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September 26, 2009

On Weddings, Toasts, and Going Overboard

The Kid, Husband Extraordinaire and I just spent over a month touring about the Pacific Northwest, catching up with friends and family, frequenting our favorite, dearly-missed eating establishments (Mexican making the top of the list), watching football (NOT soccer), drinking microbrews, driving on the right side of the road…in short, doing all the things that any good US expat misses while living in Hong Kong.

And being the upstanding Americans that we are, we indulged in what appears to me to be a unique ritual compared to our other English-speaking friends: The Wedding. Please note the caps.  Because rest assured, people from other countries get married. They do it all the time! But they do not, as far as I can tell, insist on making it quite the spectacle that we Americans routinely expect when we receive that scallop-edged invitation at the appropriate 6 to 8 weeks-in-advance mark.

Since I’m sure the blogosphere is saturated with posts and entire sites devoted to mocking the US wedding industry, I’ll spare you the sarcastic commentary (mostly). But I cannot resist mentioning a couple changes I’ve noticed in the five short, sweet years since my wedding.

For example, the “Save the Date” card, which used to be an optional courtesy, especially for out of town guests, has mutated into a required element that usually should include a darling picture of the bride and groom, preferably laminated onto a magnet to aid the scatterbrained recipient who can’t just write it down in her planner.

And the websites! Admittedly, we had one, registered on theknot.com, and I think it included the date, the hotel accommodations, a link to our registry, and maybe a photo. But today, you are seriously slacking if you don’t have your own catchy URL (for example, http://www.JanAndMitchAreGettingHitched.com or something), an array of suggestions for sightseeing in the wedding location’s city, an interactive quiz about the couple’s life together that increases in difficulty as you answer questions correctly, an entire photo gallery documenting both bride and groom from infancy, a customized countdown that you can add to your desktop, a link to five different charities that will accept donations for underprivileged about-to-be-married couples, and a virtual reality feature where you can upload a photo of yourself and then try on various outfits that you might want to wear on the blessed day. Alright, just kidding—sort of.

When Husband Extraordinaire and I said “I do,” we defiantly abstained from several conventional components of the modern American wedding. We didn’t serve cake—but then again, we don’t really like it. And I guess we had one anyway, for cutting purposes. And we bought the special cake-cutting knife. And we fed it to each other with that ridiculous “will they or won’t they” feint at smashing aforementioned cake into each other’s faces. And we supplied mini desserts to the guests that probably cost 3 times the amount of a slice of cake.

But we did manage to entirely escape serving champagne! Although now that I think about it, we skipped the bubbly because we’re cheap. We figured most people take a sip and abandon their glass anyway. And we wanted to maximize our budget so we could have a keg of Fat Tire and still offer mixed drinks.

OK, so how about this: we didn’t toss the bouquet or garter. Ha! Then again, I did wear a garter that I had been saving since being a “junior bridesmaid” in my aunt’s wedding, and we did order a special arrangement of flowers to bestow upon the couple present at the wedding who had been married the longest.

Oh, dear, my record for rebelling against the expensive, time-consuming, silly marital “traditions” doesn’t stand up too well, does it? Wait, got one! We didn’t pass out wedding favors. Instead, we opted to make a donation in each guest’s name to one of three charities that has significance to us as a couple. I’m still pretty proud of that one.

Anyway, this post isn’t even supposed to be about my wedding. But did I mention my stunning bouquet of mini fire-orange calla lilies? Or my seven bridesmaids in their dark red strapless dresses that they can totally wear again?

So now that I can smugly pass judgment on the excesses of getting married in America with a clean conscience, I have to say that the 3—count ‘em, three—weddings we attended in the States this summer were all so beautiful, so genuine, so filled with happiness and sincere pleasure that I was overwhelmed each and every time.

I think you can probably tell a lot about a couple based on the toasts offered at their reception. And even though we all joke about the “open mike” policy that two of our friends employed after their ceremony a few years ago (yep, parents of the Peanut, you know who you are), I still vividly remember thinking, “These guys are so respected, and their love is so admired, that people can’t shut up about it!” I was truly in awe of the emotion those two crazy newlyweds inspired. Never seen anything like it.

This summer of weddings offered even more than the usual opportunity to reflect on the phenomenon of The Toast. Because the Maids of Honors and Best Men I heard over the past 2 months totally rocked. And it got me thinking: what makes a great toast?

No, this is not some metaphysical, theoretical, or hypothetical question. Some day, I’m going to have to give one of these toasts, and I better figure out the key before that time. In case you’re wondering, the previous statement means I’m now publicly expressing my expectation of being my sister’s Matron of Honor. Presumptuous, you say? Gosh, I hope not…

Presumptions notwithstanding, I can safely say that I observed at least 3 of the BEST toasts I’ve ever heard this summer—from Kathy, Brian, and Jeremy—and will try to comment on them at more length on a day when naptime isn’t over so quickly.

But to Erica and Nick, Becky and Tom, and Chase and Katie, my most earnest gratitude for creating such lovely weddings…even the ceremonies in which my son was not the cutest ring bearer in history. We were humbled to be a part of them.

By the way, if you’ve never left a comment before on this blog, feel free to break this distressing habit anytime in the near future. I’m not sure about the etiquette of soliciting comments, but I do know, after watching the charming movie Julie and Julia, that comments are a good thing!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2009 9:03 am

    I agree about Kath and Brian’s toasts. They were simply amazing in completely different ways. Plus, I assume it’s safe to say you’ll be your sister’s go-to gal 🙂 glad you guys made it back safe. I wish I could join you in Hawaii, but I’ll see you soon hopefully!

  2. rebecca permalink
    September 30, 2009 11:15 am

    andrew, i’ve only met you a few times, but i’m glad to know that you don’t doubt my sister will be standing in a gorgeous bridesmaid’s dress that she can wear again, holding some champagne (sorry, laura, i can’t go without Andre at my wedding), giving what BETTER be the best toast i’ve ever heard. 🙂 and she has some living up to do, since i’ve already given three of these (as recently as last weekend) that had people in stitches and tears at the same time. just kidding. laura, your wedding was the most beautiful wedding i’ve ever seen and i am still so proud and honored to have been a part of it. i love you!

  3. ltinhk permalink*
    October 3, 2009 1:18 pm

    Aww, thanks, Becks. And you better believe that I’ll not just be holding a glass of Andre. Heard your toast was pretty darn good at Amanda’s…feel free to send me the draft 🙂 Love you too.

  4. January 21, 2010 3:55 pm

    Hi ltinhk,

    Regina here, for ExpatWomen.com.

    I would like to personally invite you to list your blog on our Expat Women Blog Directory (www.expatwomen.com/expatblog/) so that other women can read about and learn from your expat experiences.

    Many thanks in advance for your contribution and keep up your great blog!

    Regina

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