Once in a Life

I was going to start a blog before, during and after my wedding.  A year and 11 days later, it has become a reality.  I guess I delayed this so that I can replay and relive the moment(s) again.

This was in many ways a destination wedding – even though it IS my home.  I found my hotel/restaurant, photographer, decor, flowers, makeup/hair stylist all through the help of the internet.  Everything was done remotely, and whenever I were ready to make a decision, a call was made – either to my parents (as my middle person) or to the actual agent.


Equatorial Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Looking back, I was lucky to have been in contact with Mary (banquet executive).  The food was great (according to others. I was too caught up with living the moment to truly taste my 10-course meal – of which, most was tp-ed to be eaten the next day).  Decor was as I requested.  Our suite was really there for the weary soul. It was two separate rooms; a bedroom with a posts as bed frame and a decent size living room with a separate bathroom attached. Our room had baskets of flowers, fruits and chocolates adorning the dresser and dining table. Our bathtub in our room was strewn with rose petals. If only I had a chance to enjoy it. We were so tired that we slept through our entire stay there. The flowers, fruits and chocolates were brought home for the rest of the family to enjoy. Too bad I couldn’t haul the bathtub back.

LCD screen

After a year of chiseling out the details with hotel staffs and family members we were down to the wire in the last 2 months trying to figure out the last minute “stuffs”.  It was the last minute things that almost broke the camel’s back.  It took me two weekends to design the backdrop and LCD screen image, but took us up to the 11th hour to get the hotel to agree to the set up I wanted.  It seems my designs were too complicated.  But in the end, because I weren’t “around” to “see the layout,” Mary stepped in and agreed to do the backdrop FOC.  Then there was the seating arrangements.  Don’t let the, “Anything is ok” line fool you.  After I corrected seating arrangements for 200+ people for the 10th time, SUDDENLY, it’s NOT OK for person X to be seated with person Y. I almost had a nervous breakdown.




Kenneth Tan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  He was one of my most fortunate finds.  We “met” and “conversed” through emails and ims.  We finally met 27 hours before the wedding, right after we landed in KL.  He is an extremely well-mannered and soft-spoken person.  I truly wasn’t expecting much.  But the works that he produced more than astounded me.  He has since gained my respect as a fellow artist and earned our friendship in return.

Kenneth was introduced to me by a fellow photographer Robin Ng.

Makeup/Hair stylist

Robin also introduced me to my makeup artist – Cindy Hor . An amiable person, she agreed to my day-before-wedding meeting to have a dry run on makeup.  On the day of, after two days without sleep, she was horrified to see my dark circles under my eyes.  She whipped out her brushes and palette and voila! – Looks like I’ve been sleeping for ages.  😀  When she came back around for the evening makeup, I was really shot for the day.  As she was curling my hair, I was power napping.  She told me that there were close instances that my scalp was almost burnt by the hot iron.  Savior!

Florist/Car decór

This was a harrowing nightmare.  What began as a good business relationship, quickly turned sour when I realized that the product promised is not as it seems.  It should have been obvious when two weeks down the wire, she decided to up the charge on me – blaming it on her “forgetting” to add the fee in during our 6 months of conversation. This “forgotten” fee was swiftly discarded after my father put a call through.

First of, when we went to collect the bouquet, corsages and lapel pins the day before, the store owner mysteriously had an emergency.  The only one there to man the store was her Indonesian helper.  My bouquet was NOT what I had asked for.  Neither were the corsages and lapel pins.  The car decór was next to blah, until we complained to the store help, and she quickly remedied the problem.  The only good thing about this experience was the store help.  The store’s name – SIMPLICITY FLORIST, K-0-7, Grd Flr, Dorchester Apartments, Block K, Plaza Damas, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.  Their website site has “mysteriously” stopped working too – http://www.simplicity.com.my.


PreparationHecklingTea Ceremony 1Photo OpTea Ceremony 2Dinner

This day was 11 years, 4 cities, 2 states and 2 countries in the making. Not only did hubs and I travel back to Malaysia for this occasion, but family from all over flew across oceans, and traveled the distance to celebrate our special day with us. The Phoas and Ludwigs came from Canada, UK, and all across Malaysia. The Chongs too traveled from the US, Singapore and Malaysia. We were/are so loved.

Daddy had decorated the house with handmade Chinese double happiness lanterns and decór. These were painstakingly made with love months before our homecoming.

