Monday, July 2, 2007

Chinese wedding packages

I just went to a very lovely wedding this weekend. The weather was perfect (not too hot, nor too cool), the bride was beautiful, and it was a fun time all around. However, I am blogging because of the terrible experience she had with the wedding package, which confirms my feeling of the general sleaziness of Chinese wedding centers and to warn all prospective brides of the place across from the Queens Botanical Garden (think it's called NY Wedding Plaza). One caveat to this "review" though, is that another friend (a year prior) used the same place and loved it.

The friend who got married this weekend ended up not wearing a cheongsam/qipao because when she originally went to the wedding center, they wheedled her in by promising a free red dress (she was already renting a limo and father's tux from them). When she showed up with her bridesmaids for their fitting, they said the dress is free to rent but she would have to pay for alterations. Then finally, on the third visit, they told her she had to pay for everything because the red dress she picked out was "special." Sound familiar, anyone? The florist we both used has also heard of similar scams about Chinese wedding one-stop shops because this must be a common occurence.

My friend was also very worried about transportation on the day of because they wouldn't give her the contact info of the limo until a day before. At first they told her it would be two days before but then when her fiance called, they told her the day before. She was especially worried because of what happened with the BMs' dresses....

The BM dresses were purchased elsewhere but this place said that they would take care of the alterations for a good price. The BMs did not have a good feeling about it, even at their first fitting because the seamstress (and that's a very generous term to describe her, given her shoddy work) didn't seem to be paying much attention and things just didn't quite feel right. Lo and behold, when they went to pick up their dresses, they were way too short and/or too loose/tight in the bodice. Mind you, some of the BMs wore heels to the fitting and when they tried on the altered dresses in flats, the hem was still too short. Despite their arguments, the seamstress ignored their concerns and tried to convince them that everything was OK. The BMs, seeing that they couldn't win in this situation (she wouldn't even compromise, refusing to believe she had done any wrong) walked out without paying. Luckily, they were able to find a tailor/miracle-worker who could fix the dresses in time by elongating the bodice with extra fabric from their shawls (and luckily the dresses had a sash to cover all this). But the story doesn't end there. Afterwards, my friend's mother received a call from the wedding place, saying that she was owed the money. Not only that, when my friend went with another BM to argue with them about the dresses, the proprietor was very demeaning, talking to them as if they were children (she said she would call and tell their 'mommy'). In the end, my friend (or her mother, since she was called by the store) paid the money because she was afraid that they would screw with the limo reservation and tux rental. But the agony to have to suffer because of incompetence and greed is unfathomable and totally unconscionable. I can't believe people would take advantage of others like this, especially for something that's supposed to be a happy occasion. Ugh, I am disgusted.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy new year!

I was going to title this post "The Chinese Marriage Penalty" but after this weekend, I guess it's not all bad. The penalty that I am referring to is the packing of red envelopes with money for unmarried people you know (only those who are younger than you and your spouse, apparently) and the visitation of all your relatives with a bunch of goods. My thought is why be 'punished' because you happened to get married, but now I see it as also a big responsibility -- everyone views you as a true adult now. So many customs that I didn't know about reared their collective ugly heads, but I hope no one got insulted.

At first, I thought that we only had to visit our parents but then my mother mentioned that it would be nice, and her hope, that we would be able to make time to visit all our aunts and uncles. Since my father is the second oldest, all his siblings would go visit him and I thought that would apply to us as well. But it turns out that it goes by rank and we're the lowest on the totem pole (younger generation) so we had to visit Costco many times (the one in Brooklyn was clean out of oranges, tangerines, nicely packaged cookies and chocolates) to get the necessary packages for everyone. There was also an orange shortage this year so we ended up getting tangerines and clementines for people. I've lost count of how much we bought, but thank goodness for bulk goods at Costco!

Going on my memory of my parents receiving a lot of goods and not knowing what to do with all of it, I thought we'd be able to re-gift some of the stuff that people gave us. :P However, our first few visits yielded nothing (again, I didn't know it was a perk of being elder, which we aren't) and we were dangerously low (hence the return trips to Costco). At times, we re-shuffled tangerines from 9 in each bag to 8, to some with just 6 and some clementines. But on Sunday night, after we had made most of our rounds, everyone kept shoving stuff on us and now we have so much chocolate and lots of citrus fruits! We also learned from the out-laws that things should be put in red bags, even if they are advertising some other supermarket, so we had to add to our collection of plastic bags by getting some from them.

The red envelopes were also a learning experience. We got a stack of crisp, new bills through my FIL, who visited a bank in Ctown (I think they only do that for you in Ctown). The money smelled so good (I have a paper addiction) and for some reason Dear found it hilarious to smack me with the wad of new bills. I guess it's the closest we'll get to swimming in piles of money like Uncle Scrooge would do in that Disney cartoon (the stacks of bills we used for the wedding were old bills and dirty). Anyway, we had many discussions on how much to give people. I had heard it is best to give pairs of envelopes so if you're giving someone $10, you give two $5 bills instead. But I had also heard that odd numbers are bad, so I was not sure about putting $5 by its lonesome self in one envelope. My parents believe that ultimately it's OK b/c the end product is even. My FIL prefers to step it up a notch by putting in an extra $1 so that there isn't a lone bill by itself (so it's really $6 in 2 envelopes). Dear, for some reason wanted to have 8s in everything so he wanted to do envelopes of $8, $18, etc. But with an $8 envelope, that would be two $4, 4 being a very bad number.... Aiya! With the exception of 3 people who got odd numbers (they were our first recipients and not very superstitious, I hope), I think we managed OK. The weird thing is that even though we are married, we're not supposed to get any more red envelopes but some people still gave us b/c they are of an older generation, such as our parents, Dear's grandmother, and 2 of our aunts.

So with all this to keep in our head (must go to Costco earlier next year!), I dreaded the visitations but it turned out OK. It was good to catch up with my relatives, most of whom I hadn't seen since the wedding. The aunts that I usually find annoying were more amusing than anything this time. I think with Dear there (he actually LIKES socializing), it made things much easier and somewhat enjoyable. Two highlights that I'll end with: my aunt showed us pictures of her travels to China -- I really want to go to Beijing, Shanghai, and my parents' homeland Hainan now (perhaps for the honeymoon that never was?). My uncle steamed us some buns stuffed with sticky rice -- very interesting and quite good. He also fried up some nian gao (the sticky glutinous cake that gets all sticky and mushy in the middle but crispy on the edges). Yummy! I miss good traditional Chinese food. I haven't had much this year and I crave those yellow cupcake-like thingies.

Happy new year! May you have much golden bacon from this year 4075's pig.

And with the start of a new year (since I am behind based on the Gregorian calendar), what better time to start a new blog. For all the good and bad, this wedding thing is over! Visit me on for the next chapters in my life (sorry for the cliche). I may still update this blog occasionally when I come across something really cool, but hello-good-bye for now!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wigging out

I was not thrilled with my hair during the early part of the day when the most pictures were taken (and especially during the ceremony -- the most important part of the day!) but this video makes me feel just a little better....

