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.

Dress progress

I dropped off my dress at the seamstress’s! She’s going to do a couple of trial repairs and then we’ll see where we are with it. She was very nice, very friendly, and seemed to know what she was about. She was realistic about what she could and could not do, which I liked. Fortunately everything I suggested didn’t seem too difficult. I think she was a bit wary of making any promises with a (potential) wedding dress, but I’m feeling good about it all.

It’s funny how weighted with expectation this one dress is. I don’t feel it’s quite as loaded in M’sia because with people in my socioeconomic milieu you tend to have more than one dress for the actual wedding (three is pretty standard, I think, but at least two lah — one for the ceremony and one for the dinner) and you usually rent them. And I guess if you rent them from a studio you usually wear a bunch of other dresses as well for your pre-wedding photoshoot.

I’m no stickler for tradition but I guess I like the idea of having one (or a couple) of significant dresses, instead of just a bunch you choose to pirouette in. It’s like going to Hummingbird Bakery and just buying one single red velvet cupcake and sharing it with your favourite person. It’s more precious because it’s just the one.

I also like the idea of having an imperfect dress. I will have decided on it and so it will work, obvious mends and all. That makes it more like the rest of life. My main concern is that my family and friends will take one look at it and throw up their heads and howl. And then I will become short-tempered and say cutting things, because I am no saint!

We’ll see! One of my favourite parts of personal blogs is Dress Journeys, so I plan to be quite detailed about mine. I still need to write about my one wedding dress salon experience (it wasn’t really in the vein of the standard “my nightmarish encounter with the wedding industrial complex” account, since it was at a vintage wedding dress salon and the saleslady was very nice).

On a separate point, here is a vintage wedding dress I would never have bought, but love!

How absurd is it? I adore the skirt. It’s so quilted and pink and scale/petal-like. And then the ridiculous solemnity of the bodice. The main thing I think when I look at it is that you would sweat like a pig, though. Something to wear only if you are getting married in the snow. But how cute would you look? Like a pink snow pixie!

Mostly something old

A random Google of “The Sound of Music” brought me to this treasure trove of antique wedding dresses: Bolton Museums – Something old, something new, an exhibition run in 2007. The dresses featured are mostly Victorian and mid-20th century.

Deep blue Victorian wedding dressBut what I like even better than the pictures is the stories. The dresses were all made by a Mrs Heaton who seems by all accounts to have been a fine craftswoman and designer, much in demand, and also kind of bossy:

I would like to get married in Smithills chapel.” “Oh no,” she said, “no no. It’s too small.” You see you couldn’t exhibit your dress, you couldn’t show your dress off properly there.

I don’t remember having a choice really in what I wore.

You have to admit it's a dress worth showing off.

The bride who wanted to look like Maria from The Sound of Music is this one:

I hadn’t even remembered that there was a wedding scene in The Sound of Music. But she actually even looks a bit like Julie Andrews, I think! Maybe all old-timey people look the same, though, because of the quality of the photos.

I should do more personal posts! This isn’t so much a record of my year in Weddingland so far; more like “random sort-of-wedding-related things I have found on the Internet”.