23 January 2014

Celebrating Our Wedding and Michael's Parents' Anniversary in Taiwan

Michael's parents hosted a huge event to celebrate their anniversary and our (sort-of recent) wedding. It was great!

Michael and Michelle in Kaohsiung photo DSC01321_zps5a31a125.jpg

First, a warning: this is a ridiculously long post because I want to remember the details and because my mom wants to know them. I think.

Then, the background stories:

In Chinese/Taiwanese culture, you give people red envelopes with money inside during special times (birthdays, new year, etc.). Michael's dad, being a wonderfully social man, has given out hundreds of red envelopes at weddings of his friends' children. Apparently these things are closely monitored and you are supposed to give the same amount that you received. When we got engaged, Michael's dad said that the most important thing to him was that we come to Taiwan to get back all of his red envelopes (which we happily promised to do at some future date).

I definitely liked the idea of celebrating in Taiwan, but it was a huge sticking point with me that I wanted to be able to speak a little Chinese before that happened. I'd seen Germans marry non-Germans, and both the parents and the American bride or groom looked like they felt so awkward, and I think some of the older generation felt disappointed that the latest generation wouldn't be carrying on the same traditions/culture/language. I didn't want to stand there and feel dumb at our celebration, but most of all I wanted to be able to honor Michael's parents, their friends, and the culture. I've taken Chinese classes and done some studying on my own off and on since 2010, but as with learning German, I felt like I needed to actually live in a place where that language is spoken. Thus, Michael started looking for MBA programs in a Chinese-speaking place, and several months later, we moved to Shanghai.

Weddings are supposed to take place on "auspicious dates," or days that are lucky on the Chinese calendar. Thirty-three years ago, Michael's parents' university held a mass wedding on New Year's Day, and it was there that Joseph and Julia tied the knot.

The first day of 2014, their anniversary, was an auspicious date (I checked over the last twenty years, and the pattern seems to show that the first of January is always auspicious), so Michael's mom and dad thought it would be lovely to combine our wedding celebration with their anniversary celebration, and we agreed.

Joseph began the planning. He seemed surprised that I liked the idea of having multiple dresses like Taiwanese brides do (probably because I like to keep a lot of things simple, this blog post not being one of them). He let us know that he was planning on 90 tables of 10 people (whoa) and showed me the invitation he'd come up with.

Back of Our Taiwanese Wedding Invitation photo 20131120-9E976587-852180015E2B559C5E16Outside_zps89273bb1.jpg
This is the outside of the invitation. Can you see how it was cleverly folded to connect the lines between Taiwan and the U.S.? (Don't mind the location of San Francisco/Fremont.)

Front of Our Taiwanese Wedding Invitation photo 20131120-9E976587-852180015E2B559C5E16Inside_zpsbd3a38e7.jpg
This is the inside of the invitation. Joseph was so nice to pick purple as a nod to the colors we used at our wedding. I wouldn't be surprised if Julia was involved in that somehow.

With a bit of a language barrier between Michael's parents and me, I asked Michael a lot of questions about the event planning, including if there would be a photographer, but I didn't get much information. I also asked him to offer my help. In the end, Joseph said he just needed me to take care of my dress(es), and make a slideshow of us, and he even said I could choose the music to be played during the celebration. Getting pictures of Michael was difficult, and it wasn't until we got to Kaohsiung and Claire took pictures of pictures for us that I felt like the slideshow was complete.

When we got our first look at the restaurant Joseph had booked for the celebration, I saw that the chair covers were maroon, but that the flowers and red carpet were a true red. I knew I would be looking at a lot of gold and red with this being a Chinese wedding celebration, but I wasn't expecting the maroon. I've never liked maroon much and I didn't like the clash between the two colors, so I asked if the chair covers could be changed. Nope; they only had the maroon chair covers. Oh well. Then I saw some baby pink balloons and just hoped they were for someone else's wedding, because even worse than the red/maroon clash was the maroon/pink clash. 

It was hard to know when to chime in, especially when things already seemed so planned. On the one hand, I thought being involved in what planning was left would show my appreciation, but even though the things I would change would often simplify matters, on the other hand, there wasn't a lot of time and I didn't like seeming like a horribly picky and ungrateful bride, especially as a person who is clearly not Taiwanese since I didn't want to reflect badly on my own culture. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Michael didn't tell me all the details because he didn't want me to worry and shake things up, but if that's the case, I don't really want to know. :)

The event planning people asked us for some original photos of us to print, and choosing them was quite the task because of their strict formats. The first one was supposed to be an enormous whiteboard-sized photo of us, and it could only be horizontal. We have very few horizontal pictures from our wedding, and they are such close-ups to our faces that I was horrified at the thought of blowing up the photos so every single blemish and the bump on my nose could glare at any viewers. One other photo seemed like it would be great if we cropped it so it was horizontal, but there was one crazy strand of hair in the photo that bugged me. Photoshopping something that was going to be that huge didn't seem like something I should risk.

