September 12, 2011

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Everything about a Taiwanese wedding

Because in Taiwan you only marry once

I think you will hardly find a straight foreign guy, who visited Taiwan and wasn't impressed by the beauty and the charms of the female population. Taiwan is loaded with beautiful young women, that would make you fall for them instantly. It sounds broad and subjective you may say, but I would sign this statement any time. Once you visit, you will agree with me. You can argue about what real beauty is, but young women in Taiwan place great importance on how they look and how they carry themselves. Dressing tastefully, being graceful and polite, acting cute, a little sexy, but still remaining soft, sometimes even docile, are some of the social norms Taiwanese girls face, when they are growing into young women. And that has a certain indefinable charm that most non-Taiwanese men can't resist. I have to say I am one of them.

It's no wonder that many Taiwanese girls date foreigners, especially White guys, which is according to my subjective impression the most common combination in interracial relationships here. There is a certain mutual attraction, which would be an interesting topic for another post, so I won't go into that here. What oftentimes starts as a crush or romance, becomes deep love and eventually a decision has to be made: To marry and not to marry? And most of the time the answer is... marry!

If you are one of these foreign guys thinking about marrying a Taiwanese girl, this is the right post for you. I will tell you what to expect and what kind of organizational skills you will need to have in order to plan and pull through a Taiwanese wedding. I have so far been on 6 weddings in Taiwan and one of them was my own. In fact, it ended just yesterday, so I'm still very deeply involved in this topic. I will definitely need few weeks to shift my mind on other things, because you can't just erase few months of stressful planning and organizing something that is not really about you... but let's get back to the start.

So you've met the cutest girl in the world and she's from Taiwan, a country you have not really known well before, but suddenly you've become very interested. You Google information and of course come to my blog and see how beautiful it is here and you just can't resist dreaming about moving here and living happily ever after with your Taiwanese sweetheart. And after you make the decision to settle here for her, you will need to marry. At first you can register, to get the legal documentation (Alien Residence Certificate, read more in Chinese here), so they don't send you home, after your tourist visa expires. But right after that, you will need to start organizing the wedding. And that's the part where I'd like to share my experience with you and give you useful tips.

My dearest friend Cherry entering her wedding banquet.

1. IT'S NOT (ONLY) YOUR WEDDING

After extensive observations, I have come to these simple conclusions regarding an average modern Taiwanese wedding from a perspective of a foreigner, who took part in one:

- It's a gathering of many people, over 100 is very common
- It's a standardized 12-course lunch/dinner with exquisite/expensive Chinese food
- You will not know most of the invited people at your wedding
- Your in-laws will get involved in the planning, the less the better for you
- The wedding will not be about you, you will just play a side role
- Most of the attention will be diverted to the beautiful bride and her parents' "good face"

Of course all this depends on the character of your in-laws. There are some modern Taiwanese parents, who give their daughter and son-in-law the freedom to decide how their wedding should look like, but that's mostly an exception. The thing is: Most Taiwanese think they know, how a good wedding should be and going into deep discussions about that is a battle you can't win. I just hope that my Taiwanese friends allow me to see things with my own foreign eyes and accept my different views. One of the things I keep telling my wife is, that Taiwanese weddings are very standardized. Following things are more or less obligatory on every Taiwanese wedding banquet according to what I saw so far:

- Every guest will give you angpao 紅包 upon entering, it's a red envelope with money.
- In exchange for angpao, every guest will get xibing 喜餅 or wedding cookies.
- The bride usually changes her gown 3 times and you'll have to enter the hall with her.
- You'll sit at the main table next to the in-laws and other close relatives or persons of honor.
- You'll say ganbei 乾杯 (cheers in Chinese) a lot, then raise your glass and sip a little.
- Ganbei will usually be followed by lots of xiexie 謝謝, which means thank you.
- You will ganbei and xiexie at your main table, as well as tour all the other tables.
- A short clip of the bride's and groom's love story will be shown to everybody.
- Speeches will be made, either by the parents, by a person of honor or by you and the bride.
- At the end you greet every guest at the exit, give away candy and take a photo with them.

Inside this framework, you are more or less free to create some extra things such as funny games, lucky draws, speeches by people from your life, cutting of the cake or pouring the champagne or performances by hired musicians. The latter of course costs more and will usually be expected on wedding dinners, where the father of the bride is an important person.

Shark fin soup, although a controversial dish around the world, is considered a very rare and precious dish in Taiwan and is therefore served on many weddings.

2. WEDDING PREPARATIONS

The most stressful time is few months before the wedding, when you need to prepare tons of things, involve a lot of people and spend a lot of money. Below is the list of all the common things, that needs to be done in advance, if you want to have a smooth procedure on your big day:

Pre-wedding ceremonies and customs: There are a lot of various ceremonies prior to the banquet, some of religious nature, some just old traditions in honor of the parents or for good luck. In my case, I didn't need to follow any of them, so I can't share any experience in this regard. There are truly many of them and depend from one part of Taiwan to another and from family to family. I think unless they're not related to you paying money, it should be no problem for you to just follow what you're told. Some of these traditions are described here and here (in Chinese).

Betrothal money: Pinjin or 聘金 is actually comparable to the concept of the bridal price in old English traditions. This idea of paying your future wife's parents a substantial amount of money is shocking to many foreigners. Some would say "You want me to buy your daughter?". Luckily, it's a tradition, that is not obligatory and I myself didn't need to follow it. The custom says, that since the daughter will leave the family, she would not be able to take care of the parents when they are old, so they deserve a compensation. If you truly believe this and pay, then god bless you, you must be the perfect Taiwanese son in-law. But I would suggest you to ask your Taiwanese sweetheart about pinjin way before you even plan to propose to her. It can be a problem, if her parents insist on this, a big problem. Cost: Small pinjin may be 120.000 NTD, big one could reach the ridiculous number of 300.000 NTD! That's a range between 3000-7500 EUR/4000-10.000 USD!

