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Takin’ Love by the Horns: Pulling the Wool Over His Eyes

30 Jun

Last I left you guys: I was in my dress, feeling fabulous; the girls were all dressed up; and my groom and his men were dressed to the nines. As I was inside, being fed jam on toast by BM Proper, Mr Big was outside with MC Chupacabra, and this was happening:

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Yep, Mr Big was getting blindfolded.

For those who’ve just joined us, and have no idea what is happening, I point you to this post.

In summary: for our wedding, Mr Big and I needed to perform a Chinese tradition where he needed to “pick me up” from my parents’ house at a set-time (11AM). This set time is considered “auspicious”. However, in order to be let out, my older sister (MoH M&MS) has to cut a ribbon from over the threshold of the house (i.e. the doorway). This is very similar to the “Giving Away” tradition in Western weddings, but in reverse. Also, as I am marrying before my older sister, she needs to “give me permission”, so to speak. I then gift MoH M&Ms and Mr Big guides me out. TADAH, that’s the tradition.

Unfortunately, there were a few issues with this, as recounted in the above-linked post. In short, we decided the best solution was to blindfold Mr Big.

Doesn’t he look cute with his blindfold?

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At that point, inside the house, I was getting grilled given a very brief, very last-minute explanation on what was going to happen (even though I had requested said information for months beforehand). To this I can only give a long sigh and implore, implore, you guys to get as much information as early as possible. I was literally told on the day by Mama Bighorn’s side of the family (my aunties and uncles, who I love, but they really should have given us information beforehand):

  • Mr Big had to have my bouquet.
  • My parents could not be present at all during the whole thing (they were hiding upstairs, it was kinda hilarious).
  • I had to lead Mr Big to the door (no one told me this, so there was a brief awkward silence before I had an EFF IT moment and dragged him to the front of the house).

I was exasperated guys. Exasperated.

Anyway! My family disappeared and MC Chupacabra led Mr Big carefully into my parents’ temporary “home”, the villa at the Crowne Plaza, where I was waiting. He was holding my beautiful bouquet:

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Who here sees the Bees?

As he made it up to me, I stood, took his hand so that he knew where I was (remember guys, he can’t see) and I felt my heart beating wildly against my chest.

I had seen him in the suit a million times, but this time it was very real. We were going to be married in a few moments time, and he was looking extremely handsome. I vividly remember clutching his hand and just shakily saying hi to him. He was as calm as a cucumber (which is ironic, since he hates cucumbers).

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See what I mean? He looks calm, I look nervous! Also notice the gift, that’s for MoH M&Ms.

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We chatted for a little bit afterwards, and then after some awkward ‘WTF do we do now’, I grabbed his hand, gave it a tremendous squeeze, and lead him outside. At the door, Groom’s Homie Oddball and my cousin were waiting, a ribbon splayed over the door.

It was then that I gifted MoH M&Ms and she cut the ribbon.

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And with that, we were free!

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Except, of course, for one more thing. As you all may know from my posts, Chinese culture requires that the child respect the parent in a fashion that some may think is a little bit formal. But as were the requirements of my culture, Mr Big and I respected our elders, particularly my parents, by doing this:

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Yes folks, we bowed. And then Mr Big celebrated.

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It was at that time, though, that we needed to get going. It was ceremony time! Unfortunately, things did not go to plan on my end…

[All photos by the fabulous Studio Something.]

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A Spot of Tea

28 Jan

Hi Hive!

Can you believe it’s already been more than a week since Mr Big and I got married? ‘Cause I certainly can’t. So far, married life is treating both Mr Big and I pretty darn good. We spent most of the post-wedding week catching up with friends and family, New Zealand, Indonesian and Australian-alike. (We may have also gorged ourselves on a little too much food).

I can’t launch into my recaps yet since I’m still waiting on my pro photos, but let me show you a picture of Mr Big and me with some Bighorn Sheep relatives:

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Mr Big and I with some Bighorn Sheep relatives! You can barely see them, but they’re there! / Personal Image.

Now, I did mention in my last post that I had a few more things to talk about. So Hive, let’s talk tea.

In a previous post, I talked about the Chinese tea ceremony and the significance of this cultural event in a Chinese wedding. Mr Big and I were happy to have it in our wedding, and ultimately decided that we would be having it at the Oriental Pagoda in the Hunter Valley Gardens.

However, the one task that proved difficult for Mr Big and I was selecting the tea. I mentioned previously that the type of tea often used for a Chinese tea ceremony is either a sweet tea, such as longan tea, or a standard Chinese tea such as green or jasmine.

lotus and date tea

Tea served with lotus seeds and red dates, symbolic of the newlyweds bearing children quickly and often. The sweetness of the tea is also supposed to invoke “sweet relations” between the families. / Image via Are You Gonna Eat That?. Photography via Pelaez Photography (out of business).

Mr Big and I however, ever the non-traditional, decided we’d go with something else.

You see, Hive, in Australia there’s a tea shop called T2 which sells a whole heap of different tea, from green to black, jasmine to tisane. During our first few months together, Mr Big decided he wanted to “try more Asian things” (he’s adorable), so he bought a container of tea called “Geisha Green”. Essentially, it was green tea infused with dried strawberries and cream.

That container was finished within a month.

And so it was decided by Mr Big and me that we would be using the Geisha Green for our Chinese tea ceremony (for obvious reasons). However, about 6 months away from the wedding, we got my parents to try it. My dad took one sip and reeled backwards.

He absolutely hated it.

That was when Mr Big and I realised that, if my dad hated it, his brothers would really hate it and my aunts and uncles from Indonesia would despise it.

Balls.

So what’s a bride and groom to do?

Sit on it for 3 more months, that’s what.

It was in October that we decided to get off our asses and pull the trigger on the tea conundrum. We needed to get this tea thing sorted. Our choices were either:

  1. Go the traditional! That meant either choosing a traditional green or jasmine tea (boooo-ring) or going the sweet tea route (and we had never tried the sweet tea, so we were wary about that).
  2. Find more non-traditional options. Our local T2 was about a 20-minute drive from us and we loved shopping there anyway!

It’s pretty obvious from the two choices above which one we chose (its 2, guys).

So on a Sunday morning, we dragged Groom’s Homie Oddball, MoH M&Ms, and The Don – M&M’s boyfie – out to Parramatta mall. The first shop we hit was T2!

