Wedding Soup: The Bitter And The Sweet


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When a man loves a woman, in Singapore, it often ends something like this:

The man and his entourage pounding on his loved one’s door, waving red packets of money as bribes, demanding to “buy the bride.” Once they’re inside, a number of the dishes ranging from the downright vile to the sickeningly sweet are set out.

Their task, of course, is to consume what’s set before them with as much gusto as they can muster. Only then have they earned the right to claim the bride for the wedding to proceed.

While it sounds like a prank, the practice actually is a legitimate part of Singaporean Chinese wedding traditions — by eating items that are “suan, ku, la, tian” (sour, bitter, spicy and sweet), the groom is symbolically acknowledging that he expects to go through these phases with his bride in the years ahead. (It’s something of a literal take on the “for better or worse” contract of Western marriages.)

I could say that the women involved in these proceedings often feel sorry for the poor sods–but I’d be lying. The only thing I feel sorry about when I think of my husband and his Singapore groomsman having to down a large spoonful of wasabi (spicy) and immediately chasing it with a pint of Guinness (bitter) was the fact that as the bride, I was locked in a bedroom and unable to watch how green they got.

As a result, whenever I’m a bridesmaid helping out with the “suan, ku, la, tian” bit of the buying of the bride, I relish the opportunity to really stick it to the boys.

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