Modern marriage culture in China

This NY Times article "For Many Chinese Men, No Deed Means No Dates" was published a few weeks ago and I found it to be a pretty interesting read.
Han Han, one of China’s most widely read bloggers, frequently assails the government policies that he and many economists say have contributed to rapidly rising prices.

In an interview, he said one consequence of the single-minded focus on real estate, or on earning the money to make mortgage payments and repay family loans, is that young people have little time for anything else. “We’ve created a generation of young people whose sole ambition is to have a piece of property under their name,” he said.
I disagree with the people that intimate this is some new trend that has the culture turning against love-based marriages. I think the Chinese are above all a practical people, and this is just an extension of that. Yes, there is plenty of art and literature in Chinese culture about true love, but they engaged in arranged marriages just as much as anyone else, back in the day.

Also, quotes like "'A lot of girls, encouraged by their parents, see marriage as a way of instantly changing their status without the hard work,' he said bitterly." Um, can anyone say, every rags-to-riches fairy tale princess story ever, pretty much? Where girls move up in life and have princes fall in love with them just by being beautiful and kind and forgiving and meek and all that?

So basically, yes, it's sad for the men who do actually feel stuck with no dating prospects because they either can't or don't want to buy property, and it is a bit weirdly single-minded of women who use this as a barrier to dating someone, but honestly, I just can't get too worked up about given the history of patriarchal culture. Even if it's not entirely right, I do sort of rejoice in women getting some more power here.


I've been keeping track of the various wedding/marriage related books I've read in the right sidebar, but I wanted to recommend a not specifically related to weddings book that I think would be helpful in the wedding planning process: How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Here's what I wrote in my Goodreads review:
This was an excellent, accessible popular science book where the author actually knows what he's talking about (Tara Parker-Pope's For Better, I'm looking at you). The progression of the book made sense, examining the strengths and weaknesses of emotional and rational decision-making each in turn. The different points were illustrated with several real-world examples and tied to research studies, and the conclusions at the end were presented in a useful manner.

It's basically this kind of stuff that made me interested in psychology and neuroscience in the first place in school, in terms of trying to figure out why other people do what they do, since that often mystifies me from the outside. Of course, I eventually realized that I was utterly bored by actually having do the research that is summarized in a sentence or two here, and instead, I just liked learning about the conclusions and trying to apply them to real life.

If you enjoy thinking about thinking, you should read this book.
This is related to wedding planning in that I'm discovering lately that wedding planning could be characterized as a seemingly endless list of decisions to be made. I've gotten to the point where sometimes I'll just say, "eh, I don't have an opinion on this currently."

Anyway, what the book says about how you weigh different pieces of information to come to a logical conclusion, versus sleeping on something for a few days and letting it work itself out in the back of your mind, I think that thinking about those different ways of making decisions could help people planning big life events like weddings.

Also, somewhat related is this post from the world's tallest female econo-blogger, Megan McArdle, on the phenomenon of cold feet:
People's memories change--as Lori Gottlieb points out in Marry Him, scientists who interviewed couples in their first year of marriage, and then again seven years later, found that the happy couples had retroactively rewritten their meeting story to be more positive (love at first sight!) while the people who were having trouble, or divorced, now spoke about their meeting in much less positive terms.  This isn't necessarily fabrication; it's just that we pick and choose what we recall, and those who are happy will selectively recall the best parts, while those who are unhappy will accentuate the negative.

I've been at various weddings where bride or groom freaked out beforehand, and the degree of the freak out was not necessarily related to the happiness of the relationship.  You should be thinking hard about the decision to love someone and care for them no matter what happens...But of course if things go wrong, you'll naturally look back and think, "I wish I'd taken counsel of my fears!"
Robin wrote a similar post about getting cold feet but not thinking that that really has all that strong a connection to wanting to get married. I agree with both these smart ladies and will add in that just even though cold feet is a common deus ex machina in romantic comedies, that doesn't mean it's actually true in real life.

Attendants' accessories

Dan's in the middle of trying to find a tie that he and I both like. I tried to talk him into a gold tie made out of matching gold fabric that I'm using as the waist ties on my dress, but he wasn't into the idea at all. He may end up wearing a gold pocket square...we'll see. He's also not much into the idea of boutonnieres, so we may just skip that entirely as well, unless his groomsmen decide they want something. Nevertheless, here are some ideas that I collected:

A Pomp & Plumage boutonniere, via Creature Comforts

Emersonmade boutonnieres, via Little Dwell, who put together a little tutorial for a boutenniere inspired by these

And not so much for the guys, but a fabric flower tutorial from Colette Patterns.

