Chi-Ling & Than, Part I

Today’s wedding graduate post comes from Chi-Ling, long time APW reader. Her simple, no-nonsense wedding, with a super short engagement, is a joy to behold. It reminds me of why less is often more and how love is enough. And if that wasn’t enough, her husband Than joins us this afternoon for his take on the celebration. (Grooms! We love them!) Without further ado, the woman herself:

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I was engaged for all of 22 weeks. It took me over a month to come to terms with the fact that I actually wanted a wedding. The two months thereafter were spent securing a venue. The rest was a scrambled dash to the finish line. Herein lies the insights from my experience.

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Relax (No, Seriously)

First, stop stressing. The wedding is but one day of your life. It will come and it will go. Stressing about the wedding will not make the day any more wonderful. Unfortunately, I am fairly certain that this is a lesson that one must learn from experience. Three weeks before the wedding, I cracked a tooth. As my dentist cousin walked into the exam room, he put one hand on each of my cheeks, and said, “Stop stressing about the wedding.” Immediately, I thought, “Who tattled?”

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More Options Don’t Always Help

Planning a wedding was in many ways like managing the remodel of my parents’ home. The plethora of available options did not set me free. Everyone had an opinion and made sure I knew what it was. Worse yet, everything required more time and money than first anticipated. Stress I did. What little time I made to practice yoga, attend kickboxing class, and take evening walks saved my sanity. I wish I had devoted more time to taking care of me.

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Plan the Wedding You and Your Partner Want

Ignore unsolicited advice. My esthetician lectured me for a good half an hour about the importance of having a bridal party. As a result, I stopped telling people I was engaged. We followed traditions we liked and made up stuff along the way.

Tell People No

The first time I went home to see my parents after becoming engaged, I announced who we would be inviting. When my dad started asking about so-and-so, I replied, “You have heard my list; it is final.” He then asked about how people might react. I said again, “You have heard my list; it is final.” That was the end of that.

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My wedding was wonderful because it was truly a labor of love. My sister-in-law and I made the invitations. My mom and I sewed the tablecloths. My father-in-law officiated. Piano accompaniment, makeup services, wedding cookies, and photo booth props were all gifted by family and friends. People wanted to help. Allowing them was the best decision we made.

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Save Your Dollars

Because it was my wedding, people tried to sell me all kinds of things. They tried to play on my every insecurity about being good enough and deserving the best. Some even attempted to persuade me with the once-in-a-lifetime propaganda. I have attended my fair share of weddings. The variance in budgets exceed the cost of two years of Ivy League tuition. Trust me when I say that I always remember how much love was shared on every occasion. I do not recall, however, the dresses worn, the flowers arranged, or the meals served. My partner and I spent money where it mattered to us. The rest of the wedding was just good enough.

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Most Importantly, Enjoy!

My expertly altered dress was a tad too big. My hair appointment ran late. The florist arrived too early. The carefully, twice measured tablecloths did not fit. The seating chart went missing. And yet, life went on. I made it a priority to enjoy our big day. The wedding was wonderful, imperfectly delightful.

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Most photos by: Blaine Photography / Some photos by: Chi-Ling’s sister in law, Effie

The Info—Ceremony Venue: South Pasadena Public Library Community Room / Restaurant Reception: Mike and AnneDress: , Reverie by Melissa Sweet dress / Shoes: Mel by Melissa purchased at endless.comSuit: Enzo purchased at Nino Ferretti / Invitations: Designed by Chi-Ling / Flowers: The Little Branch / Hair: Salon 1032 by Xavier / Makeup: By a girlfriend /  Rings: Melissa Joy Manning /Earrings: Kenneth Jay Lane (clip-ons) purchased from /Hair flower: Bando / Photographer: Blaine Photography

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  • First of all congratulations. I loved the “do-not-stress-take-walks-in-the-park” advice. And on a more “superficial” note, the way you decorated the aisle is beautiful. All the colorful flowers.

  • Kathryn in VT

    Yes! I could have written exactly this same post. My partner and I were engaged for six months, and spent about three months hastily planning our wedding. We wouldn’t have done it any other way. I’m grateful I had a short engagement, because it forced me to embrace so many of the pieces of advice Chi-Ling gives. Take care of yourself. Limit your choices, and once a decision is made, don’t worry too much about it. Spend money on what matters, and none on what doesn’t. LET PEOPLE HELP YOU. (Chances are, they want to.) The less exact your plan, the fewer things there are to go wrong, so embrace spontaneity to the extent possible.

    All in all, it’s pretty good advice for life, and not just wedding planning.

  • Wonderful advice! (and I love the tulips down the aisle – the entire event looks lovely)

    • Thanks Kari. They are handmade crepe paper poppies. If I could do it over again… :-) Honestly, I am not sure.

      • I read that in your husband’s post – even prettier now that I know that you made them (I love non-floral florals) Oh, hindsight’s 20/20!

  • I love this Chi-Ling! Beautiful, beautiful (you! those invites! the flowers!) and the advice is spot on. Now if only people would listen to it! ;-) But like you said… many of the lessons are ones you can only accept/learn after you’ve gone through it and realize – well, I probably shouldn’t have been such a crazy person about that! haha :) Thanks for sharing!

    • Aww, Christy. Thank you. Imagine if I had followed other people’s good advice. Oh, the possibilities.

  • Thank you for a lovely post! I don’t know that many people in the stressful part of their wedding planning can appreciate your advice to it’s full extent, but I hope they do. It was the same way for me- at the end, I realized that those little things that went wrong mattered, sure, but they didn’t MATTER.

