Monday, July 2, 2007

Chinese wedding packages

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy new year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wigging out

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

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

Friday, January 12, 2007

Did you know? redux

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On registering

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

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

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