Dan and SuSu’s Big Fat Chinese Wedding — in China!

From August 1 to 10, Suzanne and I headed off to photograph what was expected to be, and certainly did turn out to be, the destination of all destination weddings: China. And not just normal China, but China during the Olympics.

SuSu and Dan live locally here in the San Francisco bay area, but about a year ago decided they would travel back to SuSu’s home town of Quanzhou, China, to have their wedding. They also decided to make a two week adventure out of it for their family and friends: the first week traveling from Shanghai, then onto Huangshan, visiting the famous Yellow Mountains, then onto Quanzhou for their wedding on 8/8/08. Thereafter the group went onto Beijing to see the Olympics and some other sights (unfortunately, Suzanne and I had to return home after the wedding).

We traveled with the group as their personal paparazzi, but more so as their friends. All 25 of us quickly became family and had the most fun experiencing the sights and cultures of China, as we built up towards the big day, 8/8/08. Below are some of the sights of SuSu and Dan’s wedding. Later, I’ll be posting some of the adventures that came before the big day.

It is difficult to put into words what we all experienced. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it! So, it is best to read SuSu’s words about it. SuSu has written a detailed account of everything on her blog, here: http://susuanddan.wordpress.com/ or specifically the wedding day, here: http://susuanddan.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/our-big-fat-chinese-wedding/ .

The experiences we had on their wedding day were unlike anything we’ve encountered before. I’ve photographed Chinese weddings before, but this was over the top. Despite all the planning SuSu and Dan did during the previous year, and despite how much we all pre-flighted the wedding day with SuSu and Dan, we were met with surprises and changes at just about every corner. Most notably was the celebrity status. SuSu and Dan were followed by TV news crews for several days. On the day of their wedding, there were no fewer than six TV crews and random photographers following their every move. They were in the local papers and on TV just about every night. And, all of this while the Olympics were taking place.

Of course, the saying “when in Rome…” is important to follow in any destination wedding, and even more so in China. The trend in China is to have a “western wedding”, but SuSu and Dan specifically requested a traditional Chinese wedding. So you will notice that the photos below are of, and have a look that is, different than most weddings I’ve photographed.  With that in mind, and considering most Americans are unfamiliar with Chinese wedding traditions in the heart of China, I’ve explained below a little bit of what is going on.

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on getting the pre-wedding adventure photos processed and some blog entries made – so stay tuned for that.

One thing is for sure: an enormous “thank you” to Dan, SuSu, and their friends and family for sharing with us an experience like no other. This one goes down in the history books!

——

Our lovely bride SuSu, in her two wedding dresses…

One of the (many) Chinese traditions is that the groom has to earn the brides family’s permission to see his future wife on their wedding day by passing a few tests. In a mix of traditional and modern Chinese traditions, the family has a bit of fun with this. They ask Dan some “SuSu trivia” (while she is hidden in the back), and for any answer he gets wrong, one of his brothers has to put on a pair of granny panties. Shockingly, Dan’s knowledge of SuSu was not that good that day. I’m sure his brothers are still thanking him for that!

Despite Dan’s 100% failure on passing the “SuSu Trivia” test (and all his brothers are looking dead sexy for it), he was granted permission to see Susu. Next tradition: SuSu serves Dan a traditional wedding day meal of egg and date soup, in a double happiness bowl. It’s kinda slippery and quite an unusual concoction. They have a bit of trouble!

Here we are, at the Tea Ceremony, Chinese paparazzi in tow. This was only a hint of what was to come…

These camera crews stayed during the entire tea ceremony (about 4 hours) and filmed every move Dan, SuSu, and their American crew made. Several of us (including yours truly) were individually interviewed. We were in the papers and on Chinese TV for three nights — and, keep in mind all of this found air time even during this little thing going on up the street called The Olympics.

An unbelievable surprise. We were all treated to a performance by the Chinese Opera. This troupe only performs for political figures, dignitaries, and VIPs, usually outside of China (they travel to where the big-wigs are). As I understand it, locals can’t even get tickets for their show. Again, SuSu’s father pulls some strings, and again, everyone is surprised by the unplanned and the unexpected.

Dan and his frat brothers. Talk about love; these guys traveled all the way to China to be with Dan on his wedding day.

SuSu goes from being an only child to suddenly having four great, supportive brothers…


Tea ceremony done, now time to get ready for the wedding…

Dan sees SuSu in her white wedding dress for the first time…

Another unexpected “surprise”… someone in SuSu’s family had an enormous billboard made out of one of the engagement photos, to be used as a backdrop, to themselves, for the greeting line. In true Chinese fashion, it reads “The flowers are in full bloom and the moon is full ideal time for wedding”.