If the video is real (and it could very well be), I feel terrible for the person but it also epitomizes the one thing I HATED about wedding planning -- you get so crazed (or at least I did) about getting everything perfect and right and nice that you go to extreme lengths to ensure that. Me being the constant worrywart, I would always jump to weird conclusions and worst-case scenarios and stress myself out. Looking back, there were definitely instances where I really wasn't thinking or using common sense (much like the bride in the video). I'm sure I was also a b* more than once (haha, what an understatement!) to more than a few people throughout the process (though I have to say I was pretty good the day of). And that's one of my biggest regrets -- I wish that I wasn't so controlled by the Monster. It's like wedding planning turns you into this zombie (it's all that's on your mind for about a year)-cum-psycho (you go crazy, as I mentioned above). Anyway, I am nearing the end of my wedding blogging (lest I become more crazy) but I will not be silent! I will reveal what new things I've been obsessing over soon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Did you know? redux

Some other things I forgot to mention the first time around:
  • When making the tags for the favors out of the shrink film, we began by printing it out on Dear's father's inkjet printer. Because the printer was one of those huge sale items from a previous year's Black Friday, the ink died on us after only a few were printed. It was an interesting effect with streaks of orange and yellow and after baking it, the color didn't darken to the same shade of red like I hoped. Thankfully, BM printed out all the rest on her printer without a problem. Woo hoo!
  • I spent hours creating an integrated JR monogram but it was used just once, on the website announcement enclosure cards. Even though it was a great idea (in my most humble opinion), I had trouble deciding how to use it with the double happiness symbol. I thought to overlap the JR over the double happiness and to make the JR a bit transparent so that you could tell it's a double happiness underneath but it didn't come out very clear, especially when I shrunk it to a size that wasn't gigantic. I even had a custom stamp made of the JR but couldn't find a good use for it anywhere. :(
  • We bought an easel, posterboard, and some map pins thinking that we'd stick the leaf placecards on the boards so that they wouldn't be laying flat on the table (I thought that would take up too much room and there would not be enough space for everything). It turns out that there was plenty of room and that our easel was a little too small for the large pieces of posterboard. Our wonderful ushers probably also had trouble sticking the thin pins into the board. In the end, they laid most of the leaves on the posterboard and they made a good backdrop for the colorful leaves. The easel was completely assembled and the original packaging is nowhere to be found -- now I don't know what to do with that easel!!
  • We planned on assembling bathroom baskets for guests (filled with things like mints, lotion, band-aids, tissues, etc.) but we ran out of time and the thought of putting anything down in those bathrooms disgusted me so much that I would have wanted to throw out everything afterwards so I'm glad we didn't waste time and money on this. We did, however, buy some handsoap that never left the house and we are able to use otherwise.
  • We also created goody bags for the children (some of Dear's younger relatives seek much attention) to keep them entertained (they can be easily bored). We got some colorful plastic lunchbags from Target, put in some stickers, an activity book, and snacks like Goldfish and Mini M&Ms so that they would not go hungry if the banquet started late. Problem? Dear forgot these at home.
  • Dear's second cousin helped us gather thousands of acorns for us to use as decoration in some way. We thought it'd be a centerpiece on the welcome table and even got a tall, footed jar from Target's clearance section to hold all of them but Dear forgot to bring the entire thing. We had also wanted to put a pillar candle on top but never got around to buying one that was big enough. More wasted effort: the first gathering was put in Ziploc bags, which trapped all the moisture and made the acorns moldy. I thought we could still use them by just washing them in water with some bleach. After much intensive labor bent over these acorns, scrubbing each individual one and then laying out each one to dry on newspaper, I sorted whole ones vs. separated tops and bottoms, then packed everything up into the non-airtight Chinese takeout containers. Come September, half of the containers molded again and I just threw those out. The good thing was that we still had enough to fill up the huge jar and we can perhaps use that to decorate our apartment in some way. But lesson learned -- if you want to use acorns as a decorative element (good for fall theme, plus it's free!), just store them loosely in something breathable, like a cardboard shoebox or an open plastic bag.
And while I'm on the subject of editing myself, my previous comments about changing my name and being addressed by my husband's name may have been misunderstood. Some of my friends have addressed me with Dear's last name and I don't really mind (so don't feel bad if you've committed this sin -- hahaha) but in my proofreading/point-out-the-flaws nature, something just eats at me b/c I have to have things as correct as possible. I've always been a stickler about my name (I can't tolerate any shortened versions of it nor any nicknames) but I guess I just need to let go sometimes. Maybe it would be easier if I just had one name, like Madonna or Prince -- I am just R____. [was this enough of an apology for possibly insulting ppl who've addressed me by my Dear's last name?]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On registering

We're finally starting to settle into our apartment and only now have I begun to realize the usefulness of registering (not that everyone followed what was on our registry) and the uselessness of Crate and Barrel. About this time last year we were suckered into the great marketing that C&B has -- you can set up your registry at these special hours when the store is closed to everyone but you and other engaged couples looking to register. They also promise food, free champagne flutes (kinda ugly, in my opinion), and they have these clever postcard ads that stick up in your bridal magazines to remind you of this great offer. And when you return from the event and look through the booklet they created with pretty photos and a list of the supposed essential things that you must register for, you crave all the other great things they feature. Fast forward to a year later and you realize how you don't need five different types of platters in all shapes and sizes, that cute placemats and table linens are nice but not necessary, and that you can even get by without a pitcher or cakestand. What you do need is not really carried by C&B -- iron and ironing board (especially crucial for me this week where instead, I pathetically ended up buying a new shirt instead of ironing the ones that I already have), can opener (I have no idea how to use the can opener on Dear's multi-tool), vacuum cleaner. What C&B does have, is overpriced (albeit somewhat nice) stuff. Even if we combined all the gift cards we got and returned some of the stuff people gave us, we still wouldn't be able to get the bed that we like, nor the dresser, nor the couch. Of the stuff that C&B does have that we want/need within a reasonable price range, I've come to realize that their selection isn't the best out there. For instance, we didn't add the rice cooker from C&B's registry b/c I really don't think Krups makes a better rice cooker than the ones you see in Asian stores. After all, who eats more rice, Germans or Asians? The same probably goes for the blender/food processor and ice cream maker we got. In fact, the people who gave us the ice cream maker told us to take it off our registry because they bought it for us elsewhere (undoubtedly for cheaper). Similarly, the All Clad set that we ended up getting ourselves was deeply discounted through a combination of coupons and savings through Macy's.

The caveat to registering is that there's so much stuff out there that amidst all the wedding planning, would you really have time to research which is the best iron/vacuum/rice cooker, etc. that you want? A part of me, when at C&B, thought 'Well I don't have the time to do the research, C&B probably took the time to only stock what they truly felt is quality' (sounds totally naive and ridiculous in retrospect).

Is there a perfect registry out there? I really wanted a sewing machine and some power tools but no one registry (except maybe Amazon) had both those types of things and I didn't really want to have a list of registries the size of the guest list. If I had to do it over again, I would probably register at Bed, Bath & Beyond (heard they have a great return policy, like letting you keep the cash when you return something), a department store (like Macy's, for linens and such), maybe Target for their variety of stuff (like appliances and other household stuff), and I would have fought against putting so much kitchen-related stuff on the registry. And I really would have refrained from registering at C&B!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Did you know?