Then, to make matters worse, I found out that the picture would be printed on vinyl, like a banner at a sale or on the fence at a baseball game. It seemed so kitschy to me, and I not only wanted everything to be really nice at the celebration for Michael's parents, I wanted them to have the photo. I suggested that we just forego the printing and put a picture of us in a nice frame for them. "No time," Michael said (he also said that Taiwan doesn't have frames and mats, but I knew that he just hadn't ever noticed and I pointed one out on the wall). He also didn't seem to understand why I would like to give them a nicely-framed picture of us on our wedding day. It took some discussion for me to finally say, "If that's the format they have, and if that's what your parents want, great, let's go for it. People can take pictures next to the photo versions of us and it will be cute and hilarious." And then, in a sudden dash of inspiration, the photos being considered before were thrown out and we submitted a photo of all five of usJulia, Joseph, Michael, me, and Claire. I loved the idea of sharing that enormous photo with them since it was a co-celebration.

As far as the dresses went, I was planning on my short, cream-colored wedding dress, a dress of red lace, and a purple qipao (cheongsam). Feeling inspired by Olympic spokesperson Sun Jing-Yuan's red lace cheongsam dress, Michelle Williams' Erdem "Margot" dressno I've never heard of either of those people/brands, this Pushing Daisies dress, and finally by this amazing Etsy dress, I went to the fabric market in Shanghai with a Shanghainese friend, where a woman agreed to start making the dress for 600 RMBabout $100. When I went back for a fitting, I didn't like that the sleeve seam was so far out that it looked like I had shoulder pads on. The woman argued with me that I couldn't pull the sleeve seam in closer to my neck and have a full sleeve and still be able to raise my arm for toasts. I knew exactly how it could be doneif only I'd had my own sewing machine, I would have done it myself! She also didn't want to bring in the stomach, which made me look completely curveless with its bagginess.

Once in Taiwan, we visited a tailor with Michael's dad and explained what I wanted. Instead of arguing with me, she calmly asked questions to clarify. Nice. But as she started to cut the lace to show the pattern, I stopped her in horror. She told Michael that no fray-check was needed, so I told her I would just do the cutting myself so as not to lose anymore length. Also, it seemed like the lace was past the point of being able to make it fit nicely to my arm to show off the pattern, so I asked her to just turn the lace under so it wouldn't stick out like angel wings. As for the qipao, I'd tried and tried to choose a fabric in Shanghai, but I couldn't ever decide on one. I finally realized that I liked a super-cheap qipao that I'd seen on Taobao (the Chinese version of Amazon) just fine, so I ordered that. However, the top button fell off before it arrived, and the slits were a little too high for my taste. I tested walking in it with the slits closed, and I couldn't take huge steps, but it was fine. The tailor promised to fix that dress as well, saying that she would replace all of the buttons with nice, non-plastic ones. I was embarrassed to show Michael the qipao and wasn't even sure I'd be wearing it since one lunch didn't seem like enough time to wear three dresses.

Because Julia's side of the family is on the opposite side of Taiwan and thus behind a mountain range, there was a preliminary wedding lunch in Taipei. If I'd known what it was going to be like, I would have brought the slideshow and dressed up a little more. Whoops. Michael and I make the too-casual mistake all the time.

We showed up at the restaurant, Jù fù yuán (聚馥園), and I was immediately greeted with a balloon of a couple about to kiss. The guests seemed so genuine and nice. Some of the younger people seemed a little in awe of me and wanted to get pictures taken with me, and two brothers hesitatingly spoke English with me after some encouragement from their mom. I was glad to finally meet the families of two relatives that Michael and I have met with often in Shanghai.

One thing that really bothered me was how there were always several phones and cameras clicking at once, not only because we'd have little to no control over where those pictures went, but also because in those kinds of pictures, people don't know where to look so you always have at least one person looking the wrong way. Oh well. I connected with as many of them as I could on WeChat and hoped that the photographer at the huge celebration in Kaohsiung would kind of solve the problem.

Taipei Lunch With Family photo 2013-12-28140425_zps43b1af81.jpg

Kissing Balloon photo 2013-12-28143419_zpsedbd8710.jpg

Yong-an's Family photo 2014-01-11170350_zpsdb15d13b.jpg
With Yong-an's family. I really liked them.

To my dismay, it turned out that there wasn't a photographer for the huge wedding celebration! The solution found was to have Claire take pictures. I didn't feel like that wasn't a very good idea, because people would want to talk to Claire after years of not seeing her, but I guess no one had remembered about the photographer and it was too late to arrange for a professional, so there wasn't much I could do.

Back in Kaohsiung, we ran errands like madwe picked up the dress and suit, retrieved our now-clean shoes, bought some makeup, a hair curler, and nail polish, and then had dinner at a cafeteria-style place.

The dress and the qipao (which I didn't end up wearing) turned out wonderfully even though Michael had forgotten to tell her that I wanted the full sleeve to remain intact, and the tailor even made a great suggestion, saying that if I ever decided not to wear the ribbon with the dress, she could imagine it with a long strand of pearls, and I could immediately envision it and knew it was a great idea.

Makeup at Watson's in Kaohsiung
The next day, we went looking for the perfect red lipstick to match my dress. At some point, I had about ten smears of lipstick on my hand. Michael wanted to ask the woman at the makeup counter for her opinion, and she ended up doing my makeup and saying she'd do it the next morning before the celebration if I could just buy somethingI got a four-color palette eye shadow kit. I wasn't sure that the pink she thought would be good for a red dress would be okay, but this picture convinced me.

