Crossing cultures

If you’re about to embark on a cross-cultural wedding, hiring a local wedding planning firm might be the perfect way to avoid a whole lot of headaches and stress.

Kitsfish Studio, based in Richmond, specializes in Western-style Chinese weddings, honouring traditions while bringing in modern-day Western sensibilities.

Wedding planner Judy Zhu said she’s often hired by couples where one of them is Chinese and the other isn’t, or in cases where both are Chinese but were born and raised in Canada.

For Canadian-born Chinese, getting married in a church, hotel hall, or even at the beach is something that’s considered commonplace. In China, such ceremonies are virtually non-existent, as weddings there involve a special morning tea ceremony, followed by lunch or dinner.

Zhu specializes in melding a little bit of the two, in a fashion that makes all involved happy.

Zhu offers a range of services, starting at $850 for wedding-day coordination and going up from there, depending on the extent of her involvement.

The Chinese tea ceremony is considered an important show of respect in the Chinese culture.

In China, the groom with wedding licence in hand goes to the bride’s place in the morning to fetch her, presents tea to her parents and they share a sip of tea. They then together go to his parents’ home, present them tea, and also share a sip.

The sharing of the tea is both a sign of respect for parents and grandparents, an indication that they accept the marriage, but is also a confirmation that the couple will serve them forever, she said.

To Westernize this custom, Zhu said the ceremony can take place during the dinner reception. Couples who only want assistance solely with the tea ceremony can turn to her as well.

Zhu said second-generation Chinese often want to get married in a church or chapel, but wish to keep their parents and grandparents happy by respecting tradition as well.

Zhu said she launched her business six years ago after noticing that no such service existed where the wedding planner knows both Chinese and Western wedding cultures.

Most of her clients find her through her website, at, and she does 10 or fewer weddings annually.

Zhu said Chinese people often like to ask friends for help in organizing a wedding, and don’t often turn to wedding planners because they are considered outsiders.They are also scared away by the cost of hiring somebody to do the work, skeptical of the service even though they don’t know what it amounts to.

Zhu said much of her fee is offset by the savings of money, time and stress to the bride and groom and their families.

“Of course, I will save money for the brides because I have a lot of resources,” she said, adding that she’s established relationships with vendors and service providers who offer her corporate discounts.

As well, she knows who is good and who isn’t, sparing couples another worry.

Zhu said she also does more than just wedding planning, acting more like a friend who can offer helpful advice to the couple to make the wedding day and the weeks prior much less stressful.

Asked about the upcoming royal wedding this summer, and whether this has influenced any of her clients, Zhu said she’s already heard talk about it.

One kept her fingers crossed that the wedding of Prince William and girlfriend Kate Middleton in London later this year wasn’t going to happen on her wedding day in July, and steal the spotlight.

Another bride searched through wedding magazines and brochures for hints of how the royal wedding might be decorated and what colours will be used.

“A lot of people love royal weddings,” she said.

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