Wedding style in 6 words or less

A thread on Weddingbee (I know, I know. What can I say, reading about other people’s weddings is addictive!) asked posters to describe their (hoped for) wedding style in 6 words or less. I came up with: simple, practical, people-focused, quirky, traditional and multicultural.

I guess a couple of these aren’t really about style — you can have people-focused and practical design, but I’m not sure you can have people-focused and practical style — but I liked the exercise for the reminder of what’s important to me. I’m pretty sure P would agree with all of these — I think the wedding would be quirky and multicultural anyway because we are from different cultures and I’m pretty quirky (my family, with less tender respect for my self-image, would probably say “weird”). All the other things are things to strive for.

“Traditional” is an interesting one. I’m not a big fan of following tradition for its own sake, and a lot of traditions associated with weddings have no good purpose. Think of the white wedding dress — so iconic, so completely pointless. You might say, but why does tradition need to have a purpose? I’d say that there’s no use hanging on to traditions if they don’t have a purpose. They ought to signify something. But I included “traditional” because the whole reason for me of engaging in a wedding is to participate in tradition — specifically, in the customs and practices which have meaning in my culture and the culture of my partner. No to unity candles, yes to red umbrellas.


Cooling ardour; great expectations

I’ve gone off elephants made of flowers. I still think they are a glorious idea, and P’s view was (predictably) “sure, we can have them if you want them”, but for some reason I have lost interest in actually having them after further thought.

To be honest, home décor is not an area that has ever interested me, which I think is the reason why I have so little interest in the décor of the event. Or perhaps I’m just not that interested because it still feels far away, though in fact it’s only 8.5 months now. If it comes to décor I think I care more about the Malaysian wedding, but since I’m not in Malaysia, organising the décor just seems too much of a faff. I would rather just contemplate shoes for hours on end.

I guess I’ll leave it to my mom to sort it out. On Weddingbee someone started a thread asking whether other brides had put their fiancé/e in charge of anything to do with the wedding, as she was getting annoyed with her fiancé’s failure to ascertain their DJ’s contact details.

I was reminded of the relative strangeness of my situation as someone who is now deeply interested in the details of weddings, but has done very little about organising her own. P has taken the initiative and put down the cash for most of the details to do with the English wedding – I’d done some patchy research into reception venues in his hometown, but he was the one to make a list, get me to say which of the venues I liked, and arrange for us to be driven around by his mom to look at the venues. Fortunately we agreed on which venue we liked best, but P made the final decision to book it. The ceremony venue was more decided by circumstances than either of us – since we were going to have a church ceremony it only seemed sensible to have it in the church his parents attend – but e.g. he could have decided to have it in the Oxford Catholic chaplaincy and I wouldn’t have raised any objection.

On the other side, my mom’s done all the footwork with the Malaysian wedding – I did a lot of Internet research and made lists of venues for my parents to check out, but ended up getting frustrated over the paucity and unreliability of information available online (Malaysian businesses, update your websites!!!). After a lot of back and forth and er some tears, my mom identified and booked a reception venue that hadn’t even been on any of my lists. Of course, she described it to me before I approved the choice, but again, I didn’t really take the lead role in any of this.

I guess the reason why I’ve been on the sidelines of planning compared to other engaged women is that I don’t necessarily know what’s appropriate. With the English wedding, I have no idea what P’s family would expect and what the traditions are. It seems to make sense to leave everything but the most trivial details to P, therefore. Again, with the Chinese wedding, I’m sure I’d be a lot more hands-on if I was at home, but the combination of distance and the fact that I’m less familiar with the traditions and expectations than my parents are means that I might as well leave it to my mom to sort out. If I was at home, I’d be viewing venues together with my parents. I might be making more decisions off my own bat, but they’d have veto power, plus I’d probably be making decisions based on information they fed me anyway. What do I know about who the best caterers in Klang Valley are?

It works for me. These weddings will genuinely be a community effort – plus, other people taking on the actual work means I’m freed up to worry about the delightfully trivial: the cut of my dress and the design of my save the dates. And I’m not really doing nothing – I’ve drawn up a guest list, compiled addresses, booked the marriage preparation course run by the church, sent out the save the date cards, and helped liaise between my family and P’s family. I guess it’s just striking because I’m doing less than the average person who posts on wedding forums seems to expect of a bride.