Mommy too had food catered to the house, including wedding cakes and lunch to feed the family and everyone in the wedding party. Everything was spic and span, just the way she likes it.

I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before (and before that), it didn’t help that the opposite neighbors were making a ruckus right into the wee hours of the morning. When mommy finally woke up around 4/5 am to prepare the tea for the ceremony later in the day, I too took the opportunity to stop pretending to sleep. Of course, the first thing I did was stuff my face.  My younger sister too was surprisingly awake then too. She crept downstairs, careful not to wake her sleeping other half. She then proceeded to stuff her face along side me, and as I read Chinese gossip magazines (not that I really know how to read, I was just looking at pictures) she began writing her speech for the night. Talk about 11th hour. I then decided to de-puff my sagging eye bags with tea bags, and before I knew it, the first relatives began arriving. Unc. Tak and family came bearing cherries imported Canada for mommy. Then Jee Mai came with her family.

Not a second too soon, Cindy, my makeup artist, too came a knocking and I were whisked away without even getting a chance to say “hi” to anyone.

She was shocked to see my bags, and worried that I haven’t been sleeping. She got to work right away. As she curled, gelled, brushed, powdered and swirled me, I heard my uncles and aunts slowly arriving. Even Kenneth and his assistant came in the nick of time, as my friends from school, whom I have not seen for ages, all started strolling into the room one by one. As the morning went on, the chatter downstairs grew louder and louder, adding to the festivities and excitement of the first wedding of the Phoa family.

My friend, aka chauffeur for the day, came early too and left with the supped up Beamer to fetch the groom.

My cousins, who I grew up with since young, all came up to my room to say “hi” as the preparations went on. Finally Cindy was done with me. I haven’t even put on my gown yet, but I were sweating bullets already, not from nervousness, but from the humidity and heat of KL. By the time I had on my corset, and gown, I thought I could faint. I shouldn’t complain, considering hubs had to put on a shirt, tie and a tuxedo. Who was I to bemoan my predicament?! Waist down, flooded. Waist up, was airing out a little.

Then it was time for my parents to do the informal veiling. Just as mommy clasp the first pin of the veil into my curled up hair, I caught a glimpse of her as she let out a little sob. The flood gates were opened, without much provocation. Cindy quickly touched me up and Kenneth, the opportunist, managed to take shots of us, right before the boys all came into the neighborhood with their trumpets (in this case, car horns) blaring. It was like waking the dead!

Back to d-day

Everyone quickly sprung into action after that. As the friends and sisters prepared to torture the groom and his friends before permitting entrance into the house, I snuck down the stairs, and sat and watch the age old ceremony of “fetching the bride” take place.

As this was the first wedding for the family, the Phoas were all riled up. Even my cousins didn’t want to miss any part of the action.

First, there was the ultra bitter herbal medicine, which the best man chugged down gallantly. Then it was the dynamite of a habeñero pepper that was to be eaten raw. After that, my sisters made up a sickeningly sweet concoction of Pepsi with added sugar. Ahh…not quite enough yet. Of course, my sisters asked for a “password.” In this case, hubs was even prepped for this. But he forgot! My younger sister’s other half, who was part of the groom’s entourage and knew of this password, had to prompt him. Even then, he still managed to screw it up. This was taken straight out of the “Romancing the Star” movie we watched and giggle to when we were young. Then they made the boys sing for me. Unfortunately, none of them knew how to sing. Only my sisters realized I was watching the show the entire time through the peep holes by our stairs. Cheh finally signaled to me, asking me if I would let them in. Fine.  No fun at all. After they paid their dues, physically and monetarily (where hubs gave “door opening money” – hoi mun lai si), my father finally opened the grills.

I ran back upstairs to hide. Not like in a hole, but almost in broad daylight. Yes, hide and seek works for adults too.

Now it was their job to look for me, and they failed miserably. There were four room doors upstairs. They literally opened every one of them before opening my room door. Men!

Back to d-day

After “successfully fetching” me (jip saan leong), we did the traditional tea ceremony, whereby the elders were acknowledged with the exchange of tea served to them, and in turn, they gave hubs and I red packets filled with money. Only my maternal relatives showed up for the tea ceremony. Daddy’s brothers and sisters were only traveling up to KL from Malacca and Singapore for the dinner reception. Hubs and I also got jewelry from my parents as a “dowry.” Old fashioned Chinese traditions are hard to break, even in the 21st century.

