My good fortune

At the welcome dinner tonight, I opened up my fortune cookie, and it said:

That's right, folks.  After 15 years of dating, the Hot Cocoas are getting hitched!  

Thank you to the whole Weddingbee community for putting up with my shenanigans, laughing at my bad jokes, and being so supportive, generous, and kind during our wedding planning process.  I am one very lucky bride.

I'll be back soon with the recaps from our Chewish Wedding Spectacular.

Miss Hot Cocoa.


Keeping the Absent Present

Two of the most important people in Mr. HC's life, his father's father (Zadie) and his mother's mother (Bubbe F) passed away before they could see their grandson get married.  Although they can't be there in person, they are very much a part of our lives in that they have both played such a significant role in shaping Mr. HC's values and outlook.

To honor them, I am surprising Mr. HC with a small locket that our florist is going to attach to his boutonniere.  It means a lot to me for Mr. HC to walk down the aisle with his grandparents figuratively and literally close to his heart.

I ordered a 1/2 in. by 1/2 in. locket from Picturesongold.  It's Lilliputian -- smaller than a dime. The company can either laser etch your photos right into the locket or print out and attach the photos for you.  I chose the latter option, since I wasn't convinced that the laser etching wasn't going to come out all wonky.  

The pictures I had on hand were scanned in at a fairly low pixel count, so the print quality wasn't great.  But the locket is so small that image quality isn't that important.  Also, I figure it's more about the sentiment behind the locket than the locket itself.

In addition to the locket, we're going to be honoring Bubbe by using a tablecloth she embroidered as part of the roof of our chuppah.  A stroke left her unable to finish the design, but the embroidery she did finish is gorgeous.  The tablecloth is going to be a beautiful testament of her love for her children (it was intended to be a gift for Mr. HC's mother), as well as of her considerable talent as an artist.  The embroidery also reminds me of a whole tradition of women's work and women's narratives; embroidery and other textile arts are a mode of storytelling and expression that connects generations of women.  That it's unfinished is even more meaningful, as it alludes to the stories that have yet to be told.

How will you be honoring loved ones who are not able to celebrate with you in person on your wedding day?


Not Your Mama's Tea Ceremony

To kick off our Chewish wedding, we're having a Chinese tea ceremony in the afternoon of our wedding day, before the (mostly Jewish) wedding ceremony.  We've invited a number of Mr. HC's family members to participate, and many of our guests have expressed an interest in coming to watch the ceremony.  To make everyone feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about our traditions, I put together a program.  I thought the text of it might be helpful to some of you (in which case, as always, please feel free to borrow), so I'm posting it below.

But first a disclaimer: Hot Mama Cocoa likes to do things her way, even if that's not the way things are customarily done in other Chinese households.  Since this program was put together in consultation with her, I make no guarantees as to the representativeness of our tea ceremony!

Here goes:

Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa's Chinese Tea Ceremony

The tea ceremony is the most important part of a Chinese wedding. Unlike Western weddings, in which the ceremony is primarily about the bride and groom, the tea ceremony shifts the focus from the couple to their elders; it serves as an opportunity for the couple to honor and show their appreciation for their parents, grandparents, and close relatives, as well as an occasion for the elders to welcome formally their new relative-in-law into the family.

The tea ceremony takes place at an auspicious hour -- in Mr. and Miss HC's case, 2:30 pm. At the ceremony, the couple will serve tea first to their grandparents, then to their parents, and then to their other relatives in order of seniority.* At Mr. and Miss HC's ceremony, the bride’s family will be served first, followed by the groom’s family.** This reflects the order of events in ancient times, when there used to be two separate tea ceremonies: the first at the bride’s parents’ home, when the groom comes to “claim” his bride, and the second at the groom‘s parents home, when the groom returns home with his intended.

Not only is there a particular order for the tea service, there is also a particular choreography. Each elder being honored will sit in a chair, with his or her spouse, if married, or by him or herself, if single. The couple will then serve the tea, from a kneeling position to their grandparents and parents, and from a standing position to everyone else. Younger siblings or relatives are not served.

When serving the tea, the couple presents the teacup and saucer with both hands as a sign of respect; also, they address their elders by their formal name (i.e., “Aunt Marshmallow”) as they bow to serve the tea. After the elders take a sip of the tea (they need not actually finish the cup -- just a ceremonial sip will do), they will present the couple with gifts of “lai see,” red envelopes containing cash. Red symbolizes good luck and is the color associated with weddings. Each elder served will present two envelopes: one to the groom and one to the bride. For example, Hot Mama Cocoa will present an envelope to Mr. HC and an envelope to Miss HC -- two total. And Mr. HC's parents will present two envelopes to Mr. HC and two envelopes to Miss HC -- four total. The couple will then place the unopened lai see on the saucer, which a family member will collect for safekeeping. It is considered gauche to open the lai see at the ceremony.

