Tag Archives: Taiwanese wedding banquets

Getting Engaged in Taiwan

My wife and I went from not knowing each other to dating, seriously dating, engaged, and married in under a year. [I’m hoping to get laid soon]. That was never my intention. I had it in the back of my mind to ask for her to hand, but the actual proposal was spur of the moment.

Venus took me for dinner to a luxurious restaurant and plied me with champagne, wine, and steak. At the end of the evening she picked up the bill. I have to admit—I came in my pants a little. After eating we went for a walk in the park. It was a beautiful evening, I was drunk, feeling romantic, and a little beholding to her—you know—for the free meal. The proposal slipped from my lips before thought kicked in. My mouth is often halfway to Kaohsiung before my brain gets out of the house. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I wanted to marry her. She’s like cheese cake, stuffed crust pizza, and cocaine poured together into a sexy blob.

I’d already soberly and rationally thought about the proposal. Still, on that night I had no intention of proposing. We hadn’t known each other long enough, but I got swept away on a tide of endorphins and gnocchi. The sky, the beautiful evening, the park, everything felt so right. So I [inadvertently] manned up. Asking someone to marry is the most baller thing I’ll likely ever do.

Immediately after proposing everything slipped from my control. Of course I have zero regrets. [I have to say these things if I want to wake up with an attached penis]. However, when I proposed, so early in our relationship, I assumed a lengthy engagement. You know, I’d introduce her as my fiancé—the future Mrs. Haughn, when there was nothing interesting to discuss we could chat about wedding dresses, walk arm-in-arm acting all betrothed,…. When that got old—in a decade or so—we’d marry. My plan.

That lasted a hot second after informing her family. There were the predictable Taiwanese familial hurdles. Everyone who ever knew anyone associated with my wife’s family felt the sudden need to opine about me specifically and foreigners generally. We heard from the neighbor of her third cousin twice removed about the dangers of the White Peril. It was ridiculous. [See: Marrying Taiwanese and Don’t Marry a Foreigner].

I’m sure feelings of helplessness are common among engaged men when the female marriage industrial complex swings into action. The minutia of a wedding has to be arranged—husbandly input is neither required nor desired. It’s not uniquely Taiwanese, it happens everywhere.

One aspect of the Taiwanese marriage industry isn’t universal. Psychics. They wield tremendous power over the ceremony, and even whether a suitor is accepted. A lot of expats can get quite indignant about the irrationality, it assaults their moral core. My attitude is fairly common among long-term expats. I was raised not to believe in psychics: I still kinda don’t. But, I’ve been here long enough that the way psychic prediction is woven into Taiwanese society does not unhinge me. Overtime I’ve become less inclined to totally dismiss psychic phenomena. [I’ve seen some shit].

When Venus told her parents of our plan to get married, calls went out across the land to psychics, astrologers, shamans, and geomancers. Come one, come all, tell us what to do about this white dude. Does he really love her, or does he have designs on our vast soda can collection? It happens to Taiwanese as well, though the urgency was greater because I’m a foreigner. There was no way for her father to go to my neighborhood and talk to family friends, neighbors, employers, and get a sense of Darren. I now understand his disquiet, I had no pedigree or guanxi. Concerns over my personality and our love created a large bump in second quarter earnings for Taiwanese psychics.

Pronouncing on character and compatibility is not all psychics do here, they also select appropriate dates and times for important family activities. My family has a Buddhist master (師父) they go to for advice about the future, exorcisms, and their general chanting needs. I don’t know how accurate he is, but his recitations are beautiful. There is an astrologer that is frequently consulted. This dude’s amazing, in unexpected ways. If memory serves, my father-in-law also consulted a shaman (乩童)  from the local temple in his hometown. Of course, my wife, likewise, consulted her own array of soothsayers.

Choosing appropriate dates and times for marriage is astrology’s purview, explaining why Taiwanese weddings sometimes happen at bizarre times. 5:30 am? Sounds great for a wedding. [Allowing you to have the reception at the Yellowtail Snapper Gentlemen’s Club breakfast buffet]. Our spiritual consultants provided appropriate dates and times for marriage, all them much sooner than I anticipated. From the list, taking into consideration other superfluous needs and wants, we chose a date (06/07/08), a couple months after our engagement. Taiwan had once again looked upon my plans and giggled.

The uncertainty when control passes to family members, the community, and psychics explains why red bombs (wedding invitations) come so shortly before the wedding. People want to ensure they’ve navigated all obstacles and will actually marry. There’s many a slip ‘twixt dick and toilet. In Taiwan you usually receive your wedding invitation one or two weeks before the ceremony. You’re expected to drop everything to attend. It’s inconvenient, but this explains that.