Putting “Through Thick and Thin” to the Test

A heartwarming tale or two of survival in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds often warm our hearts and brighten our days. Although the recent surge in natural disasters has put a damper on the mood of the world somewhat, stories of the survivors’ remarkable resilience are still rising to the forefront, cheering us up every time we hear of one.

I noted with interest an article in a local newspaper just the other day about an engaged couple who almost lost each other to the earthquake at Christchurch in New Zealand. Surviving against the odds, they eventually wed each other as planned. Well, probably not right down to the last details of their original plan, but they sure did improvise – and the occasion turned out to be as joyous as it would have been either ways.

That couple featured on the paper was probably not the only couple that have had to either move their wedding plans forward or backwards because of an unforeseen catastrophe. What a challenge it must have been for them to arrange for the marriage to proceed while still picking up the pieces. If you have ever planned or managed a project, you’ll likely agree that one of the worst nightmares is encountering a major hiccup right before the final delivery of said plan or project. And when that plan or project just so happens to be your own wedding, then boy, does it become personal or what!

It’s hard enough to get things rolling with months of advanced planning. Ensuring that a wedding takes place as planned in the aftermath of a disaster will surely test the skills of the most experienced of wedding planners. For one, what if the original location is no longer accessible? Communication networks are often the first to be brought down, as hordes of people try to contact relatives and friends to be reassured of their safety. What can be done if a planner has to contact all their vendors to update them on the status of the wedding? And what about the guests?

At a glance, arranging for a wedding with everything seemingly working against you may not seem very possible. But people have succeeded, and more are probably still succeeding even now. More than just falling back on contingency plans, improvising for a wedding this way becomes a labour of true love and a testimony of what can be achieved when sheer determination is coupled with some creative thinking.

The indomitable spirit of all couples that have overcome even forces of nature will surely carry into their marital life, and I wish them every success for whatever challenge they may yet face!

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“And They Lived Happily Ever After!”

A royal wedding often conjures up the image of a lavish feast taking place at the end of a children’s fairytale – where the prince and princess wed each other in an elaborate ceremony that is celebrated by the entire kingdom.

And that is exactly what will be happening this year, 2011, on April 29th. On this day, Prince William of the United Kingdoms will wed Kate Middleton, his longtime sweetheart.

More than just a British affair, people from all around the globe have their eyes on the event. It’s just like something straight out of the fairytales – a prince marrying the woman he loves, despite the fact that she is a commoner in the eyes of the aristocracy – and we all know how much appeal fairytales have regardless of time and location. In these hard economic times, everybody’s looking for a bit of fluff. And what can be more romantic than an elaborate festival celebrating the union of two people in love – one of them true-blue royalty to boot?

In terms of the economy, the royal wedding of 2011 will surely give the British economy a much appreciated boost. Already, retailers are rushing to sell clothing, rings, and various paraphernalia that imitate what the original royals are wearing to everyone clamouring to be a part of the royal wedding – however small it may be. The wedding is also saving the traditional china trade, as the royal family’s art collection Royal Collection is producing a three-piece china set in commemoration of the wedding. Each piece is handmade using traditional methods more than 200 years old!

Everyone – from the authorities to the citizens – is going the extra mile to accomodate the event. The transport secretary has announced the scrapping of guidelines for special occasions like street parties to facilitate local communities intending to hold Royal Wedding Street Festivals during the joyous day. Countless Londoners will be leasing their rooms out for those who will be journeying to London to attend the wedding personally.

The wedding will be one of the biggest celebrations for the people of the UK for a long time to come, and it is no wonder that everyone there is getting excited about it!

Westminster Abbey, where the 2011 royal wedding will be held.

Interestingly, Prince William’s parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana tied the knot almost exactly 30 years ago, on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the event was broadcast to a global audience of 750 million (Princess Diana’s wedding dress had a train that was 25 feet long!). In contrast, Prince Williams and Miss Middleton will wed at Westminster Abbey. Both the wedding days were declared to be holidays. Hordes of people – around 600,000 to be exact – crowded the streets of London for a glimpse of the royal wedding back then. Whether that number will be matched for the wedding this round remains to be seen.

Interest remains high around the internet from people of all nations for the royal wedding. With the advancement of technology and online social networks, information nowadays is dispersed faster than the twinkling of an eye. It is hard not to feel a little hyped up when the people in your social ring gush about the royal wedding. Yet a historian has declared that the royal wedding this time will not have the same iconic impact as the one in 1981. 30 years has passed since then, and the society has morphed as well, so while the allure is still there, things just aren’t the same anymore.

