Bespolka Home Page   Summer 2002
    Chris' Wedding


The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Danny and Joey's Wedding,

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  -  17-18 May, 2002


17 May, 2002:  Preparing for the Wedding

18 May, 2002:  The Wedding



Weather: Mostly clear, sunny and very hot (typical tropical weather).



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17 May, 2002 - Preparing for the Wedding

Today we have lots of preparatory work to do to prepare for Jacqui's brother's wedding to his beautiful fiancée, Joey.  We will be having a dinner at our house tonight and the place will be filled overnight with relatives and friends.  So we head out to go shopping for food, drinks and other party materials.  Back at the house, we are shifting furniture and rearranging carpets and generally making a big mess of things.


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We then have what may be considered as the equivalent in the West of the wedding rehearsal dinner.  Close family is present - in particular the ones that will be staying with us tonight.  Dinner is a compilation of different dishes - rice, curries, noodles, chicken, etc.  We all have a good time eating, drinking and chatting.  Everyone is excited about tomorrow.


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After dinner we have some drinks and coffee and just hang around.  But some further important preparatory work takes place.  Some special food needs to be prepared, which the bride and groom will eat as part of the wedding ritual.  These are white and pink rice balls - the physical ingredients are simple.  It is the preparation that is different.  Only women who are currently married and with children may prepare the balls.  As they prepare the balls, they roll them and make wishes that are repeated over and over.  They wish for long life, happy marriage and, most importantly, many children and as soon as possible.  If only Danny could have heard all this - he may have run, and as fast as he could!!!


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18 May, 2003 - The Wedding

The wedding today will take place in a number of different stages - each of which is critical.  We are up early to fit everything in.  We get ready, have breakfast and then proceed to the first step.


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Collecting the Bride:  What is the most important part of the wedding - the bride, of course.  Well, according to tradition, Danny needs to go and collect her from her parents house.  As this is modern times and people are more mobile, Joey's mom's house is up in Ipoh, so Danny goes to her sister's house where she has been staying while in KL. He is escorted out to the car - have to make sure that he goes and does not chicken out!!!


Lars heads off with the convoy just before 9 AM, while Jacqui and her mom stay back at our place.  For two reasons, to get the house ready for the tea ceremony later in the day and because women should not go along to collect the bride.  On our drive there, we stop at a pre-designated spot to meet up with the rest of the cars that will join our convoy.  We arrive at the house in a long stream of cars, all blaring their horns and making as much noise as possible.  According to Chinese tradition, the more noise the better.


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As Danny is the prince for the day, he cannot do anything for himself - all must be taken care of for him.  A young boy greets the car and opens the door for Danny.  The best part for the boy is that he gets a ang pow (or red packet with money).  Danny hands out lots of these red packets throughout the day.  Then, under the shade of the large awnings set up specifically for this occasion, we have a refreshing drink and snack and wait.  Once things are ready, we are called into the house.


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Now comes one of the most challenging steps for Danny - he  must get past the bridesmaids and win his bride.  He has to do whatever it takes, including bribes, to get his bride.  But first - the tests and challenges.  Danny needs to eat four items - something sweet, something sour, something bitter and something hot (all the emotions you will go through when married).  First is the honey - not too bad.  Then is the dried, sour fruit.  Now that puckered up the mouth.  Then the beer - that was good, except for the fact that it was served in a baby's milk bottle.  The best man had a great idea - take off the nipple and drink it straight from the bottle.  The last one was a big, red hot chili pepper.  Now that can burn.


After those tough tests, the rest is easy.  Say "I Love You" in five languages.  That came very easily.  Then sing a song in Chinese that included some repeated phrases - as this was all in Chinese, it was hard to follow.  But the tough part was that it had to be in the Cantonese dialect and Danny speaks Hokkien.  But with the help of some friends, he passed this challenge.  Then, the bribery - the bridesmaids wanted some compensation before letting Danny through the door and into the bride's room.  It was vigorous bargaining back and forth.  These are tough economic times (or at least that is what we told the bridesmaids) the groom's party exclaimed.  Back and forth and finally a sum was agreed upon - it was paid - and Danny was allowed to enter the formerly forbidden chamber to collect his bride.


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Danny is now supposed to take the bride back to his house and welcome her into the family through the tea ceremony and then back to the bride's house, but in another compromise to modern living, this was not feasible.  It would take too long to drive back and forth - so they got into the car and drove around the block before returning to the bride's house.


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The Tea Ceremony - Bride's Family:  Danny is then introduced and welcomed into the bride's family through the tea ceremony.  This is a carefully managed process where each member of the family, according to seniority, has tea served to them by the bride and groom.  The family members, husband and wife (oh, yes, it is only married people who have tea served to them), are seated side-by-side and Danny and Joey hand each of them a cup of tea to drink, asking them to drink.  After each family member has taken their tea, they hand back the cup along with a red packet with cash or, for the bride, jewelry.  This Chinese custom is very practical - rather then get a whole bunch of wedding presents that you do not need, one gets cash instead which can often pay for the entire wedding and still have a bit left over.  Once all the family members have had tea served to them, the bride and groom meet the single members of the family - usually young children (even though in this day and age that is changing).  They are each given a red packet (in this sense it is better to be single - you collect red packets, rather than married - when you have to give out red packets).


