01/28/14

Getting married in China: Choosing the date

Choosing the date for your wedding is important in both Finnish and Chinese culture. In Finland we usually choose a Saturday during the three Summer months June, July and August. The weather should be nice and guests are usually free on a weekend. The date might also have a special meaning to the couple.

It’s a lot more complicated in China. Of course you want to have your guests available on that date or perhaps choose an anniversary date for your wedding. Dates like 8th of August are also popular as number eight is a lucky number in China. There were lots of couples getting married back in 8.8.2008.

Then you have to check the lunar calendar that states which things or life events can be organized on a certain date. It also states which things you should avoid on that date. Sometimes it can be very hard to find an auspicious date for your wedding that fits your other needs as well.

So how did we decide our wedding date or should I say wedding dates?

Valentine's Day Chinese Calendar

First of all we are going to get our marriage certificates on Valentine’s Day. I think it’s a romantic day and perfect for getting married. It’s also easy for my groom to remember later on! Luckily it’s also an auspicious date to get married as you can see from the lunar calendar above. Under 宜 (suitable, appropriate) there is a word 嫁娶 which means to marry.

WeddingDay Chinese Calendar

Then comes our wedding reception a few months later on 2nd May. Why to choose this date? We wanted to wait for my friend Linda to get back to China, but we wanted to arrange the wedding before the hottest Summer months. Luckily most of my family can also be there for us and it happened to be during a sale period at Finnair so they got nice discount tickets.

Unfortunately according to the Chinese lunar calendar, you absolutely should avoid (忌) getting married on that day. Because for Chinese the wedding reception is more important than getting the legal papers, my fiancé’s parents aren’t really happy that we chose an inauspicious date for our big day.

We, or should I say I, have three months to plan the wedding. This will be our only wedding, we don’t plan to have any second reception in Finland as most of my family can arrive to Guangzhou in May. I want to include both Chinese and Finnish elements to the wedding, but stay true to our vision of the day.

More wedding posts will surely be on its way during these months!

01/25/14

Getting married in China: The paperwork in Finland

chinese marriage certificateOur quest for Chinese marriage certificates

Me and my Chinese fiance are getting married in China this Spring. We will get out marriage certificates on Valentine’s Day (if everything goes as planned) and have a Wedding party in the beginning of May. Getting married abroad to a foreigner means there is paperwork to be done. I have now luckily finished the first step and got my papers in order here in Finland.

The first thing was to get a Certificate of capacity under Finnish law to contract marriage before a foreign authority. It takes a week to get this documents which is in Finnish, Swedish, English and German. You get this document from the Local Register Office and with 11 euros they will notarize it as well.

Next seal has to come from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland which will certify the Local Register Office’s signature and seal. As I was running out of time, my plane leaving next Tuesday I decided to go to Helsinki my self to get the seals from both the ministry and the Chinese Embassy.

I took a 5.35am bus to Helsinki from my hometown and arrived early to get some breakfast and tea before taking a tram to the ministry. I was the second in line and got my document legalized in ten minutes.

Next I took the tram back to the city center and changed to a metro to Kulosaari. It was easy to find the Chinese Embassy with Google Maps downloaded the day before to my iPhone. As I have always gotten my visas through an agency, this was the first time I visited the embassy my self. Nothing special really, but it was nice to see other Finns going to China and even hear some of their stories.

It wasn’t possible to get the final seal to my document right away, instead I had to wait until the next morning. When I went back I noticed that they had written the wrong date on the paper and the legalization wasn’t done when I arrived. Luckily I got it after waiting for half and hour or so. The man behind the glass even congratulated me for getting married!

Getting the paperwork done in Finland was quite easy and straightforward:

  1. Certificate from the Local Register Office with a notarization signature and seal (11 euros)
  2. Legalization signature and seal from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (20 euros)
  3. Legalization signature and seal from the Chinese Embassy (43 euros for next day rush service)

It’s always important to check your own embassy, consulate or other office what kind of paperwork you need to get married abroad. Also remember to check the “marriage office” in China where you plan to get your marriage certificates as well. The correct paperwork always depends on your own nationality and the city you will get married in.

The next step for us is to get our documents and papers to the marriage office few days before The Day. Then on Valentine’s Day I will go there first to get our waiting number and my fiance will hopefully arrive on time from his business trip.

I have already planned a surprise for my fiance on Valentine’s Day, but our Wedding in May still needs a lot planning and mediating with the parents before everything is perfect.

I would love to write more about the Wedding planning, would you be interested in reading about it?

01/19/14

Being back home after two and a half years

Heinola

I’ve been living in China for four years now and I have visited Finland two times during these years. First time was Summer 2010, only a few months after my move. The second time was May 2011 when my little sister graduated from high school. After that I only left China to go to Hong Kong quite a few times, for visas, traveling and meeting my fiance’s family.

Now after two and a half years I’m back in Finland again, to spend time with my family and friends before the Chinese New Year when I have to go back to China. Living abroad means you are always missing something, missing your home country or the new home you’ve created somewhere else. So how does it actually feels like to be back?

With my family the biggest change has been with my youngest little brother. He is turning 15 soon and has transformed into a young man already! I was really shocked to see him for the first time after such a long time, even though I’ve seen photos of course, because he is totally different from two years ago. He even wears really nice clothes now! At the same time it made me think what else I’m going to miss while living in China.

Two of my friends are getting married this Summer and I won’t be there to celebrate with them. Other two are having their firstborns in a few months. My little brother’s confirmation will be in August and I’m probably not able to make it. What else am I going to miss in the future?

