On weddings and shindigs and Your Special Day

Backstory and Afterthoughts
About four months ago Erik and I were married, recognizing our relationship legally after more than six years as a couple. For us, that is exactly what the so-called “big event” meant: we had felt like partners for a long time already, and now we had finally decided to make it official. In this spirit, we hardly felt a lavish celebration was justified; it was just a logical next step for us, no big deal. We thought we would go to city hall and have it done with, then have a nice dinner with our loved ones and call it a day.

We should have seen it coming: our family and friends did not share our views.

This became apparent right from the start. When Erik gave me my ring last year, thereby tacitly — yes, there was no actual “proposal” — confirming the decision we both knew we had already made, I was thrilled and excited, but it didn’t seem to either of us to mark a significant break from the past. We really should have known that other people wouldn’t take it the same way. I announced (really more like hinted at) the fact very very quietly on my journal, and mentioned it overly casually to my family. Erik hadn’t told his parents before giving me the ring; they were not even aware that he had been ring-shopping. So, as we ought to have anticipated, our families were somewhat shocked. As they were careful to have us know, it wasn’t the engagement itself that disturbed them, it was the nature of its unfolding.

Likewise, friends and even acquaintances were confused by our nonchalance over the whole occasion. I was shy about congratulations, wary of girly gushings about weddings, and, more than anything, I really wished people would just stop making such a big deal of it. As I wrote at the time, I was bewildered and more than a bit upset at how people were taking our engagement. One three-hour phone conversation with Mommy hurt me particularly, because I honestly hadn’t realized at all that she and Daddo would be so disappointed with our handling of the situation.* We finally reached a sort of understanding at the end of the call, but it left me in tears and with an awful sinking feeling that I’d botched irreparably an important moment in Mommy’s life. As I have been saying, it was our fault for being so naïve; we really should have foreseen all this, even though doing so would have required a level of emotional honesty and maturity that would have been acutely uncomfortable at the time.

Well, as you all know, life went on despite all these bumps, and in August of last year my parents threw us an engagement party. This party had been one of the emotionally contested topics of discussion in my phone conversation with Mommy, but we did finally agree to have it, and I am glad we did. Uncomfortable as Erik and I were at that gathering (I didn’t drink a thing when we actually got married, but I drank at least a glass of desperation champagne at our engagement party), it was a nice time overall, and it really was a good idea to have an intermediary event between the engagement and the actual wedding. Besides bonding the family some more and letting us all get used to the idea of us getting married, it also completely cemented Erik’s and my conviction that our wedding – since it now appeared that we would have to have some flavor of a wedding – had to be done our way, or not at all.

I said so at the time, and I’ll say it again: planning a wedding is insane. It is so hard and so stressful and so frustrating, it is hard to believe people ever get married at all! In the end, we essentially planned and finalized the whole thing within a period of two to three months, during which we – okay, I — fought every inch of the way to make sure our shindig didn’t explode into either: (a) a disaster, (b) a Wedding with all the weight of Tradition and Ceremony and History behind it, or (c) both. For much of the planning, I felt like it was me against the world, or else me and a sometime ally against the world, which is better but not much. Sometimes I was fighting with my parents, sometimes with Erik, sometimes Erik and I were fighting against our parents, etc etc. Credit goes to all of us that most of these fights were more discussions than exchanges of blows, but still it was an extremely trying time.

Now that it is all over and it was a success, I think I can speak frankly and say that planning this shindig really tested my relationship with Erik. While were were both united on certain things we knew we didn’t want – an elaborate ceremony, for example, or me in a poufy white dress – there were many other things over which we disagreed: the necessity for flowers (he thought we didn’t need any), the necessity for champagne (ditto, since we both don’t drink), even — what drove me crazy more than anything else — the importance of his having a new suit to wear at our banquet (he wanted to wear his old suit, which is vintage charcoal pinstripe and heavy. obviously for day wear). Quite often it seemed like while I was running around frantically trying to make things happen or keep other things from happening, Erik was figuratively wringing his hands and protesting feebly, “Why can’t we just go back to our original plan of going to dinner with our families?” It really bothered me that he seemed to be so slow at accepting the realities of the situation, because while he was in denial over whether we were having a wedding, it fell to me to arrange things for the wedding that was definitely going to happen in May whether we liked it or not. To be just, he was going through an incredibly difficult period at work, with so many tasks and obligations on his plate that he hardly had any time, much less energy, to spare. So maybe the bulk of the planning would have fallen to me in any case, even if had been more invested in the event.

In the end, planning the shindig (what we called it to avoid knee-jerk responses to “wedding”) taught me quite a lot, about myself, about other people, and about planning in general. I learned not to put things off, because every single detail that I put off “until we get that other part figured out” came back to haunt me in the end. Because we were working with such a crunched time frame, pretty much everything came through only at the last minute, which meant that all those details that were waiting on “getting other parts figured out” had to be worked out in mere seconds of decision-making, sometimes only days before the actual event. I learned that being such a control freak as I am will only cause me stress, though I’m not sure I’ve learned this lesson well enough to stop doing it! My near-absolute refusal to delegate jobs to anyone else almost certainly ensured that the shindig came off as close to our original vision as it did, but I certainly paid the price during the planning. But I leaned on those around me as much as I could, emotionally if not logistically, and this is what saved me during all this time. Much as I fought with my parents and with Erik, I still considered them active agents in the planning, and made sure to talk things over with them (frustrating as that could be). Friends supported me, too, during these months. Weekly conversations with Heather come to mind, as do a few well-timed emails from Rosemary and Alison… and I cannot even begin to describe how much Jackie did for me throughout. She came shopping with me when I was losing my mind over clothes, spending entire afternoons helping me into dress after dress, she fielded a billion frantic phone calls from me (“Honey!! Do you think BROWN paper tableclothes would be TOO AWFUL at the picnic???? We can’t find white butcher paper ANYWHERE!!!”), which were probably coming on a daily basis in the last couple of weeks, and on the days that I was most stressed out, she did everything short of spoon-feed me my meals to make sure I was still functioning as some semblance of a normal person. What must have been most dreadfully tiresome of all, she listened to me rant day after day after day about how tired I was and how stressed and how freaked out that everything would fall apart on the day of, offering simply her listening ear and the reassurance that it would all work out. It is a testament to her ability as a friend that she stood by me the whole time, and I can only hope that I am as constant to her.

