Asian-themed weddings are on the rise, and at first this might come as a surprise. After all, nothing could seem further from the Laura Ashley vision we get when thinking of a wedding.
And in fact, that's one of the forces behind the rising popularity of the Asian-themed wedding: how it turns things upside-down. In fact, in a Chinese-style wedding, white is bad (it's the color of death) and red and black are good (they're the colors of luck and prosperity).
You might wonder whether brides that plan Asian-themed weddings are Asian (or marrying someone who is). The answer is, sometimes. Surprisingly often, they aren't, and the choice is purely aesthetic.
Today's trends break down into two main types of Asian-themed weddings: the Japanese or "Zen" style, which values simplicity and nature, and the more riotous Chinese style, which bristles with bright colors and shiny fabrics.
Although either choice may surprise some older guests, the bride may find her personal values deeply expressed in the Asian-themed wedding. After all, the usual wedding is a certain kind of pageant: the couple pretends to be royalty for a day, and lavishly entertain a large party - seemingly without a care, though they rack up huge debt to do so.
Brides drawn to the Zen-style ceremony often want to avoid the "royalty pageant" and simplify the ceremony (ironically, this can result in greater elegance for the price tag). This type of bride might read "voluntary simplicity" books, care about the environment, enjoy an uncluttered house or apartment with a handful of Japanese accents (Shoji lanterns and screens, for example) and find herself attracted to natural materials. She may feel freed by a simpler wedding gown, and carry an unfussy bouquet of calla lilies. Her centerpieces might be lanterns surrounded by black and white stones. For favors, she might give out fortune cookies placed in take-out boxes and topped off with chopsticks.
Other brides find aspects of tradition stifling, so they mix up their ceremony with Chinese-style zest. This bride might dress her bridesmaids in glowing red (or slinky black!) Cheongsams, dresses with high collars and slit sides. She'll hand them parasols instead of nosegays, and pass out chopsticks for their hair. Her own gown might be of gorgeous brocade in red, orange or gold. Perhaps she'll wrap up the ceremony with a butterfly release and hand out lucky bamboo stalks as wedding favors. This bride doesn't mind charting her own course in social affairs, and she loves the Chinese devotion to parents and children.
In either case, the Asian-themed wedding is a great way to tie your ceremony to your personal values. Perhaps the thought of such a wedding crossed your mind, but you thought you had to be Asian? The fact is, Asian traditions and trends have been shaping Americans deeply since the 1960s. Maybe it's time to ask yourself this: which type of Asian-themed bride are you?