Whether you are hosting a big reception or a small intimate gathering, the key to an unforgettable celebration is including personal touches. If you're celebrating with a traditional Chinese banquet (or an East-meets-West style reception), here are five fabulous reception ideas to consider.
The guest book does not have to be your typical page-to-page album. For a twist on tradition, use a large piece of red lightweight silk featuring an embroidered dragon and phoenix motif. The guests can sign it with a brush pen and black ink. You may want to frame the silk before it's signed (leaving out the glass), to make it easier for guests to write on -- and for better transport to and from the reception site. Red silk can be found at most fabric or specialty stores, or purchased online.
Your reception centerpieces are a great place to show off your heritage, and there are so many different ways to do it: We know of one mother of the bride who created origami swans for every table. Another elegant way to add Chinese elements to your tables is with your flowers -- peonies, orchids, or lotus blossoms are all good choices. For a flamboyant wedding, have your florist mix lush brightly colored peonies with roses in tall trumpet vases for every table. More of a modernist? Top each table with potted orchids. Guests can take them home at the end of the night, or you could donate them to a local hospital or nursing home.
Whether it's a full eight-course banquet meal, a four-course sit-down dinner, or passed hors d'oeuvres, the menu is your chance to really show off your culture. For dinner, a variety of meats are customarily served. Choose such red dishes as Peking duck and lobster to signify joy and celebration. Shark fin soup -- a delicious option -- indicates wealth.
Another option is to add sea cucumbers to the salad (the word for "sea cucumber" sounds like "good heart"). Serving them is considered a good wish for the couple to help avoid conflict. And don't forget dessert. Before or after you serve the cake, offer your guests sweet, steamed sticky buns shaped and colored to resemble peaches. The bread's sweetness is to wish the newlyweds a sweet life, while the peach shape symbolizes fertility.
For an elaborate affair, douse your reception space in reds and golds.
Between courses, it's customary for the couple and their families to visit each table to toast their guests. The respectful way to toast is to hold the glass with both hands -- one on the top of the glass and one touching the bottom. As you and your new spouse raise a glass to the table, say, "Kanpei!," which means "dry glass."
[ KNOT NOTE ] If you have a rather large number of guests, take along a bottle of sparkling cider (rather than champagne), when toasting all your tables.
If you plan to serve the traditional eight-course banquet meal, choose a cake that's light in consistency, such as a sponge or chiffon cake. Ask your baker to layer the cake with fruits: Go for fresh raspberry or strawberry layers in the summer and springtime, or orange and almond flavors in the fall and winter. As for the look of your cake, simple, handmade orchid or lotus flowers make an elegant presentation. Get romantic with pearly frosting and hand-painted flowers along each tier; or go modern and have bamboo stalks shooting up from the base of the cake.
For an elaborate affair, douse your reception space in reds and golds. Hang hundreds of large, round red paper lanterns from the ceiling. Mix in red rice-paper parasols hung upside-down (chandelier-style), and center the room by hanging an attention-grabbing dragon kite over the dance floor. Have red place cards, in the shape of fortune cookies, set on red rectangular napkins. For something less traditional, think buttery yellow centerpieces, creamy ivory tablecloths, and a spotting of black chopsticks and black chair cushions. The look is regal yet elegant. Or, go pretty with lavender. Integrate black-ink-drawn Chinese characters and symbols onto pale purple place cards, menu cards, and favors.
-- Anja Winikka