Here's some behind-the-scenes stuff that I didn't think warranted a full entry on its own, so I gathered them all here.
  • Starting about a year before the wedding, I would obsessively ask my dermatologist about some aspect of my skin so that it would be perfect on the day of. Early on, he prescribed a benzoyl peroxide wash for my back which rid it completely of every blemish possible. But that wasn't true for the face. I took prescribed antibiotic pills a month before the wedding to "ensure" that I wouldn't break out (I put "ensure" in quotes b/c my dermatologist thinks I'm crazy since every time I'm there, my face is clear as day but the rest of the month I have all sorts of pimples and breakouts). The pills didn't really help (except maybe psychologically) as I still had stress breakouts (those are the worst for me b/c I can't do anything about it and nothing works). It is only by some miracle that I had clear skin the week leading up to the wedding and on the day of. In fact, my makeup artist saw me two weeks before and was worried about my skin but on the day of, she was so surprised in the improvement that she asked whether or not I went to get a facial -- must've be that "wedding glow." :P
  • Sidenote: if you get a huge zit very close to the wedding day, ask your dermatologist for a cortisone shot -- it kills the swelling and the redness instantly!

  • Speaking of skin, my mother had nagged me about getting monthly facials. Even though I brushed her off, I did get more facials this past year than ever. I tried out Euphoria Spa during Spa Week and bought a facial package at a place in Ctown based on a friend's recommendation and still have some sessions left (if I only had the time to go now!). The Ctown facials were definitely a lot better than other packages I've tried in the past but of course, are no match to Bliss Spa (shoulda, coulda, woulda!).

  • I got the best brow-shaping (by threading) ever at V Salon on Elizabeth Street for just $7! The bad part? I was worried that it wouldn't turn out well so I went 3 weeks in advance so that my brows could grow back if it didn't come out right. Well they came out nice but I was too lazy/busy to go back and I had to rely on my cheesy plucking skills to maintain them (not the best results).

  • Dear got a Mont Blanc just for signing the marriage license. We didn't include this as part of the ceremony on the day of (nor did we make a big deal out of it, like the HKers do with a big feather pen) and it took all of 30 seconds, so I don't know why all the pomp and circumstance was necessary, but that's what Dear wanted. The pen is currently sitting on Dear's desk, used only one other time since that day (for signing the mortgage documents). I do admit, though, there is something about using a nice pen to write on nice paper (which the marriage license wasn't).

  • I bought three pairs of Insolia but never had the time to stick them in my shoes because I couldn't decide on which shoes to wear. I was concerned that the silver shoes that I originally bought would clash with the red and gold qipao that I wore during the banquet so I was constantly on the lookout for comfortable gold shoes which would sorta match all my dresses. I thought I would get a pair of ballroom dance shoes (must be comfy if those dancers are on their feet for hours, doing crazy dance moves) but I didn't think it was a practical option to spend over $100 for shoes that I would only wear once and that could only be worn indoors (not outside, on the pavement, and certainly not on the pebbly beach where we took some pictures). I ended up wearing the silver shoes for most of the day and then switched to a pair of gold sandals that I got from Target for $4.

  • I was on the prowl for good makeup artists throughout the year and visited numerous makeup counters in various places, starting out at Shu Uemura in SoHo, then the MAC counter at Macy's (terrible service), then Bloomingdale's in SoHo (disliked the look they gave me), then the Sephora that opened up by work, then with the much blogged-about Hawa at the Bloomingdale's by 59th and I finally settled on another artist that I met at Sephora (Alaine). I've never tried on so much makeup in my life!!

  • I got my very dirty dress (it was a sample, remember) cleaned at Little J Cleaners on Park Avenue on the recommendation of a person who was once in the business. From what I could tell, they did a decent job and are a tad cheaper than most cleaners in NYC. After playing the horrible waiting game with fixing the dress, it took me completely aback to learn that I would be able to get my dress back in my hands within just a few days (and only b/c it was Labor Day, otherwise it would have been fewer days). They were fast, easy to work with and my dress came back very nicely packaged (the train hung very neatly), even with a cardboard form to keep the shape of the bust.
I feel like I'm forgetting some other tidbits... guess those will have to wait for a separate post.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A rose by any other name...

For those who haven't figured out yet, I haven't changed my last name. And why should I be the only one to fill out numerous extra documents (and I mean numerous -- entire books have been written about this subject and many name-change kits have been marketed), get used to signing a new name, correct everyone who knows that I recently got married whether or not I've changed my name (I made a cursory reference to this in an earlier post)? And why do I even have to make this decision in the first place?! The husband just has to plop down on the proverbial couch after the wedding and not even consider how to be identified after this life-changing event.

And for me, while I've never exactly been thrilled about my last name (rhymes with too many unflattering words), I'm not psyched about people mispronouncing Dear's last name because I would just be too tempted to correct them and eventually get too frustrated because it is not exactly easy for non-Chinese people to pronounce. It would be one thing if there weren't many other Asian names that sounded very similar but instead everyone thinks it's really "Choy" or "Choo" (completely different surnames) when it's not!

Side rant: why do people assume that I've changed my name already? People have already addressed us as Mr. and Mrs. C___. Now, I'm not exactly a feminist (just extremely lazy to do more paperwork than I have to) and I probably will change my name eventually (if not legally, at least use Dear's name in social settings) but I also don't appreciate people making assumptions. Let me enjoy my birthname at least for a little while more -- I'll use my "new name" when I'm ready.

On the flip side, it is just a little bit thrilling to be able to have double identities. And if you think about it, it's so easy to pass yourself off as someone else.

What else is in a name? Ever since the wedding I have no idea what to call the out-laws. It got so uncomfortable that at one point I just straight out asked what they wanted to be called. My passive-aggressive MIL couldn't commit to a name but did express her disdain for the one thing I would not have a problem calling her -- the Chinese MIL title of "nai-nai" (or whatever it is, I don't really know Cantonese). I refuse to call anyone but the woman who bore me for 9 months and then raised me for 20+ years "mom" or "mother" (which is what I think my MIL wants me to do). (Oddly enough my mother, in her traditional mindset urged me to call my MIL something closer to "mother" -- I hope my one and only mother understands that my impetuousness in bucking tradition, especially throughout the wedding, was not just to be difficult but because I believe that the traditional is not always better.) And I'm sure my MIL would be super-insulted if I called her by her first name as many non-Asians have suggested to me. So she gave up her chance and now I just refer to her without ever really calling her anything (just turn to face her when I'm speaking to her). But at least there is some comedic relief:
MIL (when calling me on the phone): Hello? This is [she begins to give her first name before she realizes that I shouldn't call her by her first name]... uh wife of [then she realizes I shouldn't call my FIL by his first name]... uh, I mean, J__'s mother....

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Marriage license

Now that I have some time, I can add in my bits of random info that I thought worth sharing.... I took the week off before the wedding to take care of last minute stuff, such as getting the marriage license. In New York, there is some rule about not getting the license more than 60 days before you get married but it also has to be at least 24 hours before (to prevent hasty marriages, I guess). We tried to get there as early as possible so that we wouldn't be stuck waiting on line when we had zillions of other things to do (such as printing programs). I think we got there around 9 on Tuesday morning, and there were already people on line. Who knew so many people wanted to get married in NYC?!