Upon entering, we checked out all of the options and made mental notes on what would work best. The things we needed to consider were:

  • The elder folk and their tastebuds. Papa and Mama Bighorn are used to, and enjoy drinking, traditional tea. So to them, and probably the rest of my aunts and uncles, green and jasmine tea would prove the most enjoyable. On the other hand, Mr Big’s side of the family is used to the “typical cuppa” – tea with milk and sugar. Traditional Chinese tea can be pretty darn strong, so I worried they wouldn’t be able to drink the traditional teas. Therefore, the tea for the Chinese tea ceremony needed to be traditional enough for my side, but light enough for Mr Big’s side.
  • The quantity of the tea. Leading up to the wedding, we had relatives state that they weren’t going to make it to the Chinese tea ceremony. However, Mr Big and I had contingencies in place (read: extra tea and an über jug to brew said tea) just in case they decided to change their mind and make an appearance on the day without telling us (they did).
  • The quality of the tea. It was important for Mr Big and I that the tea not only tasted and looked good, but we also knew was of great quality. We’d heard a horror story of two friends who shopped at a local (and popular) spice mart and had weevils in the spice. This place also sold tea. This was one of the top reasons why we chose to shop with T2.
  • And finally, how we’d serve the tea. We wanted to make it easy for my bridesmaids and our Good Luck Lady Lucky to brew and pour the tea, therefore making it significantly easier for us to get through each of the elders.

So with that, our search commenced. After some faffing around, we decided – ultimately – that the best port of call for us would be to get the helpful suggestions of the ladies at T2. One in particular was extremely helpful, having done tea ceremonies herself.

She suggested Snow Dragon Jasmine as the “base notes” for the tea.

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Tea leaves of the Snow Dragon Jasmine. / Image taken from the T2 website.

This tea combines both green and jasmine tea together. It’s a light tea, good for the palettes of Mr Big’s family, but traditional (and so tasty), which is good for my side. She suggested we brew two to three teaspoons before serving. It’s also “re-brew-able”, which means the flavour lasts for longer.

We thought that was it, but she then brought out a tea from their “Just” range – Just Rose.

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‘Just Rose’ rose buds. / Image taken from the T2 website.

Like the picture implies, the ‘Just Rose’ tea consists of dried rose buds only. To brew this tisane, they recommend grabbing 3-4 of them per 200mls and brewing them in water for 5-7 minutes. It’s also high in Vitamin C and the scent you get from it as you sip is amazing.

Our assistant that day told us to pop just one rose bud in per cup of tea during the Chinese tea ceremony to infuse the flavour and give it a unique taste and aroma. We took her word for it and decided to buy them both. It also helped that I have a thing for roses. We also bought two pretty containers for them in green and red.

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Pretty green container for our green-jasmine tea! / Image taken from the T2 website.

Once we got back home, we brewed ourselves a cup or two (or three) and shared them around. Papa Bighorn’s reaction was what sold us on the idea. He absolutely loved it and went back for another cup. Mama Bighorn was pleased with our choice as well.

And finally, that meant Mr Big and I had crossed off an important to-do on our list!

Who else had trouble pulling the trigger on a particular wedding-related task? Anyone else have to change the direction on something because someone important didn’t like it?

Part 2, Wedding Traditions: Something, Something.

20 Sep

Hi Hive!

In a previous post, I talked to you guys about Chinese wedding traditions that we’ll be including in the wedding. I also talked about the Chinese tea ceremony and it’s importance (and I may have overused the Jared Leto gif, just a bit).

In this post, I’ll talk about the “Western” wedding traditions that we’ll have at the wedding.

Unlike the Chinese traditions, we’ll only have a few key “Western” traditions for our wedding. Mr Big’s parents are too traditional and Mumma/MIL Bighorn doesn’t have any Dutch traditions that she wanted doing.

This post isn’t necessarily for those wanting to know about Western traditions, but more for those interested in knowing, as these traditions are pretty ‘common’ in “Western” weddings:

The “It’s Bad Luck for the Groom to See the Bride Before the Ceremony” Tradition

This is a quintessentially Western tradition and originated during the time when arranged marriages were common.

The betrothed couple weren’t allowed to see each other as marriages during this period (read: the Medieval land-owning period) were mostly seen as a “business deal”. The father of the bride wanted his daughter to marry a rich man, but feared that the groom would annul the marriage if he saw the bride before the wedding because he thought she was too unattractive. The veil that a bride wears served a similar purpose.

Nowadays, this tradition is less about the fear that the groom wouldn’t want to marry the bride, and more about the fact that it’s a “tradition you must have”. There’s also the belief that it’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony (and my parents are all about luck). It’s also believed to add to some sort of excitement leading up to the ceremony.

However, more and more couples are doing a “first look”, or seeing each other pre-ceremony to take formal bridegroom portraits.

Bamboo for Two: A Twirl and a First Look :  wedding boston pictures pro pics recap Twirlin01 twirlin01

Mrs Panda’s First Look. I love that twirl! Photography via Lisa Rigby Photography.

The reason we’re keeping with this tradition is because Mumma/MIL Bighorn really wanted it. It’s basically the only tradition she seems to want to use, so I’m more than happy to oblige!

This is why Mr Big will be blindfolded during the ‘auspicious time’ tradition mentioned in my previous post, so he can’t see me before the ceremony. We’ll also, hopefully, be getting pretty pictures of a blindfolded and suited up Mr Big and dolled up Miss Big in her white wedding dress.

An example of the “Not First Look”. So pretty. Image via Emmaline Bride. Photography via Dianne Personett Photography

The “Something” Tradition

This is a tradition which I’ve been struggling with and have only recently figured out. Let me explain more…

So, everyone has heard the rhyme:

Something old
Something new
Something borrowed
Something blue
And a sixpence in her shoe

I won’t be bothering with the last line, since it’s not a common part of the poem that most people know of, but I’ve been trying to think of my “somethings”.

“Something new” is an easy one – my dress, my veil, my shoes, and more. In Chinese weddings, it’s customary to buy “new” things, so most of my attire will be brand-spanking new! My ‘something new’ was therefore a no-brainer.

My “something borrowed” is a necklace belonging to my ma, Mama Bighorn. It’s a silver necklace which has an almost yellow sheen to it, to match the yellow gold of my ring.

