(Many thanks to Yvonne and Polly for answering all my questions for this post. I didn’t know squat.)
Step one: Fall in love. Real love, not “need a prenup” love.
Sorry. I’m being judgmental. Fall into whatever kind of love you want.
Step two: The man asks the woman to marry him. I’m not sure how this part compares to the US, but it seems like the question is asked fairly straightforward. None of the romantic frilliness needed.
For the record, I like romantic frilliness. I cry almost anytime I see a wedding proposal, and that includes fake ones on TV.
Step after two: The future bride and groom select their outfits for the pictures, wedding ceremony, and reception. They rent several outfits between the two of them. That’s right – the bride rents her dresses.
When I explained that most brides in the US buy their dresses, my coworkers were confused. “They buy it? But they only wear it one time!”
Step after that: Take wedding pictures. These pictures are handed out in the invitations and at the reception. It’s a bit like when you were a kid and got your school picture and gave little copies out to your friends, except there’s no terrible blue background and you look great.
Step sometime after that: Hold an engagement ceremony, arranged by the bride’s family.
Step eventually: Have the wedding ceremony, hosted by the groom’s family. Just like the West, the wedding day is typically several months after the engagement, and the couple gets just as overwhelmed with planning a Far East wedding as we do in the West.
Step days or weeks later: Time for the reception. This is when all the friends and extended family and random people no one knows join in the celebration.
The two receptions I’ve been to hosted hundreds of people,
and the guests dine on multiple courses of traditional Taiwanese cuisine – heavy on seafood and vegetables.
As a guest, it’s important not to be a picky eater.
Each guest brings a red envelope full of a certain amount of cash. There aren’t wrapped gifts, just red envelopes. Depending on how well you know the couple, you give anywhere from $35 to over $100. This helps offset the cost of the reception and, if money is left over, pay for the honeymoon.
The awesome thing about red envelopes – no thank you notes. Each guest gets a box of wedding cookies and treats as a thank you for coming, but that’s it. It’s easy, painless, and gift-wrapping dunces like me are off the hook.
There’s no bouquet toss, no dancing, no cake-cutting, and no grand exit. You will, however, either be treated to karaoke or a rich 1990’s playlist of love songs: Boys II Men, Celine Dion, Phil Collins (“In the Air Tonight”), and the random English-language love song that’s a total bummer. Michael Bolton’s “How am I Supposed to Live Without You” is popular.
The process of becoming legally wed in the Taiwanese tradition differs depending on the family. Conservative families will strictly adhere to religious and cultural standards; others that are more open to change will be a bit more laid back and may combine the engagement and marriage ceremonies. No matter the family, most are a bit more conservative than many in the US.
The entire marriage ordeal is a much quieter affair in Taiwan, and many women don’t have engagement rings. In fact, wedding rings aren’t always worn, and the rings certainly aren’t the gigantic glitter boulders you see on brides elsewhere.
But, just like in the United States, in Taiwan, mawwage is what brings us together. And it’s a beautiful thing.