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.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How it all came down: the evening of, part deux

Now back to recapping my wedding. I last left off with doing the tea ceremony before the banquet began so let us continue from there. I have no idea when we finally started the banquet (no watch) but it felt like forever and like a mass of confusion. Everyone was running around and I was trying to rest up and also get makeup retouches (plus snacking on the steaming-fresh-out-of-the-fryolator egg rolls that my BMs smuggled from the reception outside -- though should I have been mingling then?). I think Dear was finalizing details with the MC (yeah, we were so unprepared with that stuff), people were snapping pictures, getting me to pose with them, and there was a whole slew of family portraits AGAIN (so I really really really do NOT understand why someone really wanted the group shots after the ceremony when time could have been better utilized!). People kept disappearing but eventually the necessary people started to line up by the door so that we could be introduced in the proper order and get the whole thing started. I don't know if we didn't start on time because we couldn't line up or because there weren't many people there yet (I heard the MC say that at one point). But eventually, we walked onto the dance floor as Mr. and Mrs. and there was the awkward moment of where do we go b/c we had nixed the idea of forming an arch with the bridal party's extended arms and us walking underneath it. I think we stood by the front with the rest of the bridal party and then went to our first dance from there (Michael Buble's "You and I", which we picked maybe 2 days before) and it felt incredibly long and weird for everyone to be staring at us, fumbling/shuffling along like that. Somehow or other the MC made eye contact with me and he got the idea to end the song, which I was sorta thankful for, but what I really wanted was for him to invite other couples to the dance floor so that we didn't have so much attention on us. Instead, he cut to the parents dance, which was embarassing and I think I would NOT have regretted skipping this part. Though the lead-up to that was extremely hilarious when my mortified MIL learned that she had to dance in public so she forced FIL to take dancing lessons with her and they still haven't really mastered much of anything. :D [Though FIL danced somethin' fierce towards the end with one of Dear's friends (he looked like he was having so much fun!! -- see the pics below).] Anyway, it was extremely awkward for me to dance with my father (since we hardly talk and we're never even standing so physically close to each other, plus he didn't know when he had to go up [and neither did I]) and someone told me he looked really scared, like he was afraid he'd hurt me so he held me by the wrist (which I totally didn't notice). To add to the awkwardness, the parents dance was cut short to bring out the bridal party couples and we were dancing to the Michael Buble song again.

We then finally had the chance to sit down and the first course was served. I was a bit dismayed to have to sit on the head table with the out-laws and some seemingly distant relative of Dear's. But it was OK, I was able to eat (though the jellyfish was so chewy that I almost choked, or was it my nerves?), unlike Dear who went around like the town mayor to make sure the vegetarian ppl were OK and that they had stuff to eat (totally different menu for them).

Just when I started my shark fin soup I was whisked away to do the cake-cutting. Unfortunately we chose a really short song for this (Sarah McLachlan's "Ice Cream") and our photographer wanted to set us up with a million and one different poses. When we finally got to the cake, we had no idea how to cut it (at first we were cutting the cardboard in between the layers) and for some reason I made a very thin slice before Dear said we should cut something bigger, which was a bit of a struggle. We also had issues sliding the piece out onto the plate, but with the help of my fingers, it made it to the plate. :P Somehow or other we finally got a DELICIOUS bite of the cake. I totally wanted to stuff the rest of the slice into my mouth but only made away with a lick of my fingers. [VH1 "Pop Up Video"-like sidenote: I got the cake knife and server 2 days before the wedding because we weren't sure whether the restaurant provided it. We looked high and low (OK, not very high, nor low) for a plain one. There were a lot with frilly patterns or porcelain handles, which I totally didn't want, nor did I want to spend a buttload of money on it. I finally found a plain one at Macy's for about $20 -- woo hoo!]
BEFORE: struggling to take a pic whilst my mouth waters for a bite of the cake

