An Over-the-Top Wedding With Epic Fashion and Entertainment in Zhangjiajie, China

For their wedding in Zhangjiajie, China, Laurel and Mike celebrated with multiple events over the course of their wedding weekend. A barbecue welcome

For their wedding in Zhangjiajie, China, Laurel and Mike celebrated with multiple events over the course of their wedding weekend. A barbecue welcome party kicked off the wedding weekend. Next up, the couple had fun with breakfast door games before the ceremony and reception. To finish off the weekend, everyone kicked back with a festive after party that took place in a cave. “The inspiration behind the day came from our love of the outdoors and the desire to share the beauty of Chinese culture with our friends and family as way to break stereotypical borders since we are a bi-racial couple,” explains Laurel. “The wedding was a blend of east-meets-west culture—we implemented the wedding traditions of an American wedding but added in hints of Chinese culture with the inclusion of door games, tea ceremony, and by ensuring of course that there were multiple dress changes.”

Following the welcome barbecue that happened early on in the wedding weekend, Laurel shared a meaningful moment with her mother and bridesmaids. “Traditionally, the matriarchs of the household will brush the bride's hair and recite a saying that talks about imparting well wishes onto the to-be-wed,” explains Laurel. “The brushing symbolizes luck for fortune, for children, for health, essentially preparing to 'give away' the daughter. This is because normally once a daughter is married off, she's considered part of the groom's family primarily rather than her own. Each bridesmaid took their turn to brush my hair but when it came to my mother's turn, she started to tear up and resulted in the happiest yet saddest sobs. Because my partner is not Chinese, of course we wouldn't be practicing that tradition but the words still felt sad nonetheless. My mother ended the brushing section by hugging me and each of my bridesmaids repeating constantly 'my daughters, all my daughters' as she was unable to express how she truly felt in English. It was beautiful symbol of the influence my friends have had on me and my family and how much my mother values the diverse friendships I have been blessed with since the age of 14,” shares Laurel.'

The next event of the wedding weekend was a breakfast filled with traditional Chinese door games. Then, the couple shared their wedding ceremony and reception. When it came to planning their wedding, sustainability was a big focus for Laurel and Mike. “My partner and I wanted to prioritize sustainability,” explains Laurel. “Because we were celebrating at a UNESCO World Heritage site, all the flowers were sourced from local florists and they were kept at a minimum. Our background was a massive landscape including beautiful greenery and rounded unique mountains, we didn't need anything else.”

  Following the main event, Laurel and Mike kept the party going with an epic after party in a cave. “The after party was in a large stalagmite cave so my goal for the event was to make it feel like a retro karaoke dance party with all sorts of finger foods. My favorite part of the weekend was the after party because it literally turned into a rave cave. The acoustics from the speakers boomed throughout the cave and we brought a Bay Area DJ to drop popular hits. In addition to the rave cave, the after party had fresh tea ceremonies in case you wanted to take a break from the dance floor, sugar crystal artists to draw zodiac symbols in candy for you to munch on, and a photo area with all sorts of ancient Chinese costumes.”

  Looking back on the epic destination wedding in Zhangjiajie, China, Laurel encourages current to-be-weds to “block out times during the day to plan a wedding, especially a destination wedding where your vendors are all in a different timezone. I had a checklist spreadsheet knowing what I wanted, a document that recorded everything we had conversed over so that nothing was missed, and scheduled times to sync every week with the teams to ensure things were delivered the way we wanted (especially in relation to food). Being organized was key. If you're not an organized person, 100% invest in a solid wedding planner and day-of coordinator.”

Wedding-Day Portraits in Zhangjiajie, China With Bride in Red Dress
Couple Sharing Kiss on a Boat on River in Zhangjiajie, China
Bride With Dramatic Red Dress and Red Veil in Zhangjiajie, China
Groomsmen Wearing Patterned Socks for Wedding in Zhangjiajie, China
Ceremony Aisle With Greenery Decorations
Bride Processing Down Ceremony Aisle Wearing Red Veil
Traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony During Wedding in Zhangjiajie, China
Wedding Party Portraits With Umbrellas in the Rain
After-Party in Cave in Zhangjiajie, China
Lion Dancers at Wedding in Zhangjiajie, China
Chinese Performers and Dancers at Wedding in Zhangjiajie, China
Traditional Chinese Drum Performer at Wedding in Zhangjiajie, China
Drum Performers at Wedding in Zhangjiajie, China
Moon-Shaped Backdrop With Flowers