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Couple walking with arms raised, rose petals in air

Two Cultures, One Ceremony

Photographed by Yi Xia, Qing Xi and Li Chengwei 02.14.2018

Tracey and Nate seamlessly reflected Chinese culture in a western-style wedding.

Tracey Chang and Nate Zhang knew their wedding had to reflect their Chinese-Western heritage. The bride, a New Yorker, and the groom, a Briton, were both raised by Chinese parents, and the couple has made Beijing and Hong Kong their home. “I loved putting Chinese culture into a western-style wedding,” Tracey says.

The Ritz-Carlton Tianjin, in the bride’s hometown, was happy to do just that. The bilingual CCTV anchor had friends coming from the States, and the groom, a financier, had a number of guests arriving from the United Kingdom. “We wanted them to learn about Chinese culture,” Tracey says. “With The Ritz-Carlton being such a global brand—that’s part of what I appreciate about them—it was the perfect place for our wedding.”

Father Daughter dance

Chinese custom dictates that when couples marry, they have a tea ceremony that marks the beginning of their family life together; each person kneels down before their beloved’s parents to offer them tea. “You say to the father, ‘Dad, may I give you some tea’—and that’s the first time you call them Dad,” says Tracey, shown here with her father during the father-daughter dance. “We call it the name changing.”

Couple at banquet hall

The bride wore five dresses throughout the event: a Monique Lhuillier, a Pnina Tornai, a Sherri Hill Couture, a Tarik Ediz, and a gown designed by the bride that was customized by a local designer.

Bride and two friends laughing

In Chinese culture, the bride waits at her home for the groom to bring her out, and the bridesmaids try to block him. “The bridesmaids came up with these intellectual challenges—puzzles, basically—that my husband was supposed to complete before he could get to me,” Tracey says.  

Bridal party

“My bridal party had fun with that.”

Groom striding

Nathan’s tuxedo was custom-made by a shop in Hong Kong, along with that of his father and soon-to-be father-in-law.

Couple walking with arms raised, rose petals in air

The Ritz-Carlton provided a Rolls-Royce to the couple for the big day. “Once we got to the hotel after the homecoming ceremony, the girls were all there in their pink dresses, and the videographer said, ‘Hold on, we’re going to have everyone throw rose petals,’” Tracey says. “He captured the perfect moment. So this photo wasn’t exactly spontaneous—but the happiness is as authentic as you can get.”

Banquet photo with “Table Two” sign

The couple wanted to have Asian banquet served western-style, in part because serving in the Chinese tradition would have necessitated removing the stunning centerpieces. “They usually only do it this way for state dinners,” Tracey says. “But it turned out fantastic. It can be difficult to eat in China if you’ve got food allergies, but The Ritz-Carlton people were super accommodating to our needs.”

Set banquet table

In a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, dishes for the 14 courses would be served on rotating platters. The couple wanted guests to have their own servings, so The Ritz-Carlton staff made some menu swaps. Fish, usually served communally, was swapped for abalone, which is more appropriate for individual platings.

Table with flowers

Local wedding design team Care used domestic flowers, particularly roses, for most arrangements. Imported flowers came into play for certain high-impact spots.  

Ceremony dais

The bride had always wanted a wedding with light, delicate hues, but Chinese weddings tend to be vividly colored, with plenty of red. Tracey worked with the designer to find a shade of pink that gave a nod to the traditional scarlet while keeping in line with her preference, and wound up with a pale pink paired with Tianjin gold.

Chairs draped with pink fabric

“The first time I went to the Ritz-Carlton Tianjin, it wasn’t even about the wedding. We went there for afternoon tea, and when I walked in, I thought, I’ve got to get married here. It’s rare to find luxury mixed with a feeling of home, which was exactly what I wanted,” Tracey says.

Couple holding hands walking down aisle

Tracey and Nathan met in Singapore, when she was an anchor for CNBC Asia and he was with Credit Suisse. He had a car—a relative rarity in Singapore because of exorbitant license fees—and a friend joked that he could be her chauffeur. “He was younger than me, but between the car and the British accent, I thought, Well, I can at least go for a ride,” Tracey says.

Set banquet table

Chinese weddings don’t usually have cocktail hours, but the couple wanted one to entertain guests during the post-ceremony photo session.
The Ritz-Carlton, Tianjin provided finger food, including seafood and sweets platters. “It’s amazing how much effort they put in to make sure everyone was taken care of,” the bride says.  

Black and white photo of couple

The dance floor at The Ritz-Carlton, Tianjin had previously been underutilized, as dancing isn’t a traditional feature at Chinese weddings. Not so for this gala: The bride (aka Miss New York 2009) counted among her guests a former Miss Hawaii, a well-known hula dancer who performed at the wedding and brought the crowd to their feet. “Usually everybody leaves weddings here around 9,” Tracey says. “We stayed until midnight.”

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