Only time will tell whether or not the man has spoken true words. As for a plebeian like me, well, a wedding – any wedding, royal or not – is a happy occasion, and my best wishes go to the newlyweds. The journey has just started, so don’t get too tired from your first step!

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On Why I Feel Dowries And Bride Prices Should Be Done Away With

On a home movie viewing session with my friends the other day, I gaped at a scene where a forlorn and impoverished woman could not marry because the groom’s family had demanded a car as dowry. More towards reality, I remember being in dismay hearing tales of prospective grooms struggling to save for the exorbitant bride price demanded by the bride’s family.

What is a dowry, and what is a bride price? How did they make the jump from respectable traditions to entertainment devices meant to wring sympathy from viewers?

In a nutshell, a dowry is property or wealth given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family. The bride price is given by the groom’s family to the bride’s family.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that. Originally, a dowry was given to help establish the household of the newlyweds. It came with many regulations to ensure that the wife and children would still have something to take care of themselves with in the event of the husband’s untimely death. The newlyweds were the main beneficiaries of the dowry, not the families they come from. Of course, different families and cultures have different expectations and practices in this regard. In some western cultures, it is a given that the bride must wear her grandmother’s or mother’s wedding dress for her wedding day!

A bride price was slightly different, in that it was given to the bride’s family before marriage as proof that the groom would treat his new wife well, and was financially able to take care of her and any children to come. If the man ended up marrying someone else, he forfeited his bride price. It was a serious decision to make in times past.

Both started out as reasonable and well-meaning traditions meant to protect the new family and ensure stability in their lives. Both have morphed into something else altogether, in almost all cultures across the world.

It is hard to deny that modern marriages are beginning to look like business transactions nowadays, when families of the bride and groom come together for lengthy meetings with witnesses and whatnots to decide on a bride price and/or dowry – depending on where you stay. And that is where the main bone of my contention lies.

You’re marrying your son/daughter off, not selling them!

True, parents do want to know that their future in-laws will be financially stable enough to provide and care for for their children. They also want to know that their future in-laws value their children enough to pay a high price for them if need be. But, consider: the price that is demanded from either party will end up setting back the newlyweds financially in the first place. Why start your children’s new family in debt, just to send them off in style?

For many families, demanding a high sum is merely a formality, as they will usually return all or majority of the price at the end of the ceremony. My question to ones holding such an attitude is, why demand that price in the first place, then? If a token is all that is necessary, would it kill you to relieve the other party’s already stressful marriage preparations by lowering the sum or just not asking for it at all?

In many developing countries (and even some first world countries!) where these customs are practiced, parents sometimes sell their daughters off to the highest bidder, in an attempt to get out of the poverty that traps them. On the other hand, grooms sometimes demand unreasonable dowries for their brides to cash in on the situation – especially if the community stigmatises women that become unwed after a certain age. In India, the situation warrants such serious attention that “dowry death” – women who are murdered or commit suicide as a result of in-laws who try to demand more dowry – has become a subset of domestic violence.

I seriously believe this whole system of dowry and bride price should be scrapped, or restored to its original form where the newlyweds benefited from the arrangement, and not their families. Indeed, if there is no heart in the gift, then it should not be given at all.

All things considered, if you live in Singapore, perhaps the various parties are better off getting a Singapore wedding planner to suss out all the details of wedding formalities. It is certainly no fun if one is to start off such an important day in their life by being stressed out by wedding customs that may be outdated.

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The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony

Chinese TeaAn elderly couple take their seats, and a younger couple kneel before them. A tray is presented, two small cups of tea on top. The younger man takes a cup and offers it to the elderly man first, then the elderly woman. The younger woman repeats the task. Everyone involved in and witnessing the event is all smiles. The elderly couple then take their time to shower their blessings on the younger couple – now customarily man and wife in their eyes – with words and gifts.

If you haven’t attended a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony before, the above scenario likely sounded alien to you. Family bonds, respect for one’s elders and proper convention are among some of most highly valued qualities in Chinese communities. And since the tea ceremony embodies all of that, it is almost never missing from a traditional Chinese wedding, no matter how modernised it may have become.

The wedding tea ceremony has its roots in an ancient Chinese marriage custom that is almost like a Chinese version of the modern vow-exchanging ceremony. In this ceremony, the couple (the groom may still be attired in a traditional Chinese garb and the bride in her traditionally-styled bridal gown) being wed are first asked to bow before heaven and earth, their elders, and then each other. No “I do”s going around here, but still an open declaration that the marriage has been sealed with the official consent of all present! After that event, the tea ceremony begins.

