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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:
- 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.
- We moved into a new house and it took a few weeks to get everything organized.
- We took on some new business aspects that created more work for us.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…. 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!
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.
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.
…. 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Ambassador Hotel was really great. Check out the room and the food:
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!
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!
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!