You don’t wedding knot Stress
You’ve read how writer Jo Upcraft organised her day. Two different cultures, one overseas location, attendees spanning 13 nationalities, a volcanic eruption and one missing photographer…
Married… phew! Jo Upcraft with husband Josh at their wedding
FIRST, SOME FACTS. I’M JO, A BRITISH EXPAT LIVING IN SINGAPORE
Where I met my Singaporean-Chinese husband, Josh. His family is huge and lives in Singapore and Malaysia, while my family is small and from Northamptonshire. And let me tell you (as you may well have already guessed), the way each culture celebrates marriage is very different.
Neither of us wanted the ‘traditional’ Chinese ceremony, which is often complicated and varies to marry in Lombok, Indonesia, at a hotel I’d visited before for work.
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Relaxation… the honeymoon!
Wildly (though regularly involves the groom spending the day trying to ‘reach’ the bride through ‘booby traps’ set by family friends, a Chinese tea ceremony where the couple is handed red packets of cash, a hotel banquet hall, a vicar, loads of food and – crucially – zero dancing). Alternatively, in Singapore, you book a ‘slot’ with the Registry of Marriages, join a queue (like the cheese counter at Tesco) and tie the knot in two minutes in.
A good choice, we thought, given it’s just a two-hour flight for Josh’s Singaporean family, it’s beautiful, and I had already seen and fallen in love with it. November 2016 allowed 10 months’ planning. All I needed was a frock, food, flowers and ‘In the run-up to the day, we weren’t even sure Josh’s dad realised I was marrying his son’ I’d be good to go, right?
In Chinese culture, it is traditionally the mother-of- the-groom who helps out, arranges the invites, showers me in gold and officiates the tea ceremony. But, sadly, Josh’s mother passed away 10 years ago. And while Josh’s father is a wonderful man, he can’t speak English and I can’t speak Mandarin. We nod and smile a lot, and mostly communicate through mime. In fact, in the run-up to the big day, we weren’t even sure Josh’s dad realised I was marrying his son… ş My friends were super supportive, but it was my mum and sister, Zoe, with whom I most wanted to share the special moments. Like trying on my dress. An eight-hour time difference made this tricky. When my gown arrived, I set up a three-way Skype session with Mum in the Midlands and Zoe in . Newcastle. It was midnight, so I barricaded Josh out of our bedroom and tried fitting my whole body into : an 11in laptop screen.
However, instead of tearful scenes of bosom-swelling emotion, I found myself grappling with more than a foot of excess lace and was -—
(Flower-filled coconut details and, |right, the Chinese tea ceremonyUj^H
We made it!’Planning may have been super-stressful I lbut the pair s guests loved the day’s relaxed told, ‘You’ve frozen… oh no, wait, you haven’t!’ Not ideal.
Overall, it was a struggle for my family to help out and, because we didn’t want to hassle Josh’s family on everything, making one-off, momentous choices alone felt pretty sad. Mum excitedly mocked up some
‘A volcano erupted. “Is there a Plan B?” I was asked. Plan B?! Plan A tough enough’ fake flower arrangements with pieces she’d picked up from a pound shop, but watching her waggle them over FaceTime didn’t (unsurprisingly) fill me with bridal joy. In the end, decor-wise, we went with rustic birdcages, fairylights and a giant inflatable unicorn, as I could think of
Hands up if you’re glad the planning’s over… Nothing better to soothe a hangover on (don’t judge!)
Turns out, because of religion and red tape, you can’t get married in Lombok easily. We’d have to fly to Jakarta (two hours away), visit several consulates and put in an official request with the local paper – erm, no thank you! Instead, we’d do our vows at the Singaporean cheese counter and save the reception and blessing for Lombok.
Next we discovered that slots at the cheese counter only happen during the week and finish at 5pm, which Josh’s family would have struggled to attend. We ended up booking a restaurant to marry in, planning a solemniser to officiate over an evening meal for just 17. Arranging the menu was tricky, what with my father being a meat’n’two-veg man, and Josh’s dad preferring boiled rice. And soon we heard that Josh’s extended family were miffed that they weren’t joining us. The meal now escalated to 30 attendees (half of whom I’d never heard of!), before we got wind of the fact that some of his family wanted us to perform a Chinese tea ceremony. In short, both families join together over the serving of a specific sweet tea, usually made of lotus seeds and red dates to represent ‘the sweetness of union’, along with purity, stability and fertility. You should bow or kneel down before your relatives, use a particular tea set (Gaiwan) and pour the tea in order to say thanks to your elders and as a show of respect. We were advised to hold it in Lombok on the day of our reception – but no one wanted to officiate it in place of Josh’s mum. Cue some frantic YouTube searches on protocol, researching traditional Chinese tea sets and shopping for an outfit that looked vaguely oriental (high-five, Warehouse!).
It got better. Three months before our nuptials, a volcano erupted in Lombok, causing certain guests to panic over whether it would happen again (possibly, but I had favours to worry about). ‘Is there a Plan B?’ I was asked. Plan B?!
Plan A was proving tough enough. Through gritted teeth I signed up to daily ‘World Eruption Reports’, and my many questions regarding rumblings caused the staff at the venue in.
Indonesia to conclude that I was losing it. (I could also mention the frenzy that accompanied me arranging 55 pebbles with guests’ names on, the fact that our photographer managed to miss his flight, meaning we had to find another on our actual wedding day – plus a groomsman begging his partner not to leave him.)
The laidback attitude of the hotel staff had freaked me out at first (‘You can rig up a sound system right, Jo?!’), but I should not have worried. It was their way of being respectful and patient, and they pulled off touches I wouldn’t have thought of (like cream fairylights instead of white, cute signs, balloons and the best limbo pole ever).
In the end, 50 wonderful friends and family came to our reception and tea ceremony, and, you know what? Every minute of stress was worth it. So, no matter how panic-inducing and
PHOTOGRAPHS: BUDI, TEL: +62817-5782-304. LOCATION: PURI MAS BOUTIQUE RESORT & SPA, PURIMAS-LOMBOK.COM
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