White Wedding/Red Wedding

According to a wedding website I occasionally check for ideas, there are 230 days to go until my American wedding. Every time I click on links from the website’s e-newsletter a little banner at the bottom of the page reminds me how time is edging ever so closer to that final date.

Some days I’ll look at the banner and think, “Oh my gosh, There is so much to do, I’ve barely scratched the surface!” While on other days I’ll think, “Hey it’s still 7+ months away. I’ve got plenty of time…”

This pretty much sums up the duality of planning a “white” (American) wedding and a “red” (Nepali) wedding. The timings are completely different, and it is both frustrating, calming, and scary at the same time.

I’m generalizing here—but most American weddings are planned several months, if not a year or more, in advance. Nepali weddings, mmmm, not so much. You’re lucky if you have months, usually it is more like month or maybe even weeks. Which is actually quite astounding when you think about it. Most Nepali weddings are significantly larger (hundreds of guests) with more moving parts (multiple ceremonies and receptions) and more ‘plan ahead’ type issues like potential travel to the other side of the world and coordinating with relatives thousands of miles away!

Meanwhile, I’ll pick up the phone and talk to my sisters, mother, or grandmother and they find my relaxed attitude about planning and organizing bizarre. They are on “Team America” where time is of the essence. I’m great with logistics, I plan events at work all the time, but still, the fact that the wedding is 230 days away and I still don’t have a) a dress, b) a photographer, c) a wedding officiant, d) a dj, e) invitations, f) save the dates, g) an official guest list, although it’s just about there… I think I need to stop listing things, or I’ll start freaking out… but there are so many unplanned pieces (and this is just the American wedding! We have a whole other ceremony to plan!). They just don’t understand why I’m taking my dear sweet time. My mother has been hounding me about booking hotel room blocks for guests, and I keep telling her, “I’m not quite there yet” and she responds, “You better get there soon! It will be here before you know it!”

Meanwhile I’ll talk to my Nepali friends and the mentality is—the wedding is so far away. 7+ months… you’ve got ages! Why are you freaking out? Why do you need a wedding dress now? Who thinks about a photographer this early? Of course I have supportive friends as well, but I’m also a little worried that if I talk about wedding stuff with them too much I’ll burn them out since there is so much time left, and I don’t want to look crazy.

It is tough sometimes to remember to keep perspective, especially when the differences between the cultures can be so stark, but there are times where all I can do is kind of chuckle. Over the weekend I had a conversation at a dinner party that went something like this:

Me: “I didn’t know you had 4 siblings.”
Friend: “Yeah, two older sisters who are married and two younger brothers who aren’t, although I’m sure my brother who was born right after me will get married a month or two after I do because he has been waiting.”
Me: “Oh, so when are you getting married?”
Friend: “This summer.”
Me: “Really? Summer 2011? Like us? I didn’t know that! Congrats!”
Friend: “Yeah, thanks.”
Me: “So who are you getting married to?”
Friend: “I don’t know yet.”
Me: “But you’re definitely getting married this summer?”
Friend: “Yeah. Definitely.”
Me: “But you don’t know who you are marrying yet?”
Friend: “Right.”
Me: “I have to laugh. I’m spending all this time organizing my own wedding, that is taking place at the same time, and you haven’t organized anything, and don’t even know who you are marrying.”
We both chuckle…
Friend: “Yep.”

And I’m stressing out about a wedding dress? At least I have a groom!

Actually at one point over the summer I even asked P to call some of the local temples to see if he could check on space availability and one of the temple priests scolded him saying, “I don’t even know where I will be next summer, how can I tell you if the temple is free and what we are doing!”

So wedding planning has definitely been—er—interesting, to say the least. I think I’m getting hung up on little details like picking a white wedding dress because I feel like it is one thing I can control, amongst all these moving and uncertain pieces. I feel I have very little control over what the Nepali ceremony will look like, and I’m a little sad that P’s family doesn’t seem very excited to discuss details. Actually I have yet to mention the word “wedding” to them. A few people have talked about it on our behalf, but that’s it.

On the other side, my family only wants to talk about wedding stuff, but I feel like I have to pick battles all the time—“No, the Nepali wedding is not a ‘side show’ the ‘Asians’ are only invited to,” “No, both weddings are equal so they will both be on the invitation,” “I’m not ‘forfeiting my culture’ by not doing a Christian religious ceremony, I’ve never been religious and I don’t feel comfortable doing one,” “If you want to wear a sari to the Nepali wedding that is fine, but don’t turn it into a joke, and I can’t promise that P’s mother will in turn wear western clothes to the American wedding.”

I have to admit though, I’m kind of excited to go to Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities with my family. I’m excited to have a pocket of American-ness for a few days where people will ask me questions and be enthusiastic and not think it is too weird to discuss details that are 7+ months away. I’m nervous about more wedding culture conversation challenges, but I’m more excited about sharing my excitement.

We will see how it goes. Wednesday my sisters are coming to help me choose a wedding dress. R has already gone shopping with me and gave some great feedback, so I’m looking forward to seeing what my sisters have to say.

So that’s where I am right now. How about you?

13 responses to “White Wedding/Red Wedding

  1. ooh. have fun with the mixing of wedding things: my parents were so confused why i was fretting about booking things over a year in advance – only to realize that the venue and photographer etc that i wanted were already booked up! (and we dont live in a huge city anyways). To them a wedding could be put together in a few weeks, if that. I kept having to explain that American weddings are…different. very formal – but they thought, why is this so formal/shormal? we are all family and friends right? even the idea of place cards was so strange! oooh, this aunty wont like it, etc etc, they will pick up their cards and move it somewhere else.
    meanwhile, DH’s family was worried it was going to become an ethnic freakshow with food no one could eat, and words no one could understand…

    sigh. thank goodness that’s done with! it worked out fine in the end – but weddings have a way of bringing out everyone’s inner wedding-planner persona, asked for or not!

