#Chanoy Wedding Ceremony, 22 November 2014

After four years as friends in different states and three and a bit years as lovers and partners living together, the day finally arrived when K and I were to be married. We’d already had an unofficial ceremony and banquet in China in April 2014, but this was the real deal.

The lead-up to the wedding was, I think, relatively stress-free. Every time someone asked me how the wedding planning was going, I would shrug and say “Fine. It’s pretty much all sorted.” That largely came down to our decision to not get bogged down in the little details and to focus on the big picture. Would it affect our vows? Will it affect our enjoyment of the day? Will it cause us stress on the day? If it didn’t do any of the above, then we simply let it slide.

For instance, cake toppers. We spent a few days discussing what kind of figurines we wanted on the top of our multiple cakes, before we realised that we were spending too much time discussing something that nobody ever remembers or cares about. So that fell by the wayside, and we didn’t even bother having them in the end.

This relaxed approach certainly made the planning a lot easier, especially as we were determined to do everything ourselves, together. There were to be no Bride-zilla moments as all decisions were made jointly!

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I spent the night before the wedding at an apartment in Quest World Square (K and his best man were in Rydges World Square). As much as I wanted to claim that I wasn’t nervous in the leadup to the wedding, I have to confess that I woke up around 4.30am, and was unable to get back to sleep as my mind was racing a mile a minute! Luckily I had arranged to meet up with my closest girl friends from high school, all of whom had flown up from Melbourne for the wedding, for a leisurely breakfast where I could relax before I went back to Quest to have my hair and makeup done.

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My friend Amanda, a professional event photographer, flew in that morning to shoot our whole wedding after catching the red-eye from Auckland to Sydney. I can’t thank her enough for her generosity and professionalism, capturing different moment and elements of our wedding day for posterity.

My cousin Charlene, my maid-of-honour, arrived at the Quest to start getting ready as well. She had cut short an internship in South Africa in order to return to Australia for my wedding. Having grown up together as the only two branches of our family to immigrate to Australia, she is more like a sister than a cousin to me – when it came to deciding who I would ask to be my maid of honour, there was simply no question.

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Michelle Mae of Mae You Be soon arrived to do our hair and makeup. When I first started looking for makeup artists, I wanted to find someone with experience working with Asian features, as well as someone who could help me achieve a classic, somewhat retro kind of look. In the trial that we did in the few weeks before the wedding, Michelle helped me create a makeup look that was soft and muted on the eyes and cheeks, highlighting a bold red lip. My hair was done in a soft finger wave that finished in an side-up-do. She was an absolute professional, and really turned both my cousin and I out perfectly in the four hours before the wedding!

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I was very very lucky to be gifted this beautiful “Bronwyn Marie” style Maggie Sottero wedding gown by the owners of Abbey Bridal. They are long-time patients of my father-in-law who is a GP, and once they heard that K was engaged, they offered a gown from their collection to his bride as their wedding gift to us. It was remarkably, remarkably generous of them, especially as they hadn’t even met me at that point! It really speaks to the strong relationships that my father-in-law is able to build with his patients, that they felt moved to offer this as a gift to K and I.

I spent a long session in the bridal salon early in 2014 with my mother-in-law, trying on dress after dress. Having gone in with an idea of a princess-like ballgown with a full skirt, I slowly began to realise after multiple fittings that I was more suited to something simpler, without fifteen layers of tulle and a tight bodice. Amani from Abbey Bridal who looked after me, steered me towards this beautiful “Bronwyn Marie” gown, which was the perfect choice. With two separate layers, a full back and short cap sleeves, the gown allowed me to wear my own bra rather than being confined by a corset, and most importantly, was light enough to not stifle me in the heat of November.

It really was the perfect dress, and I can’t thank Abbey Bridal enough for what they did for me!

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K and his best man arrived at our ceremony venue, the Hall of Longevity in the Chinese Garden of Friendship, to start greeting guests. Backdropped by their remarkable dragon sculpture wall, the venue was the perfect nod to the Chinese heritage that we both share.

The boys are wearing suits by Uberstone, purchased in the January sales early in 2014 from David Jones. Shirts and ties are both from Declic. Cufflinks featured red Lego bricks, purchased from Etsy store Poppy and Willow.

