#Chanoy Chinese Wedding, 16 April 2014

This blog entry is almost nine months delayed…mea culpa, mea culpa. It was just waiting to be written though, and given that I now have a few posts from my actual wedding day and honeymoon waiting to be posted on this blog, I figured I should get around to writing this up!

When K and I got officially engaged early in 2014, we knew that we would need to hold a wedding celebration in either Hong Kong or China for my side of the family. It was unlikely that many, if any, would be able to come to Sydney for the actual wedding ceremony later in the year. Most of K’s family are here in Australia – it was my family, 99% of whom live overseas, that was the issue.

When my father proposed a trip back to China in April to mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing, we decided to hold a wedding banquet two days after the remembrance ceremonies. It felt right that after a period of grieving, should come a period of joy and celebration.

All my father’s siblings and some of their spouses travelled down from Hong Kong to Cixi, Zhejiang province in China, where my mother’s family lives to attend the ceremony – both sides of my family were represented, which was very important to me.

chinawedding-01

My uncle and aunt had gone out of their way to plan everything for me, so literally all I had to do was show up and go along to everything they had planned. Hair and makeup appointments, ordering flowers, ordering bridal cars…everything had been done for us. My hair and makeup was done at a local beauty salon, where there’s not much consultation about what ‘look’ you want to go for as all brides get given the same treatment of an updo and a classic smoky eye and red lip look.

Dad was incredibly proud. To him, the celebrations on this day were just as good as getting ‘properly’ married. In his eyes from this day forward, I was a married woman.

chinawedding-02

From our suite at the Shenshi Bridge Hotel (my relatives had debated getting K and I separate suites the night before for tradition’s sake, until my dad scoffed and told them to stop being ridiculous, as we clearly live together and have already had ‘relations’), we got into the bridal car and started driving in circles around the surrounding streets of my grandparents’ village. For the whole drive, our bridal car was preceded by a ute, in the back of which sat a wedding band who beat the drums and clashed their cymbals to herald the arrival of our bridal car.

The most hilarious thing is that the day of our wedding was gray and gloomy, so our musicians were getting rained on. They got more and more miserable, the longer we drove around parading our wedding procession!

chinawedding-03

By the time we arrived at the main square of my grandparents’ village and got out of our bridal car, a red carpet had been set up for us. My younger cousins were running ahead of us letting off confetti bombs every couple of steps, and there were firecrackers going off left right and centre.

chinawedding-04

Our walkway was made up of two lengths of red carpet that got progressively wetter and muddier the further we walked. Funnily enough, the men had to run back as soon as we stepped off one section, to grab it and move it ahead, so that two 20m lengths of red carpet ended up becoming a muddy and sodden 300m walkway to my grandparents’ house.

chinawedding-05

Quick note about attire – I was wearing silver earrings gifted to me by my manager as a wedding gift, a gold and jade necklace that belonged to my mother, gold flats from Aldo, and a red lace and white chiffon dress ordered off Etsy. The white fur shrug was lent to me by my cousin as the day turned out colder than expected. K wore a gray suit from David Jones (uberstone), a pre-owned gray tie, and a red shirt borrowed from my brother.

chinawedding-06

A wedding is a big occasion in the village, and everyone comes out to watch. People I didn’t know and had never met were taking multiple photos of us, and getting their kids to run up to take photos with us as well. It’s an occasion for general public celebration – more than we’re used to with Western style wedding ceremonies.

chinawedding-07

They all follow you every step of the way as well – from the moment your arrival is heralded by the band and you step out of the car, right until you enter the house from which you’ll be married.

chinawedding-08

But importantly, before you step into the house, you have to let off fireworks.

chinawedding-09

…all the fireworks and firecrackers.

chinawedding-10

A second cousin’s husband conducted our ceremony for us in Chinese. The wording is not unlike a traditional ceremony, in terms of having phrases like “Do you agree to take this man, etc” or “We are gathered here today…”. I had to translate for K sotto voce the whole time, as he doesn’t speak Mandarin, and had no idea what was going on!

chinawedding-11

What was different was the amount of bowing we had to do! First we bowed to each other (accidentally smacking foreheads!).

chinawedding-12

Then we bowed behind to all those outside, and then bowed to the front.

chinawedding-13

And before we knew it, we were officially married! …though, not actually officially as we didn’t sign any papers. It was official to my family though!

chinawedding-14

We soon progressed to the nearby community hall, where you really couldn’t miss the fact that it was set up for a wedding… With over twelve tables, there were over 120 people attending the wedding – from second cousins, to third cousins, to fourth cousins once removed, to great aunts by marriage, siblings of great uncles by marriage…anyone that I was vaguely related to was in attendance. Some people even travelled over four hours to be there!

chinawedding-15

My grandma hired a team of twenty local women to cook up a feast for the banquet. This is the table laden with cold dishes at the start of the banquet, and doesn’t even begin to represent the amount of dishes that were eventually brought out (28 from memory, as a lucky number!). Dishes were piled upon dishes, until each table was fairly groaning under the weight of food. It’s a meal that stretches well into the evening though, and is considered both lunch and dinner for guests.

chinawedding-16

We hardly got to enjoy some of the food though, as it was our duty as bride and groom to go around to each person and pour a drink for them as a sign of thanks for attending our wedding. This photo is of K pouring a drink for my grandmother. While some opted just for apple juice, each table also had a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, a bottle of hard Chinese rice wine, red wine, beers, and other liquors – it’s not uncommon for the men to all congregate on one or two tables and get really stuck into the hard liquor from midday!

chinawedding-17

It was an overwhelming day – lengthy and in many parts, confusing as we didn’t know what to expect as everything had been planned for us. In the end, I’m glad that so many of my family members, both from the maternal side and paternal side were able to be there to help us celebrate the first step of K and I’s future together. It meant a lot to my grandparents to have us there holding a wedding celebration – I think my grandmother fears that with my mother’s passing, my brother and I will lose our connection to that side of the family. Having this ceremony helped to alleviate some of her fears, and reassured her that we will always be there.

