The Perfect Finnish-Chinese Wedding Part 1

Finally after a few month’s preparation our wedding day was here. On the day before we had made offerings to the ancestors by burning ghost money and offering them food and drinks. We also fired some small firecrackers, but nothing compared to those on the morning of our wedding day.

My parents-in-law also prepared our new bedroom with red bedding with dragon and phoenix embroidery. Auspicious items, apples and red pockets were placed on the bed in order to bring a child to the family soon. We also decorated both the new and the old house with red and blue fabrics and decorative items. Blue to represent Finland and red to be the symbol of China.

I slept surprisingly well the last night, right next to my husband against the tradition in many countries. It was out of the necessity as we already had all of our rooms full because of family members. And we couldn’t use our new bedroom before the wedding day, it had to wait behind a closed-door.

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I woke up before 6am and got ready for the hair brushing ceremony that brings good luck to the new couple. Traditionally it should be done by my own mother, but because she isn’t familiar with this Chinese tradition, my mother-in-law gladly took her place.

After a few strokes of a brush and auspicious words, I was ready to start my make-up. I had invited a professional make-up artist to make me pretty and she also took care of my sister (maid of honor) and the two mothers. I almost fell asleep again when she asked me to close my eyes while applying eye shadow.

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I had decided to wear a lace qipao during the Chinese wedding and it fit perfectly, the only problem being sitting down and some very interesting attempts to sit down or stand up were seen on that day. My make-up artist had chosen to create a very simple hair-do for me with three red and golden flowers. After all of this beautifying and dressing up, I felt such a confidence during the whole day that I have never felt before. Wow, I actually looked pretty good!

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At 8.30am it was time to come down the stairs and let my husband to see me for the first time. It was also the first time for me to see his handsome suit that fit him so amazingly. Blue and red together just like I had planned months before.

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While others started to get ready as well, we went to the old family house (our new home) to take pictures. I remember thinking it was the right choice to hire a professional photographer, as the photos will be one of the lasting memories of our wedding day.

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Many Chinese couples, if not everyone, take pre-wedding photos in photo shops and dress up in multiple outfits posing for the camera in different settings. As me and my husband usually prefer something more simple and down to earth, we wanted to have photos at our new house instead.

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The picture above is one of my favorites from that day as we are posing in front of our home. I think this photos illustrates how our two cultures go together and our appreciation for preserving the old.

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Our photographer Andy had great ideas and tips for our photos, he was always giving as directions on how to pose and be more relaxed. Being a wedding photographer is his second job, but still last year alone he photographed more than 50 weddings. If you are planning to get married in Guangzhou, I would love to recommend Andy for you.

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Posing for the photos wasn’t easy for me, but the beautiful outfit and the newly found confidence helped a lot. These photos are from the first batch Andy send us and we will receive the finished pics later when he comes back from his one month trip of cycling around Tibet.

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At our new home we opened the door to our bridal chamber thinking how this room will be the hearth of our home for years to come. Of course I didn’t think how hot the second floor is during Summer and as we don’t have AC yet, we have been sleeping on the cooler first floor for now.

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Smiling comes naturally for my husband, but the photographer had harder time to get me show my teeth! Later that day I needed to ask my little brother to tell some jokes to get me laugh.

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My husband Alan is usually the one to make funny jokes and poses!

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The rainy season had started in Guangzhou before our wedding on 2nd May, but on that very day it seemed the heaven wanted to bless us with sunshine. I’m not a religious person myself, but my mother-in-law it must be a match made in heaven or something to have such a wonderful weather for our wedding day!

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For my wedding bouquet I went for fabric flowers as real flowers don’t survive long in the humid Summer weather, I wanted to have one more lasting memory of the best day of my life. I finished the bouquet with silk ribbons, red and blue of course.

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At 10am it was time to start the important tea ceremony. First we offered tea for Alan’s grandparents that had passed away. We burned incense, asked for protection and blessing and poured their tea on the floor.

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After that we offered tea to all the elders of the family, including my mother. Kneeling down was really hard on my red qipao, but with my husband’s firm had I managed to do that without falling down. On the right my sister and one of my bridesmaids are helping us to give tea to Alan’s parents.After giving tea and wedding candy to the elders, they gave us red pockets filled with money and some gifts.

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In China a wedding is not a real wedding if some firecrackers aren’t involved!

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Ready, set, go!

