Summer is approaching, and soon it will be wedding season. As I prepare to attend weddings when I return to the UK, I find myself reflecting on my own wedding. Back then, when I trawled the internet for wedding articles, I found a lack of information accomodating to an Asian-British wedding.
I have talked a little bit about our wedding in previous posts, but I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks I used for planning a multi-cultural wedding. We got married in a simple ceremony in Hong Kong. My husband is from Hong Kong, with family in America, Japan and Taiwan, and I am from the United Kingdom. If, like me, you couldn’t stretch to hiring a wedding planner, you will certainly find these tips useful!
If you are planning your wedding in a foreign country, as I was, try to find out the local customs and wedding etiquette beforehand. For example, when attending a wedding in Hong Kong , you are expected to give lucky money. This is also the case for many other Asian countries, including China, Japan and Taiwan. We decided not to ask for Laih Si, but the family tradition is to give it, so close family members gave us some. My family gave us some small house-related presents, as is often the culture in the UK. Note: we didn’t have a wedding list.
Traditions and culture
Talk to your in laws about their expectations of the wedding. This was more important for me than my husband. My family had no expectations, as we had held a large party at home prior to the wedding, to celebrate with family and friends who couldn’t make the trip. I recommend doing this, as many of my colleagues have had two weddings, or two engagement parties. It’s a good way to include everyone, avoid hurt feelings and grumpy relatives. My in laws were very relaxed, but they had certain expectations that neither my husband or I wanted to fulfill. Such as, having a large wedding party, and taking pre-wedding photos, which is the norm in Hong Kong. We did neither of these and I’m glad we didn’t, as for us, they weren’t essential. Luckily my in-laws are understanding and when you have a multi-cultural wedding, you can’t completely have everything you wanted or according to tradition. Also,ask if your HK in-laws want to do a traditional tea-ceremony or present you with gold discuss this beforehand to avoid embarrassment (such as I had when presented with bling- bling).
This is an obvious one but make sure the ceremony is in two languages or a lingua franca. We had relatives from Taiwan, Japan, England and Hong Kong at our wedding. We had decided the wedding would be in English and Cantonese. However, the registrar wouldn’t perform the ceremony in this way, so we had it in English. This was a shame as although, the ceremony was short and straightforward, some elder attendees could not understand what was going on. If you and your partner follow different religions, you may want to try and find a way to incorporate different celebrations at different points in the wedding. Although not religious myself, I had some of the traditional British customs; Hubby not seeing dress, something old, photos of absent guests and so on.
Additionally, make sure you have a clear guest list, as I personally wrote invitations to everyone 2 months before. However, some long lost relatives appeared, people cancelled and friends were ringing me up for an invite. We held a family-only wedding. Even if you make it as clear as possible, give people a call the week before to confirm, as even though you won’t forget this important date, some people will.
Make sure people are aware of the dress-code. European weddings are traditionally formal, and everyone knows the rules according to wedding attire. Hong Kong weddings are typically more formal, (think jeans) because people like to be more casual. Luckily, my new family got the memo and did a great job. Thanks!
Check if your in-laws have any expectation about your wedding outfits. I was luckily as my in-laws and mother took a back seat. I had a traditional long white wedding dress, (my husband’s dream) in a nineteen twenties, Satine-Daisy Buchanan- Mae West- Lana Del Rey style which I am still in love with. This I wore to the ceremony. We had a lunch after the wedding, to which I wore a pink sequined formal top with a pink Chiffon full skirt from Coast with gold heels from Next. At the traditional banquet, in the evening, I wore a custom Cheong-sam which I bought from ETSY. It was a fusion Cheong-sam, as I opted for an A-Line cut. It is gorgeous and I also wore at Chinese New Year in February. I found all these outfits myself, and my best advice is, if you have to stick to tradition find something you feel comfortable and beautiful in. There were dresses I loved but I couldn’t pull of despite my pre-wedding workouts. I had full say in my outfits, so was very lucky! My husband just rocked up in a Navy Blue suit, looking super hot and like he had just walked out of a catalogue.
On that same note, if you are not doing your own makeup, hire someone who is competent in your native language. I had a recommendation from a friend, however the lady kept replying to my emails in Chinese characters. No good. I found an excellent makeup artist and stylist who did a great job, and had previously styled my friend for her wedding. She was super professional and went above and beyond the call of duty, even taking care of rounding up some of the guests (a.k.a my family) who needed help finding where to sit. I am so grateful I had her to help me out as I was super stressed on the morning of the wedding. In Hong Kong, a lot of pre-wedding services are offered for about 3000 HKD up. These depend on how many looks you want. Traditionally, brides hire a stylist for the entire wedding day, as traditionally, they have three looks, ceremony, dinner, tea ceremony. I had three dresses for each “event”, (ceremony, dinner, banquet) but I didn’t change my makeup.
I didn’t have a lot of help planning our wedding as our family is mostly overseas, but I got some kind words from colleagues, cousins and friends in Hong Kong. Their advice was invaluable and I am extremely grateful. For me, marrying into a new culture is an adventure, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to do everything perfect. In fact, the first Hong Kong wedding that I went to was my own. Try not to be too hard on yourself, talk to your family and your partner about your concerns. And have fun!
I hope you found this helpful, and if you have any other tips for me, please leave them down below.
Thank you to everyone who travelled to Hong Kong and woke up early for our wedding! We love you all and are forever grateful.
Thanks for reading!