My mom was surprisingly pretty excited when I told her that Chris and I had chosen our date and location for the wedding. Of course, she also had to ask how much this was going to cost even though she’s offered zero times to pay for anything (I didn’t give her a straight answer, but she responded, “well, you don’t need to have a fancy wedding — just something simple!” Yes, because she knows how much weddings cost). She always used to tell me when I was in college that when I got married, she and my dad would chip in “because parents should do that.” However, since I’ve gotten engaged, she’s made sure to repeat a number of times, “Well, you and Chris make a lot of money (note: my mother thinks everyone makes a lot of money except for her and my dad, which clearly is not true), so you will have no problem paying for the wedding. And I’m sure Chris’s parents will offer to pay.”
I never thought I’d ever have a wedding where my parents paid for everything, or my future husband’s paid for everything, or that there would even be a 50/50 split between the bride and the groom’s side. I’ve always just assumed that the groom and I would pay, and of course it would be great if both sides’ parents contributed because they wanted to and were excited for our marriage. I feel like I am at an age where I can’t really just “expect” parents to shell out money for me for whatever I want. It may have been more acceptable to me if I had chosen to marry straight out of college, but I’ve already been working for quite some time now.
Either way, she also surprisingly said that she and my dad would pay for the “welcome dinner” for guests since people would be traveling a long way, and that “it’s the tradition” for the bride’s side to pay for the rehearsal dinner. Actually, it’s the bride’s side to pay for the wedding…. but no need to tell my mother that since she has her fixed way of looking at things… which is usually wrong and only in her favor.
As the wedding planning continues, it seems like Ed feels left out that he doesn’t get to be here to experience it, or at least listen to me talk about it. I had another dream that I saw him, this time dressed up in a light grey suit, wearing a very unattractive bright blue tie. Then, out of nowhere, all three of the cousins I grew up with are also wearing an identical suit with the exact same tie. Ed heads down the stairs out our family’s house, and all three of my cousins begin walking down, too. When I ask Ed where they are going, he says that they are all headed to a funeral. A mutual friend had passed away. When I asked who, he ignores me, and so do all of my cousins. I feel frustrated and start yelling, which slightly echoes on our block.
It’s been a strange period in my life, researching wedding venues, catering menus, and everything related, knowing that Ed won’t be there during this process or on the day we get married. I always anticipated that he’d ask really annoying questions about things like the menu, if our celebrant was going to be Christian, if I’d ever considered having a church wedding to be in the presence of God. The strangest thing was that the other night, I woke up in the middle of the night, and for a split second I thought I was at our parents’ house, in the room we shared, and I looked to my right expecting to see him sleeping there, but instead, Chris was sleeping beside me, and we weren’t in San Francisco; we were in our hotel room in Torrance for our LA weekend trip. I still have small moments where for a second, I forget he’s really gone, and then when it hits me, I not only feel stupid, but I get that same pain in my eyes that I felt when I knew for certain he was gone. It doesn’t last very long, but just long enough so that I know I’ll never get over losing him.
So we’ve finally decided on the city for our wedding, and it certainly wasn’t an easy one to make. I’ve spent the last five weeks researching venues across Melbourne and Southern California, thinking most of that time that we’d be having our wedding in Melbourne since that’s where most of Chris’s family is, and where it would be easiest for both of his grandmothers to get to given their elderly ages. I also thought it would make the most sense since things are just generally cheaper there with weddings, and the exchange rate has only made the U.S. dollar even stronger there.
Then this past weekend’s trip to Los Angeles kind of destroyed the idea of our Melbourne wedding. And two venues in Southern California topped the list. I’m sure one venue in particular in Melbourne, who I’ve probably exchanged at least 50 e-mails with and have called at least four times, is completely exasperated and pissed that they don’t get my business and money after the time they’ve invested in me. I’ll be honest; I felt really frustrated after spending all that time researching everything from venues to external caterers to rental companies in Melbourne. I feel like it’s a sunk cost. I devoted so much time into that city, and now our wedding is no longer going to be there. I spent a lot of time on Southern California, too, but nowhere as much time was devoted to that.
I actually really wanted us to get married in Melbourne, not just because of Chris’s family and his two grandmas, but also because I know that this would be the one opportunity to force my parents to travel to Australia. I think it would be nice if they could come see what Chris’s family’s country is like, how he grew up, and what the culture is like there versus here. I guess now that we’ve made our decision, they will never come. And both of Chris’s grandmothers won’t be able to come to California. But it will always be impossible to please everyone.