For such a big event in one's life, it was such a cold, bureaucratic process that I barely remember in my crazed state. First, we passed through metal detectors and the bag inspection area (of course Dear was stopped for one of his many gadgets), then we were rushed out of the lobby area because they didn't want loitering. Upstairs, people were waiting on all manner of lines it looked like a dingy doctor's office in disarray. We then waited on a line just to get the correct form to fill out, then got back on line to hand it in before we would be called up to verify everything.

When filling out the form, it was quite interesting to see the different people getting married -- an older couple from out-of-state, people who live in NYC but getting married in Westchester, young couples, various ethnicities -- but no celebrities nor people wearing full bridal gear (or even carrying some flowers, as I've seen in passing through City Hall before). I also found it interesting that the form had an area for choosing surnames (both people can change their name, or either the husband-to-be or wife-to-be could individually change theirs to match the other one) but Dear did not like my idea of creating a new surname for us both (I always found it unfair that only one person has to do all that extra work!). :( Good thing I put his down because I'm told you don't have to use it but if you ever do decide to change your name, it's much easier if it's on your marriage license/certificate.

After we filled out our form, we were herded to the next room and told to line up on the side. While there, we saw this window, much like all the other windows there, with thick bullet-proof glass up to the ceiling (is it that dangerous to get married?!). But unlike the others, this one was labelled "Chapel" -- can it get any sadder than that? I thought you'd at least be in a private room or something if you wanted to get married there.

Anyway, it was finally our turn and we sat down in these cruddy chairs while a woman on the other of the glass typed in the info we wrote on our form. The woman did not seem thrilled that she would play an integral part in this life-changing event for us. I was afraid she'd snap at us at any minute. Only when Dear showered her with politeness did her cold, disinterested attitude begin to melt away. I think she, like most City workers needed to hear "thank you" more often. If you ask me, it'd be much more efficient if we were allowed to type in the information ourselves and could skip this barely-above-minimum-wage-so-I-can-be-mean-to-you-because-
you-need-something-from-me step.

When she was done with each part, she would turn the screen so that we could check to make sure she entered it in correctly. I was surprisingly nervous because I felt like I really wouldn't be able to pick out any errors if there were any because I just wasn't myself. At that point, we also handed over our IDs and the $35 money order I picked up that morning (gotta love the Post Office's hours -- so much better than the bank!). Then, when everything checked out, she printed something out for us and we walked over to another window where we were given the certificate and an envelope to mail it out in. And that was that -- no fanfare, no huge production, no big time commitment.

For more info on getting the license in NYC, see the Marriage Bureau online. The resident worrywart, overly-talkative secretary at the church we got married in also advised that we deal with the office in Manhattan since the last time a couple went to the Queens office things were blundered and they didn't get their certificate or something until a long while later. I'm sure that's just anecdotal, but you never know.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

This is our first Christmas together as Mr. and Mrs. and it is totally not what I expected last year. I thought we'd have trouble deciding what to do, which family to spend it with, but we just did lunch with one side and dinner with the other on Saturday. We had dinner with some friends today (which makes me think that other people didn't make this holiday so family-centric either) and as we were driving around, I noticed quite a few places still open.

Actually, unlike last year, I felt like we didn't really do much celebration this time around. In combination with the warm weather, it hardly felt like Christmas. I barely did any shopping or card-writing. Maybe because we are still in shock/trauma from the wedding, or maybe because we've been so very occupied with our housing situation, I didn't even get Dear a gift. Oh well, when I don't get the inspiration to get the "perfect" gift, I'm really not into it. Also, because Christmas fell on a Monday this year, it was just weird to have Christmas Eve service on a Sunday after regular Sunday service.

Hopefully next year when things are more settled I'd like to at least get a little tree and decorate it together. Anyway, enough of my babbling. Merry Christmas everyone!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


This is a hard post for me to write b/c I tend to harp on the negative, yet I have issues admitting that I am (gasp!) wrong. However, in order to get it off my chest and/or in the hopes of helping others by learning through my mistakes, here goes (in no particular order).

Practiced smiling/posing and remembered which was my better side. Half of the pictures I look weird in and I've come to realize how I really shouldn't smile. Too bad I realized this after the fact. Perhaps engagement shots would have helped with this?

Packed water (or designated a water carrier). I was parched for most of the day but there was no water to be found. When someone was kind enough to bring some to me, I had a few sips and then the bottle disappeared.

Planned for alone time. I wish that I had spent some alone time with my Dear, even if it was just five minutes. We were always surrounded by people or there were things to take care of so we didn't get to enjoy each other's company until well after everything was done.

Got Dear cuff links. I meant to get Dear a little something as a surprise on the day of but it completely slipped my mind. In one picture, Dear's arm is extended, and he also remarked how he should have worn cuff links. If not for Photoshop, that would be a big DOH!

Researched more DJs/used an iPod. Ugh, I've already ranted about this before and I don't want to go into more.

Got more readers (or spread the reading around). We had one guy do all the English readings, which got repetitive. I totally didn't think of the simple solution of asking the Mandarin-speaking reader to also read one of the English passages (see below about the addled brain).

Packed bobby pins. If I just had one or two with me, I would have felt more comfortable during the ceremony. At the salon, the hairdresser gave BM a bunch of bobby pins to hold for me but it was not until the banquet when I got a moment to rest a little was I able to finally pin up the strands of hair that were bothering me.

BM dresses. Hrmm... where do I begin with this? We got the dresses from a Vera Wang sample sale for dirt cheap. Perhaps that's what clouded my vision because the styles in the colors that I liked were very limited. I actually LOVED the color (a deep red that was shimmery but not too bright to outshine the bride) but not everyone was crazy about the style I chose for them. Alterations were also a huge headache and things happened that I'd rather not repeat. Those close to me (or nosy enough to ask) know, and if you're really curious, I'll tell you in person too. The right way to do this would have been to get input from your BMs, like asking what style of dress they like/are comfortable in general, have them send you pictures of stuff they like, and then make a decision that satisfies everyone based on that, keeping everyone's body type in mind.

Taken medication. I think I needed Prozac, Xanax, Paxil or some other happy pills for that entire week leading up to the wedding. Or maybe the entire month. I couldn't think straight. But I never thought to even go see my doctor any time before the wedding, who later told me that she could have helped me time my monthly cycle, which could have helped with my mood swings (is this TMI?!).

Provided a better day-of timeline. I really wish that we had had time to go to the Staten Island Ferry, but we didn't. I also left a very small window for getting to the church on time, not planning for traffic or getting lost on the way. I hated making everyone wait for me and was embarrassed for doing so. A lot of headache would have been saved had I just gotten ready in the church, which brings me to the next item.

Got ready in the church. True, the church doesn't have the best facilities (not sure they even have a full-length mirror) but it would have made things a lot easier. If I just got ready at the church, I would at least have some pictures of me getting ready -- I was so rushed at the hotel that I just changed on my own and I think I could have used help (certainly extra sets of eyes) with attaching my veil. We also wouldn't have had to travel back and forth between Ctown and the hotel (saving precious time and taking out the wild card of having to travel to the church). This probably doesn't hold true for everyone, but to generalize, think more about convenience than pretty surroundings if it makes planning 10 times easier.