Here’s a picture:

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My “something borrowed”, my ma’s silver necklace. You guys also get to see my earrings and bracelet! Personal image.

I tried on the necklace and it’s gorgeous. It complements my skin tone, as it has a soft yellow sheen to it, and will look perfect with my dress! I can’t wait to wear it on the Day.

Now the last two were the difficult ones.

As my mother was wed in Indonesia, and her wedding was mostly controlled by an overzealous mother-in-law, she didn’t get to buy a wedding dress or anything that could be considered sentimental. As a result, I don’t have anything from her wedding but the pictures. So my “something old” was difficult to pinpoint.

As for my “something blue”, I had no idea what to use! The ideas ranged from a garter, to a Portal charm to hang off my bouquet, to an earring for my second piercing on my left lobe. All of those meant I had to buy stuff though, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on those ideas.

Today, however, after chatting with Mama Bighorn about different traditions, she mentioned that she may have something which might prove useful.

Enter this beauty:

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Isn’t it pretty? ❤ Pardon the bad nails! Also, that’s Mr Big’s leg! Personal image.

It’s not what most would consider “old” (it’s only 15 years) but it’s gorgeous and blue and belongs to Mama Bighorn. She’s bequeathing it to me since she has another sapphire ring which my papa gave to her five years ago.

So there you have it – my something old, new, borrowed and blue!

What do you guys think? 🙂 Are there any traditions which people have or will include when they get married? Still think I could make it as a hand model?  (double not.)

Part 1, Wedding Traditions: Culture Shock!

18 Sep

Ever since I became engaged, I’ve been thinking about certain traditions which I would like to incorporate into mine and Mr Big’s wedding. Mr Big is quintessentially a Kiwi with some Dutch in him, and so didn’t really have anything to put forward. When I asked his parents, they were also very easy-going about traditions as well, and didn’t have much to put forward either (except for one, which will be talked about in more detail in the next post!).

As an atheist, Mr Bighorn also doesn’t have any spiritual or religious traditions that were significant to him. As a Buddhist myself, I also didn’t really have any religious traditions for the wedding (although, funnily, a lot of people assumed we’d get married in a temple). As I was born and raised in Australia, despite my Chinese heritage, and my parents having originated from Indonesia, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself traditional.

However, my parents definitely are, and during the early (and much later) parts of our planning, have pushed particular traditions onto both Mr Big and myself.

Because of this, Mr Bighorn and I suffered from what one could call ‘culture shock’. Urban Dictionary defines ‘culture shock’ as ‘the shock of moving from one culture to another, often associated with laws, traditions, food, music and general lifestyle choices‘.

We couldn’t believe the amount of traditions we needed to do! It baffled us, but after doing some research, I’ve come to find that Chinese wedding traditions are filled with symbolism, all to do with either respecting Elders or bringing some form of happiness (joy, luck, prosperity) to the newlywed couple.

For those Chinese brides beginning to plan their wedding, or in the midst of navigating the traditions thrown at you from every which way, here’s a list of the wedding traditions Mr Big and I came up against. It’s definitely not all of them, but it’s the ones which, to my parents, were the most important:

The Auspicious Date

The word “auspicious” means “promising success”, and therefore, the auspicious date promises the couple success in their marriage. Therefore, by being married on the auspicious date, the couple will have a good marriage.

In Chinese culture, the bride and groom’s birthdays (time and date of birth) were typically used to find a date that would be considered the most “auspicious” – bringing them good luck and prosperity in their union. Unfortunately, the date needs to be figured out by a Chinese “soothsayer”, and the only two who ‘serve’ my family live in Indonesia and Thailand. That meant constant International conversations through 5 million grapevines (I may be exaggerating here). This tradition gave both Mr Big and I stress and constant headaches, but we stuck it out, as we both knew how important it was to my parents.

The whole process took approximately 6 months, as the soothsayers told us that, as we got engaged so “early” we couldn’t get a date in 2013/2014 until much later in the year. The only dates they were giving us were late 2012, and Mr Big and I wanted a long engagement. So waiting we did.

We finally got our date in September 2012 and the date ended up being close enough to a February 2014 wedding that we were ok with it. For those brides out there whose parents are wanting them to get auspicious date, try to stay patient and stick to your guns. I gave my parents an ultimatum at 6 months – if we DIDN’T get a date by 6 months, we would either: a) try to find our own soothsayer, or b) try to calculate the date ourselves (there’s a great app that does it for you!).

Cutting the Ribbon

This tradition will take place on the morning of the wedding and is symbolic of my family, and more specifically, my eldest sister, MoH M&Ms, “letting me go”. This is because, in Chinese culture, it’s customary to ‘get married in order’, so M&Ms is supposed to be married before I, however, as this isn’t 16th Century China, that just didn’t happen. I’m the second-born of three daughters in my family, making me the middle child. My eldest sister, MoH M&Ms, has a boyfriend, but she isn’t married. To counteract the fact that I’ll be getting married first, I have to be “let go” by the unmarried eldest.

To do this, a red ribbon is strung along the front door and M&Ms cuts it, therefore allowing me out. I then present her with a gift and am let out of the house. In our wedding, this is then immediately followed by the next tradition:

The Auspicious Time

This tradition, like the auspicious date, is meant to give the bridegroom couple good fortune. With this tradition, a certain time is appointed to the bridegroom couple in which the groom must pick up the bride from her parents’ house and take her to his parents’ house. This tradition has given us the most grief, as it was only brought up later into planning, and therefore, became something of a logistical nightmare.

The three things that made it difficult for us was: the fact that our wedding was in the Hunter Valley, and therefore, nowhere near my parents’ house (in Sydney) and Mr Big’s parent’s house (in Christchurch, New Zealand); we wanted to keep the tradition where Mr Big and I don’t see each other until the ceremony; and finally, our ceremony is supposed to be starting at 11AM in the Gardens, and that was the exact time that we were given to enact the traditional “picking-up-of-the-bride”.

We were able to get around these problems, but to say it didn’t cause Mr Big and me grief would be lying. My tip to those who need to do the auspicious time tradition would be to get a clear idea early into wedding planning so that you know what you need to do. If you have to pester and prod, pester and prod!

As for how Mr Big and I navigated through this logistical nightmare, this is what we did:

Problem: Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley, my parents’ house is in Sydney, and Mr Bighorn’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand – how do we do this tradition?