Tonight, despite being a snow day at work, which resulted in the office being closed, I went to a macaron making class that Chris got me for Christmas. The snow storm wasn’t as bad as everyone anticipated (because New Yorkers are neurotic and over hype everything weather related), but despite that, only five out of eight participants who signed up for this class showed up. That was fine by me because that just meant we had more personalized attention, more space, and most importantly, more macarons to take home.
Before the class began, the students and I made some small talk with the pastry chef, who is from a small town in Brittany, France. I knew he was French, which was clear from his very thick accent, so I asked him where he was from in France. As soon as he said Brittany, I said, “That’s the place where kouign amann originates!” He laughs and says, “Wow, you know that!” He then proceeds to tell us how annoyed he is when he meets a lot of Americans, who just assume that because he is French, he must be from Paris. “That’s like when Americans travel and they tell people they are from the U.S., and people were to respond, ‘oh, you’re from New York City!'”
People say the dumbest things in this country.
The funniest thing about big snow storms in New York is how much people panic. Snow is a normal part of winter life here on the east coast, yet it seems that even locals tend to freak out about this. Chris and I went to Fairway to get some routine groceries (fruit, vegetables, dairy), and as soon as we got in, we realized how mobbed the place was because there were no shopping carts or baskets in sight. The “No Carts” line wrapped around the produce area, and I overheard one of the workers tell a customer that unfortunately, they had run out of cauliflower. When a supermarket has run out of cauliflower, which is hardly the vegetable of choice, you know for sure that people are in panic mode and just grabbing everything they possibly can in sight that will keep them fed while they are hiding out from the world.
As my friend so succinctly said on Facebook today, “Most of the country rushes to grocery stores before a blizzard because it can take a week for streets to get plowed. New Yorkers can get around fine, but they shop before a snowstorm because they keep no food and would go hungry in a day.”
After making all these wedding venue viewing appointments, we learned that a couple at places that would normally charge an entry fee (because they are cultural centers/museums/historical sites) waive the charge when you tell them that you are there for a site viewing for a potential private event. One of the places we visited today, though there was no charge, was so stunning just to see, as it was atop a mountain in Malibu with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The place could easily charge to be a tourist viewing point for those who want another spectacular glimpse of Malibu, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. It was also great to see because this site is actually a current living quarters for the family that built it. They just happen to rent out their space and land for weddings, as they love working on wedding planning and with engaged couples. How often do you get invited into some stranger’s gorgeous private home with views like this?
I remembered that a number of very famous places, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters and the Hearst Castle, do allow the rental of their property for private functions. And then I thought, wow, if we were really dishonest, we could just call or e-mail these sites and let them know we were considering them as a potential wedding venue. That way, we wouldn’t have to pay the usual admission fee and could get a free personalized tour quite easily. It sounds quite evil, especially considering a lot of these sites are non-profit, but I’m sure it’s something that others have thought about before.
When people say that wedding planning and research can be all consuming, they aren’t joking. I never thought I’d be that obsessed about it (though my friends would say otherwise given my anal, attention-to-detail tendencies), but this has become something that I’ve either had to work on or think about at all times of the day. I’ve thought about the pressure I’ve gotten from both my side and Chris’s side of the family regarding setting a date and a location, I’ve been insulted by ignorant colleagues regarding having a “cheap” wedding in Australia (due to the exchange rate) and “forcing” people to travel so far “just” to see me get married, and I’ve also encountered people who have just said, “well, you could always just go to City Hall and get married, then have a small dinner after if all this becomes too stressful. That’s what I did!” I’ve gotten a lot of productive and non-productive feedback regarding wedding planning. And of course, I’ve also gotten many pro-Melbourne and pro-Southern California comments. The pro-Melbourne comments tend to come from friends who want an excuse to visit Australia, or from those who are in Melbourne who probably don’t want to go anywhere else. The pro-Southern California comments tend to come from my lazy family who doesn’t want to travel anywhere, or my broke friends who can’t imagine paying for a plane ticket halfway across the world. It’s all understandable.
Then there’s the aspect of the “wedding” I haven’t put that much thought into, and that’s the bridal shower/bachelorette party, really the part that my bridal party is supposed to be in charge of. The pressure came for that out of a dream I had last night. Apparently, I told my friend that I wanted an “exercise retreat” for my bachelorette party. As a result of this, she and I went to scout out dance and workout studios to rent out for a full day. To “test” the floors to see how sturdy they were, we jumped up and down all over every floor and practiced air kicks to see if the floors would fall apart.
