Once upon a time {we got married in Shanghai}

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The wedding

Follow the yellow brick road

Once upon a time (which may or may not have been a random Sunday in June 2013), the girl asked the boy if they were ever going to get married.

One day, he said.

What day? she asked.

Some day he said.

Some day this year? she asked hopefully.

Maybe he said.

Seizing her moment she flourished the iCalendar in front of the boy and said ‘pick a day’.

Startled he said ‘how about your birthday?’

No effing way are you going to get away with that said the girl.

So taking her birthday (August 18) as a start date, she worked her way all the way back to ……

August 10 and said ‘there, that day’.

Uhm. OK. said the boy and the girl witnessed the colour literally draining from her boy’s face. And she laughed and clapped her hands and went to the fabric market to pick a dress.

Not just any dress. But white cocktail dress made from either fake Valentino lace or the scrag ends of a legitimate run of lace.

the wedding

The dress

Uhm. You know that couples thing we had planned for August 10th? said the boy.

You mean our wedding day? said the girl.

Yes that’s the one. Well Josh is having his stag do that night.

No problem said the girl. I wouldn’t want you to miss that. Let’s do that couples thing on the 3rd instead.

August 3rd??! I’m flying in from Beijing that morning said the boy seeing an escape tunnel and/or clutching at straws.

No problem the girl said. You just rock up at the marriage office and sign the paperwork so we can go anytime. The girl couldn’t see the colour draining from the boys face because he was at work but care factor was zero anyway.

But I’ll be tired and hungover. Said the boy.

So? Said the girl.

the wedding

The entrance to the building – the registry office is on the 3rd floor. The red carpet is just a happy coincidence.

The girl spent three days and many phone calls trying to work out what was required to get married. It was quite stressful especially as she had told the boy it was all under control and that the date was already booked in even though it obviously wasn’t. And this may just be the first time the boy finds that out…..

Moving swiftly on….

The wedding

It looks like a government office doesn’t it?

The girl went to the registry office and quickly realised that the white Valentino lace cocktail dress that was being made to measure was going to be a bit OTT here. Couple were getting married in shorts and Birkenstocks. Never mind. There was a very helpful man behind the counter who gave the girl a list of paperwork required for the marriage certificate. It kind of made sense in a very Shanghai kind of way.

Which means it made next to no sense at all.

Official documents from the Australian Consulate were required to be translated into Chinese to state that the marriage was recognised in Australia,  bigamy wasn’t being committed and that the parties weren’t related or sick. But three different pieces of paperwork were required and they all seemed to say the same thing – but in different ways.

The Consulate had no idea which form was required and would take no responsibility if the forms they had were the wrong forms……..

Because obviously no other Australian citizens had ever gotten married in Shanghai before….deep breaths.

So the boy & girl decided to fill in all the forms just in case. It was hard enough getting the boy to leave the office for 30 minutes during the day as it was so the girl was taking no chances.

Bridezilla made her first appearance at the Consulate. Because remember, it was all under control and August 3rd was non negotiable.

The wedding

The room

‘There’s a 6 week waiting time for translation work” said the officious man at the first translating company on the Marriage Registry approved list. It was a short list. This was number 1 of 3. Panic set in.

“But I’m getting married in 2 weeks”

“There’s a 6 week waiting time…….” Care factor was zero. Which just goes to prove that karma is a bitch.

“Yes I can translate the paperwork for you. It will take me 48 hours” Translation company number 2 said.

Loving that karma thought the girl.

One of the many forms

‘We want to get married of our own free will’. Well one of us did.

All the boxes had been ticked. With passports, visas, and original and translated paperwork proving that the wedding would be officially recognized in Australia, that the boy & girl were not related by more than 3 blood lines, had no illness, and were both single and free to marry each other under their own free will the girl went back to the registry office one last time.
Yes said the very helpful man behind the counter. All your paperwork is good you can come back with your husband on Saturday.
Is there a charge for the certificate? Asked the girl?
No, it is 40 RMB for the photo that is it.
Excellent thought the girl. This really is a brilliant way to get married. All she needed now was the groom to fly back from Beijing.
The wedding

Something new, something blue, someone old.

