I recently had the privilege of hosting for a Filipino/Fil-Chi couple based in Hong Kong. They had seen me at a friend’s wedding and thought i’d be a good fit for their crowd, so they flew me and Denise over and we stayed at the Cordis Hotel, in the heart of Kowloon, where the reception would be held.
We had a splendid time. I was anxious at the start because I would be working with a local coordinator and the local hotel staff, but any doubts I had were soon laid to rest. Everyone was a team player. They let me take the lead with the program and they were all so attentive and worked with a spring in their step, so we got along just fine.
Though 80% of the whole affair was as familiar to me as the driver’s seat of my car, I made it a point to take note of the differences. Here’s a quick summary.
They start even later than our usual, but once they start they blast off like a rocket.
Cocktails began at 6 (typical for Chinese weddings here) as guests trickled in, then we started at 8pm—with the CEREMONY. Yes, it’s all part of one program. The couple had already been wed in a separate ceremony months before, so for that night we began at the reception venue itself, with a brief exhortation by a local lawyer, a sand mixing ceremony, and a lot of cheers and confetti. After that, the couple made a quick exit and the place was briefly made ready for the dinner party. Once everyone was ready, we started the reception program. All in all, yes we started dinner close to 9pm, but the amazing part is that the ceremony + “post nup” took 45 minutes—which NEVER happens here in the Philippines.
People come as they are.
The only women in long gowns were those who belonged to the entourage. The men of the entourage likewise wore matching suits and ties. Everyone else looked like they had just come from work, that is, dressed up but not out of place if you saw them in the MTR. Short dresses, and open-toed shoes were the norm for women. The guys looked sharp in oxfords and light jackets. Neat but not costume-y, as some wedding outfits here tend to look. Some guys showed up in polo shirts with blazers and I though it was fine.
Cocktails are super light.
Pre-dinner snacks were just a few macarons, and some chocolates and marshmallows in a bowl. Everything was set on a small and tastefully decorated table. Hardly anyone was touching them, which tells me a couple of things. One, that the cocktails are there as a courtesy, as a symbolic welcome to the guests, not to sate their appetites. Two, that the guests don’t mind waiting for dinner.
Invitations come w cash or coupons.
It’s customary for wedding invitations in Hong Kong to have gift certificates or even actual bank notes included in the envelope. This way, the couple let’s the guests know their attendance is valued and expected. It also ensures that the couple only invites those they really want to see at their wedding.
They don’t actually cut or eat the cake.
A towering cake next to the stage was a familiar sight, but when the couple took a photo POSING as if they were cutting the cake and then promptly put down the cutlery and walked away after the flashes popped, I immediately sensed the tradition was different over there. I changed gears, wrapped up the tradition, and moved on. A quick chat with the coordinator during a break confirmed my suspicion. The entire cake was just for show—there wasn’t even anything to cut.
The whole wedding party goes around and drinks at every table.
We ended with a cool new tradition that I learned on the job. Apparently what they like to do is end the program with the whole entourage in front, glasses in hand for a toast. Then the party music plays and, led by the couple, everybody choo-choo-trains to one guest table, EVERYONE DRINKS, then glasses are refilled and they go to the next table and the next until the couple has drunk with all their guests. It’s fun and crazy and a great way to jumpstart the party. I was totally onboard.
In spite of the differences, the night ended like every other wedding I had the honor to host. With guests happily dancing, a couple beaming with joy, and hardworking suppliers patting each other on the back for a job well done.
“Best view of Hong Kong island”, courtesy of our friend Chris who showed us around.