Solution: Because we were having a “destination” wedding, my parents compromised with this. Instead of Mr Big picking me up from my parents’ house in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and (literally) flying to Christchurch, New Zealand, Mr Big would pick me up at the place of accommodation where my parents would be staying. The most important part of the tradition was that Mr Big would take me away, so all he really has to do is take me over the threshold of the villa to the outside.

Problem: The time the tradition needs to be performed is at 11AM – our ceremony starts at 11AM!

Solution: We’ve been told by a gazillion married couples already that it’s ok for the bridegroom couple to be late to their own wedding, as long as both of them are late at the same time. We’re approximating we’ll be about 15 minutes late to the ceremony, so it’ll officially start at 11:15AM. I’ve asked the venue if we’re allowed to push our timing back 15 minutes and they were very accommodating. We’re also going to ask our celebrant to also announce that we’ll be late if it so happens that we are.

Problem: We’ve agreed to not see each other before the ceremony – or at least, Mr Bighorn is not meant to see me before the ceremony. But the tradition means we have to see each other before the ceremony!

Solution: Not necessarily. Mr Big is going to be blindfolded as he steps up to the villa. When he answers, I’ll be able to see him, but he can’t see me. This means, though we’re with each pre-ceremony, he won’t have technically seen me. Also, we’re hoping there’s enough time for photos like this:

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What people have dubbed the “Not First Look”. Sigh, so pretty… / Image courtesy of thebridaldetective.com, photography by Jill Lauren Photography.

 Though this has given us the most grief, we’ve made our peace with it, and are even taking advantage of it! Hopefully it all works out.

The Chinese Tea Ceremony

I’ve mentioned that we’ll be having a Chinese tea ceremony in a previous post and I’ll be explaining what this is in some detail in another post.

Logistically, this is giving Mr Big and I the most grief, as it’s dependent on certain key members and we’re having a hard time pinning the timing of these guys down. Otherwise, Mr Big and I were more than happy to include this. We love the tradition behind it, and being from a Dutch and Chinese family respectively, it was important we celebrate our connections with our elders as much as the connection between ourselves. Again, I’ll be explaining these in more detail, but it’s a beautiful ceremony!

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Mrs Toucan’s beautiful Chinese tea ceremony. Photography by Robert Mirani.

And those are the Chinese wedding traditions! We’re excited about some, like the Tea Ceremony, and a little bit anxious about others, like the auspicious time tradition. But we’re both hoping it’ll all work out in the end. With enough planning and contingencies, Mr Big and I have made sure that anything that can go awry will be handled.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the more “Westernised” wedding traditions we’ll be having!

What do you guys think of these traditions? Strange, fascinating, both? 🙂

Balancing the Banquet

14 Sep

(Alternate Title: The Bighorns versus The Food)

Between my Masters work, the wedding, and Life, I began thinking about menu options. At the four-month mark of the wedding, I decided it’ll be good to knock a few things out of the way. One of those was something Mr Big and I excitedly discussed EVERY time we thought about our venue: the food.

Now Tamburlaine provides catering and drinks in a package, so that the bridegroom couple don’t have to worry about finding their own catering company. Plus side – we don’t have to do the additional searching. Not-so-much-a-plus-side, that meant we HAD to use their company. But after mulling over the menu, we concluded that they sounded delicious, and so, we settled with Tamburlaine, comfortable with the menu and the catering company they use, Wine Country Catering.

Unfortunately, we then found out (after putting a deposit down) that the catering company no longer does tastings (BALLS!!!) which completely bummed us out (we wanted to taste some food dammit!). The catering company, however, is known as one of the most prestigious catering companies for corporate, weddings, and other events, so we concluded that we weren’t worried about the quality of the food.

The most difficult for us in this foodie journey, being lovers of food ourselves, is choosing the food.

Let me just post a few pictures of the foods from Wine Country Catering to demonstrate what I mean:

Steamed asparagus with Persian feta tartlet served with honey roasted tomato and chilli jam. / Image from The Barrel Room.

Fromage Blanc tart with peanut brittle and Persian fairy floss // Image from The Barrel Room.

I don’t know what this is, but it looks good / Image taken from The Barrel Room.

Uhm, can people say, yes please!

So, from those pictures above, you can see that Mr Big and I had a pretty tough choice on our hands. Luckily, there were a few things that helped us choose:

  1. Chinese weddings often serve seafood only as that is believed to bring good fortune and prosperity to the bridegroom couple
  2. Not all of our guests can have seafood only, for example, the mother-of-the-groom and the groom himself dislike eating lots of seafood, and some of our guests have a severe allergy to certain types of seafood
  3. Some of our guests are picky regarding certain meats, for example, BM Cupcakes doesn’t eat beef and lamb, Groom’s Homie Oddball doesn’t eat lamb, we have three vegetarians, and one of our photographers is vegan.
  4. Some of our guests are lactose intolerant and another is allergic to chocolate, so dessert needed to be carefully considered.
  5. We’ll have children there! So they need to be kept happy and fed.

Now, in order to ensure that point 1 could be met, to an extent, we needed some seafood options. However, we had to cater for point 2. Point 3 meant that we also had to have a meat that everyone could eat. Point 4 meant that dessert needed to be carefully considered. And so, with all of that, we decided on the following:

  • V – vegetarian
  • SF – seafood

Canapés: (choice of 4)

  • Potato rosti with roasted beef and caramelised onion
  • Spinach and pinenut filo pastry parcels (V)
  • Satay chicken skewers
  • Roma tomato and fresh basil on garlic bruschetta (V)

Entrée: (choice of 3)

  • Smoked salmon, potato and rocket salad served with horseradish cream and capers (SF)
  • Slow cooked pork belly salad with braised cabbage, sautéed bok choy and an orange soy dressing
  • Tempura battered king prawns with Asian greens and honey/chilli sauce (SF)

Mains: (choice of 3)

  • Herb-crusted perch fillet, baked with lemon and parsley beurre blanc served on creamy mashed potato (SF)
  • Corn-fed chicken supreme filled with pinenuts, spinach and feta on linguine pasta with basil pesto cream sauce
  • Roast of soy and thyme beef rib eye served with roasted chateaux potatoes, dutch carrots and seasonal vegetables

Dessert: (choice of 2)

  • Fromage blanc tart with peanut brittle and Persian fairy floss
  • White and Dark chocolate terrine with raspberry coulis and fresh seasonal berries

Tea and coffee at a station which where the cake will be plated up for our guests.

