My sister on weddings

Sister, while watching Don’t Tell The Bride: How come we don’t get married in temples?

Me: Yah hor. I dunno! But English people and Americans used to get married at home too. Like, marrying in church was the more formal kind of option. I think they got married by the minister at home, though, so it’s not like us, where we just kind of do it by ourselves.

Sister: Maybe the minister got too many people to marry so he got lazy and told them, ‘I’m not coming to your home anymore. You come to me.’

Me: I don’t know how getting married in a church became the standard option actually. Maybe ‘cos people watched royalty, like Queen Victoria or whoever, get married in these big churches — ‘cos if you’re royalty you gotta get married in somewhere like Westminster Abbey, right — so they were like, oh, we wanna do that too.

Sister: What about the queen of Bhutan?

Me: Hah?

Sister: (thoughtfully) Oh yeah, I guess the queen of Bhutan didn’t get married in a temple. But what you’re saying is if she did get married in a temple everybody would start following her and get married in temples.

Me: Er, maybe …


Sister: I want to have a magician at my wedding! ‘Cos when you watch Don’t Tell The Bride you think about how you’re going to have your wedding, right, and I was thinking about doves, and of course doves makes you think of magicians, and I want a magician! He’d do all the stuff with disappearing doves. And he’d stand on a stage, in the middle — and everybody would watch him.

Me: But where would you do it?

Sister: In a theatre! With everybody sitting in the seats.

Me: So where would people eat?

Sister: There’d be a buffet outside! And people could take their plates and come into the theatre and eat on their laps …

Me: Your wedding idea is kind of falling to pieces there.


Me: Do you know what my dress looks like? I sent you a picture, right?

Sister: It was … long. And white.

Me: Hmmmm.


Progress report

I ought to post more hor. We’ve been mad busy here at Casa de Hobbits (or Jobbits, as I s’pose it should be spelt for linguistic consistency). I’m wrapping up work stuff before going on a period of unpaid leave, P is trying to get a move on with jobs, and we’re both trying to figure out wedding logistics.

The crib

I’ve been entrusted with the task of booking a self-catering crib in England for my parents and their entourage. Cue days of staring soberly at eccentrically punctuated reviews on travel websites. Pro: my familiarity with London rents and recent experience of booking accommodation in San Francisco has made all the prices look affordable. Con: my parents are probably used to a higher standard of living than I am. Will, e.g., broken door handles and dodgy blinds make a serious impact on their enjoyment of the trip?

The wheels

P’s mum thought it would be nice to book a vintage car to cart P and me around on the day of the wedding, so P has been dispatched to sort this out.

I have discovered that I really don’t care about cars. They fall into two categories for me: sort of square, and sort of round. Rolls Royces are square, and Proton Wiras are round. So I have, as much as I am able to, excused myself from the process of automobile selection.

The entz

This was really P’s idea — I had nothing to do with it. P thought it would work with the venue to have a silent disco. I’d never heard of this, but apparently you just get a load of headphones and then people dance with the headphones on, never knowing if their fellow dancers are listening to the same music or not.

The friends we surveyed thought this was hilarious. It is a bit of a novelty thing, but my friends are not really dancey people anyway, so anything that gets them on the dance floor is OK in my book. Of course, it has the added advantage of being a bit cheaper than a real live DJ.

The getaway

My dream honeymoon destination was Hokkaido. Hokkaido of the fields of lavender and the creamy ice cream! I envisioned a ryokan where we’d sleep on tatami and soak in wooden Japanese baths and have exquisitely arranged local food at meals.

Well, that’s probably out of the question, for reasons of both money and time. Most likely we’d take any honeymoon we were having in the two weeks between the weddings, and the best flight we’ve found stops over in Frankfurt and Tokyo, and takes 18 hours. Not really the sort of trek you want to take a week and a half before a second wedding! So we’ve agreed to go away and think about it again, selecting destinations that are no more than a few hours’ travel away from either England or Malaysia.

The cake

P’s aunt has offered to make this! After some hmm-ing, I requested a red velvet cake. Everyone likes red velvet cake, right? It is a bit of a departure from my original vision of pandan chiffon cake and Japanese cotton cheesecake, but those are fiddlier to make and I wasn’t sure how we’d manage getting them from a Chinatown patisserie to a reception venue in a whole ‘nother town. It’s nice to have a cake from a relative of P’s instead of from a professional bakery, and the detail about the red velvet cake that I sort of liked was how it’s white on the outside and red on the inside. Secretly Asian!

