The wedding planners

A local writer looks forward to the end of a long engagement

I proposed to my fiancée on August 30, 2010.

The next day, instead of simply being happy that we had agreed to be married, my fiancée’s parents requested a traditional Cambodian engagement ceremony. We obliged. About a month later, I became “Cambodian engaged”—in an all-morning event that involved a gathering of both families, a dowry presentation (colorful plates of fruits, cookies and coffee), an engagement ring and a home-cooked feast. It was like a miniwedding.

Next, we culturally married in a traditional Chinese tea-ceremony wedding on February 26, 2011.

After these ceremonies, I’ll still need to be married three more times before cementing my status as a husband.

Here’s why: While many other couples are now trying to be fashionable by adding elements of “exotic” cultures to their weddings, I’ve got too many cultures to deal with—I’m a Chinese-American Jew marrying a Cambodian-American Buddhist. This means that we have relatives who celebrate four distinctly different cultures—Chinese, Jewish, Cambodian and American. And each culture has a different custom that makes marriage official in their view.

So, when my Chinese grandmother fell ill in 2011, we decided to have a small Chinese tea-ceremony wedding to make sure she could witness our marriage. Our 50-person wedding went smoothly and pleased my grandmother—who is doing better now. But the wedding also took considerable planning time, revealed stress levels beyond our imaginations, and left us with the lingering feeling of being only sort-of married.

After all, my fiancée and I still feel that we need to honor the wedding traditions of the rest of our cultures before we can call each other “spouse.”

So now, we have the tedious task of planning three more wedding ceremonies, which will hopefully be condensed into one wedding day: a Cambodian wedding (featuring Buddhist monks, costumes, a band, a feast, photos), followed by a Jewish wedding (a rabbi, a chuppah, prayers, glass-breaking), and, finally, an American wedding reception (basically, a party with friends and family).

As we begin the planning, I have mixed emotions. I’m looking forward to seeing our three-wedding vision materialize. But looking at the cost of weddings scares us. The average wedding in 2011 cost around $27,000, according to the websites The Knot and And that’s $27,000 more than we have, especially having just bought our first house together this past year.

That’s why we’ve decided on having all three weddings at our new home. No dealing with expensive venues, wedding planners or aggressive salespeople. Instead, we’re investing time and labor landscaping our yard and creating our own decorations, invitations and entertainment. We still need to purchase clothing, rings and the services of a photographer, but we’ll keep it amongst close friends and family and choose an affordable local caterer.

Hopefully, our small but elaborate home wedding gives us the closure that we need to finally feel “married.” And then we’ll finally get to think about a honeymoon.