Tag Archives: family

Lady in Red

8 Nov

I think I’ve mentioned before that my fiance, Sweets, is ethnically Chinese – his family emigrated from Taiwan when he was six years old. His parents speak some English, though their community in New York is primarily a Chinese-speaking community. Sweets doesn’t identify very much with the Chinese traditions – he goes by his English name, and that’s what appeared on our wedding invitations. But he said to me once, and I didn’t take it lightly, that he thought I’d be beautiful in a red dress at our wedding.

Well, I’m enough of a traditional girl that I really couldn’t see myself getting married in anything other than a white wedding dress. And there’s no way I could wear the traditional Chinese qipao – I’d be like a sausage stuffed inside the long column silk damask.

chinese wedding dressimage source: http://www.cheongsamwholesale.com/custom-made-short-sleeves-qipao-pc-260.html

The dresses are beautiful, and I admire them, but the tight and shiny are not my friends. They readily admit it, too.

As the wedding approaches (just about 50 days now!) we’re talking more about the ceremony, what music and readings, our vows, etc. And I find that my family traditions are the dominant ones. After all, my father, the minister, is marrying us. Sweets is happy with all of our choices so far, and he hasn’t asked to have more Chinese culture involved, so there’s not a lot about our wedding that is very Chinese, except for about 30% of our guests! I began to think recently about what little ways we could add to the familiarity and tradition for the Sweets’ family and their friends. I don’t want to pander, have anything feel insincere or inauthentic. And I don’t want the Chinese ladies at my wedding clucking and shaking their heads at the silly white girl who’s trying too hard.

Some things we’re doing that are “Chinese”:

  • Our rehearsal dinner will be like a traditional Chinese wedding banquet. Sweets’ parents are picking a favorite restaurant in Flushing, where we’ll gather our families (and some extended Sweets family members) for a family style dinner of traditional Chinese dishes.
  • We had a special piece of art made in the style of traditional Chinese paper cut art. It’s top-secret under wraps at the moment, because we want to surprise our families with it. We’ll incorporate that art into our paper goods, favors, and have it on display at the wedding.

I’m still hoping we’ll find more ways to celebrate his family’s culture.

The other thought I had recently was a not an entirely selfless one. I’m worried about spending eight hours in my voluminous, strapless, white wedding gown. I can’t see how I’ll be comfortable, and I’m worried about how I’ll maneuver in tight spaces. And what about when I have to pee? I really don’t want to have to ask anyone to help me in the bathroom. (Do all brides worry about this?) And then I remembered Sweets’ comment about the red dress…  I did a little more research and found that modern Chinese brides often get married in the western style – in white wedding gowns like mine. Sweets’ mother wore white, too! And then change at the banquet into the traditional red dress. As I said before, the qipao is out (I’m sure the Chinese ladies would cluck over that), but maybe I can do it in my own way. So I talked to Sweets about it again this weekend, and he seemed genuinely pleased at the idea: I’m currently on the hunt for a beautiful red party dress to change into after the ceremony. Something fun to dance in, something easy to move in. Something I can handle myself in the bathroom!

I’ll keep you posted on my red party dress search. Let me know if you know any great places to look!


The Reverend

15 Aug

See that smiling man waiting at the end of the aisle?

Dad at the end of the aisle

That’s the man who will officiate my wedding ceremony — though officiate seems like an inadequate word. Not “marry us,” either, since Sweets and I will be marrying each other. That smiling man, though, will be smiling at me and Sweets when we stand in front of our family and friends and join our lives. He will lead us as we make our vows, and he is someone who has led me through all of my life — he’s my Dad.

That’s right, Sweets and I have asked Reverend Dad to marry us (for lack of a better word)!

I freely admit that I struggled for a long time with this decision. All of my life my father has been marrying people — he’s a minister, after all, and he’s presided over many family weddings, and family friends and church members, friends of my siblings, and countless other couples beginning their married lives. But somehow I never got around to thinking about what my wedding would be — what it would be like if my father were to be the minister at my wedding. I always imagined he’d be my “Dad” at my wedding, and I didn’t get any further.

And so when Sweets and I decided to get married, I realized suddenly that someone would need to marry us, but I didn’t know if it would be Dad. I asked around the family, wondering what my sister and my brother thought — if they’d ever imagined Dad would do their weddings one day, or if they thought he really wanted to marry us.  I asked Sweets if he had feelings about who should marry us. He said he knew it meant more to me than him, and he’d be fine with whatever choice I made. And eventually, Dad said to me that he’d be fine with whatever I wanted — that it was my wedding and he’d be there for me in whatever way I wanted.

And then when Sweets and I decided on a venue (more on that when we’ve signed a contract!), I really started to imagine what my wedding ceremony would be like. And I realized that I couldn’t imagine anyone but Dad standing in front of Sweets and me, leading us in making our vows.

When I finally asked him earlier this week, he pounced in with a “YES! I would love to!” before I could even finish the request. And I think he understood what had kept me from asking him sooner. “Sarah,” he said, “I don’t think we’ll be missing out on the Father-Daughter thing in any way on your wedding day. You don’t need me to walk you down the aisle.  And I don’t believe in all that ‘the father giving the daughter away’ stuff — you and George are giving yourselves to each other.”

So, I’ll walk toward Sweets and my Dad, maybe with my strong and beautiful mother walking at my side. I know it will be very special and emotional and meaningful for all of us.

Ali and Mitch and Reverend Dad, July 23, 2010

And congrats and happy wishes to Ali and Mitch, the latest couple to marry each other in front of my Dad.

Photos by Stacia Photos

Dress Success!

