The Most Amazing Day Of My Life

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I cannot believe that yesterday, October 28, 2007 is 6 months from the day that I married my beautiful wife, Hui-chen. As you know, I didn’t really write an article on our marriage. I did write a small blurb and at that time was content to let Michael Turton’s post tell the story. Here are some of the considerations that stopped me from writing an article at that time:

  1. Less than 2 weeks after our marriage, I photographed 5371 just before it crashed. We had to deal with the unexpected attention and disruption to our lives. That situation lasted for well over a month, including representatives of the families and others contacting us for copies of the photos, and our own civilian investigation.
  2. We moved into a new house and it took a few weeks to get everything organized.
  3. We took on some new business aspects that created more work for us.
  4. My health problems that became an issue shortly after we were married (and also interfered with #2).

Naturally, we were worn out from the wedding itself, and then moving into the new house. Right after that, the 5371 incident prevented me from working on an article about our wedding. The timing just wasn’t right.

Not writing my own article about our wedding and how I felt on that day is something that I have come to regret a great deal. So, on this 6 month anniversary of our wedding, I have decided to write an article from my perspective on the most amazing day of my life.

Credits: The vast majority of these photographs were taken by Mr. Michael Turton. It was a great relief to not have to worry about the photography. When one of my sisters got married, the photographer made a mistake in the darkroom during processing and all of her photos were lost. At my other sister’s son’s wedding recently, the hired photographer didn’t do as well as expected and the photos were disappointing. Poor wedding photos cause continued disappointment into the future as well. Fortunately Michael was there for us and we very much appreciate his help. Hui-chen’s sister Ping-chen was another huge help to us. She was there at every possible moment, lending a hand.

Introduction

I’m not a young guy. Hui-chen’s family would probably have preferred her to marry a younger man, quite frankly. I give her family a lot of credit for accepting me as I am, but like a lot of things in Chinese society, it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. They all have seen how I treat her with love and respect and those are the most important qualities for a potential Groom to possess. Nevertheless we did fall in love and decide to get married with the full support and cooperation of her family. I have heard about marriages in Taiwan where the family did not accept the foreign husband, to the point of not even attending the wedding or communicating with him afterwards. That is such a shame and both families suffer in such cases. I am indeed fortunate to have joined such a wonderful family. After our wedding, Hui-chen’s father gave me permission to take his family name as mine. Her mother gave me a Chinese name and that has become my official name in Taiwan. I am very happy to bear this name.

Lastly I want to mention that I thought I should color my hair so I looked younger at the ceremony and in the photos. I’m not ashamed of how I look or who I am – on the contrary, I’m very comfortable being the “old guy who knows how to do stuff” in most situations. I thought that I would show face to Hui-chen’s family by altering my appearance so that in the future the photos would look different. Again, speaking frankly, at 51, my appearance does not alter very much over the span of 4 or 5 years. My hair was already gray (I stated going gray in High School) so if I hadn’t colored my hair and someone were to look at our photos in 5 years from now, I would look pretty much the same now as then. In the case of our wedding photos, sure, everyone knows I colored my hair but according to the comments I’ve received, most people think it looked good and I have the benefit of “aging” as time goes forward. Hui-chen’s father also colored his hair, but he looks great all the time anyway.

Our Wedding Day


April 28, 2007 was the most amazing day of my life. The family of this beautiful woman gave her to me in marriage. I look at her and I still can’t believe she is really mine. This is the story from the beginning of that day, with new photos that haven’t been published until now.

[eminimall]


We had our reception at the plush Ambassador Hotel in Kaohsiung. This is the view of the Love River out of the window of our suite. I stayed there the night before while Hui-chen stayed at her parent’s home.


Despite having stayed out with me for drinks at the famous Western Coyboy Pub the night before, Michael arrived at my room early morning to begin his duties as Official Photographer.


Here I am getting ready to leave. I have my white gloves on which is the style for Taiwanese Grooms. The red scarf is for holding the traditional flower bouquet. I wrapped the bouquet in the red scarf and took it with me to meet my Bride at her parent’s home.


Waiting in the lobby for the wedding motorcade to pick me up.


OK, it’s not exactly a motorcade but that’s what I’m calling it. In typical Taiwanese fashion, the motorcade arrived on-time, but no one came inside to let me know they were here! I kept looking at my watch because we were running late until someone finally figured out that I wasn’t the one who should be running back and forth to the window to see if they had arrived yet. Eventually I was told that they were here and we promptly got underway.