The dream seems pretty ludicrous, but I guess it adds some humor into what tends to be a somewhat stressful planning experience. I want all of this to be fun and enjoyable, even when it is stressful.
I had a dream last night that I was in my parents’ house sitting in the living room with my mom, discussing the invitation list for the wedding and who would be likely to come and who would not. I knew this was a dream immediately because I would never be sitting down to have any formal conversation about wedding planning with my parents. My mom just wants to know the date and location and little else, and the one time I’ve mentioned wedding venue research planning to my dad, he said, “Oh,” and then immediately changed the subject. The two of them never had a real wedding; they had the equivalent of a city hall wedding in Quy Nhon, and then my dad sent my mom on a plane to San Francisco while my dad finished his service in Vietnam. These were all practical decisions — no fuss, no flowers, nothing exciting or even remotely elaborate out of practical reasons (being in war-torn Vietnam) and financial reasons (both my parents were obviously broke and had no money, and neither did either set of their parents). So from their perspective, weddings aren’t really a necessity. If we had to be cynical about it, weddings are just an ostentatious way of showing off to the world how much you have to potentially spend, as well as a way to be materialistic and get more gifts and money from family and friends.
So in the dream, we’re sitting and discussing, and we’re going over family lists, friend lists, and Chris’s side. My mom suddenly breaks down and starts crying, and when I ask her what’s wrong, she says that Ed isn’t on this list, and that Ed won’t be coming to the wedding no matter what, but he should be on the list and he should be coming. I immediately feel awful and get a sick feeling in my throat, and then I start crying, too.
Then I wake up, and I am moaning and crying without realizing I have woken up.
I knew this was going to be difficult for me — going through this big process and stage in my life without my brother’s presence. In reality, Ed probably would not have been involved much at all in the wedding planning. He might have given his two cents here and there on things like location, venue, or even wedding favors, but the most exciting thing for him would have been the wedding day. But this is my reality now — an earthly world without him. Every small and big step I take in my life from the point of his death onward will be without him, his annoying comments, his little smiles and pats of affection. This is my reality now.
As a birthday gift, my friend got me a Valentine’s day card making workshop at the Paper Source on the Upper West Side. It’s probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve been given since I love arts and crafts, particularly card making, and I’ve always wanted to try heat embossing but have been scared to do it by myself.
During the workshop, I was chatting with the woman sitting across from me and the class instructor, who is actually a volunteer at Paper Source who teaches classes for fun. She has a day job that she finds un-stimulating, so she does these classes and crafts in her free time as her source of creativity. We were all talking about how much we loved handmade things and homemade cards, but we knew few other people who are as obsessed or passionate.
The sad thing about that is that it’s the most exciting thing not just to give a card you spent so much time on, but to know that the person who received it knows how much effort you put into it and loves it just as much, if not more. But how often do we meet people like this in the busy times that we live now? If I add a heat embossed stamp image to each envelope of my wedding invitations, which of my guests is actually going to notice the raised design on the outside and even call it out?
After three years of having first level status on two different airlines, I was tired of just having the equivalent of “silver” or “gold” status. I wanted platinum status on airlines. I was sick of always going to the airport and knowing I’d only get lounge access because of Chris’s Qantas club membership or because of his oneworld sapphire status. And then this past year, from both work and fun travel, I gained my own platinum status. And my platinum status card arrived in the mail today! I’d finally get into lounges in my own right!
Wrong. The pamphlet that accompanied my platinum card said I would get oneworld partner airline access — only if flying abroad on either American Airlines or partner airlines. And unfortunately, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and anywhere in the Caribbean do not count as “international” destinations. When I am flying my cross country flights from New York City to San Francisco, I will get no lounge access. When I take flights for work to Atlanta or Fort Lauderdale, no lounge access for me.
I called an AA Platinum representative and lectured her about how little logic there was in granting American Airlines platinum members access to partner lounges on international flights but no lounge access too American Airline platinum members on domestic flights. The domestic flights will be the majority of the flights I will be taking — I live in this country, and that’s why I’m loyal to this domestic airline! Why can’t you people understand this? She gave a sympathetic sigh and said there was nothing she could do since it also didn’t make much sense to her, but she couldn’t change or make the rules. And then she asked if I wanted to purchase lounge access for $450 this year (discounted from $500 for non-status members) or pay 65,000 miles.
They are getting no more of my money. They get enough as is.