From the prayer session on Nov 4 to the end of Nov 5, there are roughly 32 hours. All of us have an average of 4 hours of sleep in between. That makes a 28 hours action packed wedding to be exact.
How long is 28 hours? Hard to describe in words. All I can say is that in this 28 hours’ time, lots of people involved, lots of places to go, lots of things to do, and lots of picture taken. On one hand, you feel time dilates as each event seems to take up little time slots and if you have experienced lots and lots of events, it may seems to have taken lots and lots of time. On the other hand, the events, the way I see it, move very fast, out of my control and sometimes out of my comprehension. I feel drifted, being taken from one place to another. Time seems to fly, seems to contract. And in the sea of these foreign emotions, I am filled with happiness. I keep repeating to everybody that today is a very happy day and I am the happiest man in the world. It is this joyful emotion that smoothens the effect of the dilation and contraction of time. And when you are that happy, nothing else matters. Each moment of the day is a moment to treasure. So, be it slow, be it fast, I run them in my own speed.
The shopping at the souvenir shop takes a lot longer than we thought. Eric and I are speechless watching my family moving in a frantic mode. Grabbing everything along the way. Nothing misses their preying eyes. I feel happy for them but I also feel tired. I still have not recovered from the tiredness caused by yesterday’s trip. To make it worse, I suspect that by forgetting to bring along the anti-biotic capsules yesterday which leads to the premature termination of the medication may have enabled the bacteria to thrive again. To put it in a simple term, I feel sick. And I feel sick just half a day before the big day.
After hurrying my family to finish up with the shopping, Eric and I send them back to Hotel Horison for they need to change to their evening wear. After dropping them off, we return to Cynthia’s home as my shirt and trousers are with her – freshly ironed awaiting for me in Eric’s bedroom. The driver then returns to Hotel Horison to pick up my family who should be ready by then, brings them back to Cynthia’s home where the prayer session will be held.
Cynthia’s family have done a wonderful job in tidying up the place. The garage is turned into a place where the buffet is going to be served. The catering team has already arrived with the long table covered in white clothes and the plates and drinks and food containers all placed professionally. The living room and the courtyard are full of rented chairs all lined up neatly in rows. I hurried into Eric’s room and get changed. Time now is 3:45pm, just 45 minutes before the prayer session begins.
I look around and cannot find Cynthia or her mother. I ask her relatives and realise a few shocking news : Cynthia is now with the makeup and hairdo artist and no arrangement has been made as in who is driving her back; Cynthia’s mother has gone to pick up the wedding gown in her car; the car of the priest, who is hosting the prayer session, has broken down.
We do not have many options but to wait hoping that Cynthia’s mother returns soon and Eric will then take the car and pick Cynthia up. Moments later, someone rings up with the first good news; someone offers to pick the priest up. One down. Now, all I can do is to take a rest and hope that everyone turns up on time.
Just minutes before four-thirty, my family turns up. My sister and mother both wear evening gown, very elegance. George, too, looks very decent. They are ready for the occasion.
At 4:30pm, the priest arrives. The bride is still on the way home and not many guests turn up either. (Later on, Cynthia told me that the priest actually asked her mother if the prayer session has been cancelled.)
Ten minutes later, the bride arrives in full makeup. Everyone is laughing as Cynthia, brightly lit up with her fresh makeup and with a big smile, is rushed into her room to change into something that suits the occasion. All of a sudden, more people arrive. Shortly after Cynthia emerges from her room dressed in red, the prayer session begins.
Like the Nuptial Mass, the prayer is all in Indonesia language. We did the translation a few nights before mainly for my sake. In the middle of the prayer, the priest asks us to stand up in front of the crowd and he asks us some questions such as how long you have known each other … etc. Cynthia handles them all and she does that so well that I hardly need to think at all. Then comes a tricky question: what is that one thing you wish the most right now? I am tongue-tied when Cynthia translates the question to me. There are thousands and one things I wish in our relationship and right now, my brain just not quite functioning at all. Cynthia, being the wittier one, replies that our wish is to build a happy Catholic family. No better answer I could have thought of; Cynthia, I bow to you!
At the end of the prayer session, our guests present a gift to us. We open it and it is a framed picture of “The Last Supper”. We are so exalted as that is exactly what we wanted to buy back in Singapore. Taking the opportunity that the priest is around us, we ask he to bless the picture. More photos are taken and when we finished taking the photos, the prayer session is ended. Everybody proceeds to the buffet area for some food and refreshment. Cynthia and I stand at the entrance and welcome the guests mainly from the neighbourhood. Her mother has produced two sets of invitation cards; one set is for today’s celebration at her home and another set is for tomorrow’s celebration at the hotel.
We try to eat but we have no appetite. I have not had appetite since this morning. We shake hands with guests coming in and we shake hands with guests leaving us. In the end, we sit at the gate ready to shake hands with guests passing by.
We are overwhelmed with tiredness. All I can eat is fruit. My Godmother and aunt Benedict, who both always give us real good advice, ask us to pray to God and let him fill us with His strength.
The night ends with 150 guests visiting us and giving us their blessings. Although I do not know all of them, a few things is for sure. Cynthia’s mother is having a great time by the look of her smile. My mother too seems to enjoy herself. Our guests seems happy. And although I do not have the appetite to taste the food, I know our guests love the food. George has so many servings and I have lost count of it. Damn, I really wish that I could have some of his appetite.
By 10:30pm, my family and I leave Cynthia’s home and return to the hotel. All ready for tomorrow.
I have never managed to get any decent sleep the night before any big occasion. Classic examples include my finale examinations and my driver tests (note that noun is plural as I have failed once). The feeling is oh so familiar. Go to bed early, close my eyes and the sleep that comes at least once a day just does not come at all. Countless methods in trying to sleep; drink milk before going to sleep; get myself tired before going to sleep; sleep very little the night before; never sleep the night before; counting sheep; counting dogs and any kind of animals you can think of. I have even taken some advice from some of the experts like replaying the whole day backward. The idea is to get yourself mentally tired and eventually dose off to sleep. I tried that recently and I have ended up going back and forth on the events that I have missed out; my mind becomes more active than ever. What else have I tried? The only thing I have not tried is taking sleeping pill as I believe that sleeping pills are bad. They are addictive; anything addictive is bad. Some days you can sleep well, some days you cannot. That’s life. Sometimes I ask myself why I have no problem getting an afternoon nap even with music playing loud in the background but when the night is quiet and the sky is dark, I just cannot go to sleep. One day when I crack this, I could be famous.
