During the National Day holiday, I didn't leave Beijing in order to attend a wedding here with Shero. She was the bridesmaid, and I was just a companion (laughs).
At this age, the news of being invited to a wedding comes one after another. This year, it's already the third one.
The wedding was held in Pinggu District, Beijing, in the northeast direction, about an hour's drive from Chaoyang. The bride, Luo, is Shero's best friend and also my high school classmate; the groom, Zhang, I have heard them talk about him before, but this was the first time we met in person.
It was already autumn, and the trees on the roadside had begun to wither. I couldn't help but think of Yu Dafu's "Autumn in the Old Capital": "The autumn in the north comes especially clear, quiet, and melancholy." However, with the arrival of several autumn rains, the cold wind blew on the road, and it felt like we had already crossed autumn and entered winter. The temperature had dropped to fifteen degrees Celsius, and pedestrians couldn't help but shiver.
On the 4th, I received a call from Shero at noon, and we immediately headed to Pinggu District to attend the evening banquet and prepare for the bridesmaid duties. The formal ceremony would take place on the 5th.
Their wedding was a traditional Chinese wedding. The central stage for the ceremony was set up in the hotel lobby, which was not completely decorated yet. There were already twenty tables set up in the entire hall, and many people had arrived for the banquet. Luo's classmates and her sister-in-law sat at the same table as me and Luo. When we were halfway through the meal, the other bridesmaid, Yang, also arrived.
After the banquet, the emcee informed us that there would be a rehearsal tonight and asked the bridesmaids to stay and go through the process. As a "companion," I naturally stayed as well.
It was still drizzling outside, and although there was air conditioning in the hall, there was still a chill in the air. Shero thought that Beijing was still in summer like the southern regions and came wearing summer shoes, shivering from the cold. We had planned to go shopping for a pair of shoes for her after eating, but we had to cancel the plan because of the rehearsal.
The rehearsal was nothing more than familiarizing ourselves with the process of welcoming the bride, going on stage, and performing the ceremony. It took more than an hour of back and forth. I watched curiously from the sidelines—the process was quite elaborate, with the symbolic presentation of pomegranates representing "many children," the scattering of the five grains representing "abundance," and the tying of the red thread representing "sharing joys and sorrows"... There were also archery and other procedures that opened my eyes.
The rehearsal ended after nine o'clock. The bridesmaids and the bride went to the bridal room in the hotel together—there were still many things to prepare, such as the games to embarrass the groom. It was said that they were busy until past two o'clock and then got up at four o'clock to do their makeup.
As a friend of the bride, I had already been assigned a task—I needed to go to the bridal room in the hotel at 7 o'clock the next morning to participate in the "door-blocking" ceremony. Some classmates who came together would also participate, including the bride's relatives.
The door-blocking ceremony is a custom that varies in different places, but it is similar in essence. It involves preparing questions, games, and even drinking to embarrass the groom, with the aim of not letting him easily take away the bride. The games prepared this time were relatively simple:
- First, open the door with a red envelope.
- Then, bend down and pass under a ribbon.
- Next, walk on the ground according to a pattern.
- Then answer questions and continue opening the door to the bride's room.
- Since the wedding shoes were locked in a box, the key had to be obtained, and the first key required shaking the hips to shake out a ball.
- Then there was a ring toss.
- Next, continue answering questions to get the key.
- Unlock the box and get the wedding shoes, and help the bride put them on.
After receiving the bride, the groom took her home, and I went along with them. The wedding convoy was a fleet of Mercedes-Benz cars, without the sound of gongs and drums, simple but grand. The groom's home was not far from the hotel, about twenty minutes away. It was a two-story building with a large courtyard, giving off a rural villa vibe. I felt much more comfortable here than in a suite. The next step was for the parents of both sides to meet and take photos, without any other ceremonies.
The formal wedding ceremony was scheduled to start at 10:58. I don't know the significance of this time, but I guess it sounds like "take care of me"? It feels strange.
The formal ceremony was much longer than the rehearsal, and some people were already getting impatient and playing with their phones before it was halfway through. Fortunately, the emcee on stage had a good speaking voice, and most people were focused on listening and watching.
I noticed that in the northern regions, there is still a strong sense of "continuing the family line" when it comes to having children. I could clearly feel it from the emcee's lines and the speeches at the wedding I attended in Hebei before. Perhaps it also exists in the southern regions, but I haven't seen it firsthand. Or maybe it's just an individual bias.
The bride and groom toasted the guests from around eleven o'clock until one o'clock in the afternoon, until all the guests were toasted. After all the guests left, Luo came over and said, "Planning a wedding is so exhausting."
I have heard many people say, "Planning a wedding is so exhausting," but I couldn't understand it without experiencing it myself. This time, I truly empathized with the exhaustion. From the preparations to receiving the guests, the two newlyweds were exhausted. They not only had to prepare and arrange various facilities, but also had to arrange accommodations for everyone and welcome acquaintances and strangers one by one... It was a great physical and mental pressure.
The wedding ceremony is important, symbolizing the formal announcement of the relationship to family and friends, which is a beautiful thing in itself. However, nowadays, it seems that many people have lost the sense of beauty that this word represents when it comes to weddings. As participants, after going through the ceremony, we feel mentally and physically drained; as family and friends, we silently pray not to receive a wedding invitation, otherwise, we will have to give another wedding gift.
The ceremony is still there, but the taste has changed. Come to think of it, most things have already changed.