What I Did Last Weekend: Part II
There’s a whole cultural aspect of the event that I had started recounting previously that I did not mention. The bride and her family are Chinese/Vietnamese with the parents’ generation being first generation immigrants. The groom and his family are white, fairly established Americans. Normally, I wouldn’t think twice about interracial couples, but then again, I’ve never before actually observed the interesting phenomena that result when the two cultures mix (or not) at a wedding.
At breakfast on the day of the wedding, my immediate family and I met up with numerous other aunts, uncles, and cousins staying at the hotel. In a way, the wedding doubled up as a family reunion–it was the first time I’ve seen all my relatives in one place at one time since we’re such a far-flung family. One aunt was trying to figure out who all was present by going through every family relationship in specific Cantonese terms. After trying to count on her fingers for a while, she exclaimed, “In English, it’s just uncle, auntie, and cousin. Very easy, but confusing.” (Later, the groom would remark that he was having a hard time keeping track of all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, but his new wife would reply indicating my sister and me, “But they are my true first cousins!” If it helps, we were her only first cousins there.) And, of course, there was the batty cheek-pinching aunt. Batty cheek-pinching aunts probably transcend all cultures. However, it’s really weird when they inflict their unique brand of torture on you, especially when you’re almost thirty. But I suppose it’s inevitable when everyone says that you still look the same as you did when you were a little girl.
The wedding itself was in a very typical traditional western-style. The entire setting was unremarkable except for the fact that the church had been built on top of a prison. This more literal (and on my part, smirk-inducing) meaning to the marriage saying “ball and chain” probably went unnoticed by most of the guests as the pastor rambled on about forks and chopsticks.
At the reception, my sister found a pair of purple pliers at our table which (with an evil cackle) she promptly confiscated. The pliers were probably forgotten by the people who had put up purple orchids as the centerpiece. It was with a bit of irony that the orchids were often shoved aside as an annoyance when pictures were taken–as I had heard through the grapevine that a Certain Someone had gone all bridezilla at the last minute in an effort to obtain them. And then there were the toasts by the best man and maid of honor–both examples of what not to do in public speaking. The brother of the groom made a very slick speech, so slick that it sounded like something cribbed from an internet site on wedding reception speeches. He also mangled a Chinese saying on “one hundred years of harmony” in such a way that I couldn’t tell whether he was trying to say it in Mandarin or Cantonese. The sister of the bride was extremely nervous while giving her speech. I understand that my cousin was trying to be heartfelt about it all, but some of the metaphors she used were unfortunate. I mean, the bride and groom “fitting together like puzzle pieces”? The groom’s side of the family immediately guffawed while the older generation on our side were clueless. My sister had to spell it out for my Mom while I mentally slapped my forehead and groaned.
My grandmother complained that there was too much cheese at the reception. My Mom tried to explain to her that this was all catered towards American taste. Another example–the dance floor. Practically everyone on the groom’s side was hitting the tiles to groove with the band while only the very adventurous of my relatives did any sort of dancing. The whole thing (which was organized and paid for by my aunt and uncle) was quintessential assimilation–I’d argue that the only ones comfortable at this whole affair was the groom’s side. My relatives, on the other hand, were probably doing the ol’ grin and bear it routine because, heck, apparently this is the sort of thing you do in America if you get married. There was a tea ceremony–which I missed due to an early flight back–but from what I’ve heard, it was more of a show piece for them rather than anything really meaningful. And finally, another instance: the father of the bride dance. Others would go all weepy and sentimental. But the Asian relatives and friends were muttering as my uncle headed off towards the dance floor–Oh my God, does he even know how to dance? I hope he doesn’t embarrass us all.
In my mind, whether or not the whole event was a successful fusion of east and west remains debatable. But in some ways, my opinion doesn’t really count. If the bride and groom are happy with it, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?