Your Wedding – The Day You Potentially Start The Rest Of Your Life Wrong

21 06 2009

I never thought I would be blogging in a “Wedding Jitters” topic again, but this one I thought I couldn’t let up, so…

… so I was at this wedding dinner tonight hosted by one of my wife’s closer cousins. I shan’t go into specifics about the goings on, but throughout the course of the dinner I had a number of revelations that I thought I’d share, along with a handful of good advice handed down to me by my own groomsmen and maids-of-honour, one of whom was a wedding planner herself at one stage in her very colourful life.

1. This has to be number one: Always choose your groomsmen and maids-of-honour wisely. You need responsible people who are able to do their jobs, are constantly conscious of the people attending the wedding from the moment bride and groom wake up to the moment AFTER the last guest has left the wedding dinner venue, and most importantly, respect you and your partner for who they are. Your parents might know what you are like, and they might know what your friends are like, but your in-laws, extended relatives and other acquaintances you are inviting to celebrate your special day sure as hell don’t. So when your maids-of-honour run through their morning “bargaining” ritual with the groom by picking on his poor English language skills and subsequently embarrass him in front of a whole ballroom with a video clip of him struggling through an English passage, or when your designated Masters of Ceremony conveniently forget to invite the groom’s VIP table up to the stage for the ritual toasting, or when your groomsmen start putting cigarettes in their mouths and light up in the ballroom of your wedding dinner only just after the last course is served, and they’re sitting only 2 tables away from VIP Table No. 1, not to mention the tables surrounding them that have kids ages 5 and below (including my own son), it says a lot about your social circle, and that (unfortunately) reflects really badly on you, however much of a nice person you may be.

2. Wedding affairs may be the most exhausting to plan and execute, but you need to stick it to the very end with your brightest smile and your best manners. Meet your friends and family and greet them with all sincerity (even the ones you don’t particularly like). Never, ever, miss out on anyone. See them all off at the door when they’re done dining – all of them. Show them a level of respect above and beyond any respect you’ve ever given or received. Because as much as this is your day, it’s not. Wedding days are really a big-ass extravagant announcement to the world you live in that you’re getting married, and the people you invite, whether it be for solemnisation, tea ceremony, lunch, dinner, karaoke or mahjong session, are the people you are doing it for, no matter what people tell you. Face it, the bride will always dream of the perfect white wedding, the groom will always dream of the smallest bills, but based on experience, the wedding day done right is the wedding day done with the people in your lives in mind – not you. You want to do something for yourselves, you got the rest of your lives to go sort it out (starting with your honeymoon; now that is where your married life really begins). Your wedding day goes to your guests (who are, by the way, the same people you are trying to get to pay for the whole thing anyway, so do right by your sponsors).

3. Choose your venues carefully. If you’re cost-conscious, going for a cheaper restaurant is all fine and dandy, but you got to at least make sure service standards and venue facilities are up to par with the standard expectations. People can forgive the leaking ceiling in the lift lobby, or the dingy car park with a post-dinner car queue extending 3 basement storeys because there’s only one single-lane exit point. But banquet staff who don’t bring you your drink after 4 consecutive requests, or usurp your personal space to serve food without so much as a glance or an “excuse me”, or try to clear your dish before you even touched the food on it just leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Look at it this way; the two of you are getting married because you’re committing your heart and soul into your relationship for the rest of your lives. Shouldn’t the people you’re engaging to help you on your wedding day at least put in their heart and soul, just for this one day, to making your wedding go right?

4. You have to play politics. As much as you don’t like it, politics plays a big part in this kind of event. I haven’t met a couple whose extended family doesn’t have a grouchy uncle or a troublemaker cousin or a bitchy grandauntie twice removed or any other kind of colourful character that seeks to make life interesting. That being said, you still got to invite them all for the sake of common courtesy and prevention of wagging tongues. I personally found myself receiving RSVPs from my more complicated relations, including people I thought were long estranged from my mother and had problems with my dad, but careful planning of seating arrangements and an unorthodox programme involving a trishaw and 1930’s Shanghai music ensured the enmities were kept to a minimum and the old folk were suitably distracted to forget about family warmongering for just that one night. In fact, it actually got my family closer to my mother’s estranged side, who invited us to another grand dinner event in order to try to patch things up.

