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.

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The Wedding Post Mortem – I’m Gonna Miss Being a Kid (Part 2)

23 07 2008

Welcome to Part 2, the sombre side of things. For those of you who just joined us, you might want to take a look at Part 1, though it isn’t entirely necessary.

The experience of a wedding is not for the faint-hearted. Fun as my wedding celebrations process was, the amount of planning in the areas of logistics, organisation, planning and finance is enough to make a grown man cry and his wife-to-be scream. Did it happen to us? Hoo yeah. But that’s where your friends come in. If you’re not the very social type and don’t have people around you that you can properly trust and that isn’t family, your wedding planning is gonna be a damn lonely affair. My wife and I are fortunate enough to have a small group of our own personal heroes that made the things we hoped could happen, happen.

That being said, I would encourage any couple who is legalising their union to please hold a wedding. Hold a big, expensive one, with a lot of stuff in it, all them bells ‘n’ whistles. Do it in a good restaurant with good food and responsible managers. And invite a minimum of 200 people. And get as many friends involved as possible. And think up the wackiest possible things to do to entertain your guests.

It might end up being fun, or it may not. But whichever way it goes, and no matter how many words I put into this blog to explain my experience and how it affects me, you just got to do it to yourself, because it’s going to be a fucking wake-up call.

**********

It was our wedding planning that redefined (or “undefined”) my thinking of what friendship means. Right up to this point, I thought the people I call friends, the people I don’t call friends, and the people I stopped calling friends, was pretty well-defined in my spectrum. Looking at what our friends had done for me to make this wedding happen made me see my social circle in an entirely different light. The friends we had with us that night were friends that give without a second thought. The friends my wife and I were that night were friends in need. And the ones I blamed for not being there for me the night the wedding planner attacked were more in need of friends than I was in need of them.

It is not easy to come to this point, where one stops laying blame and starts empathising. I can only say, now that I’ve seen a friend in need from my own experience, that laying blame is the stuff that breaks relationships, tears families apart, creates crimes, starts wars. So, don’t.

**********

The wedding dinner itself also proved an eye-opener for me. We had only wanted to provide some form of entertainment to an otherwise frivolous, somewhat inane event that involved two people that most of the event’s attendees didn’t even know. We wanted to do a show, to keep people involved as an audience, and to keep us involved as a couple, to our family, our family’s family, and everyone’s friends. What we didn’t anticipate was their response to us, and more importantly, their response to each other, when something as tiny as a skip during a march-in, or as simple as a rickshaw, could get people talking… to each other.

I personally know of relatives and relatives once, twice, three times a-removed, who have never spoken to us or each other for years and years (be it for loss of contact, grudges, family feuds or court cases), who, by some miracle, came together into one small little restaurant of 26 tables to witness the union of a couple, only to find themselves in a reunion of relationships. People who came to our wedding curious, expectant, trepid, bored even, ended up laughing, dancing, cheering, clapping, completely immersing themselves in the moment… all because our invitation card stated rather subtly, “Dress Code: 1930’s Shanghai Glamour”, and my wife’s sister decided on a whim to include a rickshaw she could rent from a props warehouse in the People’s Association.

Proof that making your wedding different can make a difference to people’s lives, even if it’s just for a little while.

**********

The biggest wake-up call of all, was the dinner bill. Not something I didn’t expect, but it really doesn’t hit you until your restaurant manager actually gives you that check with a smile.

In my entire life, I have never had to pay so much money upfront on a single event, until last Sunday. It hit me that the days of my youth, where my supply of spending money seemed constant and never-ending, where things I couldn’t pay for I could still bank on the next month, came to a head with this one celebration. Faced with a 5-digit bill to pay, no wallet (left it in my hotel room), and a bunch of people impatiently waiting for me to attend to their sabotage session involving that infamous “5-course wine, chillied peanuts and a raw egg in a cup”, my immediate thought was one my parents, all my sisters and my own wife had tried to tell me all my years of knowing them: “Don’t anyhow spend anymore.”