Next, we searched and searched for shoes at a street market, since I just couldn't stand the idea of wearing the heels I had daringly ordered on Taobao in an attempt to be more socially acceptable. There were so many pairs that were really close, but none of them quite fit the bill. I ended up just buying a pair that wasn't too bad in hopes that the sparkly jewels on them wouldn't be too obvious with my long dress.

The evening before the real deal, we previewed the setup for the event. A couple of things horrified me. First of all, as they unfurled the huge vinyl banner/poster of us, we saw that Michael's name was spelled "Michacl." An employee tried to make the impostor C look like an E with white-out, but he probably should have let Claire or me do it, because the angle didn't match the other Es at all.

I hadn't known that they were going to print anything on the banner; if I had, I probably would have insisted on a preview before printing. But what made it even worse was the conjunction between our namesit wasn't an ampersand (&) or the word "and" or a plus sign, or even the Latin word "et." It was "VS." "Michael VS. Michelle." I asked Michael, "Are we in a competition?" We were told that unfortunately, the banner couldn't be reprinted on time, but that Julia and Joseph would receive the correct version.

Michael said maybe we could cover up the mistakes when the banner was hung, and as they brought it over to hang it up, I saw a view kitschier than the giant photo of us: in front of the photo was a whole slew of what I would consider to be awful decorthere was a plethora of stuffed teddy bears, some fake grass, fake flowers, a weird chair that an enormous bear was sitting in, a bird cage, and all of it covered in frills. How were people supposed to focus on the people the celebration was for if they were distracted by teddy bears? How were they supposed to have fun posing with the hilariously enormous picture of us if they couldn't get close to it?

After already having shown my disappointment in the banner, I felt bad saying anything else, but I asked Michael to tell them that it would look nicer without the stuff. He seemed hesitant to say anything, and his actions resulted in only a few items being moved. I'm not really sure what was happening in the conversation, but there was a definite lack of action. Finally, Claire came over and said, "Michelle, they're not going to believe that that's really what you want unless you tell them yourself." That gave me a bit of courage. I caught the eye of one of the event planners, walked up to the stuff, swept my arms from the middle to the sides to indicate all of it, and said, "Zhège. Wǒ bù yào!" Then I made a clearing motion with my hand and a sound that a young child might make when pretending that a bomb has gone off. With the resulting silent pause, it almost was like a bomb had gone off. Michael told me later that the people were so surprised that I didn't want the stuff and that they said I was the first bride not to like a setup they had made (which makes me wonder how much I really honored the culture if I couldn't stand the teddy bears and frills that everyone else apparently likes, oops). As they started clearing the stuff away, I stepped in front of the photo to show what I had been thinking. Claire snapped this photo:

Posing With Myself photo 2013-12-31IMG_7976_zpsef62558e.jpg
This photo should be in a post of its own; it amuses me to no end.

There wasn't much that could be done with the maroon and yellow(!) fluff behind the photo, but I replaced a pink flower rug on a nice little table with the copycat "LOVE" thingy and put that to the side. Apparently that appeased the event planners a bit; I found out that they had made the "LOVE"  thing specifically for us. Someone said something about how they saw what I was thinking. I can't remember who it was, but I'm sure it must have been Michael's wonderful mom.

Posing With Ourselves photo 2013-12-31193906-2_zps3d937d9f.jpg
Michael's cousins wanted to try it out, so we stood in for ourselves. :)

Rejected Wedding Decor photo 2013-12-31195720_zpsd2cebd4a.jpg
Michael glanced into a little closet and motioned me over to get a picture of the jackpot of what I consider to be cheesy decor.

The baskets for handing out candy to departing guests had frills and teddy bears dressed up in wedding dresses and suits on them. I asked if they had any other containers. We ended up saying we'd just hand candy out of the least frilly, bear-less one. Then I spotted (and promptly hid) a stick with a frilly bear stuck into a potted plant. It's a good thing (or maybe a bad thing?) And a wooden easel thingy that had shiny pink material draped over it lost its decor and became simple and practical. I didn't realize the stuff on the stage was for us . . . you'll see what I mean later.

I realized that Michael and I had forgotten to have Claire bring our wedding sign-in book from the U.S. to have people add their names to it. We considered getting a new book in the morning, but we decided against it because it was an unnecessary added worry, people wouldn't want to sign two things (we wanted the provided scroll to be just for Joseph and Julia), having two half-filled books seemed silly, and Michael pointed out that we could get a picture of the signatures on the scroll (not that we remembered to do that).

I was touched to see that Julia had gotten a purple tablecloth for the wedding party table, with green and purple napkins to match our wedding. 

Everything seemed to be working out, but I've written a poem to describe what happened that night:

'Twas the Night Before Our New Year's Day Wedding Celebration

'Twas the night before the new year and in a cold dorm,
Michelle put her Chinese wedding speech in its final form.
The slideshow was re-ordered on her laptop with care,
In hopes that the guests would not need to stare.