Choose the date of your banquet: You would think that something like choosing a date is a simple thing in Taiwan. No way! Only certain dates can be chosen, the ones that are considered "good" or "lucky" in accordance with the Chinese lunar calendar and old superstitions. The result is, that in a year certain dates are overbooked with wedding banquets and it's hard to find a free restaurant, while others are not booked at all. Our wedding banquet took place on a very popular day and in our restaurant many weddings were held at the same time, which resulted in random strangers passing by. One mistakenly sat at one of our tables, only to realize, that she's at the wrong wedding. But not only choosing a date is important. You also need to make a decision, whether to hold a wedding lunch or wedding dinner. Lunch starts between 12.00-13.00, dinner is scheduled for between 18.00 and 19.00. The duration of a common wedding is between 2 and 3 hours. Cost: None.

Finding and booking a restaurant: Taiwan is full of these generic restaurants, where wedding banquets are held. You could marry in a hotel, which is more expensive. I think most would go for the first option. These restaurants have standardized procedures and will have staff, that will take care of some things during your big day such as serving food, playing music and helping the bride. However, you need to pick a restaurant, that has good service reputation and good food. Your in-laws may go to the restaurant and try the food and if they like it, you get green light and can continue with other things. If they don't like it, you have a problem. Best is to book a restaurant 6 months ago. Cost: 10.000 NTD/250 EUR/340 USD (only the booking fee).

Deciding the number of tables: A small Taiwanese wedding will have around 10 tables, a medium-sized around 20 and a big one 30 or more. Each table is set for 10 people. It's not good to have five or less people at one table, in that case you better group them with other half-empty tables in order to save space, food and money. The food will be served in a traditional Chinese way, where it will be shared on a round table and passed from person to person, so efficiency in this regard is necessary. Cost: from 7000-15000NTD per table + 10% service charge, 175-376 EUR/240-513 USD, but you pay this after your wedding dinner with the red packages given to you by guests. Booking fee is deducted. If you have 10 tables per 10.000 NTD each, you will pay 110.000 NTD (2760 EUR/3770 USD).

Round tables with a smaller central platfom are an integral part of a Taiwanese wedding. Food is passed from person to person by turning that part in circles.

Wedding pictures: This is one of the almost unavoidable things, if you want to marry a Taiwanese girl, as this is one of things she will be most likely nonnegotiable on. Taking wedding photos for the sake of memory is called 拍婚紗照 (pāi hūnshā zhào or lit. taking wedding dress pictures). These photos will be shared online (like Facebook or blog) and in a printed album, on small cards, a poster at the entrance of your wedding and finally in a clip, that will be running nonstop during your banquet. These photos are an integral part of modern Taiwanese culture (photographers are making very good money in Taiwan, that's for sure). A photo shoot will usually take all day, especially in summer is brutal, because it will commonly be shot outside. Couples would decide for three beautiful settings, of which are most common old historic houses from Qing dynasty, natural backgrounds such as a beach and a modern building, such as Taipei 101 and others. I can tell you that posing for tons of photos all day under the hot sun was one of the toughest things I've ever done in my life so far. But we men just need to make our wives happy, right? :-) On the wedding photo shoot day it's all about the bride, who desires to be a beautiful princes in a dreamy background and if the photos turn out really beautiful, she will proudly share them with all her female friends, who will give her tons of compliments. You would not wanna take that joy away from your wife just because the price could be ridiculously high, wouldn't you? Cost: Most common number is 30.000 NTD/750 EUR/1030 USD for a shoot, but if you have a friend as a photographer you can get them for below 20.000 NTD/500 EUR/685 USD, however I know some people, who payed 70.000/1750 EUR/2400 USD or more. Keep in mind, that you will usually only get 20 to 30 photos, in the latter case, that would make 80 USD per one single photo.

Taking wedding photos is considered one of the most romantic things in a Taiwanese woman's life. If you start to argue about the cost, you'll have trouble.

Wedding cookie: The wedding cookie is one of these things I could not understand since the beginning. You may need to buy over 100 wedding cookies and give every of your guest one box of them, after they give you the money in the angpao (or red envelope). You can also give two less expensive boxes of cookies, if you want, as long as the sum of both together reaches the expected norm. This things will of course cost you, at least 1000 EUR for 100 people. It's expected by an unwritten Taiwanese cultural norm, that a box wedding cookies should be between 400-500 NTD (10-12 EUR), but some even pay over 700 NTD per box (17 EUR/24 USD). Multiply that by for example 150 people and you will get the cost of 105.000 NTD/2630 EUR/3600 USD. That's of course ridiculously high for someone like me, who just doesn't understand this concept. Just remember: If someone gives you angpao, you need to give him the wedding cookie. Cost: Usually for a small wedding 100 cookies is the norm, the cost can vary from 40.000 NTD to over 70.000 NTD (from 1000 EUR/1370 USD on).

Wedding cookies can be traditional or modern, both is acceptable.

Invitation cards: The invitation cards are also one of the things you will need to pick together with your future wife. You will need to make a choice and ask a certain number of people you'd like to invite and add the number of the people your in-laws will force you to invite. Once you have the number of all the people that confirmed their attendance, you will need to print out the wedding invitation cards and give them in person or send by mail. The card will include a small message for your guests, together with the name of your and your wife-to-be's parents and the address of the restaurant, where your wedding will take place. Usually a small business card of the restaurant with a map, that leads to the restaurant, will be added. Cost: If you print 100 invitation cards, you will pay between 20-60 NTD for a card. If you pay 30, your cost will be 3000 NTD (75 EUR/100 USD).

There are thousands of wedding invitation designs to choose from.