Left: Another Chinese wedding tradition is to hand out “double happiness” cigarettes to all the guests.

Right: Dan, SuSu, and Dad about to enter the wedding. Interestingly, they don’t really know what they are walking into… there are over 500 people in there! Also, even as the lights went dim, the spotlight came on, the music was cranked up, the doors started to open… another news crew suddenly shoved a mic and video camera in front of SuSu and started trying to interview her. In so many words, she let them know that this wasn’t the best time for an interview.

Left: I wasn’t kidding about spotlights.

Right: Fifteen foot tall indoor fireworks. Again, an unexpected surprise. Particularly for Suzanne and I, who were positioned almost directly above some of them when they went off, and SuSu and Dan who were so close that sparks were landing on them. All four of us had to do a quick “is my hair on fire?” check. Again, not kidding.

In one of the most touching moments, Dan, in front of 500 Chinese people, asks SuSu, in Mandarin, to marry him. She responds in English, and 25 people off in the corner go nuts. She then responds in Mandarin, and a deafening roar of 500 people ensues.

Behind the scenes photo: A small sample of what we were dealing with. Can you pick me out? Not pictured: Suzanne (who took this photo) and the paparazzi surrounding her at her vantage point.

The cutting of the cake. This is a “west meets east” situation that hasn’t really got the bugs worked out. The cake is just symbolic. Only the top of the “cake” is cake, the bottom is cardboard, but with the most amazing “frosting artwork” you’ve ever seen (intricately detailed Chinese dragons). The couple makes one cut, then whole thing is thrown away. No cake is actually served at the wedding.

Table for 35? No problem! (SuSu left her wedding at this point to go change dresses).

One of the Chinese wedding traditions is to go to every table, and toast every one. Given that there were over 500 people at this wedding, a majority of Dan and SuSu’s time was spent doing this. In fact they have Dan and SuSu toast with water, or else they would be drunk off their rockers by about 150 guests into it. Here is Dan and SuSu toasting one of the two American tables (last! — ha, sorry guys!) and in true American fashion, the frat boys sneak Dan real alcohol.

Mom, Mom, and Dad amungst the 500 toasts…


September 3, 2008 - 2:58 pm

LoLo - susuuuu, i just looked at ur photographer’s blog, you look soooo
great!!! =) love love the chinese red dress. it was so pretty. and i
love the gold ties and dan’s gold shirt. looked very good. i can’t
believe you guys sat a table for 35 ppl! it was humongous. like
everyone else said, it seemed all so grand. that big billboard is
funny and ur reaction was classic. i like the pic with u and dan
facing each other and putting ur heads together. so sweet. ur
photographers are sooo good. and u had gold shoes on too! hehe very
cute. i so wish i was there! i still can’t believe u guys had
paparazzi and news reporters interviewing you and everything. i
would’ve been sooo nervous about it all and wouldn’t know what to do
or say…especially walking into a room with 500 ppl. crazy!!! hehe
but everything seemed like it went so well and it was all amazing.
definitely a big fat china wedding! hehe i’m sure noone will ever
forget it. =)

September 1, 2008 - 11:41 pm

Abby - SUSU!!!! Your wedding pics are absolutely beautiful! You looked very HAPPY and GORGEOUS!!! I love the pics and the whole wedding summary done by your photographer. I hope you’re going to have a lot of albums because I can tell that all your photos will look nice. I love the chinese gown on you. The color looked very nice. Your hair and makeup came out very nice too. Not as extreme as you made it sound like. hehe. The wedding gown was beautiful too. That’s the one we liked right? Can’t wait to see the rest of the photos and once again, sorry we missed out on such a party!

September 1, 2008 - 11:36 pm

Diana - My jaw dropped when I saw the pictures… Camera crews? TV? 500 guests?
Chinese Opera! Who knew you would grow up to be so famous SuSu?!!!

The last picture of your parents was especially fun for me to see. They have
not changed one bit, in fact they look younger and happier than ever!

They must be so proud of their beautiful daughter and handsome new
son-in-law.

Congratulations to you both!

