That's the only word I can think of to describe the wedding that our whole family attended last Saturday--it was a cultural experience like I have rarely had.
It started out innocently enough. The bride had been an English student in a camp that John led a few summers ago, and she has several mutual friends who meet with John on a weekly basis. So when we were invited to attend their wedding, and even to give a short blessing to the bride and groom as part of the ceremony, we were happy to attend.
The wedding was held on a very "auspicious" day--November 18. In Asianese, the way that date is pronounced sounds like some words which describe getting very wealthy. Happily, this year, this date also fell on a Saturday, which was extremely convenient for weddings. In fact, as we drove through town to the wedding location, we saw evidence of numerous weddings taking place all through the city.
A modern Asianese wedding is a strange conglomeration of traditional Asianese culture, western cultural imports, and modern Asianese practicality. The bride wears two dresses--first a white one that looks like it came out of an American shop, usually rented, and then a red one called a qipao, long and slim. The wedding is held at a hotel banquet room, and the bride and groom arrive amid tons of firecrackers and confetti rockets which are supposed to ward off evil spirits and add to the general gaiety. At this wedding, the happy couple even had a small aisle to walk down (all of us guests were already seated at the tables where we would later eat), preceded by young girls holding candles and marching to the tune of "Here Comes the Bride." There was a brief ceremony up front where the bride and groom exchange vows and rings and then go and bow down to their parents as a sign of respect. Instead of a pastor to lead the ceremony, there is an MC and some sort of music person playing an electronic keyboard or some such thing.
So what made this wedding so crazy? Well, for one, it was SO VERY EXTREMELY NOISY! Asianese people love to have their gatherings full of noise and activity, they even have a word for it: renao. It literally means "hot and noisy." The theory is that if a place (like a restaurant or a wedding) is hot (meaning full of lots of people and all their body heat) and noisy, with everyone chatting and talking at once, then it means that everyone is having a good time! We have been to three Asianese weddings, and this one was definitely the most renao of them all. The sound system was pumped up full bore. The musician lady on her electronic piano was going to town. And the MC boisterously shouted directions to the bride and groom and then sang several songs, sounding like he had already had a few rounds of the post-wedding drinks.
I could hardly believe it when things appeared to be starting, and hardly anyone was paying the slightest attention to the bride and groom. Literally most people were chatting loudly with the people around them, several of them were gathered in a small knot around Clara Anne, as if she was the attraction, and then I realized why the MC was shouting so loudly--he was trying to compete for everyone's attention! The bride and groom spoke their vows and bowed to their parents among lots of noisy chatter. It was crazy!
This situation didn't bode well for John, as he was prepared to give a short blessing and share a bit about the Good News. We were wondering if everyone would talk through it! But when he went up to the stage, most people quieted down to listen...at first. He started out with some greetings and general words like "thanks for inviting us" etc., and people were clapping and the musician lady was punctuating his talk with chords on the piano, kind of like at a baseball game! However, when he moved on to speak about the Good News, several things happened--the musician lady kept playing LOUDLY, several people toward the front shot off these firecracker confetti things, creating loud booms and showers of confetti, and then the sound system started to act funny and John could hardly be heard, even a few feet away! CRAZY! We have no doubt there was some Opposition, but it seemed a bit extreme.
John finished his talk and invited me up to the front to sing the song that we sang at our wedding, The Gift of Love. Just at that moment, Clara Anne insisted on going up with me, so she stood by my side as we began. The song starts with the male voice singing solo, and then the female voice sings solo, and then the third verse is sung together in a lovely harmony. Well, just as John began, the musician lady thought that she would accompany him, and started searching around on the keyboard for the key that he had picked. For a few awful moments they were horribly out of tune, but then she settled on a key and John adjusted so it was better by the time I came in. The whole situation went from crazy to even more so--Clara Anne had quietly snuck away from my side and though I looked down while singing, I couldn't see her, and as it turns out, she had made her way behind me to a large balloon display and was wonderingly touching them. I looked around just as she popped one and the bride was trying to guide her away from them! Oh dear, Clara Anne!
The rest of the time was a little less crazy, but just as hot and noisy. We were served plate after plate of food, way more than we could ever eat, which is an Asianese way to show that your host thinks highly of you. We enjoyed the meal though it was really hard to carry on a conversation with anyone because the music was so loud. But it was interesting music--there were various children who came up and showed their talents of singing and playing the drums. One little five year old boy was really quite good on his drum set!
All in all, it was an experience to remember. I am only sorry that I forgot to bring our camera! Clara Anne had such fun after we ate playing in all the sparkly confetti on the floor, and made friends with lots of the other kids running around, but I missed getting it on film. And as an extra bonus, when we arrived home we discovered that Clara Anne had stayed dry the whole time we were gone (about 5 hours) and then successfully used the potty as soon as we got home. John reminded me that though right now I am in the throes of potty training, and it seems like it will be ages before Clara Anne is grown up, it won't seem like long before she is the one getting married. I can't even think about that yet! Take your time, Clara Anne!