Before I go to bed, I attempt to eat but I just cannot. I have not been eating for the entire day. Eating without appetite is worse than anything I can imagine. It is like forcing myself to swallow but yet my stomach refuses to accept the food. In the end, I force myself to eat half an apple and that is the furthest I can go.
I go to bed at 10:00pm and have the alarm clock set at 4:00am. In the ideal case, I will have six hours of sleep. My theory of sleeping hour is that eight is good, six is okay, less than six is no good and less than four is really bad. I say a long prayer and off the lights.
And I wait. Waiting for that familiar feeling that comes at least once a day.
I know I am tired and I know I do not feel that well. It is a perfect precondition of falling asleep. The only thing is that my stomach is complaining and it keeps on sending mild signals to my head.
And before I know it, I dose off to sleep. Off to the place I have visited at least once a day, almost 365 days a year (I have not been staying up the whole night for a long time.)
The next time I gain my consciousness is 3:00am in the morning. It could be my watch or it could be my stomach that wakes me up. Normally I do not dare to look at the clock if I am woken up in the middle of the night. What if the time is 10:30pm? That would have been a nightmare. But I gamble this time. Knowing that I have passed the four hours line (back to my theory on sleeping hour), I feel relief. I get out of the bed, have a glass of water, take out the cake I have packaged from Cynthia’s home and eat. Eat is not the right word; spoon feeding perhaps is a better replacement. How do those chicken feel been spoon fed? Now I know. For me, I don’t spoon feed myself to get fat; I do it because I know as a human, we need a constant intake of food each day to keep us going. Even when some Muslim friends of mine go into fasting mode, they eat once a day.
After swallowing some cakes, I go back to sleep again. Maybe it is the influence of “Four Weddings”, I am worried that I may oversleep; just like the movie. I set the mobile phone to ring at 4:00am. I set my watch to ring at 4:00am. I also set my Palm V to ring at 4:00am. I am not paranoid. My Palm failed to ring once. Must be some bugs in the program or the incompatibility between the programs I have installed. I seldom use my watch as an alarm clock so the confidence level is low. As for the phone, who knows? The battery could be flat any time. It is an Ericsson phone after all. What do you expect? Like I said, my watch may have waken me up at 3:00am. Although I have set the alarm clock at 4:00am, my watch interprets the time as 4:00am Singapore time. That is, 3:00am Indonesia time. My watch displays two time zones but how am I supposed to know that when I set the alarm with reference to the local time, it will go off in my home time?!
It is not my phone, or my watch, or my Palm V that wakes me up for the big day; my mother-in-law-to-be calls me at 3:45am asking me when do I need the car. I guess although I have printed the wedding plan in colour explaining who is doing what at what time, people still get confused. Later on, George explains to me that from the plan, it looks as though I am joining them at the lobby at 3:30am. Lucky no one call me up before then to check if I have got out of the bed on time.
I jump out of the bed feeling fresh and happy. Yes, today is the day! I am getting married. And the bonus is that I have nearly slept for six hours of. To you maybe that is nothing but to me, it is a miracle; a divine intervention. No other way to explain it.
I leave the hotel room at 4:30am. Right on time. The driver has already been waiting at the hotel lobby. No derivation to the plan yet. I try to catch some sleep in the car, but I can’t; I feel fresh. I close my eyes anyway and hope to get some rest.
Instead of a 30 minutes drive as planned, the drive takes less than 10 minutes. There is not much traffic in this early hour. And instead of having a makeup session of 1 hour, it takes less than 10 minutes. In total, I have planned the drive from hotel to the makeup artist and the drive from the makeup artist to Yoss, where my family and Cynthia’s mother have their makeup and hairdo session, together with my makeup session to be 2 hours. In the end, it takes less than half an hour. And I am back to the hotel before 5:30am instead of 7:00am.
Lora and I travel back to the hotel together. We then wake George up as I want to have breakfast. Lora in the meanwhile thinks that the makeup is too heavy, especially in the eyes area, so she wants to remedy the situation herself. At 6:00am, George and I go downstairs and have our first meal of the day. George can really eat; I think he has sampled all the foods on the table. For me, I have a plate full of fruits; that is all I can eat. Eating fruits with high water content does not need appetite. It is like drinking water; it slips through the defence of the stomach. After breakfast, I return to my room and do some final pack up. The videographer arrives at 7:00am sharp and without opening the door as I am having a shower, I direct him to room 802, the executive suite where my family stay. The room number I am staying is 315; a standard single room with a simple layout and some basic decoration. The executive suite is a lot better. There are only four of them in each floors above a certain level and they are at the corners of the building. There is a living room and a bedroom in an executive suite and there is a sliding door separating the two rooms. This door comes handy if you want some privacy while visited by some guests or when your bedroom is in a complete mess and you want to hide it away from your guests. There are two bathrooms too; a huge one and a small one. Need not to say, there are two sinks in the master bathroom.
As I am dressing up and get ready, I realise that I have left my belt in Cynthia’s home. Well, I am wearing suit anyway so who will realise that I have not worn any belt? Wrong, the video shooting will insist that as part of the Indonesia tradition, my mother will have to help me to wear the suit and the white gloves. I need the belt.
According to the plan, Lia supposed to pick up Eric at 6:30am, drop him off at Yoss and proceed to pick Cynthia up. Time now is close to 7:00am so Eric must be out of his home already. How? Who is going to bring my belt to me?
I call up Eric’s handphone and realise that he is still at home. Another deviation to the plan. My best man is supposed to be at the hotel before 7:30am and according to Eric, we are still waiting for Cynthia to come back from her makeup and hairdo session. Fortunately I have buffered some time in the plan and it is still too early to get myself worried. I ask Eric to bring along my belt and I go back to my packing. Time to follow some advice from the experts – leave your worries to the people around you; try to relax and smile. Believe me, I have smiled throughout the day.