And in keeping with point 5, we chose the “party platter” for the kiddies, so they get a selection of things to eat.

Children’s Options

  • Party platter – nuggets, party pies, frankfurts, etc.

Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with chocolate toppings (other flavours available upon request)

As for the vegetarians, we got a general consensus from our vegetarian guests and settled on this:

Vegetarian Options

Entrée:

  • Steamed asparagus with Persian feta tartlet served with honey roasted tomato and chilli jam

Main:

  • Sweet potato and fresh herb gnocchi with a saffron cream sauce, fresh shaved grana padano

Hopefully our guests like the food! We’re certainly excited!

In the next post, I’ll talk about every adult’s favourite things at weddings: BOOZE (and non-alcoholic drinks).

So what do you guys think of the menu?

Wedding Rambling – A Random Post

27 Aug

I’m in MELBOURNE folks!

This may sound a tad bit strange, but – having lived in Sydney my ENTIRE life (so far) – I’ve never been to Melbourne. And I’m here now, yay! So far the trip has been pretty fabulous, and we’re staying in a serviced apartment, so I don’t have to worry about starving or having to buy myself a meal. Even so, it’s about a 5-minute walk to the nearest stores, so I’m in a pretty good spot. Unfortunately, we’re pretty far from the central city (and I really wanted to check out the café scene – I LOVE COFFEE).

Anyway, let’s get onto wedding stuff, yes?

I’ve heard news from my bridesmaids and MoH that I shall be getting a bridal shower. They say it’s gonna be good, and I can’t wait, but a part of me really wants to know what’s going on! They’re keeping it a secret (which, you know, duh!) but at the same time, I’m anxiooooooous. I’m not Type-A at all, but this wedding thing has caused me to be more obsessive re: planning.

I also found that, unless I plan it myself, I won’t be having a Hen’s (which I’m totally ok with you, albeit a tad bit pouty). My bridesmaids don’t have the expense for that, which is fair enough, so I’ll have to figure out whether I: (a) can be bothered planning a hen’s night for myself (which sounds pretentious to me), or (b) just let sleeping dogs lie and be happy with what I’ve got so far.

Still thinking on it, but hen’s night = more expenses, so I’m leaning more towards not having one. A slumber party with wine sounds like an awesome idea though!

Anyone else have any ideas?

Also, I’ve been in chats with my fiancé and we’re deliberating the pros and cons of a garter. We won’t be doing a bouquet OR a garter toss (to us it’s a stupid tradition) but when will I ever get a chance to wear a garter (and not be looked at like I just came from a BDSM dungeon!)?

What’re your thoughts? 🙂

Tick-tock: Timing is Everything

29 Jun

On a Saturday morning, June 29, I woke up and came downstairs, seeing Mr Big bent over a writing pad and planning out the day-of timeline. A little early for that, doncha think? So I asked what that was about, and found out something that made my heart sink.

Apparently, Chinese tradition states that Mr Big needed to lead me out of my parents’ house at 11AM. Now this meant, at 11AM, Mr Big needed to get to my parents’ house and lead me out. There were initial problems to this.

The first problem is fixable. Let’s say Mr Big is at the door to my parent’s villa. If he leads me out, he’ll see me in all my white-dressed-glory, which ruins the whole “first-seeing-each-other-when-I-walk-down-the-aisle” thing. GP says that he can blindfold himself before he knocks on the door and we can do both traditions (not seeing each other before the aisle-walk, AND the Chinese tradition of Mr Big letting me out of the house). So… this problem is fixed, but the BIGGEST issue was the second one.

The second, and MAIN, problem was timing

Our civil ceremony was initially supposed to start at 11AM and we’ve told our guests this. This meant guests would be arriving at the Waterfall Outlook before 11AM. Now, if Mr Big lead me out of my parents’ house at 11AM, we’d ultimately get to the Hunter Valley Gardens by about 11:15AM. Which meant our guests would be sitting down  waiting around for about 15-20 minutes.

I didn’t want that to happen.

Not to mention that pushed back the civil ceremony, the official family photos, and the amount of time we get for the Chinese tea ceremony. However, like all problems, we found a fix, which meant being approximately 15 minutes late to the ceremony. We made our celebrant aware, and hopefully, guests will be ok with it. According to a number of our married guests and friends, it’s okay for the bride and groom to be a little bit “fashionably late”.

‘But what, pray tell, is this post about?’, I hear you guys asking. Well, guys, we’re counting down the days to the wedding, and I’m glad to tell you that we’ve got the day-of timeline tightened and neat. With the help of Microsoft Project, information from our vendors, and working throughout all of November and December to get this baby all set, I think we’ve definitely got a workable day-of run sheet.

So for those who want a few tips on how to construct what seems like a massive venture in the beginning, let me give you a few tips:

  • Get in touch with your vendors as soon as possible: I know this is an obvious one, guys, but seriously, this vastly helped in constructing our day-of run sheet. Our reception coordinators actually gave us the run sheet that they normally work off of, and that gave me a good idea on how to get started. I basically extrapolated this and then overlaid it with our own plans.
  • Communicate with your FI/partner: Another obvious one, but the amount of times I’ve put a plan into action and had Mr Big either improve on it or add details I didn’t know about are amazing. Mr Big and I are pretty good at communicating, and when it came to the timeline, it’s amazing what sitting down and going through it can do.
  • Durations are your friend: I know it’s not really easy to get things down to the finest minute, but I found that giving events a duration of time (1 min, 30 mins, 1hr, 3hrs, etc.) allows for a much easier “block” to work around. For example, I know the ceremony will start at 11AM to 1115AM and go for approximately 30 minutes. I made note of that in the run sheet.
  • Try and go through your run sheet as early as possible with important members of the “wedding team”: I’m not just talking about bridesmaids and groomsmen – remember that your ushers, parents of flower girls or page boys, DJ, MC, florist, and all other special attendants need to know what’s happening too. I sent my preliminary run sheet to all of my vendors and asked them to have a look over it. They were able to tell me where to tweak it and also give me their timings! This then assisted me in improving where particular things flowed in the run sheet. I also went through the run sheet a week early with other attendants (ushers, bridesmaids, etc.) in order for them to understand what I needed of them.
  •  If at all possible, print out and give copies to bridal party members: This is particularly important if you have a big group (like we do!).