Communicated better. I should have told my parents not to squeeze alongside me when walking me down the aisle. They had no experience with church ceremonies at all so they were probably very lost. I should have communicated everything that everyone needed to know. Also, I'm not sure people had a timeline in their mind (I didn't really either). And let's not go into how badly we communicated with some of our vendors (i.e. DJ).

Translated faster/better or skipped the Chinese part of the programs. This was very aggravating and I've already complained about it before, so I won't again.

Remembered/knew about displaying my train while standing in the front for the ceremony. I didn't realize until I saw pictures that there are no pictures of my train, displayed for all to see. It was just bunched up all in the back (which kinda made it look like it had a fishtail back). I totally forgot about all this until afterwards, when I remembered that in other weddings I had seen the BM adjust the bride's train for best photo ops. In the same vein...

I think my veil looked weird the way I placed it in my hair. I think I should have put the floor length one at the back of my head, under the mass of curls. At minimum, I should have brought the veil to the salon for the hairdresser to put on me but I didn't want the hassle of schlepping all that tulle through the mean streets of Ctown and I couldn't (still can't) think of a good, logistical way to bring it the salon and then to wear it back to the hotel. Again, perhaps this would not have been as big of a problem if I just changed at the church.

Not skimped out on last minute beauty preparations. One example was the nails. I had it all set in my mind to go to the salon and we even had time for it but instead I decided to let a friend do it (see above with the not thinking straight). I really appreciate that she was doing me a favor and it came out quite nice, but for some reason or another my cuticles were extremely dry (sign of poor health?) and kept peeling, which stressed me out a lot. In my endeavors to fix my cuticles, I chipped a few nails. Then when BM re-did my fingers for me at night (preventing an early night), we were so tired and it was late that I rushed to go to bed and smudged a finger in the process. Good thing it wasn't really visible in pictures but unlike me, you'll want to make sure you have picture-perfect nails in case your photographer wants close-ups of the ring or you holding your flowers.

Socialized more with guests. There were times I just felt hermit-like (or was it tiredness?)throughout the day but I should have sucked down a deep breath and gone to greet guests. Thankfully, Dear was pretty good about that but I feel bad for ignoring my guests.

Made a speech with Dear. Dear's the more eloquent and personable one, so it would have been more like me standing next to him as he thanked everyone, but we barely discussed this prior to and of course, on the actual day, we forgot.

Practiced dancing. Our first dance was quite awkward and the song lasted forever. I felt very self-conscious of everyone staring at us as we fumbled around. Dancing with my father was very very weird as well. I think he was lost in it all too (see my communication problems above).

Decided on thank you stationary way ahead of time. We couldn't decide on what to do for thank yous and we had no idea that our parents would want to give out pictures of us along with the thank yous, otherwise I would have just done a photomontage of us on a card from winkflash or something. Instead we did more traditional thank you notes that do not appeal to Chinese folk. Hence, we are big bums in the thank you department -- I feel so bad!

Prepared for my shower. I ignored/forgot all the advice about dressing up kinda nice for the few weekends leading up to the wedding. Instead I was a total slob that day -- it was so embarrassing!

Hung out with family. We didn't go directly on our honeymoon (and the mini-moon itself was quite short) so I had no excuse to not hang out with my cousin and uncle from Indonesia. For all my talk of sightseeing and loving NY, I didn't really do much to show them around. (See above about the poor communication skills.)

Overall, throughout the year or so of being engaged, I think I, unfortunately, became a different person. Being a bride and having all that pressure to do so many things (and to do it well) really changes you and in some ways I was really unreasonable. I think I was quite loopy, and maybe even mean, with a friend of a friend who was helping me out. I regret not being able to control my emotions better.

I wish that I had someone to guide me along, remind me of things. True, I had read a lot of info on what should and should not be done, what to keep in mind, but it all became a jumbled mess in my addled brain. Since I'm one of the first in my circle of friends to get married (what are you guys waiting for?!) and this was a first experience being a BM for all my BMs, I didn't have anyone who had experienced all this to keep me on focused. So I'm passing this on to whoever will read this. Hopefully you'll remember!

Endnote: even though there are a lot of things that I would do differently, I realize that it was just one day of the rest of our lives together and those other days are the more important focus.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The favors

The story of our favors began last November/December. Based on an idea from Martha, I was toying with the idea of giving rosemary-infused salt since we both like to cook/eat and it's a practical gift that guests would be able to use over and over. Plus the herb rosemary has some love symbolism attached to it and I thought making all that and assembling it would be relatively simple. I just had to come up cute, food-safe containers that weren't too big, but would be relatively airtight, and a way to decorate it all. While save-on-crafts had a good deal on jars, I found out they weren't made for holding food. So instead I was pretty settled on buying glass jars or metal tins from SKS (great resource, btw!). But then I got this email from IKEA about a huge sale they were having (I think it may have been an end of Christmas sale) for champagne glasses. Since it was a limited time sale, we quickly made the decision to buy 400 of these (we hadn't even hammered out the guest list yet), without any idea of what we'd do with them. At first we thought it'd come in handy for a champagne toast since we know there aren't any flutes in Chinese restaurants (and flutes hold a lot less liquid than the regular wine glasses or water goblets that they usually have, which would save on the bottles we'd have to purchase). But then there were the 49 interjections that everyone had to have, complaining about guests not wanting to bring home a wet/dirty glass that they just drank out of, that guests wouldn't know that the glass was the favor, that some ppl wouldn't drink the champagne and then what would they do with a filled glass?, blah blah blah, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. All I knew was that I wanted to personalize the glasses in some way so that ppl would remember years down the line why they have this dusty thing in their cupboard and that they may be able to use on occasion.

After months of thinking and others' return from trips to HK, we started to engrave these 400 glasses with a double happiness symbol. We tried stamping various things on various parts of the glass (difficult to get a good image on the rounded, slick surface) in red permanent ink but we had to give that up b/c it would always smudge. So I had to settle for just the double happiness, no date, no initials/name -- we'd have to incorporate those elements some other way. I didn't think of that way until just a month before the big day (more on that later). In the meantime, we bought contact paper and engraving cream (you wouldn't believe how difficult it is to locate this -- we were later told that they don't carry this in NYC stores and had to go out to LI to get an extra bottle from the AC Moore there) and proceeded to do all the zillion steps required to engrave, inviting 2 BMs and other friends over numerous times to get this Sisyphean feat accomplished.

First, we cut the contact paper into squares or rectangles that were big enough to fit the double happiness character on it. Then we used the double happiness craft punch imported from HK (through BM's sister) and punched out the shape into the contact paper. With the intricate & somewhat delicate parts of the character being punched into the 2-layer paper, we (or more like I) had some difficulty getting the piece out without ripping it or destroying it in some way. When Dear took this over, it was a lot easier since he was able to fully punch through all the layers without a problem using his Popeye-like muscles. He was even able to punch several squares at once, finishing up in no time (more or less). However, after punching out 400+ of these suckers, the punch completely fell apart -- so sad since I'd like to be able to use it for cards or something.