She hoped to soon nestle all snug in the bed,
Without nightmares of teddy bears dancing in her head.
And Michael on Facebook, and she in a blanket,
She'd worked with haste in hopes 'fore 12 she would make it.

When at midnight in Kaohsiung there arose such a clatter,
Michelle groaned while Michael wondered what'was the matter.
"This day came too soon, it came in a flash,
I'm not ready, I can't do this, not even for cash."

Good Michael he did what Michael does best,
he hugged her and put her head to his chest.
"You've done very well, you've no reason to be sad,
The guests will like you, my parents will be glad."

"And what does that matter?" he said through the din,
"We're already married, I love you through thick and thin."
He continued to comfort while she wailed and wailed,
"I can't go tomorrow; learning Chinese I've failed."

"And besides, there's no hot water; I can't take a shower,
and I'm still awake at this ungodly hour."
Her list never dwindled, her worries were vast,
Michael asked her to breathe so she could calm down at last.

As he stroked her long hair and wiped her cold tears,
He tried with logic to dispute her fears.
He thought it was working, she made not a peep,
When fin'lly he noticed, she'd fallen asleep.
He slid under the blankets and gave his pillow a fluff,
And hoped that a good night's sleep would be enough.
"Happy new year," he said, with a kiss to her head,
"I'll love you forever as I said when we wed."

Dramatic, but very fun to make fun of later in poem form. Moving onward: New Year's Day! 

In the morning, Michael piggy-backed me to a shower in another room where there was hot water. Then, while I was cutting the lace at the bottom of my dress and doing my hair, he finished translating my speech into zhuyin so that I could then get the pinyin (Chinese written with English characters and the tone symbols) from Google Translate to read at the celebration (Michael doesn't know pinyin and I only know simplified characters so far, plus I'm really slow at reading the characters I do know, so pinyin was the best bet).

Michael's dad dropped me off at Watson's to get my makeup done, and when he came back, he brought everyone else. Claire and her mom looked great with their fancy false lashes. Michael and I were the only two not yet in our wedding attire, but we had decided to change in the bride's room off to the side of the reception hall. When I looked at my makeup, I sighed. I'd learned my lesson about doing my own hair last year, but not with the makeup.

Ready to rush into the bride's room, the elevator doors opened to a multitude of cheering people who were early (Claire told me later they had all helped set upaah). I felt a bit like we had ruined our debut. Without time to think about it, we ran into the bride's room and got dressed and then Michael talked to people who kept coming in while I re-did the makeup.

Then as the pressure to show ourselves to the crowd grew, there were a few tense hyperventilations as I realized that I'd left the flower for my hair that I'd gotten to go with my second dress in the disastrous-looking dorm room. Thinking quickly, Michael asked Claire to retrieve it for us. I'm so grateful that she didn't say, "It doesn't matter, there's not time now," but instead found a ride and was back in a flash.

Desk photo DSC01160_zps7534eee4.jpg
I was handed a bouquet of lavenderjust like at our wedding. Apparently special preparations had to be made to get the lavender to bloom. More love from Julia.

Radiant Julia and Joseph photo DSC01147_zpsad9b7dc2.jpg

Red Carpet Entrance photo DSC01148_zps4eaca428.jpg

Wedding Party Table photo DSC01152_zpsaa4ec8d7.jpg
For once at a meal in Taiwan, I didn't have to worry about eating the food because I didn't have time for it. I had just picked up the chopsticks and gotten a compliment on my use of them when an event planner whisked us back out of our chairs.

Toasting the Guests photo DSC01153_zps12add929.jpg
Our first toast of zillions.

As far as I could tell, having someone as the "official photographer" (Claire) didn't curb random phone pictures being taken for three hours straight. If I'd known there was going to be an M.C., I would have said we should ask her to make an announcement about photos. I'm glad Claire was awesome about following up with some people to get some photos.

650 People at Our Wedding Celebration photo DSC01158_zpsc9a6c7cb.jpg
Circa 650 people came. It was a bit of a madhouse, in a good way. Also, what Michael had told me and what I had read about red envelopes at weddings led me to believe that we were in for a nice financial present. It turns out that these celebrations are so huge and expensive (or ours was, anyway) that guests basically pay their way. In other words, there was no ROI for us or Joseph, just a payback for most of what had already been spent. Oh. (It was still worth it.)

President's Speech photo DSC01164_zps6d645e5a.jpg
We stood on the stage, bright lights in our eyes, as current and past university presidents spoke. I understood little of what they said (I'm still at the understand-words-here-and-there-but-never-a-full-sentence stage, so I purposely asked Claire to record so that I can hopefully some day listen and understand more), but one thing I'll never forget: someone told me at some point that Michael's dad said I wanted four kids (huh? So that's what he meant two years ago when he asked me what size family I thought was good, yikes) and that the current university president (張壽山) then said that I should have eight . . . or something like that. Eek, I wish 650 people hadn't been told that because I'm not sure I can or even want to fulfill that.