I hope these tips help you all in planning your own run sheet! If you need any tips (or would like to see a copy of my own run sheet), please do PM me! 🙂 I’d post a template up on here, but I need to get cracking to last-minute wedding stuff!

Who else had some issues formulating their day-of run sheet?

The First Not-Look

29 May

Otherwise known as the “Anti First-Look”.

Mr Big and I aren’t really ‘traditional’, but we both really like the idea of not seeing each other the day-of the wedding until we meet each other at opposite ends of the aisle! (Digression, we have a bet going on whether or not Mr Big will cry when he first sees me. I’m really hoping he does, but he’s fervent he won’t!).

This means that, the night before the wedding, we’ll wish each other adieu and we’ll be staying in different villas. We still haven’t figured out what we’re going to do, but we’re still trying to figure out if we should grab our own room or bunk with other people (although the second option is looking more and more like a reality).

The fact of the matter is we won’t be doing a “First Look”, where the bride and groom see each other before the aisle-walk. A lot of brides state that it’s special either way, and that’s completely understandable, but given the tradition already infused in our wedding, as well as the timing of the entire affair, the first look just didn’t really fit.

Also, I like the idea that Mr Big will not have seen me all day until we’re ready to be joined as husband and wife.

Unfortunately, I also like images like this:

ADORBS. Image via Pinterest, photography by Coati Photography.

So a part of me really wants pictures like this.

Or this:

Image via Pinterest, photography by Gabri J. Photography.

Or maybe these:

Isn’t it just so frakking adorable? Photography byK. Holly Studios.

I’ve asked Mr Big if he liked them, and he actually does.

What’s more is because we’ll be getting ready at the same hotel, it works out that we can choose a spot that’s picturesque but keeps me hidden. I honestly think it’s unfair that I get to see Mr Big before he sees me, but as he has to lead me out of the door (remember that Chinese tradition folks?), it’s just inevitable that I have to have all eyes on that door frame (no tripping for me!).

The overall concept is just so cute to me, and I really want to be able to hold his hand and talk to him before we officially become husband and wife. It’s just such a nice sentiment! ❤

And also, the exchanging of letters the day-of?

I’d love to do that too. I love writing letters and to be able to read a letter from Mr Big before we’re husband and wife (and then frame it to hang up in the house somewhere) would be so cute. Also, we’re not really doing a gift-exchange since we’re already giving heaps of other gifts to other people, so a letter would be a nice touch.

So Mr Big, if you see this post, give me your honest opinion? Pictures like this? A letter the morning-of? ❤

A Bow to Tradition

6 Nov

Hive, you may have guessed that Mr Big and I are an interracial couple. Mr Big is a Kiwi with a Dutch background. He feels a strong connection with his Dutch roots as his Oma (Mr Big’s maternal grandmother) imparted him with a love of Dutch foods. And I’m a Chinese girl whose parents migrated over to Australia from Indonesia.Our wedding, therefore, is a melange of different customs, cultures, ideologies and ideas. As such, we’ll be having two ceremonies: a Chinese tea ceremony and a civil ceremony!

A civil ceremony, as most of you may know, is the typical ceremony without the religious overtones. Mr Big is an atheist, and I’m a Buddhist, so we believed it fit with us best. As for the Chinese tea ceremony, that may take a bit more explanation. For those of the hive who have followed past Bee blogger, Mrs Peony and Mrs Toucan, you may recall them having a Chinese tea ceremony as a part of their wedding day. They each explained the tea ceremony in great detail, with pretty pictures too!

Unfortunately, for the Bighorns, our tea ceremony won’t exactly be the usual.

As previously mentioned, we took one look at the Oriental Garden and did this:

This never gets old. Taken from College Times.

We wanted, nay, needed to have the tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda. It was perfect. And hence, we had to change our plans!

Now traditionally, in Chinese cultures, the tea ceremony was essentially the ‘civil ceremony’. Elders would be served tea by the soon-to-be husband and wife to honour and respect the family. Because Chinese society was very patriarchal, the ‘true’ tea ceremony only included the groom’s family being served tea, as the bride needed to please her future husband’s family in order to be accepted. She would serve tea to her family in the privacy of her parents’ home, as a ‘thankyou’ for raising her.

To me, however, a modern-day girl with a fairly traditional upbringing, the Chinese tea ceremony is about respecting my elders and honouring the families on both sides. To me, it’s beautiful. I love my parents; they raised me to be the person I am today. Mr Big shows the same love for his. And this tradition allows him and I to physically show them the respect and love we have for our parents. I also get to show some of Mr Big’s family my culture and they get to experience something new and exciting!

Most of the Kiwi (and Australian!) guests have commented on how excited they are to see the tradition.

In a typical, modern-day Chinese tea ceremony, the bride is picked up by the groom at her parents’ house. During this time, a Chinese tea ceremony takes place in which the bride’s parents and elders (great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, married siblings and cousins) are served tea. The groom then takes the bride from her parents’ house to the groom’s parents’ house where another Chinese tea ceremony takes place to respect the groom’s family (parents, great-grandparents, grandparents, etc.).

led out of house

A bride being taken from her parents’ house to her in-laws’ house by her groom. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

Unfortunately for the Bighorns, the Chinese tea ceremony could not be performed in “typical” fashion, even before we saw the Oriental Garden. This was because of several problems:

  • Mr Big’s parents’ house is in Christchurch, New Zealand, located two hours flight from Sydney.
  • My parents’ house is located in the greater area of Sydney, Australia, two hours’ drive from the Hunter Valley.
  • Our wedding is in the Hunter Valley

Normally, these sorts of problems are resolved by either, (a) having the Chinese tea ceremony performed “properly” either the day before or the day after the wedding, (b) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the bride’s parents’ (or, if the case may be, groom’s parents’) house, depending on accessibility and location of the wedding, or (c) having the Chinese tea ceremony at the hotel on the day (a la Mrs Peony) before the greater parts of the wedding take place.

We Bighorns, however, really wanted to get the Chinese tea ceremony ‘recorded’ through professional photography (Mr Big loved the photos I showed him of past Chinese tea ceremonies), so option (a) was out. Option (b) wasn’t viable unless we did it in conjunction with option (a), so that was also out. That left option (c) which was going to be the plan until our venue-hunting threw this beauty at us:

oriental_pagoda_sunset

The Oriental Garden and Pagoda at sunset. Image & Photography via DC Images.