Photobooth info & chalkboards

Amy has come to my rescue and will be taking over the whole photobooth project, hurrah! It's going to be placed in a corner of the middle terrace outside, where people will see it pretty easily, there's natural light, but it isn't really in the way. There's a door in that corner too that we could try to open up and hang some fabric over if the photobooth backdrop thing doesn't work out.

Overall advice
  • APW Photobooth How-to, which used a digital SLR, a sturdy rented tripod, a remote shutter device ($15), and saved the photos to the flash card in the camera
  • Lyn of Another Damn Wedding's post on her photo guestbook: I think this is basically I want! Getting physical photos is more fun than saving files to a card, plus I'm rubbish at getting around to making scrapbooks. Key lessons: she used the Fujifilm INSTAX 210 Instant Photo Camera ($65 on Amazon), with film being ~$2/exposure, and pens for people to write messages on the photos themselves. She also had an instructions sheet, which I think is a really good idea.
  • Merrilee did a photobooth at a Halloween party that mentioned using an actual photo backdrop stand from a photographer friend of hers, which she has a photo of. Not sure if this is something that can be rented?
  • While searching on Etsy, I found this shop Fun on a Stick that has a whole section on photobooth setups that seems pretty neat, actually. $83.95 for a freestanding photobooth backdrop with fabric, plus $22 to ship in the U.S.

Hopefully this isn't too unethical, but I have recruited my handy friend Joe to build us one like this out of PVC pipes based on what we can see of the structure in the photos. He thinks it should be pretty easy and quick. I'll take care of sewing up the fabric backdrop, but I can't decide if it should be a solid color (and if so, what color), or a pattern, or...something that's a hodgepodge.

Our photographer Kelly posted this photo of a wedding at the Fuller Craft Museum. I think that background here might be part of the museum? But at first I thought it was some kind of patchwork quilt of fabrics and I kind of like the effect.

  • I have a friend at work who has a Polaroid camera he said I could borrow, but film is apparently pretty expensive? Not sure how that works out on a per exposure cost when compared to including the cost of the Fujifilm Instax camera, hopefully Amy will do the math on that one!
  • Another option would be to use the point-and-shoot digital camera that we already own and then set up a printer like this Polaroid PoGo Instant Mobile Printer ($35). Amy says she thinks it's a pretty good price for pretty decent printed photos, not the best, but does the job. Also apparently sometimes there are streaks in the photos, but you can calibrate it to avoid those. This printer uses Polaroid ZINK Photo Paper which is pretty inexpensive, about $0.20 per sheet. Photo paper needs to be kept in a cool spot, as heat will damage it and affect how it prints. There's also an adhesive on the back of this paper that you can peel off to glue it to something.
  • I've posted some other potential props, but Amy also sent me the idea of creating a Polaroid frame out of white cardboard as a prop, kind of like how other people have used an empty picture frame. Set up your digital camera on a tripod and create fake polaroids. By that I mean, cut out a white cardboard frame for people to physically hold and frame themselves in. Like so
  • Wedding for Two posted about a really simple DIY chalkboard sign that she made for $7. 
While I'm on the topic of chalkboards, I wanted to include this chalkboard program from that same Fuller Craft Museum wedding that Kelly shot:

Pros: a way to display program information without having to make programs, which could be helpful in giving guests a sense of what to expect in the ceremony since it's non-traditional/religious.

Cons: probably only the people sitting in the front would really see them, right? Or is it safe to assume that people would see them when they're milling around before the ceremony starts?

Another chalkboard item are the signs that Lyn also made:

I've been thinking of a way to make signs for things, especially the pies that people will bring, without needing to print things up beforehand. This could be an easy way to do that.

The Music: Closing the Book

We're reaching the point in the process where the wedding stuff starts to overwhelm real life, unfortunately, which is either exhilarating (we're getting closer to the day!) or frustrating (not another uncomfortable phone call/e-mail!). Katherine is pretty much in non-stop wedding mode when she's not at work, whether it's sewing, or various crafts, or prepping for the ceremony. Our tacit division of labor--which became more explicit about a week ago--is that I handle most of the home maintenance stuff (cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping), while Katherine handles most of the wedding stuff.

The music, however, remains my domain, and there appears to be a bright spot amid the lateness of the hour. A few months ago, I ran a handful of songs for use at the ceremony past Katherine, and she was noncommittal about all of them. Last night, I culled that list into the two I wanted most, and now, she was quite happy with the options. Perhaps being forced to make decisions, in some respects, is a good thing--there's less of a chance to hem and haw and temporize and waste time.