The president had Joseph recite the love poem he'd written in Taiwanese for Julia (which he was planning on doing anywayyou can see it on the back of the invitation I posted above). Here's the poem, entitled, "The Love I Have For You" (and printed with Joseph's permission):

The Love I Have For You

This poem is for the love of my life. -Kuobin (Joseph) Tsai
June 6th, 2011

Ever since I met you,
Your eyes have been like the shooting stars in the sky,
Passing through my heart, sweet and beautiful.
Sometimes, I could not dare to dream,
That one day I would be your husband.

When we wed,
You became a wife and mother,
You were a sister-in-law that everyone admired.
This world is really a great place to be,
With your love and your heart.

After our children grew up,
Sometimes you were Taiwanese,
Sometimes you were American.
I also know that,
Sometimes you were mistreated,
And oftentimes you had to endure,
But you were always smiling.
In my heart, you will always be the kindest.

I want to tell the world of my love for you.
I want to hold your hand,
And whisper in your ear,
“In our next life, if I have a chance,
Would you let me be your husband again?”

Isn't he sweet?

Then there was a surprise slideshow for Julia and Joseph, and after that it was my turn to give my speech. If I'd had a better idea of how things were going to flow, I probably would have changed into my red dress earlier. Oh well.

Michael held up my laptop and I read as well as I could, but I felt like my words were choppy since I didn't really know all of what I was saying (that happens when your translator finishes that morning)just imagine someone knowing how to say each word in English, but not understanding what the words mean or how to make them flow in a sentence. Maybe my mostly-correct tones for each individual syllable made up for the choppiness, because people quieted down and stood up to take pictures of me.

Here's the speech I wrote:
Thank you everyone for coming.  Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, with five siblings and a loooot of cousins. My ancestors come from all over, but the three main places are Switzerland, Sweden, and England. After college, I moved to Germany to learn German and stayed for three years. My parents and grandparents encouraged all of us to learn to play the piano. I also play the organ, and I like hiking, baking, and reading. I have been blogging for 10 years.

Michael and I met playing soccer. He was the 106th person I went on a date with. After our first date, we were together every day. My niece and nephews loved Michael from the start. Michael said, “I love you” to me first. We traveled to Canada, and Michael celebrated two American holidays with my very large family before I finally said, “wo ai ni.”

Michael’s family is wonderful. They raised a very loving, loyal, smart, athletic, positive son. They let me stay at their house when I broke my foot and Michael’s mom took me to acupuncture and on walks. I am so glad that we can celebrate our wedding and Michael’s parents’ wedding anniversary at the same time.

Last year, we married on really short notice so that I could start a web development program. I really appreciated the way that our families supported us. My father-in-law flew all the way back to the U.S. just to be there on our wedding day.

Being married during my career change was great. Michael is such a positive person and very supportive. We loved living in San Francisco, where we enjoyed trying hamburgers at different restaurants, biking to the ocean, and building a garden behind our apartment building.

When we moved to Shanghai a few months ago, Michael’s family allowed us to store a lot of stuff at their house, and Claire brought us things we needed and American food we missed.

Now I’m grateful for the chance to be here to meet you and to see Taiwan, which is a beautiful country.

Please enjoy being here with us.

Here's what Michael translated it into:
謝謝大家今天來參加我們和 跟 的宴會,我想跟大家自我介紹ㄧ下。我在美國猶他 州鹽湖城出身長大。我有五個兄弟姐妹,很多的親屬。我的父母鼓勵我從小學彈鋼 琴,我也會彈風琴。我的祖先主要是從瑞士,瑞典,和英格蘭來的。我在大學畢業 之後搬去德國三年,去讀碩士學位,學習德文,和工作。我很喜歡登山,烘烤,和 讀書。我也在 2003 年自己作了一個個人的網站。
長泰和我是在踢足球的時後認識的。我們從第一次約會之後就每天都在一起,連續 約了三十天的會。我的侄女和侄子從一開始就很喜歡長泰。長泰是第一個說 I love you。我在我們一起去加拿大旅遊,和家人過了兩個節日之後,終於跟長泰說,我 愛你。
我的公公婆婆非常親切也很仁慈,他們對我非常好。當我去年腳受傷時,我的婆婆 Julia 帶我去看醫生和出外走路散步。去年因為我需要馬上開始網絡工程師的課程, 我們短期內敢辦結婚婚禮時,我很感謝我的公公 Joseph 特別飛回美國參加。他們 培養了一個非常恩愛,忠誠,聰明,穩重,積極,的兒子。我很高興我們今天可以 一起和他們慶祝他們結婚三十三週年的紀念日。我也非常高興今天可以和大家在台 灣見面。台灣是一個很美麗的國家。謝謝你們今天和我們一起慶祝,祝福大家新年 快樂!