As a sign of respect, the couple will usually kneel before their elders when presenting tea to them. Nowadays, some are allowed to simply bow when serving the drink. The basic sentiment behind this ceremony is gratitude. The couple are thankful to the parents who took care of them until the day of their marriage, and reassures them in this symbolic gesture that they too will continue to take care of their parents after their marriage. The complete ceremony includes serving tea to grandparents and any senior relatives like aunties and uncles as a show of respect, although some choose to simplify it by serving only their parents.

This event is also viewed as the official introduction of relatives from both sides to each other. Unlike many other cultures, where age usually signifies a transition into adulthood, the Chinese consider marriage to be the turning point. So this is also the day the newlyweds are formally considered “adults” who will now be starting a family of their own. The tea set used for the ceremony is usually kept by the couple as a memento of this important event. Most Chinese will prefer to choose a red tea like Puer tea as they associate the colour red (see Wedding Malaysia Guide) with happiness and prosperity, but any tea is acceptable.

Rich in meaningful symbolism, it is not hard to see why Chinese all around the globe from all walks of lives are still choosing to include the tea ceremony in their weddings. If you ever have the chance to be present at one, don’t get too intimidated by the formalities and instead focus on the strong sense of respect it conveys!

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Wedding Cakes – How and Why

When it comes to modern wedding traditions, the wedding cake in all its multi-layered, icing-encrusted glory is a relative newcomer. Considering sugar paste icing and cake pillar supports were all ideas of the 18th century and beyond, it is not hard to deduce why this is so.

Still, sources indicate that the wedding cake could have been inspired from a multi-layer French pastry known as the croque-en-bouche (if you remember those Ferrero Rocher advertisements where the pastry chef stacks the chocolate treats into cone shapes, that’s what it looks like!), which in turn was inspired by a marriage custom of England in the middle ages. Apparently, back in those days, guests would stack piles of sweet rolls between the bride and groom, who would then attempt to kiss over the pile without toppling anything. Those who manage to do so will apparently have success in their marriage, and much posterity to look forward to.

Nowadays, while couples generally do not kiss over their wedding cakes, they are expected to cut it together in a symbolic gesture of their first task together as man and wife. In some cultures, the bride and groom even feed each other pieces of the confectionery to further emphasize the intimacy they will be sharing henceforth. One note of caution though: don’t ruin that beautiful wedding dress as you do so!

In view of the symbolic nature of cake cutting, some modern couples may choose to simply insert a knife into a fake cake to the applause of the guests. While this would mean that the guests do not get to enjoy fresh cake (not that they don’t already have other things to relish, though!), it also means that the couple is free to design their cakes with the most outrageous of ideas (in good taste, of course), since edibleness is not an issue anymore.

For couples who choose to have a real cake, some also have it pre-cut to save the hassle of cutting it on-the-spot. Other couples go even further to have a wedding cake made smaller cakes stacked on top of each other, so that guests can just grab and go! Most of the time, wedding cakes are white to go with the occasion. Nobody says you can’t have a bit of stylish pink or cool blue on your own wedding cake, though!

Interesting Wedding Cake

Who says you can't be creative with your cakes?

Like many other wedding customs and traditions, whether to have a wedding cake cutting is a personal choice only the bride and groom can decide for themselves. As newlyweds, it will certainly be nice to have something romantic to look back on a few years down the road, but keep in mind that wedding cakes won’t be the only romantic thing happening during your big day! One thing’s for sure, don’t forget to pose for your wedding photographer that day!

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Wedding Favour Origins and Original Ideas

Some of the things we have come to expect during weddings are: a beautiful bride, a gushing groom, fantastic food, and a small wedding favour. Not that we as guests do something as a favour to the couple getting wed. On the contrary, this refers to the gift that most couples carefully prepare for their guests as a token of appreciation of our being there to share in their special day.

The custom of giving wedding guests a souvenir to take home is an old one, with many sources pointing to an origin in European nobility. Known as a bonbonniere (or bomboniere in Italian, which means ‘sweet box’) back then, couples would place cubes of sugar or small confectionery into boxes made of valuable material like crystal or porcelain and present them to their guests.

Those items symbolised wealth and prestige, as suger was a rare commodity, and needless to say, crystal boxes weren’t exactly easy to come by. Therefore, it was not until the price of sugar came down that this practice spread to the common folk, gaining popularity from there and eventually developing into the modern tradition of wedding favours we are so familiar with now.