Many would think the angpow money would take care of most, if not all, of it. Some might even think they could profit from it, but it still doesn’t take away the fact that you just contributed a big fat fucking wad of money into the F&B industry. It doesn’t take away the fact that in a society such as Singapore, in an economy as inflated as we are today, in a nation where a car costs about twice as much to own because the government takes half of what you pay for it, as a middle-income earner in an island full of middle-income earners, you probably can’t afford the inital expenses of your own wedding and have to ask your family to help.

Thanks to my wedding, I am now as thrifty as an old lady in a one-room flat who keeps everything she can lay her hands on because “they all cost money”. More importantly, thanks to my wedding, “family” has taken top spot in my spending priorities; “gadgets” and “guitars” has been relegated to an obscure corner of Lim Chu Kang.

I am really gonna miss being a kid.





Friends Will Be Friends II: Attack Of The Wedding Planner

14 07 2008

We had a meeting of the groomsmen and bridesmaids (we shall call them collectively brothers and sisters as they should be termed in most Asian societies) last night. I was expecting it to be a gathering of friends like any get-together we would hold. It turned out to be a life-changing event that showed me not only the kind of people we were calling friends, but what kind of person I turned out to be.

I have to write this carefully, as the situation last night demands delicate care in the use of words for its description.

The people who attended yesterday’s gathering of souls have all had some kind of history with my wife and I, one way or another.

Eddie (you see him in the comments section every once in a while making jokes about my genitals), who left the party before the meaty part of the night began, is a childhood friend who happened to meet my wife years later as students in the same design class.

Michelle (another comments regular) is my wife’s classmate from polytechnic, and was also waiting tables with me at my sister’s very Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge-ish, quite defunct EMOH cafe in my late teen years.

And then there’s Lydia, another school friend of both Eddie and my wife, whom I had become acquainted with when my wife and I were asked to help out in her actual-day wedding photography.

Terence is a secondary school friend I recently came back into contact with through Eddie, and is currently (together with his wife and infant son) charting out a new friendship with my wife and I as the new parental guidance expert to our upcoming family nucleus and resident beer buddy.

Finally there’s my unofficial best man Mark and her best girl Zee. Our relationship with Mark is shit-complicated, and will probably deserve a blog post of its own, while Zee is the girl who doesn’t mind all that complication and takes all the shit we collectively dish out with a smile and a beer.

For the most part, fate had brought all of us together. It was even evident in the beginning of the gathering, when, after my wife, Mark and I picked Zee up from her aunt’s place, Mark insisted he needed to get some food for the party and we went to the neighbourhood night bazaar before heading back to our place. Eddie’s phone was dead for some reason and he couldn’t be contacted at all, so imagine my surprise when we were walking on our way to the night bazaar and Eddie walked right past my wife’s line of sight looking like a lost puppy with a small paper bag of his contribution to the pot-luck event. A few minutes later, my wife, on a whim, called Lydia and found out she was just in the the immediate vicinity as well, and 15 minutes later, all 6 of us were wishing my wife drove a bigger car.

To top that off, when we all reached the apartment, Michelle and Ken had just arrived and were wondering why no one was answering the door. After letting everyone in and trying my best to get everyone comfy, I headed back out and caught Terence driving in just in time with drinks and 2 packets of ice, wife and kid in tow. You could not get timing more accurate than last night if you were choreographing the National Day Parade.

Through the night, Michelle had been scarily forthcoming throughout the night, which was to be expected to some extent, seeing as she worked as a wedding planner in one of Singapore’s more prominent agencies. Her invaluable experience in the matter of wedding affairs proved extremely enlightening to all of us in the course of our discussions, though at some points it got my wife and I thinking, what did we get ourselves into? What is she going to do to us if we forget something? Is she going to knife me if I get it wrong on the wedding day? And exactly how much did she have to drink so far?