To-do in the next couple of months:

  • Get in touch with church lady after we’re back from our Chinese New Year trip and arrange for a meeting with the priest who’s been assigned to us as officiant
  • Confirm with parents that they should be in Norwich for at least the Friday and Saturday, and I s’pose ideally the Thursday and Sunday as well
  • Sort out P’s parents’ accommodation once they’ve confirmed how long they’ll be spending in Malaysia

Do I have to do anything about bridesmaids yet? I keep meaning to email them and start up a discussion about what sort of dresses they want to wear, but then I think, oh, I’ve got loads of time yet. I’ll start to think about sorting it out — hm — let’s say March or April.

Miss Manners on weddings

I’ve had a couple of days off work, and as an indulgence I purchased Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. I’ve been reading it all day. It’s a less vicious indulgence than wedding blogs because it’s very funny and sharp, enough that I might actually have enjoyed reading this before I got interested in weddings.

I agree with Miss Manners on most issues, allowing for cultural differences — she writes for an American audience, and a very particular one, at that (surely it can’t be normal in all parts of US society for the engaged couple to enjoy the benefit of multiple showers all involving gifts from the guests). So far I’ve only seriously disagreed with one letter (on arguing with a future mother-in-law about surname-changing — I think the default Western position on this needs to be changed). She’s super mean and funny, but also sensible:

A truly proper, festive, and enjoyable wedding is not the financial and social burden you seem to suppose. … Few people can ahndle with equanimity being propelled inot unfamiliar territory, taxed with designing a ceremony and a large formal party that show case their personalities and taste, and directed to produce a complicated day that is perfect.

Instead, you could exhibit truly good taste. That would mean following the time-honored civic or religious ritual in which you believe and then having a gala celebration that favors conviviality over pretentiousness and incidentally stays within your means.

Now that is sense. I have decided Miss Manners is the semi-real life version of Flora Poste, the pragmatic, civilised, modern young woman who sorts out the romantic dysfunction of her relatives’ lives in Cold Comfort Farm.

Reading the book nerved me to the task of informing a friend that it will not be possible for me to attend her wedding — Miss Manners says that an invitation does not require anything of the invited except a prompt response, and that you do not have to give reasons for a refusal. I have given reasons and have offered to buy the happy couple a dinner to make up for it, but I don’t think Miss Manners would fault me in doing either of those things.

I find the things that work her up quite funny. Miss Manners doesn’t like response cards being provided to guests with invitations because it implies that the inviters believe the invited are not polite enough to dig up pen, paper and postage wherewith to respond. And you’re allowed in Miss Manners’ world to register for a list of wedding gifts at a department store, but you’re not allowed to tell anyone about it unless they ask. And ideally they shouldn’t ask you, but your relatives, the idea being that you should be pleasantly surprised by any gifts guests choose to present you with. She also absolutely loathes the idea of the wedding couple soliciting for cash in lieu of gifts.

I can see the point of all this, but I probably will provide pre-addressed response cards for guests who aren’t family, just so it’s easier to keep track of them. (It’s not as important to keep track of family — for one thing our parents can probably be trusted to chase them, and for another if they turn up we kind of have to have them whether they’ve warned us in advance or not). We are going to have a wedding registry because P thinks his family would strongly prefer it. And I’m not gonna tell people not to give angpow at the Malaysian wedding because it would just confuse everyone!

Also I disagree that you shouldn’t cut down the guest list on the ground that you can’t afford to feed them properly, and that more guests + a cake & punch reception is preferable to fewer guests + steak for dinner. If I couldn’t feed my guests a proper meal I’d feel it was rude to invite them — false advertising. Obviously this view depends on your idea of a wedding, though. I definitely come from a culture where it means “multiple-course meal”, whether that takes place in a school hall or a fancy hotel ballroom.

It is useful to have read the book, though! It clears the mind a bit to think about the etiquette of it, and to consider why one disagrees (if one does). It confirms me in my belief that feelings are the most important thing in a wedding, but feelings can go too far is a pretty good guiding principle in wedding planning.