AFTER: the lovely cake mutilated and yummified in my tummy

We sat down for a brief instant and I was called to do the bouquet toss thing. Dear got to finish his shark fin soup while I did this ritual that I was really torn about. On the one hand, I've always hated being singled out (why should you be 'punished' b/c you're single?!) but I also didn't want to exclude anyone in case they really wanted to participate. I once went to a wedding where all the single women were called up (I went reluctantly) but I was pleasantly surprised to see that instead of the embarassing garter toss, etc. the bride gave everyone who went up a mini bouquet. I was thinking of doing the same thing but it was hard to gauge the number of people who would go up, plus I kinda forgot. Anyway, a few women went up and the MC (completely against my wishes -- I explicitly told him I didn't want to make it a big deal and that I didn't care if only a few ppl went up) tried to get me to coax more ppl up, even asking me if I saw anyone sitting who should have been (I barely looked across the room and said I think that's it). When the MC was finally satisfied with the group on the floor, I did my toss and I guess everyone moved away from it (the dance floor was huge so they had a lot of places to run) so I tossed it again... and again. The MC then made all the girls form a circle with their backs turned so that I could choose someone. Great... such pressure!! I looked for my friend who's getting married next year but she wisely chose to remain seated (or hidden) and I thought long and hard about who would enjoy the flowers the most without being embarassed to the heavens. I finally settled on the person who was closest to the bouquet last (it landed by her feet but she refused to pick it up). In pictures, her expression at getting picked was total shock/mortification (classic!) but when she found out there was no garter toss she was all OK (afterwards she said that if she knew there was no garter thing she would have gladly accepted the flowers the first time around).
Watch the crowds scatter

And then watch the chosen's reaction! :)

By this time, my soup was cold and starting to congeal but I had to go change to my red qi pao. I grabbed BM (I normally have no problems changing on my own but I needed someone to add the flowers to my hair) and all the other BMs followed me to my little chamber. It was nice to be waited on (one person fixing my hair, the other two adding on some of the gold jewelry that I received at the tea ceremony). :D I was also very grateful when I had to pee earlier on and one held my dress up and another watched the door. :)) And to continue this TMI stream (no pun intended -- haha!), I forgot to put on my SPANX (to flatten my gargantuan tummy and slim my tree-trunk thighs so that I could sit in the tight-fitting dress) and I had to put it on after the fact. It was no easy task, so word of advice, remember your SPANX ahead of time!!

If my red dress fit better, I'd be more ecstatic about it. But for less than $100, I was satisfied. My mother helped me pick it out and she really liked it (yes, I finally did something she approved of). I also really liked the different look of the keyhole opening in the front and the delicate gold embroidery all over it. Anyway, when I came out, we danced to "The Lady in Red."If I had my druthers, I would have put more effort into choosing a song for this part b/c it just seems so cliche but I've always liked that song, so it wasn't that terrible. After the quick dance (and requisite snapshots), we went around to toast the tables. The restaurant manager had already mixed Coke with Sprite in goblets for us, though I would have enjoyed seeing some ppl do silly drinking games with liquor. :)
One of the things that I appreciated about the MC was his introduction of this toasting by saying that the table who makes the most noise when we come around would get a special treat (don't know if he followed through on this) b/c it got us some really good reactions. Unfortunately we had a schedule to keep and we couldn't chat longer with some ppl and the restaurant manager kept moving us along. He also tried to keep us in the right order -- groom's parents, followed by bride and groom together, then bride's parents, and the rest of the bridal party -- but we wanted to stray at times like when Dear was catching up with his friends but no one else knew the ppl on that table and they wanted to move along.