Deciding who to invite: That will be a tough choice, believe me. First of all, approximately half of the tables will be filled with people your in-laws will invite. These will be various relatives and friends, who's weddings your parents have attended in the past and many of them had to came to return the angpao... with interest. Of course they're also there to honor the proud father, who's daughter is getting married. This event is one of the highlights of every Taiwanese elder and the more people see his happiness (even, if in reality he's still not sure, if he can trust you), the better. It is possible that the parents will collect the angpao money received from their guests and that may be the part of your wedding where you will feel it's not really your wedding. The other visitors will be related to your wife, such as old school mates and coworkers and other friends. Most of them will come, because they are really happy for your wife and won't feel that they were forced to come, because of the cultural norms. A few of them might, though. It's always a tricky thing who to invite, because the amount of money in the red envelope matters a lot for Taiwanese people. For example, if in the past you have attended your friend's wedding and given him 2400 NTD in the angpao, he needs to attend your wedding and give you at least 200 NTD more, that means 2600 NTD. That is all reasonable (in Taiwanese eyes), but you have a big problem, if someone attends your wedding and gives you 10.000 NTD (250 EUR/340 USD), which is considered a big angpao. Some elders will do that in order to impress your proud father-in-law. You will need to say thank you many times after the wedding, however you will need to pay this money back... with interest. Next time his son or daughter marry, you will need to give at least 10200 NTD to them. That of course is beyond my Western common sense, but I would say getting big angpao from one person is not really good. Taiwanese even keep a book of how much who payed, so that they remember to pay back with interest in the future. If they don't great shame will come over the family, people will gossip and face will be lost. That of course is a disaster for most Taiwanese elders and you would not want that to happen. Keep all that in mind, when you are pondering over who to invite. 
Cost: A lot of nerves.

Princess from Taiwan
Wedding gowns and the tuxedo: It's a custom, that the tuxedo is bought by your Taiwanese mother-in-law (I blogged about it here), which is one of the few things you as the groom can enjoy. The cost of a good quality tuxedo together with a customized shirt would be around 10.000 NTD (250 EUR/340 USD). When it comes to the bride, things are more complicated. She will want to have at least 3 new dresses, a white one, then usually a colored one and a traditional Chinese qipao 旗袍. There are several shops that offer borrowing the gowns, which is cheaper than buying them. There's also the option, that you order from an online shop in China, it will be a good cheap alternative. In Taipei, there are several wedding streets, one near Zhongshan MRT, one in Xinyi and one near MiramarCost: Three wedding gowns together with accessories may cost you around 10.000 NTD (250 EUR/340 USD).

Wine and liquor: There are several wine shops in Taiwan, that import good wine from all over the world, but France, Italy, Chile and America seem to be very common. Almost most Taiwanese prefer red wine, so it's a kind of a norm (interestingly, in my country white wine is more common). Aside from the wine, you will also be suggested by your in-laws to buy few bottles of liquor, whiskey will be preferred. Taiwanese, unlike my countrymen, don't take alcohol too well. If they drink a glass (usually 1 dcl only), they might get tipsy, if two or three glasses, they might get drunk. Few shots of whiskey will speed up the process even faster. That's good, because you don't need to buy a lot of wine, 1-2 bottles per table should be enough. So if you have 10 tables, 12-15 red wine bottles should suffice and maybe 3-5 whiskeys. Cost: It can cost you between 3000-5000 NTD ( from 75 EUR/100 USD on).

The helpers: During your wedding you will need several people to manage various things for you. A friend or a close relative will need to welcome every guest at the entrance, where they will sign their names, give angpao and receive the wedding cookie in exchange. The make-up stylist will take care of your, your mother-in-law's and your wife's make-up, hair and help her with the changing of the clothes. A moderator will  manage some of the event preparations, announce you and your wife prior to your entering into the main hall and moderate the event for you. For that each of them will get an angpao at the end of the wedding. And to my surprise, the auntie, who works for the restaurant and "helps" you with some small things during the wedding such as pressing the button of the lift will claim an angpao, too. Cost: A friend or sibling might get 1200-2400 NTD for managing your receivedangpaos, while a make-up stylist might cost you around 8000 NTD (200 EUR/275 USD) on average, a moderator from 6000-8000 NTD. And you will need to give around 2000 NTD to an auntie, who works for the restaurant.

Wedding photographer and camera operator: You will have no time to take photos or shoot videos, since you will be constantly following a protocol. Sadly, you will barely have time to eat and talk to your friends. So if you wanna remember all your embarrassing and all your wife's glorious moments, you will need to hire a guy, who will walk around and take photos of the "happy" guests and another one, who will make video clips and later put them together into a short movie. Cost: Photographer may cost you at least 8000 NTD, the movie will cost you at least 8000 NTD as well. That's a proud sum of 16.000 NTD or 400 EUR/550 USD.

