Monday, November 22, 2004

Chinese wedding dinner facts

An addition to the posting started by iblogme.

Dinners would most often be held in posh setting is they can be afforded, hotel restaurants are the usual venues but may also take place in more specialized diners. The rich can most probably afford to book a whole dining room in some exclusive hotel and accommodate their extended families. The more face you wish to project, the more expensive the wedding dinner will be, usually setting back the couple’s families a good deal off.

Malaysian time would be in effect, if the invitation states to come at 7 p.m., give it an hour or two before you actually arrive. People unfamiliar with this would often arrive before or at the appointed time to be faced with an empty hall where preparations are still being made. The only souls that would be present is the couple's parents and those appointed to oversee preparations. The stream of guests would only be coming in an hour later than officially stated. Being early might benefit that would could sneak in and take a swig at the alcohol before anyone arrives. Punctuality should not be taken into account in Malaysian functions, being late is a norm and you should adjust your time zone appropriately.

Usually, people you never ever meet daily or even in your lifetime would suddenly be in attendance. Not inviting a relative no matter how remote might signify you're 'kiam siap' (stingy) or unable to afford to host such a grand affair, a very big loss of face. Suddenly cousins thrice remove are found sitting next to you and you don't even remember ever seeing them in your whole life. Odd and ends from your family tree would scuttle from the nook and crannies they are found in during most of your life just to attend your dinner.

A front counter would be situated in front of the restaurant whereby trusted relatives (usually the fiercest and persistant ladies are employed) apprehend to guests and 'politely' demand 'ang pow' (packets of money) for their attendance. Amount is based on how far you're related to the person with immediate relatives going as high as RM1000 (if rich), but a minimum of RM100 is the norm, it's also based on how many party you are bringing along, the more there are eating the higher you should pay. Often takings would cover all the expensive dinner and the married couple would profit as well. Give accordingly to your status or if can even more as a below par contribution will be forever remembered and gossip circles in the family would label you for life.

People in attendance would be dressed to the brim to show off to the others how well they are. When you see the kids normally slack and under groomed, today would turn out to be magazine cover poster child (after much cajoling and threats from the mum). Suits or at least formal wear is the norm. Teenagers would be in the utmost fashion to dazzle the competition and most certainly the immediate family of the groom has an image to live up to. Wedding dinners cum fashion extravaganza even if it’s just for a meal.

The yam char (toasting) ceremony is a must before the ceremony ends. The bride and groom will go from table to table and everyone there in the hall would suddenly take their alcoholic imbuement and raise their glasses to the air. Someone would start to pull his voice into a long yyyyyyaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmm.......sseeennngggg [correction thanks to Papi] (takes about a minute or two) while everyone is in the toasting position and then down their respective beverages. Even if there's no occasion to toast, people would do so to get as much of the liquor as they can as it's provided by the host. Drinks should be stocked well less rowdy drinkers can’t get anymore and make a scene.

Seating arrangements are usually first by the bride and groom and their immediate family table in the front. The others are either set by family but usually there's a table or two reserved for children and a luckless adult would have to mind the rowdy and restless kids. Teenagers who are near adulthood would have to contend with seating with the small kids and would fume because it's as if they are not mature enough but plus side is they get to swipe the food which the smaller kids cannot down in large quantities. Hierarchical seating positions exist with the more important guests at the front and the undesirables near the exit.

Be prepared for at least a minimum of 10 courses, a standard for all weddings; sequences would follow (but not necessarily limited to) as four seasons (a platter of cold cuts and fried tit bits to symbolize the four different seasonal platters), roasted chicken, shark fin soup (or more popular nowadays is the pseudo shark fin soup, more environmentally friendly), stir fried vegetables, steam fish in sauce, roasted piglet with crispy skin, basket of yam with stir fried vegetables and groundnuts, fried savoury rice and lastly is dessert (often longan and jelly, crushed peanut soup with Chinese pancakes, herbal drink or fresh fruits). Expect to go away with overstuffed belly.

By the 5 or 6 dish, people would be stuff and would go to socialize, men would usually head to another table and offer drinks to friends, woman folk would mingle and children would be running around. This is a good time to also go 'keh poh' (nose about) the married couple and to chat them up as well as the required photo taking. Lots of wasted food will be the order of the day as the last few dishes would usually be untouched.

Photo taking is a must, a professional photographer would usually be hired or the very least, a capable relative with the gear to do the job would be pressed into service to record the marital bliss dinner; events that is a must to record include the yam char ceremony, cutting of the cake by the couple, family portraits and table by table photos. With the new digital camera revolution, expect almost everyone there trying to be a professional photographer as well. Warning bride and bridegroom may end up blinded after the festivities.

The end of the meal does not mark the end of the occasion, long after, everyone would be around mingling away and socialize. This may stretch to quite some time and surpass many hours. Might be the only time family members ever get to settle down in large groups to chat each other up.

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