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After the tea ceremony it was time to get to our cars and head to the wedding banquet. I had chosen a beautiful lace umbrella to match my outfit and following the tradition my little sister in blue hold it above me from the front door to the car. My mom and little brother are following us in the background.

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The every bride’s best wedding planner, Pinterest, gave me an idea to have a finger print guest book. The two red ones forming a hearth are mine and Alan’s. The guest book was placed on the table where the guests would give a red envelope to my mother-in-law. She also did a great job in ordering everyone to leave their finger prints and it turned into a beautiful piece of art we will hang on our home.

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When all the guests had arrived and we had taken group pictures with almost all of them, it was time to “walk along the aisle to the altar” or more like follow the red carpet to the small stage.

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With the classic wedding music and colorful confetti we walked past our family and friends to the stage.

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There is never enough colorful pieces of paper in a Chinese wedding!

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At the last minute one of the bestman’s had decided we should have a exchanging the rings ceremony in front of everyone. That was already the third time we had exchanged the same rings, but it did make some nice photos. (First time was when we got engaged last year, second time during the official wedding ceremony).

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A kiss to seal the happy marriage!

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What is common for both Chinese and Finnish wedding are the speeches. Us, Alan’s parents and my mom all gave speeches that were translated to Cantonese and English for everyone to understand. I broke up to tears when listening to my mom’s speech and had to squeeze my husband’s had very very tightly.

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After the speeches it was time to eat! Of course we as the newly weds only had a few minutes to eat and then we separated for our own responsibilities. Alan went with the red wine to cheer with all the guests and had his bestmen to follow him. O course he couldn’t have drunk the real thing from the first to the last guest, so they have prepared a mixture of tea and wine for him.

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At the same time Alan’s mom lead the way for me and the bridesmaids to offer tea for everyone. What was new to me, was that all the guests would give small red pockets of money to the tray as well. The sums were small, but the most important things was the tradition.

Our Chinese wedding banquet ended after 1pm and I was already exhausted. But this was just the beginning, the Finnish party would start in a few hours! But that’s another story for the next blog post.

  • chinaelevatorstories

    Beautiful pictures! The Chinese part of your wedding just sounds perfect and like it was planned really well.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    The planning wasn’t that perfect, but luckily the day way :)

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  • Alisha

    So beautiful story, pretty couple and very nice pictures :) Congatulations and wish you both all the best.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you, great to hear you enjoyed it Alisha.

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  • Feifei

    The pictures are really lovely, the two of you look so happy together! And your wedding dress is beautiful :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Feifei :)

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  • Roddy

    Congratulations to you and your husband, Sara. Lovely pictures.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Roddy :)

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  • Wonderful pictures and it was definetely the right choice to hire a professional photographer. At our wedding in China we had, well, some elderly women taking pictures with their mobile phones and thats it. However in Finland we had hired a professional and at some point I will also write a little article about that wedding :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I saw non-professional photos from other people’s weddings and decided we must have a professional, photos are the memories that will last. It would be great to read about your Finnish wedding as well :)

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    Timo Reply:

    We had a wedding few months prior to ours in Finland and there was a professional photographer. After seeing those pictures online we had no choice but to hire him. I guess I will have tomorrow the article about the wedding ready :)

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  • Rebekah

    Congratulations!!!!
    How beautiful!!! I’m so happy for you both, and you looked amazing. :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Rebekah!

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  • Anna Zech

    There is just one word: beautiful! It looks like the dream wedding! Your dress is amazing, and I can see how happy you are on every single picture! I can’t wait for the second part of the wedding!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Anna, it really was the best day ever :)

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  • MM

    Yes beautiful couple the photo of both of you standing in front of the old door to your home, simple but very beautiful, congratulations.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I like that photo a lot too :)

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  • leon

    Congratulations!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Leon!

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  • Jocelyn Eikenburg

    Sara, your red qipao is just so gorgeous! Love it! And congratulations once again!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Isn’t it, I wasn’t even looking for a qipao when I saw it and just had to have it :)

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  • Susan Blumberg-Kason

    Congratulations and best wishes! Your wedding photos are stunning and the lace qipao gorgeous! Have a wonderful honeymoon!!!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Susan! We will probably have our honeymoon later when we have the time and money to make it great.

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  • T

    Everything looks great… Congratulations!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you!

