Introducing: The APW Writing Interns!

In November, I posted about hiring APW interns to write about their wedding planning process over the course of the next year. I somehow had it in my mind that hiring interns would be a fairly simple process: a handful of you would apply, and since y’all are a really smart bunch, I would pick an awesome intern or two, and we’d be done. Well, life often has a way of surprising you. By which I mean, fifty of you applied. Fifty! With a resume, a cover letter, and two writing samples each. That meant days and days of reading for me, in the middle of launching a book. (Whoopsy, timing!) I read intern applications everywhere. I read them on the train down to my parents’ for Christmas. I read them by the Christmas tree. I read them on a computer in my lap on the drive home from LA to San Francisco (which was as absurd as it sounds). And in the end, I concluded that while I jokingly refer to you as Team Practical, you are actually a huge force to be reckoned with. You guys are wildly talented, cuttingly smart, phenomenally well educated, and, in this economy, are being offered too few meaningful opportunities. I’m still pondering that information.

Needless to say, I could not be more excited about the writing interns we ended up hiring. As I sorted through the applications, a few kept drifting to the top of the pile. And in the end, the trio of interns that emerged fit together in a beautiful way. First, there is Madeline, a British woman who just married an American in Brooklyn (the marriage happened rather unexpectedly over the holidays, as international marriages often do, but the reception is forthcoming). Madeline is a journalist, and she is excited to stretch her personal writing muscles and explore writing online. Then, there is Zen. Zen is a Chinese Malaysian woman who is marrying a Brit in London. Zen is a lawyer and is also a published short story writer. She’s been blogging for the past ten years, and she is excited to bring all of this experience to the APW crowd. And finally, there is Elisabeth, an American woman currently living in Saudi Arabia, marrying a Pakistani-Saudi-British man who lives in London. Elisabeth converted to Islam almost a year ago, and she is now navigating planning a Muslim wedding while living in a different country than her partner.

Before I let these wonderful women introduce themselves, I just want to point you to the updated APW Staff Page. It’s my new favorite thing. I’m so delighted to be living out my dream of gathering together a bunch of tremendously smart, super funny ladies, and making something awesome together. I’m just so damn proud to be writing APW with this killer staff. So without further ado, APW’s 2012 Writing Interns, in their own words.

Madeline: When I came across APW about a year ago I was so relieved: I’m not alone! I didn’t need an RSS feed, I just hit refresh constantly for about a year. Somewhere in the middle I got engaged. Coincidence? I think not. In a wedding industry that is so much about what is certain, correct, or traditional, it means a lot to me to find a community where it’s not just ok to doubt, question, and second-guess, it’s what makes you awesome. I can’t wait to get started! Just one caveat: I’m already married. My husband and I were aiming for a wedding in April 2012. Then we learned I would need surgery in January and would be spending the first couple of months of 2012 recovering. Then Brandon lost his job. Wedding planning suddenly seemed even more daunting than it had before, and for underpaid writers in New York City, that was daunting enough. But we didn’t want to put it on hold. We wanted to go for it! We snuck off to City Hall with two beloved witnesses for a brief but meaningful elopement in December. In some ways, the pressure is off. In others, it has intensified. The response from family and friends was essentially, “OK fine. So when’s the party?” All I can say is, watch this space…

Zen: Hello, Team Practical! I’m a Chinese Malaysian lady working in London and engaged to a British dude whom I shall call—for fear of Google—Cephas. We’re getting married in a gigantic Catholic cathedral in England on 15 September and in a boisterous tea ceremony in Malaysia on 29 September. I’ve been reading APW since I got engaged last May, and I loved that there was sensible feminist discussion about weddings out there—but I was disappointed that it was almost exclusively Anglo-American in focus. (Editors note: well, Anglo, at least. We have so many UK and Scottish weddings that, confusingly, Channel 4 voted us a top wedding blog last year. But still, POINT.) What I hope to bring to the site is a slightly different perspective, of someone to whom the traditions usually talked about on wedding blogs are only familiar via TV and movies. Whose primary colour association with weddings is red, not white. What I hope to get out if it is connection, and discussion, and community, with people with the same slightly off-centre perspective on weddings. What I hope to get out of it, in other words, is you.