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I arrived at the Chinese Garden at 3.30pm on the dot, with my dad and cousin. Dad wore a suit by Spurling, shirt by Jeff Banks, and a tie purchased in Hong Kong.

My bouquet was purchased from Etsy store Paper Vintage Love. I knew I didn’t want to have fresh flowers for the wedding because of the additional hassle that it involves (pickup/delivery of fresh blooms on the day etc), and I also wanted to be able to keep my bouquet as a memento of my wedding day as well. The roses that made up my bouquet were made of red card, and pages from a Harry Potter book – I wanted to incorporate some of my favourite things into the day!

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Before we knew it, the music started for our walk down the aisle. K and I chose The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” as a cheery and classic song that we thought would work well especially as we didn’t want to play the traditional wedding march. It wasn’t until later that my brother reminded me that the wedding scene in Love, Actually is set to “All You Need Is Love”…maybe my subconscious made that decision on my behalf?

My cousin was in a dress by Bariano, and heels by Betts. She chose the dress herself, as my only recommendation was “choose something red, and that you would want to wear again!”.

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I debated for a long time about whether or not I wanted my father to walk me down the aisle. For the longest time, I disagreed with the whole concept of being “given away”, as quite frankly, I’m not property to be handed over from one man to another. I’m a woman, making my own independent choice, to marry a man of my choosing.

Things changed when my mother passed away in 2013. Since then, I’d become a lot closer to my father – I was flying home to Melbourne more often to spend time with him so he wouldn’t be alone, and we spoke on the phone every few days. Our relationship had changed, and given that my mother wouldn’t be there on my wedding day, I wanted my father there with me every step of the way.

The decision was made. I walked down the aisle with my father, and I’m glad that I made that choice, as I sure needed that steady arm to hold on to to help calm my nerves as I stepped into the hall and had eighty people turn to stare at me!

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Our celebrant was my colleague, Louise Keys. We wanted a celebrant who knew us, and who would be ready to make our wedding ceremony the fun celebration of our love that we wanted it to be. From the very beginning, she made it really easy for us to customise and change elements of our ceremony to reflect who we are as individuals – and didn’t blink an eye when we put in a million pop culture references into our ceremony!

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Family and friends, good afternoon and welcome to the beautiful Chinese Gardens to celebrate a very special occasion – the marriage of Amanda and Kieran.

Thank you all of you who have travelled to be here today including a third of the guests who are from Melbourne, as well as those of you from overseas. Today we stand together to witness the commitment that these two cool cats are about to make to each other and to wish them every happiness in their life together.

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In the words of astute social commentator Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” In this case, at least two of those three things are true.

Amanda and Kieran first met after being introduced by mutual friend Michael in 2007 but were living in different cities at the time. This didn’t stop ‘sparks from flying’ every time they met and their relationship grew over time with lots of late night long-distance phone calls. Amanda moved to Sydney in 2011 and within four days’ time it was ‘Facebook official’ – which is of course, the only real way to know that it’s a real relationship!

Anyone who knows them knows that these are two people with a love of food, fun, adventure and a unique outlook on life. They have travelled together around Asia and within Australia, and have big plans for world domination…or at the very least, travelling the world. They enjoy the simple pleasures of spending time with each other relaxing, reading, and marathoning six seasons and a movie of a TV show in a single weekend. When you can sit in silence with someone for hours on end you know that you are with your true companion.

Amanda and Kieran already share a life of fun, friendship and laughter and it is with great pleasure that we can share the next step in their journey together.

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I will now ask Amanda and Kieran:  Are you prepared to make this commitment to each other here today?

We are.  

Amanda and Kieran, you have chosen to become partners in life and it is now my honour and my privilege to invite you to exchange your marriage vows so please face each other and hold hands as you now go hand in hand to your new life together.

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Amanda, I promise to laugh at all of your terrible puns, to chauffeur you to boy band concerts, to let you have most of the doona at night and to bring you tea refills whenever you desire. But most of all, I promise to be with you through thick and thin, to always be honest with you, to always try and make you laugh, to forge a future with you, to never take our relationship for granted and to love you, forever and always.