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  • Lovely pictures! It’s great that everything turned out perfect. Congratulations again!
    You look beautiful, I agree that it is worth it to have a professional photographer and make up artist for such an important event, they will make the pictures look great.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    And I felt so good that day! I told my make-up artist before she left that I made the right decision to hire her as she knew even better than me what I wanted :) Thank you Marta.

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  • Chris_Waugh

    Congratulations! The photos are great.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Chris!

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  • nama-mama

    What wonderful pictures! You guys look great! Congratulations and thank you for sharing your experience :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you :)

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  • Ajax151

    Congratulations, of all the unique experiences in China, this may top them all. I’m looking forward to the next post.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you :) Next post coming right away!

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  • @theDebbyRachel

    Beautiful! Wish you both all the happiness in the world :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you :)

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  • Tessa

    Beautiful wedding! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m also a Western girl dating a Chinese guy and it’s so great to see what might happen in the future ^_^

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Tessa :) Ooh, how exciting to hear you might be planning your own wedding in the future too!

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  • Jules

    You look beautiful! Congratulations on your wedding!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Jules :)

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  • Pingback: The Perfect Finnish-Chinese Wedding Part 2 | Living A Dream In China()

  • Alva

    Great pictures Sara! Congratulations to both of you! :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Alva :)

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  • Beautiful pictures!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thanks Eileen.

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  • David(originally from Hong Kon

    Congratulations! Both parts of your wedding were great events, beautifully presented and well organized. Whoever planned the two parts did an excellent job. Others have commented on your outfits, and I agreed with them. I would like to add that Alan’s outfit also looked very good. In Cantonese, we would say that he looked “ho sing” in that outfit (roughly translated into “very sharp” in English). You did not mention anything about red pocket money involving your younger brother and sister. I assume there was no problem with them not giving any red pocket money. I am sure that your in-laws did not mind. I would not be surprised that your in-laws even gave your brother and sister some red pocket money, for good luck, before their trip back to Finland. The best thing I liked about the wedding is that you and Alan kept the tradition of both countries, so that guests from Finland could learn about Cantonese wedding tradition and likewise guests in China could learn about Finnish wedding tradition. In a way, you and Alan have acted as the bridge between the two groups of people, fostering greater understanding. Great! May the Finns and Chinese be understanding and respectful of each other’s ways of life from now until forever! May there never be any negative propaganda in the media of either country against the people of the other country. If these two wishes of mine come true, you and Alan can take some of the credit.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Well thank you David, it was a lot of fun and stressful moment to plan the weddings, but luckily everything turned out good!

    I really liked Alan’s outfit as well, he got it custom made and we had to choose every little detail our selves. It was hard to figure out how the suit would look like once it’s finished. Luckily the tailors shop was very professional.

    You are right that my sister and brother didn’t give any red pockets. And they are younger than me and not married, so I think that should be ok from the Chinese perspective as well. No one mentioned it at all, even though I’ve read on another blog that it was a problem for the Chinese family.

    Instead my sister and her boyfriend bought us a present, a cook book full of Finnish recipes.

    I do hope that we can show others how to bring two cultures together and two families together as well. By learning about other people, we also have more understanding.

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    David(originally from Hong Kon Reply:

    A cookbook full of Finnish recipes is a great present. I hope you can find the Finnish cooking ingredients in Guangzhou. May be Alan could even make a Finnish meal to surprise you, in the kitchen of your lovely new home. But then he would need to learn Finnish to read the cookbook. It could be the first step for him to learn Finnish.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    The cook book is in English so Alan can have his try as well.

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  • Anabel Bulgarin Meza

    Beautiful pictures! I love the photo that you are looking at your bouquet and the one with your husband in front of your house… I Can`t wait to see next blog post. Congratulations.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you :)

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  • Congratulations Sara! Great post and absolutely lovely wedding…..love your red wedding Qipao! It really is beautiful….I love the Qipao and it is a passion that has inspired a gret deal on my own blog. I would love to find out what you think about the Qipao. Also I must send this post to my Finnish good friend. Have a fabulous weekend!
    May
    http://www.walkinginmay.com

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you May! The first time I wore a qipao was on my high school graduation, I bought that black and red qipao from Stockholm. I will check out your blog now! :)

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  • Xinwèi C. Hännibal

    Absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Massive congratulations and wish you a very very happy life with your partner in China!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you so much!

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  • Alice

    wow, great! It is such a lovely wedding.

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