Wedding Traditions & Modern Inspirations at Shangri-La Hotel’s Fete Chinoise

When we start planning our weddings there are few east and west cultural traditions that need to be incorporated into the big day. If you’re of Chinese descent, you already know the importance of carrying through some traditions to pay respect to the older generations — that respect is very much a part of our culture. While we don’t have to do every wedding custom,  there are definitely some we love to bring to the day.  The Tea Ceremony is a must, am I right? But how do you balance your special day with some of those traditions yet reflect who you are as a modern couple of today?

This past weekend we had a chance to experience Fete Chinoise, a luxury wedding event held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto. Here we fixed our eyes and our palates to some pretty spectacular ideas! Curated by Deborah Lau-Yu, art director at Paleterra, the space transported us to the old world from the Emperor’s Palace to the busy hustle of the street markets and even a Dai Pai Dong yet with contemporary touches to bring in the elegance of the “new chinese”.

Many style and food experts at the event approached the traditions of a Chinese wedding with a fresh new point of view that made me fall in love all over again. As I wandered through the rooms and ballrooms, I was beyond thrilled to see the creativity of Toronto top wedding and event specialists and what they can offer while understanding our culture. Here I met with florists, event planners, invitation specialists, photographers, musicians, chefs, bakers, bridal wear designers (yes, red gowns were shown along side white gowns and gorgeous silk cheongsam dresses!). But what was a nice surprised was the subtle hints of meaningful chinese wedding symbols that carried throughout the event. Even for those who are not familiar with the significance of certain foods used in wedding dishes were offered morsels of information. The organizers paid much attention to the details that were worthwhile for the hundreds of wedding parties that visited the hotel’s event. Here are some noted highlights…

Fete Chinoise. Photo credit: Sonya D

Yes, red and gold colours are important celebration colours and often we roll our eyes thinking it’s tacky but Fete Chinoise proved that the colours exude elegance and sophistication that is reminiscent of Shanghai in the 1920’s . Think Valentino Red and you’re on the right track. It’s where high society and high fashion meet. Table settings and decor was complete from ceiling to finishings. As I glanced up in one room, I noticed upside down hanging umbrellas. This clever touch could be referencing the catching of tears that won’t be on your special day, but also could mean a symbol of wisdom.

Fete Chinoise, Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, Photo credit: Sonya D

There were many gorgeous flowers displayed but the Peonies by Stemz Flowers caught my attention as the colours stood out in the Summer Palace Park inspired ballroom. Peonies are the national flower of China and also considered the Queen of Flowers.  One of the most desired flowers, peonies symbolize wealth, prosperity and highly sought after for a happy marriage.

Peonies by Stemz Flowers at Fete Chinoise, Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, Photo by Sonya D

The Chinese Tea Ceremony is an important part of weddings and also one of most attentive draws to the Shangri-La Hotel. Tea Sommelier, David Dong, introduced us to a selection of tea that is exclusive to the hotel including an extremely rare Pu-Erh harvested in 2008. Like wine, we are taught the difference and importance of the different types of tea. For wedding, couples and their families have the opportunity to select their leaves from the hotel’s collection of over 80 types.

Tea at Shangri-La Hotel. Fete Chinoise. Photo credit: Sonya D

While food plays an extremely important part of our weddings, you can certainly get the traditional fare but I love the idea of incorporating the fun of food stations during the festivities. My mind was blown away by the many options from elegant steamers full of dim sum, street noodle bowls in a Dai Pai Dong, and even HK milk tea stall served fresh in a ‘night market’ style setting. We all know that noodles represent longevity and definitely do not cut them! But bring in the contemporary with sesame style popcorn at the hotel’s private screening room (yes, a perfect place to show off your wedding day videos and photo presentations), Johnny Walker hot toddies, and of course  macarons and you’ve got a wedding reception that no one will soon forget.

Invitations have also been updated. Remember the rosewood scented invitations? Maybe you don’t, but your parents certainly do! We found many beautiful invitation ideas here including this meaningful one by Paleterra. As you know, octagons have eight sides and is a shape that is often used in Feng Shui practices. The symbolic meaning of an octagon represents eternal life. In Buddhism is represents a whole or a completion. Chinese also say it symbolizes good luck and universally the octagon offers a balance between male and female as well as material and spiritual. Here the hexagon (six sided) is also popular and symbolizes ever-lasting prosperity.

Chinese Wedding Invitations at Fete Chinoise, Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, Photo credit: Sonya D

But red & gold was not the only colour themed offered. The Imperial Summer Palace and the Taihedian (The Great Hall of Harmony) in Beijing served as inspiration fit for an Emperor. Jackie O Florals & Events and Bliss Events recreated a sophisticated space that captures richness in shades of jade green and precious gems.

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Several photographers were featured but Mango Studios set up a sweet Photo Room to capture guests during the event. I was immediately drawn to their friendly approach as they offered a mini-photoshoot. They made me feel very comfortable as though they were friends. I had mentioned on Instagram that trusting your photographer is key to successful photos. You won’t have another chance to capture those precious moments.

Fete Chinoise, Shangri-la Hotel. Photo credit: Sonya D

I was thrilled to take a peek into this weekend long event that was a sold-out event with all proceeds from the sale of tickets going to the Mon Sheong Foundation.

And of course, we were treated to the heart-pounding traditional Lion Dance by Wushu Project!

Many great ideas were found here for weddings and special occasions. If you’re in planning mode now, you’ll want to check out everyone that was involved in this beautiful event at fetechinoise.ca

Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of AZNmodern.com. She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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