The videographer turns out to be a video shooting team consists of three persons. At least one of them is proficient in English. After they have settled down in room 802, they want to start shooting. But I prefer to wait until my photographer arrives. The photographer turns out to be another team of three. I gather them in the living room and give them a small briefing on what my expectation is; I want the video and the pictures to be natural, fun and entertaining. I have seen some very bad ones before. No, but no thanks. They seem to understand.
All we have to do now is to wait for my best men. I go down to the lobby, check out my room 315, and ready to check into the bridal room in which the room number is yet to be determined. At the lobby, I meet my two best men, Eric and Alvin, Lia’s brother. When Cynthia’s mother first told me that in Indonesia, the groom has two best men, I protested a little. I mean having two bride’s maids I can understand because it is quite a job to help carrying the wedding dress as the bride moves around. But two best men? Why? I joked that we need to have one at each of my sides so that we won’t have a “Runaway Groom” (too much movies again). Eric picks up the hand bouquet from the reception and they accompany me to the room 802. And the films are ready to roll.
Taking picture is straightforward; video shooting is a different story. In the former case, you just need to smile for a brief period of time, sufficient for the photographer to take your picture. Video shooting can take long; you have to sustain your smile and watch out for every moves you make.
There is a subtle difference in video shooting for wedding occasion and video shooting for a film. In a film shooting, there are scripts and there are retakes. While for the wedding occasion, you are free to say anything you like (nothing too stupid I hope) but there is no retake. Like it or not, whatever you do, it is all recorded and there is no correction.
Smiling is not a problem. Today is a happy day for us; I feel happy. And when I feel happy, I smile; it comes as a mother nature. While the invocation of the facial expression, i.e. smile, is not a problem, prolong smiling depends not only on the true happiness of oneself, but also on the strength of your facial muscles. Your face does get tired after some intense smiling.
Perhaps I am happy beyond words. In front of the camera, I can manage a big smile. While off the camera, I still smile, but not as big. Big smile, small smile, doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that I am happy; very happy.
The shooting begins in the living room of room 802. In the first scene, the crew lays my jacket and white gloves on the round glass table. What my mother supposes to do is to pick up the jacket, help me wear it, pick up the gloves, help me wear them, give me a hug (my innovation), pass me the hand bouquet and off we go. Considering the fact that my mother has never been in a video, she has done quite well. The gloves didn’t drop and the sleeve didn’t get stuck. The move may not look that natural but hey, it is just the first scene and we are getting some warm up.
At each intervals during the video shooting, the photo shooting team takes picture too. Now, I begin to understand why it takes so many people to get the job done. The video crew looks something like this: the main video man carries the video camera and he is the one who do all the shootings; there is another man who carries the big long spot light as well as the extension wire; the third man is responsible in carrying the accessories as well as moving the furniture or items around us. As for the photo shooting team, the main guy carries the camera taking all the pictures; another one carries all the gadgets and the third one gives us instructions on where to pose, how to pose and he carries a light meter too. These guys look professional to me.
The next scene is my so-called “The Arrest”. Okay, not literally but just looks like it. Alvin and Eric on my sides holding my arms, walking together with me (or walk me) down the corridor. What could have been a two minute continuous action is now fragmented into different segments. We wait at the door of 802. Video camera is ready somewhere down the corridor. Suddenly the corridor is brightly shone and someone shouts “action!”. Three of us walk slowly trying hard not to face the camera. Stop! The bright spot light is off and the video camera is replaced by the camera. Smile, and click! A photo is taken. We arrive at the lift lobby and stop, we have to wait for the camera man. When everyone is ready, we walk from the lift lobby to the main lobby and stop, take a picture. When we come out of the hotel entrance, our wedding car, a bright white Baby Benz (that is how it is called in Bandung) decorated with fresh flower, is waiting for us. One of my best men opens the door for me (and the other one blocking the way, I have no choice but to surrender …) and I enter the car sitting in the middle. My best men (satisfied and) enter the car too; Eric sits on my left and Alvin sits on my right. The shooting crew then rush to their vehicles and off they go. My family travels by the Kijang and off they go too. Our wedding car is the last in the this convey of ours.
The trip from the hotel to Cynthia’s home is short; only about a quarter of an hour. Shortly before 8:30am, we have arrived. I am excited for I am about to see my bride. The door is decorated with red ribbons hanging over the door frame. Her relatives, soon to be mine, stand at the entrance welcoming us.
I get out of the car (with the help of my best men of course) and Cynthia’s mother together with her sister is ready to throw the gold coins and yellow rice at me. It is an Indonesia tradition and it signifies prosperity. Lucky they have prepared me for this part of the script; otherwise I would get really worried about being hit by the coins ends up having bruises all over; and perhaps, with yellow rice sticking all over my jacket and hair. No, it is nothing like that. Someone shelters me with a big red umbrella when I am showered by the coins and rice. According to the tradition, I have to pick up some gold coins after the shower and so I pick up five, leaving the rest for our families to tackle.
After showered with prosperity, I step into my bride’s home. Cynthia was sitting at the far corner of the room and wow! Look how beautiful my bride is! I have never seen her in that hairdo before; it is nice and neat. They have add some considerable volume to her hair and her makeup is just perfect. The wedding dress is the same as the one we picked up from the magazine. Well, at least the top part is. A simple one revealing her nice shoulders and the wedding dress tailor finished the dress with his own innovation. The dress has much volume and it has stretched a good meter long. Sitting there with arms cross smiling at me, that is my bride, the one I am getting married to.
Before I reach my bride, the video and photo shooting team has rushed into the house setting up the equipment at light speed. Before I know it, the film starts rolling. What follows is a script that is played by every Indonesia wedding couples. I give the bride the bouquet; she then picks one flower, a rose, out from the bouquet and pins it to my jacket (it is actually one of the camera crew member who pins it for us, never mind the details); after that, the bride takes one glove out of my right hand and put it into one of my pockets. The flower part I can comprehend but what about the glove? I have not got a slight clue. Funny if I have to take one of her glove out too. No, the gloves of hers remain where they are while one of my hands is bared.