September 1, 2008 - 11:34 pm

Mary - OK. So, that made me cry. The love between you and Dan, the tradition, and
your families. You are absolutely stunning. In my next life I’d like to
come back as a member of your family. : ) After the Olympics I thought I
wanted to come back as a Jamaican sprinter but I am rethinking the whole
thing. You sure look like your mother, Yansu. Both dresses were lovely. I
am glad you chose red. My favorite would have been the groomsmen in the
granny panties. Looks like a fun time was had by all. Be glad I was not
there. I would have cried my eyes out hearing Dan propose in Mandarin. Very
touching.

September 1, 2008 - 9:19 am

Ruth - Oh mY gosh!!!
Wow!! That was incredible description of what your wedding was like. I loved the write up the photographer did as well. I read your notes too. The celebrity treatment (local news cameras)was a surprise to read about.
Can’t wait to see more photos. You both look phenominal.

August 31, 2008 - 10:30 pm

Suzanne Ricca - My favorite photo to take at any wedding is the one of the groom when he first sees his bride. The look on Dan’s face when Susu came down the stairs made me get misty-eyed and it was wonderful to capture. I feel very honored to have been there for you both. Thank you for sharing every moment from 7am until Midnight. There was Double-Happiness for everyone!

August 31, 2008 - 6:13 pm

Therese Tee - Susu, you looked GORGEOUS! As always! The photos will bring tears to your eyes for many many years to come! We miss you!

August 31, 2008 - 4:43 pm

Sarah - wow susu i just took a look at the pictures. incredible! you two are so lucky to have gotten such wonderful photographers to capture this life experience!

August 31, 2008 - 3:10 pm

SuSu - Me again =) I forgot to comment on the photos you posted.

I love the pictures of me in these dresses. I did not fully appreciate the colors in my Chinese dress until I saw this photo. Connie at Ling’s Photography & Bridal Services in Oakland helped me for hours to pick out the fabric. She told me this color red complemented my skin tone the best out of all the reds she had in the store. I also spent a lot of time picking out the white dress, thanks to all my girlfriends from all over the world who helped me decide after looking at numerous photos for two weeks straight.

I have to admit, the “SuSu trivia” was a total setup. We made the questions extra tricky so that Dan would get it wrong. How else would I get my 4 new brothers to wear women’s underwear. haha… Besides, I read some where the Chinese wedding is all about torturing the groom and his brothers for the entire day. I was nice though. I didn’t make them eat nasty stuff. Although I heard the egg and date soup was a torture to eat. I guess I’m use to it, so it’s not torture for me. I know Matt was not too happy when my mom said “you have to eat it too.” Sorry Matt! I wish someone took a picture of you and Suzanne eating the egg too.

The Chinese paparazzi was crazy. I had a smile on my face, but I was feeling quite irritated with all those cameras in my face, too many questions, and making me translate under pressure. Now I know what it feels like to be a star. =P

The picture of Dan and his frat brothers are awesome! These guys are great. I’ve gotten to know some of them over the years, and they are the nicest and goofiest frat brothers ever. It was so much fun traveling with all of them.

I love Dan’s uniquely designed Chinese shirt and my traditional Chinese dress together. Even though we didn’t intend on matching and got them at different places, the colors matched perfectly.

The picture of me, Dan and our brothers is so cool. I’m so glad we had a few minutes to do some fun shots. We bought those gold ties right before we went to Shanghai to start the two week trip. They look fantastic on everyone. The store in Quanzhou only had two, we had to get the other 3 flown in from Hong Kong.

When I saw the picture of Dan and I blown up to be the backdrop, I couldn’t help but laugh my butt off. We had no idea! We even talked about much we did not want something like this. Somehow, someone managed to make it happen regardless.

I love the last photo of mom, mom, and dad. They look so happy.

Thanks again Matt & Suzanne. These pictures bring back so many fun memories.

August 31, 2008 - 1:39 pm

SuSu - Matt and Suzanne

Your blog of our wedding is fantastic! You knew more about our wedding cake than we did. Dan and I were just wondering the other day who got a piece of cake, because we never saw it again after we cut it. haha… I got all excited just from reading the blog, and I was there. =)

I LOVE, LOVE ALL THE PHOTOS. I don’t know how else to describe it other than you’ve captured all my emotions throughout the day. You got the best shot from every event throughout the 16 hour day. And the colors are incredible.

It’s shocking to see how large the wedding looks from the photos, and how many other photographers and tv crews you guys had to fight with to take our pictures. You guys did a fantastic, excellent, and tremendous job for your first experience in China and dealing with the crazy locals.

I can’t wait to see the rest of photos.

I will forever be thankful for you two capturing our special day.

SuSu
SuSu

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