Sunday, November 21, 2004

Goin' to the chapel 

My day today was essentially taken up by a wedding. A couple from church, Wai and Kai, had looked at the calendar, decided the time had come to start having kids, so they decided to tie the knot and begin that process. Anyway, my role in this started about 10:40 this morning as my breakfast is cooking. The phone rings and Noodles, who is supposed to be teaching her ESL class at church, is on the line. She says that the couple needs some candle holders for the unity candle part of the cermony. Since there's none at church, could I grab ours from the keepsake shelf and bring it at 11:00? I had a brief, silent protest over interrupting my breakfast, but then said I'd be there. A rushed breakfast won't kill me. So in the five minutes before the food's ready I throw on some clothes, put the candle holders in the car and then throw a dust rag in the car because the things are covered in dust. A bit before 11:00, I buzz over to the church and Noodles sets them up. Then we head back home, I bathe and break out the wedding/funeral three-piece suit. (Actually, it's my only suit. But the only times I seem to wear it anymore is at weddings and funerals.)

We get to church plenty early, seeing how the only responsibility my family holds is that Poodlepums is lighting the candles. Noodles, however, decided to worry about things and was running around to try and take care of them. She also took time to talk to a few old friends who, like me, had decided to plant themselves. (Weddings are great for catching up with people.) Anyway, while she was doing this, the church filled up. One of those old friends showed up and started to sit in the pew with Bunnah and I. There was plenty of room, so I let her do so. Then the rest of her family shows up and fills up the rest of the pew. Noodles finally returns to the pew and with a shrug, sits in the pew behind us. Poodles joins her after completing her appointed task. So the ceremony starts and the bridal party is looking absolutely bridal. Kai and Wai were having a sort of bi-cultural wedding, mixing traditional Chinese and American customs. They were wearing the traditional western bridal outfits, but the bulk of the service is in Chinese, with only a few things translated into English. It was interesting to be on the other side of the things, because our bilingual services tend to skimp on the Chinese translations. Anyway, the important event needed no translation. One of those traditions unique to the American side of things is the kissing of the bride. Apparently in the Chinese ceremony, such a kiss would be a wee too informal. Such shenanigans are reserved for the banquet, later on. Anyway, the kiss was one of those details that hadn't yet been addressed at the time of the rehearsal. At the appropriate moment in the ceremony, Wai had tried to plant a practice kiss on Kai, and she forcefully shoved him away before he could get away with it, to the amusement of everyone there. So we didn't know if the actual ceremony was going to go Chinese or American in that detail. Me, I was kind of hoping I'd get to see the shove. But alas, the couple had worked out that little detail and Chinese sensibilities held the day.

After the ceremony, we went back home and I frittered away the hours with sundry tasks. The invitation announced that the banquet started at six, so at the appropriate time, we headed to the restaurant. We arrived and stood around, waiting to be seated. Everyone had an assigned place, but nobody had yet fetched the list and took on the responsibility of seating the guests. Noodles' feelings of ownership had passed, so she didn't charge in and set things aright. Instead we milled about the doorway. Some of our churchmates had alredady entered and were seated at a far table. I suggested we just go and stand by them until the seating commenced, but nobody took my advice. Soon the list arrived and we were seated.... at the same table where the churchmates were sitting. The twist is that they were assigned to a different table, so they then got up and moved. Oh, well. We later discovered that the list had been messed up and we were actually sitting at the table assigned to the couples' friends from WWU. (We sort of qualified, since Noodles had actually lived on campus back when she was a year old.)

Somewhere in my readings of Chinese culture, I probably had read that Chinese banquets do not start at the scheduled time, but I had forgotten that. We sat and chatted, chatted and sat. After about an hour, the discussion turned to the topic of food and the fact that there was none at our table. After another half hour, the bridal couple made their formal entrance. There was much applause as they were seated and the crowd was formally introduced to the various family members in attendance. There would have been greater applause had they introduced the first course, but I digress. Eventually the food did come. There was a platter of cold duck and spiced jellyfish for the first course, followed by all sorts of goodies--shark fin soup, crab, quail, lobster, veggies, chicken, prawns, rice, fish and some sweet bean curd for dessert. I repented of my whining about the food at about the fourth course. I might have lasted longer, but the vest of my three-piece is way too small. Or maybe my appetite was put off by the little quail heads on the platter. I don't know. Suffice it to say that my tummy was content and I skipped about a third of the courses.

As for the rest of the festivities, a great time was had by all. Kai was only slightly more open to osculation at the reception. When folks started tinking their glasses, Wai would jump up and pucker, while Kai would demurely turn a cheek to him. As the evening progressed, especially after all the toasting (it's customary for the bridal party to walk to each table and offer up a toast), Wai's performance grew more flamboyant while Kai retained her reserve. I figure that when they finally get alone together, she'll either scold him for all his foolishness or start making up for laost time. We'll have to see how tired he looks in the morning. Anyway, folks seemed content as they departed, though Noddles was slightly disappointed that there was no dancing. (We ended up having a quick dance at home.) Kai and Wai greeted us as we left, thanking us for attending. I think everyone there had been thanked about twelve times for attending. But that's a good thing, since that gave me twelve times to return the thanks for the pleasure and honor of attending.