And so as the only nod to tradition, on the morning of the big day the girl woke up on her own and waited for the boy to fly home from Beijing, ignoring the many text messages he sent her to say he’d missed the flight.
Arriving home without a hangover and on time, the girl took it as a sign and deciding she could afford to be nice to him on this day of all days told the boy shorts and shirt would be OK for the registry office but Havianas were definitely not allowed. Fake canvas crocs were OK though. It was 40C outside and jeans would have been unbearable.
Grasping at straws, the girl wore a white skirt and blue shirt and had her nails painted blue. There was nothing to borrow but the boy kindly pointed out that the something old was covered.
The wedding

For future reference

In true Chinese style, the Divorce Office is located just on the left hand side of the corridor before the Marriage Registry Office on the right hand side. Handy to know for future reference.
It’s a sign said the boy.
It certainly is said the girl.
The wedding

The celebrant

Walking straight up to the counter the paperwork was handed over and the boy asked ‘What happens now?’

No idea said the girl. I guess they check it and then we sign something and then we’re married.

The officious celebrant had other ideas. There was a lot of squinting.

And paper shuffling.

And more squinting.

And checking of passports. And visas.

It’s a sign. Said the boy.

Shut up, said the girl.

‘Where is the paper for her to say she marry him’ said the officious celebrant who was clearly scared of making a mistake.

‘It’s there – he has signed to say he marries me and we have both signed the paper and it’s translated into Chinese here’ said the girl.

‘No, I need a piece of paper to say you marry him’.

‘It’s the same thing – we are marrying each other and we both signed the document’ said Bridezilla.

It’s a sign said the boy. Let’s come back next week.

It’s not a sign said Bridezilla. We Are Getting Married Today. Where is the nice man who was here last week? Go and call him on the telephone the girl told the now cowering celebrant. He said everything was OK.

The wedding

Waiting for the official go ahead from the nice man on the phone

Twenty minutes later the celebrant returned and said OK. Go and get your photos taken.

It was never in doubt.

The wedding

Another sign

There was a closed sign on the photography room door.

Of course there was.

It’s a sign said the boy. Let’s come back next week.

Closed? The only place were you can get your official photo done was closed? Really? Bridezilla marched straight in and shouted back at the boy that the photographer must have gone to the toilet because the computer was on and how ridiculous that there was only one photographer for the whole registry office.

We will wait for 5 minutes said the girl for whom patience has never been a virtue. Thirty seconds later she was marching back in trying to work out what the #$%& was going on.

It soon became clear what the #$%& was going on.

Because in China, everyone takes lunch from 12-1pm – even if they are the only photographer in the registry office. The grizzly bear of a photographer was taking a nap on the bench and hadn’t taken lightly to being woken up by Bridezilla shouting back out to her boy about wtf is going on here?

She yelled. A lot. And of course it sounded terribly aggressive. Like she was about to commit first degree murder on the scared laowais who had dared to wake her from her slumber.

The wedding

Our wedding passports – one each!

She yanked the bride and groom into the room and manhandled them roughly onto the bench and drew a red curtain behind them. The blue curtain is for the divorce photo apparently. For future reference.

The boy and girl were laughing so much they were crying. Which made the grizzly bear even more angry and her voice grew even louder than before. She gave up telling them not to smile and no matter how much she tried to get the angles of their head at the officially acceptable degree they were having none of it. She took their money and pushed them out. It was the highlight of their day.

Back in the Registry Office, the photos were handed over and the celebrant printed off two wedding passports for each of them. And was probably glad to see the back of them.

And that was that.

On the way out, somewhere between the Divorce Office and the lift the boy put the wedding band on the girls finger and the deed was officially done.

The wedding

Din Tai Fung

Where do you want to go for lunch to celebrate? asked the boy.

Let’s go for dumplings, we are going to Mr & Mrs Bund tonight.