3. THE BIG DAY: YOUR BIG FAT TAIWANESE WEDDING

The big day will be hectic. If you have chosen to have a wedding lunch, even more, because you have only few hours of preparation time. We came to the restaurant at 9.30 and my wife's make-up and hair still wasn't ready by 12.30! The basic procedure of a wedding day is standardized, but you still have to plan some arrangements, such as how many times do you want to enter the hall with the bride, when will you play the wedding clip, who will speak when, what games will be played etc. But most likely it will be like this: Few hours before the wedding starts, in our case lunch, you will just sit next to your wife in the small make-up room, where her hair and make-up will being done. As you well know, Taiwanese women need a lot of time to make themselves look pretty and before a wedding they're even more peculiar, so it really takes time. Taiwanese visitors are always late, so if you said that the wedding starts at 12, most of the hall will be filled by 12.45 and that's the best time to start the banquet and enter the event with your wife. An hour before her friends and relatives will keep on coming inside the make-up room to greet her and wish her gongxi 恭喜, which means congratulations. When the bride is finally done, she will wear the huge white dress and head with you towards the main hall. Someone will need to help her with the dress and you will need to walk very slowly with her. Next to the entrance point, you will need to wait for the announcer to say few words and the lights will be dimmed. After she's finished, you will finally enter together with her and people will look at you two with great interest, take photos, in the best case cheer and clap. After that you will be seated at the main table and the moderator will ask a person of honor to say few words about you and your wife. After that the first few courses will be served, it will be ganbei'd, gonxi'd and xiexie'd at the main table. But you won't have a lot of time to eat, as you and your wife will need to leave the table soon in order for her to change clothes and re-enter with you again. This will be repeated twice and after the last time the wedding will end very soon. In between, speeches can be held and games can be played, where you give away small gifts. Some of the obligatory things is the bride's giving away of the wedding bouquet to the unwed female friends and the wedding clip will be played for the whole audience, where you and your wife show excerpts of your lives and add snippets from your love story to the mix. The feast ends, when you tour around all the tables with your parents and ganbei with everybody. After that, the guests start to eat the dessert and you move to the exit, where you hold a basket of candies and wait for the guests to finish eating. Everyone will pass by and gongxi you in exchange for a small gift, candy and taking a photo with you. Once you finish this with all of the guests, your wedding officially ends.

Enjoy some photos of my friends' wedding, the wedding of Cherry and Jackie:

At the entrance photos of the couple will be shown and offered on cards.

Friends will help you to collect angpao.

First entering of the banquet is considered as one of the most important parts of the wedding. The bride will usually enter with a long white gown.

Taiwanese weddings usually start 30-45 minutes late, as Taiwanese are not really punctual. You begin, when 80% of the tables are full.

Most weddings start with raw fish, which are dipped in wasabi.

Sea food is considered special, because it's expensive. It means you treat your guests well.

A moderator will connect the dots on your special day.

Speeches will be held in the parents' and couple's honor.

You may pour the champagne together with your husband.

People will ask the couple to drink like this.

Some couples exchange sweet words with each other. In this case Jacky made Cherry smile and surely must have said something very sweet.

You will ganbei and ganbei until you can't anymore.

Every Taiwanese wedding ends with taking of the photos with the couple.

4. HOW MUCH DOES A TAIWANESE WEDDING COST?

To know, how much an average Taiwanese wedding costs click here>>

You will get information in New Taiwanese Dollars, Euros, US Dollars, Singaporean Dollars, Hong Kong Dollars and Malaysian Ringgit. This is just for your reference, if you wanna do it in Taiwan ;-)

5. AFTER THE WEDDING: COUNTING MONEY AND FEELING RELEASED

After your wedding ends, you will feel very released. The restaurant will clean the tables, all you need to do is take your things back home, such as the left over wedding cookies, the poster, the small name cards, gifts and various things from clothes, make up and other accessories. And then you'll need to pay the restaurant with the angpao you got, which will be like two thirds of the whole money. The rest is yours. But it might well happen, that you'll realize that you spend more than what you got. One of the things couples hope is that the money will cover the honeymoon. That's possible on weddings, where the couple is Taiwanese. But if you're a foreigner, who can't invite 100 people from his own circle of friends and relatives, the cost might well be over the received angpao money. Trust me, I'm speaking from my own experience. Nevertheless, you will be glad it's over. These are the things that might await you the following days: The parents will have tons of questions about the feedback of your guests: "Did everybody like the food?" or "Did they think everything was ok?" or "Were there any complaints?" will be the most common questions. If your answer is yes, they will be happy and you can move on with your life. If not, they will be anxious and in worst case, they might call the unsatisfied guests and try to explain themselves in order to save face. You will also be asked about the amount of angpao, that was paid by the individual guests. The in-laws will want to keep the book, that holds this information in order to repay with a bigger angpao at some of the future weddings. After all this is over, you can slowly move on to the hardest part: Your marriage. The Taiwanese wedding, although challenging and stressful, will be nothing compared to that. Being married to a Taiwanese wife surely has many rewards, but it can be very challenging as well, especially if you live in Taiwan, but that's stuff for the movies... or for another blog post.

Counting the angpao money will be your highlight of the day. But you may soon realize, that you spent much more than you got in return. However, blessings are priceless, right?

5. MY THOUGHTS, TIPS AND CONCLUSIONS AFTER THE WEDDING

It's for me very hard to give useful tips to other foreigners who might or will marry a Taiwanese girl. It all depends on what type of person you are (careful or careless, shy or outgoing...). It also depends how traditional your in-laws are and how involved they want to be. And don't forget to meet your wife's and guest's expectations, that can be very tough as well. In my case, I tried to comply and follow as best as I could, be it before or during the wedding. I felt like I'm in a movie, where the character is a bit lost. The first entering was very stressful for me, because I was very nervous and stiff and worried about many things. After the second time, I felt better, because I drank a little and eased up. When we entered for the third time, most people were focused on eating and drinking and I was happy to see that some tables were having a good time. But there were other tables, where everyone was quietly eating their rice with very serious faces. Fact is, you can't have a perfect wedding and you can't make everybody happy and joyful, some are there for the sake of face, some are there to tag along with a friend. You just have to focus on your and your wife's friends, those are the people, that might matter in your life in Taiwan. And of course your in-laws. I have to say that my wedding in Taiwan was so far one of the most challenging things I've ever experienced, but it was also very rewarding, especially the sight of my beautiful wife in all these dresses: She was probably the most beautiful since I've met her and she was truly the princess she deserved to be. I'm so happy for her and very released, that the feedback was mostly positive. Even the often very critical in-laws have not said a word. For you all this might be a lot to digest and you might feel intimidated, after reading my post. But hey, it can only get worse! Or better! How could I know? This was my story and now I'm a real man in Taiwan. If you want to be like me, get your act together and put on the best show of your life! For your wife, for your in-laws and for everybody else. Because that's what they want and that's what you gotta give in exchange for a life in Taiwan with your sweetest Taiwanese darling.