We arrive at Hui-chen’s parent’s home and there to greet me is my pal Shaing-shiang, who has something for me.


I give Shaing-shiang a red envelope and he gives me a basket of fruit. This is a traditional offering for the arriving Groom.


We all walk into the lobby to get on the elevator to go up to Hui-chen’s parent’s home. I’ve walked by these ladies dozens of times, but on this day they took particular note.


I ring the doorbell….


…. and am greeted by Hui-chen’s sister Ping-chen (recently engaged herself – sorry guys!). Ping-chen takes a red envelope from me in order to “allow” me to pass through the door. Behind me is Hui-ling, Hui-chen’s other sister.


I’m supposed to “search” for my Bride, hidden somewhere in the house. I played along, checking every place, likely or not. The whole time Ping-chen kept saying “she’s not in there!” Trust me, I knew this. I was just playing along but it didn’t go over well. Everyone was in such anticipation of my seeing by Bride for the first time!


Finally, I “find” my Bride, and she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life!


I present my bouquet to her with a little kiss.


Hui-chen’s mother takes my hand and tells me that she is giving Hui-chen to me.


We smile for the press conference that our wedding has become!


Next we adjourn to the living room where Hui-chen serves ceremonial tea to her parents.


Hui-chen’s mother puts a gold necklace on the Bride.


I couldn’t help thinking how difficult this must have been on Hui-chen’s father. I’ve heard others comment that in many Taiwanese (and Chinese) families, unlike Western marriages where it’s viewed as the joining of 2 families, many fathers view the wedding as losing their daughters. I’ve know some sad cases where fathers never desired to become close to their daughters while they were growing up because the fathers thought they would just lose their daughers later anyway. I’m happy to say that in our family this is certainly not the case. I respect Hui-chen’s father very much as he has raised a strong, closely-knit family.


Ping-chen, always ready to help, assists Mother with the gold bracelet that she will give the Bride.


Next, Hui-chens’ mother puts a gold ring on her finger.


A last minute adjustment to the bracelet and everything is perfect.


Hui-chen’s mother has a gold ring for the Groom. It wasn’t so easy to get that ring on my finger while wearing the glove! Fortunately I’ll spare you the photographic details on that point.


Hui-chen’s father kindly took my hand and told me that his daughter was now mine, and that I should always take care of her. He then went on to say something that I appreciated very much and will always keep in mind: I can come to him with any problem and he will help, no matter what it is. I have always thought Hui-chen’s father was a great man, and on this day my respect for him increased even more.


One shot for the many cameras on-hand….


…. and then we had the symbolic sweet soup. This was an emotional moment for everyone (notice the woman in the right foreground) as the realization set in that this would be the last meal Hui-chen’s mother would serve to her unmarried daughter.


Hui-chen’s father looks on approvingly.


We bow to her parents three times.


Then Hui-chen’s mother covers her face with the wedding veil.


Ping-chen helps adjust the veil so it’s just right.


A few shots and then it’s time to leave for the courthouse.


Ping-chen helps with Hui-chen’s long train as she gets into the car.


The ribbons of course, mean that someone is getting married and all along the way people were pointing and smiling at us.


We arrive at the courthouse, and of course the first one there to help Hui-chen is her sister, Ping-chen.


This does look like some rockstar wedding as there were several other people snapping photos as we got out of the car. I’m used to this sort of thing but my Bride wasn’t!


With assistance, Hui-chen emerges from the car (notice Ping-chen is holding 2 bags – what a trooper).


We walk into the courthouse lobby.


And step out of the elevator.


And then sign in at the administration desk. There were about 20 couples getting married that day, and it’s first-come, first-served so we wasted no time getting things started.


Finally, we had a few moments to sit and relax….


But not for long! We head over to the notary’s desk where Hui-chen’s sisters present their ID cards and “chops” (official name stamps) to be used on the marriage certificates and other documentation.


You just would not believe the amount of stamps used in business in Taiwan!


These are the actual Marriage certificates. The courthouse prepared a copy for me in English too on request.

Reality sets in as Hui-chen’s father checks out the certificate.


Shiang-shiang found the entire process fascinating, as did I.


With the stroke of a pen, I committed my life to Hui-chen. Would I do it again? Every single day!


I don’t mean to sound disparaging, but I can’t believe the way some of these people dressed to attend a wedding. I’ve seen better dressed bowlers.


We has some time to kill as others came in and went through the registration and documentation process as we. So, everyone went into the wedding chapel for some photographs. This shot is cute!


This is a great shot of us and her parents.


