As a girlfriend of mine began to elaborate on her wedding details and expenses, my eyes grew wider and wider while I tried to comprehend what I was hearing. All I could think of was, “is everyone involved with some side drug cartel business I don’t know about?” How are they spending all this money for a wedding?
Weddings are expensive. And I don’t mean the overpriced-fried-rice-at-Wondermama kind of expensive. It’s the type of expensive that gives people anxiety attacks. Although it’s true that not all of us splurge on that special day, but for most of the people I know, they really went to town. And even shockingly, some even spent more than their means to the point that they had to hold freestyle dance performances by Jalan Bukit Bintang to pay off the debts. Okay I’m not sure if that really happened, but it sure as heck is what it feels like.
It’s strange to think that a lot of money is being invested just for a few hours of your life that has minimal effect on how successful your relationship might be in the future. One day when I was on bridesmaid duty for the nth time watching a bride fit into her wedding dress that cost more than my monthly house mortgage, I started thinking about the pressures burdened by society on young couples to fulfill certain expectations in portraying standards for their big day.
I had been in conversations where it was clear that a friend was not keen on spending all his savings to pay for a fancy reception, but because of social criticism surrounding him at the time he was pressured to do it anyway. Suppose you can’t fork out 30k as part of the wedding gift? Then it must show your incompetency in taking care of someone else’s daughter. Suppose you don’t have a 7-tier wedding cake enough to feed kids in Syria? Then it must mean that it’s not a good enough party. Suppose you don’t have a dress exquisite enough that it makes you look like a walking chandelier from Mariah Carey’s living room? Then you’re not making the most out of your special day. Tying the knot becomes less about two people and more about trying to ‘fit in’ and creating a superior impression. Which, when you think about it, is an extension of a common unfortunate attitude of the society – always worrying too much about what other people might think of us.
From a different perspective, I suppose people’s money is their own. In other words, if someone has the resources and is keen to splurge, then it is their business what they do. This peeve is more focused on a situation when you’re being involuntarily wasteful in the spirit of fulfilling expectations. We all know someone who could no longer go for the trip of their dreams or own their own home, after paying so much for a large wedding where a third of the people don’t even know who the bride and groom are anyway. It is sad to think that once again, social obligation has done its destructive job in hindering us from being ourselves and doing what we want for our own internal happiness.
One day, I was in the car with my Dad and saw a door gift from a wedding rolling purposelessly on the car’s floor. We all know the Urban Dictionary definition of door gifts, folks; an object you receive at a wedding that will end up somewhere behind the couch 2 weeks later. I sighed. “Dad,” I said, “Someday when I get married can we have the smallest reception we could ever imagine and not waste on pointless things?” (I emphasised the word 'someday' loudly as to not shock my father with a heart attack. This is called managing expectations.)
“Sure,” my Dad said. Unfortunately, I was not convinced. Society’s stigma on what is ‘enough’ on a superficial, materialism level is a resilient epidemic, and I don’t think it’s going away too soon.
When I was six and my sister was three, I used to be so annoyed with the fact that my sister would follow me everywhere and copy everything I did. She wanted to ride the same bike I was riding. She wanted the same dress I was wearing. She wanted to join every make-believe game I was playing. At the same time, I made no effort to hide the fact that I would steal her limelight at every opportunity and that I was annoyed with her trying to be just like me. But still, she wanted us to be inseparable. That was when I realised that my sister is not just anyone in my life – this will be somebody who will stick around forever during the good, the bad and the really shit times.
Last weekend she got married. I will never think any guy would be ever good enough for her. But if such a guy exists, I think her new husband is the closest bet. It was a nice, relatively calm wedding, and nobody cried and everybody had a good time. More importantly, my sister was just so damn happy she was married. Why wouldn’t she be? She finally got hitched to her long time high school sweetheart, after more than eight years of dating.
That is one of the things that made her my complete opposite. The longest relationship I ever had was a year. Between her and me, we look nothing alike. She had always been the more compassionate sister. She was always happier with the little things in life. She was always more maternal. She had more faith in people than I ever did. Contrary to popular belief, she had always been the younger sister who had to compromise a lot for me. She was that tame, calm spirit who would sit in my room and listen patiently as I go through my wild expedition of adventures in life that has nothing to do with her. We shared secrets only we would ever know.