Can you really disappoint these beautiful puppy eyes?

Bonus! Vocabulary of common Chinese wedding blessings:

恭喜, 恭喜! Gōngxǐ, gōngxǐ! - Congratulations!
白頭偕老! Bái tóu xié lǎo! - Grow old together until you get white hair!
永浴愛河! Yǒng yù ài hé! - Bathe together in the river of love!
百年好合! Bǎi nián hǎo hé! - Good match for 100 years!
幸福美滿! Xìng fú měi mǎn! - Good fulfillment!

Another bonus! Some common Taiwanese wedding superstitions:

You can't marry, if you're 19, 29, 39: Problem is the number 9, which is seen as bad.
You can't get married during the ghost month 鬼月: You can't be happy that month.
Pregnant women should not attend weddings: Her happiness might clash with yours.
You can't eat your own wedding cookie: You will eat your own happiness. (Duh!)
After you are married, you can't attend other people's weddings for 3 months: Bad luck.

Related Taiwanese wedding posts:

Lily murmurs in English: Attending my friend's wedding dinner
Hipper: 銷空耶家庭的第一場婚禮~1.前傳 and 銷空耶家庭的第一場婚禮~2.正傳

[First photo 林志玲 of with courtesy of Longines, other photos by MKL, 2011 ]

54 comments:

  1. wOw!!! all the pointers complete ... it pretty much the same at my own wedding. Congrats to you again ... where's your own photos?

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  2. @Wenny: We had a photographer, he will send us selected photos in the upcoming days, when he chooses them. I had no time to do anything by just be the model for other photographers :)

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  3. This post made me realize that I don't have a dream wedding. I mean, I want to get married but I don't have a dream wedding in particular.

    Damn, I'm weird.

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  4. @Gnetch: Haha.. no worries. I think when you meet the right man, you will load him with tons of requests for the wedding, no doubt he will not be able to escape it :P Women get these ideas pretty quickly.

    @Nancy: Thank you.

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  5. Hello MKL,

    It's exactly one of the best blog-posts that I've ever read in my life so far!
    Thanks much more than a lot for sharing all these useful information, your experiences, and such a good news that you and your wife have. The real story is always moving, especially when it's spoken out by a heart who does put a lot of effort with full power. My emotion comes up much when reading it. It's so touching that tears were even in my eyes. It's rare and precious. Not only 'cause the result of the webbing is of course beautiful and I'm happy about that, but- YOU REALLY DO A GREAT JOB! I don't know you much and only reading your posts and following your blogs, but according to what I've known about Taiwan and Non-Taiwanese people, honestly, it's really stressful even when it comes to Taiwanese couples, and it's even more challenging especially when we know that the differences in concepts between Chinese society and the West are so much, and very hard to be understood even to me who was raised and is living here.

    The rewards that I see in the view of my eyes are not just from people's satisfactions and compliments, of course they are an important role of the process and accomplishment of the wedding, but to me, the most important thing is that the whole process and result which mean one of the most important and historical marks and highlights in the relationship/marriage and your life. It's a huge challenge, but each of the huge challenge represents a training to who we are, and it comes with an exam to ourselves at the same time. Besides getting the achievement that we deserve after putting the efforts of the mind with our life, bringing joy to someone who we love and having all happiness together, the other biggest reward of such a great result is that the reward means we're growing up more and more, and being a better man. Not only as you said that you are a real Taiwan man (Many men can't do it no matter where they are from and even though they are from here!), but also to me, you are a 'real man.'

    I'm happy for you guys, and you guys are awesome.
    CONGRATULATION TO YOU AND YOUR WIFE! 恭喜, 恭喜!

    ReplyDelete
  6. @suinfinitor: Thank you so much for your comment, it really touched me. I spend all day to put this post together and I really hope it will be useful to future grooms from Western countries, who will plan to marry a Taiwanese girl :) Thanks for the 恭喜, my wife and I feel very appreciated by your sincere words :)

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  7. 'buying bride' is somewhat traditional for many nations (for caucasians its an offence not doing so), thats not always some money, it can be a expensive/exquisite gift to bride's parents, other nations keep it at least 'symbolic' that does not cost anything, but require some action, in form of a game

    thanks for nice post.

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  8. @Lulu for caucasians its an offence not doing so

    That's a very broad statement, since Caucasian only relates to a race, not a culture. It is an old tradition known to most cultures around the world, I agree on that part. Thanks for your comment :)

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  9. @ MKL : russian meaning for 'caucasians' is not that broad, its a group of nations that live in Caucasus region ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasus with map ), sorry for misunderstanding )
    btw, they will not accept money, its an offence too, a herd of sheeps is traditional ) but can be replaced with any other acceptable gift, even in soviet union times acceptable gifts been: TV or a fridge ;)

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  10. @Lulu - "Caucasians" as a term for white people is an Americanism, one based on the long-disproved and racist idea that white Europeans developed separately to the rest of the human race in the Caucasus mountains. As a dmonstration of the problems this causes, consider that Americans do not include Hispanic people as "Caucasians" even though they are often descended from white Europeans and indistinguishable from French, British etc. Even more ridiculously, real Caucasians (as in, people from the Caucasus mountains) are not "Caucasian" according to American usuage.

    Your usuage is correct, it is the American usuage which is wrong - in the UK we normally just say 'white' or 'European'.

    @MKL - I guess most of what you describe here as 'Taiwanese' really is 'Chinese' (especially the hongbao 红包 - is angbao the Minnan pronunciation?) as the traditionas are pretty much the same, perhaps a bit more traditional in Taiwan. I did, however, once go to an aboriginal wedding up in the mountains - I was invited by JB (AKA The Writing Baron) - and it was a real blast.

