During a trip to Taiwan last summer, my family and I were invited to a wedding banquet in Taichung. By all standards, it was a modest reception. The bride and groom were no more than 18-years-old. It was a shotgun wedding and the parents were set on keeping things "simple."
And while 100 guests and twelve courses including cake is hardly a plain affair in American terms, it really was a watered-down ceremony in comparison to the elaborate galas that are typically thrown. As with most traditional ceremonies, a Chinese wedding banquet is steeped in superstitions and symbolism. While most rituals have been diluted because of the times, there are a couple basics that have been retained.
Here's the breakdown: The meal always starts with a cold appetizer plate. Expensive dishes such as shark fin, abalone, jumbo shrimp and scallops are typical as an indication of prosperity. And there is almost always a whole fish, chicken, duck or pig present. A whole animal represents completeness and luck.
There's no gift registry at a Chinese wedding. Attendees give "hong baos" (red envelopes stuffed with money) when they check in at the banquet. And the end of the day, the family of the bride and groom count the money and use it to pay for the meal and honeymoon. See all the photos in the slideshow!