There are other unique aspects of the ceremony. Lai see envelopes should contain cash in only even denominations, as odd numbers are associated with funerals. The number 8 is considered especially auspicious, while the number 4 is to be avoided, because the Chinese word for “four” is a homophone for “death.” Also, the tea served is a special tea that contains lotus seeds and red dates. This is because the Chinese word for “lotus” is a homophone for the word “year,” the word for “seed” is a homophone for “child,” and the word “date” is a homophone for “early.” In other words, the tea symbolizes a wish for the newlyweds to have children early and often! Finally, instead of lai see, relatives often will give gifts of gold jewelry to the bride, which she is expected to wear immediately. In ancient times, this display served as a way for the bride’s family to demonstrate their wealth, the grandeur of their daughter’s dowry, and the worthiness of the match.
* Most of the non-Hot Mama Cocoa sources I've consulted say that parents are served first, followed by the grandparents, and then by the rest of the elders by seniority.  But in our household, Grandpa HC is DA MAN.  So he gets served first.

** Again, most of the non-Hot Mama Cocoa sources I've looked at say the groom's family should be served first, but my mom doesn't trust "research," and Mr. HC's family doesn't at all care about being first, so Hot Mama Cocoa wins.

How will you introduce your in-laws to your family's cultures and traditions?


Secret sale!

One of my favorite Etsy sellers, Muscari Designs, is having a secret sale.

Sorry, Muscari, I'm not good with secrets!

From now until March 15, you can get 20% off of all of their gorgeous handmade hair florals.

Like the "Minnesota Bloom," which I just bought as a wedding shower present for a friend.

Or the "Sugarbush," which is just so exquisite.

Just enter the code "lovespring" at checkout.

And while you're there, take a look at their darling boutonnieres:

So perfect for a woodland wedding!

Now that the secret's out . . . what are you waiting for?!  Go!


Me N U

Now that we've selected the delectable dishes we're serving at the reception, I figured it was time to dig the Gocco out of my closet (a feat in and of itself) and make the menu cards. 

I scanned the lasercut motif that is on the front of our invitation into Adobe Illustrator and laid out the menu text in a mix of Feel and Georgia fonts.  I then Gocco'd the menu onto Kunzite paper, a metallic lilac shade from, rounded the corners, and mounted the menu onto a mix of grape, violet, and plum #10 cards from Paper Source (on sale for 50% off!).

I blinged each menu up with a jewel tone crystal, just to add a little sumthin' sumthin'.

I think they will go nicely with our gorgeous papercut table numbers, which I framed in $1 acrylic frames from the Christmas Tree Shop.

Will you be making menus for your guests?  What will yours look like?


Chinoiserie Guestbook Vignette

Here's a Hot Cocoa-ism: Craptastic (adj.) = full of awesomely cheap knick knacks.

Craptastic is one of the highest honors I can bestow on a place of shopping.  Hong Kong: craptastic.  Bangkok: craptasticler.  Saigon: craptasticest.

Today, I bestow this adjective on the Christmas Tree Store, where I bought the items for our guestbook vignette.

The pagoda birdhouse/candle holder was $9.99.  The planter was $5.99.  The darling porcelain balls were $1 each.  And I used a 20% off coupon, bringing all of the above to about $15.  We'll probably make fabric fortune cookies to use on the day of.

The florals are the pens for the guestbook.  On the recommendation of Angel Swanson, Weddingbee pro and planner extraordinaire, I bought a few Sakura Micron pens from Paper Source.  They are archival quality and acid-free.  I bought some silk florals on sale from various places:  A.C. Moore has all their faux florals on sale for 40% off this week.  I cut the flower off at the stem and attached it to the pen cap using packing tape.

I then wrapped the pen with green floral tape.  You can see the pen cap all wrapped up above. Floral tape, btw, is fascinating.  It's magic how it doesn't turn sticky until you stretch it.

Here's what the pens look like in all their covered glory.

While you're checking out the Christmas Tree Store, you should also check out Homegoods.  They had a ton of beautiful frames, lovely vases (including handpainted mercury glass vases) and stained glass Morocco lanterns, and all types of other decorative knick knacks on clearance today.

Where's your favorite place for craptastic finds?


Curses, daylight savings, curses!

Mr. HC and I figured out this weekend that we are idiots.  Morons.  Stooopid.

This Sunday, FFIL HC called and said, in a voice reserved for things of unusual importance, "It's daylight savings."  Mr. HC replies, "Yeah . . . we know."  After a few rounds of this, FFIL HC notifies us (in a tone he probably only reserves for patients of his who are dying . . . of stupidity) that sunset on our wedding day is 7:10 pm, not 6:10 as we expected.

Holy $#&*!

