Teena and I will soon celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. The beginning of this union was somewhat different to what you’d typically expect. Would you believe that it took us seven days to complete formalities?! Here’s what happened. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow
Day 1 (Tuesday) – The Wedding Ceremony
In Australia (in case you’re not from Australia), for a marriage to be legal, it has to be performed by a certified marriage celebrant. The sequence of events marking the start of our life together as husband and wife was not one you’d expect. We were ‘sealed’ in the Mormon temple in Sydney, as per our faith. For all intensive purposes, being ‘sealed’ means getting married in Mormon terms. Despite of being legally married from then on, we returned to our respective parents’ home on our return. We didn’t see each other until the weekend. This was not some ‘weird Mormon ritual’. That’s just how things panned out. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow
Day 4 (Friday) – The Hair Combing Ceremony
The hair-combing ceremony involves a selected female family friend or family member, who the bride’s family deems to have lived a life of good fortune. She combs the hair of the bride-to-be on the eve of the wedding four times, siting aloud a distinct blessing with each stroke. The first is a blessing to be together to the end, the second, a blessing of hundred years of harmony in marriage, the third, a blessing for a houseful of children and grandchildren, and lastly, a blessing of longevity. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow
Mrs Wong (nice stereotypical Chinese name!), a close friend of the family, was asked to perform this ritual. Following the hair cmbing, everyone had some ‘Tong Yun’ (glutinous rice flour mixed with a small amount of water to form balls and is then cooked and served in watered down sugar syrup) to symbolise a sweet marriage. So far so good! Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow
Day 5 (Saturday) – Ring Exchange and Tea Ceremony
As we’d already been married, there was no exchange of vows. We simply had a ring exchange for our friends and family back in Adelaide. So, ring exchange first, followed by the tea ceremony.
In the tea ceremony, the bride and groom, dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, serve tea to senior members of close family on both sides of the family, in small ornate tea cups. In return the bride and groom receive Hong Pau (red packets containing money). Younger close family members then do the same for the bride and groom, and similarly, receive Hong Pau for their efforts.
Teena arrived in a beautiful classic Jaguar, kindly lent to us by a friend, in an even more beautiful wedding dress made by her Mum. After the ring exchange, she changed into a stunning traditional red dress that had previously been worn by many generations of women on Mum’s side of the family (including Mum herself and Poh) in past marriage tea ceremonies. Yeow Family; Poh Ling Yeow
The day ended with lots of photos with family and friends, as well as the cutting of one of the two amazing wedding cakes Poh made. I think for many it was quite a spectacle.
Day 7 (Monday) The Reception
And finally, the main reception. It wouldn’t be unusual for a Chinese wedding to have many hundreds of guests for a wedding reception. For the parents of the groom and bride in the olden days, this was often an opportunity to show off their status and wealth – the more the merrier. We had no such wealth to show off but we did have a nice simple reception with close friends and family. By then, we were pretty much over our week-long wedding. So, it was great to finish off with a toned down, relaxing evening.
And that folks is how you stretch a wedding out for seven days. It wasn’t glamorous by any means but definitely unique and memorable, and a very special occasion for us both. Yeoow Family; Poh Ling Yeow