Blending the Old and New: Chinese Wedding Traditions at a Modern Wedding

Blending the Old and New: Chinese Wedding Traditions at a Modern Wedding

📸: Mel Colvin // @melcolvinstudios

Happy Lunar New Year! Traditionally, Chinese weddings can stretch from a few hours to a few days. Newlywed Katie Zheng reflects on the two-day celebration of her fall wedding on October 17, 2021. 

Katie Zheng and Jeffrey Zhou of Ashland, Massachusetts grew up as next-door neighbors, not knowing they would eventually marry many years later. Because their families were so close with each other, they wanted to honor that through Chinese traditions. 

Over the course of two days, Katie and Jeffrey celebrated old and new with friends and family.

Keep it close 

This intimate celebration honored family and Chinese celebrations before the ceremony the next day. The families participated in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, where each family serves tea to each other.

“It’s a formal way to have a moment and officially acknowledge each other as each other’s families,” Katie says. “It was really important if these traditions were representative of our values of keeping family close.” 

Katie wore a qipao, a Chinese ceremony dress, which Jeffrey’s mother arranged to be shipped directly from China. Her dress was a bright red adorned with a gold phoenix and detailing. Red is the color of celebration in China, and a gold phoenix is representative of being a bride. 

While Mel Colvin was the photographer for the next day’s festivities, Katie and Jeffrey kept it strictly to the two families the day prior. 

The big day 

Bring on the glamour! The bridal party was gussied up in tuxedos and pantsuits. Katie and Jeffrey did a “first look” and traditional American ceremony before heading out to the Coachman’s Lodge in Bellingham, Massachusetts to get the party started. 

Katie and Jeffrey incorporated a tree planting ceremony of a bamboo plant. They used the soil from each of their childhood backyards, symbolizing unity between the two and their linked pasts. 

While she wore a white gown for the ceremony and most of the reception, Katie slipped back into her qipao for dancing. 

The cake was decorated with the Chinese symbol for happiness and branches wrapping around. A frame with origami paper cranes carefully folded by Katie’s sister surrounded the couple. 

“It was a mesh of skills and talent,” Katie says. “Our wedding planner proposed the idea of paper cranes and origami pieces and incorporated them into the cake display.” 

Katie said gifting origami was a display of affection between her and Jeffrey in the early days of dating. 

The tables were simple: a white tablecloth with floating tea light candles, simple fall centerpieces, and a small gift of thanks at each place setting. Katie and Jeffrey folded origami boxes with a Chinese happiness symbol, filled with small candy to “share the sweetness and happiness of this moment.” 

The happy couple received many red envelopes from guests, a Chinese act of gifting money in a long, red envelope with characters symbolizing happiness and wishing luck. 

“I didn’t realize it until after, but it really was the happiest day of my life,” Katie says. 

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