In the Eastern and Northern US, plated dinners are more popular. In the South, buffets are more popular.
In most Western countries, before or after a meal (traditionally paid for by the bride's family, though rarer now), toasts are made by the wedding party wishing the couple well. Traditionally, the speaking parties include the bride's father, groom, the best man (who usually slips in a few good-natured jokes at the couple's expense) and the maid of honor.
The wedding reception dance party may involve a certain sequence of special dances. For example, after the first dance, the groom may escort his bride to her father for a special father/daughter dance.
Following the special dances, the guests are invited to join in the dancing. The party continues with toasts and celebrations until the bride and groom leave in a car decorated by the couple's friends.
A trend is the addition of a DVD slideshow or photo montage video featuring pictures of the bride and groom growing up and meeting. These are created using home movies and photos taken over the couple's life, edited and set to music. The montage is shown either on a large TV or monitor, or an LCD projector.
Typically, a cake from a professional baker is displayed until after dinner. After a short while of dancing, the couple cuts the cake and then feeds a bite of cake to one another (often with the fingers). After this, the cake is cut for the guests. This cake is typically at least two tiers, often more. Some couples have a smaller, formal, display cake, which is supplemented by sheet cake.
In Chinese society, the wedding reception is known as xǐ-jǐu (喜酒, literally joyful wine), and is far more important than the wedding itself which tends to be a brief civil ceremony. The timing and the characteristics of the reception vary strongly from locale to locale. They are often extremely elaborate and expensive, often costing several years' salary of the groom's family. However, because cash in the form of red envelopes and jewelry (particularly gold) are given as wedding presents, and because the wedding hosts keep very careful track of the cost of the gifts (jewelry is given with a receipt which indicates the actual cost of the gift), the cost of the reception is effectively split among the wedding guests. Wedding receptions also build solidarity in the local community. As each couple weds, their wedding reception is effectively financed by gifts from the other members of the community, with the expectation that the new couple and their family will give gifts in future wedding receptions within the village.
This includes the Chinese in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Red/pink/crimson/firebrick/magenta/maroon/tomato are safe. No black or white or navy blue.
There are two times listed on the invitation: 恭候 (greeting) and 入席 (reception). Typically, they are at least two hours apart from each other (some maybe four hours). The first one means the time groom and bride along with their family will be ready to receive guests and greet them. The second one means the time the reception/banquet will start. The gap between those hours is referred to as entertainment time. Very often the restaurant will provide poker and májiàng (麻將) http://www.majiang.net/ for gambling. The time can also be used to socialize with other guests and take photos with the bride/groom and their families. Nowadays in the U.S.A., it is less likely to see májiàng being played before the banquet and it is often replaced by a cocktail party. However, if the wedding reception takes place in southern China, Hong Kong, Macau, and even Canada, where there is a large Cantonese population, májiàng might still be played before the dinner.
Two people will be at the sign-in table (one from the bride’s family and one from the groom’s family) to register guests and receive gifts/red envelopes. Often they will have two separate guest lists (one from the groom’s side and one from the bride’s side). Then the best-man and the maid of honor will direct ushers to escort guests to their seat.
Typically the banquet will include a speech from the parents, the best man and the maid of honor and the guest speaker. There will be cake cutting, toasts, tea ceremony http://www.chcp.org/wed2.html, some games designed by the DJ, and dancing. The two tables at the center of the room are for the groom’s and bride’s families.
A Chinese wedding reception typically has nine or ten courses. Expensive dishes such as Shark fin, abalone, lobster, jumbo shrimp, squab, sea bass, or sea cucumber, are common on a wedding banquet menu. The average cost of higher-end menus range from USD$1,000 to USD $1,600 per table. http://www.chcp.org/banquet.html
Some westerners may not feel comfortable seeing dishes with a fish head, chicken head or pig head. However, a whole fish, chicken or pig means luck and completeness in Chinese wedding culture.
Traditionally, after the fifth dish of the dinner, the groom and bride and their families will approach each table to toast the guests. If the groom or the bride cannot drink, it is the best man, bride’s maid or usher group’s responsibility to drink for them. Very often, the bride will change into a traditional Chinese red wedding dress (鳳褂 or qí páo) at that time.
Guests are welcome to take leftovers home. Taking home remaining food indicates appreciation of the groom and bride’s choice of food.
About twenty minutes after the tenth (last) dish is served, the groom and bride along with their families will line up at the entrance/exit to bid the guests farewell and thank them for coming. It is not polite to leave before the last dish is served.
Unless the newly wed has a wedding registry, it is best not to give gift or gift certificate. For Chinese weddings, cash or check is always the best gift. In addition to that, some elder relatives might also give gold jewelry. The cash or check should be in a Red envelope or red pocket with your names on it. It is always given when signing in at the restaurant. Avoid any combination with the number '4', it is an unlucky number. Never use a white envelope to wrap cash or check for a wedding.
Chinese Wedding Customs http://www.chinese-poems.com/wedcus.html
Chinese Wedding Foods http://www.chcp.org/banquet.html
Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony http://www.chcp.org/wed2.html
Frequent Asked Questions from Guests attending a Chinese Wedding http://www.chinabridal.com/etiquette/gfaq.htm