Monday, December 8, 2008

Yuuuuuuuuuuuung Sing!

It's been a while since the last post. It's been a busy 2 weeks.

For both of the past two weekends, I've been attending the weddings of my employees. The first wedding was in Kuala Lumpur, the second, in Singapore.

For the wedding in KL, Melissa and Jack were invited as well, so we made a weekend of it. On Friday at 5pm, we joined a bunch of my coworkers in a coach bus bound for KL. It's not a bad trip. The seats are pretty nice (much nicer and bigger than a plane), and it costs about half the price. The trip takes about 5 hours by bus. Considering all of the security and travel to and from the airport, the bus was a good way to get there.

The Chinese style wedding was a new experience. Let's start at the beginning.

The first thing you need to know is about the gift. You always just give money for a gift. Never and actual item for a present. The trick is, it MUST be in a red envelope. As far as Chinese tradition/superstition goes, this is a big one. Red is a very "fortunate" color. White is the color of death. To hand someone a white envelope on their wedding day is the equivalent of telling them, "I hope you get divorced as soon as possible." Not very polite. Thankfully almost all of my Chinese staff want to look out for their "Ang Mo" boss. I was handed red envelopes all week by the rest of my staff to make sure I didn't screw up.

Weddings usually range from 300 to 400 people. I can't imagine inviting that many people. I don't even know that many people. Most of these people aren't invited to the actual wedding ceremony. That's usually a small affair at either a church, temple or the courthouse. Usually only immediate family and what we would call the "wedding party" are invited to that. Following the ceremony, the rest of the day is spent at different "tea ceremonies". These are held at each families parent's houses and it's where the in-law's accept you as part of the family.

The big event of the night is the dinner. This is when all 300 people show up with their little red envelopes.

Dinner is a long affair. Usually two and a half to three hours long. 8 to 10 courses is standard in the normal Chinese style. You get the expected items... shark fin soup, roasted duck or chicken, steamed fish, stir-fried shrimp, etc. The food is nice, but the meal is so long, by the 6th or 7th item, you're just wishing it would end. Thankfully, when the meal ends, it's over. No dancing or anything else after.

Toward the end of the dinner, a short speech is made by a brother or sister of the couple and then followed by a thank you speech from the Groom. This is followed by the traditional Chinese toast of "Yung Sing" (literally "drink and win"). This can be done either by the entire room at once, or table by table. At the 400 person wedding, the entire room toasted at once. At the 300 person wedding, the wedding party visited each table to toast one by one. It took almost 2 hours. Not good times at 11 pm with a sleeping 6 year old on your lap.

The toast is done done three times, each wishing for different things. (Prosperity, babies and something else I didn't catch.) And you don't just raise a glass and say, Yung Sing. You yell, "YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNG SING!" as loud and as long as you can. And I mean long. At most times, the "Yung" part was stretched out over 3 or 4 breaths. Cute at first, annoying after hearing it for the 60th time.

More than anything, I was just honored to be invited. Both of my employees who invited me are great young guys that I respect very much. They were great hosts and it was a pleasure to meet their families. Now I just want them to get back from their honeymoons and get back to work.


Deacon Frank Tremblay said...

You can send me all the red envelopes you want (I think its a rule red envelopes have money in them)
- Dad

M. said...

Hahah...your post is really amusing to me, from a singaporean employee's point of view that is.

Anonymous said...

love reading your post..
it amuses me..
btw, find/post wedding organizer or wedding promo at 88DB Singapore.