But of course there were fights. Today, in our twenties, we still fight over the remote control and clothes and life decisions and ‘why did you have to do that? You’re so annoying!’ arguments. Last month we had a friendly banter and ended up pulling each other’s hair. But the beauty in this dynamic is that it is almost a full guarantee that as much as we will still argue about whose turn it is to do the dishes when we’re in our forties, this relationship will stay. It will not go anywhere. Even as life, age, children and hardships chip away bits and pieces of ourselves and who we used to be, that strange, unexplainable and almost invincible bond will surely not be eroded by it. Isn’t it such a comfort? In this world where too many things are uncertain, it is a good feeling to have a sense of security that some things will probably never change and will always stay constant.
And so this week, as my sister starts paving her way as a married woman and future mother (oh God I’m not ready for nieces/nephews!), I can’t help but be ecstatically happy for her. As much as she had grown, I will always remember her as the person who decided to pretend to be a bird for a week because I wanted to play a make-believe game where we were birds living in a nest in a tree (we chirped, jumped around the sofa and everything). My life’s memories are speckled with vivid memories of my sister, and what a joy it has been. I am excited to see what the next phase of our lives will bring.
If you’re a normal person with normal friends, chances are you’ll end up being a bridesmaid at least once in your life. Or thirteen times. It depends.
After being a bridesmaid for thirteen different occasions, I have now compiled for you an extensive yet compact list of tips that will get you through your duties in a fashionable manner, and hopefully come out of it alive with all your teeth still intact.
1. Bring your selection of arsenals. Here are the top items you’ll most likely find useful.
a. Aspirin – cos someone will have a headache. Hopefully it’s not you.
b. Tissues – for tears, snot, sweat, makeup retouches, vomit, poop (yes), babies, dirt, to cover face from sun, to cover face from exes, and the list goes on.
c. Water – considering it’s a wedding where food is abundant, you’ll be surprised how so many weddings undersupply good old H2O, even if it’s a garden-themed (read: desert) reception.
d. Breath mints – Because you know why. That many people with bad breath is a nightmare.
e. Comfortable footwear – after the wedding is over and the photographers have gone home, you won’t survive another minute in those five inches.
2. Patience is a virtue. Remember your friend/family/relative who used to be such a darling? Yes. Remember her fondly as you stare in horror at the bridezilla she has become. If you’re lucky, the bride will still be cool and collected, just as you knew her before. Otherwise, call the Wizard of Oz because the Green Witch has emerged and will set fire on everything in her path.
3. Gracefully swerve as the question of ‘When Are You Next?’ approaches you. It’s inevitable. Unavoidable. Since weddings are when odd mismatched people are brought together, out of awkwardness in conversations or just pure unadulterated interest, someone is bound to ask you when you’re getting married next. Or worse, someone will ask you ‘Why Are You Still Single?’ Which is such a bizarre question to ask people, frankly. How the hell are you supposed to answer that?
4. Eat first before the event starts. You’re a bridesmaid. Therefore, you’re expected to have no feelings towards being yelled at by a bride, and no urge to eat. There will be so much to do and so much chaos that by the time you’re hungry you couldn’t eat because there is no time, and by the time you’re starving, there will only be leftovers.
5. If you look decent enough, someone will probability hit on you. As much as it is a movie cliché, people do think of weddings as a potential spot for scouting possible mates. Maybe it’s the hazy fog of romance lingering in the air. Maybe because the wedding is too long and people get bored. Whatever the reason, if you look like you showered and shaved, someone might make a pass at you. Best state your level of interest early on.
6. Take a moment to savour and enjoy it all. The truth is, even if you may be a person who hates weddings, there is something quite nostalgic and pleasant about watching two people committing to try to have a content life together in front of their family, friends and strangers who got invited because they are the parents’ friends. So take a moment to take it all in. After all, love always makes us feel good, even if we’re just the observers of its magic.
This week one of my oldest friends, Raudhatul Akmal, or Odd as she is fondly called, got hitched. We had known each other since I was thirteen. This means that I had been friends with this girl longer than;
1. Two latest Prime Ministers of Malaysia in service.
2. Brad Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston
3. World War II
During the solemnization ceremony, as I sat a few feet away from her, watching her sitting beautifully waiting to be married, I thought about how we got here. How twelve years had passed since we became friends, and ended up as dorm mates for the most of our lifetimes in boarding school, how we entered each other’s lives as wide-eyed girls with lots to learn about life, and came out of it as women. If I am to write about my adolescent memories without Odd in it, I will get probably only two pages worth of experience. On the contrary, a lot of highs and lows of growing up had her face somewhere in the background.