Our family take photo with us and that concludes the home ceremony. So far so good. Next, we all return to the hotel getting ready for the tea ceremony.
Grabbing the opportunity that the sky is still sunny and bright, we opt for an outdoor shooting around the hotel. Walking around with a long wedding dress requires not only techniques from the bride, the co-ordination of the groom (going from left to right for instance is not that trivial), and also the help of our maid of honour, Ike. That is what Ike does most of the time, helping Cynthia with the wedding dress, helping her with the hand bouquet and carrying some of her stuffs.
We take some photos and have some video shooting at the lobby, on the staircase (a popular scene I suppose with the wedding dress flowing down the stairs) and at the pool area. There are, fortunately, some simple decoration by the side of the pool – a wooden bridge and a waterfall. Good enough for us. If we could get rid of the hundred over people soaking inside the pool (hardly you can swim with that many people), that would have been perfect. But no, they are all watching us and that is fine with me. I am, after all, the happiest man in the world.
Another challenge about the video shooting is that after we have posed for the camera, the same pose will be reused to shoot the video as well. So basically we keep smiling at the video camera while the film continues to roll for a minute or so. It seem to us that it is unnatural to keep looking and smiling at the video camera for over a minute. We are, however, encouraged to look elsewhere, even look at each other, small chat with each other and laugh at each other. The first few shoots are quite fun. After a while, we run out of small talks so the conversation reduces to “what shall we say?”, “say something?”, or “are you having fun?”, “whose idea is this?” Though the conversation gets a bit brainless, we never fail to smile.
I have to give credit to the crew. They are so good at sweeping the crowd away and making way for us to shoot some pictures. One of the scene, to me, is highly risky and it takes more than courage to pose in such a wild environment. Of course, when we are in our shorts and sport shoes, it is not wild at all. But when you are in suit and black shoes, wedding dress and white high heel shoes, it is wild. The place is wild and the idea is wild.
The scene itself is good; we have a waterfall behind us; a small pond surrounded by stones; and a few big stones down the green slope. That is what we have to do: Cynthia, in her wedding gown and high heel shoes climbs up the slope covers with grass, walks around a large stone and stands on an elevated piece of grassland that is big enough to fit only one person. Behind her, there is another stone. I then have to go around Cynthia, that is from her left to her right. Our target is with me on her left while her gown flows to the right. So I climb up the slope, go around her by balancing myself on an uneven piece of hard rock, have myself landed in a small standing space right next to Cynthia. And that is not the end of the story, we have to pose as well. A challenging pose with our C.G. (centre of gravity) shifted down the slope.
After the pictures are taken and video is shot, I have to get out of the scene leaving Cynthia back there posing an even more impossible position; front part of her body tilts forward and leftward with one hand spreading the veil afar to the right. After that scene, all other poses, I think, should be a piece of cake.
The next scene is more of my mother’s request; she insisted that we must have a tea ceremony as it is the tradition in Hong Kong that only after the ceremony will the bride and groom be officially admitted into the families. To my mother, it is that moment of tea offering that she accepts the new daughter into the family. But how about my father who due to heath concern cannot make it to Bandung? And how about my relatives back in Hong Kong who cannot make it to our wedding? The answer is that the next time when Cynthia and I are back in Hong Kong, we have to offer them the tea. Better late than never.
According to Indonesia tradition, they have tea ceremony too. To them, both the bride and groom standing and offering tea to the elder relatives who are seated. The bride offers tea to the groom’s family while the groom carries the tea tray. The groom then in turn offers tea to the bride’s family. In the act, the bride and groom will receive red pockets (some money inside a package red in colour) from their relatives and they get to keep it. Traditionally the parents of both families (or one side of the families) pay for the wedding dinner and hence they get to keep the gift from the guests. The only hope that the bride and groom may receive some money is via the tea ceremony.
In Hong Kong, the concept is the same. The form is a little bit different. With the elder relatives seated, the bride and groom has to knee down and both the bride and groom will then offer tea to either side of the families. Following the Hong Kong tradition, my mother will receive two cups of tea from us and so will her mother.
Being the most thoughtful of all, George finds a long cushion from their huge bedroom and passes it to us for the tea ceremony. My mother goes first. We both knee down and the maid of honour brings the tea tray to us. I offer the cup of tea to my mother first. She drinks it and gives us her blessing in Cantonese that roughly translates to: In love and together for hundred years and blessed with plenty of kids. Cynthia does the same and similar blessing is received. After that, it is Cynthia’s mother’s turn. Again, we go through the same ritual and her mother gives her blessing too, in English.
The tea ceremony does not last that long. In the end, we have about one hour break before the Nuptial Mass begins. The video and photo shooting team leave us to have a break. The rest of us take a rest in the living room of room 802. George and Lora retire to the bedroom to get some rest. Me too retire to the bedroom, not to rest but to practice the marriage vow. Maybe it is due to the building up of the pressure, my memory of the marriage vow becomes less perfect.
While I am struggling with my memory, our families in the living room seems to mix quite well with each other. That is good; one big happy family.
By 11:00am, we are all ready for the most important event of today – union of Cynthia and me in the house of God. Cynthia, her maid of honour and I get into the wedding car and within 10 minutes, we have reached the church. At first, our car parks with my side of the door facing the entrance of the church. This is no good because when the door is opened, our guest should see me helping the bride out of the car; and not I go round the car, help the bride out of the car and we both go round the car again to enter the church. We, of course, have not thought of this little detail. The driver, however, is experience enough notice the mistake and he makes a U-turn. There we are, Cynthia’s side of the door facing the entrance.
When the priest appears at the entrance, we get out of the wedding car. Cynthia’s mother approaches the priest and ask for the church’s consent to marry us (reading from the booklet). The priest agrees to pray to God for the blessing and welcome us into the church. The wedding song is then played with our hands join together. Me on the left and Cynthia on the right, we walk slowly down the alley lead by the priest. A wonderful and joyful moment.