This ceremony in China was really the start of our wedding celebrations. The actual wedding day didn’t come until 22 November 2014…and you’ll hear about that soon!

Wedding Menu Tasting at The Ivy Ballroom

I can’t believe that it’s only been seven months since I announced my official engagement on this blog! It was a long time coming – K and I had actually started the process of designing the rings back in October last year at Arman’s Fine Jewellery, but it wasn’t until March this year that we officially got engaged.

How time has flown – our wedding is this coming Saturday, the 22nd of November. Needless to say, I will be too busy to blog over the next few days in the lead-up to the big day, and as we take a week off afterwards on a short honeymoon at Crystal Creek Rainforest Resort. In the meantime, why not follow our wedding on Instagram (@gourmanda_me)? We’ve even created a hashtag for our guests that you can follow – #chanoy.

Here’s a sneak peek of what our guests will be enjoying at our wedding reception at the Ivy Sunroom this Saturday – a quick recap of the menu tasting we did back in September!

ivytasting-01

We had our menu tasting in the Ivy Ballroom rather than Sunroom. It was a strange experience – a single table set up for the two of us in this gigantic glamorous space. It was somewhat overwhelming!

ivytasting-02

A quick snapshot of our wedding menu – the styling of it actually matches our wedding’s accent colour of red, so we didn’t have to make any changes here.

ivytasting-03

The basket of bread rolls on each table will come straight from Iggy’s Bread of the World in Bronte – delicious wholemeal and sourdough rolls with a real bite. K’s elderly grandparents will get a softer bread roll that they can chew more easily though!

ivytasting-04

Half the guests will have an entree of prosciutto with tomato – a simple, but delicious cold option for the entree.

ivytasting-05

Other guests will get a creamy pumpkin and goats cheese ravioli, with the most delectable Parmesan on top.

ivytasting-06

The first option for main is a roast chicken dish – simple, but made outstanding with a drizzle of thyme butter to match the succulent meat.

ivytasting-07

The second option for main course is a gently seared salmon steak, with a citrus-y barley pilaf that really completes the dish.

Now’s the point that I hear you say – what, no dessert? K and I have chosen to move away from the traditional alternate drop dessert course, and have also chosen not to do the usual stodgy multi-tiered wedding cake.

Instead, we will have a cake table and a lolly table. The cake table will have six varieties of cakes available for guests to serve themselves, and will include options like Lindt’s chocolate hazelnut gateau and Black Star Pastry’s strawberry and watermelon cake. The lolly table will also double as wedding favours and rather than plain boiled lollies, will include some of our personal favourites like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Ferrero Rochers, and strawberry clouds.

Most importantly…in exactly three days time, we’ll be married! I look forward to sharing photos with everyone when I return!

My Eulogy For My Mother

mum02
My mother, circa 1980

For those of you who haven’t met me before, I’m Amanda, Ling’s daughter. I’ve been told by some of you that my mother liked to brag about her children to others (even though she was always constructively critical to our faces!), so I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you anything more about myself.

You probably don’t know much about my mother herself though, which is a reflection of how personally humble she was. What you most need to know is how devoted she was to her family, and how she lived her life to ensure the security and success of those she loved.

At the age of 15, she left school and moved by herself to Hong Kong from her small hometown in then-rural China. She started working in a factory, and sent her paycheck home to her parents and younger siblings every month, so that they could have a better life at home.

She met my father within months of moving to Hong Kong, after being introduced by the owner of the boarding house that she was living in. They married a few years later, when she was barely eighteen. She then devoted herself to looking after her ageing mother-in-law, my grandmother. As my dad says, out of the six daughter-in-laws that my grandmother had, my mother was her favourite because of her devotion to the family.

Then they had me, and within a few years, she decided that in order to give her child the best possible life, they needed to live in an English-speaking country with a great education system. So she left behind everything she knew, and moved to a country where she couldn’t speak the language, all for the future of her daughter.

For the next fifteen years, my parents worked sixteen hours a day in a takeaway shop, all to put me, and then my brother when he was born, through school and to give us the best they could afford. Even when they started their cleaning business a few years ago, my mum still insisted on working long hours to earn more money, to provide the two of us with more opportunities for a better life, while depriving herself at the same time of something as simple as a long weekend away, or a new piece of clothing, or a meal in a nice restaurant.

As you can tell, my mother was a strong, courageous, resilient and family-oriented woman. From a young age, she demonstrated her determination to do what was best for those she loved. She was consistently courageous, willingly leaving what she knew behind and taking the risk by jumping into the unknown.

Now that my mother’s gone, I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to her memory than to take those opportunities that she worked so hard to give us, to make the most of them, and become the happy and successful  people she always wanted us to become. To do anything less would be an insult to the sacrifices that she made.

I will always miss my mother. That goes without saying – she was taken from us too young, and though we’re not a demonstrative family, always managed to show her love through something as simple as cooking my favourite meal whenever I visited. I’ll miss her every time I walk through the front door, but I know that whatever happens, she will be with me.