And here's the pinyin that Google Translate supplied and that I didn't see until the moment I had to read it to hundreds of curious people (I didn't use the translationthat probably would have been disastrous—I just took the phonetic form of the characters that Google generated):

Xièxiè dàjiā jīntiān lái cānjiā wǒmen hé Julia gēn Joseph de yànhuì, wǒ xiǎng gēn dàjiā zìwǒ jièshàoyi1 xià. Wǒ zài měiguó yóutā zhōu yánhú chéng chūshēn cháng dà. Wǒ yǒu wǔ gè xiōngdì jiěmèi, hěnduō de qīnshǔ. Wǒ de fùmǔ gǔlì wǒ cóng xiǎoxué dàn gāngqín, wǒ yě huì dàn fēngqín. Wǒ de zǔxiān zhǔyào shi cóng ruìshì, ruìdiǎn, hé yīnggélán lái de. Wǒ zài dàxué bìyè zhīhòu bān qù déguó sān nián, qù dú shuòshì xuéwèi, xuéxí dé wén, hé gōngzuò. Wǒ hěn xǐhuan dēngshān, hōng kǎo, hé dúshū. Wǒ yě zài 2003 nián zìjǐ zuòle yīgè gèrén de wǎngzhàn. Zhǎng tàihé wǒ shì zài tī zúqiú de shí hòu rènshi de. Wǒmen cóng dì yī cì yuēhuì zhīhòu jiù měitiān dū zài yīqǐ, liánxù yuēle sānshí tiān de huì. Wǒ de zhínǚ hé zhízi cóng yī kāishǐ jiù hěn xǐhuan zhǎng tài. Zhǎng tài shì dì yī gè shuō I love you. Wǒ zài wǒmen yīqǐ qù jiānádà lǚyóu, hé jiārénguòle liǎng gè jiérì zhīhòu, zhōngyú gēn zhǎng tài shuō, wǒ ài nǐ. Wǒ de gōnggōng pópo fēicháng qīnqiè yě hěn réncí, tāmen duì wǒ fēicháng hǎo. Dāng wǒ qùnián jiǎo shòushāng shí, wǒ de pópo Julia dài wǒ qù kàn yīshēng hé chūwài zǒulù sànbù. Qùnián yīnwèi wǒ xūyào mǎshàng kāishǐ wǎngluò gōngchéngshī de kèchéng, wǒmen duǎnqí nèi gǎn bàn jiéhūn hūnlǐ shí, wǒ hěn gǎnxiè wǒ de gōnggōng Joseph tèbié fēi huí měiguó cānjiā. Tāmen péiyǎngle yīgè fēicháng ēn'ài, zhōngchéng, cōngmíng, wěnzhòng, jījí, de érzi. Wǒ hěn gāoxìng wǒmen jīntiān kěyǐ yīqǐ hé tāmen qìngzhù tāmen jiéhūn sānshísān zhōunián de jìniàn rì. Wǒ yě fēicháng gāoxìng jīntiān kěyǐ hé dàjiā zài táiwān jiànmiàn. Táiwān shì yīgè hěn měilì de guójiā. Xièxiè nǐmen jīntiān hé wǒmen yīqǐ qìngzhù, zhùfú dàjiā xīnnián kuàilè!

At some point, like a good speaker, I lifted my eyes to the audience, and when I looked back, I'd lost my place. Michael didn't know where I was, and I may have re-started in the middle of a sentence. Oops. And then at another point, the screenshot Michael had taken of the pinyin had an alt text bubble over a word and he had to fill it in for me. I already don't like hearing my own voice or seeing recordings of myself, but in my baby Mandarin? I'm afraid to watch the video of my speech (maybe some day) and I'm embarrassed to let others see it, but I will forego my embarrassment for your enjoyment.

Michael told me later that I bowed to his parents when I was talking about him; I thought that part of the speech was about how I was grateful to them for raising a good son, but maybe he'd changed it. Michael's dad later told me that he and Julia were so touched that I said the words "father-in-law" and "mother-in-law," because that was the first time they'd heard me say them. I wasn't quite sure why that was touching; I've certainly said "father-in-law" and "mother-in-law" in English, and I'm not sure what's different about saying it in Chinese, and I hadn't addressed them directly that way. I'm just glad that they liked it, because that speech was not for me. Joseph also told me later that when you say how many siblings you have in Chinese (like I did in the speech), you're supposed to include yourself in the number. I pointed at Michael and said, "Tell that to my translator." Ha.

Julia, Michael, Michelle, and Joseph on Stage photo DSC01183_zpsd7fe6279.jpg
I was relieved when I was finished with the speech, and Michael's parents seemed really happy. Mission accomplished.

I think we surprised the event people several times (besides the teddy bear incident), because they wanted us to do things the "right" way, from which side to stand on to having both hands on things, and we just did whatever we wanted. Well, they surprised me back.

Glass Thing? photo DSC01184_zps02a2a14e.jpg
I have no idea why this glass-pouring act was part of the whole thing, especially since Michael and I don't drink. None of the guests drank whatever it was that Michael poured and the bubble machine was a weird touch. And yes, you are seeing correctly: those are two bottles of who-knows-what dressed like a bride and a groom. Obviously I didn't know about those beforehand. ;)

We Have a Cake? photo DSC01191_zps1135a365.jpg
I also didn't know about a cake. They handed me a long knife. First I tried to karate chop the cake to cover how absurd I felt about something I'd rather not be doing. Then I made one single slice (not even a whole piece), held up the knife for Michael to lick, and that was that. It's great when two goofballs end up togetherat least, for the goofballs it is.

Toasting at Individual Tables photo DSC01212_zps7d33fb7a.jpg
After I changed into my red lace dress and put my hair up, the toasting began and it went on for all 65 tables. Somewhere in the middle I realized that I had forgotten the ribbon, so I put it on, thinking of how my mom can tie perfect bows and how someday I really need to pick up that skill from her. As I came out to re-join the toasting party, one of the event planners promptly fixed my sloppy bow.

