On Thursday, our friend Malcolm graduated from U of T med school. On Friday, our friend Linda graduated from U of T school of dentistry. On Saturday, they got married. What a week for the happy couple!
I was a part of their wedding party as a bridesmaid, and thus had the privilege of being a front-row audience member to observe the emotions and interactions that went on in the days leading up to the grand finale. It was the first wedding for both sides of the family, so every little detail was minded with the greatest care. I think the reality of everything coming together began sinking in to everyone at the Rehearsal and Dinner on Thursday evening. The mock speeches at the chapel reminded us all the sanctity of marriage and just what a big deal it was going to be for our two friends to make the commitment to each other.
The bridesmaids jumped right in and got involved in all the traditions on the night before the wedding. First, there was the hair-combing. I’d never heard of this before, but the groom’s mother pointed out it was a Cantonese tradition that she did as a bride-to-be, and it seemed like an intimate little gathering that would be nice to have anyway, so Linda’s mom sought out a comb and so began the ceremony.
The beautiful cherrywood comb
Linda’s Aunt Mary did the combing as a “respected female elder”
As the combing takes place, Aunt Mary had to say blessings as she combed Linda’s hair. The blessings are typical ones on the eve of a wedding – i.e. may you and your husband cherish each other forever, may you be blessed with lots of children and grandchildren, and may your lives be happy, healthy, etc. In attendance were Linda’s immediate family, Aunt Mary, and the bridesmaids, which made it a very intimate ceremony.
After the hair-combing, we had to eat sticky rice balls. I think the symbolism lies within the round shape of the balls – i.e. circles go on forever, and there are no sharp angles to them, which means no conflict for the couple. The sweetness of the rice balls also brings a sweet marriage.
A peanut-filled sticky rice ball
Everyone in the bridal party partook in eating the rice balls
The big day began with lots of preparations – hair, makeup, flowers, dresses, photographers, guests and spectators and helpers, and everything else in between. We packed and re-packed emergency kits full of bobby pins and touch-up makeup, flip-flops and sunglasses, and took lots of photos in and outside of Linda’s house prior to departing Hamilton for Toronto. In true Chinese fashion, Linda’s family friends came over to help out with everything imaginable, and they all came bearing food and beverages for everyone.
Since I was running around getting ready to leave, I didn’t get to take as many photos the day of. However, I loved the bouquets and couldn’t resist taking a time out for them.
Once we got to the venue, everything went off without a hitch. I was a little nervous walking down the aisle (my first time in recent memory!) but I think everyone did just fine. The bride’s sister and the groom’s brother each gave a reading, which were both really touching and appropriate for the occasion, and the reverend did a great job bringing everything together. The vow exchange nearly had me in tears – and Linda did a fantastic job not melting into a puddle. I did dish out some tissues (very handy in my dress pockets) to Linda’s mom and sister, as well as one of the maids of honour. I think the reality of “Our Linda! Getting Married! To A MAN!” just hit everyone as the vows went on, and it was a very bittersweet moment for Linda’s parents to watch their eldest daughter take her vows so proudly. I can only imagine what it’d be like if I were the mother of the bride (or groom)!
Linda’s huge smile through the vows really spoke volumes about how everyone (including her) felt about this marriage!
At the reception, everyone in the bride and groom’s family gave very touching speeches, and watching Linda’s dad smile through the mixture of emotions he must’ve been feeling just about killed me. It was then that I realized what a tremendous event this wedding really was for both sets of parents.
In some way, this wedding was a graduation for Linda’s and Malcolm’s parents. As parents, they devoted their lives to raising their children; they ensured that their children achieved their goals and had plenty of opportunities to be the best they could be. The fruits of the labour was so apparent that evening in the reception hall. Linda and Malcolm not only became the best they could be (c’mon, they’re both doctors!), but the number of people who turned out to celebrate with them, and smile and cry through the ceremony and the speeches with them, was another testament to how successful both families were in bringing up their children. Their jobs as parents quietly drew to an unofficial close at the wedding – it’s Linda and Malcolm’s turn now to find their way, make their family, and bring up their own kids for this very same occasion in another couple of decades. Of course, parents will always be parents, and children will always be children. Yet, I’m sure that they felt it too as they gave their speeches congratulating the happy couple: this is an end of one generation, this marks the beginning of another to come.
To the happy couple, and their parents – congratulations, you’ve done so wonderfully, and I can only wish you the best and even better things to come. Thank you for including me in the wedding; it was an honour.
…and then I stick in a picture of the wedding cake I made them, because I really wanted to include it somewhere…