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Once the tea ceremony is over, as with any wedding, there is the obligatory photo session.  The bride and groom are arranged with an endless permutation of different grouping of relatives and friends and their photos taken.  It is amazing how Joey and Danny are able to keep a smile on their faces throughout this entire process.


And now it is finally off to the groom's house - well, sort off.  As Danny does not live in Kuala Lumpur, we have offered that our home act as a stand-in.  The convey departs in a cacophony of car horns.


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The Tea Ceremony - Groom's Family:  Back at the groom's place, the furniture has been rearranged to accommodate the tea ceremony.  The dining room table has been removed, red carpet laid out and chairs set up just in front of the reclining Buddha.  And the tea ceremony begins.  The married couples take their turns on the hot seats and have tea served to them by Joey and Danny, giving red packets in return.


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If one spouse is unable to attend, either through death or some other reasons such as illness, then the other spouse will take turns sitting in each seat, being served tea on their and their spouses behalf.  A red packet for each spouse will also be given.  It is then the turn of the unmarried family members to welcome Joey into the family and, of course, to collect their red packets.


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And the the photos.  Once again, Danny and Joey endure a marathon photo session with a myriad of combinations of family and friends gathered around them in various poses.


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One more step before we can break for lunch - Danny has to remove Joey's veil and place it on the matrimonial bed.  He has to remove the countless pins and then, without touching the veil, place it on the bed.  Things get a bit stressful for a short moment when there is a fear (amongst the women) that Danny will make a mess of Joey's hair.


Once all the photos were taken, everyone was invited down to the function room in our condo complex for a buffet lunch.  A wide spread of food was provided and everyone gathered around and ate their fill.  It was a nice relaxing moment in the hectic schedule.  Just before 3 PM, just about everyone had left.  They all wanted to get ready for the dinner tonight.


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The Tea Ceremony - For All:  As the tea ceremonies in the morning were for the close family, an additional tea ceremony had to be provided for all the guests at the wedding dinner that wanted to be served tea.  So, before the dinner was to begin, in a separate room at the banquet hall at the hotel, guests were invited to come and participate in the tea ceremony.  Danny and Joey came beautifully dressed in traditional Burmese outfits.  It was a wonderful affair, with the many guests being served tea.


The Chinese Wedding Dinner:  Other than the tea ceremony, the most important part of the traditional Chinese wedding is the dinner.  It is a huge affair with all the family (and this means extended) and friends invited.  When you add up everyone from both sides of the family, it is huge.  It is important for the guests to show their respect and for the newly-weds to put on a big affair.  Well - this is a big affair.


The entire room was filled with tables sitting ten people.  Rather than number the tables, Danny had named the tables after different brands of whiskey and Scotch.  It was fun - especially as everyone had to struggle to find their tables.  Small gifts (shot glasses hand decorated) were given out to each guest at the door as they signed in and wrote in the guest book.  Guests are entertained with a video of the wedding pictures and the civil ceremony that took place earlier.


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The dinner started only a little late - which is good, as many such dinners can start very late as numerous guests often arrive late.  A very rude habit, which they tried to quash in this case by noting on the invites that the dinner will start sharp on time.  And the dinner starts off with a big bang.  The lights are dimmed and a spot light comes on, bathing the newly weds in a bright, white light.  They have changed into their wedding dress.  This is the second of many gorgeous outfits that Joey will wear tonight.


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Then, once they are welcomed and seated, the first course rolls in.  The lights are out, the dramatic music is introduced and the waiters come in with flaming swords and dishes raised high over their heads.  Very dramatic.  The dinner has something like eight courses and these are all interspersed by speeches, champagne toasts and other events.


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Through out this entire affair, Joey goes and changes her outfit a number of times.  She started off with the Burmese outfit, moved onto the wedding dress, then to the evening gown and finally a beautiful cheongsam.  This is another tradition during these wedding dinners - the bride wearing a countless variety of dresses.  That is why we recommended that they eat before dinner - as they would not have a chance to eat during dinner!!!


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The dinner winds down around 11 PM.  Another custom at a Chinese wedding dinner is that once the last course is served, the guests just start to leave.  That seems to be the signal that the party is over, despite the fact that we try to get some dancing going.


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The Chinese Wedding Dinner - After Hours:  But it is not over for everyone.  There is still one table of hold outs and they are determined to keep the party going.  The bottles of booze have been gathered up and the glasses filled and the toasting begins.  Jacqui needs to take her mom home, but gallantly leaves Lars behind to take care of the groom (i.e., drink on his behalf and keep him from becoming totally soused).  It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.


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Once the staff have cleaned up all the tables but our own, it is time to head up to the bridal suite to carry on.  The bottles are snagged and carried up to the room, where the party carries on.  The playing cards come out and the gambling begins.  They are playing some game that I have no clue how to play, but luck is on my side and things work out OK in the end.  This all carries on until about 5 AM, when the party slowly beaks up.  They have an extra room in the hotel that has been provided as part of the package, so I crash in that room and get a few hours sleep before Jacqui comes and picks me up in the morning and takes me home.


    Chris' Wedding
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