I love this shot. I wish I’d taken it! I’m very grateful to Michael that this shot exists. Thanks Michael.


By now the wedding chapel had filled up with other couples and families. The wedding was an en masse affair with about 20 other couples tying the knot with us that day in small groups. Hui-chen’s parents are behind us, and Michael Turton’s family are in the background to the left. Zeb handed the DV camera.


Here you see the magistrate kindly addressing me in English. I had been expecting her to speak Chinese so I was thrown off for a second! When she asked if I took Hui-chen in marriage I replied “yes, your Honor.” That made her smile. The pink documents on the table in front of her are the actual marriage certificates seen previously.

Obviously, some guy in Kaohsiung has me in his wedding video. Sorry about that dude.


The magistrate asked us to bow to each other.


We exchange rings. Again, not easy with the gloves! We just sort of put them on the ends of our fingers until we were ready to leave.


Time to grab a few shots before the next herd of couples come in for their weddings.


I’m holding one of the marriage certificates, all signed and sealed by the magistrate.

My poor wife…. she was so tired. She’d gotten up at around 4:00 am to go to the wedding gown store to have her makeup done. It was grueling. We went back to our hotel and rested until the reception.


Here we are just off the elevator and at the entrance to the reception hall. This is Hui-ling’s husband greeting us.


When we walked into the room, it was pitch black except for a glaring spotlight on us! In this shot, the flash has illuminated the scene well so you can’t tell.


Again, in this shot you can’t tell because the Nikon SB-800 is such a great flash unit, but the room is totally dark and we have a spotlight trained on us! I’m very used to this situation as a past performer, but Hui-chen is having a hard time navigating to our table.


Notice how tightly she is holding on to my arm. I kept saying “ I’ll lead you honey – just hold on.”


Finally, we made it to our table and we didn’t trip over anything!


My good friend Mr. Charles Yapp joined me at our table, and sat to my left.

The Ambassador Hotel was really great. Check out the room and the food:


When I saw this sign, I couldn’t help thinking that this was one of the few weddings in Taiwan where both names were actually the real names of the Bride and Groom.

In Taiwan, weddings sometimes feature strippers, singers, or people coming up to the front and giving speeches, etc. We wanted nothing of those things (although I did give the stripper idea a shot – j/k!) at our wedding. We decided that I would give a short presentation on our travels together over the last 2 years.


The flash has washed out the screen in white, but on each side of the hall, the projectors displayed photos that we had taken during our travels in several countries. Our friend Mark Archey handled the DVD player and his timing was uncanny. As weird as it may sound, I introduced myself to the audience because nearly no one outside of Hui-chen’s family had actually met me before. I went on to explain that I had prepared a presentation of photos that would tell the story of our lives since we met.


My friend Charles Yapp did a translation for me on the fly, and he did a fantastic job! You can see by the looks on the faces of the people watching that they had absolutely no idea Hui-chen and I had been to Thailand, Hong Kong, Laos, China and the USA together. I showed photos of my family in the US, villages in Thailand, shopping in Hong Kong, rural China, and trekking for elephants in Laos, all to the amazement of the audience. This was an entirely different kind of presentation from normal Taiwanese weddings and it was very well received.


The day before the wedding Hui-chen asked me if I wanted a wedding cake. I hadn’t really thought about it. I asked her if it was traditional because I’d never seen one in Taiwan before. She told me that most weddings don’t have a cake but that the cake chef at the Ambassador Hotel could make one if we wanted. So we went to the bakery shop in the hotel lobby and the cake chef took time to come out and talk with us. After a few minutes he assured us that he could create a nice cake for our wedding and have it on time for tomorrow. With a minimal amount of input from us, this is the cake he created for us!


It was fantastic! I recommend that guy!


As opposed to weddings where the Bride and Groom do stupid things like shove the cake in each other’s faces, I really enjoyed this dignified experience with my wife.


After the cake cutting there was another cool thing planned:


Pouring the champaign! The glassed were stacked and we poured the whole bottle into the top glass where it then overflowed into the glasses below. Look at Hui-chen’s face. It was fun!


Shiang-shiang found this activity so fascinating that he had to come up on the stage to see it up close!


Now the tricky part: Drinking it with arms interlaced!


We were laughing while drinking – not a good combination!


Hui-chen’s dad loosened up a bit after some champaign. It was good to see him enjoying himself!


After the champaign drinking, I found out that Michael Turton had masterminded a plan to get me to sing!


The plan worked because he told the MC who subsequently asked the audience if they would like to hear me sing. Once that happened, it was impossible to not sing for them!