Elisabeth: Greetings, Team Practical! I’m an American currently living in Saudi Arabia writing, studying, and trying to figure out my next move (geographically and professionally). My fiancé, a lovely Pakistani-Saudi-British man we’ll call Amin, lives and works in London, and we’re attempting to long-distance plan a wedding in an as-of-yet undecided location for November or December 2012. We are also trying to respectfully navigate a labyrinth of multicultural assumptions, some of which are very new to one (or both) of us. One of the more challenging (for me in particular) has been his culture’s expectation that there can be no recognized “relationship” before it becomes legally and religiously legitimate. And since we haven’t even been in the same place for most of the last decade, you will have to content yourself with coy pseudo-artsy photos of feet from our limited collection. For The Big Reveal, we are aiming for an interfaith, intercultural wedding that combines our Islamic beliefs with the wedding traditions from my American family and his Pakistani one, hopefully in a way that everyone can feel comfortable with. Unfortunately, if this sort of wedding has ever happened before, you would not know it from the internet. So, in true APW style, we are inventing it. I know that so many of the ladies on APW have reexamined and reimagined traditions in their own lives to make sure that their weddings, and their marriages, truly reflect their priorities. I hope that my struggle to do this for myself will provide a new perspective and some entertainment. More importantly for me, I am looking forward to enlisting the knowledge of this incredible community.


I trust by now, you all are as excited as I am and will give these women a warm welcome. Zen and Madeline will be writing for you every Tuesday, in rotation. Elisabeth will be writing for you in a more long form style, once a month. And now, we have a week to pick a title for this series… if you have a brilliant idea (I’m betting some of you have brilliant ideas), please feel free to leave it in the comments!

APW 2012, kids. It’s going to be epic.

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  • Welcome, welcome, welcome!!!!!

  • Wow, what a diverse lot! This is going to be too exciting to follow along on all these unique journeys.

  • Oh. My. Goodness. Epic is right. So excited to follow along with each of your journeys!

  • ummmm. this is.. REALLY exciting.

    I have no brilliant ideas for a title but I will think on it..

  • KW

    Home run, Meg! Very exciting.

    (sorry, pitchers and catchers reported today!)

    • Gigi59

      Pitchers & catchers reported today?!?! Hooray – it’s SPRING!!

  • How exciting!! :)

  • What a great selection of writers and perspectives! Though I don’t know why I expected anything less from you, Meg. Of course they were going to be awesome.

  • Yay!

    What about [The] Chorus (like a Greek Chorus)? They’d be chiming in to say things that the main player (Meg!) doesn’t, and adding to the theme…?

  • ottid

    Wow Zen! I’m looking forward to your posts the most! I’m, attending an Chinese-Malay/English wedding in just a couple of weeks! I am nervous and excited, because it will be the Tea Ceremony as I am unofficially part of the family now, and trying to find our more about the tea ceremony online only made it more confusing for me!

    • Zen

      Yay, tea ceremony! I totally see how trying to research it online would only confuse you — there’s too much variation in how different countries do it for any one explanation to be that helpful. I’m no expert, but give me a shout if you’d like me to take you through it!

      • ottid

        Thanks Zen! I think I’ll just have to badger the bride a bit :) The other thing that is bugging me at the moment is that from what I’ve heard of the planning the wedding is going to be essentially all Chinese-Malay based (in English) and barely anything reflecting the groom! This, I guess, in some ways reflects how much the groom loves his bride (he organised most things while she was sorting things out in Singapore, we are in New Zealand), but it freaks me out that the ceremony is only going to reflect her and not him. I don’t know all the details (except he definitely has to go and “try” to get her from her family’s house) so I guess I have to wait and see how things go…

        • Zen

          Hmm, I guess that’s something you’ll have to leave up to the couple, though? If the groom is happy with it (or hell, even if he is unhappy with it) there’s not much you can do! This might bug you further (*g*), but the Chinese wedding ceremony isn’t really about the couple anyway — it’s very much about the whole family (and I do mean the WHOLE family, up to and including every Cousin Doris and Third Great Uncle), especially the older generation.

  • This is incredible!

    One of the things I love most about APW is the diversity of ideas, people and marriages that it showcases. So I love that the interns are coming from such diverse and complex backgrounds and bringing with them…their stories.

    I can’t wait to read them all.

  • This is so exciting! I can’t wait to read what they all have to say :)

  • JEM

    This made my little international affairs (and underlying love of anthropology) heart all a-flutter!

  • Analise

    This is fantastic! As someone still on the unmarried side of the altar (or what you will) I’m really looking forward to some not-there-yet thinking and planning from these ladies! An excellent additional flavor for this lovely APW soup.

  • Yaay! Love how cross-continental/cultural the interns are. Zen, I’m looking forward to seeing you at an APW meetup in London! We had a Chinese-Singaporean–American wedding in Boston last September.

    • Zen

      Goodness, yes! I’d forgotten that APW meetups happen in London. Also, *Chinese wedding fistbump*

  • Hypothetical Sarah


    On a related note, I think we need to have another London meetup pronto.

