Nearly three years after we got engaged, Ron and I finally completed the last of our wedding festivities with our Taipei banquet on Saturday night. You know what that means, right? The honeymoon is over! Now is time to move from the lovey-dovey period of our relationship to the stage of indifference. I’m kidding!
Our banquet was at the Grand Hotel (圓山飯店大飯店). It’s obviously an extremely famous hotel and a Taipei landmark, but I was not happy with its banquet services (I’ll write another entry about that. ETA: I never did write that entry, did I? But, in a nutshell, their communication was poor, the tacky plastic decorations looked as if they’d been purchased during a post Lunar New Year fire sale at some dollar store and our coordinator started pressuring us to leave an hour before our allotted time was up). But the gourmet Cantonese cuisine was excellent and the waitstaff was fine.
At most Taiwanese wedding banquets, the bride and groom have an elaborate grand entrance with music (and occasionally lasers and dry ice). We had a more intimate banquet, so Ron and I just stood at the door and forced our family and friends to take photos with us as they entered:
We made them sign a mat around a photo of us that served as our guestbook. I kept asking people to sign the top because there was a big white space, but they demurred because the top is apparently reserved for the most honored guests. Well, modesty is a family trait, so at the end of the banquet there was still a big white space on the mat. I told my Mom to write a fancy proverb in very big letters.
To make sure our guests did not get lost, we slapped a gigantic poster of the two of us in front of the door. This is another Taiwanese wedding tradition, but we didn’t use our Taiwanese engagement photos. We did, however, hand out small souvenir versions of our hun sha zhao. One of our friends said he has an album just for those photos.
After our guests arrived, I changed out of my qipao (which honored my Chinese heritage) and into a navy blue satin 1950s cocktail dress (which honored my heritage as an American who likes old stuff). My Dad and Uncle Daniel (my eldest uncle) both gave speeches, another Taiwanese wedding tradition. A guest of honor and the groom or bride’s boss usually also give speeches, but we skipped those, partly because our banquet was smaller and partly because not everyone likes public speaking! Ron and I also didn’t speak, which is a good thing, because goodness knows what kind of filth would have erupted from my mouth if I were forced to speak Mandarin in front of a large crowd of people. Stress does funny things to my mind. I mean, the stuff that comes out of me in English already skirts the line of propriety!
After the speeches came the food. I think there were 12 courses in all. Man, it was intense! XO sauce was involved. The eating was followed by the 敬酒 (jìngjiǔ), or the part where Ron, me and my parents went from table to table and toasted our guests… with grape juice (ssshhhh!). Well, I am a lightweight.
Dessert was served afterwards… and that was when the weirdness started. The banquet coordinator, a Grand Hotel employee, came by and told us that Ron and I had to get up and stand by the door to dismiss our guests. I thought this was strange, since there was still a course of fresh fruit to be served (and those platters of fruit were HUGE). She kept insisting, however, that it was a Taiwanese custom to give the cue to leave that early. Ron and I were practically dragged to the door and handed a tray of candy to give to our guests as they filed out.
But of course they didn’t, because they were still eating. Duh, we were only on the second to last course! In hindsight, I think the coordinator just wanted to get us out so the employees could start cleaning up early — which annoyed me because our contract stated that our banquet would run until 10PM and it was only a bit past 9PM. The party was still in full swing and I rarely get to see my relatives, so I didn’t want to be rushed. To be fair, wedding banquets tend to end very soon after the final course is served (and are often followed by after parties), but I think the coordinator took advantage of the fact that Ron, I and my parents aren’t familiar with with Taiwanese banquet customs to dictate our event schedule. Anyway, it didn’t matter in the end, because after we stood around for 10 minutes like a couple of dorks, my cousin came over and told Ron and me to ignore the banquet coordinator. We went to take group photos with all of our guests, which kept us busy for the rest of the time (that was in our freakin’ contract). Ha ha, take that, Miss Yeh! This is my beautiful family on my Mom’s side.
Behold, the newest member of my extended family! EEEEEEEEE!!!
My adorable little cousin Hazel was also there, but she was feeling a bit camera shy. After the banquet, Ron and I went back home. At first we’d thought about getting a room in the Grand Hotel. That was Ron’ s idea. When he first mentioned it to me, I cooed “oh, Ron, you are such a romantic!”
“Yeah, it’d be nice to get some sleep without getting woken up by all the jackhammers on our street,” he replied. I kicked him in the shin. But it didn’t matter in the end, because we had to go home and spend time with darling little Taroko George, our kitten son. Yes, we are a little obsessed with that cat.