The church is decorated with a lot of flowers. On the left, there is a tall statue of St. Joseph and on the right, the statue of Mother Mary. In the middle lies the alter with the cross of Jesus standing on top. On the sides of the alley are rows of chairs and tables for our guests and right at the front, there are two sets of table and seat for the bride and groom. We knee down in front of the priest and he reads the opening rites follows by the opening prayer. The essence of the opening prayer lead is to ask God to give us the blessing, and to support our effort to love each other faithfully. Following the prayer, Ike takes the stand and read the first reading. It comes as a nice surprise to me. That makes sense; Ike should have the honour to be our reader.
Usually, the wedding couple has the option to choose the bible passages that is suitable for the occasion and mean a lot to them. So long as it fulfils one of three popular themes: marriage blessed by God, love is all you need and hints for a happy life. In our case, we left it to Cynthia’s mother to discuss with the priest. It turns out to be just as good.
For the first reading, we are allowed to choose any passage from the bible except from the Books of Gospel which is reserved as a second reading read by the priest. In our mind, there are only two passages that we like most for our wedding. The first one is from the St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians saying that wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord while husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Another one, a more authentic one, is from the Book of Genesis talking about in the beginning, how woman were made from the “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” and therefore it is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. Both are beautiful passages. Finally, the first one was read in yesterday’s prayer session while the second one is read in the mass today.
What follows the first reading is a song; and it happens to be a song in English. The choir, I must say, is the best I have heard so far and I am glad that they are here for our wedding. The title of the song is called “True Love” and I am more than happy to share the lyrics with you.
I give to you and you give to me
True love, true love
So on and on it will always be
True love, true love
For you and I have a guardian angel
On high with nothing to do
But to give to you and to give to me
Love forever true
Love forever true
As for the second reading, we have chosen a passage from the St. John’s Gospel. Both the prayer session yesterday and the mass today take the same message. The main theme is to follow Jesus’s commandment : “love one another as I love you”. I think some may object that the love in question is divine love and not the human, passionate love which is being celebrated in marriage. However, I believe that the whole point of the marriage ceremony is that human love is made holy and raised to the divine level.
After the Gospel is proclaimed, it is time for homily. The priest then gives us a sermon that is appropriate for the occasion. The sermon is delivered in Indonesian Language and I ask Cynthia to mentally note down the sermon and to translate back to me once we are alone. At the end of the sermon, the priest surprises us by delivering the rest of the sermon in English. I am very touched by his action. He says to us that we should always love one another. In time of trouble, always turn back to God’s commandments and we shall be fine. It is beautiful and I shall remember it for life.
Now that the homily is over, I suddenly feel a bit nervous; I see that Cynthia is a bit tensed too. Well, the show is on. Not sure why our video and photo shooting teams are so smart; they know the sequence so well. They are the professionals; no doubt about it. Just at the moment the sermon is finished, the big spot light is shone onto us. All the cameras are ready. Not just from the teams of ours; our relatives too bring along their cameras and video cameras and I have a sudden feeling that I am surrounded by a group of news reporters. Since what follows is an English dialogue, and for memory’s sake, I just write down exactly what is said.
After the sermon, the priest returns to the alter, where the microphone is, and addresses to the crowd, “Dearly beloved Wilfrid and Cynthia, you have come together in this church so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the church and this community. Christ enriches and strengthens you by a special sacrament so that you may assure the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity. And so, in the presence of the church, I ask you to state your intentions.”
One of the witnesses comes to me and shows me her booklet pointing at where we are. I think she is confused by the page numbering. The one I am holding is the translated version and hence, the number runs higher. To reassure her, I point at the exact dialogue on my booklet. The other witness is, I think, besides Cynthia helping her and making sure that she is on the right page.
The priest continues, “Wilfrid Wong Kin Fai, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourself to Valeria Cynthia Irina Arianto in marriage?”
I have recited my part well and by right, I need not to refer to the booklet. Just reply the three simple words. What I have not anticipated is that I should have recited his part as well so that I know when to reply. Therefore, I glance at the booklet making sure that the priest has finished his dialogue and reply, “Yes, I have.”
“Will you love and honour Valeria Cynthia Irina Arianto as your wife for the rest of your life?”
Checking with the booklet and then reply, “I will.”
“Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His church?”
Okay, my part is done; now is Cynthia’s turn. The priest faces Cynthia and asked, “Valeria Cynthia Irina Arianto, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourself to Wilfrid Wong Kin Fai in marriage?”
“Yes, I have,” replies Cynthia.
“Will you love and honour Wilfrid Wong Kin Fai as your husband for the rest of your life?”
“Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His church?”
While Cynthia is replying the questions, I am so tempted to ask the priest, after the mass of course, if he has come across any case whereby the bride or groom replies “No, I haven’t” instead. Maybe the priest is as nerves as us because human beings, after all, are unpredictable.
So far so good and how it comes to the chewy part – the exchange of the marriage vows. Still standing at the alter far away from us, the priest says, “Wilfrid and Cynthia, since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands and declare your consent before God and His church.”
So I join my right hand with Cynthia’s, take a deep breath and deliver the marriage vow. In a scale of ten, I give myself a ten. It is solemnly said with all recited words match with the original passage; it is said in an even tone with correct breathing sequence. In another word, it could not be better. Now is Cynthia’s turn. I think my vow must have touched her heart and her voice is filled with emotion. Underneath the veil, I cannot see her eyes but I bet they are wet. If mine is ten, I will give Cynthia a twenty. That is how I value a vow fills with emotion.
Unsure if the priest feels relief or it is just my imagination, his tone is soften and said in English, “You have declared your consent before the church. May the Lord, in His goodness, strengthen your consent and fill you both, Wilfrid and Cynthia, with His abundant love.”
The next bit, to me, is dramatic. Although the dialogue is said in Indonesia language, my translation and interpretation cannot be wrong because it is taken from the Bible. The priest says, “What God has united …” and all of us replies in unity, “Man must not divide.”