After the toasting, the banquet was pretty much over. The photographer took off soon after (so it must have been around 9:30), the fried rice and noodles came out, and the cake was put out, along with the ice cream. I'm not sure how many ppl knew about the ice cream but there should not have been an excuse for the cake, except that the MC was remiss and did not mention it at all. I changed into my final dress of the evening (perhaps my favorite) and rested/hid a while as ppl did the conga line outside. Call me a party-pooper but I don't dance and I don't like being forced to, so I may not have partied as much as I should have but it looked like other ppl didn't mind and had fun anyway. The MC did pull us out at the end when everyone formed a circle and cheered us on. We came out and stood in the center of the circle but had no idea what to do (were we supposed to dance? laugh? sing?) and eventually the MC made everyone give us a group hug.
FIL gettin' down
The luscious cake served to the masses

Oh, did I forget the toasts? I don't remember at all when they took place (after the cake cutting? after the bouquet toss?) but all three were really nice and full of sweet sentiments. It was good that none of them were really embarassing (my poor BM seemed extremely nervous!!) but had humor nevertheless. The only bad thing was that ppl are crazy RUDE and continued to talk as the toasts were given so some ppl said they could barely hear anything. I also somewhat regret not giving a toast of our own, thanking everyone for coming. We were so busy (and such slackers w/ the MC) that it completely slipped our mind. :T

And before we knew it, ppl started leaving and we were saying good bye to them by the door as they left. At one point, the aunt and uncle that came too late for the tea ceremony rushed over and put the necklace they bought on me. It was a bit weird but I remember their gift most clearly. :) As the restaurant cleared of people, our wonderful helpers cleaned everything up and packed stuff away. I sat like the little diva that I am, resting my aching feet until almost everyone was gone. At the end, some of my friends stayed behind to keep me company and it was good to chat with them. When my parents were leaving, my brother gave a little speech to Dear welcoming him to the family and said some mushy stuff to me too. He then gave me a bear hug (even lifting me off the floor), causing me to leave a smear of runny makeup on his rented tux.

Eventually Dear and I drove to the church where we dropped off a whole bunch of stuff at FIL's office and we went to Pathmark to get some drinks (completely parched and someone had packed away all the leftover drinks by then) so that we could properly chow down on the leftovers from our table. :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Here's a cool alternative to the petal toss that I came across: colored bubbles! Not just regular bubbles but colored ones, called Zubbles. Imagine the red ones floating and falling against the backdrop of a white dress (don't worry, they don't stain). Or other bright colors like orange or blue being blown around to match a color scheme -- the possibilities are endless! They won't be available until in Spring 2007 so even if I knew about these earlier I wouldn't have been able to use it. :T

Monday, November 13, 2006

Flamboyancy makes the world go 'round

As this is a wedding blog, I feel it is my duty to share all things wedding, including the one that I attended this weekend. Wow is all I can say about it. The couple has uh... very flamboyant tastes and I'll try to just describe the wedding rather than to impart any kind of judgment since it was definitely very different from anything I would do. There were also a bunch of things that I've never seen/experienced before so it was definitely an interesting experience.

The bride wore a large ballgown dress at the ceremony, with many layers in the skirt. Within these layers someone stuck silk flower petals to give the dress some color I guess, or to give it a "just ran through a meadow" kind of look. She also had flowers (purple dendrobiums) draped around her hair to continue the theme. She also wore fingerless gloves (reminded me of what ninjas would wear to protect their knuckles) and a veil with a lace-like trim. Her bouquet had darkish flowers that I didn't recognize and was accented with grayish feathers (she may have had a different one during the day). There must be Chinese symbolism with ivy because she had that flowing from the bouquet (as I've seen in the pics from a HK wedding). Because the ceremony was in a small church with very narrow aisles, the bride's dress almost took up the entire aisle.
The groom wore a white tux with a silver-sequinned vest and long tie, and even permed his hair for the occasion. Even though I barely understood any of the ceremony (all in Cantonese), my favorite part of the wedding was when both the bride and groom took a few moments at the end to thank their parents. It was already an emotional experience (the groom cried as he read his personalized vows) and when they were speaking, you could tell they really were thankful. They also presented their mothers with flowers, which was nice.

For their programs, they had a blue plaid card printed with the order of events (all in English, even though most of the people there probably couldn't read it), topped with a vellum overlay and tied with a baby blue ribbon and a silverish charm. I still don't get why the charm was a pair of shoes.