We got two requests for the ceremony itself. BD Lenz generously offered us ceremony music that consisted of himself on an acoustic guitar, along with his saxophonist on the sax. I had mulled over a few options for a while, but I'm pretty happy with the final choices for the ceremony. I went with a bit more of a Beatles' thing for that one:

- Processional: Till There Was You - I really like the Beatles' version of the song, but it has other slower, romantic versions out there as well. The song was originally from The Music Man, but it has also made its way into other contexts, including The Wedding Singer. It works quite well on an acoustic guitar.

- Recessional: When I'm 64 - I had this one in mind from the start, and I'm glad that Katherine acceded. I think it's a PERFECT wedding song, if the core idea of a wedding is that two people have decided to announce that they are guessing that they've found a person that they'll be able to grow old with. The fact that Sir Paul penned something so poignant at such a young age continues to astound me.

The only other song that was seriously considered was "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," which was our prom song a hundred years ago. There's a great saxophone version of the song on YouTube:

My apologies for the home photos in that one; they're not mine. I listened to this a few times, but I decided that the background orchestration (with the subtle strings) is what gives that its texture. I think just having the solo sax blare out some late-90s Aerosmith would be uncomfortable. Plus, Ben Affleck.

So, why do I say the book is closed? I e-mailed BD Lenz our song choices, including our two requests for the reception from much earlier in this process, "Ever the Same" and "Give the Girl a Kiss." I started having terrible second thoughts on "Give the Girl a Kiss," mostly because "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" has become the Matilda Edwards to the Mary Todd that is "Give the Girl a Kiss." But, like Lincoln, I ultimately "kept my resolves" and decided to stick with the original choice. (For an excellent treatment of this issue, see Douglas Wilson's Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln, which is the best biography I have ever read. For the shorter version, go here.)

That's enough of that. The main reason why I didn't take "4th of July, Asbury Park," a truly great song that has become one of my favorite songs over the last few months, was because of the size of the necessary arrangement. It has a very prominent accordion part, and the piano really does keep the time. I can't imagine the song without those components, and we won't be having either instrument at the wedding. But because I brought it up, enjoy:

Ceremony ideas linkfest

One of my wedding tasks this weekend is to finally fill out the questionnaire for our officiant to be able to start putting together the first draft for our ceremony. I've gone through the archives on stuff related to the ceremony, but here are some more links that I've been saving up.

  • Getting there: Angie and Josh planned to walk in together, hand-in-hand, just following their celebrant to the designated open area near the pavilion where their reception was hosted. Originally they weren't going to have an aisle, either, but then they decided to have an aisle and have their parents walk them down it instead.
  • Afterwards: 2000 Dollar Wedding had a post on post-ceremony transition instructions they had their officiants announce, to explain to people what would happen next. This makes so much sense to me, in order to set everyone's expectations, since I don't think we'll be having programs but I think people like to know what's next.
Guides to writing ceremonies
  • Meg of A Practical Wedding's post on how she and David wrote their modern Jewish ceremony, with always helpful self-reflection. She says, "I think that the fundamental question to ask yourselves when you tackle your ceremony (and to continually ask yourself at various points during the process) is, 'what is the relationship we want to have with tradition?' What push/pull do we want to create with what is traditional for us and/or our families?"
  • APW post on writing a secular ceremony
  • More resources at APW on writing a secular ceremony: "First, figure out what you believe about marriage fundamentally. This has to be your foundation, and then when you wade through the insane amount of books/suggestions/google results, you will at least know what to use when/if you see it."
  • I think I've seen recommendations for Judith Johnsons' The Wedding Ceremony Planner: The Essential Guide to the Most Important Part of Your Wedding Day in a few different places, but the first place was probably this wedding graduate post by Wendy and Darin

I need to talk to Dan about this because I think he's probably pretty skeptical on the general idea of rituals that involve audience participation, like a ring warming or a group declaration of support (officiant asks the audience to respond with "we do!" in response to a question about having the community support the marriage), but I think I would really like to have some of that. We'd have to hammer out what wouldn't feel too New Age-y or intrusive to him, but still give me the sense of community involvement that I'd like.
  • Wedding for Two posted about a friend of hers that had a moment in the ceremony where people were encouraged to introduce themselves to people around them. I've only been to a few church services, so I can't remember if this happens at every one, but I remember some where you shake hands with people around you that you don't know, which I always thought was a really nice thing to have especially for an introvert like me that doesn't generally go around introducing myself to people I don't know. However, she mentions it made the attendants feel awkward and they just did group hugs all around instead. Also, with ~100 at our wedding, with most people attending as part of a larger group of friends or family, people probably will mostly be sitting with people that they know and this would only happen at the fringes where different groups are touching.
  • I feel pretty strongly that I want to have an acknowledgement of our gratitude and respect for our parents in the ceremony itself, beyond the having them walk us down an aisle possibility. Sharon's inclusion of bowing to their parents in the ceremony feels to me like something we could do that wouldn't feel silly or too awkward like I think a flower ceremony might. Actually, just looking at the photos of this moment in their ceremonies makes me tear up a bit.
  • An Ask Team Practical post on having bilingual weddings. I think the Chinese contingent will be fine without bilingual signs, but I feel like it might be nice to have a Chinese poem or something read by...someone? Maybe my dad? 
People have asked me about what Chinese traditions I'd like to incorporate, but actually, somewhat like Chinese swear words, this was not a part of my Chinese cultural education at all. My parents don't have much to offer here either, as they got married in the U.S. It's a bit strange, as with the long history of Chinese culture, you'd think they would have developed a tradition or two related to marriage, but I've only really seen "traditional" Chinese weddings as portrayed on TV dramas set in the days of the emperors. Probably not too authentic. I'll ask our officiant to do some research here, I suppose.