    Also? Awesome hair flower.

    • Oh, and I LOVE that Dawn Dais quotation. Were those your invitations?

      • Thanks. Yes, that photo is of our invitations.

  • Jen

    “More options don’t always help”

    this. is. so. true.

    I feel like I’ve started clamming up about any decisions that we’ve come to, because every time I share something it seems like someone chimes in with “yeah, and you could do this…or this..or what about this?”

    • Yes! Unsolicited opinions make it so hard.

    • This! so much! Or, the other one: “so, just how is that going to work?” This in response to me saying that we’re having a board game reception instead of a dance (because that’s how we roll). I dunno? I’m going to put games on a table, and I will encourage folks to play. And if they just want to sit, chat, and enjoy the ambiance, that’s fine with me too. But I definitely had a freak out moment when our friend asked me how we’d have games that weren’t our centerpieces.

      • Kathryn in VT

        It sounds like your reception will be a ton of fun, Leah. Don’t worry about the “just how is that going to work?” questions. It’s a party, not rocket science. People know how to have a good time at parties! Throw in some Pictionary and they’ll have a blast. Good luck with the planning!

      • Board game reception, yes! That’s what I am doing with mine. Just need to decide which ones.

      • FawMo

        A board game reception sounds like every kind of amazing. I would shriek with delight if I walked into the room to find Scrabble/Sorry/Pictionary/Apples to Apples/Bananagrams/etc. to PLAY. ALL. NIGHT.


      • Our tables did not have numbers. We ran out of time. Than LOVES games, and I think you should have the wedding you want.

    • From what I hear, the unsolicited advice just get worse. Especially when it comes to babies. So much to look forward to?

  • Really great advice for anyone engaged. Ignoring unsolicited advice and telling me people no are often hard ones for some people, but so important. We had similar experiences with people offering their opinions in a way that very much said “You’re wrong, do it this way,” but we happily ignored it all and just didn’t share our plans with anyone. Same thing happened with the guest list and my husband’s father as well. We had limited seating and had to make cuts – deal with it. It’s not their wedding, it’s yours.

  • What a beautfiul day! And great advice too. Brides can get too caught up in the details.

  • Anna S

    “You have heard my list; it is final.” He then asked about how people might react. I said again, “You have heard my list; it is final.” That was the end of that.

    YES. This.

    • Thank you!!! My lovely mother and aunt (my second mother really) are going to be out visiting me in about a week and they’re very excited to talk “wedding” and quite frankly I am too but I’m also a little worried that this is where the differences of opinion will start to show.
      But I’m going with “It’s our wedding. And that is final. No, it’s our wedding. Now, would you like to help?”

    • I have to say, I tried that line and it did not go over well. You have to know your family and how to deal with them. This does not work for all families.

  • Class of 1980

    I love this post because it is all true.

    And Chi-Ling, you are BEAUTIFUL.

    • Thank you for your kind words.

  • Krista

    Incredible advice. This is, in my opinion, the number one piece of wisdom that every engaged person should receive, but rarely does:

    “The wedding is but one day of your life. It will come and it will go.”

    And that it will come and go beautifully, despite minor (or major!) imperfections. As long as you’ve got love, you’ve got a beautiful wedding!

    But, Chi-Ling, I absolutely adore the aisle – those flowers are gorgeous! So fresh and crisp looking :)

  • Oh Chi-Ling what a beautiful day and how stunning you are! Congratulations!

  • april

    Beautiful, beautiful wedding! Thank you sooo much ~ LOVE the advice (and I’m already married). Ha. I have a couple friends getting hitched in November and they’re stressing about pretty much everything so I’m gonna send them the link to your post. :-)

    • Seriously. The crown to remedy that cracked tooth cost me an additional $550. Stress is evil and expensive.

  • I had to go count how many weeks we were engaged – 21. Some times things just come together like that.

    I agree, not stressing is a huge lesson. But it also seems like it truly is one of the few lessons you have to learn on your own and can’t take anyone’s word on.

    The pictures make the day seem so beautiful and relaxed. I love the colors.

  • “I wish I had devoted more time to taking care of me.”

    I feel the same exact way looking back. I hope all the Brides-to-be can & will take your wise words to heart. Congratulations~

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  • This. Yep. All of it.

  • Beautiful post and so much great advice! I really love the point of making it a priority to enjoy the day in spite of little setbacks that end up being insignificant. That approach makes such a big difference! Congrats, Chi-Ling and Than!

  • “My partner and I spent money where it mattered to us. The rest of the wedding was just good enough.

    Amen, sister.

  • So much good sense in this post. (I feel like Chi-Ling would be a fantastic person to hang out with just because of how down-to-earth this post is!) I especially liked this point: “I made it a priority to enjoy our big day.” I’m the kind of person who thinks that if something isn’t done right, I need to be the person to handle that. Obviously, like Chi-Ling said, stuff will most likely go wrong but it should not ruin the day. Definitely going to keep this philosophy in mind.

  • Karen

    What a lovely post and a beautiful wedding! I LOOOOVE those flowers! Could I please get instructions for how to make those? ;)

    • Well, crepe paper flowers is an old art. You can find books and how to’s online. I read a lot, and experimented a lot.

  • As a newly-engaged but longtime-APW lurker with three months to plan our wedding, this post hit me right between the eyes. I will be referring to it often– thank you so much for sharing.

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