After the exchange of marriage vow, it is the prayer for the bride and groom. Our reader, Ike, again leads the prayer. The prayer comes in different sessions and at the end of each prayer, all of us reply, “Lord, hear our prayer.” To summarise, we pray that God will unite in love the couple He has joined in this holy bond, the bride may always follow the example of the holy women whose praises are sung in the scriptures, the groom to carry out his responsibilities as a good husband and a wise father, we may rejoice in God’s presence and find comfort in His protection, we may together rejoice in His gift of married love and enrich His Church with our children, and finally that we may reach happy old age in the company of our friends, and come at last to the kingdom of heaven.
Beautiful and practical prayer it is. I am glad that Cynthia took the trouble and translated the whole prayer to me.
Subsequent to the prayer, it is the blessing of the rings. The priest approaches us, blesses the rings and sprinkle them with holy water; he then hands me a ring. This moment is yet another breathtaking moment. The weekend before, we heard that there was a couple who dropped the ring during this crucial part of the mass. I think the reasons are quite simple. When people get nervous, they sweat. Hence, their fingers tend to be slippery. As for the bride, she is wearing the gloves. It does not make the ring any easier to hold than bare fingers full of sweat.
I hold out the ring and said to the beautiful lady besides me, “Cynthia, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” She replies, “Amen.” I then wear the ring into her wedding finger in a slow motion; slow enough for the camera man to take some decent pictures. And it is my turn to wear the ring. After the ritual is completed, the choir sings “She Wears My Ring”, another beautiful song in English.
She wears my ring to show the world that she belongs to me
She wears my ring to show the world she’s mine eternally
With loving care I placed it on her finger
To show my love for all the world to see
This tiny ring is a token of tender emotion
An endless pool of love that’s as deep as the ocean
She swears to wear it with eternal devotion
That’s why I sing because she wears my ring
Next is the unveiling of the bride. I take the sides of the veil with my hands, flip it over her head gently and position my hands correctly making sure that I am not blocking the cameras. One smooth simple action; no sweat. And I kiss the bride.
After unveiling the bride, we then proceed to our parents and ask for blessing. Different cultures do it differently. We have discussed this before and instead of the Indonesia way, which is closing one hand and wrap it with another hand, rocking the hands back and forth (the traditional Chinese way), we give our parents a good hug instead. Nothing beats a good hug with kisses.
When we return to our seat, instead of me sitting on the left while Cynthia sitting on the right, we swap our position. The meaning of this ritual is that when the bride first walks into the church before the mass, she is independent. After the wedding, she is no longer on her own but to be united with her husband. What puzzles me is why I have to be on the left when I walk into the church and come out on the right. Is there any significant between left and right? And another thing that puzzles me is why focus on the independence or dependence of woman and not man. Never mind the details. Just follow the custom.
The rest of the mass is the Catholic Eucharist that if you know what it is, you know what it is. And if you don’t, it won’t matter anyway. To us, it is important and is part of the reason why I have enrolled into the crush course – so that we can receive Holy Communion together. It is through the sharing of the one bread and the one cup that make us one in love for each other.
At the end of the mass, we take one of our hand bouquets and offer it to Mother Mary. We knee before her statue and say our prayer.
When all that is over, our families and us gather around the priest and have some photos taken. All I can remember is that there are plenty of cameras flashing at us all at once. I say to the priest, “Thank you father, I am a very happy man.” And he laughs.
We walk into the church with Cynthia on my right; we walk out of the church with Cynthia on my left. I wave to the choir and the guests saying thank you. With a wedding rings on our hands and in the presence of God, we are married.
The wedding car is waiting at the entrance of the church. There is a bit of a drizzle and when Cynthia gets into the car, she is holding out her tears. An emotional occasion for both of us. Someone has passed us a packet of Mentos. Whoever he or she is, I think the Mentos at this present moment is a life saver. I need something sweet to booze up my blood sugar level. Man, I need the energy.
While we are on the way to the place of the makeup artist, our families return to the hotel and have some packaged lunch back in room 802. Next in our agenda is a visit to the studio. Initially, we were thinking of taking studio photo back in Singapore. Since my confidence level on the Indonesia quality has not been established, I am not sure if we will be happy with the result. Anyway, since we are in full costume with full makeup, we may as well take some studio pictures and who knows, it may turn out fine.
The photo shooting at the studio turns out to be a lot of fun; I click well with the photographer, and the posing instructor. They give me some sort of comfort level. They know what the poses are off their heads and the co-ordination between them is incredible. They have a lot of variety on the backgrounds. I need not to think about posing at all; just follow their instructions. Shoulders up, shoulders down; face tilts this way, tilts that way. They know where we should stand, what we should see. It is the first time I stare at Cynthia’s nose or ears for such a long time in such a close distance. Those guys seems to be as excited as we are. They even let me take a look into the camera – the type of camera with the window facing upward and I need to look down. I see Cynthia in the camera and the image is mesmerising.
Before we know it, the session is over. Ike is laughing with us all the way. Cynthia is having fun too. At the end of the session, the photographer tells us that we can see the picture tomorrow. Well, that is fast. But, we are leaving Bandung on a 1200 train. He says no problem, we can view at 1000. We bargain the time a bit and in the end, he will try his best to have the photos developed tonight and meet us at Horison Hotel after 2100. Perfect. Let’s hope that the photos turn out to be as good as that one I looked through the tiny window of the camera.
After the fun at the photo studio, three of us returns to the hotel and take a rest. Ike takes two packages of lunch, one for herself, and another one for the wedding car driver as a token of appreciation. We then send the driver off as we will not be leaving the hotel for the rest of the day. Ike leaves us too for a change of clothes, get some makeup and have some rest.
Once again, the bride and groom is back in the living room of room 802. George serves us some hot tea and we attacks the one lunch box. Why only one? My mother says that since we are married, the first meal should be shared amongst us and we shall feed each other. Well, I don’t think the bride has much energy left so I take the novelty in feeding my wife. Besides I doubt if she can feed herself without messing up her makeup. We still have bridal room shooting and the wedding dinner to attend.