So, with the decision made that we would have the Chinese tea ceremony at the Oriental Pagoda, we decided that the Chinese tea ceremony will follow the civil ceremony. Because the tea ceremony will be in one location, Mr Big doesn’t need to ‘take me away’ from my family home and to his.

Instead, we’ll be serving our elders all at once during the ceremony. For those interested, I’ll give you a basic rundown!

The Order of Service

In typical Chinese tea ceremonies, the groom’s family is served first. However, as Mr Big’s parents and family aren’t well rehearsed in the way of the tea ceremony, my family will be going first.

The first in the order of service is always the parents of the couple. Therefore, in our ceremony, this will be:

Miss Big’s Parents

  • Papa Bighorn & Mama Bighorn

Mr Big’s Parents:

  • De Papa Big & Mumma Bighorn

Following the parents is usually the elders from the groom’s side starting with the paternal family and then moving on to the maternal side. “Elders” comprise of grandparents, uncles and aunties, and married siblings and cousins. Again, due to the nature of our tea ceremony, my family will be going first, and as I have a rather large family, the order of service will be:

Papa Bighorn’s family:

  • Uncle B and Auntie D
  • Uncle L and Auntie C
  • Uncle D and Auntie S
  • Cousin D and Cousin D’s Wife Y
  • Cousin L and Cousin L’s Husband P

Mama Bighorn’s family:

  • Mami & Papi (my godparents!)
  • Uncle Fung & Auntie Pin
  • Auntie Soo

Followed by Mr Big’s side of the family:

De Papa Big’s family:

  • Auntie Pen

Mumma Bighorn’s family:

  • Ado Big (Mr Big’s only uncle from his mumma’s side!)

My family is pretty big in comparison to Mr Big’s! Normally grandparents on both bride and groom’s sides of the family go before the aunts and uncles and after the parents, however, Mr Big and I have grandparents who are either deceased or unable to make it to the wedding. We will, however, commemorate them in our civil ceremony.

 

How to Serve Tea

Just like in a civil ceremony, the groom stands on the right and the bride on the left. When serving tea, the bride and groom usually kneel in front of their elders and offer the tea cups with two hands, a sign of respect. However, some couples just bow upon giving the tea to their elders. The elders sit in chairs facing the couple, and when receiving the tea, take the tea cup with both hands to reciprocate that respect.

After each elder receives and drinks their tea, it is typical to gift the couple with either monetary or non-fiscal possessions like jewellery. Monetary gifts are often received in ‘red envelopes’ or ‘angpao’. The red envelope is always offered with two hands and received with two hands as a sign of respect. Often times, gifts of jewellery received by the elders are adorned on the couple immediately upon gifting.

gifting the couple

The newlyweds accepting gifts from their elders. The top two images depict gifts of jewellery. And the bottom image depicts the gifting of what is commonly called a “red envelope”, or “angpao”. Image & Photography by Kellee Walsh.

Decorative Elements

The Chinese tea ceremony has a few bare essentials such as the Chinese tea set, and an altar or table to display photos or candles in recognition of the two families.

praying to ancestors

Top left, the altar to worship the ancestors; top right, praying to the ancestors; and bottom, the tea set for the Chinese tea ceremony. Image & Photography via Kellee Walsh.

This recognition can come in the form of family photos or a ‘unity candle’ with the dragon and phoenix, the symbol of the male and female in Chinese culture, respectively. Other things that can be placed on the altar are: white flowers, fruit and wine offerings, and burning incense.

The tea set is usually gifted to the couple by the parents of the bride as part of the “dowry”. In the case of the Bighorn wedding, my parents didn’t know about this tidbit, but Mama Bighorn was more than happy to purchase a tea set for Mr Big and myself. When we went looking, Mama Bighorn and I found ourselves in a shop that sold Chinese wares, from incense pots to statues, scrolls to tea seats. We eventually found some a few tea sets lying haphazardly near the door.

They were in different colours: blue, black, white, and red. After rummaging through, I saw a red and gold tea set with pretty patterns and good-sized cups. They were $AU30 each but Mama Bighorn managed to get it down to $AU25.

Want to see the pretty?

Chinese tea set!

Personal photo.

As for the tea itself, it can be served as either a sweet tea (for example, longan tea) or a standard tea (such as traditional green tea or jasmine tea).

lotus and date tea

Tea served with lotus seeds and red dates, symbolic of the newlyweds bearing children quickly and often. The sweetness of the tea is also supposed to invoke “sweet relations” between the families. Image via Are You Gonna Eat That?. Photography via Pelaez Photography (out of business).

Other things that can be used to decorate the Chinese tea ceremony are the ‘double happiness’ symbol, the dragon and phoenix motif, decorative firecrackers, and lots of red and gold which symbolise luck and happiness.

double-happiness

The Double Happiness Symbol. Image via Tumblr.

Some people even do lion dances (a la Mrs Toucan!).

lion dancing

Two lions holding a banner which, according to Mrs Toucan, reads “100 years of happiness together”. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

What to Wear

Traditionally, the bride wears a qipao, qua or a cheongsam, traditional Chinese dresses. Oftentimes these are decorated with embroidery of the dragon and phoenix or flowers.

the qua

Mrs Toucan in her qua. Photography via Robert Mirani Photography.

Grooms also have traditional formal attire, which consists of a Mandarin jacket and matching patterned pants. Although some grooms have updated that look:

traditional clothing

A groom in a traditional Mandarin jacket with knot-buttons and a classic mandarin collar but with black slacks. Image via Alante Photography.

However, in this modern age, some brides have taken to wearing the white dress to the tea ceremony and many grooms have taken to wearing the tuxedo or suit that they’ll be in all day.

Originally, I wanted to wear the traditional Chinese dress as I’ve never ever worn one, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. This is because, 1) it’s difficult to find an off-the-rack Chinese gown in my size (I’m petite but curvy with a little bit of chub – read: not “standard Asian size”), and 2) it would’ve been difficult to change from my white gown into a traditional red dress with the Chinese tea ceremony after the civil ceremony and at the same location. Therefore, I’ll be wearing my white wedding dress, but have incorporated some red into it to honour my Chinese heritage.

As for Mr Big, he’ll be wearing his suit, although he’s keen to wear his schmick silk black Chinese brocade jacket he bought in China. We’ll have to see what happens on the day!

