Friday, June 24, 2011

Trains and Chinese Weddings

The train of life keeps going "chugga, chugga, chugga..." and doesn't seem to run out of steam, or diesel or electric (whatever trains use as fuel these days anyway). And sometimes I feel like I'm running late and have to run alongside the train and try to catch up so that I can jump up onto one of its open doors, sigh a big sigh of relief, plonk myself down on one of its empty seats and say to myself "Aah, at least I can stop running for a while until the next stop..." before I have to get down and start chasing the train again.

Even with this blog, I feel like I'm getting left behind as there are things to write about or report here but they just keep getting postponed. There's always something that keeps me busy or occupied every day, every weekend, all the time. And when there's nothing, I'm just what I pictured earlier, plonked down on a seat, sighing with relief until the next time I have to start playing catch-up again.

Last week, we were playing catch-up with getting back into our daily routine after having our rhythm disrupted by the school holidays. This week, we're almost there but still feeling rather tired. For C, it meant getting back into the swing of relatively long school hours, homework, extra-curricular activities and erratic sleep cycle. For me, it involved having to manage everything that concerns C, and the usual household chores. For E, I think it wasn't much different because he still kept to his usual routine of fighting traffic jams, going to work and dealing with the stresses of his job, and coming home to walk Rusty.

Over the weekend, we went down south to Melaka (or Malacca) to attend my cousin's wedding. The event included the Chinese tea ceremony in the morning and wedding dinner at the Bayview Hotel later that night. I may write with more details about our overnight trip to Melaka in another post (still running alongside the train...)

After attending so many Chinese weddings, it suddenly dawned on me that usually these weddings are not just about the newly-wed couple (aiyo, why have I been so blur all this while?). It is about their parents too. Many of us don't realise it but it IS usually about the parents of the bride and groom as they are overjoyed and proud to announce the marriage. That's why most of the time, the invitation card is worded such: Mr & Mrs So-And-So invite (your name) to the marriage of their son/daughter (name of child) to (name of bride/groom), son/daughter of Mr & Mrs So-And-So.

Who's the host of the dinner? I would think it'd be Mr & Mrs So-And-So since the invitation is worded such. Usually, the bride's parents will throw a dinner for their side of the family and friends and so will the groom's parents for their side of the family and friends. That means the wedding couple will be the stars of the 'show' twice, and maybe once more if there is a church wedding.

Who pays for the dinner? I think it would be the parents, who will then keep the angpows they receive from the guests. That means guests should address the angpows to the parents, right or not? Who organises and makes the decisions for the dinner and invitations? Most likely the parents in collaboration with the bride and groom. How much say the couple has on the arrangements and decisions depend on the intricacies of  their relationship with their parents/parents-in-law. It may be easy for some, complicated for others, and definitely require lots of discussions, compromise, negotiations, especially if there is a generation and culture gap.

I've also seen invitations worded as such: Bride & Groom (their names), together with our parents, Mr & Mrs So-And-So (groom's parents), and Mr & Mrs So-And-So (bride's parents) invite (your name) to share in the joy of our marriage... That means the bride and groom are the hosts, right? But of course, the parents will also share the limelight and be given a say in the organisation and decisions as most filial children would accord their dedicated parents. As for who pays and who keeps the angpows, that could be a rather tricky question I think. It still boils down to the intricacies of  their relationship with their parents/parents-in-law I would think. Some parents are happy to pay for everything regardless of whether they or their children are the hosts. Some children would prefer not to burden their parents and pay for the wedding and dinner themselves. Some share the cost? But I, as a guest, would address the angpow to the bridal couple in this case.

Whatever the case may be, there are many grey lines everywhere in such matters. It's a tangled web when it comes to the Asian extended family concept.

Getting married and making plans for the celebration is a tedious, lengthy and stressful affair for sure, amidst the joy and excitement. I'm glad I've 'been there, done that', whatever anyone may say, comment or complain -- why no wedding dinner, only tea reception, no banquet with sharks' fin soup, not enough food......

My conclusion is, there'll always be people who will comment and have different opinions. That's human nature. For the bride and groom, if they are hosting and organising, they just need to try to do it the way they want while considering their parents' viewpoints. For the parents who want to be the host, they should consider their children's needs too. Disagreements without compromise will just lead to an unhappy occasion and tarnish the family relationship. At the end of the day, what everyone wants is happiness, and how that's achieved may differ from one generation to another, the young and old, black and white, rich and poor. Mutual respect and love are needed. Newlyweds want the blessings and support of parents, family and friends, and also their God if they believe in one. And also to be a blessing to their parents, family and friends in return.

So here's to joyful and lasting unions. Yuuuuum seng!

p.s. I don't believe in love at first sight! ha ha....

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