  2. Remember that the wedding is for the two of you, and nobody else. If you two are happy with the status of things, keep up what you’re doing. No one else matters. The American wedding ideal is NOT to be emulated anyway. All me, me, me. Not us, us, us. The wedding is a celebration of the two of you, and maybe of both families joining as well, but the focus is on the two of you. Don’t let it veer from that. I don’t know how Nepali weddings are–last minute, it sounds like!–but it also seems like the focus there is as it should be. No artifice. No wedding planners, expensive dresses and cakes, bridezilla, etc. Keep up what you’re doing. Don’t let the stresses of others stress you out.

  3. my advice: breathe and have fun with it. It’s going to be fabulous and beautiful no matter what else happens because a wonderful thing IS going to happen: you are going to marry the love of your life.

  4. It’s like throwing any massive party/family reunion. It’s not exactly all for the couple, it’s really for everybody else. You’re hosting other people and have to accommodate their interests, especially family (within reason). Of course, parties are fun when they finally happen, but at the same time preparing for them is stressful – even small ones.

    The main headache seems to be getting the venue for the ceremony & reception (especially if you’re not religious and don’t have a church to go to and want to do both in the same place). After that all the planning falls into place somewhat since the venue restricts your possible choices on other matters and sort of makes decisions for you. In the end it’ll be fine, but it’s quite a lot of work because unfortunately things do get booked up quite a bit ahead of time. It’s organized chaos.

    But just imagine all the interesting interactions that’ll take place between people who have never met.

  5. I hear your pain… I had to plan 2 weddings: an Indian and a Brazilian (more similar to American) in 3 months in 2 different countries. Which made me realize that delegating functions works great! My MIL was in charge of most of the things in India, while my mom was in charge of the things in Brazil. There were still a lot of details to take care of but having the bulk delegated (or at least explained to them and then they’d check to see if that was possible) was a great idea. It might not work for all, but give it a try, most people love to get involved in wedding planning!

  6. Hi C-
    This is Mari from writing group, just checking in to say hey! I read your blog sometimes and find it endlessly fascinating. I’m heading out to Chicago in a couple weeks. Here’s my own little blog if you want to see how I’m doing with art school (hopefully not failing miserably as I worry I might sometimes):

    So glad to hear the time was right for getting married! Good luck :)


  7. nice post :) how long after your american wedding is your nepali wedding? apparently nepali weddings are heaps bigger. rabindra told me that if we had our wedding in nepal like 800 people would probably come!! i couldnt believe it. How many do you expect at your nepali wedding? It’s annoying that you have the family weighing into everything. If i want to wear a sari at my australian wedding, I will no matter what and I don’t think anyone would say anything to me…i hope they understand you have two cultures to consider, not just one and they don’t continue to put you under such stress. at the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you

    • because of the complexity of American immigration rules, and P’s school schedule, we are doing the Nepali wedding a day before the American wedding and both ceremonies are taking place in the US. So essentially the same crowd will be at both.

      We went to a wedding in Nepal in 2009– there were probably 600 people there, and our from N’s brother had 1200 at his! Can you imagine?!

  8. It all sounds like loads of fun.

    It seems to me that Pakistanis that I know have planned out weddings months in advance and had issues with booking halls. having dresses made, etc. Interesting to know that in Nepali culture it is different, I usually read here on your blog and note the cultural similarities with stuff like that. (hmmm and that onion in the armpit thing was a real shocker)

    I had a white dress and a red dress, too. (U can see my pics on FB) plus a mehndi day.

    I can’t wait to read about your progression with all of that stuff…picking your dress, Nepali jewelry, the venue and all. It will be soooo exciting for us readers, too!

  9. I feel your pain :) I’ve been engaged a year on New Year’s to my Nepali fiance and trying to get him to be involved is tough b/c he does not feel that there is any time pressure since we are getting married in August. It dives me nuts. Yet, the Nepali wedding date has not even been picked b/c the Nepali calendar is not available for 2011. I have no bearing on what I will be wearing, wear I will get married, no details …. just that it will happen. It is very true of what the other folks her say … American venues book up fast, especially if you want something specific. I had to send my wedding dress back b/c the dress did not fit and my dress requires 5month of production time so I will not get my dress till March/April. It is amazing the bumps in the road that appear in planning. I am trying not to freak out and trying to get my future husband to understand that things need to get done sooner than later to ensure we get what we want out of the day. I feel very caught in-between two schools of thought. It makes me wish at times I was not doing any of this wedding business at all. I am venting a bit here. I just really get where you are coming from.

  10. hey jenny, it may partially be a ‘boy’ thing too – i can remember the same conversations with my Midwestern fiance – TO HIM, a wedding would be at the local church, and everyone would get together at an uncle’s farm and the aunties would make cabbage rolls and dumplings and roast beef, and the uncles would bring beer. “what more do you need!?” ….
    there was alot of…um…cultural education done that year….

  11. AHHHH the mayhem! I know what you mean, and I’m an American Nepali marrying an English Nepali. You’d think it’d be easy right? NOPE! Haha. I can relate so much to everything you are saying. It’s just that America runs on a time slot, whereas elsewhere; it’s not as important! I mean I know a (Nepali) couple that got married during a non-auspicious time. The groom’s very religious mother objected but ended up performing a ritual to “make it ok” or whatever that means. BLAH! Wedding-Shedding. In my case, we’re two different castes which means that our rituals are different, but it makes no real difference to me. In the end, it’s just all just a circus of gold, red and white with giggles snuck in between. :)

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