Yesterday was the 8th of August, and 08/08 is a very lucky day in China. It’s funny, they have their own traditional lunar calendar and then they have the modern Gregorian calendar. They’re crafty; they pick lucky days on both so no day is ever very far from an auspicious date if you’re looking for the right moment to marry off your kids or christen a ship or building.

八月八号 as it’s known is a good day for weddings and yesterday was no exception with three scheduled at the hotel across the street. They were literally arranged right on top of each other which made the arrangements something of a three-ring circus.

Before the party arrives one or more big red inflatable arches are erected in front of the hotel. Golden cannons full of confetti are placed at the strategic corners of the parking lot and sometimes big boxes of rockets are placed alongside. The Inn Fine trademark is a long rope of firecrackers laid out in the shape of a heart. I suppose the grandeur depends on how much the father of the groom is willing to shell out and how much he wants to impress his family and friends.

The wedding party caravans are something to behold – the first one yesterday had two white stretch limos and 10 identical copper colored SUV’s. At a minimum there are usually 5 or 10 black sedans with Mercedes being the car of choice and there is always a lead car with a videographer standing up through the sunroof capturing every moment. Sometimes the couple drives themselves to the party in a convertible sports car and often the bride sits up on the boot waving like a rodeo queen in a west Texas parade. The one wedding I wished I’d been able to photograph had a giant white Hummer stretch followed by six dark green Hummers, driving in two lines, abreast down Jinma Lu, much to the joy of the drivers stuck behind them. But on one’s wedding day, the peasants can wait as the King and Queen drive to the party that honors their union.

The arrival for the reception goes pretty much like this:

  1. The wedding caravan pulls up in front of the hotel blocking the road. Cars pile up behind laying on their horns.
  2. Someone lights the fuse on a rope of firecrackers and the boxes of rockets if they have deployed. Much smoke and noise ensues.
  3. The videographer in the lead car pulls in and tapes the bride and groom driving in as the smoke clears.
  4. The Maid of Honor gets out and stands by the bride’s door.
  5. The groom gets out and walks around to the bride’s door.
  6. He helps the bride out of the car and they pose as a couple for the first time.
  7. Someone ignites the cannons and they’re showered in colored paper. If they time it just right, the bride and groom fling open their arms as though they were belting out the final tune in a Broadway musical and the photographer captures the moment for posterity.
  8. Sometimes there is a giant cluster of balloons available for the bride to release. Sometimes not.
  9. All the while the hotel staff, dressed like Chinese coulees, is busy pouring water on the firecracker leavings with a watering can in order to make them easier to sweep up.
  10. All that being done, the couple goes inside, perhaps receiving another shower of confetti. And thirty seconds later the drama unfolds again.

Yesterday the exploding, sweeping, posing, releasing and walking were all happening at the same time. I felt very bad for the middle couple because just as they were posing the third couple arrived and their fireworks went off making the scene more like urban warfare than the best day of their lives.

As far as what goes on inside, I’ve never been invited to a wedding here so I can only relate the one I observed. A couple of years ago we were here looking at the factory site and we stopped at a country club for lunch. We were up in a balcony overlooking the lower floor where a big reception was underway. It looked pretty much like a wedding in our country with family members getting up to sing with the band, a bubble machine working overtime, the bride and groom shaking hands and exchanging specially labeled red cartons of Marlboros for red envelopes full of cash. The scene was happy, smoky and glowing with the promise of two young people starting a life together.