Really? We can go anywhere you want to go to said the boy.

Xiaolongbao and spicy wontons is all I want for lunch said the girl.

The view

Having pre-dinner drinks at Bar Rouge, the girl and boy looked out over the river to Pudong skyline.

Don’t you have enough photos of that view yet? Asked the boy.

Nope. Every time we come down here and look over there I pinch myself and can’t believe that we live in China. In Shanghai. Me and you together. How did that happen? When we’re old and grey and on the deck in our rocking chairs we’ll look back and remember moments like this. We’ve lived in Tokyo and Shanghai and Melbourne is home. I’m a lucky girl.

Looking across the water and feeling very smug with themselves and their big secret, the girl said “I suppose we should make an effort to at least make a vow each”.

Good idea he said. You go first.

I promise to keep colouring my hair til I’m at least 60 and by then I’ll be done with it and I’ll go with the grey she said.

And I promise to never fart on your head he said.

The end.




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    • says

      The grizzly bear was not amused because we couldn’t tilt our heads together at the right angle. We were crying we were laughing so much. The photo on the wedding passport is horrendous!

    • says

      It got a happy ending. And I got to have my Bridezilla moment(s). On the day I was taking no prisoners and wasn’t going to take no for answer!

  1. says

    Congratulations. What an ordeal. I had no idea things were so complicated. But was there a Melbourne wedding later to give a different flavour to the occasion? xx

    • says

      It was funny on the day – just stressful trying to work out all the paperwork beforehand. And knowing I only had one chance to get Rich there piled on the pressure!!! There was no Melbourne celebration – we are keeping that for when we finally return home and then we’ll have a big party to celebrate and cover all the events we’ve missed out on sharing with friends and family. Hopefully I will still fit into the dress!!!

  2. says

    I am laughing SO hard!! :-) What a fabulous and hilarious and perfect story. I love it. :-) And I thought me and Bear getting married outside on the windy-est day in the history of the world with the Snack Bar Lady as our marriage celebrant was nuts. :-)

  3. says

    What a gorgeous story. Congratulations!

    Dealing with government officials is always a hassle, I can only imagine the hilarity/tribulations of doing it in China (thanking stars that my Australia-US paperwork was at least in the same language!).

    I also love that you chose xiaolongbao for your celebratory meal. What more perfect bite could there be, after all.

    • says

      Thank you :) The wedding is officially recognised in Australia apparently but doesn’t have to be registered in any way. Sounds a bit suspect if you ask me – but that’s China for you.

  4. says

    It’s attitudes like yours that keep you both young and married forever! Congratulations! It was a wonderful post and I laughed so hard through it all. May you both have the best things in life, be smiling always and have a life filled with love and laughter. xx

    • says

      Thank you Nazneen. It’s nice to be able to say husband and mean it – in Tokyo it was just easier to say husband and wife because living together wasn’t the done thing and marital status was either married, divorced or single!

  5. says

    LOL When we got married I asked the celebrant to look at me and say, “Ya wanna?” and I would say yes and then she would look at John and say, “Ya wanna?” and he would say yes and then she would say kiss the bride. The end.

    She refused! Plan B was to make it the shortest marriage ceremony she’d ever done.

    We didn’t have to wake anyone up. I WISH I’d come up with vows like yours. brilliant. :)

  6. says

    I think “I promise not to fart on your head” should be part of all wedding vows henceforth! :) Great story, Nancy! :)

  7. says

    Best fairy tale I’ve heard in a very long time! You had me in tears of laughter as well, Nancy. I love that you have a story to tell and can remember it all so vividly. Our wedding was so traditional and went by like a huge blur. Until I watched the video afterwards, I don’t remember talking to many of the guests that it shows me speaking with. And that was in a receiving line, before the Champagne started flowing!

    I am intrigued that you got marriage passports. Pray tell, when do you need to show those?

    • says

      I guess we need the passports to get divorced?! I needed to show mine to get a spousal visa – and now I’ve gone and put it somewhere safe and can’t find it so the next drama will be trying to replace it!!!