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Legislator splurges on teenage son's wedding

More than 15,000, including political bigwigs, show up

Legislator splurges on teenage son's wedding
One Bentley and 35 BMWs, 1,900 tables, political VIPs among over 15,000 guests and a bill surpassing NT$20 million - it was a marriage fit for royalty, but in fact celebrated the wedding of the 16-year-old son of Legislator Yen Chin-piao.

The Non-Partisan Solidarity Union legislator's youngest son, Yen Chia-yi, joined hands with his high school sweetheart, 15-year-old Su Yu-han, who is five months pregnant.

The wedding held at the Shalu Gymnasium in Taichung County yesterday attracted massive interest from the media and society at large, not only because of its unrivaled scale, but also due to Yen Chin-piao's colored past and his considerable political influence in central Taiwan.

Active in politics for some 20 years, Yen Chin-piao has progressed from a borough chief to county and provincial councilor before being elected to the Legislature in 2002.

Yen is better known, however, for his alleged involvement in a number of crimes and scandals, including the Chinese Professional Baseball League's gambling debacle in 1997.

He has been convicted of corruption, illegal possession of firearms, attempted murder and aggravated burglary.

That reputation only added to the surreal nature of a wedding that was joining two teenagers who were both under the legal minimum ages of 18 for males and 16 for females to be married.

Under local law, however, underage teenagers can still marry if they receive the consent of their guardians, which was given considering that Su is five months pregnant.

Adhering to a Chinese marriage tradition to work out auspicious times and numbers for the wedding, the Yen family set 1,680 tables with 300 spares in case more people came than expected.

In the end, more than 15,000 guests showed up, setting a national record. Many guests were asked to move to nearby restaurants, as there were not enough seats in the gymnasium.

According to local media, 17 restaurants catered the banquet, with approximately 300 waiters present to serve the guests. Sources reported that Yen Chin-piao fully supervised the quality of the food, eager to make everything perfect for his son's wedding.

At 8:30 a.m., an NT$1.7 million Bentley sedan leading some thirty BMWs arrived in downtown Taichung City at the Landis Hotel to meet the bride and her family. In an unusual move for local authorities that suggested Yan's influence in Taichung, special traffic controls were set up along the designated route from the hotel to the reception site.

Cable news stations reported that Su donned a fluffy ivory-white bridal gown that cost NT$300,000, specially designed to conceal her pregnant figure, with many praising her appearance.

In contrast, Yen Chia-yi, who bears a strong resemblance to his father, sheepishly admitted to local media before the reception that he had gained 12 kilograms since his engagement in October 2005. Yen said he put on weight because he "has been taking in nourishing foods with Su."

The wedding party was more a show of Yen Chin-piao's political muscle than a celebration of the new couple's friends, bringing together political figures of various parties, including the opposition Kuomintang's former chairman, Lien Chan (連戰), incumbent Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜).

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as well as Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) were said to have been on the reception's guest list, but neither appeared at the ceremony.

Ma, when asked to give advice to the young groom, said: "The wife is always right!" a remark that helps explain his popularity with Taiwan's females.

In his congratulatory speech, Lien expressed his approval of the Yen family's observance of conservative Chinese values in arranging the "shotgun wedding" and making sure the child would have wed parents.