From "Union" by Robert Fulghum, which is apparently out of his book, From Beginning to to End - The Rituals of Our Live. He's also the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife.
From The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle [edit: I checked out a copy of this book from the library, as Dan wanted to learn the context, but then we found out that this isn't actually one straight passage in the book, so I'm correcting this to show the parts that were taken out. It's from pages 46-48]
But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. . . . It is indeed a fearful gamble. . . . Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature. . . . To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. . . . If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. . . . It takes a lifetime to learn another person. . . . When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

A few paper goods projects

From Maia, I learned about this concept of a "wedding tree."

Basically it's a poster with an image of a tree on it that you set up at the reception with an ink pad, a test notepad of paper, and perhaps some wipes for people to clean their hands, and they put their thumbprint along the tree branches as the "leaves" and sign their names around it. Etsy has a good number of different printable designs. I think this is a pretty neat idea, because you then end up with basically a poster that you can hang in your home.

I will not be doing this as I don't think there will be that many kids at the reception, but if you were having many younger guests and wanted to set up activities for them, this DIY coloring book using photos project would be pretty fun, I think.

And also, we got our first wedding present the other day (thank you again to the Lius, many-generational family friends on my mom's side)! Which got me to thinking about getting some nice thank you cards. Dan doesn't really get why I want non-everyday thank you cards, but I'm pushing for them anyway. I came up with a photo-based idea to be printed at Overnight Prints that's waiting on the wedding bands arriving, but I also found these letterpressed thank you cards on Etsy with that double happiness character in the background:

$3.50 per individual card, plus shipping

It's quite an elegant design, I think. I contacted the seller about making up an order of 50 cards with design but the Chinese character for thanks in the background instead of the double happiness, and she was really open to the idea, offered to customize the border colors, and also threw in a bulk order discount.

An excellent reaction to the invitation

Subject: Just thought I'd mention
that I like your invitations so much, with the double happiness symbol tied to the front, that I'm trying my hardest not to disturb the original design. This means, effectively, that I can't open it all the way. I have to sort of move the thread around when I want to read the text. I am perhaps doomed never to see the directional maps you included on the inside; can I call if I get lost?
I've been loving the positive responses we've been getting in response to the invitations (the negative ones I haven't heard directly and so can't form an opinion on those, of course) and just wanted to share this recent one. It's from one of our high school friends who I didn't even really think of as one to notice wedding-related aesthetic details. Yay!

More hanging decorations

I'm trying to clean up my draft posts and saved links as I work on fleshing out my wedding project plan spreadsheet (it's a bit intense). I have quite a list of other things I want to post about, like our invitations, and the wedding website my friend Amy helped me build with Google Sites, but it's crunch time until the wedding now and I should probably put off writing those posts for later.

I love the texture and simplicity of these string chandeliers! I think I actually once got a yarn ball like this as a favor from a birthday party in middle school. That one had multiple yarn colors mixed in, but I quite like these solid colors. Only thing is that it's a rather messy project and takes up a good amount of space.

Tutorial at Ruffled, though I can't remember where I got this link from.

I also really quite like this pom pom garland. I haven't always like previous photos of pom pom garlands that I've come across before, I think, but these appeal to me, plus they'd be really easy to store. Also, I think I do actually have the Clover pom-pom making kit mentioned in the instructions.

There's a really cute shop in Hoboken that I walk by every day on my way to and from the PATH station, and they always have really awesome window displays. I spoke to the owner once, she told me it's her sister-in-law who does them, and they're always really creative and cool but in an accessible way, as opposed to Anthropologie window displays, where lately I walk by and my jaw will drop but I will also think that they're a little crazy while envying their job a little. Anyway, right now this shop has some really pretty tulle pom poms hanging, which led me to look for some tutorials. Martha's got a write-up, of course, but I also found a couple others. Same concept as a regular yarn pom pom, pretty much.

This photo from the Once Wed tutorial.