5. Think through the red packets you’re giving out carefully. When you involve your friends and family in the groomsmen/maids-of-honour/flower girls/ring-bearers/drivers/door-openers/runners/odd-job labourers, this is the one time you have to communicate their worth in monetary value directly to them, so you can’t afford to be stingy, and you got to give it to anyone and everyone who’s helped you, however small the job; it’s not only customary, it’s expected of you. I made the mistake of asking my mother to help me divvy up the red packets I was to give out, and she ended up giving a paltry amount to my brother-in-law (who was my driver), who subsequently never looked at me the same way again. And let’s not forget the third-party providers that are actually billing you for their services (your matchmaker lady, photographer/videographer, restaurant manager, etc.). Wedding events for them are pretty much the only time they can earn tips in Singapore, so you gotta indulge them too.

Having said this, I am in no way a wedding expert, nor do I claim this to be an exhaustive list (although after writing this over the span of one late night and a morning, it is exhausting), but I have seen and heard enough from people at my own wedding and others to know some of the things where people get things right or where things can go wrong without you knowing. Feel free to add on your experiences in the comments. I will add points in this post when I see good points being made.


The Wedding Post Mortem – I’m Gonna Miss Being a Kid (Part 1)

23 07 2008

For those who were there, you know how awesome it was. For those who weren’t. you don’t know what you missed.

(This blog will eventually be updated with pictures of the day, so keep your eye on it.)

The morning was encouraging; we both dressed in our most Chinese nines, much to the awe and amazement of our respective relatives. The tea ceremony in both houses was an unusually happy event, but it was the night that brought the stars in everyone’s eyes.

People started streaming in as early as 6.45pm, an extremely uncharacteristic time for wedding guests to appear in a culturally confused Asia-based island where fashionably late means 2 hours later (Hock Peng, you got a mention! You’re famous on the Internet now!). Dressed in the same ma gua (complete with that big red ribbon rose hung on the chest area) and a $2 Sinatra-esque hat, I greeted the guests in one by one, then two by thre, then five by eight, then one too many. Our reception girls had a hard time keeping up, and our dads were no help either. I have personally never seen my dad such a nervous wreck (if you remembered, he should be quite the opposite, though with his health right now, it’s somewhat understandable).

And then came the grand entrance. I needed four of my best guys to keep everything safe as we turned the house upside down with me pulling my wife into the restaurant well into the entrance and right in front of our table of friends with a never-seen-the-streets-since-1830 rickshaw, beautifully wedding-fied by my wife’s second sister and her very-good-with-his-hands husband. Dancing to the tune of Shanghai Tan, we rounded the restaurant, through the bar, and finally landed up at the VIP table at the front of a restaurant, where we sat down to the first course of our feast to the music of the beautiful shanghai jazz band playing behind us.

Oh, perfection. Whoever said perfection was boring had no idea what the hell they were talking about. Eat those words, detractor; I hope they taste as good as the salted egg shrimp.

Our second march-in saw my wife in a beautiful light bronze evening gown which awed everyone so much they all had to step on it, and me with a tailcoat reminiscent of Sting’s beautiful Calvin Klein nuptial number sans jailbird inners, a white scarf and that same hat, keeping in tradition to the look of the decade. Marching in to the tune of Chachambo was more challenging than I thought, as I had to both guide my wife through the excited little patter of 100 pairs of high heel shoes whilst entertaining my brood of relatives with dance steps not conceived since the grand old days of William Hung. The 3 obligatory yam sengs were surprisingly lively, when my mum’s old neighbour whom we had not seen in years added to the spirit of the occasion by providing the longest toast possibly both sides of the family had ever heard.