As the ceremony went on, I started sweating bullets.  It was really hot and humid that day.  Thank goodness my final gown didn’t have too much fuss and ruffles to it. My first gown was handmade – obviously the handmade part was the problem. The design was perfect, but the measurements somehow got screwy. My waist was elongated by about 3 extra inches, and I had supposedly grown an extra 10″ in height. In the end, I opted for an off-the-shelf piece by ABS Schwartz.

After the elders were served tea, it was time for the younger cousins to serve hubs and I tea. As I am the second eldest in the family, we had plenty of tea served to us, and we also gave out red packets. Thank goodness not all the cousins were around.

Back to d-day

After that, everyone took the opportunity for photos.  We were all decked out to the nines and, even rarer, was the family being together in one location at the same time. I’ve never been so blinded by flashlights ever since. Not to mention having to continuously wipe the sweat and oil oozing out from the oil refinery I call my pores.

My very dear family: the Chongs, Phoas and the Ludwigs. We are one happy Chinese, Siamese and German family!

Our friends from school, Assunta and St. Michael’s, for more than two decades. Makes us feel mighty young.

Back to d-day

After that, my entourage went to the groom’s home to repeat the tea ceremony with his family. We actually got lost, as my chauffeur tried to maneuver his way around Cheras. At one point, Kenneth had ask my friend to slow down so that he could take pictures of us in the moving car. My friend’s reply, “Any slower and I would put this sports car to shame.”

We were greeted at the steps of the apartment building by hub’s nephew. I think I made a puddle on my skirt just perspiring. Thank goodness sweat stains aren’t visible on ivory.

After this, we returned home to my place to have lunch and prepare to leave for the the dinner reception at the Equatorial Hotel. Traditionally, the daughter returns home to the parents’ place after three days at her in-laws. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have three days to kill. So after a change of clothes (symbolizing the passage of time) we went home.

Cheh took me to a salon to quickly wash out all the goo from my hair (so that all the goo can be put back into my hair again come dinner time). The irony.

As the day’s excitement started to drain, and the soothing sound of the blow dryer droned on, I started to feel the effects of not sleeping for 3 days in a row. By the time we were dropped off at the Hotel, we were not only running late, but Cindy, my make-up artist, was already waiting for me in the cafe. She gave me some time to settle in the room, and shower before coming up to our room. If I had more time, I would have enjoyed the room a little more.

Back to d-day


Preparation 2ShotsArrivalsDinnerSpeechesFarewells

It was a flurry of activity after Cindy came. Noting my exhaustion, Cindy suggested she did my hair first, so that I can rest my eyes. And rest my eyes I did, and almost burnt my scalp in the process.

As she was doing my makeup, my family arrived at the room to begin their preparation. Everyone changed there, and my mom, bless her, even brought food for us – thinking that we must be hungry. I were! One mouthful of fried noodles for one stroke of eyeshadow. Cindy only laughed after she heard my stomach grumbling loudly. As soon as they were ready, they left the room to attend to the registration table and greeting of the guest.

Back to dinner

After they left, Kenneth took us around the hotel to take a few shots (since we didn’t get a chance/time to take any pre-wedding shots). When that was done, we crawled back into our room.

Hubs and I were momentarily left alone in the room. He began panicking after realizing he had to give a speech, (talk about 11th hour, this was at the 59th second), as he hurriedly scribbled some words on paper. As I mumbled that he didn’t need to give a speech that night, I quickly nodded off with my head dangling off the ledge of the mattress (wouldn’t mess up my hair after all the trouble that Cindy went through). We were rudely awakened by a rap on our door. Hubs was told that he too had to be at the meet and greet at the banquet hall of the hotel. I dozed off again.

Back to dinner


They finally came for me. It wasn’t long before my “unveil” came. Hand in hand, hubs and I walked into the ballroom with the sounds of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” playing in the background. I saw many familiar faces, many of them aged, many who are dear, many who are family, many who I grew up with. I wished then, I had time to talk to everyone one of them.