More Toasting photo DSC01224_zps1a4e6c8b.jpg
The same woman who fixed the bow was in charge of the toasting pace. It was awesome how she kept our glasses filled and got us to move on to each new table (though Julia liked to straggle and talk to friends).

As the wedding celebration progressed, I didn't have time to really notice much of the slideshow, but I hoped it was fun and interesting for people. I remember thinking several times that the music I'd picked was just right. Yay. Now, because I want to bore you with as many details as possible, here is the playlist I made:

"Sunray Smile" by Amber Van Vleet *
"Arms Of A Woman" by Amos Lee   
"Sweet Pea" by Amos Lee
"Brighter Than Sunshine" by Aqualung  
"Michelle" by The Beatles       
"The Luckiest" by Ben Folds       
"Butterfly Nets" by Bishop Allen       
"Everything I Own" by Bread       
"Hey Baby" by Bruce Channel   
"L'amour" by Carla Bruni       
"Lullaby" by Cary Judd       
"Falling Sun" by Cary Judd       
"Everything Stops" by Cary Judd *       
"Thirteen" by Cary Judd       
"American Girl" by Cary Judd       
"Foreign Country" by Christina Courtin       
"A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri                       
"You Got Me" by Colbie Caillat   
"Like A Star" by Corinne Bailey Rae   
"Put Your Records On" by Corinne Bailey Rae   
"Satellite" by Dave Matthews Band       
"Two Coins" by Dispatch       
"You Are My Sunshine" by Elizabeth Mitchell   
"Crazy for this Girl" by Evan and Jaron       
"('Til) I Kissed You" by Everly Brothers      
"Meaning" by Gavin DeGraw       
"More Than Anyone" by Gavin DeGraw       
"Be OK" by Ingrid Michaelson   
"You And I" by Ingrid Michaelson   
"Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson       
"Such Great Heights" by Iron and Wine       
"Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole   
"Bubble Toes" by Jack Johnson       
"Better Together" by Jack Johnson   
"Something In The Way She Moves" by James Taylor   
"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" by James Taylor   
"One Love" by Jason Mraz       
"I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz   
"Stay With You" by John Legend   
"Love Song For No One" by John Mayer   
"Not Myself" by John Mayer   
"Behind Your Eyes" by Jon Foreman   
"Die Perfekte Welle" by Juli
"Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5, covered by Kade Smith (my extremely talented cousin!)       
"On My Mind" by Kalai       
"Divide Me" by Kalai       
"If You Ain't Got Love" by Mason Jennings   
"Anchor" by Mindy Gledhill   
"All About Your Heart" by Mindy Gledhill   
"Come Away With Me" by Norah Jones   
"Shoot The Moon" by Norah Jones   
"All Over The World (Acoustic Version)" by Ola   
"Greatest Story Ever Told" by Oliver James       
"Long Way to Run" by Peter Breinholt   
"Call My Name" by Peter Breinholt       
"Train Going South" by Peter Breinholt *
"Say Your Name, Dear Jane" by Peter Breinholt *
"1, 2, 3, 4" by Plain White T's   
"Hallelujah I Love Her So" bya Ray Charles       
"You Are The Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne     
"1000X" by Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band       
"Bottle It Up" by Sara Bareilles   
"The Sweetest Thing" by U2       
"Ordinary Day" by Vanessa Carlton    
"Clouds" by Zach Sobiech

I couldn't find the songs with the asterisks, but the rest are here on this playlist created for your listening pleasure (but not necessarily in the versions played from my iTunes, and I can't vouch for the videos because I didn't watch them):


Claire and Michael With Their Old Teacher photo 
Claire and Michael couldn't resist getting a picture with their old teacher, Zhèngyǎhuī (鄭雅徽).

 Handing Out Candy, Faith From Shanghai photo DSC01248_zps2e3236bf.jpg
Finally, we gathered at the door to say goodbye to the guests, including Faith, the woman pictured above, who also lives in Shanghai.

Yes, to some extent, I was the dumb bride I'd feared being, but between all the "gōngxǐs" and handing out candy, I must have said "Xièxiè" (thanks) and "Xīnnián kuàilè (happy new year!) 500 times, and that seemed to satisfy people, mostly. I was so glad to have that bucket of candy in my hands. It kept me from awkward handshakes and hugs (maybe I actually didn't have to worry about that in Taiwan, but hey), and I could distract people by offering them candy. What was really embarrassing was when people said something to me, and I couldn't figure out what they were saying, and then they said, "I was saying that your Chinese is very good" in English. Bah. More candy? At some point, Michael tried to take some candy, but I stopped him because I read somewhere that the bride and groom are not supposed to eat the goodies they hand out because they'll eat their own happiness.

Card "Souvenirs" for Wedding Celebration Guests photo Wedding-Cards_zps2d4dd892.jpg
Besides candy, guests were also welcome to take these cards (I have extras!) or to get their picture taken and printed on a card with our picture. I was amused that several people had me sign our picture towards the end.