The processional was a bit odd because only one bridesmaid (presumably the maid of honor) walked down the aisle (unlike at the banquet entrance, where at least 4 couples were introduced and walked onto the dance floor). The other BM had a similar beige-colored dress, but was lacy instead of sequinned. I think it had a bow around the waist too.

the ringbearer (but where's the ring/pillow?)

the flower girls (it took a while for me to see this, but I think the color scheme included baby blue)

Notice also the MOH didn't carry a bouquet but had a corsage

One thing that I really didn't care for was the use of silly string (in case anyone ever thinks they want to have this component in their wedding). While it may be fun for guests to spray around, I think it's not a good idea for pictures. At the end, the couple was covered in a web-like mass, all over their head (quite unflattering) and then to try to remove it without messing up your hair is just not worth the risk.

At the banquet, the family went all out on the menu. I think they chose the highest (and most expensive) tier of goods for the tables -- each setting had a charger (blue with gold rim) and there were chair covers all around. The menu had stuff like large chunks of shark fin in the soup (presented in a very wide & shallow bowl to show this off), a whole piece of abalone for each person (very hard to finish), sushi (not sure how the old folk received this), and half a small stuffed lobster per guest. There was also a reception at the beginning with various dim sum like shumai, shrimp balls coated in almond slivers, and Peking Duck. Unfortunately there was no bar (hence it was not called a "cocktail hour" on the invitation). :( In fact, I don't think there was any alcohol except for the bottles of merlot and chardonnay at each table. This was supplemented by a waiter occasionally walking around, brandishing a bottle of Hennessey, asking if anyone wanted any. Everyone declined on our table, so maybe that was a good way to save and not waste (we still have more alcohol than we'll ever need for the next 20 years!).
For favors, everyone got a picture holder (not a frame, but one of those things with an alligator clip) in the shape of what I think is a lucky Chinese animal/person (like a cutesy anthropomorphic cat wearing a hat or something) holding a red sign/balloon with some Chinese characters I don't recognize (see middle of the above pic; it's next to the tea cup). There was also a wrapped square of Ghiradelli chocolate with caramel on the chargers.

It was interesting that the two head tables were not up on the stage but mixed in on the main level (they were distinguished by their red tablecloths & napkins), flanking the sides of the dance floor. Instead, they had this white corrugated cardboard structure in front of the stage with tall columns holding the cardboard gates in between, and this third castle-like column on the left with blue cellophane flowing out of a hole cut into the side. I think there was some faux water underneath the castle thing too. However, on the other side was an ice sculpture of a pair of kissing swans that created a puddle that was definitely not faux. Next to the block of ice was the cake (a typical Chinese type with the tiers spread across like steps, with a few rose petals sprinkled on top of each). For some reason the couple didn't cut the cake but the MC lobbed off a piece for them and they fed it to each other. At one point there was also a huge firecracker-like thing that was triggered and released a bunch of confetti (also not a good idea to do this over the cake, since a few pieces were stuck to the frosting on my slice).

Another thing that I've never experienced is the MC going around to each table with his mike and asking if anyone on the table would like to share a few words with the couple while the videographer followed him around to capture the sentiments. It was nice to see that some people actually were courageous enough to stand up and say something on the spot like that (too bad I couldn't understand what anyone was saying).

The bride's hair was pretty nice at the banquet (I think at one point she wore a hair piece with curls that flowed down her back) and each time she changed her dress, she had something to match in her hair, along with a slightly different hairstyle. Her first change was a very full pink ball gown (my favorite of the night) with delicate fluffs in the skirt and she had some pink feathery things in her hair. Then she changed into a teal ball gown with a teal headpiece (this one had a hoop skirt) and finally a red-sequinned evening gown with fettucine (not spaghetti) straps.
Is this the same as the ceremony gown or is it banquet dress #1?

banquet dress #1 (or is it #2?)

banquet dress #2/3

So concludes all the weddings that I have for this year. Also this was the first time I didn't get singled out for the bouquet toss -- I was "saved by the ring!" :)

Friday, November 10, 2006

No thank you!