All-in-all, I’m excited to have this as a part of my wedding. It’s a good nod to tradition and I love the meaning behind it. I’m super bummed that I won’t be able to wear a traditional Chinese dress, but honestly, I have no idea where to get one in Australia that isn’t mini-sized!

What do you guys think about the tea ceremony? Does anyone know where to get Chinese dresses in Australia!?

So I’ve been thinking…

25 Oct

Hello there!

As you all may know from my last post, we only recently got a date for our wedding. Which is awesome. We have more than a year to plan and hopefully by early November, we’ll have both reception and ceremony receptions booked. From my constant emails, I’ve pretty much smoothed out who we can have our wedding with. The three options are:

  1. Tamburlaine Organic Winery
  2. HVG (Hunter Valley Garden)
  3. Sebel Kirkton Park Hotel

We can’t do it at the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard because – even though they told us they did when we we’re there – they don’t do wedding ceremonies. 😦 They do have accommodation though, and I’m sure we can ask to have wedding photos there. Though the last time we were there, one of my bridesmaids got bitten so many times by bugs it wasn’t funny. So there will be a bug issue…

Anyway, the HVG came back to us with a reply staying that two ceremonies wasn’t an issue and they could accommodate for it. This made me extremely happy because I really want both ceremonies there. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this means we have 1 hour to do both ceremonies, or we get to choose two time slots… hopefully it’s the latter, because 1 hour for two ceremonies (especially the Chinese tea ceremony) will be hard to squeeze into that sort of time.

As for Tamburlaine and Sebel Kirkton, it’ll all depend on which one ‘captures’ us more with the venue. The Member’s Lodge is a beautiful venue – one we’ve seen 2-3 times. The Hunter-Rothbury room (the reception venue at Sebel that we’re likely to use) looks good in photographs, but we’ll see once we’re there in person.

Anyway – with the venues almost settled, my mind has turned to other things, mainly the “dress” and its accessories…

WARNING: MR. GP – THIS POST IS VERY WEDDING ACCESSORIES AND DRESS-CENTRIC. DO NOT READ IT UNLESS YOU WANT TO RUIN THE SURPRISE.

Did that work?

Is he gone?

Okay, so… I will be wearing a white dress and I won’t be changing three times during the wedding ceremony (that’s mostly a Hong Kong thing… my family are Indonesian Chinese). There’s (apparently) a cultural taboo with Chinese people and wedding dresses though – “if you take off the white dress, you can NEVER PUT IT ON AGAIN“. A fact which my mum has metaphorically PUMMELLED into my head. In fact, every argument stems from that one tradition, even though half the time, I don’t bring it up (She does, so she can pummel it into my head s’more…). I love my mum, but… that is the one tradition that pisses me off.

Anyway.

Because of said tradition, I can’t re-wear my dress if I take it off during the day of the wedding (Shouldn’t there be some clause stating: “Unless it’s your wedding day – take it off or on as you please!”?). This means that, for the Chinese tea ceremony, I won’t be able to wear a full-length traditional red Chinese dress because we’ll be having it after the civil ceremony (when GP sees me in my dress for the first time). My mum really wanted me to wear the cheongsam, so she got quite annoyed when I was ‘fine’ with just not wearing one. So we compromised. Now, I will be wearing something akin to this over my wedding dress:

Chinese bridal jacket, taken from http://www.efushop.com (yes… I know the name of the shop sounds strange)

For a better picture (because this one is tiny) go here: http://www.efushop.com/product_pages/WDH/wdh20.html.

Basically, I’ll be ‘wearing’ the traditional Chinese ‘dress’ over my wedding gown. This makes my mother happy (I’m wearing the red dress), my father happy (I’m not all in white for the tea ceremony) and, kinda me happy too (I get to wear the red dress). Because it’ll be the height of summer, I want the sleeves shorter. Also, the ‘arrow’ thing in the middle of the jacket looks strange, so that’ll go too. I’m not too sure how I’m going to get the jacket (I probably won’t buy it off the shop I’ve directed you guys to), but my mum was talking about getting it custom-made. I’ve had suggestions from others to go to Hong Kong to get things made for the wedding, but… well… even though the ‘labour’ is cheap, the flights aren’t…

On a cuter note, GP wants to wear his Mandarin silk jacket he bought in China for the Chinese tea ceremony. He’ll look awesome 😀

Apart from the wedding dress/Chinese dress debacle, other things I’ve been musing about are the veil, to glove or not to glove, and various other accessories. The veil, I’ve already mentioned (I’m sure) will be a drop or mantilla veil. I love lace, so the mantilla veil is beautiful. I’d be wearing it like a drop veil though (pulled over the face). It’ll need to be fastened with something, so I was thinking of getting a pretty brooch, but I need to find one that’s not too mega-expensive (bridal = expensive…).

My mum has been suggesting that I put my hair up, but I’m more partial to the half-up do. I like a little bit of hair around my shoulders and face (and I don’t look very good with my hair up anyway). To make the half-up do more ‘bridal’ though, I was thinking of getting a hair accessory. I’ve found some relatively inexpensive ones (and pretty to boot), but maybe what I should do is get a bridal accessory that can act as a brooch and hair piece in one. That way when I take off my veil (which I’ll most likely do at the reception), I can just wear the brooch as a hair piece (also, it cuts down the cost of buying a brooch and a hair piece). I’ll be wearing jewellery I already own. Our colours are yellow, red, with hints of blue, and I’ve got heaps of yellow gold and red-coloured jewellery. I’m in no rush to buy any more than what I have and I should be able to pull something off with the jewellery I do have. My shoes are already bought, but not yet broken into. I have to ask one of my bridesmaids if they’ll lend me their shoe-stretchers (it’s a little tight in the toe, but perfect overall).

As for the gloves argument, I saw this:

Delicate lace  gloves cream lace cuffs

They’re stunning! I was a glove-lover when I was younger (and still do love them) but I haven’t worn some in so long. The look of these gloves though are sooo pretty. I am enamoured by them. I want them, but I don’t know if I should be using them. It’ll be the height of summer when we have our wedding, but these are delicate lace gloves, breathable and dainty. AND SO PRETTY. So… yes. Should I or should I not wear gloves? Tricky question…

What do you guys think? Any suggestions, tips, tricks or advice? 🙂