TEXT OF STORY
SCOTT JAGOW: Most people in New York City are thinking about the Macy’s Parade or their turkey dinner. But in Chinatown, folks are getting ready for a different kind of feast: the wedding banquet. Thanksgiving has become a favorite day for Chinese immigrants to get married. That means big bucks for Chinatown businesses as Alisa Roth reports.
ALISA ROTH: Chinese couples traditionally consult fortunetellers and calendars to pick an auspicious wedding date.
But Irene Khong works at the Highlight Studio Wedding Center, one of the neighborhood’s many bridal shops, says there’s another reason to choose the fourth Thursday in November.
IRENE KHONG: It’s just convenience, actually. For the Thanksgiving Day, it’s because of the convenience, you know everybody can come back at the same day.
Much of the newest wave of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. hails from Fujian, a rural province on China’s southeastern coast.
Many find jobs working six or seven days a week in Chinese restaurants, but on Thanksgiving, hundreds travel to New York from around the country for weddings.
Kenneth Guest is an anthropologist at Baruch College.
KENNETH GUEST: Americans in general don’t go out to eat on Thanksgiving, and they certainly don’t go to Chinese restaurants, so it’s the one day a year that these Chinese people, these Fujianese people, who are working in the restaurants know they have off and they know all their friends and family are gonna have off as well.
This is the busiest time of year for the Highlight Studio Wedding Center. It occupies two floors above a stretch of East Broadway, the epicenter of Fujianese immigrant life in New York.
Stores like this one are one-stop shopping for brides, offering packages that include rented finery, hairstyling, make-up, photography, even limo service.
Carol Lau works at Highlight, helping brides plan the big day. At the back of the store she walks into a room-sized closet and gestures to dozens of garment bags.
CAROL LAU: All Thanksgiving Day, all these customers.
Each is filled with outfits for today’s festivities. A white American-style wedding dress, a traditional Chinese one in red, and Western and Asian-style evening gowns.
LAU: Four pieces for the bride, two tuxedos for the groom and one dress for the bridesmaid, one tuxedo for the best man and both sides the parents. Almost every couple we have to prepare more than 10 outfits.
Lau says her shop is outfitting 25 weddings today, but Baruch College’s Kenneth Guest thinks that the Thanksgiving wedding will begin to disappear when Fujianese immigrants move up the economic ladder.
For now though, this new tradition means an extra long Thanksgiving Day.
Peter Yao manages the Golden Unicorn, a Cantonese restaurant that can seat 600 people for a wedding banquet.
PETER YAO: Normally, it takes only one or two months to book the banquet, but for Thanksgiving, it’s different, because it’s so busy. So very often the customers, they book it one year in advance.
Yao figures that Thanksgiving is his single most profitable day. Same goes for the waiters, who earn big tips.
And that’s something they’re all thankful for.
In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
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