Then, in between discussing the actual day’s schedule, the silly things we’re thinking of doing, and whether there was any more beer in the fridge, the subject of the actual-day photography had come up. While we have asked another friend some time beforehand about helping us with the photo-taking, dealing with said friend has turned out to be a chain of frustrations and disappointments, a bit of which was vented in my previous Friendly Fire post. It turned out that getting a photographer was more of a problem than my wife and I had anticipated, but it wasn’t made so apparent as it was last night.

We had originally planned to use only 2 DSLRs throughout the event, with friends and family helping out with their own digital cameras and nothing more, and consolidating the whole night’s photography into one big day-long photo shoot. Lydia was kind enough to volunteer without hesitation to help us in the area as a returning of the favour we did her on her wedding day., and she seemed a good choice too, having some design background in her education. However, having described the atmosphere of the restaurant we were having our wedding dinner in as “cozy and romantic”, to say the least, Michelle’s very clever boyfriend Ken (who was largely just there for the food, both in preparing it and consuming it) noted, “Don’t you need a good flashgun if you’re going to do any photography in the restaurant?”

Ken, with that one sentence coming out of your otherwise very quiet mouth, whatever transpired after that is now all on you, man.

A sudden mood of drunken thoughtfulness coupled with scarily adamant eyes-on-the-ceiling seriousness (forgive me, it is the only way I know how to describe it) washed over Michelle’s face as she sat contemplating what her boyfriend had said. And then suddenly she sat up in her chair and slurred with a strangely firm tone of voice, “Can I request something? Can the bride-to-be and groom-to-be leave the room? I need to talk to the rest of us about… something.”

We left the table, shuffled in the study and closed the door. As Michelle discussed what was undoubtedly a sinister plan to knife us while we weren’t looking, I asked my wife, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

My wife very calmly said, “Well, Michelle is an authority in the matter of weddings. She is a wedding planner at the end of the day.”

“She’s taking this wedding thing a bit too seriously though. Are you scared of her?”

“Yes. But that’s the Michelle I know, and I expected nothing less, because she will give her all to her friends when they need her.”

“How much has she had to drink?”

Our little dialogue was interrupted when Michelle called out to tell us we could come out now. My wife rejoined the table, but I detoured into the master bedroom toilet to seek solace on my ivory throne as times like these demand, regain my composure, and, uh, do other things.

When I finally re-emerged, the table quietened down. I was expecting something bad. In my experience of people quietening down when I joined in, it usually meant I was in a shitload of trouble and anyone who instigated conversation with me would be implicated in my crime.

Michelle began by saying, “I have a proposal.”

For a moment I thought she was going to ask Ken to marry her.

But she continued, “The reason why I asked you to leave the table was because after what Ken said about the flashgun, it got me to thinking that you guys are really going to need a pro photographer. Based on my experience in hiring friends, there will always be complications because friends don’t necessarily know what are the more important pictures that have to be taken that day.” She spoke briefly of a previous wedding day where a hired male friend was taking photographs of interesting women instead of the happy couple of the day (that story did not end well), and then continued, “So I talked with the rest of the guys here, and we have all agreed, as a wedding gift to you, we will help you hire a photographer for your wedding day.”

There was a long pause. my wife and I looked at the anticipating expressions of everyone around the table, expecting our response. We were both stunned; in a few minutes my wife would be touched to tears by the offer, but for the longest time I couldn’t find the words to say. Needless to say, I added to the tension on the table with my non-response, because I was not known to be one at a loss for words in any occasion other than when I was stuffing my mouth with food. As much as I was wondering what the hell Michelle was thinking when she requested time away from the hosts of the party to speak with the host’s guetss, now everyone was thinking what the hell I was thinking when I finally heard of the proposal.

I finally broke. “In my 30 years of life, this has never happened to me before. I would never have imagined my wife and I would have with us, a group of friends as giving as the ones seated at my table right now.”

