western wedding back in 2013. We had first a “small” ceremony in China with “only” 100 guests and then two weeks later in Finland a ceremony with 50 guests. The difference between the weddings in Finland/ Germany compared to China is also how long they take. In China everything was pretty much done after max. 2 hours/ after everybody had eaten and the booze was drunk/ stolen.
    In Finland the wedding started at 1pm and ended at 2am 🙂


      1. Yeah too much money and such wasteful behavior of the guests with the food and drinks. Sure we got also tons of red pockets but in the end it is not really anything we can keep as it will be somehow returned again to the guests on their weddings etc :p


  4. “In China, the parents-in-law will literally invite anyone and their dog (as long as the dog brings its own Hongbao of course)”==> This made me laugh!! Haha
    I really love how you compared the two wedding styles because I realized that even though our own wedding (in the Philippines) is not exactly like Chinese style, it’s still more similar to it than the European one. Philippine weddings are not all very intimate, either. At mine I think I had around 150 guests? But we invited much more than that. I also understand the “hongbao” mentality very much, because we sort of did it as well. And some families really do get back the money they spent. We didn’t, but got a big part of it back as well haha.
    Looking forward to your other posts about the other differences of the weddings! 🙂


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