Joseph Can Still Lift Julia photo DSC01272_zpsf17b811d.jpg
People were really excited about getting Joseph to pick up Julia and catching a kiss on camera. Isn't the traditional Hakka (Kèjiā/客家) fabric of her dress just beautiful?

Michael Holding Michelle photo DSC01282_zps7eebbf3d.jpg
Then it was our turn.

After most people were gone, a man who was a bit tipsy kept trying to talk to me in English about his company (I think?), but I didn't know what he was saying anyway and felt very uncomfortable. He also kept putting his hands together and saying, "Bress you." Neither Michael nor I know where he got that saying from and we weren't sure how to respond besides saying thanks. I tried to get a piece of candy to all the restaurant workers, but someone told me to wait until they were finished cleaning up, and then they all disappeared before I could get it to them.

Both Couples With Old Pictures photo DSC01283_zps396c0af1.jpg
Both of us happy couples with pictures from our weddings.

It was around this time that Julia tried to convince me to take the enormous vinyl banner photo of all five of us or to get one printed with just us to give to my parents. The idea amused me. (Correct me if I'm wrong, Mom, but I thought it better not to give in. What would you do with an enormous vinyl sign of us? Hang it in the garage? Replace the piano with it?)

I asked Claire if she could take some pictures of us outside. Complete strangers took pictures of us as we wandered around near the universitymaybe they'll blog those pictures as "random amusements." I felt a bit awkward holding the purple lavender with my red dress, but looking at these pictures now, I remembered that years ago, I used to wonder how I could incorporate both red and purple (two colors I love) into my wedding without looking too "Just Say No to Drugs"-ish (the D.A.R.E. program had red and purple as its colors at Crestview Elementary School). Little did I know way back then that I would be able to wear an entirely red dress with a small bit of purple at my hand and that would be the solution. :D

Michael and Michelle in Kaohsiung photo DSC01321_zps5a31a125.jpg

Michael and Michelle at Kaohsiung Normal University photo DSC01322_zpsb418efe3.jpg

Michael and Michelle at Kaohsiung Normal University photo DSC01331_zpsd67b27be.jpg

Michael and Michelle at Kaohsiung Normal University photo DSC01337_zpsa621010a.jpg

Michael and Michelle at Kaohsiung Normal University photo KNU-Wedding-1_zps7c330dac.jpg

Didn't Claire do a great job? And I think we definitely found the best red lipstick for the dress.

Though I was really tired, I enjoyed the day. It was great to celebrate our wedding and Julia and Joseph's anniversary and to dress up and meet people who were happy for us.

For having the wedding celebration at Han-Hsien Restaurant (寒軒大飯店), Michael's parents were given one free stay in a hotel room at the Han-Hsien International Hotel (寒軒國際大飯店). They were very generous and gave it to us.

Han-Hsien International Hotel in Kaohsiung photo DSC01365_zps63caea0b.jpg
Looking sleepy in our fancy, window-walled room.

Han-Hsien International Hotel in Kaohsiung photo DSC01371_zps622fdab7.jpg
The wedding celebration, and Taiwan in general, were simply fabulous. I hope Michael's parents know just how appreciative I am for all they did in making it a special time for all of us. Maybe we'll have another celebration together in 33 years!


  1. This was wonderful, all of it! I can relate to so much of it. Made me really miss Taiwan. Seriously awesome accent by the way! I remember that feeling of reading pinyin, knowing(hoping) people are understanding what these sounds mean strung together like that but you yourself are not sure what you're saying. You did a fantastic job with that speech.

    Maybe the stars will align and we will meet up in Taiwan someday and go for a walk together whilst eating chopped pineapples from a bag.

    1. 谢谢!Did you notice that I speak China Mandarin instead of Taiwan Mandarin? Pinyin is taught with specific sounds, but then the Taiwanese accent's sounds are so different to me, meaning sometimes I totally would have known something Michael said if he'd said it with the sounds I've learned--like "ci fan" instead of "chi fan" and "zengzai" instead of "zhengzai." I'm sure you know all about that since you've been to China and Taiwan. Hopefully I'll get to a point where I can speak and understand either one.

      Taking a walk together in Taiwan sounds lovely. I'll bring the 百香果.

  2. That red dress is super gorgeous. Nice work :)

    1. Thanks, Brooke. It took me so long to decide what I wanted exactly, so I'm glad that I ended up really liking it.

  3. I'm sure your mom DOES want all the details! Way to go on the speech, that was fun to hear you speak mandarin! And I LOVE that red dress! Wow, it was the perfect dress for you! :) So happy for you my friend!

  4. Wonderful! You are beautiful and you and Michael make a great team. My heart is full. I will send you a more personal message via email. I love you.

  5. Wow! What an event! I'm glad you blogged in such detail. Makes me a little sad I couldn't be there and makes me wish I could give you a hug.

  6. I feel overwhelmed just reading about this! How amazing. And overwhelming :) And awesome. My sister served in Taiwan. I have 2 chinese sisters (not the same as Taiwan, I know, but same language.)

  7. I really like your wedding arrangements and wedding venues which you had booked. Beautiful wedding arrangements and it represent beautiful wedding colors.

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