5 Characteristics of a Uyghur Wedding in Xinjiang, China

5 Characteristics of a Uyghur Wedding

June 1, 2016 | 9 Comments

5 Characteristics of a Uyghur Wedding in Xinjiang, China

If you’ve ever attended a Uyghur wedding before, you’re already aware that it’s an extremely memorable experience. The food, the music, the dancing…all of it combines to create a culture event unrivaled in China’s Xinjiang region.

While I don’t consider myself to be an expert on the Uyghur culture, I’ve participated in enough Uyghur weddings – big Uyghur weddings and small ones – to provide some fun insight I’m happy to share with you here.

So whether you’ve never attended one of these weddings before or you get an invitation every week, today I’d like to invite you to join me at a friend’s wedding from May 2016. From this experience, I’ll share with you 5 unique characteristics of a Uyghur wedding.

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#1 Men and Women Sit Separately

One of the first things you’ll notice when you enter the banquet hall of a Uyghur wedding is the arrangement. Large, round tables often fill a hall with a dance floor in the center and a stage at the front. As people enter, all the men sit together on one side of the hall while the women sit on the opposite side.

Uyghur men all sitting together at a Uyghur wedding in Urumqi, Xinjiang

All the Uyghur men sit on one side of the banquet hall

The only exception to this “rule” is the wedding party, all of whom sit at a center table facing the dance floor.

Aside from this gender separation, there are usually no other seating arrangements. You sit with your friends and coworkers, which usually means that most tables are further segregated by age.

#2 There is No Wedding Cake

Tables throughout a Uyghur wedding hall are always full of excellent Uyghur food. Whether it’s small plates full of famous Xinjiang fruits and nuts or large platters of polo, big plate chicken and countless other local dishes, the table is never empty.

A table full of food at a Uyghur wedding in Urumqi, Xinjiang

A table full of tasty food at a Uyghur wedding.

One thing you might notice missing, however, is a wedding cake.

This is one of many western traditions that haven’t been adopted by the Uyghur people, despite the fact that many modern Chinese weddings have done so.

There are usually plenty of sweets to eat but if you ask any Uyghur about a wedding cake they’ll just smile, shake their head and tell you that’s just not part of the Uyghur wedding culture.

The 2015 Xinjiang travel guide is here!

#3 But There IS Plenty of Dancing!

The foundation of a good Uyghur wedding is the dancing. This is a big part of what makes these events so much fun to attend!

Uyghur Dancing at a wedding in Urumqi, Xinjiang China

There’s so much that can be said about Uyghur dancing but suffice to say it’s fun to watch. It is elegant, exuberant and joyful.

While the Uyghur men are often energetic – even spasmatic – in their dancing, the women provide a striking contrast with graceful moves and near-perfect posture. It is truly a celebration when everybody gets together for a wedding!

#4 Dancing: Men/Men & Women/Women

One of the first things I ever took notice about Uyghur dancing is the fact that it is culturally acceptable for men to dance with men and for women to dance with women. In fact, it’s more common to dance this way than with the opposite sex.

Men dancing with men at a Uyghur wedding in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China

This type of dancing usually takes place with partners facing each other, passing back and forth counter-clockwise to the rhythm of the music.

If it seems awkward at first, it doesn’t take long to get used to this type of dancing. While technically partners are dancing with each other, the reality is that each is independently dancing. No one partner is leading the other.

#5 The Music is LOUD

If you thought the music at your wedding was loud, you’re in for a surprise when you join a modern Uyghur wedding! If your ears aren’t ringing by the time you leave the dance floor, then you’re probably already deaf.

Now admittedly, this isn’t a characteristic of the smaller, village weddings for the Uyghur people. In the cities, however, this has become the norm. Every wedding banquet hall is equipped with large subwoofers that are set to 11.

It’s funny to see the older generation of Uyghur sit far away from the dance floor, marveling at the “youth” who like such loud music. Some things are the same no matter what culture.

Conclusion | Attending a Uyghur Wedding

Of course these aren’t the only unique characteristics of a Uyghur wedding. There are plenty more that couldn’t be fit on this list and many which I probably wouldn’t have thought to include myself.

Have you been to a Uyghur wedding? Then add your comment below with your thoughts about what makes a Uyghur wedding unique.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to join in on the festivities surrounding a Uyghur marriage, I encourage to travel out here to Xinjiang someday and do it. It’s not uncommon for complete strangers to be invited to join a wedding, so even travelers passing through have had the chance to participate.

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

Leave a Comment

  1. Hey Josh, another difference that you didn’t mention is that there is no alcohol at a Uyghur wedding, which is a big difference as compared with a Chinese wedding.

    Your description of Uyghur weddings in Urumqi sounds just like the ones I had the privilege of attending there – exuberant, fun, and yes, definitely very loud! If you get a chance, I hope you can attend a traditional Uyghur wedding in southern Xinjiang. It is a truly remarkable two-day event filled with age-old Uyghur traditions.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on June 2nd, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Hey Mike! You’re absolutely right…I didn’t even think about alcohol.

    I would very much enjoy attending a more “traditional” Uyghur wedding down south. I know they’re quite a bit different than the ones that happen in the big city. I make mention of that in the article but fail to talk about it in the video. Oops ;)

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  2. Love the music and food. I am so amazed that all over China, the women have accepted the Western white wedding gown as the garment of choice. It is such a strange symbol of patriarchal celebration, purity, the giving away of the bride from one man to another. The ancient costumes are so much more dear, to me.

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  3. after your suggestion that Xinjiang is safe to travel. i decided to join an 8 day tour, all the way from Lanzhou to Urumqi !!! the tour (no shopping stop though ) was hectic as we have to cover a lot of distance in 6 days (minus 2 days to and from hong kong )!!!!
    i hope to join a northern Xinjiang tour in the next 2 years. the tour guide said the scenery is very similar to Canada, NZ and Switzerland. i am taking her word for it.
    thank you, Josh.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on June 5th, 2016 at 8:28 am

    My pleasure, Nelson. Glad you were able to make the trip out here…I just wish you had had more time to explore away from the tour group!

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  4. Hey Josh, you did wonderful Job. Congratulations! If you knew that Uzbeks and Tajiks of North Tajikistan we share the same Culture and Tradition and our Weddings are also the same. There is some differences, but its not so big deal.
    with much love,
    Aziz

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on June 19th, 2016 at 4:10 am

    Thank you, Aziz! I’m sure they’re quite similar and I would love to attend someday :)

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