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A unity of cultures

"People like a mix of American and Chinese," said Karen Ng, the catering sales manager and weddings coordinator at the Sheraton LaGuardia East at 135-20 39th Ave. in downtown Flushing. "They like the western cocktails with champagne, and then a Chinese banquet."Many Chinese brides in Flushing typically wear a white wedding gown during the ceremony and slip into a traditional chi-pao for the banquet afterwards, said Yoyo Lau of the Wedding Box store at 36-53 Main St., a bridal store that sells both types of dresses. Chi-paos, a traditional garment for Chinese women, are still popular because of the dress's beautiful cut and cultural implications, even for those born in America."Most of the customers here speak English, and are not very traditional," Lau said. "But their parents want (the chi-paos)."Red is the favored color for chi-paos and accessories. The color represents love and fortune in the Chinese community, as evidenced by the crimson file folders in Ng's office and also stacked on the front desk in the Wedding Box.Ironically, the white color predominant in American weddings represents the color of mourning in Asian cultures and is hence considered bad luck, but many Chinese brides will nonetheless wear white wedding gowns.The grooms also sometimes choose the traditional cheongsam, but Lau said they usually only wear the garment for pictures."I have never seen a cheongsam in a wedding," she said. "They usually wear tuxedos then."Many ultra-traditional weddings are held on auspicious dates divined by the Lunar calendar, but plenty of busy brides and grooms choose to follow their own schedules instead."Some parents insist on special dates, but most people take what weekends they can," Ng said.Lau agreed, saying, "June and July are the busy times for weddings, but the American-Chinese don't really care," she said.Ng said the Sheraton, ideally located in the heart of downtown Flushing, does such a brisk wedding business that the hotel recently spent $4 million to renovate its ballroom, courtyard and other rooms for parties.The hotel is popular with Chinese couples from all over the city and offers wedding packages, including a room or suite and an elaborate banquet menu, featuring upscale Chinese food. And in a nod to the two worlds of Chinese weddings, the hotel packages include both champagne flutes and a sign embossed with the Chinese character for double happiness, souvenirs from each hemisphere. Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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