Then we had to adhere these self-made stickers onto the glass, where the cut-out areas would be engraved for that frosted glass look. When we first stuck on a few of them and tried engraving the glasses, I was really dissatisfied at how it came out -- there were jagged edges everywhere and the engraving wasn't done evenly so there were splotchy patches throughout. Then someone suggested we clean up the image a little by cutting off the 'sticks' that attach the double happiness to the outer circle at the top, bottom, and sides. Admittedly, it did make the final image a lot better, but that significantly increased our workload. One summer day, 5 of us worked until 1am or so and we still didn't finish adhering all the stickers and cutting off the extra pieces!

But one weekend, we finally finished that step and started to engrave. After a while, I realized brushing the cream onto the glass didn't give the best results. What did work was pouring a glob of the cream onto the part we wanted engraved (making sure it didn't go beyond the contact paper) and then scraping it off after a few seconds with those fake plastic credit cards you get in the mail. Since you could reuse the cream a few times, we got into a sort of rhythm of scraping off one glass and spreading it onto the next glass while the other person would dunk the finished glasses in soapy water, wipe off all remnants of the cream, rip off the sticker, and rinse everything clean. As you can imagine, this part took a very long time and many busy weekends. Lots of ppl wanted to help but it was difficult to coordinate, especially when the glasses were being stored at Dear's place.

But eventually we finished engraving. The glass on the left is the final product and the one on the right is one of our first prototypes, with the sticks still attached.

For part 2 of the favors, we decided to put some candy into the glasses, more specifically, red Jelly Bellys. One Saturday, we trekked to Economy Candy, which seemed to be comparably priced to the other online sites, if not cheaper b/c we wouldn't have to pay for shipping (though there is tax, I think) and there was a slight discount (I forgot how much) for bulk orders. Plus, being an Economy Candy virgin, I'd always wanted to visit the famed store and I was thrilled to finally see all that candy (some I haven't seen since I was kid) packed into one place. At the store, we learned how expensive getting all those gourmet jelly beans would be and we added ivory Jordan almonds to the mix. I forget how many pounds we did get, maybe something like 5 or 10 lbs each of the strawberry jam and the raspberry (both so yummy!!) and perhaps 10 lbs of the almonds. Then we assembled the little tulle packages (MIL cut the rectangles of tulle from my 1000' spool, and boy was she fussy!). One person would scoop some beans and almonds and then the other would tie it all up with the orange 3/16" wide single-faced satin ribbon that I got from Artistic Ribbon. We tied the other end of the ribbon to the personalized tags we made (see part 3). Oh, we also mixed up the 2 types of beans in one bowl so that each package would have both types -- I wonder if anyone noticed that there were 2 flavors? Working with the beans was so intoxicating (you can stand 2 feet away and still smell them through the plastic) I got a bit sick of smelling them for 12 hours straight. I really liked how deep red the beans were though, but it was a bit hard to see when we finally put it in the glass, I think.

And for part 3, I reverted back to my idea of using shrink film (aka Shrinky Dinks, if you want the brand name) in some way. Instead of my original idea of making wine charms to put onto the stems of the glasses, I thought we could make thick, plastic, personalized tags out of the shrink film. So I purchased 106 sheets of white printable shrink film from Dick Blick's, came up with a simple design with our names, wedding date, and a double happiness symbol on it, printed it out (4 to a sheet) on an inkjet printer, cut the 4 pieces apart (used the guillotine cutter at work to cut several sheets at once since things didn't need to be so exact, so that moved pretty quickly), punched a hole in the top of each, and then baked them according to the instructions on the package. Since it shrinks to about 1/3 of the original size, using a regular 3/8" hole punch gave it just the right sized hole for the thin ribbon. For best results, when I took the shrunken stuff out of the oven, I flattened it with a book or something flat. Sometimes the tags didn't quite come out the way I wanted (curling under itself or not shrinking completely, or not being completely flattened), but what makes shrink film so cool is that you can always put it back in the oven until it softens again and shape it the way you like. You just have to be careful you don't burn it (yes, this can actually happen) and I think after a while, it gets harder and harder to reshape it. Some of the tags we made came out more toasted than others, which was kinda nice too b/c it looked ivoryish, to match our invitations. :) The colors also deepened so that the red of the double happiness came out burgundyish, just like our color scheme! Major props to BM who took a whole bunch of these home and shrunk them in one afternoon with her mother.

With the shrink film, you can make anything you want, in any shape, with any design. I think that makes it a great alternative to the personalized paper tags and/or stickers/labels that you can buy from places like Bliss Weddings Market, Wedding Things and My Own Labels. And because it's plastic, it lasts much longer than just cardstock. If only I thought of it sooner so that I could have designed something nicer. Though sometimes simple is best, no?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


We finally got our proofs from the photographer! After looking through the 2 huge albums (collectively, they weigh as much as 4 phonebooks, if those things still exist in this day and age), I didn't feel so bad forking over the rest of his money (all cash again, though this time all those bills no longer fazed me), plus the rest of his tip. All that is to say that I was impressed by his work! I especially liked the really interesting poses that he set up for us with the bridal party and the candid shots of the table toasts (no staid table portraits). On the day of, we were a bit grumpy about all the poses that we had to do and I feel a bit guilty for being such a grouch (I wonder if the pics would have come out even better if we really got into it?). I also thought that he forgot about my directive for no posed portraits, but he didn't, except for the part with the families, which I now realize are a necessary evil -- the parentals are most interested in that part. In the days after the wedding, I kept second-guessing our choice of photographer, wondering if we should have gone with the non-Chinese person who had more photojournalistic stuff in her repertoire. But I now see that if we only had candid group shots of the families, there would have been much screaming and hollering (there still may be, since my parents haven't seen anything yet).

Not that we escaped completely unscathed. The out-laws have gone berserk with the flagging!!! We gave them one set of those plastic Post-It flags/tabs to mark the pictures that they want. I'm not sure whether they want all those in their album or if they want copies of those particular pictures, but in any case, they must have tabbed over 100+ pictures. It seems like every other picture is marked. They even had to come back and ask for more tabs!!! I think MIL stayed home the next day, skipping out on her class, just to go through the pictures in more detail. And I'll spare everyone the rant of their issues trying to view the DVD of pics that Dear's cousin so kindly created.

Anyway, in the end, I am quite satisfied with our photographer. We haven't decided whether or not to go through him for our album (I was thinking of making the parents' albums through ImageStation or something), but if his proof albums are any indication, I think it would be beautiful. The only downside is that we won't get the digital 'negatives' until a year later so we almost have to order extra prints and stuff through him.

A last thought: Looking through the photos also gave me a different perspective on the wedding. It was interesting to see Dear and his GM getting ready and especially to see all the hard work that people put into it, helping us. I am so so so grateful for our supporting cast!