If you haven’t seen it before, and even if you have and it’s been awhile, you should check out the video of the song I sang. The video begins with the champaign pouring. I’d like to explain something about that activity that isn’t visible from the photographs. Everything in Taiwan is just so loud! I often find myself asking people to not shout when they speak, or to turn off the TV when not watching it. So much of the daily noise here is unnecessary and is nothing more than pointless background noise. Music, for the most part, is only more background noise. Nobody is listening but they feel it must be on. When Hui-chen and I were pouring the champaign the background music was so loud, I couldn’t her what she was saying to me! So at that point I insisted upon the music being cut off before we proceeded. So that’s why you see me waiting while giving them the “cut” sign. Later you can hear Hui-chen’s cousin singing along with me on the video while he shot it. Every time I hear that it makes me laugh out loud! You can also hear Michael Turton doing his dirty work in the setup!


Now, everything is over and it’s time to leave. Hui-chen and I changed into our traditional Chinese style clothing and bid farewell to our guests.


Mark Archey get’s caught “stealing” a piece of candy.


The Turton family gives us a farewell. Thanks for your help everyone!


Everyone lines up for a photo. Missing is Hui-ling’s husband who was busy with something going on behind Hui-chen’s parents.


The woman on the left works with Hui-chen’s mother. She wrote a cool poem for us in Chinese. The handwriting is really beautiful.


This is a candid shot that I took of Hui-chen and her father looking on in the background.

This concludes the story of our wedding – the most amazing day of my life…. I’m glad that I got to share this with you, finally!


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21 comments

  1. What an incredible day you had! An excellent account your day. Michael did a top-notch job with the camera…

    You’re a lucky guy MJ!

    -David

  2. thanks for your wonderful comments Sandy and David. i felt bad ever since that time passed by and i didn’t recount that day in detail. so now i’ve checked that off of my long list of things that needed to be done! it was an incredible day indeed, and yes we are very grateful to Michael Turton for taking so many great photos. there are over 800 total! 🙂 thanks for reading our blog!

  3. I am glad that you and HC are doing so well together. I have seen your life grow with her, and know your lives will keep getting better as time passes.

    Colby

  4. Oh my gosh, Michael and HuiChen, your video is hilarious! I bursted out laughing several times and the chinese MC in the background really knows how to throw a party!!! I think it was very sweet how Michael knelt down on the floor at the end of the song to hug his wife.

    Congratulations!

  5. Joanna, when the video was being shot, i had no idea that Daga was singing along with me while he was shooting! The MC sure got people riled up, that is a fact. i thought that Hui-chen kept her composure quite well at the end, especially considering that no one knew i was going to do that – not even me!

  6. congrats hui-chen and mj! an absolutely wonderful post. time does really fly, as i too feel like i just got married not too long ago but we are about to have a little one soon. speaking of which… the bushman legacy needs to be passed on. plan for a little bushman / bushgirl soon???

    andres’s last blog post..oh baby! ….. 36 weeks

  7. Andres, thanks for the nice comments. the truth is, i gave up on that idea a long time ago. however, i have come to know that things are possible in Taiwan that are not possible anywhere else. so, one never knows. but we have no actual plans.

    Patrick, thanks. i really wish i’d done that article long ago as i explained. i’m just glad that i finally got to write it. things are going along better and better for us. that’s the way it’s supposed to be :).

    Todd, thanks! that video cracks me up. it was totally ad-lib with no rehearsal, lol.

    btw, i’ve been enjoying your articles and photos of Japan. i love it there!

  8. Congratulations to you, MJ and Hui-chen. I saw the video. Its hilarious but I must compliment you MJ for your singing. And you are right on money about ‘unnecessary’ noise present in daily life in Taiwan 🙂

  9. thanks Ashish, and welcome to our blog! i can’t take credit for my singing as i grew up playing clubs with my mother, and i’ve been a pro musician for most of my adult life. and sometimes (like today) i just want to turn around and ask people to STOP YELLING ABOUT NOTHING! my mother always taught me to not talk in a full voice. i cannot tel you how many times i’ve been awakened in a hotel room by people talking in FULL VOICE at very early hours of the morning. it’s totally off their radar.

  10. Congratulations Hui-Chen and MJ, Happy six month anniversary!.. The write up was great… MT done a marvelous job with the camera !!

  11. Congratulations MJ and Hui-chen! It almost feel like I was there. Hui-chen looks like an angel. I think your hair looks great and I think the photo of MJ waiting in the lobby is really sweet.

