Sunday, February 27, 2005

Of Wedding Dinners

Today is a very busy day for me. I attended Tai Lo's brother's wedding luncheon in Sri Kembangan, somewhere near Mines Wonderland. Later in the evening, I will be attending Emily's wedding dinner in Nikko hotel. In today's luncheon, we talked about how many wedding dinners we have attended. I have calculated the ones I attended and it was over 20+ dinners! That's a lot in years!

Some people said that wedding dinners are a happy occasion. We celebrate a couple's happy union. It is great and all, I know, but to me, Chinese wedding dinners are such a chore, especially as the guests. Note: I am not attacking the bride nor the groom. My following post is an attack at the Chinese wedding tradition:

1. Chinese wedding dinner is time consuming
Typically, the dinner reception starts at 7pm. You arrived at 7pm, shake the couple's hand, give them the ang pow (which is a form of "gift or blessing" in currency) and then sit at your designated table. One table sits 10 people. If the couple is a close friend of yours, you are usually assigned to a table among your other friends. If the couple is an aquaintance, then you will have to sit with 9 other strangers.

So you endure small talk and niceties with the people of the same table until the food is served at 8.30pm. During this time, you hardly get to meet the groom or bride. They don't have the time to come over for a chat. The amount of lines of conversation you get to make with the bride or the groom can be counted within 10 fingers. That's right, you attend a wedding and you have less than 10 lines of sentences with the happy couple.

When the food is served, you have to endure more small talk until the fourth or fifth course. On the fifth course, usually a prawn or a fish, the Master of Ceremony (MC) will go to the lectern and either tell you a long story of how the couple met, which hardly interest you at all (well, it's interesting at first but after the 20th wedding dinner, these are just, meh) and then a toast will be suggested.. er.. imposed. Now Chinese wedding's toast is not your usual speech by groom or bride or best man followed by a toast of drink. Chinese wedding dinner's "toast" is a roomful of people screaming on top of their lung for yum seng (which means cheers). Not just one time but 3 times.

After this, it's back to small talk for another 4-5 meals. I always wish the food will come faster so I can leave the ballroom. Anyway, when the desert is served, rejoice, it's time to say goodbye. Taking a glance at my watch, I am not surprise that the time is not 10.30pm, which means that I have spent 3.5 hours doing small talk and stuffing myself with food. Counting the journey from home to the hotel and back (and if you are lucky, there's no traffic), one would have spend almost 4 or 4.5 hours. Interesting way to spend the weekend eh? Ya ya.. I know.. it's once in a lifetime.. but not for me. I have attended 20+ dinners, remember? There's more to come I can tell you that especially since I have a big team at work.

2. Chinese wedding dinner is expensive
So, it's the couple's HAPPY day right? But why am I forking out rm80 for that dinner? I mean, I have already fork out 5 hours of my weekend. Why am I paying another rm80? The funny thing about wedding dinner is that the amount you pay depends on the type of restaurant and how close you are to the couple. So, if this particular couple loves to have high class wedding dinner at some fabulous expensive hotel, you, as the guest, is expected to pay around rm80 to rm100. You don't have to do it, but when you asked people, they will tell you that it is expected. The market rate is rm80 - rm100. MARKET RATE? What's this? Am I in KLSE or NYSE? Wedding dinner has a market rate? Yup.. sadly that is true.

If the wedding dinner in a normal restaurant, then the going rate is rm60. So, you see, we are not only celebrating the couple's happy occasion, we are expected to pay for their choice of dinner location. If they are high society, well, you'd be eating bread for the rest of the week because you will be really broke after the dinner. For my non-Malaysian readers, rm80 is equivalent to 15 lunches.

But but but... it's once in a lifetime wor! Why you so stingy? Well, I have attended 20+ dinners, remember?

BTW, if you can't make it to the wedding, you are still expected to give ang pow. The market rate is around 60% of the amount you'd pay if you are going. It truly is good business, this wedding thingy.