I thought the arguments about the wedding would be over... but the consequences of the guests live on! So for those unaware of the Chinese tradition of old folk giving gifts to the parents, that's what happens. It is just a side benefit that their kids happen to have gotten married -- they get all these gifts as if they had a great big, old birthday party for themselves. While I am extremely grateful for being raised by such great parents, and the out-laws have been quite generous, I am/was a little miffed that I put in all this effort so that my parents could reap loads of cash. But I've gotten over that. Yesterday, a HUGE argument ensued with the out-laws b/c they are too DAMN lazy to write their own thank you cards.

I was beginning to sort out the cards that I had begun to write when they walk over and ask if they can some cards. After some vague comments, I counted out 30 of them so that they could get started writing theirs. Imagine their shock when she looked inside the card and it was BLANK! It wasn't enough that there was a simple "Thank you" printed in fancy lettering on the front, she wanted words on the inside as if she expected us to write notes to people we don't know thanking them for gifts we didn't receive. I can see writing a note to someone thanking them for coming, but there is no way I will write a note thanking someone for someone else's gift. Can I write this: "Thank you for coming. It was great seeing unfamiliar faces on our very special day. We're glad you were able to bring your uninvited child to the wedding and we're just ecstatic that you gave our parents a generous gift. It will be come in very handy for their upcoming retirement party or when they go crazy buying tchotkes at the garden center."

There was screaming and much offense. I kept hearing "But it's YOUR wedding!" when we'd say something like they were YOUR guests (never mind that we don't know their names or that they may not even be able to read English, the only language we can comfortably write). They thought we were selfish bastards for not wanting to thank people who didn't give us a gift (which may be true, I am a selfish bastard after all, but I find it odd to send someone 2 different thank you notes -- one from us thanking them for coming, and one from the gift-recipient thanking them for the gift and thanking them for coming. Why not just send one?!). They were very disheartened that they had to hear this. So they propositioned us to take a survey of everyone we know that has gotten married to see who writes the thank you note. So here's my survey. What's been your experience? (For the record, my co-workers all find this strange that the parents even get a gift, and hence, because the newlyweds got the gift in those cases, they wrote the thank yous.)

Oh and the sorta-solution will be for us to print a very generic "Thank you for celebrating our special day with us" on their cards and perhaps they will add a line or two and sign it. So if you receive a hand-written card from one of us, know you are special. But if you receive a pre-printed card with a generic message, know that the out-laws think you're (kinda) special.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

How it all came down: the evening of

Before the banquet began in the evening, we cut the picture-taking short (cutting out the SI Ferry option) and headed back to Ctown so that we could get the tea ceremony started. There was a bit of traffic, especially on the street leading to the restaurant. Our photographer got out of the car so that he could capture shots of us arriving and I think he must've waited at least 15 minutes for those few paces. The bridal party, behind us, decided to just walk and they got there way before we did.

When we got to the restaurant, Judy, our fantabulous baker, had just finished setting up the cake. It was so nice, exactly the way I wanted and yet way beyond my expectations. I think we were still communicating about flowers a few days before the wedding and I just gave her free reign because indecisive me couldn't decide on a lot of things. She ended up creating a bunch of yellowish-orange sugarpaste orchids for the cake-topper and at first I thought they were real! Everything that I could decide on and asked for was created exactly the way I wanted, down to the same shade of red that I love from the invitations. From the flowers to the double happiness monogram in royal icing, to the cherry blossom texture on the middle tier, to the red bands stamped with an image of a Chinese knot I found on an envelope, I really loved how the cake turned out and to try to describe how beautiful it was would just ruin it.

So here are some pics.
Do you see how she even piped the cherry blossom design onto the board that the cake is sitting on?

close-up of the flowers on top of the cake

close-up of the double happiness

Someone captured this moment while Judy was setting up -- look at the deep concentration!