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Kieran, I promise to pay attention when you start talking about the Reddit front page, to try all your random experiments in the kitchen no matter how questionable, to bring my own packet of tissues to the movies so I stop using your shirt sleeve to dry my tears, and to make you shake your head with my punny jokes. Most of all, I promise to be by your side through any adversity, to never go to bed angry, to love and to cherish you and our relationship, to build our future together, and to be your supportive partner in life, forever and always.

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Amanda and Kieran will now express their love for one another by the exchanging of rings.  These rings are a symbol of their love and lifelong commitment to each other.

Kieran, please take Amanda’s left hand – no, her OTHER left hand – and place the ring onto her finger, symbolising your commitment to her.

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Amanda, please take Kieran’s left hand and place the ring onto his finger, symbolising your commitment to him.

The rings you have now exchanged form part of the vows you have made to each other. They symbolise your commitment to share your life in partnership. From this time on, when you look at the ring now placed on your finger, may you remember these moments and cherish the day that you stood in front of each other and became lifelong partners in crime.

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Family and friends, Amanda and Kieran have declared before all of us that they will share their life together, symbolising this with the joining of hands, the taking of vows and the exchanging of rings.

And so it is with very great pleasure that I now, with the powers vested in me by the laws of this country as your celebrant, I pronounce you partners in life, till death or zombie virus infection do you part.

YOU MAY NOW SNOG AWAY!!

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We took the snogging a bit too seriously and had to have a quick touch-up to tidy up the smudged lipstick on both our faces!

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We took a quick interval to sign certificates and forms, to make our wedding official! My younger brother Jackie, and K’s younger brother Patrick were our witnesses.

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Today Amanda and Kieran begin their married life together, to continue growing on the foundation that they have already begun to build. Some last advice for them from poet Ogden Nash:

“To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it
Whenever you’re right, shut up”

It is now with the greatest of pleasure that I would like to introduce our newly hitched couple – Amanda and Kieran!

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To share in this special ceremony, declaring our love for each other in front of our family and friends…it was truly breathtaking. It feels almost like a cliche to say that it was the best day of my life…but it truly was.

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We then took the opportunity to take some photos before we moved on from the Chinese Gardens to the reception. First, a photo with K’s family.

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And a photo with my family, and photos with all our friends as well!

And of course, we just had to take advantage of the beautiful Chinese Gardens, and went around to take a number of photos together.

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And just like that…we were married!

Next Up: Our Wedding Reception at the Ivy Sunroom!

#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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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…all the fireworks and firecrackers.

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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!

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

Unblogged Files: October to December 2014

The last three months of 2014 were extremely overwhelming. From a frantic rush to finish off work before I went on annual leave, hens parties, last minute wedding preparations, a wedding, a honeymoon, a brother’s graduation, and finally Christmas…there’s been a lot going on!

I’m about two months behind in blog posts, reviews, and recaps, so while this post is about “unblogged” food, you should know there’s a lot of posts coming up in the near future that will actually talk about all the above – weddings, honeymoons, graduation, etc.

In the meantime, here’s a few short snapshots of things that caught my fancy during the past three months.

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K’s brother and girlfriend took us to Costco for the first time, so we could stock up on candy for the lolly buffet at the wedding. We had lunch at Costco – my new sister-in-law is American, and loves the massive slices of pizza that you get at the Costco cafeteria as it reminds her of home. And honestly, a slice of pizza as big as your head? What’s not to love?

K and I are now seriously considering getting a Costco membership ourselves as I figured out that the savings we’d make on buying kitty litter in bulk alone would almost make the annual membership worthwhile!

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Inspired by Not Quite Nigella’s energy ball croquembouche, I made a (less attractive) gluten-free version for my manager’s birthday at work. I think I made the error of buying a foam cone that was just much too tall, whereas I would have been better off getting a cone that was shorter but wider. You live, you learn!

On this croquemboche, I had two types of gluten-free home-made coconut truffles – one with apricot and ginger, the other a sweet chocolate truffle. My colleague helped me out with a few additional gluten-free store-bought goodies that we added – some chocolate-covered marshmallows, passionfruit kisses, apricot squares, Turkish delight, fresh strawberries, and we topped it off with a few flowers for decoration.