And that was all I could say. The rest of the night, I remained stunned, confused, guilty, happy, sad, deeply appreciative and completely undeserving of the company we were keeping this night.

Stunned because I never knew I had friends this good.

Confused because I wondered where the hell they came from, and why the hell they came to my wife and I.

Guilty because I had preconceptions of my own guests and had only realised how wrong I am as a person to think people were going to knife me when all they wanted was to give me the best day of my life by giving me the best night of my life.

Happy because the people who were there for us last night, were there for us last night.

Sad because the people whom we thought would be there for us, weren’t.

Deeply appreciative because… oh, you get it.

And writing this, I realise the one situation where such a mish-mash of seemingly contradicting emotions will come together and give you, among other things, a thoroughly sleepless night.

Love.

To be continued…





Wedding? What wedding?

2 07 2008

I find it slightly disturbing that everyone is asking how our wedding preparations are coming along. More disturbing is the shower of concern over my wife’s stress levels whilst contending with planning the wedding and the pregnancy. Why this is all disturbing is because we’re actually not doing very much at the moment.

Tomorrow we’re going out to send out the remainder of the wedding invitations to my wife’s family and friends, on the 12th, I deliver the bride’s dowry to the in-laws, and on the 13th we’re getting all the brothers and the sisters (friends of Mr & Mrs Winston Tay that are going to be helping out with the wedding) after our restaurant rehearsals in the afternoon. That’s about it though, so I really need to know, what the hell are we missing out that nobody’s telling us?

For that matter, getting help from our brothers and sisters draws a blank with me. I can barely think of what we are going to need help with (which is why it’s pretty helpful to have a wedding planner as one of my wife’s ladies-in-waiting). I need some of my brothers to tote cameras around and click at whim, and then what?

I am terribly confused right now, caught between the curiosity of what everybody is on about and the bliss of ignoring what everybody is on about. 18 more days… help! I don’t know what with, but help!





Call me Winnie (a.k.a. Eskew me, are you for real?)

9 06 2008

This will get me on Technorati for sure…

Over the past couple of days, one question I’ve been looking forward to answering has been “How did your photoshoot go?” Thus far, I’ve answered it twice already, and both times to it’s desired effect. Here’s an example (in this case, involving my eldest sister and me) of what would transpire between a hapless victim and me when this conversation kicks off…

Susan: “So how was your photoshoot?”
Me: “Not bad. My bridal gown was very nice.”
Susan: (obligingly) “Heheheh…”

Pause.

Me: “Why does everyone think I’m joking when I say that?”
Susan: (obligingly) “Heheheh…” (followed by a slow realisation of what I just said, and subsequent widening of eyes and dropping of jaw)

I do so enjoy the element of surprise.

I’m gonna spare the rest of you that conversation (I’ve had enough fun with my siblings, best man, and his fiancee). Ladies and gentlemen, call me Winnie.

Geez, this is gonna be hard to top.

This is seriously going to be hard to top.

Update:
A few hours after this post was first put up, I put it in private mode for the discretion of my more conservative readers (Donutboy had trouble eating his dinner after seeing Winnie). It’s back up, though, because I always believe, if you’re gonna post something up on a blog, you might as well keep everything open to scrutiny and leave the “Keep this post private” checkbox for emergency use only (fine $2000 for misuse).

It’s interesting to see the reactions of people I know looking at that photo. When I first thought to do this, I thought, hey, I think this will make everyone laugh. I realise on hindsight I should have taken the cue from that family of 7 or 8, who were in the studio choosing their own bridal gowns when they saw me walk out in my plus-size chiffon-shouldered bridal gown, and promptly left the studio in a hurry.

I am quite surprised that this is really no laughing matter in some people’s eyes. Every 5 years or so I am awakened a little more by how closed a society we live in and how carefully we have to tread in our own social circles. It’s also one of the main reasons why I have so few friends in the first place.

To a friend and slightly distant neighbour who had considered doing the same thing, this thing takes more guts than you think.





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!