I’m assuming you know the first steps of actually finding a willing partner (have a chat with Woai if you don’t, he’s the expert in these matters I’m told) so I’m going to skip that bit and pile straight in to the paperwork bit.
First things first you need to get yourself to your embassy to submit a “notice of intention to marry”, this will be displayed for 21 days in the embassy in case there are any objections (don’t tell anyone it’s there!!) and you’ll then be given a “certificate of no impediment”. More info here. Of course there’s a charge for all of this, I think it was something like 1000 rmb in total.
Once you’ve got that certificate you’re pretty much free to get married as you wish at the registration centre at 70 Caobao road (3rd floor), you just turn up whenever you want, no need for an appointment, as far as I know if you’re a foreigner you have to get married there, they handle all the foreign weddings. More info here. As above there is a charge for the registration of the marriage, fortunately Woai and Balticninja clubbed together and put in the 30 rmb to fund the wedding (thanks guys!)
And that’s pretty much it to be honest, it’s pretty much the easiest thing I’ve ever done in China, far easier than your average trip to the bank, setting up a mobile phone etc etc etc.
I’d already got my certificate of no impediment but we’d not actually discussed a date (although H had been consulting heavily with the Feng Shui calendar I bought her earlier in the year to check the auspicious dates for marriage). So we woke up one morning with a stinking hangover from the night before and she just said “shall we go and get married today, just get it over and done with?”. “errrrrrr yeah sure, why not” I replied.
So we got up (apparently from the photos I was wearing the clothes from the night before), had a bite to eat, stopped at our local photo place (you need 2 passport type photos of you both together on the same photo, they know what to do if you tell them it’s for a wedding) and made our way to Caobao lu.
The clerk was apparently a little surprised by our casual appearance, apparent hangover and lack of witnesses and asked about 4 times if we were sure we wanted to get married but we worked through the forms and got through it. Then she asked us to pop next door into the ceremony room to pick up the certificate of marriage and do the final signatures (I’d have been happy if she’d have just handed it over the counter to be honest but she insisted). Note that the minimum legal age for a man is 22 years old, needless to say the clerk must have looked at my date of birth around 5 times and still couldn’t believe it..
There was a brief ceremony in which you have to stand either side of the Chinese flag and you get a lecture on how you are both now equals under Chinese law, I agreed and crossed my fingers and then that’s pretty much it, pose for a few photos and you’re all done, in and out in about 25 minutes.
The bureau has every confidence in these mixed race marriages, they even print the marriage instructions on the same piece of paper as instructions for getting divorced..
Romantic cocktails at Sichuan Citizen, while dressed in red of course!
So that was it really, I’d not told anyone about it and broke it to my family when we went home at Christmas (they were thrilled for the record!), I thought I’d got away without having a fancy ceremony (my worst nightmare).
My mum had got other ideas though and arranged for everyone to come round to my sisters place (where we were staying) for a celebration and a bit of cake-cutting. Actually it wasn’t all for us, my sister and Deano had also just announced that they were having another baby, it was congratulations all round!
Then on Christmas day my Auntie Helen popped up from London and after about 3 bottles of champagne between us whisked H upstairs and came down with her dressed in my mum’s veil for an impromptu ceremony:
“Do you take this man as your awful wedded husband?”
Leisure suits and beer in my mum’s front room, if only all wedding ceremonies were like this….