    The wedding feast took place in a marquee on a narrow mountain plateau between a sheer precipice on one side and mountain slope on the other. The meal started at 10 AM and included all sorts of wonderful aboriginal dishes. The seat of honour was taken up by a 90+ year old matriarch who gave a rousing rendition of some Karaoke classics. Once the bride and groom appeared it was hard not to smile - the girl was 17 and heavily pregnant, whilst he appeared scarcely older and very embarassed.

    Afterwards we drove off to a mountain pool where we drunkenly swam in the bright afternoon sunlight. There is nowhere more gorgeous than the mountains of Taiwan, and to see them in the sunlight whilst lying in a clear pool of water high in the mountains - well, it was simply a beautiful day.

    Damnit! Now you've got me hankering to go back to Taiwan!

    PS - Agree that Taiwanese girls are some of the most beautiful in Asia, but I would say that the piękne dziewczyny of Poland beat them by a narrow margin in terms of looks, and much greater margin in terms of drinking capacity!

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  11. ahh yes, there's a saying here that goes "your marriage is your decision but your wedding will be your parents' and in-laws' decision!"

    with the exception of the betrothal money bit it's pretty much the same for mauritian chinese weddings. my guess is that ppl prbbly aren't that "traditional" anymore. brides never used to change their wedding dresses, now it's "fashionable" to have the pouffy white dress for church, a nearly similar dress (usually still white) for the banquet and a sleek coloured gown for post-food dancing.

    the same applies for the wedding cookies, it used to be traditional to give out sugar coated almonds as a little souvenir now ppl are getting a lot more creative with personalised place mats or little porcelain figurines of the bride and groom.

    it's interesting how over time, ppl mix tradition with modern/fashionable practices

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  12. That's quite nice and interesting to know my culture in English ^^. Your posts are so useful that I can show them to my foreign friends for learning about Taiwan.

    CONGRATS! So happy for you both.
    恭喜恭喜。祝你們白頭偕老、百年好合^^

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  13. All worth the trouble, I'm sure. Congrats!

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  14. @Luly: Haha.. I misunderstood, sorry. :) Thanks for explaining :)

    @FOARP: Yes, angbao is red package in Taiwanese language. Yes, these are Chinese traditions, but they all have their unique local twist. A lot of times I ask my wife, if they have a certain tradition as well in China and she would say not. I'm sure, that an aboriginal wedding must be something very interesting as well, hope I get to experience it one day :)

    Ps: I agree, that Polish girls would take more alcohol than Taiwanese princesses ;)

    @Kit: Wow, thanks for sharing your traditions. A lot is changing and transforming in recent years, even here.

    @Katherine: Happy you like my post and link to it, I hope it will be useful :) Thanks for commenting and all the 恭喜 :)

    @Linda: Thank you :)

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  15. These photos are an integral part of modern Taiwanese culture (photographers are making very good money in Taiwan, that's for sure)

    This is partly correct but it's not the photographers that are making the money. The wedding studios make the money and most of those are owned by businessmen. The actual photographers that work for them are on a basic salary of approx NT$20000 / month. If you buy extra photos above and beyond the package, they make some commission but most of them are lucky to clear NT$30000 - 35000 per month.

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  16. wow that is a lot of work putting all this info in your blog. Will be very helpful for many .

    But maybe they should just get married in the courts and have a simpler dinner?

    Too many are not marrying in Taiwan , maybe because of all this formality.

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  17. @MKL - Re-reading, I am very surprised to hear of guests complaining about a wedding which they have been invited to. I suppose I shouldn't be, but something about it shocks my British sensibilities.

    Meanwhile, friends of mine who have tried to get married in Taiwan found the paperwork necessary to do so somewhat, shall we say, "Kafkaesque". Was this your experience?

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  18. @Craig Ferguson: We got to know a lot of free lance photographers, who wanted to charge a lot of money (well, it was a lot to us). In the end we were lucky, that someone was recommended via a friend and we got a very good deal. Sure, not every photographer is doing well in Taiwan, but on average and compared to my country's photographers, they are. Thanks for commenting.

    @Anonymous: Well, many couples would prefer a simpler arrangements, but it's mostly the parents, that force them into these traditions, as the family doesn't wanna lose face. Keep in mind, the elders, who attend as their guests of honor all had the proper traditional wedding. If the bride's parents make something simple, it's like cheating them. Old Taiwanese feel secure, if things are according to customs. Partly because of superstition, but mostly because they don't wanna lose face.

    @FOARP: Taiwanese weddings are very contradictive. It's your wedding, but it's actually your in-law's wedding and it's payed by the angbao the guests provide... at the same time that money is "for you", for your good luck and blessing... but when someone from your guests has wedding (or their son, daughter), you will need to repay the angbao with interest. That means that your angbao money is borrowed and needs to be returned in many cases... Maybe it's hard to follow, haha. But that's what it technically is. So guests might complain that the food was not good, the wedding cookie was not tasty even though it should be about you... well, ut's terribly complicated.

    As for ARC.. paperwork was complicated back home in Europe, I had to go and verify and translate to English many documents in the courts of my country. After I got the stamp and the visa from the Taiwan Trade Office, it wasn't that hard. We registered and that's it. I got ARC a month later, but an official was snooping around, unexpectedly rang on our doorbell, interviewed us, took pics, only to prove that I'm not here just to get permanent residency and a permission to work. Is that complicated? Well, it is, but still bearable. It's harder, if you're not white and not from EU, North America or Japan, so I was told.

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  19. "It's no wonder that many Taiwanese girls date foreigners"

    I think it's funny that you say they're hot, then say there's no wonder why they date foreigners with no explanation of why they'd want to date us. Maybe not funny, but interesting.

