Jun 25, 2011
Being part Chinese, I had long thought about integrating different elements of the culture into our wedding. The colors, for example, are a play on traditional Chinese wedding and good luck colors--as well as a play on USC colors, but not intentionally :) Once I started talking to a few of my Chinese students, it sounded like getting a traditional Chinese dress was fairly easy.
So, we went to the fabric market and I picked out a silk design with colorful dragons and phoenixes all over. I've heard that the dragon represents male and phoenix represents female, and these two animals were "made for each other." I think that's pretty cute, but I'm not sure how true it is. Other students have told me they both represent power and wealth, which I guess I could see, too...
Anyway, we bought the material and took it to a tailor, and after one fitting and alteration, this was the final product:
That's me and the two students who helped me pick out the fabric and translate for the tailor. Unfortunately, this picture reveals just how short I am (5'0!) but I am happy about how the dress looks and fits. Now, the task is to make sure I don't gain any weight in the next year...
One thing we were able to do before we set off for China was to visit a place I had seen on herecomestheguide.com--it looked amazing in the pictures, and I really liked the idea of having an outdoor summer wedding with an elegant feel to it.
Once we actually went to Bella Montagna, we both agreed that it's actually more beautiful in person than in the pictures, and everything about it felt right. I love that their private home overlooks the city, but at the same time feels like a getaway from everything below. Plus, with my 90+ year old grandparents in attendance, we wanted a place that was close to home (and almost all of my close extended family live no more than 20 minutes away!)
We hemmed and hawed about it for months while we were in China, mainly because 1) it's a small venue and 2) the price. My mom managed to think of (off the top of her head) nearly 150 guests that she alone would like to invite, and this place can only fit 190...and I can't imagine it being very comfortable at full capacity. I convinced her that we could do a Chinese-style reception-type of party at a restaurant of her choice at some point before or after the wedding, and that way they could still have some kind of event to invite all of our extended family and their long-time friends to.
As for the cost, our contact (and also wedding coordinator) for Bella Montagna told us that if we put in our deposit before 2010, they would give us a 2011 venue at 2010 prices. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that we'd fallen in love with it the moment we saw it. So, we expedited our check and contract from China in the middle of December 2009. I'm really glad we did, because since then I've really been able to build a vision of what I want!
Mark and I have been engaged for more than a year now (it happened on May 20th, 2009) but I haven't documented anything because, well, we aren't getting married for another year. Currently we teach English for 18 hours a week at a university in China, but in one month we'll be returning to my hometown in California and reality will set in again. At first I thought it'd be too early to begin writing about this whole thing, but I figured I should enjoy some of the free time while we have it and introduce myself to the PW crowd :)
How We Met:
It's pretty corny, because we met on match.com and for a while talked about doing a commercial since we're a real-life story of everything working out! After a little over a week of e-mailing, we started talking on the phone and soon were on our first date. That was January 2008, and by July we were talking about the future. He even told me that he was "pretty sure" he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me...and at the time, I think I was just overwhelmed. I'd never really had anyone be that honest and upfront about his feelings with me, and even though I was incredibly happy, I also didn't want to jinx anything.
About a year later, he suggested going ring shopping. I think we both expected just to look around, but somehow the saleswoman was so good that she convinced us to buy a classic round-cut diamond ring in white gold. I remember that at the store, I kept thinking it didn't quite look right on me! Suffice to say, it looks fine now. :)
How He Proposed:
Things were crazy for the weeks after we went ring shopping, and since he told me he'd probably propose to me in China, I set aside the whole idea. My family was in town for my graduation from grad school, and Mark was a real trooper helping me drive all 7 of the Tran clan around. It was the second time he spent time with my family (the first was at Christmas) and I couldn't be happier. Everyone got along and more or less treated him like he was already part of the family.
Everything at work was fairly busy, as well. With the schoolyear winding to an end, I had tons of fieldtrips to go on and chaperone. While I was at NASA on one of those fieldtrips, I received a text from Mark, basically saying that he'd take care of dinner that night. He mentioned that one of his co-workers gave him some armadillo meat from a hunting trip--not an unusual thing after living in Texas and meeting his oil-industry co-workers. I told him that that was a little weird, and make sure to buy some A-1 to cover up the flavor. My students all made faces when I told them I was going to be eating armadillo that night. Little did I know that would be a lie...
That afternoon, just as I was packing up my things to head home, he called just to see where I was and told me he would be heading to my apartment soon as well. My school is only a ten-minute drive from home, so I expected we would get back at about the same time, but when I opened the door, I was surprised to see this:
and smell something savory coming from the stove. I thought, "Wow, how nice! Such a romantic dinner!" and left it at that. (Seriously, I really didn't see it coming.) I mentioned something about how I couldn't believe we were about to eat armadillo meat, and he laughed and said it was actually just pork. To this day, I'm not sure why he thought the armadillo thing would throw me off, but I guess it worked? Anyway, we sat down and had a great meal (I always love it when he cooks for me) and then he told me to close my eyes. At that point, I did start to freak out a little.
When I opened them again, I saw a slice of cheesecake for the two of us to share. My initial reaction was, "It's going to be inside the cheesecake!" but as we ate away the heavenly slice, there was nothing there. I asked him if he wanted the last bite, and he said, "There's more. But you have to close your eyes."
I closed my eyes, yammering away about how I can't believe he bought so much dessert, and is it ice cream, etc. until he told me to open them again and I saw him down on one knee in front of me, ring in hand.
A year later, I think we're even more in love than we were before, even after having lived together in another country and seeing ALL of each others' good, bad and ugly. For the longest time, I was skeptical about whether or not I would find someone right for me. Now, having found him, I can't believe how lucky I am.