  • Emily

    So excited to see different cultures on APW. I’m especially excited about Elisabeth, since I’ve been searching for couples that look like me (small white girl) and my boyfriend (Egyptian-American). Elisabeth, I know we’re not in quite the same situation, but I’ve searched the internet for something close, and it does not exist. So pumped to find it on my favorite blog.

  • Welcome Elisabeth, Zen, and Madeline! I can’t wait to read your stories.

  • K

    I’m excited about hearing from all 3 of you! A bit of added diversity. Especially excited to hear about some of the long-distance planning from Elisabeth – I’m currently trying to plan a South Carolina wedding from Qatar, with a fiancé who is in North Carolina – at least he’s close to the location!

  • I”m loving all of the UK action going on in here. Welcome ladies! This IS exciting.

  • Parsley

    Welcome all three of you! I look forward to hearing from you.

    As for a Title, in keeping with the University theme you have going on for many of the features of the site, how about Wedding TAs?

    • Emily

      What does TA stand for?

  • Welcome ladies! What an exciting year this will be with all of these different insights into wedding planning and navigating cultures and religions and families. I can’t wait to hear what you are so generously choosing to share with us!

  • Yay, I can’t wait!

  • Jen W


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  • How exciting! Welcome, ladies. I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures.

  • The first title idea that came to my mind was “Field Notes.” Which could loosely tie in with the theme that Parsley pointed out with the graduate/undergraduate lingo. Makes me think of anthropology, diverse cultures and traditions, research/observation, reflection, and the intentional sharing of that reflection process…

    • Sheryl

      I love that title so much. It reflects quite nicely on the all-across-the-globe thing these ladies have going on.

      I can’t wait to read more from all three of you!

  • Oh, and welcome everyone! I am excited to read about your experiences and stories…. I am particularly looking forward to all the multicultural aspects and the negotiation of those elements in a relationship, wedding/reception planning, and in a marriage.

  • Brefiks (formerly Kate)

    OMG, so excited. Welcome everybody!

  • Madeline

    Thanks for the welcome everyone! Great to be here.

  • Ceebee

    Oh Zen, one wordy Malaysian Chinese (I think this phrase does not exist until we are out of the country and can’t say Chinese anymore, honestly Malaysia has to come up tops in being so plural yet so coexistent).

    Checked out your blog, does the Montgomery come as an offshot if growing up on early 90s TV?

    Can’t wait to see more of the year

    • Zen

      High-five! And nope, it comes from reading all the Montgomery books as a kid and super loving them. They used to sell the entire Anne series (all the way to Rilla!) and the Emily series in Popular.

      Outside of Malaysia I prefer to identify as Malaysian full stop, but when you do that people get confused and think you mean Malay, so …

  • DanaDou

    Thank you! Zen, I can’t wait to read posts from you. I’m a white American lady marrying into a Cantonese-American family, and I’m still navigating my way through the bi-cultural wedding planning process. I look forward to reading your perspective.

    Welcome to all the ladies!!

  • I’m going to play the Tom Petty card (dorky!) and suggest the title of the intern series be “Into the Great Wide Open.” I find the song’s chorus to be appropriate when applied to the early years of marriage.

    And to the interns: Nice meeting you all! I look forward to enjoying your work!

  • Congratulations to Madeline, Zen and Elisabeth ! So exciting to be reading your adventures, and yay, intercultural and international weddings !

  • Hooray! :)

    • EE

      I am sooo excited!

  • EE

    I am sooo excited! Especially for Elizabeth! There is nothing ANYWHERE for couples who have family on opposite continents or who are trying to plan their own weddings while in a long distance relationship. My hubby-to-be and I are trying to navigate an interfaith Christian-Muslim ceremony and I can’t wait to hear Elizabeth’s story unfolds in navigating across continents and across cultures. If you try to learn about such things via the internet you will be left believing that you are all alone. False!

  • Michele

    This is all very exciting and I look forward to reading all about the new interns’ experiences.

    But..There IS something that’s sort of itching my bitch bone at the moment and I hope you’ll all consider this yet another perspective rather than an attack: While the diversity of these women is remarkable and to be commended, I also worry that this lot is somewhat exclusionary/potentially alienating for those women who haven’t lived lives that are quite so…expansive just yet. Women who live in or near their hometowns, work jobs that pay the bills but not much more, who are marrying men who grew up down the street and have lived lives almost identical to their own.

    I say that as someone who personally identifies with Madeline, Zen and Elisabeth much more so than I do with the women I just described, but I can’t help but think that in an effort to showcase as many “diverse” experiences and viewpoints as possible, you might actually be missing out on an opportunity to showcase the diversity that can exist in the “ordinary.”

