Year of the Dragon!

The Offbeat Bride: Marika, Tea Hunter

Her offbeat partner: Steven, Student, Food Geographer

Date and location of wedding: Nanjing, Jiangsu, China, in the old quarter — January 10, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We wanted to get married in China not only because we were living there but also because we wanted to commit to each other in the place where we had met and fallen in love. We got married in the registrar's office, with only our two friends with us. Afterwards we walked around the Nanjing Old Quarter and The Presidential Palace to take pictures.

Tea ceremony

Our first cup of tea

We had time for Dim sum and I was able to perform the traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony for my new husband. The whole day felt intimate, fun and really easy to organize. Planning for just four people made it easy to make decisions and we all had fun drinking, eating and celebrating!

With our official Chinese marriage IDs

The ceremony

Tell us about the ceremony: We got to the Foreigner's Marriage and Adoption Bureau early that morning and started doing all the paperwork required. After that we were led into the Marriage Room were they took our official pictures for our Marriage Booklets. We then went to a little stage area where we were married in front of the flag and emblems of the People's Republic of China. Three questions were asked and answered, and that was it! We loved it. It took a total of one hour, including the paperwork, and cost $1.20. Short, fast and to the point, leaving us the whole day to get to the really important part: celebrating!!

Our vows

My favorite moment: Saying our vows. There are no vows in the Chinese wedding ceremony, so we had to say them to each other after we had been declared man and wife. We had written them together the day before in our hotel room, and even though we knew what we were going to say to each other, I got moved to tears. Filled with puns, Star Trek references, and promises to keep loving and respecting each other, our vows were perfect for us.


My funniest moment: When our officiant was asking us questions during the ceremony. My Mandarin is pretty good, but the local Nanjing accent was giving me some trouble from the moment we got there. In the Chinese ceremony you are asked three questions before they marry you. I understood the first two (“Are you here to get married of your own free will?” and “Do you promise to share all debts and responsibilities?”) but I could not understand the third question.


Steven answered in Mandarin and I stood there dumbfounded, and the look on my face must have been really funny because the officiant and my Chinese friend both started laughing. The officiant repeated the question slowly: “Do you each promise to care for each other's parents?” but I was so confused that I answered: “No. Wait, what? I mean yes!” in English instead of Mandarin, creating general hilarity. It was just enough to break the tension in the room and helped me relax quite a bit.

Something old, new, borrowed, blue

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We weren't even sure that we could get married in China until the day before the ceremony! We rolled with the punches and adapted to the best of our ability, and things turned out fabulously.


The entire wedding party

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Decide what is most important to you and your partner. Don't let social conventions, family, friends, or workmates tell you what you should do. We had started to plan a much larger wedding in the States, but started stressing out a whole year before our wedding! So we put everything in time-out and we did our thing in China. Planning a big wedding was turning me into someone I could not recognize in the mirror, so I just stopped doing it. Be true to yourself and your partner.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Fill your life with things, people, and activities you love, and don't let anyone tell you how to have a good time!

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Comments on Marika & Steven’s fun-centric Chinese elopement

  1. I loved the intimate nature of your wedding. The language break was funny to read! Sounds like the perfect little break you needed to make the day that more memorable.

  2. “Do you each promise to care for each other’s parents?”
    I love it! Way to really combine the families. Pictures are fabulous. I love the heart. I’ve been in Korea for about four months and people do that here too. Way more hearts in Asia! <3

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