The typical Chinese wedding dinner is usually an eight-course dinner which, if everyone turns up punctually as the invitation states "7.00pm sharp", would have ended probably within one and a half hours. I just returned from one and as expected, dinner was served closer to 8.30pm. It is now 11.00pm.
I do not know whether it's an age-old tradition that dinner has to start at least one hour late or does this happen only in Malaysia due to a phenomenon known as "Malaysian time"? Some try to make the wait less frustrating by serving cocktails prior to the proper sit-down dinner while others display screen projections of their bridal shots.
Having experienced many a Chinese wedding dinners, we were well prepared having "alas perut" (Malay for "pad your tummmy") with some snacks at tea time to avoid hunger pangs while waiting for dinner to be served. And if you have young children, be sure to give them an early dinner at home first if they are to attend the dinner with you. They can still eat or pick on some of the dishes they like at the dinner but at least, you can rest assured that they will not be starving by the time dinner is served.
With the dinner comes the usual champagne pouring, cake cutting and the must-have loud and prolonged three cheers of "Yum seng" to wish the newly weds long life, health and wealth, and many, many children.
(This is Caitlin's favourite part as she too would join in the chorus, raising her glass of plain water and shouting "yum seng" with much delight, clinking her glass to mine before drinking some water. Somehow Caitlin loves attending weddings and is always thrilled to see the bridal couple make their grand entrance, cut their cake and of course partake in the "yum seng".)
So guess why Eugene and I did not organise a typical Chinese wedding dinner when we tied the knot...Of course, to this day, we're reminded of how some of my relatives "didn't have enough to eat" at our afternoon tea reception if the subject of our wedding five years ago crops up.
We did cut a cake and if I remember correctly, we did have a "yum seng". The difference was it wasn't an eight-course dinner which killed dozens of sharks for their fins, nor did we start an hour late or agonised over seating arrangements. I'm glad we did it our way and am thankful for friends who helped make it happen and "happening" with a little dancing and fun and games.
I wish more young couples nowadays would throw such wedding parties be it lunch, tea or dinner!