Here I have ten top moments of Odd that I will treasure and tell my grandchildren, one day when I’m sitting on my front porch having tea with my buddy Odd at the ripe-age of ninety.
Odd , me and a couple of other friends hiding under the beds during dinner time, because we didn’t feel like going to the dining hall. We were caught by the school prefect eating a bucket of fried chicken in the dark.
Odd, Hana and I in Canberra, Australia, enjoying the final days of college winter break together. All we saw was a boring parliament house, but all I remembered was how much fun we had, like we were school kids again.
A slumber party at her house when we were about fifteen years old. We stayed up watching Korean TV episodes and cried like idiots.
Odd turning up at my college dorm with a dozen of Dunkin Donuts with custard center, because in high school it was the only type of donut I really liked.
The late night conversations we liked to have with the rest of the gang, and talked about life, changes and dumb encounters. Thank God we still do it sometimes up to this day J
When Odd was fourteen or fifteen I let her read a short story I wrote. I couldn’t remember what the story was, but I remembered her crying and saying that it was a good story. Honestly, I think that was just the PMS talking.
Our road trips we take once a year. They always make me feel young again.
When we were sixteen there was this sudden craze on the movie ‘A Walk to Remember’. We watched it hundreds of times and couldn’t stop listening to the soundtracks. One rainy weekend there was nothing to do, so Odd and I decided to take a nap on the cold cement floor while listening to my Walkman. We played the song ‘Only Hope’ by Mandy Moore over and over again. Then she said, “You know, I think we’ll remember this moment for a long time.” It is nine years later and you’re right, girl.
I had a really bad fever and by bad, I mean really bad to the point that I was hallucinating things and going to see the doctor is a ‘less than appropriate’ attire. Odd, bless her heart, didn’t laugh at me (well at least not to my face) and chased me up on the way to go to the clinic to help me get properly dressed. This is when I knew I’ve got a really good friend in this fabulous chick.
The first day in boarding school. Our lockers were next to each other, and I remembered we talked about Goosebumps books. Then her Mom came by and said to her, “Ha, kan dah ada kawan tu! (There, you found a friend!)”. She was right. Alhamdulillah, I found such a good friend.
I’m feeling a bit sentimental because she’s married, and it’ll probably never be the same again, but I know that with us it will be like one of those pals who rarely get to see each other but when we do, it’ll be like we just saw each other yesterday. I really am stoked that she finally found Mr. Right! I sincerely hope for her happiness in the future. And true, I don’t know much about life, marriage, relationships and motherhood, but if there’s something I do know, it’s that a woman who has that much life as Odd has will pull it off looking like a champ.
Winter Break 2008. She hates this picture.
You know it's a significant moment when you grow up with a bunch of girls, and one day, one of the girls wanted to get married. That marks a significant milestone; 'Welcome to the Adult World, Finally'. One day we're all in our Saturday night best having drinks at a nice place, and the next thing you know we'll be sitting in circles on a floor of someone's house, taking turns breastfeeding. And a few kids will be running around pulling ornaments off the table. That's the way life goes, folks.
So we threw a bachelorette/hen party for the bride-to-be. It was done at Fatt's weekend house by the riverfront, and we had it themed 'red and black' with a cake in a shape of a woman's bosoms, although don't ask me where they got the measurements - It made Pamela Andrson's boobs look like teacups. We had a dinner party, which was then followed by dancing and games (truth or dare, but mostly dare. Well what else should you play in a hen's night, right?). I wouldn't go so far on the details of the dare, but let's just say it went pretty crazy, but not too crazy. And the dancing? Oih dear Lord. Note to self and the others: The 70s dance moves went extinct for a reson.
It was all fun, but there were some good moments too. By the end of the dinner we made a round of toasts to the bride-to-be, some funny, some tear-jerking, but the bride-to-be's speech was especially endearing to me. She talked about how she hoped things will be the same even after she's married with a family, and how we should still be as close even when all of us would be wives and mothers soon. Everybody around the table shook their heads in agreement, but I felt like we were also in a way, denying the truth - it's never going to be the same as we grow older. It's a sad fact, and I think everyone there knew it too.
Anyway, on a happier note, what is a bachelorette party without music, some undecent games, awful embarassing truths, drinks, and excessive sugar and cheese? The party ended at almost 4 a.m, and needless to say when I woke up that morning my head was spinning. But hey, you know what they say. It isn't a party unless you wake to find the house looking like the French just bombed it.
Us at the dinner party table. Menu - pasta, more pasta, cheesy vegetables.
Messing around with the camera the whole night.