How to survive a wedding

It’s going to be a big day tomorrow.

The anticipation is keeping her awake. The dress — which she has mercilessly dieted for in the last three months — is carefully hung up. The delicate heels that would show just flashes of her carefully manicured toes are already by the door. She’s kept to a strict facial regime to make sure she looks her most radiant best tomorrow. She has to go to bed soon. In just a few hours, she’d have to get her hair and make-up done by the professional beautician she’d booked in advance. 

So she sleeps and dreams of her Prince Charming… for tomorrow she attends a wedding.

I jest not. People take weddings very seriously here in Thailand, something that bemuses me no end as a foreigner. Some of the Thai girls that I know probably put as much effort into preparing for the wedding as the bride, if not more. They’d start scouting for a dress months before the wedding, start agonising over how to lose weight and begin piling on the whitening creams to become fairer (which is a national obsession).

When I first came to Thailand many years ago, I was always puzzled over why they’d keep asking me what I plan to wear about two months before the wedding. I always mumbled my way out with a whatever-I-can-find-in-my-wardrobe-that’s-ironed-and-still-fits answer.

But in the name of gaining cultural experience, I once went shopping with a Thai friend for her “wedding” dress. After about 50 dresses and the same repetitive comments from me — “No, you don’t look fat”, “Yes, it looks nice”, “No, you don’t look dark” — I really wanted to understand the need for a new dress that would cost a fifth of her salary.

“Why do you want a new dress? Can’t you just wear something from your wardrobe?”

“No, no! People will know if I wear something old.”

“So you’re buying something that you’ll just wear once…”

“It’s very important to look good, and it’s a great opportunity to dress up.”

“But why must you go to the extent of getting your hair and make-up done professionally?”

“Like I said, it’s a good excuse to dress up and look nice. And we might meet a nice guy.”

“Is it even worth it? After all, everyone will be looking at the bride and not you, right?”

To each his own, I suppose. While I may not be ecstatic going to weddings, I don’t go out of my way to avoid them, unlike some other singles that I know. Most of the time, I’m genuinely happy for the couple unless I don’t like either or both of them in which case I won’t even be attending it. 🙂 I enjoy witnessing the blessing of a union before God and seeing a new family unfold. I can even sit through the “two are better than one” sermons that nine out of ten pastors preach.

The one thing that my heart truly sinks at is when it’s time for the bride to throw her bouquet. I have no problems with this harmless piece of fun but I truly and deeply dislike being pulled out to the front to jostle with the 20-year-olds for a shot at being the next to get married. I don’t know which I resent more: being forced to do something that’s very much against my will or being slapped with the assumption that all singles want to get married. But in Thailand where everything is “just for fun”, you sometimes just have to grin and bare it — much like a barbecued dog I once saw in Hanoi.

And since I’m going to attend a wedding tomorrow (I still don’t know what I’m going to wear as my clothes forgot to grow along with my waistline), I thought I’d just list down some tongue-in-cheek tips to survive a wedding:

5. If possible, go with a friend — like a real friend, and not some guy you’ve talked into being your fake boyfriend for the day.

4. No one’s pitying you that you’re still single; it’s probably all in your head. And even if they were, you can’t really stop people from thinking what they want to think.

3. Find out when the bouquet-tossing is scheduled for and make a quick getaway to the loo before anyone can forcibly drag you into it.

2. When the pastor starts listing out the advantages of having a mate for life and that feeling of envy starts scratching at you, think of all the perks as a single. You can decide where to go and what to eat, and no one’s going to fight you for the remote.

1. Decide that you’re going to have a good time and you’re there to bless the couple and to share in their joy. Humour always helps especially when asked the when-is-it-your-turn question. I usually have a few caustic comebacks at the back of my head but since sarcasm’s not useful in building relationships in a foreign land, I tend to have to be more diplomatic like: “Oh, that’s because I can’t find someone as good as you” OR “Ah, but you’ve taken the best one already.”

But I think I’ll try a new one tomorrow, if people are not sick of asking me the same question yet. I’d shrug and say, “Don’t know yet. What about you? When did you get married? How did he propose? What was your wedding like” And just keep them talking about themselves until they forget the original question. Fingers crossed.

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