I never thought I would be blogging in a “Wedding Jitters” topic again, but this one I thought I couldn’t let up, so…
… so I was at this wedding dinner tonight hosted by one of my wife’s closer cousins. I shan’t go into specifics about the goings on, but throughout the course of the dinner I had a number of revelations that I thought I’d share, along with a handful of good advice handed down to me by my own groomsmen and maids-of-honour, one of whom was a wedding planner herself at one stage in her very colourful life.
1. This has to be number one: Always choose your groomsmen and maids-of-honour wisely. You need responsible people who are able to do their jobs, are constantly conscious of the people attending the wedding from the moment bride and groom wake up to the moment AFTER the last guest has left the wedding dinner venue, and most importantly, respect you and your partner for who they are. Your parents might know what you are like, and they might know what your friends are like, but your in-laws, extended relatives and other acquaintances you are inviting to celebrate your special day sure as hell don’t. So when your maids-of-honour run through their morning “bargaining” ritual with the groom by picking on his poor English language skills and subsequently embarrass him in front of a whole ballroom with a video clip of him struggling through an English passage, or when your designated Masters of Ceremony conveniently forget to invite the groom’s VIP table up to the stage for the ritual toasting, or when your groomsmen start putting cigarettes in their mouths and light up in the ballroom of your wedding dinner only just after the last course is served, and they’re sitting only 2 tables away from VIP Table No. 1, not to mention the tables surrounding them that have kids ages 5 and below (including my own son), it says a lot about your social circle, and that (unfortunately) reflects really badly on you, however much of a nice person you may be.
2. Wedding affairs may be the most exhausting to plan and execute, but you need to stick it to the very end with your brightest smile and your best manners. Meet your friends and family and greet them with all sincerity (even the ones you don’t particularly like). Never, ever, miss out on anyone. See them all off at the door when they’re done dining – all of them. Show them a level of respect above and beyond any respect you’ve ever given or received. Because as much as this is your day, it’s not. Wedding days are really a big-ass extravagant announcement to the world you live in that you’re getting married, and the people you invite, whether it be for solemnisation, tea ceremony, lunch, dinner, karaoke or mahjong session, are the people you are doing it for, no matter what people tell you. Face it, the bride will always dream of the perfect white wedding, the groom will always dream of the smallest bills, but based on experience, the wedding day done right is the wedding day done with the people in your lives in mind – not you. You want to do something for yourselves, you got the rest of your lives to go sort it out (starting with your honeymoon; now that is where your married life really begins). Your wedding day goes to your guests (who are, by the way, the same people you are trying to get to pay for the whole thing anyway, so do right by your sponsors).
3. Choose your venues carefully. If you’re cost-conscious, going for a cheaper restaurant is all fine and dandy, but you got to at least make sure service standards and venue facilities are up to par with the standard expectations. People can forgive the leaking ceiling in the lift lobby, or the dingy car park with a post-dinner car queue extending 3 basement storeys because there’s only one single-lane exit point. But banquet staff who don’t bring you your drink after 4 consecutive requests, or usurp your personal space to serve food without so much as a glance or an “excuse me”, or try to clear your dish before you even touched the food on it just leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Look at it this way; the two of you are getting married because you’re committing your heart and soul into your relationship for the rest of your lives. Shouldn’t the people you’re engaging to help you on your wedding day at least put in their heart and soul, just for this one day, to making your wedding go right?
4. You have to play politics. As much as you don’t like it, politics plays a big part in this kind of event. I haven’t met a couple whose extended family doesn’t have a grouchy uncle or a troublemaker cousin or a bitchy grandauntie twice removed or any other kind of colourful character that seeks to make life interesting. That being said, you still got to invite them all for the sake of common courtesy and prevention of wagging tongues. I personally found myself receiving RSVPs from my more complicated relations, including people I thought were long estranged from my mother and had problems with my dad, but careful planning of seating arrangements and an unorthodox programme involving a trishaw and 1930’s Shanghai music ensured the enmities were kept to a minimum and the old folk were suitably distracted to forget about family warmongering for just that one night. In fact, it actually got my family closer to my mother’s estranged side, who invited us to another grand dinner event in order to try to patch things up.
5. Think through the red packets you’re giving out carefully. When you involve your friends and family in the groomsmen/maids-of-honour/flower girls/ring-bearers/drivers/door-openers/runners/odd-job labourers, this is the one time you have to communicate their worth in monetary value directly to them, so you can’t afford to be stingy, and you got to give it to anyone and everyone who’s helped you, however small the job; it’s not only customary, it’s expected of you. I made the mistake of asking my mother to help me divvy up the red packets I was to give out, and she ended up giving a paltry amount to my brother-in-law (who was my driver), who subsequently never looked at me the same way again. And let’s not forget the third-party providers that are actually billing you for their services (your matchmaker lady, photographer/videographer, restaurant manager, etc.). Wedding events for them are pretty much the only time they can earn tips in Singapore, so you gotta indulge them too.
Having said this, I am in no way a wedding expert, nor do I claim this to be an exhaustive list (although after writing this over the span of one late night and a morning, it is exhausting), but I have seen and heard enough from people at my own wedding and others to know some of the things where people get things right or where things can go wrong without you knowing. Feel free to add on your experiences in the comments. I will add points in this post when I see good points being made.