By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
After the recent wedding of my son, John, I now declare myself a “wedding expert,” sort of. I have learned a few things and earned some laughs that we could have done better. So here are some tips if you are planning a wedding.
1. Decorations or none at all
My yoga teacher and her husband, in their 40s, never had the luxury of having any floral arrangements or ribbons at their wedding because they had less than two weeks to plan. Yet, it was one of the sweetest and most beautiful weddings I had ever witnessed.
You see, you can decorate extravagantly or just a little at weddings, if that’s the way you want. There is no set formula for wedding decorations.
Ribbons and flowers are common decorations. One wedding I attended years ago was decorated with flowers from the backyard of the bride’s grandmother. It’s money-saving and smart. There might be bugs on them though, so you need additional time to do the floral arrangement. Anything you do on your own, without professional services, saves money, but it involves time and planning.
2. Big or small cake
So my yoga teacher had a “potluck” wedding! Friends brought in food. She didn’t have a formal wedding cake, just a regular home-baked sheet cake. But her friends brought in lots of cookies and other sweet stuff. However, there was no less warmth, love, and kindness.
To save money, my nephew, who got married last year, served a small cake — it wasn’t big enough for his 80 guests. So the restaurant prepared colorful cupcakes along with the cake. Whatever you like to do to fit your budget is acceptable. Guests will understand.
I have been to weddings where I didn’t get a piece of cake because it was gone too quickly. I was fine with that.
My son ordered cakes for the day-time wedding ceremony and another one for dinner. The bakery suggested, to save money, that we could just serve regular cakes in case the wedding cake ran out. We did and no one even noticed.
3. Long speeches
My son had asked if my husband and I wanted to speak. We declined. Weddings are about the newlyweds, not the parents. If the parents want to say a few words, it would be appropriate, too. But it should be less than five minutes.
4. Long slide show
One wedding I attended had a long 12- or 15-minute slideshow about the bride and groom’s romance. I get it, you have hundreds of photos and now with easy technology, you want to tell all. Don’t!
Just select the best photos. The slideshow should be no longer than five minutes.
What is irresistible to you may mean little to your guests.
My son had a slideshow at the dinner reception. His friend Angel, the producer, simply screened out tens of photos. Well done, Angel. The slide show was short and amusing.
5. Wedding invitations
Don’t spend money on printing high-priced wedding invitations. Who will keep your wedding invitations? Ninety-nine percent of your guests throw them in the garbage, some even before your wedding.
E-vites are the best. It’s economical and environmentally friendly. Plus you can create fancy graphics in your e-card. You can also announce it on Facebook and let friends RSVP that way.
We did send out some leftover Chinese invitations from our newspaper’s stock room to traditional Chinese immigrants and International District community members.
Thank God my son and daughter-in-law are okay about using existing resources instead of buying brand new invitation cards.
6. Wedding guest books
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember where my wedding guest book is after moving many times in our lives. So don’t waste money on fancy guest books unless you can use it for another purpose.
My son and his wife received an interesting idea for their wedding guest book.
Guests signed their names on tiny colorful papers, then inserted them into a heart-shaped plastic frame. It’s now a piece of art in their living room, showing all their guests’ signatures.
7. Bride and Groom outfits
Wedding gowns are expensive, even though some look rather plain. What to do?
My daughter-in-law Tracy had a smart solution. She bought an inexpensive gown online and then sewed sequins and beads on the dress herself. Women like to wear things that are different from the rest of the crowd. Many guests complimented her on the dress.
It’s reasonable to invest a bit more on your wedding gown and suits. After all, weddings celebrate a couple journeying together into a new chapter in their life. It’s worth it if you can afford it.
Changing different outfits enhance the wedding. Even for me, being the mother of the groom, I had fun not only putting on different dresses that day, I also loved shopping for those outfits. For the in-laws, I suggest you stay away from white and red (favorite color in Chinese weddings), so you don’t act like the character in the movie Monster-in-Law, competing with the bride. I chose purple, green, and navy blue dresses.
Most grooms wear just one tuxedo the whole day. That’s unfair for the guys. Grooms should wear nice clothes, too — my son got a white and black tux, plus the Chinese traditional groom costumes. Remember, weddings are a fashion show for guests. It’s part of the program.
8. Fun program
What makes a wedding memorable are the details and surprises in the program. That would include the vows, speeches, slideshows, decor, dances, and the guests.
I was impressed at my nephew’s wedding. He surprised us all with his Broadway-style vows. His words, singing, and act was a hit. We didn’t know he was so talented. His performance moved me and his mom to tears and laughter. The point is, what can you do to present an unconventional wedding. This takes brain work, not money.
My son’s wedding ceremony was short and sweet. His wife’s vows were personal and moving. The audience also enjoyed watching Washington State Supreme Justice Mary Yu officiate the wedding.
Remember, any part of the program that runs too long can ruin the whole event. My friends liked the part where my son and his bride danced all the way down the aisle after the ceremony. Both Chinese and non-Chinese guests enjoyed the traditional Chinese tea ceremony during the day, with the bride and groom serving tea to their parents and elderly relatives. Those who received tea would give jewelry and red envelopes (lucky money) to the couple. It was quite a show when the bride wore all the jewelry on her neck, hands, and fingers.
What was the surprise at my son’s wedding dinner? China Harbor Restaurant showcased a royal court serving the wedding table with gongs and festive Chinese music. Many guests enjoyed the presentation so much, they videotaped the whole fanfare on their phones.
One wedding that got a lot of laughs was, inviting a group of males on stage and asking the blindfolded bride to identify the groom’s hand. A bad example at another wedding was, a groomsman dangling a piece of grape on the bride’s chest, and the groom was supposed to eat the grape without using his hands. That was in poor taste and awful.
10. Let your guests be part of the program
During my son’s wedding, the DJ invited all the ladies to dance to the song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and the guys had their own turn with “We Will Rock You.”
Can you imagine multi-generations dancing together in their gorgeous sparkling attire? Some people who are normally reserved emerged as someone else on the dance floor with their wild moves. The other guests loved it. It’s quite a scene of energy, bliss, and free spirits celebrating a union!
11. A printed program
None of the weddings I have attended have displayed a copy of the program on the table. We did. Perhaps I have organized too many events. I like to inform our guests of what they can expect and what’s going to happen. It shows that we as hosts are organized, considerate, and respectful of our guests’ time. If someone wants to leave early, they know when to exit or go to the restroom.
To accommodate my friends, my son’s friends, and his wife’s family and friends, we picked two venues — Ballard Bay Club for the buffet lunch, and China Harbor for the dinner reception. Each venue has its own merits. Knowing some Chinese immigrants prefer Chinese food, we knew that we had to pick a Chinese restaurant. It was also exhausting to have two big events in one day. If I had to do it over again, I would not change a thing. Our out-of-town relatives and guests enjoyed attending the two different events.
Most people assume that weddings held at Chinese restaurants would be cheaper. Wrong. Chinese restaurants also have different rates. If your event is community-oriented, yes, you get a discount. But for weddings, the rate is much, much higher. Sometimes, it is even higher than Western venues.
There are way too many details and work when planning a wedding. But you are the boss. You decide if the wedding should be big or small, and where it will be held. You have many choices. Your challenge is to narrow it down to what you desire for your dream wedding.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.