"From grandma's sister number four, that's $500!"
Guests applaud and continue eating.
"From uncle number three we have $800!" an MC says from another section of the room.
As the gifts get more extravagant, the guests pay more attention.
"From auntie number two, $1,000!"
Each time, the bride and groom bow to their relatives, and the tea and money continues for an hour or more. The larger the gifts, the louder the MCs shout.
A thousand dollars, two thousand dollars, and people started jumping out of their seats. Four thousand dollars, five thousand dollars, and people started
shouting, "Ai-ya!" (Wow!) And "Jiayou!" (Let's go!) Like it's a competition with the other two weddings. Then, from the wedding located in the middle, the
one with the loudest, most crackling sound system, the MC's voice booms so loud that the speakers fuzz.
"From aunt number five, that's ten thousand dollars!" he hollered, sounding like a Spanish soccer announcer calling a goal. "That's ten thousand dollars folks, not renminbi!" There are just over six renminbi for each U.S. dollar.
The ceremony keeps going, but this wedding clearly won the competition in revelry. The groom, a young student at Baruch College in Manhattan and the
first-born son to an important Chinatown businessman, will start his marriage tens of thousands of dollars richer.
Welcome to the world of Chinese weddings at the height of dragon-year madness.
Evidence for this surge in auspiciously-timed marriages isn't just anecdotal. According to CBS News, a poll taken at the beginning of the
dragon year found that 70 percent of Hong Kong residents wanted to have a baby in the ensuing twelve months, while the Los Angeles Times reported that fertility clinics and surrogacy centers in the city
saw an average 250 percent spike in business from Chinese couples wanting dragon babies.
But it's not just babies. This dragon year, which officially lasted from Jan. 23, 2012 to Feb. 9, 2013, was also a good year for marriage, said Laura Lau,
author of Wedding Feng Shui, the Chinese Horoscopes Guide to
Planning Your Wedding.
"If a marriage has a dragon personality, it could inspire fierce loyalty, passion and ambition," Lau said. This year was particularly special because it
was a couple days longer -- meaning the Chinese first day of spring, li chun, came twice. Lau said this is auspicious." "It helps lay a fruitful
foundation, ideal for a marriage or new businesses to begin."
Focus studies have found that couples in China are willing to spend up to 90 percent of their life savings on their wedding, according to the Chinese
branch of TheKnot.com, named Ai Jie. Asian-Americans, for their part, spend on
average 145 percent more on their weddings than any other ethnicity, and account for a $2.9 billion dollar slice of the national industry, according to the
Wedding Report, Inc., a trade group.