The end was no less endearing, when bride and groom stood with our respective parents in the entrance bidding farewell to all our relatives, friends, uh-I-don’t-know-you-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-I-dos and other whozats (Thank you for coming! … whozat? Oh thank you! …whozat?). If I had any doubts that the night was going in an awkward direction, they were all erased with all the pats in the back and the “you win, nobody can beat that rickshaw” my wife and I received.

I ended the night with a wine glass filled with red wine mixed with remains of the last five courses and a raw egg, courtesy of the best friends a couple can ever have. And for the first time since we started wondering what vehicle we should use for our first march-in more than a year ago, a great big weight was lifted from my shoulders, and not a little relief washed over my wife’s very tired self (she braved a cough, running nose and possible fever found to be inconclusive due to a broken thermometer to make the night happen for the both of us).

If you’re wondering about where I lost my childhood in this, look out for Part 2, coming to a 1930’s themed Shanghai restaurant near you.

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of My Wedding Jitters

5 06 2008

Some of you may already be aware through either discussions with me over MSN, or, more controversially, gossip and talking behind people’s back, that there will be a wedding on 20th July this year. Some of you may not be aware after reading the last sentence that my wife and I are actually 2 years into our legal marriage and thus may come to the conclusion that this is a shotgun wedding.

Please lah, I say accident is CAR accident, not pre-marital accident OK? Wah lau…

Meet-the-parents session at the principal\'s office.The truth is, after we signed off on the big black dotted lines at the very clinical, quite unromantic Registry of Marriages (Next… , OK, do you? And do you? Right, I now pronounce, Next… OK, do you?…), my wife and I were playing with the idea of holding a wedding dinner, as well as playing with the idea of NOT holding a wedding dinner.

When I was a kid, wedding dinners meant 8- to 10-course king’s feasts where you stuff your mouth in peach bun eating competitions, then run around and get sweaty with all the other relative’s kids and generally celebrate the freedom of being a 10-year-old kid rather than the newly-found marital bliss of the wedded couple hosting the dinner (whom you barely even know anyway). As you grow up though, the concept of the wedding dinner gets a little more complicated with each passing year.

By the time you’re 30 years old and thinking about doing your own, the concept of the wedding dinner has become a monster of a task not unlike the Taiwanese government choosing its cabinet ministers (you’ve seen the fistfights, too, right?). I told a friend once who was also contemplating getting married that wedding dinners are quite basically paying homage to one’s parents for allowing the nuptials to take place, and an announcement to your immediate world that you are now ready to embark on a life that embodies legitimate sexual relations.

But above and beyond that, the true test of how far you have gone in your life socially is planning the guest list. This is where the Taiwan politics comes into play, and it becomes a real eye-opener for the soon-to-be-traditionally-married-in-Asian-culture couple. Some of the things that will affect the formation of the guest list include:

  • who to invite because they’re related to you;
  • who to invite because they know you;
  • who not to invite because they’re related to you (it happens);
  • who not to invite because they know you (too well);
  • who can come because they happen to be in the country;
  • who can’t come because they’re in jail;
  • who to put in which table so as to encourage wedding table banter, or discourage wedding dinner gang fights;
  • who not to invite because you don’t have enough seats (and they didn’t invite you to theirs, so hmph!);
  • etc. etc. etc.

Let me now qualify that in the last month or so since we started planning for this wedding dinner, we have experienced ALL the above conditions, and as funny as it seems, it really isn’t. Particularly when finding out someone’s in jail, that’s like, whoa.

In any case, for those invited to our joyous celebration, expect the unexpected (we’ve got one or two surprises lined up for the day), and rest assured we will try our best to accommodate to your tastes and social standing. As the Chinese always like to say, 如有不妥,请多多包涵 (if at any time you experience any unhappiness during the proceedings, we apologise for any inconvenience caused in advance).

For those of you who have just joined in and are wondering why you didn’t get an invite, thank you for reading this far into the post, please read the aforementioned Chinese saying (or its translation) and drop me an email or Facebook message, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

And remember, it’s Shanghai Night, so come in your Shanghai Tang best!