3. Chinese wedding dinner is fake
Like I said before, the guests hardly had a chance to talk to the groom/bride. People are there for a few reasons. One of the reasons is to give face to the parents of the groom/bride either because you are a relative or you have business dealings with the parents. Another reason is that these couple endured your wedding, so it is your turn to suffer. Most of the people go because it is some sort of obligations. Now, please don't contradict me. Be honest with yourself. Do you REALLY rather go to the dinner and not spend quiet time at home relaxing? And if you'd rather spend time with your baby at home, why are you here? Aren't you a fake, then?

4. Chinese wedding dinner is not a happy occasion, really
The couples are tired after the morning's ordeal (if I have the time, I'll write about this). The parents are tired too, because there was a feast in the morning at the groom's house and typically there are a lot of people cramped into a 22x75 house with no air cond and under the unforgiving heat. So, by the time they go to the hotel ballroom, they are probably exhausted, dehydrated and spent.

The guests are not exactly delirious with happiness due to reason 1-3 above. If the guests participated in the morning feast, then they are probably tired too.. and grouchy because they have spent one whole day for this occassion. In today's luncheon, for example, the friends of the groom (there were 7 of us) share a table. Then, a couple, the groom's cousin and his wife, sat with us. During the whole lunch, they didn't say a word because they don't know us and we talked about subject which did not interest them at all. And none of us made the effort to strike a conversation with them because we know we won't see them again after the lunch. I don't think these two are really enjoying this occasion.

The waiters and photographers are not really laughing either because it is hard work to serve 10 people in a table for 10 course dinner. There's plates to change, there's drink to pour and there's endless requests for beer, sodas, cutleries, chilies, etc

The MC or the ushers are not thrill because these people are the bride or the groom's friend and instead of enjoying the rm80 meal that they paid, they now have to do all the hardwork! The MC is probably too nervous to eat anyway. So, you paid rm80 and you feel like you are facing the executives at work when doing a presentation.

I think the only people who are really happy in a Chinese wedding dinners are the restaurant/hotel owners because they are the one laughing all the way to the bank.

Ok, that's about all I can think of right now. I have 30 more minutes to prepare myself for Emily's wedding. I wish I could have more time to write on my blog, but you know, duty calls.

And if you think I am cynical or that I don't have a big heart or if you think what I said is wrong, please comment in this blog. My only request is that you must have "endure" over 20 wedding dinners and that you never, in any of these 20 dinners, feel that they were a waste of time and expensive and that you went to these weddings willingly without any hidden agenda - that you are truly happy for the couple. If you meet all these criterias, by all means, shoot me down.

Heck.. I'll compromise and lower it to less than 10 dinners.
.

3 comments:

rotitelur said...

I agree with you but not everyone dare to be different because we have to respect both parents. D's mother sent me an email after our wedding, thanked me for allowing her to hold his son wedding the way she planned for 36 years.

Bahija said...

Aiiiii, I've been to TOO MANY wedding dinners, till I 'pok kai' and scared. Generally, I agree with your points, a lot of the things are a waste of time, energy, resources and money. It does more harm on the guest side as well leh. However, for those closed friends, I'm truly happy and attended their wedding with 'good heart', not fake one. There were some rare occasion where I got to meet the long lost friends. I'm more towards anti-chinese ways of doing things - most of the times, those 'boh leong sim' china ah pek just tipu duit aje, there are also some koyak mentality bride and groom ( including their family ) who take wedding dinner as an opportunity to earn $$$. There are also couple who got into huge wedding debt - aiii, what for leh ??? ...then again, the older society has this expectation, want to show face / show off or they believe in the tradional ways of doing things, who dare to challenge?...to avoid a happy marriage into a bad family relationship, i think majority will give in and follow aje ...

Hmmm, may be I should blog how I dream of my wedding ceremony to be like :) ...

Bahija said...

I just want to say 'Kiew', odissi latest blog also talk bout wedding.....haha

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