Chapter 5 – Just Get Us to the Church…
Winnie had previously arranged for a driver to take us to Yulin City, about a three and a half hour drive, to the office of Foreign Marriages. The appointment was for 10:00, the driver was scheduled to pick us up at 6:00 AM.
We overslept and woke up at ten minutes to six. Just as we were scrambling to get dressed, the driver Winnie had hired to take us to Yulin called to cancel. Winnie immediately called around for a taxi, and as I was trying to dress and pack I wondered just how much a three and a half hour taxi ride in China would cost. I had packed a suit to wear during our wedding, but I was in such a hurry I pulled on my wrinkled traveling jeans, polo shirt, and dirty sneakers. I didn’t even have time to shave. Winnie dressed about the same as me but still managed to look a lot better.
We made it out of the hotel about 6:30 and piled into the waiting taxi. We drove across the Nanning River bridge, pulled off onto a dirt road and stopped. Winnie explained that the taxi driver had been up all night and needed to wait for his relief. About 20 minutes later the relief driver showed up, and we drove off – to a roadside breakfast stop. Our wedding morning breakfast consisted of hot soy milk with pastries, shared with our taxi driver.
We finally headed off to Yulin City about 8:00. While we drove, Winnie had a spirited conversation with the driver and made several calls to the Yulin City official we had the wedding appointment with. When we arrived at the outskirts of Yulin, I discovered that neither Winnie or the driver knew how to get to the Office for Foreign Marriages – on Winnie’s previous trips she had taken the train and local taxis. So we stopped at a roadside shop, and after several minutes of spirited discussions between our driver, Winnie, and several people at the shop, Winnie gave one man some money. He hopped on a motorcycle, we piled back into our cab, and received a motorcycle escort right into the courtyard of the government building housing the marriage offices.
We piled out, dragging our luggage with us, and I paid the taxi driver. Our four-hour taxi ride cost me a grand total of $65. Winnie was upset; the driver she had planned on using would have cost $40. We dragged our luggage upstairs to the second-floor lobby, dumped it in a heap and found the “Office of Foreign Marriages,” which was a different room than the regular marriage registry.
Apparently, since we were late, the marriage official had taken the next couple in line. The couple were both Chinese, but we learned that the man was living in Canada. We watched as they filled out forms, and spoke what appeared to be their vows in front of the dour-faced woman official. As I watched, I suddenly realized English was not spoken here! I felt momentary panic, completely different that typical wedding aisle “cold feet.”
Soon enough, the couple was finished and it was our turn. We started by filing out forms and cards, all written in Chinese. Winnie filled out what she could for me, and told me what to write where I had to. We finished the forms and it came time to take our spoken vows. Winnie went first, reading from a paper she was holding. When Winnie finished reading, the official handed me a paper, all in Chinese.
Winnie motioned to me, took the paper, and told me to repeat after her. She read a few words, I’d attempt to mimic after her, then she’d read a few more. By the time we got to the end, were both trying so hard to hold back giggles neither of us could speak clearly. I could see the official sitting behind her desk with an annoyed look on her face, rolling her eyes, and obviously just wishing we’d get out of there.
We finished our vows, and now had to pay our fee. This involved handing our passports to the official, receiving a slip of paper, leaving the building and going down the street about four blocks to a bank. Winnie handed a bank official the paper, and I paid the fee – I honestly don’t remember how much. We received a receipt, walked back to the government building, and received our marriage licenses – a little red book for each of us that resembled passports. Inside the book were our pictures and some writing.
We were married.
We collected our luggage, walked out the building and down several blocks to the hotel Winnie had previously reserved a room. We spent the rest of the day exploring the town and being newlyweds.