    Many to most of the foreigners here are English teachers, and many of them are not awesome. I think it would be very Kafkaesque for you to write a post on the dynamics of how some of the most beautiful women here end up with some of the douchiest of the douches from home. You're cool, you put Kafka in your blog title, but please do write this post. I'd be interested in reading it. Lates!

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  20. @I'mWaiGuoToo: This is a post about weddings, not interracial relationships. I can't cover all topics in one post, this one's already very long :) As for "not awesome douchy" foreigners dating "most beautiful women" in Taiwan, that's a very subjective observation. You can write that post yourself, I'm gonna pass, thanks.

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  21. Sure, not every photographer is doing well in Taiwan, but on average and compared to my country's photographers, they are.

    I suspect you're confusing revenue with income.

    As someone who works in the industry, I can tell you that the average income for photographers in Taiwan is no more than it is for the average worker anywhere here, and is likely even slightly less. Standard rates for photography in Taiwan are relatively low.

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  22. Heh, sure, but I don't have a Taiwan blog or I would write it. I don't think it's that subjective an argument though unless "Asians have black hair" is subjective as well.

    If you're interested, I'd submit it for you to post here. In my mind there's nothing more interesting about being an expat then observing the relationship between expats and locals. It's a bit different everywhere you go. It's obviously not always the case, but extra douche factor foreigner with crazy hot local girl is a pretty common thing here.

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  23. Why there are the photos of others???? XDDDD

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  24. @I'mWaiGuoToo: Sorry, I will pass your submission. I think you just have many excuses :P You don't need a Taiwan blog to post your interesting musings. Don't forget, you're an expat, too. Even if you're observing others, it doesn't mean that others aren't observing you. They are probably thinking: "Oh, that's that waiguo who keeps observing others, while I'm walking around town with the hottest chick..." If you ask me, I'd rather change with these according to you "douchy foreigners with hot local girls" than you. If you only do observations and no action, no wonder you get frustrated by others' success. Sure, I don't know how much time you spend observing, you're probably a student at Shida, right? Well, then you have a lot of time and that area is full of foreigners, so it's possible to have few hours of daily observations. Not sure, but you can tell me. Cheers! ;)

    @Hipper: Haha.. well, I couldn't take pics of my own one and the photographer hasn't given us ours yet :)

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  25. @Craig Ferguson:
    You may be talking about the income shown on paper, however I know so many photographers, who shoot weddings and wedding photos and don't give out any receipts. On just one weekend they can earn like a normal worker in Taiwan does in a month and don't pay any taxes. I am not saying it is right, but no doubt, it is very common.

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  26. Here in Malaysia, we don't normally give out wedding cookies. We accept the red packets our guests give, and that's it.

    When the groom arrives to pick his bride up, her sisters/friends/cousins would usually make a "deal" with him. They playfully negotiate the value of the red packet the groom has to give them in order to be allowed to see his wife-to-be.


    Like most ladies, I would really love the wedding pictures!

    Lastly, the wedding dinner would most probably be all about how gorgeous the bride appeared and how spectacular the entire ceremony turned out to be. The groom is sort of, um, an escort for the bride.

    Will be waiting to see you and Lily's wedding pictures!

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  27. Gong xi gong xi to the both of you! :D Guess it's not much different from Chinese weddings here, ey? Always lots of tradition involved.

    Malays have a form of pinjin, too. Problems always come up when the guy can't afford what the parents expect. (The amount depends on looks, social standing, education level, stuff like that.)

    I'll be waiting for your pictures!

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  28. Really interesting to read, eventhough I had my fair share of attending weddings as well (besides my own).

    As for the intro...I've seen some girl at TV (her dad was from Italy and her mom from Taiwan), she said she wouldn't want to date a foreigner because they are 'too hairy'. =_=°

    Anyway, Congratulations on your marriage and survival. ;D

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  29. What a great post! its cool that you take so much effort in doing this one :)

    Awesome and congrats :p

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  30. @Jo: I've been in Malaysia and saw how it works. It's much less complicated than in Taiwan, that's for sure. It's more playful and less formal.

    @Nashe: Thank you :) Malay wedding is also something that connects me to my past, I know well what is expected :)

    @Maru: Haha.. foreigners are hairy? I guess on average more than Taiwanese, but is that so bad? :P Thanks for your comment and the congrats :)

    @Netster: Thank you :)

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  31. Taiwan is loaded with beautiful young women, that would make you fall for them instantly.

    Probably would have been true for me if I didn't have my wife with me at the time! LOL!

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  32. Very grand wedding rules ;)
    Aren't all weddings usually all about the bride anyway? :P haha..

    Are you going to share some of your wedding pictures? I really hope so!!! :p
    Congratulations!
    It was very sweet of you to go through with all of that for your wife. She must be so happy on her special day! :3

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  33. @Tommy: Haha..

    @*~kAy~*: I might share some on Facebook, keep stalking :)

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  34. Oooh we also do this kind of wedding in Malaysia.. for the Chinese Malaysians, that is. :)

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  35. I was very confused by some of the chinese on your blog. For instance angpao. I did some research and it seem hongbao is the Mandarin pronunciation and angpao is Taiwanese. Just as a thought, how much of your chinese do you think is Taiwanese?

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  36. @SMG: I use the Taiwanese word, if it's more common in my environment. And some words in Taiwan are commonly pronounced in Taiwanese, not Mandarin, such as "oyster omelette" will be pronounced as "ô-á-chien", not as "kézǎi jiān" even by those who don't speak Taiwanese. It's no big deal in Taiwan to mix both languages.

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  37. Dowries suck - weddings do, too.

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  38. MKL - awesome :) It probably took you long time to write this full-featured article. Really amazing job.

    I wrote sometime ago something from the Guest perspective in regards to the red envelopes: Etiquette of giving red envelopes. I just think this will complete your guide.

