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.