So I was ruminating over what to get a friend of mine in Australia for a wedding gift. We aren’t very close but we used to hang out and before I became all aunty and maternal, he’d used to call or write as well. I guess parenthood scares quite a few people away. That and the fact that kids cry. Even when the crying kids are across a couple of oceans, thousands of miles away.

And then another friend of mine sent me a link to her wedding pictures. Not close as well but that’s the point of taking wedding pictures: to get as many people to see them as possible to make the thousands of ringgit spent worth it.

There she was putting on her makeup, and then doing the whole Chinese thing where she and her girl friends would wait for the groom to arrive at an opportune hour, where he and his ‘brothers’ would then have to perform the age-old dance of prying the bride out of her parents’ home through money and gifts and tricks because it is customary for the girls to be coy and NOT want to be married away.

I’ve played ‘chee mui’ to more than a few of these occasions. So much so my husband and I ditched the whole thing and opted for a Western-style wedding ceremony, replete with red roses, pretty bridesmaids, cocktails at 4pm and the like.

Thing is, they were fun, these customs that I used to loathe. Looking at my friend’s photos, I was filled once again with homesickness and longing for things that I’d thought were nonsensical.

Make no mistake. They’re still nonsensical to me. All the years of your life, you’d never believed or understood the meaning behind some archaic tradition or met 3/4s of your parents’ friends. And then suddenly on your wedding day, you have to wake up like four in the morning in a hotel room in a city you’re not even born in because your husband’s hometown was too far away so you had to meet half way, and then get all primmed up by some overdressed and over-enthusiastic lady you don’t know, chirping loudly the fortuitous words that are supposed to bless your marriage, when you don’t even understand, much less appreciate, half of them. And all this happens before you’ve even had a drop of coffee and your eyes are still swollen from the ridiculous hair-combing ceremony at 1am last night that’s supposed to guarantee lifelong matrimonial bliss.

And then you wait four hours for ‘the lucky hour’ because if the groom arrives any other time your marriage will be doomed. You’re sweltering in your thick makeup and gown but happy that at least your family and girl friends are here to suffer through it with you, and because they had to wake up at an ungodly hour themselves to do this, your girl friends devise a list of the most devious of demands that they will impose on your husband-to-be and his comrades, when all they can think about, really, is lunch and a nap after.

And then when your man arrives, your girl friends lock the gates and pretend never to let him and his friends in unless all of them eat Wasabi sushi AND sing the full Jerry Maguire theme finishing off with “You Complete Me”, with feeling, AND pay each of them a hefty angpow of eight bucks. And all the while, the bride is going, “Come on guys! Enough enough! Let him in!”

So she is SO not unhappy about being married away.

And at the end of the day, there will be a bountiful banquet for 16 tables of guests, 14 of which are filled with people you don’t even know. But the fun part is that the bride gets to change through three expensive (looking) gowns, as part of the evening’s ‘entertainment’, so that said guests will get their ang pow‘s worth.

Ah, to get married the Chinese way.

But you know what? These silly customs were mine to despise. And now, I will never, ever, be apart of that again. Not in the next three years, at least. I know at least two of my good GOOD girl friends are getting married within the next few years and I will not be there to bitch about all of this.

Instead, I will be here, shopping online for wedding gifts that will not cost too much to send over.

I REALLY miss you guys.

Can you wait until I come home to get married?