Monday, December 5, 2011

A Taiwanese Wedding

This weekend, Boje and I had the privilege of attending one of my co-teachers’ weddings at a beautiful restaurant in Taichung. This wedding wasn’t strictly traditional, but it did incorporate a lot of important Taiwanese traditions and had marked differences from the Western weddings I’ve attended. For one thing, the wedding ceremony takes place days or weeks before the banquet and is an intimate affair. The banquet is the part everyone’s invited to.

When you arrive, you sign the guest book and hand your red envelope (filled with cash) to people whose specific task is to receive and count the money for the couple. No anonymity, either! You are meant to write your (Chinese) name on the envelope. There are certain amounts that are appropriate for whatever level your relationship is at with the bride and groom, and you’re not supposed to give too much or too little. You’re also not supposed to choose a number ending in odd hundreds, like 100, 300, etc, and no numbers including a four, please! “Four” and “Death” sound the same in Chinese. After consultations with Taiwanese friends, Boje and I settled on what we were told was a suitable amount. Handing over the envelope was still embarrassing though, as I had painstakingly printed my Chinese name on it with a black marker. It was very wobbly and I’m sure that even my littlest students would have laughed to see my horribly lopsided attempt.

Once you’re inside the dining room, life’s good. There were three tables reserved for the bride’s colleagues, and my supervisor very kindly guided us to an appropriate table with Chinese signage. We sat with Taiwanese and American friends at the table and it was so lovely to take a look around the venue. The tables were Chinese-style banquet tables - round, with gigantic “lazy Susans” in the centre of each. When we were seated, the first course was already on the table. They were little round balls of cooked sweet dough, sort of dumpling-esque, sprinkled with raisins and crushed peanuts. They reminded me of the QQ balls we ate with Stanley and Vicky in Kaohsiung. One of my friends explained that wedding courses all have special significance, and that this one carries a wish for hundreds of sons and thousands of grandsons - though the way she phrased it was much more eloquent.

Once the bride and groom entered the building (and it was with a splash), food started coming out like crazy. There were only six of us at a table for ten, and each table was served a huge portion of every course. We had a sashimi boat, a king crab served on a pile of sauteed onions, a platter of tender, falling-off-the-bone lamb in a spicy sauce, amazing spicy scallops with pea pods, as well as mushroom and chicken soup. The chicken soup was impressive in that it was a delicious broth filled with plenty of mushrooms as well as an entire chicken. You had to use the ladle to break off some chicken for yourself, and I’m pretty sure I spotted a beak. You know you’re at a good party when every table has its own chicken and crab! After the chicken soup, there was also a pork, clam, and vegetable soup, a steamed fish, and a big pile of prawns. We had another course that I believe was abalone, a popular dish for weddings in Taiwan, but the Taiwanese girls at our table weren’t sure what to call them in English so that goes unconfirmed. For dessert, we had delicious moist cupcakes with beautiful fruit toppings and small, individual cartons of Haagen Daaz. All of us there as the bride’s colleagues (and our partners) were given special little jars of honey as favors in little Tiffany-blue boxes. Remind me to go to weddings more often!

While all the courses were coming out, there was a full-on spectacle going on with the bride and groom. Their wedding had a professional host, photographers, videographers, makeup and hair people, and multiple dress changes. She came out in a gorgeous white gown and tiara, then changed into a pink number, and then bright orange. It’s amazing to see a coworker who you see every day in their company t-shirt transform into a princess with professionals dabbing her makeup between toasts. She and her husband spent most of the wedding walking around handing out sweets, toasting guests, and smiling nonstop while surrounded by their professional entourage. It was like being at a red carpet event.

As we walked out of the wedding (only about two and a half hours after we arrived), we were given a massive box of wedding cookies. The cookies are a big assortment of flavoured shortbreads, chocolates, and baked egg rolls. Delicious!

My verdict on Taiwanese weddings? Always accept an invitation. You will love it. It was worth every moment of panic I had trying to find an appropriate outfit my size in Asia (even though it meant shopping at places called “Big Shoes for Ladies”). It was a great party, and easily one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Our camera died at the beginning of the event, but I’m going to ask our friends and try to compile some photos of some of the impressive dishes!

A Taiwanese wedding appetizer. QQ Balls with raisins and shaved peanuts.
Lamb in the foreground and king crab in the background.
Brett & Amanda

1 comment:

  1. This looks like an extremely awesome wedding! Our wedding will not be nearly so awesome - you already know about the ham on toast, of course, and I only have one dress. It's coming up soon, January 15th, and you two are still more than welcome to come, but we totally understand if it's not going to work out. But if you think you can make it, shoot me an email at and let me know where to send the invitation. :)