I love Judy's work and I think she was the best vendor we dealt with, coming up with exactly what I wanted. She has a lot of good ideas and her work is exquisite! And her pricing is a lot more affordable than other bakers that we checked with for the type of cake we wanted. She is also very accessible -- we met with her several times to discuss the design and flavors, plus we communicated regularly through email. At the tasting, we couldn't decide which flavor we liked more so we chose both the mocha cake with raspberry filling and the lemon cake with strawberry filling as different tiers. I think the mocha turned out a LOT better than the lemon (though the lemon wasn't bad either) and I even had guests ask for more of it when only the lemon was left. Someone also said that he doesn't usually like that type of cake (chocolate with fruity flavors) but he still really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, a lot of guests also said that they didn't partake of any of the scrumptiousness b/c the MC neglected to mention that there was cake to the side (more on THAT some other time -- hrmph!!). But can I really complain, since we got all the leftovers?! :D We cut a section to freeze for our one-month anniversary (yesterday, btw, but we totally forgot!) and we also had slices here and there for the first two weeks when I allowed myself to eat with reckless abandon again. But I digress, I HIGHLY recommend Silk Cakes!

I don't know who exactly set stuff up at the restaurant, but the favors and bottles of wine (or at least most of them) eventually made it to the tables, as did the table/menu cards. The cake table was also made gorgeous by BM's sister, who set up the buckets of flowers from the ceremony in a line across the back of the table. Such a simple presentation that did just the trick! She also propped up the floral monograms so that they flanked either side of the cake, and spread leftover petals on the table. I was so pleasantly surprised at how romantically lush it came out!
BEFORE: the cake table

AFTER: the cake table (with us in the background doing the tea ceremony)

While everything was set up, we did the tea ceremony thing on the stage at the front of the restaurant. It took forever to get things ready (to round everyone up and to get the tea) so it totally threw our schedule out the window, even though we showed up early (and sacrificed going to all the places we wanted to for pics). Finally, Dear went and got the tea and we got started. It was weird to address all these people as if we were related (like addressing Dear's aunts as if they were my aunts, since I am now considered part of that family). At times I found it comical when we didn't know how to address certain relatives (I am somewhat disrespectful and I don't always correctly address my relatives by their proper rank and title, plus I thought my parents called some ppl various terms of endearment). And when I forgot what Dear just called his relatives, thankfully BM was paying attention and mouthed it to me. That garnered me at least one brownie point with Dear's aunt, who called me smart since I normally don't talk to her under the guise of not understanding her Cantonese dialect. ;)

At the beginning I really didn't want to do the tea ceremony thing b/c I thought it would take up too much time and in some instances I don't really want to pay respect to ppl that I don't really know (like some 'aunt' who I still don't quite understand the relation of). But it was kinda cool to have that time with each set of relatives, sorta talk to them, and to serve them tea, kinda like a receiving line on steroids (only they were sitting and we standing). Originally we were supposed to kneel to the elders but Dear adamantly refused. I thought he was being picky but then I learned this was some sort of pagan ritual so I fought for it too. I felt a bit guilty about this since my mother had already purchased the pillows and the specially embroidered pillowcases but in the end she understood (or got so tired of fighting me on every little thing that she gave up). However, either my parents didn't communicate with each other (highly likely) or my father forgot, but when it came their turn to be served tea, my father kept saying "Aren't they supposed to kneel?" I found that kinda funny too. Besides a bunch of gold bracelets and stuff, my mother also gave me a pair of gold screwpost earrings with diamonds -- the posts were so thick it hurt to stick it in my ears, but everyone said I had to wear everything to show respect. After a while, I started to look like the female (and Chinese) version of Mr. T. And Dear's tux pocket was stuffed with envelope after envelope that we each received from each set of elders. I wish we kept better track of these. :( Also, I still think that my older brother should have been included in this lineup but my family insisted that he shouldn't be because he's not yet married. What irked me more is that later on, when our families were introduced, he was excluded yet again, as if I don't have a brother. Even Dear's younger brother was introduced then! Friggin' distant aunts were mentioned but not my brother -- how much closer of a relation can you get than siblings?!

Anyway, on to other criticisms.... Just a few more posts about the banquet and I'll be done recapping! (Maybe we'll then have time/patience to do all the million other things that need to be done, like going through pro pics [if we ever get them], writing thank you notes, etc.)