02/17/14

Getting Married In China: Wedding Ceremony

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On February 14th 2014 came the most important day of my life so far, me and my Chinese fiancé got legally married. Alan has been away for business for five days and I was worried if his flight would be on time on Valentine’s Day. I had all these terrible scenarios on my mind of what could go wrong. But you know what? Everything went so perfectly that it’s hard to believe!

My fiancé Alan was the first to arrive at the Guangzhou Foreign Marriage Registration Office and I arrived by taxi just a few minutes later. After that Alan’s parents, sister and brother-in-law arrived as well.

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I will write more about the paperwork side of things on a separate blog post, but in short, it was very easy to get our marriage certificates. You would just get your number and let the staff point you to the right directions for filling out forms, paying, taking photos and for the official ceremony.

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After filling our forms we had about fifteen minutes to take some photos at the decorative hallway. As this is an office that only deals with foreigners marriages, I think they want to make a good impression on us on how smoothly things go and Chinese elements were to been seen everywhere.

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Getting married in this special office was very nice for two other things as well. First of all there was no rush even though it was Valentine’s Day. They did say it was their busiest day of the year, but still the staff had time for us to have a special ceremony, something that Chinese-Chinese couples don’t get. Secondly the staff took many pictures of us and in the end we could buy a cute wedding album with nine photos. The album also has pockets for our marriage certificates (the red booklets) as well.

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Above Alan is demonstrating how there’s no change for me to run now! (Or was that to show how he can’t lift me up?! Which he actually can. )

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After some more cute photos, it was our turn to start the official ceremony. Us and our family members were asked to the ceremony room where we started taking a lot of photos according to the staff member who guided us for different poses.

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I had no idea that the wedding ceremony would be this interesting as I thought it would be more like a “sign the papers and get the booklets”. It was a very nice surprise to see that us Foreign-Chinese couples got some special treatment and attention. After all, at least for me this was the actual wedding day which will later be celebrated on anniversaries. For Chinese it might be just getting the paperwork done and that’s it, the wedding reception is much more important for them.

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After posing for photos the marriage officiant came in and said a few words that I really don’t remember.

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Then we had to read our “vows” from the forms we had already filled and that were printed out. As I had filled mine in Chinese, I also had to read my vow in Chinese! I was super nervous but my dear Alan read quietly along me so I could pronounce all the words. It was the first reading aloud I’ve ever done, but luckily there is no recording of that!

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The vows included things like we vouch that we aren’t relatives by blood, that we are getting married by our own will and that we are clear of each others health situation. After reading we both signed the paper to make it legal.

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Then we exchanged the same rings we bought when we got engaged. We took the rings of at the beginning of the ceremony and now it was time to put them back on our fingers.

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In the photo below you can see as both very touched to receive our official marriage certificates. In that moment it really felt real that we are now husband and wife.

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We of course also had to take a photo with our new red booklets! Alan was surprised that we don’t have marriage certificate in Finland that look like passports, according to my knowledge it’s just a document in black and white. But in China you get these red certificates that includes a photo of you two and your information.

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A kiss to seal the marriage!

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Finally was my time to surprise Alan and we hopped into a taxi without him knowing our destination. He was super surprised to see that we get off at the Westin Pazhou Hotel! It was time to celebrate with excellent food, five-star service, Finnish sauna, swimming and luxurious room.

Even though we are now legally married, there is still a lot to write about getting married in China! Future posts will include the paperwork to be done in China, changes in addressing family members and planning the Finnish-Chinese wedding reception.

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02/11/14

New passport, new bank account?

bankWhile in Finland this January I applied for a new passport as the old one was expiring later this year. I had no idea how getting a new passport could also affect my banking back in Guangzhou. In Finland the passport number changes every time you get a new passport. And in China your passport number becomes your identity number that is needed in many official documents and papers.

So yesterday I went to the ICBC, a bank where I’ve been a customer for four years now. Visiting the bank is never a quick trip and this time I had to wait hour and a half before it was my turn. When I handed in my papers and documents for changing euros to renminbi, I also mentioned that I have a new passport now. He started going over their computer system and seemed a bit puzzled. He called over his supervisor as well and they asked me if I happened to have my old passport with me as well. Luckily I did.

They had no idea how they could be certain that I had changed my passport legally, which is a bit strange to me as changing a passport is something everyone has to do. They demanded me to get a document from my embassy to prove that I had gotten a new passport. I don’t even know if such a document exists!

In the end they changed my euros to renminbi by using my old expired passport! Next time they told me to get the document from my embassy, but I told them it would be much easier to just open a new bank account. And that’s what I have to do as soon as I have the time to waste a few hours at the bank again.

I can still access my online bank and withdraw money, but if someone sends me euros, there’s no way I can get them changed to renminbi! It seems that I just have to get a new bank account every five years when I get a new passport. Have any of you experienced this dilemma?

I can only imagine how hard it would be if I decided to follow the Finnish custom to change my last name when married. But I don’t have the patience to go over that paperwork so I’m happy to continue using my rare last name.

I just hope there isn’t any other surprises around the corner for me and my new passport number.

photo: Zhejiang News