2 Aug

I bought a dress this weekend! After my disastrous shopping attempt on Friday afternoon (another post for another day), I am still shocked at how simple it ended up being. I brought my sister and two good friends to the second shop with me, and we had a great time. I joked that the posse I had brought had three characters: the Skeptic (little sister, who thinks elopement is the answer), the Cheerleader (Vic, who would tell me what she liked about everything, and what made me look good), and the Opinionated One (Hannah, who doesn’t hesitate to say what she thinks). Add in a big dose of me wanting to feel comfortable and like myself, and I figured I had a formula for success.selecting a wedding dress

I tried on six dresses, the first of which was one I thought I’d like from pictures. It was NOT GOOD. But then the saleswoman took control and put me in a few dresses she thought would be better on. By dress four, I knew I’d seen the one to beat. Little sister took pictures of each dress and emailed to Mom,  then called for her reactions,so it was ALMOST like she was there.  Dress six ALMOST swayed me, but the Opinionated One shook her head and told me why she thought four was better. So I put it back on just to check, and I found she was right. The Cheerleader cheered, and the Skeptic agreed. Success!

I was so happy to be able to call Mom after I’d brought my dress home (YES, HOME! I got a great deal on the sample!) and have her know exactly what the dress was. She’s as excited as I am.

I’m starting to feel like a bride!

Tonight I’m seeing another possible venue for the wedding, and I have my fingers crossed in a BIG WAY. Once this falls into place, I’ll KNOW I’m getting married.

the most beautiful

30 Jul

I recently asked both of my parents (married for nearly thirty-five years!) to gather some memories for me — I wrote to each of them:

“I would really love it if you would write me a letter about your wedding, about all the things you remember loving, the details that meant most to you, and the things that made you crazy about the day. Can you tell me about the ceremony? What were your vows? Whatever you think is memorable to share, I’d love to hear about. I’ve also asked Mom (or Dad) to do the same thing for me, and I’d really love to hear from each of you from your unique perspectives. Will you do this for me? Love, Sarah”

They both are more than happy to write to me about that day in 1976, but they both asked for a few days to reflect. I love that about them — so thoughtful. But what made me cry today was what my Dad said in his first response to the request:

“I need to give some serious thought to your questions regarding the wedding of Carol and Alan. Of course, the first thing I must say is that your mother was the best thing, the most beautiful:  what I loved most about our wedding.”

Already, that tells me exactly what I need to know. That Sweets and I need to be celebrating the beauty of our love, first and foremost. The day means nothing more than our love for each other.

My parents were fresh out of college when they were married, nearly ten years younger than Sweets and I will be when we take our vows, so I have ideas that we are in a different place than they were in many ways, but I’m feeling like I need the perspective that they have today on their wedding celebration in order to even begin to plan mine. They’ve inspired me every day and I need them even more now. Love to them both.

singing little details

17 Jul
red ceramic cardinals

a flock of cardinals by SongandBranch


We’re still working on the big elements of wedding planning — finding the venue, you know — but I’ve started to form thoughts and ideas for the sweet little details that will make our wedding personal and offer sentimental notes to my family and friends. One of those elements involves the cunning little ceramic birds in the picture above. But first, the story:   

My paternal grandmother was the much-loved and treasured center of my father’s family. Among her loves in life was a deep appreciation for nature, and cardinals were a favorite of hers. I remember her home was decorated with them — figurines, towels, dishes. She became ill with Parkinson’s when I was a teenager, and it claimed her life in the fall of 1997. When she passed, my aunts began to tell stories about seeing cardinals and knowing grandma was with them. I laughed at first, but then I started experiencing it myself. For example, a few years after she died, while I was still away at college, my parents called to tell me that my little brother, a serious high school multi-sport athlete, had been badly hurt in a football game. His knee was destroyed, he’d need surgery, he’d likely never play sports again. I was distraught, knowing what kind of pain he was in, and took a walk just off campus to a wooded area. I was crying, trying to pull myself together, when I heard a loud bird call. I looked up to my left and saw a flash of red in the bush near me. I thought of my aunts, of grandma, and was touched and comforted.   

Many times in my life since then, during both joyful and painful moments, I’ve found myself in the company of a cardinal. In fact, on the morning after Sweets proposed, we were sitting together on the couch of our living room, windows open, calling friends and relatives with the happy news. After hanging up the phone at one point, I heard a familiar song outside. “Babe,” I said. “Listen. I think I hear a cardinal.” Sure enough, I looked outside at the tree in our back courtyard, and there he was. A bright red cardinal singing from the branches. I wept. Gosh, I’m even crying as I write this. And I just remembered that yesterday, the day I finalized the deal with SongandBranch, was my grandmother’s birthday. Cardinals did it again!   

So, since my grandmother and other special loved ones (including my paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother) who have passed will not be with us as we celebrate our marriage, these small ceramic birds will be placed throughout the room. I hope that when my family sees them, they’ll know our loved ones are with us and celebrating, too.   

I’m thrilled to have found SongandBranch, an Etsy seller, who is willing to make a dozen of these ceramic cardinals in a not-quite-so-mini size. I will be touched and comforted to see them nestled among flowers and in other places of honor at my wedding.red ceramic cardinals

why I’m not blogging at the moment

7 Jul

because I’m having lots of relaxation at my family home in Maine. Yesterday, the Sweets and I spent a full hour just FLOATING off the end of the dock at Parker Pond. And I didn’t take any pictures, and I couldn’t think of any way it was at all related to wedding planning, except that I’m so glad I’m marrying the lovely man floating next to me.
Hope you’re all finding wonderful ways to beat the heat and relax this summer.