Chee Seng's wedding banquet, Batu Pahat (4th July 2009)
Yawn...ended up chatting with mum till 4am in the morning...I SO need to catch up with sleep but there's SO much to talk about! Was up at 10am and headed out with mum and dad to dim sum brunch in town followed by a short shopping stop at Summit Parade shopping mall.
Back home to rest and was picked up by Sea Ping around 6pm to catch up over coffee prior to attending Chee Seng's wedding banquet. Both Sea Ping and Chee Seng are friends of mine from college and we will always try to catch up whenever I'm back in town. It was lovely to see Sea Ping - we had so much to chat and laugh about over our work, love lives, travels and our lives in general. In fact, we have much in common, both enjoy travelling, independant and have been single for the last 2 years. We both laughed that the local Chinese boys wouldn't fancy girls like us - considered too independant, outspoken and just not the type of Asian girls they seek. I suppose I wouldn't fancy a local boy either. We are just so different in so many ways - the mindset, the ideals in life etc. "Do you think we are choosy?" she asked. Well, I would say that we are not ready to just settle for any guy that walks into our lives at the moment. We are seeking the one right guy to share our amazing lives with!
After our chit-chat over coffee and peanut butter waffles (cost RM12.80 for 2 Dagan Special Brew coffees and 2 peanut butter waffles) in Dagan Cafe on Jalan Sultanah, we walked a block to Hai Huang Banquet Restaurant where Chee Seng was having his wedding dinner banquet. This was the first Chinese wedding banquet I am attending as an adult i.e. I've not been to one since I left Malaysia in 2001 - should be quite interesting :)
The venue was a former school hall now turned restaurant, all decorated for the event, including a red carpet laid from the entrance leading towards the front stage. Upon entering the venue, Sea Ping and I had to get our names checked off the guest list with the folks manning the reception table and handed over our red packets to them. It was customary for guests to gift a red packet that had money in it when attending wedding banquets (quite different from that of the Western world where guests would purchase a gift for the married couple based on the wedding gift list provided). According to my maternal grandmother, Mama, who have been to so many weddings in her lifetime, there is also a yearly base rate of how much one needs to put into the red packet and depending on which city and how close you are to the bride and groom, the amount increases. And then those same people at the reception desk will mark next to your name how much you gave (which I found rather appalling) - this is so that should there be a wedding in your family and someone from this family got invited, they know how much to give back, whether to equal or give more. I think this custom is rather complicated, frankly - one would have thought whatever the amount was given willingly, not because of all these 'rules' and the need for face-saving.
"Congratulations, Chee Seng - you're a grown man now!" we teased when he came to greet us and ushered us to our seats. Sure felt weird that we shook hands - I nearly hugged him but he stuck out his hand first. Note to self: people here don't hug; they shake hands. Us girls were meant to sit at the table with other guests who also studied at our old college but 2 older men had already taken our seats so we ended up sitting with Chee Seng's college mates from Inti College which was fine by us.
The wedding was quite elaborately done. As guests arrived in dribs and drabs, the large screens by the stage were showing weddings photos of the happy couple. The dinner officially started around 8pm (Sea Ping was right about not being on time) with Chee Seng singing a love song in Mandarin as he walked towards to his beautiful wife, Ring, who was standing at the entrance with little bridesmaids and groomsmen paired up in front of her. She was all dolled up and wearing a stunning wedding dress :) By the way, I've never met the Mrs before - she wasn't yet present in his life my last trip back. Anyway, so there goes Chee Seng finishing his song and stood next to Ring then the kids, the bride and groom walked down the red carpet towards the stage with confetti thrown at them by the waiters (we were sitting very near the aisle so was told to cover up our drinks in case bits of stuff ended up in our fizzy drinks). Up on stage, the happy couple did the customary cake cutting and poured red wine down a tier of glasses.
Two family members (1 female and 1 male) hosted the event, starting off with words of congratulations. I was having quite a hard time understanding what was said since I don't understand Mandarin all that well (it was all hosted in Mandarin). It was quite amusing that the waiters and waitresses had to walk down the red carpet with the first dish in hand all the way up to the stage, as if to present to the guest that the dinner shall commence now. Sea Ping tells me that they have to do so or some people might not be clear of the fact that dinner is to be served at the event. Really??
Typically, a Chinese wedding banquet has 8 dishes in total starting with the cold plate (like an antipasto, a dish with an assortment of sliced food served chilled), following by shark fin's soup, several meat and seafood dishes, and finishing off with a dessert. Honestly, the food served by this restaurant didn't taste that great plus both Sea Ping and I had waffles earlier so hardly ate much.
As we nibbled on our food, the hosts played a home-made comedy movie of Chee Seng's and Ring's childhood and how they fell in love - quite cheesy but I was impressed with the effort put into organising this whole thing. It even had a part where Chee Seng was pretending to be Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk moves! Karaoke singing on stage proceeded after the dvd. Oh my god...for an Asian, I'm not a fan of karaoke singing and really can't stand people doing so at weddings. The sound system was pretty bad but that didn't put a stop to the stream of extended family members having a ball crooning away (they weren't too bad but just not my cup of tea). One auntie sang Chinese opera on karaoke!
My guess was there were at least 100 guests each from the bride's and groom's families respectively. There were people dressed ranging from casual t-shirt and jeans to all dolled up which was an interesting sight. I tried to strike a conversation with the others on our table but Sea Ping discouraged me from doing so. I was puzzled yet went ahead and made my small talk asking the others if they knew the bride or groom and how they got to know them. My open-ended questions came back with a momentary silence and then one word answers. Hmm, that wasn't how I expected the conversation to end...didn't even last 5 minutes. "Feeling disappointed now? Told you not to bother being friendly - they would just talk among themselves," whispered Sea Ping. That was just so weird...how very unsociable and unfriendly...
Dinner continued on, Sea Ping and I kept each other entertained, more karaoke singing (please save me!) and the happy couple went from table to table to toast with their guests aka yam seng (literally translates to 'drink to success'). Strangely, you get random lotto ticket or newspaper sellers roaming in the hall. How did they even get in when their aren't on the guest list??? We left the dinner around 9.30pm for supper elsewhere. Couldn't really catch up with Chee Seng tonight - he was too busy running around entertaining his guests etc. Will have to catch up another time. Congratulations again! Photos taken at dinner: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157620975937130/detail/
Sea Ping and I ended up in Taman Maju for drinks (here in Batu Pahat, when we say drinks, it means non-alcoholic drinks) and another college mate of mine, Alvin, came to join us. Wow, I've not seen Alvin for over 4 years and he's still the same bubbly, cheeky sumo-size of a man :) Happily married with a 5-year-old daughter - made both us girls felt rather old and behind the road to matrimony now that his daughter is already so big. It was lovely to catch up with him and we all laughed so much together. Would have loved to stay chatting much longer but I was feeling so sleepy so we all headed for home by 12am.