    I know, you’re probably saying, “Gawd, did she have to write that?”

    And yes, I did. This whole post is really touching. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Carrie’s last blog post..A Special Lady in the House

  12. thanks Saumen. yes MT did a great job handling the D80, which i must point out was an unfamiliar model to him. all the more impressive.

    Carrie, thanks for the kind comments :). HC did look incredible. at first everyone was taken aback by our choice of that black dress for some of the shots – but we asked that people look at the photo and how beautiful she looks in the dress and to ignore the cultural stereotypes about black dresses. it was a bold move on our part but it worked out well in the end. 🙂

  13. Wow thanks for sharing this Mike and congrats to you and your beautiful bride! I feel almost like I was there less the karaoke and hsaohsing wine of course. 🙂 I’m glad you and Huichen are such a good fit and very happy together. great too how you are accepted by your in-laws.

    Mark Forman’s last blog post..Well Saul and Trent deliver?

  14. thanks Mark. we are happy and prospering and happy to say, the in-laws do like me. i’ve heard so many horror stories about foreigners not being accepted, or IMO even worse, not being accepted until the couple had a baby. we don’t have to deal with that mentality, thankfully. take care Mark.

  15. MJ I have been offline for a few days with computer troubles and was very eager top read the post you had done on your wedding day. I actually seen the post but I didn’t have time to give it my full attention and I didn’t want to skim it and say I had read it.

    The next day when time permitted I was going to go back and enjoy reading about your special day with Hui-chen and her family and friends of both of yours. This is when my monitor decided to die and left me looking at a black screen.

    Thankfully that is all fixed and I finally got the chance to read the post and also click on some of the links in the post. It looked like a great day and I must say it really looks like a great family around Hui-chen. You are a lucky man but Hui-chen is also a lucky woman as in marrying a man who is caring and committed from what I have read and seen in your blog.

    It looked like a full-on day and it was good to see the traditional side to the wedding and all the small customary things, like the red envelope and basket of fruit. Even the trip to the court house to do the paperwork for the marriage certificates was an interesting affair.

    I enjoyed reading the post and the photos courtesy of your friend Michael Turton expressed thousands of words.

    The video was interesting. At the start you pretended to be a little shy or put out but then you can see the showman side of you and it is a very comfortable one as you worked the crowd very easily and I do have to say without a word of a lie, a pretty good voice. I would like to sit in on one of those Thai rum sessions and see what tunes are belted out in the wee early hours.

    Anyway, belated congratulations to you and Hui-chen and I wish you happiness for a long time to come, also that one day we have the good fortune of meeting in person.

    P.S. I am working on the other small project and will email it all through to you as soon as it is finished, It really sucks having to work for a living, but again I am doing it in a pretty amazing place here in Isaan.

    Thanks MJ and Hui-chen.

    Brunty.

    Jason Brunt’s last blog post..Thailand. Mukdahan Indochina Market and Buddhist Lent trip.

  16. Brunty, always a pleasure to have you comment. you touched on a number of excellent ponits and i do like how you worded things. glad you were able to actually view the site or else i would have had to email a PDF of it to you 🙂 Taiwanese weddings are a curious mix of old and modern (as Michael Turton explained in his article about our wedding). Hui-chen’s parents are traditional but also not unreasonable. they live in a bustling metropolis of steel and glass in southern Taiwan, one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

    re: the video. haha! well, i had no idea that Michael was going to ask the MC to tell everyone i could sing for them. although i enjoy performing, and i do miss my professional career sometimes, one thing that i don’t like is when i’m around other people who are always “on stage” and pushing their talents in your face, turning every situation into an excuse for a performance. perhaps i over compensate in the opposite direction but i would prefer to err on that side of the equation. at first i really did reject the idea because i thought i wouldn’t go over very well, but i was wrong, apparently. Michael and Mark Archey both convinced me that i should do it, so i agreed while putting on the “i’m gonna kill you” show for the audience. that got a good laugh. when i was handed the mic, i said “i don’t know how to sing” in Chinese and that got another good laugh. so it came off well from the start. the best part was Hui-chen’s parents never having heard me sing before so that was a pleasant surprise for them.

    well spoken about Michael Turton’s “thousands of words!”

    we’ll have a chance to savor some Thai rum soon Brunty. i know you don’t drink much so feel free to watch me! maybe we can get Vern over too for a blogger drinking bash!

    can’t wait to hear about your next project. yes, it sucks working but Issan makes it worthwhile. take care!

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