I know we said a few weeks ago that Elisabeth’s Wedding Grad post would be our last intern grad post for the year, but, well, we lied. Because this week Zen surprised us with a second grad post—this time on her and Cephas’ Malaysian wedding. And I couldn’t be more thrilled. Because secretly, this was the post I’ve been waiting for. (I don’t know about you, but all of Zen’s posts chronicling the mayhem of planning her Malaysian wedding have left me in stitches.) We talk about this a lot here on APW, but Zen’s post reminded me that no two weddings—not even for the same couple—are ever the same. And in the end, this is a very good thing. Because it means that there is no right way to have your wedding, no magical formula to making it the best day ever. So today, as you read Zen’s post, take solace in the fact that the path you’ve chosen is going to be the right one, if only because it’s the one you chose.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
The pictures we got from our Malaysian wedding are kind of a mess. They’re not carefully composed. The lighting is all over the place. Some of them are blurry. They’re of people moving, milling, talking, eating, drinking, yelling, dancing, running around trying to restrain their tiny offspring. The pictures are like those old Chinese and Indian scroll paintings where everything is happening at once and you don’t know where to look. There is no one focal point.
The way they look is how the wedding felt: chaotic, leisurely, expansive, and warm. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that the Western wedding was about us as a couple and the Asian wedding was about our—well, mostly my—family, but that’s what it felt like. The Malaysian wedding wasn’t terribly romantic—it didn’t particularly feel like a celebration of us and our deathless love. But it felt like coming home. The English wedding had been marvellously, sweetly out of the ordinary course of things; our brief honeymoon in Italy had sustained that sense of being taken out of our everyday lives. The Malaysian wedding was something else.
Cephas, of course, will have felt differently—but for me, getting married at home was what I needed to take me back to reality. It made our marriage real, because it embedded it in the context of my—now our—family.
If the English wedding was a process of focusing in, of centering us and placing us before the altar and enclosing us in a promise between the two of us, the Malaysian wedding was about us stepping out of the focus, pulling back, and seeing where we stood in the pattern made by our family.
So I don’t remember tender moments between me and Cephas at the Malaysian wedding. I remember everyone else. There was my four-year-old cousin who, as the only boy child present, was taken by hand by his father to the bridal suite, promised the rare delight of getting to jump on the bed. (You will recall that this is arranged so that the married couple will have many sons.) He went along cheerfully until he realised that he was being followed by about twenty uncles and aunties wielding cameras, when he baulked.
“Come, boy, don’t you want to jump on the bed?” coaxed his dad.
“Don’t want this bed,” said my cousin, trying to make a speedy exit from the bridal suite. “Want another bed!”
Whereupon my aunt picked him up bodily and dropped him on the bed—but not before another four-year-old cousin, a little girl not remotely afraid of the limelight, had hurled herself onto the bed and starting bouncing, screeching with delight.
There was my mom, who plunged into wedding planning with typical intensity, standing over my aunts with a whip while they made a million fabric loofahs to decorate our house with. She also developed a psychosomatic cough from the stress, and went around rasping about floral arrangements. “Oh Mom, I feel so bad that you’re stressed because of the wedding,” I ventured. “No!” said my mom, coughing. “I’m really happy! I’m coughing because I’m so happy!”
There was the great-uncle who, seeing Cephas’ parents at the wedding dinner, decided he would put them at their ease with some small talk. Admittedly there was very little he could think of to talk about with two English doctors. But he would not let the fact that he had nothing whatsoever in common with them stand in his way.
Great-uncle: “How old are you?”
Cephas’s dad: “Er, about 56.”
Great-uncle: “Do you wear spectacles?”
Cephas’s dad: “Sometimes, when I’m reading.”
Great-uncle: “That’s very good! Does your wife wear spectacles?”
Cephas’s dad: “She does, yes.”
Great-uncle: “How old is she?”
And there was my incorrigible brother, who added about four hours’ delay to the timetable of the day. Entrusted with the task of producing a slideshow of photos of the English wedding set to music, to be displayed at the wedding dinner so our guests would have an idea of what the other wedding was like, he ended up working on the slideshow in the car on the way to dinner—and then found that the music would not play.
Cue my brother swinging up on stage and announcing that he would commentate on the slideshow: “OK, so here’s a picture of the cathedral. Second oldest cathedral in England.” (This is a lie.) “Look, the bridesmaids are wearing purple. I think the theme must have been purple. Yeah, it was definitely purple. Here’s a picture of Cephas’s hand. Here’s a picture of somebody else’s hand. I don’t know whose it is.” (It’s a female hand with a wedding ring and engagement ring on it. Whose hand would it be?!) “Oh hey, we’re at the cathedral again—these pictures are out of order, why is it doing that? Eh, baby, don’t do that!” (Tiny niece is rolling around happily on the carpet.) “OK, OK, sit down, there’s a good girl. Daddy’s got to talk now.”
I’m not sure how much else my friends remember of the wedding, but they still talk about that slideshow.
If you’re lucky enough to be on good terms with your family then having a wedding that involves them reminds you of just how nice they are and how annoying they are, in equal parts. Hopefully the nice outweighs the annoying, but on the bright side, the annoying is invariably funnier when you’re telling stories about it later.
They made for good stories, our weddings. They were enormous fun, and the goodwill we received then still seems to be powering us forward, two months later. But (spoiler!) you know what? Being married is even better. I guess that’s what I’d say to anyone who’s in the thick of wedding planning and tearing their hair out over it now—what I said to a frazzled friend recently: Everything will be lovely, and totally worth it. The best is yet to come.