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  39. @Mac: Thanks. Yeah, it took me a while, but I was right in the middle of all this, so it wasn't that hard :)

    Will check your post, too.

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  40. Dear MKL, I've come across your pages so many times while researching on places to travel to in Taiwan. After my trip (it was wonderful,I like Taiwan a lot. Your post is as FOARP initially stated, makes one hanker to return to Taiwan..aagh), I couldn't place the name of the huge round wedding cookies that we bought in Damsui and one way or other, I came to your page, was impressed (you did a very good write up!) by your personal insight of weddings in Taiwan. I will alwaz feel that a wedding is a personal thing, so I resisted as much POMP as I could at my own wedding("face" is such a big deal for the old folks isn't it? I'm chinese malaysian btw. Weddings r not much different here).As my hubby put it, if you get invited to a wedding, you'll have two responses: One, it's someone you're distantly related / not at all; you're irritated to have to take time off to attend it plus give an ang bao. Two, if you hear of it and was not invited, you'll be annoyed as well. So, one shouldn't even have a wedding dinner isnt it? There'll be nobody who's annoyed with you, except the parents themselves! This argument as I'm sure you'll guess by now, held no water with my parents nor my in laws...a pity I think. LOL! Anyways, I've included a link to your page from my write up of Taiwan, this is my asking for permission, I'll understand if you don't like it, pls tell me and I'll remove it. It's just that I learned more than I could about the Xi bing / wedding biscuits/ cookies!

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  41. @dayzeahead: Thanks for your lovely comment. I'm glad you found my blog useful. You don't need to ask for permission, when you are linking, it's a very common thing in blogging to refer to sources :) Thanks again.

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  42. As a photographer with experience shooting bridal sessions (the formal ones in different locations, indoors and out) and wedding ceremonies and banquets, I can state without hesitation that 30,000 NTD for bridal photos and NT$8000 for wedding day coverage is not much money at all. In fact, given all the time invested in knowing the locations, venue, interesting information about the couple, making the images, selecting them and preparing them for presentation, it is not a very lucrative way to make a living. Taiwan has a fairly decent standard of living with at least half the average income of the USA, without all the taxes Americans are assessed, and any photographer that charged the equivalent of NT$8000 in the US (around US$275) would not only starve to death but would be mercilessly criticized by others in the profession for charging so little.

    Since there is very little expectation of creativity and price has become the main selling point, the local wedding photography market has devolved into an unpleasant swamp for nearly everyone involved. That's a shame, because photography in general and wedding photography in particular should be beautiful and a lot of fun.

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  43. Thank you for all the tips and details MKL.

    All of this information and the answers from other people relates to me as I am presently going through this enjoyable process for a December 2013 wedding date in Taiwan.

    I feel your initial pain with regards to the prep and culture as it is so different to what we have heard or ever known about weddings and formal occasions.

    My excuse is that in this instance of a man's life we are sheep and not the wolves and just have to follow the crowd. Its very exciting through and December does not feel that far away!!!!! I have family coming from abroad (Apx 10) and the other half's family is around (apx 70). We have picked the venue / hotel / date / food and all the major things and this above information will tie in and hopefully create an amazing result! We have 3 weddings - ceremonies to build in the UK - NZ - Taiwan in order to keep all sides of family and friends happy. Lots of travelling!

    Keep living the dream and wish you all the best.

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  44. My knowledge is limited to watching Chinese dramas on tv, so I am a little confused. When discussing your wedding, you didn't mention when you were actually married, and I saw no reference to either a church or municipal building. I thought the actual marriage occurred when you got your new identity cards from the government at the municipal building. In Office Girls, Qin Zi Qi (Roy Qui) marries Shen Xing Ren (Alice Ke) in a church; in Sunny Happiness, Xiang Yun Jie (Mike He) marries Fang Yong Yong (Janine Chang) by driving in a car decorated in red to her house, where they kneel before her parents (they didn't bother with the three bows, because her father told him not to). My understanding was that that was the marriage, so they were already married when Yun Jie took Yong Yong back to his parents's house in the procession (no horses, just cars).

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  45. @Anonymous: I mentioned that I registered my marriage prior to the wedding banquet. That was a formal signing at the municipal building, two friends attended as witnesses, it was nothing special in the sense that I would need to explain it. For Taiwanese the wedding banquet is the most important thing. Don't base your knowledge of Taiwan by watching dramas, a lot of stuff is very different in reality. Dramas are fake, most things are overblown, exaggerated, or simply made up. Less than 5% of Taiwanese are Christian, marrying in a Church is not very common. What I described above is common.

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  46. I am attending a Taiwanese wedding in December and I just came across this post. I am an American, never been to Asia or, for that matter, an Asian wedding, and I have no idea what to wear as a guest. Any suggestions? Thanks for the post. Very helpful!!

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  47. This is the most abject mercantile wedding tradion I have ever encountered, bathed in sweet kitty katty sauce. If you think woman is an object probably wedding in Taiwan is aplace for you.

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  48. I went to my first wedding in Taiwan, and tehre was a strepteese. I was extremely shocked but as if did not suffice one of the strepteese dancers came to my table, took my head ans squeezed it between her breasts.When I got aout of this I hoped the earth opened I disappeared. Nobody seemed embarassed or shocked except me.

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  49. fine, would be nice to get to know a Taiwan woman, but how???
    ask from germany
    Gün

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  50. Found this very informative as two Taiwanese I met while they were in the U.S. are getting married and sent me "wedding pictures" months before the ceremony. But is there no legal or religious ceremony that makes them husband and wife? Or is the meal itself the ceremony? Or does the registration mean they are married?

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  51. Yeah Taiwan weddings are very simple and they follow their culture!! I had attended my friend’s wedding there and had best time at wedding location venue.

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