We got married in the Philippines. There were several reasons for this, and I will elaborate on them in a separate (future) post, but this was the decision that we ended up making. Specifically, we had in the island where my mother was born. I myself was not born and raised there, but I have fond memories of childhood summers spent there. I grew up being close to my cousins on my mother’s side of the family because I saw them for two months in a year. And then we grew older, went on to university where there are summer classes, and then on to work where summer vacations were non-existent. Some stayed close to home, some went abroad, got married, had kids. We didn’t always know what each one was currently up to, but we have shared memories of our past. And we’re family. We’ll always have that.
Fast forward to wedding talk, and invites, and people were kind of…lukewarm. This is hardly surprising. At this time in my life, I am closer to my friends than I am to some of my cousins, and aunts, and uncles. The wedding was on a Tuesday, so people had work. And it was a three-hour drive away. Which was “far”, in their own words. And I’m like…far?! My husband’s family is traveling from another country! Our friends are taking domestic and international flights! Even I was traveling for this! And then here are the locals telling me that they couldn’t make it. Go figure. All weddings have family drama, and this was one of ours.
So Mom and I planned a separate dinner at a restaurant that’s within walking distance from my uncle’s house, and a five-minute drive for everyone else. That was another source of stress in itself because Filipinos do not RSVP at all. It’s more like, “I’ll go if she goes, and we’ll decide it at the last minute.” So you’ll either have everyone or no one. So on the day before the dinner, with the food and venue fully paid, but still no definite guest list, I ranted to my Mom about feeling like I was bending over backwards for people who did not even care.
But surprise surprise, almost everyone was there. Even my uncle, who almost never leaves the house anymore. And my cousins’ wives who I have not met before, and their kids who I cannot even keep track of anymore. They were all there. The kids probably don’t know me and didn’t care so much that I was getting married, but they showed up anyway. If not for me, then for the sake of my mother. But either way, I’ll take it.
My heart was so full on that night. People write that about their weddings, but I got to experience it twice. On that family dinner, and on the wedding itself. And here are my thoughts about it:
- Reality check: Not everyone is going to be as excited for you as you are for yourself.
- People have their own lives to live. So not everyone is going to drop everything that they’re doing just so they can celebrate with you.
- Taking time off from work and traveling long distances are luxuries of time and money. Luxuries that not everyone can afford. So if you can, meet people where they are.
- And above all, people can’t always show up for you in the way that you expect them to, but when they do it in the way that they can, you acknowledge it.
This last one is the big one. My aunt helped me look for an apartment for my in-laws to stay in for the week. And it was not furnished so we had to borrow mattresses, sheets, pots and pans, etc from my cousins. And we had to transport guests so my other cousin made calls to bus and van rental companies to ask about their rates. My cousin’s husband drove us around the entire time, to run errands, to go to the beach, to pick up people from the airport. The list just goes on and on. They were not present on the wedding day itself, but they were present on the days before and after, and that is important too.
I am writing this now, hours after I received news that my cousin died in a vehicular accident. It’s weird how this prompted me to reflect on our wedding. But this tragic event definitely placed a new meaning and importance to our decision. Scott’s side of the family have all sorts of feelings about missing our wedding, and we’ll also have to contend with that. Someone will always be disappointed, whichever way we decided on. But we do not regret the decision that we made, especially me, and even more so now, with this death. If we did not have the wedding in my mother’s hometown, my memories of my cousin would have been from more than a decade ago, instead of six months ago, from that dinner. When I think of her, I do not dig around for vague childhood memories. Instead, I remember her from long conversations around the kitchen table, while chopping meat and vegetables for the big dinner to commemorate her mother’s (my aunt’s) death anniversary, and the thank you/goodbye hugs when we dropped off the stuff we borrowed before we headed to the airport, to fly out of the island, out of the country, to another country, and then to another one.
I sometimes think of that dinner, and of the wedding, as some sort of a farewell party. Because I was going away afterwards, and I didn’t know when I’ll be able to come back. But I didn’t think it would be her farewell to me. But it was. I’ll miss you T.Y!