If I were a wedding magazine editor, I’d have a feature on What Every Engaged Person Needs When Planning Their Wedding. (My magazine would not refer to brides, since in a wedding usually more than one person gets married, and often the couple is not exclusively female. It would use a time-honoured gender-neutral pronoun when speaking of people in the third person. It would sell five copies, all of them to my mother.)
Top of my list of The Engaged Person’s Essentials would be “indolence.”
Being an epically lazy person is very helpful in countering the mind-control rays emitted by the WIC. More than once, in the course of my obsessive perusal of wedding literature, I’ve come across some charming idea—a decorative elephant made of flowers, for example, or paper lanterns that look like owls. I’ve sat bolt upright in my chair and said, “I must have it.” I’ve spent hours googling elephant-shaped topiary frames.
Then I usually went to bed and woke up the next morning and reflected, “I could buy that topiary frame for £50 and spend the next six months stabbing myself with gardening shears while perched on a throne of floral foam—or I could forget the whole shebang, get a cup of coffee, and read some shoujo manga.”
It’s a delightful way to spend a year and a half planning a wedding. And you get the best of all worlds. When someone asks you to sign up for a 10 km run or collaborate in a limerick chapbook, you have the excellent excuse that you’re too busy working on your wedding. And you totally mean it! You totally are going to fold those 1,000 paper cranes using only scanned copies of you and your affianced’s childhood photos! Except then you get home, realise your favourite “chilled out bride marries charmingly disorganised Bajan dude” episode of Don’t Tell The Bride is on, and decide that nobody would really have noticed the cranes anyway.
Laziness has been working out great for me so far, though admittedly only because Cephas is hardworking and organised and has sorted out all the things people would actually notice, like the food and somewhere to go to the loo.
But recently I came home to Malaysia for a visit, and I’ve run into a snag. The snag is made up of two parts.
- My mother is retired, has boundless energy from an organic diet of sweet potato and coconut oil, and seems curiously invested in seeing this wedding come off nicely.
- I am having a Chinese wedding.
It’s not like we’re having a super traditional wedding. Even at the time of my great-grandparents, people had started catching on to the fact that a month-long wedding is a pain. But there are certain things that have to be done if your 200-person foodfest is to qualify as a wedding—an irreducible minimum of required rituals to go through.
The difference between me and my mom is that I think we ought to do the minimum, with a couple of flourishes if we’ve got the time. Whereas my mom wants to tick all the boxes, dot every i, cross every t, and maybe make up some new alphabets while she’s at it.
Which leads to things like Trousseau Question.
Mom: “Do you want a trousseau? Before the wedding the bride’s side goes over to the groom’s house to decorate the bridal suite, and they like to hang up the bride’s clothes next to the groom’s clothes in the closet.” [Aside of Cultural Clarification: Traditionally the bride left her parents’ home to live with the groom and his parents.]
Me: “Er, but I won’t be going to Cephas’s house ‘cos it’s a twelve-hour flight and a two-hour train journey to get there. We’re just using my brother’s old bedroom.”
Mom: “Yes, but we’re still going to decorate the bridal suite, right? Where else are we gonna have the little boy bounce on the bed?” [ACC: This is done so the couple will have sons. It’s always mystified me why the Western stereotype of Asians is that we are subtle and inscrutable.]
Me: “Um, I guess so — ”
Mom: “We like to have even numbers for the trousseau, so six sets of clothes, or eight or ten or twelve. You have four days left in the country, so if we buy you three outfits a day we’ll be done!”
I was saved, not by my ineffectual response of outraged squeaking, but by the fact that neither my dad nor my aunts thought a trousseau necessary. My mom relented. We only bought six outfits.
I don’t even feel particularly guilty about this excessive consumption; I’m too busy feeling bewildered and overwhelmed. Having my mom take over as self-appointed wedding planner has been like being overtaken by an affectionate but extremely determined tornado. “Don’t make work,” I keep telling her, in a desperate attempt to get out of having to do wedding stuff—but it’s work she wants to do.
So I’m riding out the storm, and trying to remember the message, repeated over and over on APW and in the book, that your loved ones want to do stuff for you. They want to give you stuff. And you gain merit not only from doing stuff for other people, but letting them do stuff for you, whether it’s celebrating your happiness or sourcing wedding fans for you. (Yes, wedding fans. Don’t even ask.)
Meg says in the book:
It’s easy to get sucked into the guilt of accepting money and to lose track of the fact that your wedding is an important milestone, in which your family wants to be involved and to show their love and support for you.
It applies to every other form of generosity your loved ones offer. People want to be nice to you, I tell myself. Let them. And if that means I have to get off my ass once in a while so I can go look at red umbrellas, why not? I can always catch the rerun of Don’t Tell The Bride.
Photo by: Studio Mathewes Photography