As I understand how it feels like to live abroad away from your family, it matters so much that my family is making the effort and coming to my wedding in May. First I didn’t even feel like having a real wedding reception, but the moment I heard they are coming, I started planning!

Besides family there are of course many friends I left behind when I moved to China. It’s hard to keep in touch during the time apart, most of the news I hear from Facebook if at all. But I was happy to notice, that with good friends it doesn’t matter how long it has been, you always continue from the very same spot. I noticed that I can talk about pretty much anything with my best friends, even though time has passed.

Other things I’ve noticed include the darkness during the Winter. The sun rises at 9am and sets at 3pm, for ordinary working people they only see the sun during weekends.  It was a shock to me how dark it is when you wake up, I had totally forgotten. It was even darker this Winter when the snow came very late, this week it’s been much better when the snow brightens everything up. Luckily we are getting towards the Spring and the sun is up longer and longer every day.

I hope that in the future I’m being able to visit Finland at least once a year and we have plans to visit Finland together next year. Can’t wait to show Alan how Finland is really like, I’m sure it helps him to understand me and Finland much better. At the same time my family and my friends can finally meet and get to know him.

But before that I’m going to enjoy my last week in Finland, starting with family lunch today!

01/10/14

Little Sister’s Chinese Wedding

My boyfriend‘s little sister got married right before the new year. The wedding was a traditional modern Chinese wedding, at least according to my knowledge many Chinese weddings these days follow the same steps and therefore her big day is a great example of a Chinese wedding.

IMG_4958
First thing in the morning was to start with hair and make-up. While the bride was enjoying a facial mask, her mother, me and the bridesmaids got our make-up ready and hair done. It took a good few hours before she was able to start hers, change to her wedding gown and do final touches to her hair.

Relatives started arriving during noon and they have lunch in a restaurant, when the rest of us ate from take away boxes. Everyone was waiting for the groom to arrive early afternoon.

IMG_5013

A lot of photos were taken from each of the bridesmaid and especially of the beautiful bride! Few of the “diamonds” on her dress fall out while dressing up, but luckily it didn’t show in photos. The dress was huge and filled the whole bed when she was waiting for her man to arrive.

IMG_5055

In China the groom arrived with his bestmans firing fireworks along the way. Then he has to pass several games or questions in order to open the door to the bedroom. For example he had to sing romantic love songs and slip money envelopes under the door.

IMG_5068

Finally the bridesmaids were satisfied and opened the locked door for the groom. He gave the flowers to his bride and countless cameras and mobile phones started taking photos of the happy couple. The groom had also paid for a professional photographer as well as a cameraman.

IMG_5098

Next in order was the traditional tea ceremony where the new couple offered tea to the elders, starting from the bride’s parents. The mother of the bride also gave her daughter several pieces of golden jewelry.

IMG_5109

On a happy day like wedding family photos are of course necessary! Here with the couple are the bride’s parents, uncle, his wife and their daughter, and my boyfriend with me. It was a big thing for me to be included in all of the family photos, a feeling of acceptance to the family.

IMG_5122

Then the couple left the home village with a long black limousine! The bride truly looked like a princess when stepping into her majestic vehicle.

IMG_5130

The wedding receptions was held in a famous restaurant not far from the couple’s new home. Near the entrance, the bride and groom were welcoming the guests with the bridesmaids and bestmans. The bride’s mother was on the left collecting red envelopes full of money that is a traditional gift in weddings.

IMG_5141

Finally all the guests were seated and the new couple made their entrance. I almost started laughing when I heard the theme song from the Pirates of the Caribbean! Luckily it quickly changed to the traditional wedding tune while they walked past the guest to the stage.

Both the groom and the bride said a few words to the guests, but there was no speeches from the parents. A ceremonial cut of the wedding cake was performed in the stage, but the cake wasn’t for eating.

IMG_5145

During the dinner the bride changed to her Chinese outfit and alcohol and tea serving started. The groom would cheer with others on hard alcohol, but the bride offered guests tea instead. Bestmans followed the groom and the bridesmaids followed the bride.

IMG_5162In the end more photos were taken and the whole wedding ended around eight o’clock. For a Finnish wedding it would be way too early (we like to party until late at night on our wedding day), but for a Chinese wedding it was completely normal.

I am very happy for my sister-in-law and her husband, they make such a great couple! I felt huge amounts of happiness that day when I saw how happy everyone else was. I’m sure the wedding was pretty much everything the bride wanted for her special day.

Me and Alan’s wedding will be completely different, but that’s another story for another blog post.

01/7/14

Engagement

finnish chinese coupleChinese men are said to be shy, but not when they know what they want. When I met my boyfriend Alan on 8th December 2012, he took my hand and decided not to let go. He talked about marriage very early on the relationship, like during the first days kind of early. I think that was his way to make sure I was in for real and for him to show he is serious with me.

Then one night last Autumn he asked for my hand. It’s an amazing feeling to know someone has chosen you and wants to spent the rest of his life with you. And even more amazing when you feel exactly the same. We bought our engagement rings on 24th November 2013 and told our parents and friends.

rings

We have now set the date for 2nd May 2014 and I’m happy that at least part of my family will be attending for sure. My mom, smallest brother, little sister and her boyfriend already bought tickets today. My older little brother and my dad are still unsure of their work schedules, but I hope they will make it.

I can’t believe that I’m able to spend my life with Alan and our story is just beginning.

At the moment I’m spending my holiday in Finland with my family and friends. Blog posts about Alan’s little sister’s Chinese wedding and how it feels like to be back home are on the way. If you want to follow my more recent news, you’re welcome to like my Facebook page.