So everything is ticking over! There’s not as much being done on the Malaysian wedding at the moment, but there are fewer pieces to line up there — accommodation for P’s relatives will be an issue, but we’ll just use our own car, the entertainment has been booked, and we’re not even having cake. We’re going to have enough food as it is!


Introducing: The APW Writing Interns

For the next 7 or so months (jeez it’s coming up close) I will be blogging as an intern for sensible feminist wedding blog A Practical Wedding. My fellow interns seem super cool (also, considerably more photogenic than I am!) and I’ve selected a handy pseudonym and everything. I’m excited!

The inevitable occurs

I am back in England after a dizzying two weeks in Malaysia! I found it pretty intense, but it was probably even intenser for P. He’s been to Malaysia before, but that was only for a week, and only as a boyfriend, and we mostly stayed in PJ and made eyes at each other.

This time he was returning practically as a prodigal son, it was Chinese New Year, and “my self-appointed wedding planner” (in my mom’s own words) had all kinds of ideas for what we needed to be doing while we were home in the way of wedmin. Cue P being dragged around innumerable houses to get acquainted with the fourth sister of my maternal grandmother, being told exactly how to apply kaya to his toast, and being shanghaied into a pre-wedding photo shoot.

Engagement photography sessions are getting more popular now in the West, but they have reached their apogee in Asia. It is in Asia that you find the outrageous, creative engagement photographs that take the blog world by storm – the zombie attack engagement, f’rex – and it is in Asia that the custom is so developed that it is quite common for couples who can afford it to fly to whole other countries for the sole purpose of taking pretty pictures.

Pre-wedding photo shoots have developed a format, and even the basic ones differ in key points from Western engagement photography sessions. There are always multiple outfit changes. It is standard for the bride to wear at least one white wedding dress, rented from the photography studio. The studio provides various costumes (and I use the word “costumes” advisedly), as well as make-up and hairstyling services on the day. All of this will happen months in advance of the actual wedding.

Neither P nor I had planned on doing any of this. We’d previously agreed that it might be nice to have engagement photos, if only because we had no nice pictures of just us together. But we’d also agreed that it was probably not necessary to hire a professional to do this – my brother is a talented photographer who’s actually done friends’ weddings and engagement photos before, and we figured we could go to a park and get my brother to take some pictures of us. Simple!

My mom disagreed. I won’t go into the basis of her disagreement – both my mom and I had good reasons for wanting or not wanting a professional pre-wedding shoot to be done, but at the end of the day it wasn’t really about reasons. You don’t have reasons when you want a shiny new iPhone; you just do. My mom thought a pre-wedding shoot would be nice to have and that RM2,000 wasn’t too much to pay for a day’s worth of photographs. I wasn’t bothered and didn’t want the money wasted.

“It’s a waiting game,” I told my friends. “We’re only here for two weeks and the bridal studios are all closed for CNY. So long as P and I manage to last out the second week, my mom won’t be able to do anything, ‘cos P’s only coming back to Malaysia for the wedding after this.”

I thought our chances were pretty good. CNY celebrations had taken up the first week of our holiday, and P and I were going down to Singapore for a few days in the second week. By the time we returned to KL there would only be a couple of days before our flight back to the UK. Who knew if the bridal studios would even be open by then? CNY technically lasts for 15 days.

“So how was Singapore?” said my dad when he picked us up at the airport.

I told him we’d had a nice time. “My handphone wasn’t working, though.”

“Yah, it’s not roaming,” said my dad. “Oh, Mom has booked a bridal studio for you all.”


“We would have called you, but couldn’t get through,” said my dad airily.

When I expressed my outrage to P, he said, “Well, I didn’t really think we were going to get out of doing it.” My mom is a very determined kind of person.

So we spent our last two days in Malaysia not visiting the Islamic Arts Museum or eating chilli pan mee, but prancing around in front of a photographer. It was quite an interesting experience (which I shall blog about in more detail anon), but I’m still unconvinced. I feel uneasily as if I should have stood my ground, but then again …

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the album,” said my mom contentedly at the end of the day.

My mom will maintain forever that she made us do it for our own sake, but really she was the one who wanted the pre-wedding photo shoot. Her reasons remain mysterious to me, but since it made her happy, I guess there was no harm in it. (It may be worth mentioning that my parents paid for it, and it wasn’t that expensive as these things go – we tried to keep things simple.) P and I do now have a bunch of good photos of the two of us, which is nice. I’d be a bit more wary about what the episode suggests the rest of the Malaysian wedding will be like, but oh well. If I wanted a wedding that was a dream of simplicity and restraint, I shouldn’t have been born into my family!