And so, what of all these agonies, in the end?

It was worth all of it. Our shindig, as we called it, was everything we had hoped, even though its final form was so removed from what we first envisioned. From not wanting any kind of celebration at all, to reluctantly agreeing to have some sort of gathering, we wound up with three events in three locations spread over two days. There were flowers, there was picture-taking and goofy kissing, and I even wore a white dress, but the spirit of the thing remained intact throughout. There was nothing cheesy about it, nothing that didn’t have meaning for us. It was a beautiful weekend, we did nothing that felt uncomfortable or artificial, and, we hope, we were able to give back to all our family and friends an experience of joy and affection as great as the love we have for them. As I have now learned, weddings really bring people together – even if sometimes they sorely test the ties that bind – and at their best, they are truly a time for joyful celebration. In the end, that is all we really hoped for: a chance to celebrate our love with those whom we love. And that is what we felt happened.

And now, finally, even before we have finished writing all the thank-you cards, I have picked out some of the best photos from the shindig weekend and posted them to this site for all to see. Please enjoy. I advise looking through them via the photosets on the right side of the page, since that will give the pictures to you in the order I’ve chosen, and accompanied by my comments.

The Shindig Itself, in pictures
Saturday, 6 May 2006.
To keep things as simple and intimate as possible, we opted for a home ceremony at my parents’ house, with my older maternal uncle (Da-Jiu) deputized to perform the marriage. At eleven o’clock some members of Erik’s family and mine gathered together in the living room. Da-Jiu made a short speech – rendered incredibly touching by the shaking of his hands as he held the paper – and pronounced us officially married.

It was all over before we even had a chance to get teary, and now that it was official, we were all jubilant.

It was a wonderful feeling to know that the official purpose for the weekend was now over, but the fun had only begun. We adjourned to the backyard to take pictures, all beaming with the joy of the morning.

Afterward we returned to the house and ate heartily from a delicious lunch spread: homemade salad and cold noodles, sushi and other Japanese dishes, and fruit tarts. We had originally thought of getting catering like we did for the engagement party, but the homemade food and the sushi from Nijiya supermarket turned out to be even better (and far far cheaper). True to form, I was completely delighted that Erik and I got to eat first, because I hadn’t had breakfast that morning and now that the ceremony was over and it had been lovely and non-embarrassing, I was ravenous.

Further happyness and conversation and piano-playing ensued, and then we began to get ready for dinner.

Later that day.
For our dinner banquet, the most formal and traditional part of our shindig, we went to a Chinese seafood restaurant in Cupertino for a multi-course dinner.

We took family photos, and then guests started to arrive. Since friends and some family members hadn’t been present at our ceremony in the morning, it was excitement and glee all over again to see so many more beloved faces.

We ran around and talked and mingled, and everyone just seemed so happy and excited. I had fought furiously beforehand to not have any planned activities or an emcee or anything, and as a result worried furiously that everyone would be bored, but I needn’t have lost any sleep over it!

Soon we were seated and served course after course of food, most of which I hardly touched because we kept having to run around toasting people, and because my dress was so tight around the middle. 😦 Also, people kept tapping their wineglasses and making us kiss. But it was fun.

Later, Erik and I were called upon to go on the stage and cut the cake. We were highly embarrassed, and only got out of it with some dignity because the head waiter was standing in the corner, directly in our line of sight, miming what we were supposed to do.

When all the eating had concluded, mingling recommenced, a lot goofier and more laid-back this time since everyone was full of food and cake and champagne (except me, but I was giddy anyway).

After everyone had gone, my family and I sat in the deserted chairs and kicked off our shoes, and I went and hunted through the takeout boxes to see if I could find some fried rice. But it was all gone, to my disappointment, and Erik and I retired to the Hotel Los Gatos with my stomach growling. It’s a lovely hotel, by the way.

Sunday, 7 May 2006.
The next morning, we arrived at Vasona Lake Park, site of many happy childhood memories, for a lunch picnic. Here we met up with our families and still other friends we hadn’t seen the night before. We had the whole beautiful day ahead of us and we had planned the picnic to be the most lighthearted event of all. We ate sandwiches and cookies and other yummy things, and just generally played until we had to leave.

There wasn’t much shade, so we were glad to see the baby get it!

A few days before the shindig, Erik and I had gone to Toys R Us to pick up picnic goodies, and nearly all of them saw good use.

Even the pirate swords, which Mommy had feared would be too childish, turned out to be a great idea.

Overall, the picnic struck a great balance between a reunion of friends and a reliving of childhood. It was just a lovely, lovely day to keep in our memories.

After it was all over and Erik and I had boarded our plane to return to LA, we were exhausted and glad it was over, but we had the satisfaction of a weekend well planned and fond memories of a happy gathering that will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Don’t forget, the whole album is here!

*This is such a long story I’m not going to go into it here, for narrative coherence, but if anyone is curious I may write another entry about it sometime. I wanted to at the time, very badly, but every time I tried I was overwhelmed by all my emotions and couldn’t even get through a few sentences, so this is as close as I ever got.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]