December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid) via Reverb10
It didn’t knock my socks off, but clearly the big party of 2010 that I attended was my sister-in-law’s wedding in Manila this summer. What made it stand out the most was the wedding MC/singer, Jerome G.
First though, I should set the scene. The Grand Ball Room of the fancy hotel has been set up for 500 guests. The room is divided by a large oak dining table with over-sized chairs, where the wedding party will sit when they finally arrive. The bride’s family and guests sit on one side of the table, while the groom’s are on the other. Mingling does not seem to be encouraged.
There is a band set up at the one end of the table and at the other end is a large, simple, but elegant, multi-tiered wedding cake (which all but the bottom turned out to be faux). Because the room is so large, there are screens set up along the walls, and a live feed of the band that is switched out with photos from the wedding that just happened that afternoon. Apparently not everyone was able to attend the church service. I want to know how they got out of it.
While we are waiting, the band is playing and the woman who sang at the church turns the microphone over to Jerome, who starts what I guess is supposed to be a warm up. He is a small man, dressed in an ill-fitting black velvet suit. Did I mention that it is well over 100F, and even with the afternoon downpour, it is still far from cool – just sweltering hot and extremely humid.
Waiters have brought around water and tea, and I think there were small bowls of nuts, but nothing else is served until the wedding party arrives. My husband’s cousin’s wife manages to get one of the waiters to bring me a plain iced tea. I still have no idea what delayed them for over an hour and a half, given that there were more photos at the hotel immediately following the wedding and tea ceremony which made me check my phone for the year. My best guess is that one of the sponsors was late.
So while we wait, Jerome starts singing. Badly. It is like Filipino Idol, except the Chinese version (this is a very traditional Chinese wedding with strong Filipino undertones). It doesn’t help that I am anxious, still not fully adjusted to the time zone or the climate, feel like I am sticking out as the only white person present, and wearing a hat in a room with no windows; but this guy’s singing is pushing me over the edge. I suggest that someone take him out back, or at least pull the plug. I hope there is a gong somewhere, and that someone uses it to put an end to all of our misery.
But no one does any of those things, and it just seems like he gets louder. I think it is because people keep clapping. I tell my table at least to stop encouraging him. Of course they can’t hear me over the noise. And where are the bride and groom already? They are missing all the fun – at their own wedding.
They do finally arrive. Jerome announces each person as they enter the room in parade fashion. Unlike American weddings, the people who were part of the wedding ceremony (think bridesmaids and ushers) are not seated with the bride and groom. Instead, that honor goes to the sponsors, who are usually friends of the family in high places, along with the parents of the couple.
We learned after the reception was over that this party was pretty toned down at the request of the parents of the bride. Usually there would be photo montages of the bride and groom as children and their meeting and dating history, along with games and speeches from everyone at the big table. My in-laws wanted none of it, and had a sit down with their daughter’s future in-laws to voice their concerns (in Chinese tradition the parents of the groom are in charge).
Still, there were a couple of short speeches made. None by either the parents of the couple or the couple themselves. Again, this is somewhat different than in Western culture. Also the only dancing was done by the couple (and only one song – The Way You Look Tonight). And while they cut the cake and feed each other (it reportedly got all over the wedding gown), none of the guests were served a single slice.
Really though, who had room for cake after a 10-course meal? Food just kept coming from the kitchen. We also learned on the drive back to our hotel that the mother of the groom apparently insisted that everyone at the big table get double portions. Unlike at the guest tables, which were served family style, the guests at the big table were brought individual plates of food. I think this was in part because of the sheer size of the table prohibited even the notion of passing food around. Also the reasoning for this was that at one of her other son’s wedding, there were complaints that there wasn’t enough food. Well, at this wedding there was complaints to the contrary.
Jerome did not stop during the meal. He just kept at it like an Energizer Bunny. Now he was also talking about the newlyweds, and saying things that made no sense. Granted we were not introduced to our new brother-in-law until after the wedding, but we had heard a few things about him. What Jerome was saying was not jiving with this information. Really I just wanted him to go away. I couldn’t hear the conversation at my table, but I certainly had not crossed an ocean to listen to him. I again pleaded that someone remove him.
Of course the few minutes that my husband decides to go to the bathroom, something very strange happened. At the table next to ours, one of the sponsors had walked over to scold his son (at least that’s what I think). He gave him a very stern look and said very few words, then walked back to his giant chair over at the big table. It truly was like something out of the Sopranos (again Chinese edition).
My cousin-in-law seemed rather ruffled by the incident. I wasn’t sure if we should just hide under the table. I really didn’t know what to think. I noticed that all of the women at the table where the incident occurred had vanished. And where the heck was my husband? Why did he pick now to go pee?
Of course by the time he returned, it was like nothing had happened. Things were starting to wind down though. It was Sunday and school and work were waiting for most people the next morning. Plus it seemed clear that the staff was ready to call it a night. I’m guessing they had paid for the party to go until 9pm.
Interestingly, it was as we were leaving that my husband bumped into several people he knew. As I said, there really wasn’t much mingling. Also it was clear that many people had no idea that my husband was married. No really. I’m not making that up.
As I am writing this I feel like I should mention one last thing. Our new brother-in-law was actually the first to contract the Windpocken. They honeymooned in Europe for three weeks on a tour group. They spent a day or so in Germany. Three days upon their return, he broke out in spots. About 3 weeks after that my husband got it, and 2 weeks later, I did. Now I wonder if someone didn’t put a pox on us at the wedding. My money is on Jerome. He is a medical doctor (no, really).