Our photographer also has a LOT of experience with weddings. He was recommended and used by two other couples that we know and I hope the friend that I told about him will be happy with him too. But aside from people that we know that have used him, I think he's been in the business for over 15 years. What I really like about him is that he's honest (a quality you don't find in Chinese photographers). Oh also, his assistant was very helpful with retouching makeup. She didn't bring a kit so she just worked with what my BM brought along (no brushes, even) but it came out great (maybe even better than what my makeup artist did?). I have no idea what her name is (I suppose I could ask) and I'm not sure if he uses the same person all the time, but she barely speaks English (mostly Mandarin, I think) and is supposedly a professional makeup artist. If I had known about her skills, I would have just used her all day long.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Banquet details

The detail that everyone seemed to love was the escort cards that we made out of leaves. Other than the gathering, pressing, shellacking, and storing of the leaves, I have very little knowledge of how the leaves became escort cards. At one point Dear bought a bunch of clear labels (since he refused to handwrite each one) and printed out names and table numbers on them. He also gave a bunch to my mother who could not provide us with a clear guest list so she had to handwrite hers. Lots of people commented on how creative we were, though one party pooper had to add that they were brittle (eh, screw him!). Some people seemed to like the idea so much that they pinned a leaf to themselves, as if it were a boutonniere. If I had fresh autumn leaves, I would have petitioned for adding one to Dear's boutonniere.

My MIL is a stained glass nut -- she goes every week to her class and her house is filled with all sorts of stained glass pieces. So it was only natural that I ask her to make us something featuring a double happiness character. At first I thought it'd be nice to have her make a caketopper but then she shot that idea down saying it'd be too heavy (I think a cake should be able to hold it up without collapsing) and saying that she was concerned about lead poisoning since the soldering is done with lead (though I said we could easly put a piece of cardboard underneath it to prevent that). So I said we'd just place the double happiness somewhere on the cake table then, akin to the large "I Do" letters that many brides use. After asking me a million questions and asking me to print her several sizes on paper, she set to work and bought the glass. Her choice of glass was not ideal, it turns out, since it was really a mirror (or something she explained that I don't understand) and she was not able to cut it into a circle. Instead, she'd have to keep it as a rectangle and she wouldn't be able to solder the edges so she also bought a frame to put it in. I wasn't crazy about the gold, but that's what happens when you give someone free reign. I think it turned out OK.
Behind the scenes, after-the-fact, "Pop-Up Video"-esque tidbit: I later learned MIL told the photographer that she made it and she urged him to take pictures of it.

In the last days, I just couldn't do anymore and Dear stepped up to do the table/menu cards, from design to printing. Of course, what I wanted was a lot more complicated so the simple idea Dear came up with was a lifesaver (not that I helped with that). On one side he included the guest names and on the other, the menu, along with explanations for each course.
I don't have the final wording of the menu, but it was something like this (this is our first draft):
There are 9 main courses to a Chinese banquet menu as the number connotes "everlasting." Everything is served whole to symbolize completeness. There is a delicate balance not just in the flavors, but also in the cooking method, where boiling balances frying, braising/steaming, cold/hot, savory/sweet.

Cold appetizer platter: Roast pig, ham, beef, jellyfish and pickled vegetables
Pig symbolizes purity -- J__ delivered a whole roast pig to R___'s parents to make the engagement official in the Chinese tradition.

Jumbo battered shrimp with candied walnuts

Shark fin soup with chicken
A very expensive delicacy, shark fin symbolizes prosperity.

Braised abalone with mushrooms and Chinese vegetables

Sirloin Steak with broccoli

Crispy whole fried chicken
The chicken symbolizes the phoenix (mythological bird), the representation of the wife.

Lobster, stir-fried with ginger and scallions
The lobster symbolizes the dragon, which represents the husband.

Steamed whole fish
Fish is a must at every important meal, as it sounds like the word "abundance" in Chinese.

Fried rice and E-fu noodles with mushrooms
Noodles, especially the e-fu noodles, are served to symbolize longevity.

Red bean soup with lotus seeds
Red is a lucky color and lotus seeds symbolize fertility.

Monday, November 20, 2006


A few days ago (if not weeks ago), I looked through our cards again b/c someone mentioned that her check hadn't been cashed yet. And lo and behold, I DID have a brain fart the first time around and I saw that I had left 3 gifts with their cards. I have no idea why but it was good to retrieve these gifts! (And maybe one of these days we'll sit down and actually write thank you notes. :P) It was also nice to look through the cards again b/c when we were opening it, there were so many to go through and I was so busy tracking who gave what that I barely remembered any of the cards nor the sentiments expressed in them. But this time around I noticed some really nice ones with 3-D stuff like ribbons and pearls or cut-outs and pop-ups (I think a lot of them were from Target) and it almost makes me want to make wedding cards for ppl. I also noticed one person removed the seal from our invite and used that to close his envelope, like so:

I'm not sure how I feel about that (desecration! but it's recycling too....)

Anyway, this also made me think about gifts in general. For one thing, some gifts were really surprising (in both good and bad ways). Some ppl were really really generous (thanks!!) and I'll save my rant about the ppl who gave $25 or nothing at all, but WHY do ppl leave price tags on their gifts?! One gift was especially precious: a set of jewelry with the price tag on the bottom (an inflated price I'm sure b/c it reeks of a sale item) and written on the TOP of the box in thick purple marker (so that I can't possibly re-gift it!) is a note to just ME, like Dear doesn't deserve a gift at all, yet the card was addressed to the both of us, not that he could really use a pearl necklace or bracelet.

Well to be somewhat productive instead of ranting all the time, we are trying to figure out who gave us this (no card inside the unmarked bag):
Please let me know so that we can mercilessly mock you, ahem, I mean write a proper thank-you note. No, really, we appreciate this. It has grown on me and I think it's kinda kitschy cute. We could always use olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus it is pretty good! So lemme know if this is you -- I really want to be able to write a real thank you!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The B list, and an A

To say I was disappointed with the restaurant is an understatement. But before I begin my complaint-fest, let me clarify the reasons why we chose the restaurant (if you haven't been reading from day one): A) we wanted a Chinese banquet, B) we wanted it in Manhattan since my family mostly resides in Brooklyn while Dear's family mostly resides in Queens and to pick a restaurant in either Queens or Brooklyn would be unfair to the other side, C) we didn't really want guests to trek all through NYC to get from the ceremony to the banquet, and D) FIL has a good friend that works there in upper management (not that that helped us much, as you'll read later).

Though I was glad that the restaurant's interior was (almost) completely overhauled, it was all show, no substance. Two weeks before the wedding, we went to talk to the restaurant/banquet manager and he gave us a little tour. He was so proud of everything (pointing out several times how they brought back the gold?/brass? phoenix & dragon wall hanging from China and that it cost a great amount of money) but he neglected to show us the bathrooms downstairs. When I snuck away to check them out at the end, I saw that they were the same dark, dank, slippery cesspools that they were before, a major concern of mine. Alas, there was nothing I could do about it but sulk (which I didn't do!).

And because the renovations were not completed until less than a month before the wedding, we couldn't set anything up ahead of time, like the menu, nor the accompanying menu cards. Thankfully we didn't need additional decorations b/c I really wouldn't be able to handle thinking about that. It was a great touch, though, how the manager casually mentioned on our walk-through that the little room in the back with 2 tables would be "left open" for "special guests." He said it was a possibility that some "special guests" may want to eat at the restaurant that night so if anyone happened to come that night, they couldn't turn them away. That turned out to be a bunch of hogwash b/c there was a planned birthday party going on in there but he was too chicken to tell us that they wanted to maximize their profit for that day and booked the little room for a party too. I wouldn't have minded so much if 1) he was honest about it and 2) the freaks from that party didn't ogle as if they were in a zoo, but seemingly crashed our wedding instead of just quietly making their way to the back.

