By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Recently, my niece, whose married name is Kelly Kwon, held a sparkling Cinderella wedding in Austin. The venue had a smashing view of a lake and golf course. It was a well-organized event, with the help of meticulously detailed pages recorded on a spreadsheet. What a contrast to the wedding of my brother (her father) decades ago.
My brother got married in the late 1970s; it was a small, low-budget ceremony. Everything was self-made, from the bridal dress to the wedding reception. I volunteered for the task of preparing the bridal veil for my sister-in-law. I wasn’t an expert veil-maker, but I got stuck with the job because it was only a few days before the wedding and a veil had still not been procured. A friend of my brother made all the food himself at home for a reception of 50 guests. During the reception, I was asked to emcee at the last minute.
A simple wedding was not exactly what our parents had in mind. The elderly like to show off to their relatives. They want to show what a good family their kids are marrying into, so that they don’t lose face.
My brother and I belong to the generation of baby boomers. We work hard to give everything to the “baby busters,” as my son calls his generation. My peers and I assume that we will pay, not only for our sons’ educations, but their weddings, too. It doesn’t matter that wedding expenses in this country are normally the bride and her family’s responsibility.
An exceptional organizer, my niece Kelly was creative and superb in planning her big day. The couple had two receptions that blended three cultures — American, Chinese, and Korean — nicely. More than 500 guests in total, one in Austin and the other one in San Francisco, where Kelly and her husband, Jay, will live.
Many of my friends’ kids hold two receptions because the bride and groom grow up in two different cities, and sometimes, two different countries.
To the contrary, my husband and I had one reception, for the purpose of saving money.
In style, my nieces’s wedding was an integration of the couple’s personalities.
Green was the theme color. Everything, including the centerpieces, lanterns, ceiling, bridesmaids’ dresses, mothers’ gowns, custom-made invitations, and programs were beautifully done in the same color scheme.
The couple thought of everything to make the wedding unique, yet fancy. All the details were produced through tons of research to make this a perfect event.
For my wedding, we paid little attention to details. We just got it done, so I could have time to find a job quickly afterward whereas Kelly and Jay already have good jobs and purchased a house before their union.
As a fun addition to the wedding cake, my niece presented elegantly displayed flavored yogurts and donuts.
Yogurt was her choice; donuts were Jay’s. For souvenirs, the couple gave jars of honey and syrup to each guest. I prefer the sweet treats to the knick-knacks one usually gets at a wedding.
The younger generation craves a romantic atmosphere for the wedding dinner. The Internet assisted my niece in searching for a splendid resort and spa to wed in. To them, the place comes first, food comes second.
On the other hand, my generation had different priorities. The first question was, What’s the price tag?
Second, Would our parents approve? We asked this even though my husband paid for our own wedding. My family paid for my bridal dresses, though.
And if it had not consisted of a Chinese banquet, our parents would have had grumpy faces. Yes, we are thoughtful toward our parents. I never thought for a second, “What is it that I really want in my wedding?”
Reflecting on these weddings, I can only conclude that life is better for our kids. Our children are well-informed, and they know how to mobilize resources and their connections to plan a fun, special matrimonial event. Our American-born children know how to play and enjoy life better than us, immigrants.
These days, we are not only more educated and financially stable, but we can afford to be generous toward our children. We nod our heads in approval of our kids’ extravaganza. Why not?
Please don’t get me wrong, our parents were certainly generous toward us. It’s just that we now live in a different era. The best gift I asked of my parents was education, nothing more. Once I left home, I was on my own, I am proud of the fact that I did not need to ask for other help from my parents.
Paradoxically, I would feel inadequate as a parent if my kids didn’t ask for my help. Could this be a weakness of the boomers, that we don’t ever want to let go of our flesh and blood? Or, is it a strength because boomers know how to build better bridges with their parents and kids?
A memorable reunion
“You and your brother don’t look alike,” a new friend said at the wedding.
“We have the same father, but different mothers,” I explained.
I might as well be straightforward. For a long time, it was awkward between us because we came from broken homes. Our parents were never in a perfect union, and they neglected to foster personal bonds between the kids — the step- and half-siblings.
The last time I was in Hong Kong, someone greeted me with, “Hi, Sis!”
I almost said, “Hold it. Who are you?” Good thing I bit my tongue.
During my niece’s wedding, I figured I might as well take the initiative in getting acquainted with my family.
I learned that I had three nephews and one niece there that I hadn’t met previously. How proud I was to meet them as adults who are successful in their careers!
They all have interesting stories. One is a self-taught sushi chef in addition to his regular full-time job.
During the church ceremony, I told a young man that I was his aunt. He smiled politely and impersonally, as if I were some crazy woman making an unsubstantiated claim.
Later, he came to me and said, “You really are my aunt.”
“What? You think I am a fake?” I said.
He is my nephew, my half-brother’s son. He said he thought I was one of those close family friends that the younger generation often addresses as uncle or aunt, according to Asian culture.
Now, I am mending fences. I realize that whatever our parents did, our generation should not bear the negative consequence of their actions. Instead, I choose not to hold a grudge, but instead enjoy the fruits of their past relationships. I choose to find bliss in reconnecting with family members and reaching out to them.
My nephew is planning to build a family website, and I’m so glad that I will be a part of it. ♦
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.