By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
My son John got married recently in Seattle. It is a major milestone for him, and for me as well.
The wedding was lovely. By the way, weddings don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. It’s the countless beautiful moments and fascinating accidents (no matter how much you plan ahead), which makes the whole event fantastic. Any imperfections can be transformed to perfections in our memories—weddings simply ignite magic.
Warning my kids
When my kids were growing up, I warned them not to give me surprises, such as “your friend got his girlfriend pregnant, and he dropped out of school.” If my kids had done that, they were aware of the consequences.
“I will cut you off, man. Pay for college yourself,” I would say.
Or “Mom, surprise! We just got married in Las Vegas,” without inviting the parents to be present at the wedding ceremony. I told my sons I wouldn’t forgive them if they go that route. My son John responded, “I know that, Mom.” Yay, they listened to me well.
Thank God, my sons took every word to heart, and I am grateful. I don’t require that my kids take care of me when I get old — the Asian way. All I ask is, let me be a part of your life, including challenges, joy, and sorrow. I might not have solutions to everything, but I will support their wishes and desires, so they can overcome their adversities and be confident no matter what dreams they pursue.
Mothers and daughters-in-law
If you have watched the movie Crazy Rich Asians, you discover that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship is complicated and competitive. Some mothers-in-law feel that the woman in their son’s life is never good enough.
The movie has a dramatic scene with lead actress Constance Wu challenging her boyfriend’s mother, played by Michelle Yeoh, to a mahjong game. That might be an exaggeration, but the fear and insecurities in many mothers are real and irrational because they perceive that this new woman would soon replace them in their son’s life. Also, they worry if their daughter-in-law would respect them. What is silly in many mothers’ minds is that, their sons are forever little kids, not recognizing that their sons will be men one day. What transforms boys to men is when boys take chances at different stages of their lives, and they learn from their mistakes. No one can imagine my bliss when I witnessed my son become a family man on his wedding day. I felt like I did my job when he said, “I do,” at the altar.
Unlike most in-laws, I emphasized to my son that he is the lucky one to have found his love, and not the other way round.
And I shared with my peers that I am fortunate to gain a daughter, Tracy, who is so attentive, easy to get along with, hard-working, thoughtful, dependable, and a fast learner. Above all, she is a great cook. Yes, we have tasted and benefitted from her skills in cooking and creating many beautiful gifts for our family.
Weddings of the past and present
More than 40 summers ago, I got married in Seattle, too. Our wedding was much simpler and smaller compared to my son’s. His was a fusion wedding of the East and West. During the lunch reception, we had a traditional Chinese tea ceremony for many Asian American and non-Asian friends. In the evening was a Chinese banquet mixed with Western traditions, such as dancing.
Our guest list was, perhaps, one-fifth of my son’s, as my husband and I were international students from Hong Kong. We didn’t even order a cake. We didn’t think we needed one. (Our wedding reception was at Four Kings Restaurant, which no longer exists. It was located at the defunct China Gate restaurant.)
I was broke when I got married. My husband paid for everything. I was surprised he saved so much, even though he was only a graduate student researcher. My parents bought me a wedding gown from Hong Kong, a Chinese-style dress, and all the wedding accessories such as shoes and a purse.
No one taught me how to plan for a wedding, I just copied my senior classmates’ wedding, including a church ceremony. Whereas my son and his wife hired a decorator. They were sophisticated in details, such as featuring a color scheme for the decor and bridal costumes, and even a pair of gigantic wine glasses for their toast. I didn’t know of any of those fancy wedding merchandise. Nor could we afford to buy any of those or hire a decorator. John and Tracy even visited Hong Kong for their wedding shopping, and Taiwan for their pre-wedding photo shoot because Asia offers better prices and varieties of style in wedding products. That’s unheard of among our peers.
Everything we did in our wedding was basic, and the point was to save money. The only big investment we made was hiring a great Caucasian photographer and assistant. It was worth it. My son’s photographer was Asian. And the make-up lady for my daughter-in-law is also Asian, who owns a beauty salon and spa. Without the internet in my day, it’s hard to find Asian Americans in the wedding business.
But our wedding turned out to be just as wonderful. My parents even said I picked an excellent day for the wedding. I had no knowledge about auspicious dates on the Chinese calendar. I figured I needed four weeks to organize my wedding after my graduation from the University of Washington. It was sheer luck. Luck struck again when I found a job six weeks after my marriage. Life has a mysterious way of knitting things together in a cohesive fashion.
Many of my friends who attended my son’s wedding raved about the program, food, and company. A couple of old friends and relatives had also attended our wedding decades ago. However, none of them raved about our wedding, which was pretty conventional. I am more thrilled and proud they enjoyed my kid’s wedding. It clearly shows that our and my daughter-in-law’s family did a nice job in organizing a special day.
Did my son and his wife plan their wedding for nine months to make it more interesting? Not really.
Their wedding was actually planned more than a generation ago. From the time I and my husband wed, and from the time my daughter-in-law’s parents came as refugees from Vietnam to this country, we were all committed to creating a better future for our kids. We were determined to raise a family in the land of free and plentiful opportunities, we persevered to give our kids a better life to fulfill our immigrant dreams, and we made sacrifices to nourish our children to be thankful of their heritage and cultures. Former Seattle City Councilmember Dolores Sibonga came to the wedding and wrote me a thank-you card afterwards. “Your two sons are obviously amazing human beings, smart, humorous, and respectful of traditions.”
In the name of progress, hope, and aspirations, it is no accident that our children’s wedding were so much more vibrant, appealing, and fun than ours. Cheers!
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.