That said, your wedding favour need not necessarily be elaborate or expensive to be memorable. While confectionary is still one of the more popular items given away nowadays, some of the unusual wedding favours I remember receiving include glass coffee stirrers, clay figurines, and even a little bottle of honey decorated with wings and a message of gratitude from the couple themselves.

Interesting and original wedding favours

Glass coffee stirrers and clay figures!

If you have a theme to your wedding, it may be nice to consider a wedding favour that goes along with it. Otherwise, anything goes, really. Convention is cool, but so is creativity! Keep your budget modest, but let your imagination run wild. Nothing says “thank you” like a gift with a personal touch!

Some couples give out wedding favours when guests sign the guestbooks. Others may offer them as doorgifts. Still others simply leave the wedding favours on a table for the guests to help themselves to when passing by, taking into consideration that not all guests may want to have one (refer to Wedding Malaysia). Whatever the method, you can be assured that your guests will appreciate any effort you put into choosing and preparing the gift for them, and your special day will be fondly remembered by them for many years to come!

Original Wedding Favour Ideas

Want something original for your wedding favour but can’t seem to come up with the right ideas? Perhaps the following guidelines can jog your creativity cells a bit!

1) Something edible
Sweets, snacks, cakes, and confectionery. Sometimes it seems like people expect to receive something sweet and edible for a wedding favour. But why not surprise them with the unexpected? Is there a local snack or two that is bound to delight everyone? Is it possible to shape the food into special patterns? Write something on it with icing? Wrap it in something interesting or personalised?

2) Something practical
It may be difficult to come up with a present that is practical for everyone, considering wedding guests usually consist of the young, the old, and all the others that fall somewhere in between. A common practical gift is the photo frame. Instead of buying, however, is it possible to make some from art materials, scrapbook style? Or if you do buy, can you perhaps decorate them to add some style to it? Almost everyone has a mobile phone nowadays, so a handy phone pouch may be a nice item to consider as well. If you just put your mind to it, you could probably come up with even more!

3) Something memorable
Imagine a small, clear bottle filled with colourful sand or flower petals. Or a corsage arranged with blossoms that imply gratitude in the language of flowers. These things add vividness to decor and will likely be appreciated by your guests despite being neither edible nor completely practical.

Feel free to browse through the catalogues of online stores offering custom-made wedding favours to see what’s in vogue! Perhaps you will find something you particularly like, and can make with your own materials! Who knows, an original idea might even strike you as you look through the list of favours. If you are out of ideas, you could always look up one of many Singapore wedding planners.

Hopefully, you’ve found some inspiration with this little article that can brighten up your wedding day both for you and your guests!

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The Wedding Ring – Past, Present, and Future

Wedding Rings

A sign of mutual affection and devotion!

One of the most exciting moments in the life of a woman in love – if Hollywood is to be believed – will likely include The Moment. The Moment where The Man of her life approaches her (on bent knee, with rose in mouth, when staring at Orion Belt, etc), pops The Question, and presents The Ring.

But have you ever wondered, “Why a ring?”

Seen as a symbol of love and commitment by many, the exchanging of rings in wedding ceremonies has come to be a quintessential part of the event. The wedding ring is different from the engagement ring, the latter being a promise to marry and usually sought for and bought by the groom alone. Wedding rings, however, are usually chosen and bought by the couple together. After all, this will be the band that they will be wearing proudly on their fingers for the rest of their lives, and they will certainly want to get something that’s perfect for the both of them!

While there are conflicting views as to the origin and symbolism of wedding rings, the idea of a wedding or engagement ring is by no means modern. The ancient Egyptians used it. As did the ancients Jews, Romans, and Greeks! Such rings were usually treated as a symbol of the bride’s legal bond to her groom in the eyes of the community. A reference (see Wedding Planners Singapore) work even states that they were at one point of time used to make agreements. In a similar vein, today, this timeless accessory is viewed by many people as an indication of the wearer’s marriage status. No one can say for sure when the ring made the jump from ancient custom to modern tradition, but the transition has been made, and the wedding ring is indeed here to stay.

Since it looks like there is no escaping The Ring, both bride and groom should take time to discuss and consider each other’s personal preferences, as well as how much they are willing to invest in the bands. There are also couples who may choose not to have wedding rings, and there is nothing wrong with that, really.

Make no mistake, however, that the wedding ring is but a symbol of the start of your life together and certainly no magical charm that will ensure a happily-ever-after. You’ve carefully made that decision to go through thick and thin as one, so now grow old and satisfied together! If you need more information on wedding traditions and customs, it will be a good idea to look up your local wedding planner or consultant. Naturally, you can also check with your elders or relatives for details on wedding rings and such.

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