    Just a thought. :)

    • meg

      We can’t show all experiences at once. So! I always remind y’all that every story is *particular* and that is what makes it universal. I picked the interns that I thought were the very strongest applicants, and it would be a mistake to read this as a political choice, in any sense. I was never going to be able to pick interns that represented EVERY point of view, just ones who could fully inhabit and write about their own points of view. We’re lucky that these women stood out, and happened to fit together well. They also happen to be voices that are less heard in blogging and in wedding media. We’ve featured lots of weddings and stories of women who live more “ordinary” lives (though I’m not sure that’s ever an accurate term), but never featured stories quite like these. That’s not why I picked these women, I picked them for their passionate and amazing writing, but it’s a good thing to share new stories.

      If it makes you feel any better, I married someone I went to High School… hell to pre-school… with, and I write here all the time. In fact, in most ways, I identify way more with the woman you described than anything else. I didn’t have the money or opportunity to leave my home state till I was 14 years old, and many of my good friends work minimum wage jobs, and very badly want more. In fact, the majority of the APW staff comes from pretty poor backgrounds, and a good fraction of us are married to partners we grew up with. So, while I’d argue with you if you said we were “ordinary,” we’re right here, telling our stories and working hard to make something great out of our lives. Beyond that, while all of our interns are living in different countries than where they were born and are well educated, don’t assume that means you know all about their backgrounds. We’re all a mix of surprising things. The point is to tell our own stories with honesty and clarity, and encourage others to do the same.

    • Jessica

      I haven’t lived a life that is “quite so…expansive yet” and I am well aware that diversity can exist in the ordinary. I don’t need a wedding blog, or a condescending comment on a wedding blog, to tell me that. I also don’t need to be living the same life as someone to appreciate or relate to their story. Thanks for worrying about whether plebes like me will be able to wrap our provincial minds around these interns, though!

  • suzanna

    The Wedding Saga

    Las Tres Hermanas

    Practically Married (har!)

    Madzenbeth: International Women of Mystery

    Hitchin’ Bitchin’

    I have no idea why Hollywood doesn’t call me right now for the most amazing movie titles ever. These are all trademarked, people.

    • meg

      Frankly, I don’t know why either. MAN.

  • Oh I love this! I love these interns! Yay for multicultural families!

    Madeline: We didn’t technically elope ( we just married alone, with a couple of friends as witnesses in a different country but our families knew we were doing it) yet we still got the “when’s the party?”question from lots of friends. We disappointed a lot of people by telling them there was no party and there was definitely no church involved.

    Zen: I am looking so much forward to your posts!

    Elisabeth: I have a friend who is a Muslim Tajik and her husband is Catholic Portuguese. He converted to Islam for the wedding (in Tajikistan)…I could ask her how they brought together their different backgrounds for the ceremony if you want me to!

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  • Anne

    I have been reading APW for six months now but this is my first comment. I am incredibly excited to follow the journeys of these three women. As a British/Australian/Mauritian girl living in France marrying her French fiance who currently lives in Germany … in England with our British/Australian/Mauritian/French etc etc… family I am all about planning crazy international events! I hope we can plan something which reflects us and everything that ‘us’ means. Especially as the plan is to get married in a small village with great family significance .. but where none of my British family now reside!

    APW kept me sane during those stressful pre-engaged months and only wish it had been around for the previous six years! But we are happily engaged as of last month and excitedly/overwhelmedly planning our wedding :)

    Can’t wait to read the internship posts!

  • Aurélie

    Great! That promise lots of good reads!

    As for the name, what about “practical interns” or “the undergrads”?

  • labyrinthos

    Since you’ve collected such a lovely, varied bunch, why not:

    InternNational Perspectives

    Oh puns make me smile!

  • DNA

    I’m so excited about the APW writing interns! My partner is from the U.S., we had a Thai-Chinese tea ceremony in Bangkok and Hong Kong, and we’re doing our third and final celebration in Vermont (my partner’s home town) this August. We’re still scratching our heads about if and what we want to do for our ceremony in Vermont since neither one of us are religious and we’re a bit tea ceremonied-out. (I realize I’m totally making up words now.) Zen, I totally hear you on becoming familiar with the majority of wedding traditions mentioned in wedding blogs through TV and movies too. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I still feel a bit awkward about saying vows because no one on my side of the family has ever done that before. In any case, it’ll be great to hear more from folks who are navigating multi-cultural weddings.

  • Nice to “meet” the new interns . . . can’t wait to read about their journeys. (Okay, and also to commiserate with some of the international/intercultural obstacles that arise on top of the “normal” marriage-planning ones. Heh.)