The food must be tasty because I manage to eat quite a fair bit of rice. Overjoyed with the apparent return of appetite, I find new strength. I managed to eat one third of the package with my best effort. Amazing to count the amount of food I have consumed since yesterday; two plates of fruit for breakfast yesterday and today, less than half a bowl of rice last night, one piece of cake in the middle of the night and one third of a lunch package. I am convinced with my Godmother’s advice, fill myself with God’s strength.
By the time we are back in room 802, it is 3:00pm. Our next appointment with the photo and video shooting team is at 4:00pm. We have an hour to kill before the shooting of the bridal room. Cynthia calls up the reception and finds out that the bridal room is room 801; just across where we are. This comes handy; my mother just need to walk across to visit us!
I pay a visit to the reception and collect the key to room 801. All of us are excited to see how the bridal room looks like. In fact, it looks symmetric to room 802. A big living room with a big bedroom separated by a sliding door. Two bathrooms. One small one for the guest and another big one as the master bathroom. A small room for the wardrobe and the sink area. The entire room is decorated with fresh flower. The bed is covered with a special kind of material. Silky pillows and heart-shaped bolsters. A while later, a hotel staff wheels in a wedding cake with bottles of soft drinks and some kitchen utensils for party occasion.
The next hour seems to crawl. My sister rests on the bed with her face facing downward trying not to mess up the special hairdo. George takes this opportunity to have some decent sleep too. Cynthia, not able to lean back or to rest her face anywhere, has to rest in the upright position. For me, I am just too overwhelmed with emotion. I want to savage each and every moment; even such a peaceful moment when everything stands still. My mother is sipping hot tea by the window while I am sitting beside my mother watching my wife from a distance. For the whole day, I see people coming and going. I, too, move from one place to another. And now, right in the middle of my wedding day, silence with no motion. A recollection of all the magical moments I have experienced so far. I say a silence prayer and I am definitely thankful for the day.
The crews arrive shortly after 4:00pm. They enter the bridal room and set up all the equipment in lightning speed. All of a sudden, the bridal room has turned into a filming studio with cameras all ready. I call Cynthia over, give everybody a boost of encouragement. Off we go again.
In my opinion, bridal room shooting is the most intimate shooting of all. I am flabbergasted with the ideas these people have. Some poses are quite easy to perform; with Cynthia sitting by the bed and I am standing behind her; or the other way round. It gets a bit difficult when both of us have to lie on the bed under a bright spot light with six people standing around us. Other scenes like the kissing scene is always a challenge. I would love to kiss Cynthia anytime of the day but under two conditions: not being starred by six parts of eyes whom the owners I hardly know of and not under the instruction of a third party. However, I have got to admit that the scripts are good and I am confidence that the video and pictures will come out great. So even when the conditions are being violated, I don’t mind the act. Damn, I still remember when I look into the video camera, although I cannot see the eyes of the guy, I am certain that by the look of the his mouth, he is smiling. That is got to be good.
The number of poses never seems to cease. Not sure about Cynthia but I am definitely getting tired. Since everyone is in the mood, I find strength from them. At the end of the shooting, I thank everybody for their hard work. They give me an impression that they are having fun too.
By the time the crews leave the room, I lose track of time. The wedding dinner will start at 6:00pm. My mother-in-law tells me that she will give us a call when most the guests have arrive. Meanwhile, some relatives of ours visit us in our bridal room. Our maid of honour has arrived too with full makeup and a nice evening dress ready for the evening. While Cynthia and Ike are chatting with each other, I move our luggage from room 802 to room 801. Pacing around the rooms, that is from 801 to 802 and back, I am waiting for the call.
My experience with rocket riding is zero; I have no idea how do the astronauts feel during the ascension. Do they need to exercise will power to survive the trip? I have not got a clue. The idea of riding a rocket appeals to me because that is how I relate to our wedding day. Cycling, however, is my department. When I was studying in UK, I was a keen cyclist. I loved to cycle long distance trips and going uphill is what I loved most. Believe me, nothing beats cycling uphill. You need to exercise an immerse amount of will power to stay on with the rhythm. One of the rewards is, of course, the downhill ride. With the hand of gravity, that most of us take it for granted, a thrill down your spine is all you get when you descend in such a great speed almost effortless (except to hold onto the handle!).
I have spent most of today (if not from yesterday’s prayer session) going uphill. The key to sustain the ride is to maintain the rhythm, continue the beat. Therefore I keep pacing around the rooms and keeping myself busy with the unpacking of luggage. But there is only that much you can do and before you know it, your body slows down. And it is this moment when I finally sit still on the sofa, dreaming the days when I can just rest in our apartment in Singapore not worrying what not to eat and what not to do.
Time passes slowly. And then the phone rings.
Time now is 6:15pm and we are called to attend the wedding dinner. Shift back to low gear and here we go again; one last round.
By now, Cynthia is expert to walk in her wedding gown. She can almost walk in normal speed. There are a number of conventional halls for the hosting of the wedding dinner. Ours is the one that when you enter the hotel lobby, head for the pool area. There, you can find a bridge going over the swimming pools and into the conventional hall.
We are signalled to stop at about 50 metres away from the entrance of the dinning hall. We wait with our parents behind us. When the spot light is on and the wedding music is played, we know that it is action time again. A little boy and a little girl dress in suit and white dress (our flower boy and girl), lead us into the hall and spreading flower pedals along the way. Small kids are so cute when they are in formal wear. At first, they walk in an uneven pace. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right. Cynthia whispers to them trying to stabilise them and they seems to understand. After a while, the kids run wild again. Trying to control kids from the back needs lots of luck.
When we arrive at the middle of the hall, the kids disappear in front of our view. Instead, I see bright orange light coming from all directions. And I see people too. Lots of people all smiling at us. I greet them with my smile. Still holding hands, I follow my instinct in where to go. There is one empty two-seaters on the stage and two empty armchairs by the side. The stage is decorated in gold and white. There are white pillars on the stage and golden doors behind the chairs. I wish someone could tell me what to do. We walk towards the stage as the M.C. announces our entrance. I have met with our M.C. last night at the buffet. A solid built Malay wearing a necklace with a cross. I have conversed with him and I have already liked him; a fun guy to be with and certainly proficient in English language.