Needless to say it was a step up from the usual hastily-bought chocolate mudcake from Coles that usually makes an appearance at workplace birthdays! The expected standard for birthday cakes has definitely been lifted, to the point that my manager reciprocated with a home-made zombie-inspired cake for my birthday a month later!

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I was highly spoiled in the leadup to my wedding. Having moved from Melbourne to Sydney, I have a few very distinct groups of friends, who all wanted to help me celebrate my impending marriage. I went to the Mornington Peninsula with the first group, which was fantastic and relaxing.

My friends from work also wanted to help me celebrate – thank you to the lovely Kate who organised a hens evening for me with drinks and games at her place, before we moved onto Thai Face in Crows Nest for dinner (read my previous review) and onto the Stoned Crow for drinks after that.

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A day after that, my group of Sydney friends treated me to a super relaxing hens afternoon at the Balmain Bath House, where we hopped in and out of the hot and cold spas and the sauna and steam rooms. With a half hour Turkish body scrub included, we emerged fresh-faced and glowing. We followed it with some treats from Adriano Zumbo’s Patisserie, and some drinks at Wilhelmina’s, where my friend was excited to see Jamie from Masterchef and even had a shot with him!

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My father will happily eat the Western-style dishes that I cook – risottos, pastas, salads, and more. “It’s good that you cook,” he’ll say. “So many young girls these days can’t be bothered cooking and get everything out of a packet or the freezer”. Blatant stereotyping aside, he’s less keen on my attempts at cooking a traditional family-style Chinese meal, always seeing it as somewhat inferior to the dishes that he cooks.

Luckily, K isn’t quite as discerning – he’s just happy that I get home from work before he does and that dinner is generally waiting for him by the time that he does get home. He particularly enjoyed this meal, and was impressed that I had four different dishes cooked and ready in less than half an hour.

  • Green beans with chilli pork mince
  • Cold silken tofu with soy and sesame dressing and dried pork floss
  • Tomato and egg
  • Steamed choysum with oyster sauce

What he didn’t realise was that these three dishes are particularly quick and easy to make – the preparation is more time-consuming than the actual cooking!

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One of the best novels I read early in the year was Gone Girl – the dark, twisted, psychological thriller had me hooked! After reading it, I insisted that everyone else around me read it and got a half dozen of my colleagues hooked as well. When the movie came out, I went to see it with my manager and we stopped in at Soban and Towon in Westfield Chatswood for dinner beforehand. This spicy beef stew was under $15, and came with a generous serve of steamed rice on the side – a hefty meal more suited to two people rather than just me. Amazing value and strong depth of flavours – I’ll be back!

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K thoroughly spoiled me on my birthday with surprise tickets to see Wicked – a personal sacrifice for him as he hates musicals! We also got to go to the Burger Project for dinner (read review), before moving onto Asian dessert bar Passionflower for dessert. It wasn’t a super fancy birthday given that we had overindulged the weekend before at O Bar and Dining (read review), but it was casual and fun and a perfect way to celebrate with ‘dirty food’ and creamy desserts.

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To finish off the working year, we went out for a ‘team lunch’ at the Wooden Whisk in Crows Nest. It’s a popular little cafe that serves up a mix of ready-made takeaway lunches and made-to-order sit down lunches. I ordered one of the daily specials – an amazingly tender Brisket Burger with Fries, $16.  With a sweet brioche bun that went incredibly well with the tender marinated brisket, the burger was so more-ish that a colleague went back to the following week to have it again!

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My love for Nutella knows no bounds. K’s aunt once made fun of me for ordering a Nutella dessert pizza as she thought it was awfully plebeian…but hey, if being a plebe means that I get to order and enjoy delicious Nutella desserts, then so be it! This is from Karoo & Co in Wahroonga, and comes with a lovely dollop of creamy mascarpone on top of each slice, which helps to cut through the sticky sweetness of the Nutella.

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I closed out 2014 at a friend’s low-key New Years party in Kew, Melbourne. Located on top of a hill, it had great views over to the city skyline which meant that we could enjoy the fireworks without battling the crowds in the city – always a bonus! It’s also always a bonus when you can do a barbecue for New Years Eve dinner, then finish it off with a massive pavlova for dessert!

A belated Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to a fantastic year of eating ahead!