The music for the night was hand-picked by me for months, timing everything and figuring out which part of the evening each song would coincide with. It was supposed to begin with classical music (starting with piano tunes to full blown orchestra) during reception, followed by oldies during the first part of the meal featuring the likes of Tony Bennett, Sophie Milman, Frank Sinatra and more. After our second entrance, the more current pop songs will be played from Alicia Keys to OneRepublic and Leona Lewis to Westlife, with Chinese and Japanese songs injected into the mix sparsely. At the end of the night, it was supposed to be more upbeat tunes. Unfortunately, my careful planning and even detailed explanation and write up didn’t work out. The audio tech for the night must not understand English too well. After a few times of asking cheh to fix the “problem” I finally gave up.

As we were ushered to our seats on the head table, Etta James’ “At Last” rang through the halls while the first course was served. Unfortunately, no one got the joke that “At Last” they were being feed. Wasted humor.

I can’t seem to remember what I ate, but I remember it being good. Lucky for us too, I told Mary, my event coordinator, to pack up whatever we (hubs, both my sisters and I) don’t eat for the night so that we can partake it later (a few DAYS later). After the fish dish, or was it the chicken, we once again had to leave the ballroom for a change of clothes. It was like a fashion show. We quickly dashed up to our room, while my sisters help me into my other gown for the night. Even hubs had a change of shirt and tie, to match my pink and gray outfit.

This second time around, we convinced my friend’s daughter to walk us into the ballroom together with hub’s nephew. We strolled in with Wang Lee Hom’s 10-second Intro number on his “Change Me” album followed by Nobodyknows+’s “Hero’s Come Back” blaring in the background. So Chinese. I love it! If you didn’t know by now, I’m a die-hard WLH fan and a geeky anime follower. These songs are very telling of my/our background.

Back to dinner

Once we were back in, the speeches were on. It began with my dad, ad-libbing.

Then Cheh’s speech, which started the tears rolling.

“Since I’m not married I can’t give you any real experience type of advice on the dos and the don’ts of being married. So I asked Mr. Google. Mr. Google churned up a few thousand advices from various notable personalities. To my sister, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt advices this, “Campaign behavior for wives: Always be on time. Do as little talking as humanly possible. Lean back in the parade car so everybody can see the President.”

Frankly speaking, I think this is quite impossible for her to do. (little talking is not one of her traits)

So then, I thought maybe I’ll google an advice to the groom. CL, former president Lyndon B. Johnson advices, “Only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, the other, to let her have it.”

No comments here. But as you can tell, whether it is google, Wikipedia, presidents or first ladies, it is not easy giving advice to a married couple regardless of your marital status.

Since advice is difficult to give and usually goes unheeded I thought I’d just give everyone an insight into this couple’s life.

A well known philosopher Nietzche once said, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” Don’t worry u two – You both lack neither one.

Friendship: As friends

1. Teasing – always teasing & because there is so much teasing, there’s obviously a lot laughter
2. Doing stuff together  – watching anime, movies etc, shopping,
3. Supporting each other – xbox games (where she would laugh at him whenever he lost), boogle (CL writing down new stupid scramble words for her to use the next time).

“Where love is blind, friendship closes its eyes.” As friends we take the good and the bad easily. We enjoy the good and accept the shortcomings

1. Disagreements – have u noticed, arguments with friends are never as heated as with your family? You’re more forgiving and the arguments usually don’t last long, it doesn’t fester. In fact it usually dissipates after talking very quickly about it, usually its because u want to go shopping, clubbing or just to watch the football game together. This is exactly what happens with hm & cl. As soon as it starts, it dissolves almost quite quickly. They both just want to move on to the next thing to do together – usually it’s to watch a movie or their cartoons.

2. We also endure each other’s fantasies – hm’s is wlh and os, cl’s football (wait til football is over then go have lunch together) & fishing & xbox.

Love: They definitely don’t lack it. As friends we endure one another fantasies, but with love, u go the extra mile to make part of that fantasy come true.

1. Case at hand – wlh’s concert. CL refused to watch him with her but drove her to the concert which was a 2-hour drive (one way) away at a casino. Waited outside, as he doesn’t gamble, for her for another 2 hours, then drove her back home which took another 2 whole hours.  Friendship closes its eyes but Love is blind.

2. CL  – 50” HD Flat screen TV. Which led to a new dvd player (supports HD), upgrading cable subscription (which have HD channels)

3. HM is sometimes plagued with sore joints which makes walking painful for her. But when you see how he helps her – they laugh together even though she’s in pain.

CL, I have one request to make. Although I don’t believe there is a need for this request, I feel I am obliged to say it. Please take care of her. She’s the only sister I have that has two dogs and a few hundred bags. She’s the only daughter that my parents have that they have always wanted to protect more and now have relinquished their responsibilities to you. So can you? take good care of my sister, her two dogs and her few hundred bags?

