In Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet, the Chinese bride and groom collapse in their hotel room after an exhausting wedding. There’s a knock on the door. The bride goes to answer it. The groom tries to stop her. Too late! All the young wedding guests pour into the hotel room, carting tables, chairs, booze, and supplies for potentially humiliating sexual games. They set up shop and party. Questionable, regrettable activities ensue.
The moral of the story? Never open the door.
Sadly, my Chinese-American husband neglected to show me this movie until after we got married.
It was the night before our wedding. I had fled from the drunken wedding rehearsal party to the bridal suite. I checked my dress for wrinkles and the weather forecast for rain. I found both. I despaired. I checked both obsessively again. And again.
There was a knock on the door.
I suspected it was my Maid-of-Honor, M. She wrote beautiful calligraphy, and I’d asked her to write out the table name/ guest list for the reception. She hadn’t finished it yet, and I figured she had a question.
I opened the door. It wasn’t M. It was Andy’s cousins. Multiple sets of Chinese-American hands grabbed me and pulled me out the door.
“What are you doing in here?”
“The party is downstairs!”
I grabbed onto the doorframe. “Oh, no, the party is TOMORROW!”
Fashion Plate Cousin would not be denied. She pried up my fingers, one by one, while Engineer Cousin, Baby Lush Cousin, and Chronically Late Cousin yanked at my waist.
Now, I mostly come from big, muscular, Germanic peasant stock. My forbearers were built to work in the fields all day, push wagons, drag recalcitrant draft horses, and haul pig carcasses. After I finish squats or leg weights at the gym, I enjoy watching various men surreptitiously remove weights before using the same equipment. My metabolism is sluggish at best, and so I can do quite a bit on very few calories. (Dieting is a hideous exercise in self-deprivation, however. I spend my miserable dieting days telling myself that when the famine comes, everyone else is going to die first and I will eat them. Usually my diet ends before cannibalism sounds more appealing than carrots. But not always. I mean, if Fried Green Tomatoes taught me anything, it’s that you can do a lot with barbecue sauce.)
Even though I was below my fighting weight, I probably could have taken down all of Andy’s less-than-100-pound cousins. But not without leaving some marks. I imagined a big family photo of our wedding — complete with black eyes, and Andy’s cousins forever pointing out the bruises, sighing, and saying, “Oh, yes, those were from the bride…”
So I let the Chinese cousins drag me out of my room, down the stairs, down another hallway, and into the tavern attached to the Inn. (Note to all not-yet-married readers – consider your family’s relationship with alcohol before selecting a wedding site with a tavern attached.)
All of Andy’s family members under age 35 – and some NOT over 18 — were in the tavern, leaving the locals in the dust as they tossed back shots and Guinness lager. The small-town tavern dated from the 1700s. It probably hadn’t seen such an influx of melanin since the French and Indian War.
Andy stood in the center of the tavern, surrounded by the male cousins. The female cousins shoved me at Andy with triumphant shrieks, then dashed to the bar. The men followed.
Andy grabbed my hand. “Run! Before they come back!”
“What’s going on?!” I yelled, as he tried to tow me through the crowd.
“They want to party! Pour booze down your throat!”
I don’t drink. It sounded like a recipe for a disastrous wedding. I scurried after Andy until a hand came down on my shoulder, halting our progress.
It was my twenty-one-year-old Baby Brother. With yet another drink in his hand. He hugged me, sloshing beer all over us. “This is the best wedding EVER!”
M appeared and yelled, “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?”
I yelled back, “Aren’t you supposed to be doing calligraphy? No one is going to know where to sit!”
M grabbed Baby Brother’s drink. She downed the Guinness in a few gulps.
Baby Brother laughed. “Not again!”
M belched, swayed, and explained: “I’m trying to get Baby Brother to his hotel room! But your Big Brother and Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister’s Boyfriend keep buying him drinks!”
Andy grinned and patted M on the shoulder. “Way to take one for the team.”
M glared. “More than one. And someone needs to take some for your brother!”
Sure enough, Denny, who had already been wasted at the rehearsal, downed another shot at the bar, cheered on by the cousins.
“Denny!” I shouted, waving my arms.
Andy yanked down my arms. “Don’t attract their attention!”
Baby Brother waved his empty mug over the crowd. “Where is my Big Brother?!” M tugged Baby Brother toward the door. Andy tugged me after them.
I struggled. “We have to save your brother!”
Andy yelled, “We have to save ourselves!”
Sure enough, the cousins pushed off the bar and came after us. We made it out of the tavern. Cat-and-mouse ensued in the hallways of the Inn. And damn, those cousins emitted some seriously high-pitched shrieks.
I just wanted to go to bed.
So did the elderly, leaf-peeping tourists.
And so did Andy’s mom. When Andy, in desperation, led us to his her room, she was furious. “Your Daddy is sleeping! What is wrong with you?”
She glared at the cousins. They melted away.
I mumbled something like, “Tell your mom Denny needs help!” and slunk away also…but in another direction. I snuck back to the front desk, persuaded the manager to give me a spare key, and took a circuitous route back up to my blissfully silent bridal suite.
And the next time there was a knock on the door, I did not open it.
In case you were wondering…
M and Baby Singing Sister got Baby Brother to his hotel room. The locals still tell stories of the staggering volume of vomit that coated every surface of that particular hotel room the following day. Baby Brother was nearly as green as the bridesmaid dresses in our wedding photos.
Andy’s mom did indeed rescue Denny. He threw up less than Baby Brother and only had to restart his Best Man toast twice.
M did not finish the calligraphy. All the wedding guests found their seats anyway.
When Andy and I finally watched The Wedding Banquet, we laughed, we groaned, and I hissed, “This is information that would have been useful to me last year!”
If you’re marrying into a Chinese family, don’t be like me.
Watch The Wedding Banquet ASAP.