Leading up to the stage is a staircase with a width that is just about enough for two people. And not for one man with a lady wearing a wedding dress. We manage to walk up the stairs without falling off midway and get seated in the middle of the stage. Our mothers join us on the sides. To my best guess, our M.C. is making some introduction about us because I keep hearing our names popping up from time to time. We do not want to be too adventurous so all the programmes are predetermined. Although the programme itself will not take us by surprise, we have not drilled into the details which I regret on not doing so. Hence, there is where the unexpected excitement is.
According to the tradition, the bride and groom suppose to feed the cakes to their parents and then each other. What I have prepared for is a piece of cake full of cream and I wonder how am I supposed to feed anybody without making a mess at all. The cake turns out to be a tiny strip with a sponge kind of feel. No cream at all. Well, that’s easy. We take one piece of the cake and feed it to her mother, then my mother. After feeding our parents, we are only given one piece of the cake to feed each other. We hold the cake together, and in the count of three, we bit the cake at the same time, lips touching each other. I guess that is the whole idea about the odd shape of the cake so that our lips have to touch each other in front of three hundred over guests.
Next, is the cutting of the wedding cake. Cynthia has once told me that we need to cut the wedding cake together. What the sequence I thought is that we cut the cake together, take one piece and feed to my mother, another piece for her mother, and finally one piece for us. In reality, we eat the cake first and cut the cake latter.
The wedding cake is in fact a tower of cakes; much higher than us. Cakes of different sizes assemble in form of a white castle with a miniature of the bride and groom at the gate of the castle. The cake is well made and it does look magnificent. The M.C. asks me if our wedding cake has seven layers. By the time we reach the wedding cake, we have already come too close a distance to see the entire wedding cake. So I answer yes hoping that there are indeed seven layers altogether. Just to spice up the evening with a little bit of entertainment, we have to follow the M.C.’s cue before cutting the cake. Drums rolling and here we go.
The first cake is the biggest of all. It is at the bottom, easily accessible. We cut the cake like cutting any ordinary cake in any other ordinary day. Boy, the cake is hard! We don’t just cut the cake but to make sure that we have cut till we reach the base. Before I can figure out what is next, the M.C. asks us to move onto the next one which is all the way to the right. There is a hotel assistance besides us to direct which cake to cut next. A smaller cake this time and again, it is hard.
The third one is a lot smaller than the first one. By the time our knife (a very long one) cut halfway, the cake shakes a bit. The tower shakes a bit! What I cannot see is that a lot of our guests behind us are holding their breathe, thinking to themselves that they are going to witness one of the biggest disaster of this evening! The hotel assistance mutters something to Cynthia and she whispers to me and says, “Cut the cream!”. How would I know that cutting the wedding cake is to cut the cream and the cream only? Had we known that the cake is made of plastic, we would not have gone through the hard way!
Cutting the cream is more pleasant to do. Just touch the rim of the cake with the tip of the knife, slide down in one smooth move and viola, the cake is cut! The challenge, however, comes at the last cake. It is sat right on top of our little castle. To give you some idea on its height, there is no way my finger can reach at all. With the help from the knife, I may be able to reach it. But what about Cynthia? How are we going to cut the cream together? I take a deep breathe, holding Cynthia’s arm and stretch; one final slide and we are done.
There are applauds among the crowd and we return to our seat on the stage still affected by the adrenaline produced by the thrill just seconds ago. The M.C. asks me to show the crowd how much I love Cynthia. My brain is not functioning anymore; instinct takes over and I give Cynthia a kiss in front of three hundred over people. And then, another kiss.
Eating time! Everybody loves it. It is a standing party so the food is located by the sides of the hall. We have a round table for ourselves and our immediate families. Indeed, we are given a nice quiet corner to have our dinner.
My next piece of memory is on the stage again with guests come to us and congratulate us. Many new faces flash in front of me. Although most of them, like yesterday’s gathering, I have never meet with, I recognise some familiar faces; especially Cynthia’s friend whom we have met either in one of the many Bandung trips, or when we were working in Kuala Lumpur. Look at the ice carving at the entrance! They are so beautiful. Two large swans, one lights up in blue and another one lights up in red, facing each other welcoming everyone who enters the conventional hall. How could we miss it when we first entered?
Our photo and video shooting team are right in front of us taking pictures as different combination of our guests appear on stage; Cynthia’s father’s side of the family, Cynthia’s mother’s side of the family, our friends, cousins of our generation, Eric and his girlfriend and Lora and his boyfriend, Our mothers. Must be an emotional moment for Cynthia as I can see that she is trying hard to hold off her tears.
Towards the end of the ceremony, it is time for us to throw the hand bouquet and see who the next lucky one is. Two technical challenges here. First, the base of the bouquet is made of metal and hence, we sincerely hope that no one will get hurt. Secondly, there is a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling right underneath us. We have to be careful not to smash the hand bouquet into the chandelier.
We turn our backs to the young single ladies who have lined up and stood ready. The bouquet follows a low and steady trajectory flying gently into the group of young ladies. One of Cynthia’s friend really goes for it. And she gets it.
So buddy, what’s next?
Whether both of us are now enjoying our bicycle ride coming down from the hilltop, or we have reached the outer-space in our brand new rocket – it is up to your imagination. Either way, we feel like feathers in the air; we are so light. Happiness is weightless but other feelings may not. And in this moment of lightness, there are voids; Cynthia misses her dad and I miss mine too. Wish they were here.
We let our bodies drift and once again, we are back in the suite. Our families are now with us and Cynthia’s mother is helping her to take the pins off the hair. The studio photographer has also arrive with our pictures fresh from the oven. We are supposed to choose twelve pictures from twenty-two. In the end, we love them all, our families love them all, and we take all twenty-two of them. Looking at the pictures give us a sweet feeling; like having some sort of psychological desert. If this serving of desert is not enough, we have plenty of wedding gifts to unwrap too.
If I am to name two miracles of today, just two, I would say … the good weather, and the our beautiful smiles.
For those of you who are married, we hope that by sharing our experience, you have relived your own wedding day. And for those of you who are not married, marriage is beautiful. It has to be made in heaven.
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