I was also pissed that the restaurant gave us the wrong info! They said that they'd change their name after the renovation to "Crystal Palace" so that's what was printed on the invitations. But a month before our wedding I walked by and they put up the old name of the restaurant (Grand Harmony) in big red letters outside. When we asked, they said technically the name of the restaurant is "Crystal Palace" b/c that's what they printed on their menus. But I don't give a flying hoot about the menus b/c no one would be looking at it that day but ppl will certainly be looking at the outside of the restaurant to know where to go! To alleviate our fears, they said that they'd put out a big sign outside saying this is Crystal Palace restaurant but they never did.

We were also promised that certain things would be refrigerated (like the wine for the tables) which weren't. After the fact I was also told that all the juice that Dear purchased for the bar went missing and mysteriously reappeared after the manager made one of his workers go get some. Dear also said he saw one of the workers swipe a nearly full bottle of liquor as he casually traversed the length of the room. There were also reports of the restaurant help partaking of the dim sum/appetizers we had for the cocktail hour (which we had to pay for by the piece, btw, so they were essentially stealing from us and our guests b/c the food was gone in a matter of minutes), instead of doing their jobs. One of our guests also said that he wished they didn't clang all the plates so loudly (though I suppose that is one of the "charms" of a Chinese restaurant, kinda like MJ tiles). I'm sure all the leftover stuff (like the favors we labored over!) were swiped too b/c a few of our friends said that when they came back to their seat, it was gone. And I've already complained about the lack of tea for the tea ceremony (we were told a few times that it was going to be brought to us but it never came).

I'd give a lower grade but I really don't expect much from Chinese banquet halls. It's long known that you either sacrifice service/decor for good food or sacrifice good food for the service/decor. Instead of going to one of the restaurants in Midtown, we chose Ctown and got 2 of the 3 aforementioned qualities at GH/CP -- I was pretty satisfied with the food and the decor was alright (sans the bathroom). Every banquet I've ever been to, the fish is overcooked, except at Grand Harmony (or is it Crystal Palace?!). All the other food was good too, with just the right flavors (not too salty, etc.) and there were no complaints (that I heard). Writing this review reminds me of how those Chinese wedding salons were so sneaky (as well as my hairstylist) and it just goes to show how you really can't trust Chinese vendors, but in this instance, we really had no choice since we wanted a Chinese banquet. Let me also add that FIL's friend at the restaurant didn't really do anything for us, though I wonder if we would have been treated worse if we didn't know anyone on the inside. We did however, score an extra lobster for each table when Dear brought over the customary bribe of liquor the Wednesday before, along with the money for half the cost of the banquet. (You read that right, you're supposed to bribe the restaurant staff with stuff the week before so that they'll remember you and treat you well; this is in addition to the tip.)

Another vendor that I was less than satisfied with was the DJ/MC. It's confusing what to call him and his company since he never gave us a straight answer. He supposedly used to work at OUO but struck out on his own and started some weirdly-named company but when he introduced himself to everyone at the wedding, he used some other permutation of that name. In any case, I am very reluctant to actually publish his name/company since he's known Dear for a really long time and I'd like to think that part of the reason why I was quite unsatisfied is b/c we were really bad customers (hardly followed up with him, didn't always get him what he asked for) and I think in some ways he treated us less professionally b/c he was so familiar with us. For example, he said we could get him the song lists 2 weeks before the event (he tells everyone else he needs the lists 1 month ahead). I guess he trusted us to actually get back to him on time (or made a huge exception for us) so he didn't really hound us. What happened instead was just chaos (see what happens when I don't micromanage?! :D). I have to admit, though, I didn't really care about this part (I really just wanted to use an iPod -- and maybe we should have) so I didn't put much effort into it (we didn't do much research, and I kept pushing for the iPod but we also felt a bit guilty for not giving business to the friend). Aside from our dropping the ball, at times, I felt the DJ/MC wasn't really listening to us, like insisting/pleading with us to "pump it up" when we told him we were more mellow people and didn't really want rap and hip-hop. I also wanted a different DJ b/c I had heard less than stellar reviews about him, but the MC convinced us to stick w/ him and I just didn't want to fight it anymore.

On the day of, there were quite a few complaints about the decibel level of the music and each time we told them to bring it down, the MC placated us by saying he would (but didn't really) while the DJ would ignore the request (saying he couldn't turn it down but that if it bothered people so much, he'd turn the speaker to face him only, which is just nonsensical). I think in some ways, the loud music caused everyone to leave early, which was both good and bad (didn't mind the old folk leaving but wouldn't have minded our friends staying behind).

And my biggest complaint, as I've mentioned before, was the MC not relaying the info about the cake. As my MIL put it, he was just too busy dancing and having fun himself that he didn't do his job. I heard that he did make for some good eye candy for some friends though (the flirting went both ways, I think, which is somewhat unprofessional).

A final thought: my cousin told me weeks later that she went to a wedding a week after ours and they used the same MC. She said he had the same exact schtick, including the incredibly loud music. I don't know what their deal is with loudness (they started off at a tolerable level) but I think they think you need loud music to have fun -- get a clue!! I know this particular review was probably not very helpful to anyone, but if you really want to know who the MC is, I can relay it to those interested if you email me at rm47of450 at yahoo. I guess you can also learn from our mistake -- just use an iPod!! :P

But to end on a sweet note, I was happy with the bartender we hired. The restaurant doesn't have a liquor license so if you want a bar, you have to provide it yourself (Dear bought massive quantities of alcohol the week of). They could, however, hire their own bartenders for some exorbitant amount and they suggested having 2. So instead of shelling out that money to someone who would probably be stealing half the liquor as they served it, I turned to my alma mater for their bartending service. They are a bargain at $20/hr (minimum of 3 hours), plus tip and cab fare back uptown. Since they are students, it wasn't always easy to contact them (email seemed best), but I did get info on how much liquor to purchase and they were quite amenable to my demands. They are quite professional too.

Since we had heard that the bar could get quite busy during cocktail hour, we supplemented the bartender with some of Dear's relatives who helped with simpler drink requests like juice and such. After that first hour or so, the lone bartender was fine on her own. We also felt good being able to help out so-called starving students (remember your days scraping by in college?) -- she was sooooo grateful that I asked her whether or not she'd like dinner since the restaurant was providing all vendor meals. And I guess she didn't expect much b/c she seemed thrilled at all the tips she was getting, plus we tipped her 20%. And in the end, we still paid much less than what the restaurant wanted (I think in total, we spent under $150 for about 5 hours).

To hire them, you just have to give at least 2 weeks notice (they actually don't assign someone to you until 2 weeks before but I asked them to book someone for me a month ahead) and sign the one-page form the day of. Of course I was too busy to do so on that day, so our coordinator took care of this for us. I think they also have general party helpers if you need people to pass hors d'oeuvres or anything like that. For more info, check out their website.