Thank you – well then, to my beloved sister hm and my bro-in-law cl – I don’t wish that you never have arguments but that when you do, the result of it is deeper consideration for one another’s needs, quicker reconciliation and gratefulness that it is the other person you are arguing with.

I don’t wish you eternal happiness but that you discover laughter, joy and contentment in every moment you are together but yearn for each other’s closeness when you are not.

I don’t wish that the love you have for each other continues to grow endlessly but that it is renewed every morning and you are thankful and are blessed that you are sharing your lives with one another.

May you always hold each other’s hands whether you are walking in a grocery store, to the car or under a rainbow of stars.

May you continuously be fulfilled just basking in each other’s presence
whether you are being a couch potato watching your favourite anime
or sitting on top of a hill overlooking the horizon trying to catch the day’s first rays.

May your home be filled with the pitter patter of happy feet (and we’re not talking about another dog or rabbit) to satiate it with more joy and laughter.

May the beauty you found in each other when you first met, age more beautifully than the finest French wine.

And most importantly, May God’s favor and blessings be upon you as you continue your journey as husband and wife.”

To lighten the mood a little, after the very touching speech, we had the cake cutting ceremony next (which I really thought was a real cake and the katana that they provided was the dud). Turns out, the cake was the dud (made of cardboard, which I tried to saw apart) and the katana was real. I dented their prop. Oops!

Then I went on and opened the flood gates again, turning everyone into a teary-mess.

“Unlike my sisters, I am not the most outspoken, articulate or eloquent individual.  (that’s why I have to read from this) But when I say I am truly appreciative of everyone’s attendance tonight, I mean it truly and sincerely. CL and I are immensely happy and grateful to everyone who made the effort in coming tonight.  Thank you to friends and family who traveled near and far to be with us.  Our gratitude also goes out to our siblings and cousins who helped us out tonight.  CL and I are truly blessed to have you in our lives.

Thank you to our parents – for whom without you, we will not be here today.  I want to specially thank my parents who went through months of torture from their ever-demanding and unreasonable daughter.  Thank you for being my consul. Thank you for your patience.  Thank you for your guidance.  To quote Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Thank you to my dearest sisters.  The years of living away from home was made easier by you.  Thank you for being my sister, my confidant, my best friend.  Thank you for the years of bickering, playing masak2 and our knee-scrapping, bedroom-flooding escapades. Thank you for sharing my tears and laughter.  Only you would spend Christmas and New Years assembling my “perfect” invite – and still get scolded for slacking off.  Only you would amuse me with my quest for the “perfect” burgundy dress – and in doing so created an entirely new wardrobe. Thank you for reminding me everyday of who I am and how far we have come.

Last but not least, CL.  11 years is a long way to travel for tonight. You may be led to believe that I want someone else, especially since I swoon at the sound of Wang Lee Hom, the sight of Oguri Shun, the brilliance of Shikamaru Nara or the aloofness of Neji Hyuga.  But you are all I need to be my pillar of strength, my voice of reasoning, my patience, my love.

The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white.
Neither need you do anything but be yourself.

We have been through jubilant and heart-breaking times.  Through richer and poorer.  Through health and sickness. Through arguments and forced-agreements.  Through my quirks and sweet endearments.  Through sweaty football games and broadway shows. I have become a part of your voice, as you have become a part of my heart.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy,
it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Thank you. Good night and God Bless!”

Hubs and my younger sister went after that. I guess there were one too many speeches that night? But our thanks needed to be said. Our gratitude needed to be shown. Our guests needed to know how far we have both traveled to be here, together, on this day.

After that, we did the traditional “YUM SENG!” – a toast of jubilation, a toast to honor the guests and a toast for new beginnings.

Back to dinner

After the bottoms-up, we went to each table to say our personal thank yous, and then the night came to an end, much too soon.  A year of planning all came to life in a blink of an eye. And in a flash, everything ended. We bid our final farewells, took our final photos and then we were off to the nitty-gritty of the night – counting out the money and paying the hotel for the dinner. As the family huddled into the room, weary and tired, my sisters and future-brother-in-law turned into accountants during tax time. When the bill was paid, my family finally left for the night at 1 am.

MY STORY Childhood • High School • University

Back to dinner

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