Putting a ring on it

I didn’t want an engagement ring.

There were a few different reasons for this.

Tradition. My mother only has one ring, her engagement ring. My dad’s ring is also a ring my mom gave him to commemorate their engagement, as the Chinese wedding ceremony doesn’t involve the exchange of rings. If I was marrying P I knew the church ceremony would involve exchanging wedding rings and I didn’t want more than one ring. It just felt messy!

Equality. I also didn’t want a ring if P wasn’t going to have a ring, because it didn’t feel right that one of us should have a ring and the other not. It’s like Mrs vs Mr — the marked and the unmarked state. My marital status shouldn’t be any more significant than his, in fact or in presentation. (You might say, why not get P a ring then? I didn’t think P would want a ring, and indeed he didn’t when I asked.)

Disgust. The engagement ring to me symbolised everything I find repulsive about the wedding industry — actually, why limit it, everything I find repulsive about how society measures the value of women and consequently how women view themselves. The rock. She caught herself a man. (It always is a man in the discourse I’m thinking about.) It must cost a month’s salary or he doesn’t love you enough. It must cost three months’ salary or he doesn’t love you enough.

It stood for how women are still rated on whether they can “catch” or “keep” men, and it stood for the crassest materialism, for how women judge each other for stupid reasons. (Don’t get me wrong, I love judging other people! I just think “she has annoying opinions about The Lord of the Rings” is a good reason for being judgey and “her ring is too big/too small” is a dumbass reason.)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I looked at women with engagement rings and went, “Oh look at her, selling out to the patriarchy.” Probably the most important reason anyway was:

Greed. I was worried that if I did get a ring I would be sucked into it — this uncritical starry-eyed marvelling over things that cost a lot of money. I do like pretty things, is the problem! I REALLY like pretty things. I was worried it would be a diversion from the important stuff.

Ultimately I didn’t see why we should get me an engagement ring if there was no good reason for it, and several reasons against. But there turned out to be one good reason for it: P wanted to get me one.

That was enough for me. I mean, I didn’t really argue about it, except to clarify that P was saying it because he really wanted to and not just ‘cos he thought he should, or thought I wanted it. One of the things he said was that I might want a ring because everyone would be asking me about it. I think if we’d gone with not getting a ring I’d have enjoyed that aspect of it, actually — subverting people’s expectations! (One girl actually asked me if I was joking when I said I was engaged because she couldn’t see a ring. :O)

I do love my delicate ring with its tiny sparkly diamonds and glowy yellow gold. (I used to like platinum and white gold when I was younger, but now I think it looks cold … Yellow gold is a nice friendly colour.) But I like to think I’d enjoy being engaged just as much without it.

This is not my ring! But it kinda looks like it.

Hobbits vs. Elves: a first post

I have decided to start a wedding blog! Instead of merely reading them and then boring my poor friends with my thoughts about weddings.

The title of the blog is because I, like many engaged people who say “no, I don’t want a huge white cake of a dress; no, I don’t want a glamorous beach wedding; no, I don’t want to get married on top of a skyscraper*”, am finding that my values and desired approach are somewhat at odds with those imposed by society. At least, society as filtered through wedding magazines and the like — but I have been surprised at the differences I’ve had on the subject of weddings with close friends.

I said mournfully to my best friend: “I just want to have a hobbit wedding, but most people seem to want to be elves.”

Bilbo Baggins's eleventy-first birthday party from The Fellowship of the Ring

What I aspire to.

Glowy elves passing from Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings movies

What many other people prefer.

I also find the English-language wedding blogosphere extremely Anglo-American-centric. I did a quick Google for Malaysian wedding blogs — no dice. Lots of pretty photography, but not much musing. And musing is my favourite thing!

In the spirit of being the change you look for, therefore, here I am. I doubt this will garner much readership besides possibly my fiance and my other recently-engaged, abruptly wedding-obsessed friend, but I plan to blog for a year (My Year in Weddingland) and hopefully this will make a nice memento in future of a specific time in my life.

*Maybe it’s just my family who thinks this is a good idea.