Nyonya Baba A-Go-Go

I visited the Malaysian reception venue for the first time this week, so it feels like great strides have been made in wedmin, though nothing new has really been done. (Wedmin is my new word! It is a portmanteau of wedding and admin, but its meaning is not immediately obvious to the non-wedding-obsessed — I’ve had to explain it to several people when I used it.)

Having seen the venue I’ve got a clearer idea of what sort of feel the event is likely to have. I’m not a big fan of sticking rigidly to themes (MY NAPKINS MUST BE BURNT OCHRE WITH SEAFOAM ACCENTS!!), but I could see as well, going around the place, that there were things that would look ridiculous in that space. It is not, for example, the correct location for an English garden party. It does not provide the appropriate architectural backdrop for a Disney heroine floating in a cloud of golden satin and blue tweety birds towards her prince.

What it is, is a great place to throw a party grounded in local mores and a traditional sense of the charming — but also modern, quirky and relaxed. But to satisfy my sense of the appropriate I realised I had to give up some things. For example, my dream — one of those silly, tender dreams a girl has as she approaches this epochal life event — that I should walk into the venue to the strains of Katamari March Damacy.

If you did not start bobbing your head at 0:18 I can only reluctantly conclude that you have no soul.

But it doesn’t work. It’s candy-coloured deadpan-humorous Japanese whimsy, and the venue is essentially fancy tropical. Our nyonya theme — selected because my grandmother is nyonya, kebayas are fun to wear, and Peranakan food is awesome — is perfect for the venue, but Katamari Damacy is not.

Fortunately I had a back-up!

I played it to my mother (my “self-appointed wedding planner”) and she started beaming and bopping. “I remember this song!” she said. “Your dad knows the lyrics. Go look them up and see if they have a good meaning or not.”

So began the search for meaning. Singaporean band the Quests played the instrumental version of the song, which clicking around proved to be a “beloved Chinese humorous novelty song” entitled New Malay Love Song, all about a boy meeting a girl. In the immortal words of the poet: could I make things any more obvious?

I read out the enormously helpful Questing Bandstand entry on Wu Meiling to my mother.

“It’s a silly song using the tune of an Indonesian folk song, it says here,” I said.

“What are the lyrics of the Indonesian version?” my mother wanted to know. More Googling ensued, but I was stumped.

“It’s super bizarre!” I said. “The lyrics make no sense. They’re all about, like, this person gets bitten by a snake and then they press the wound and blood comes out and they freak out but somebody tells them don’t worry, it’s just a dream, the blossoming flower in the garden is plucked, that is the meaning.”

“Oh,” said my mother promptly. “So the dream means the girl is going to get married.”

“Har? How do you know that?”

“The lyrics explain it what,” said my mom. “Girls are flowers. When they’re plucked means they’re gonna get married.”

“What? But how do you know it doesn’t mean, I dunno, they fall in love, or their garden is gonna do well, or what?”

“Google ‘Indonesian dream meaning get bitten by snake’,” said my mother before returning to my sewing.

Sure enough, it seems the Javanese believe that dreaming of being bitten by a snake means you’re gonna get married. So it seems, really, an entirely suitable song for the wedding, on all kinds of levels.

What I learnt from this was:

1) I guess you should always listen to your mom (except when she wants you to engage in pointless expensive pre-wedding photoshoots).

2) When you start searching for meaning, you never know where the search is going to lead you.

3) ’60s Asian pop is awesome.