We're having a Jewish wedding, which is not supposed to take place until after shabbat ends -- shortly after sunset.  When we were planning our ceremony and before we sent out our invitations, we looked on a number of websites, including the Naval Observatory and various Jewish calendar sites, to figure out when sunset was going to take place on our wedding day.  6:10 they all said.  We put 6:30 on our invitations.

Well, they must have all meant 6:10 Pacific Standard Time, not Pacific Daylight Time.  D'oh.

Mr. HC's reaction to this news: panic.  My reaction: laughter.  Maniacal laughter.

We worked so hard on the timing of the event, since we had to deal with the Chinese almanac, which says that 7 pm on the day of our wedding is an inauspicious hour, as well as with the demands of the Jewish calendar, which requires that all legal transactions, including weddings, be deferred until after the end of shabbat.

The absurdity of this situation is heightened by the fact that we verified the timing of our wedding with our rabbi, our observant Jewish friends, including our Orthodox Jewish groomsman, and the hotel.  None of us realized that daylight savings would have started before our wedding, and that sunset would be an hour later.

So, here we are, three weeks before our wedding, with two options, neither of which are great: either make no change at all (and risk offending our more observant friends and feeling guilty for breaking shabbat), or switch the ceremony with the cocktail hour, such that the ceremony would begin after cocktails.

Here are some pros and cons of switching the ceremony time:

  • Ceremony would start after sunset, and we wouldn't feel like we were breaking shabbat
  • It would create a cushion of time for people -- Jewish or not -- to arrive late
  • Since we had thought the ceremony would start post-sunset, all of the decor has been designed with darkness in mind; if we start earlier, we might have to pay extra to drape the sides of the event space to make it look less like a modified tennis court and more like a ceremony space
  • I wouldn't be able to make the cocktail hour at all, since she I don't want appear in my wedding dress until the processional
  • Yihud (the eleven-minute period after the ceremony, in which the bride and groom spend time alone together) would have to be rushed, since we'd have to make an entrance in the ballroom soon after.  Yihud is such a beautiful moment to reflect on the ceremony, and I really was looking forward to it.
  • Even if we changed the ceremony time, it might not make a difference at all to our more observant friends, since they still couldn't travel to our wedding until after shabbat ends and would likely miss the ceremony no matter what
  • Our Chinese invitations actually state the start of the ceremony as 6:30 (since a lot of Chinese people often skip the ceremony and come straight to cocktail/reception)
  • According to Hot Mama Cocoa, 7 is a bad hour in Chinese astrology, and if we were to switch the ceremony with cocktails, she wouldn't be happy unless we pushed the ceremony to 8, which would really be a late start
Right now, I'm leaning toward just keeping things the way they are.  It's a mere 3 weeks before the wedding, and I am anxious about making such a big change.  But the idea of breaking shabbat, especially on an occasion as important as our wedding, is also making me anxious.


What would you do?  And has anything happened during the course of your wedding planning to make you feel like you're the dimmest bulb in the pack?


Put on the naughty music, it's food porn time.

Sure, I'm marrying my best friend.  It's a beautiful day . . . .  Blah blah blah.  But let's get real: the reason to get married is to have a tasting.  You know my motto: food before dude.

And oh is there going to be some delicious food that evening . . . . 

Bundle of Italian spicy greens with grilled artichokes, goat cheese crostini, a truffle vinaigrette.

Filet mignon with chanterelle mushrooms, truffle mashed potatoes, garlic chives, and pinot noir reduction.  Truffle. Mashed. Potatoes.  Le sigh.

Sake marinated black cod with wasabi whipped potatoes, Chinese long beans, and ginger jus.  Me so hungry.

Wild mushroom ravioli with basil cream sauce.  It's possible that I licked the sauce off the plate.  I'm no lady.

The white gloves totally came off when the desserts came out.  We're doing a dessert buffet, and I asked our coordinator whether the chef would be able to put a few of our favorites on the table.  He totally brought on the awesome:

Cheesecake skewers dipped in chocolate.   While anything on a stick is guaranteed to be delish, there was a bit too much delish here.  We asked the chef to miniaturize this man-size dessert into easier-to-handle cheesecake lollipops.

Warm bread pudding with chocolate sauce.  Da bomb.

Mango with sticky rice.  Oh ma gawd.  Do you see the pearl dust?!

S'mores shot.  S'mores?  Mores, please.

Okay, I'm off to lick the screen now.

What is your favorite dessert?  Any chance you'll be serving it at the wedding?


Papercut Table Numbers

Sorry I've been a bit behind on my posts, but I just got back from a trip to LA for some last-minute wedding-related errands, and I've got lots to share with you!

I thought I'd start by showing you our table numbers.

As you might recall from a previous post, one of the themes uniting our decor and paper goods is papercutting, an art form cherished in both the Chinese and Jewish cultures.  One day, I thought to myself: "Self, wouldn't it be cool to have papercut table numbers?"  And myself said: "Yes, self, that would be cool.  You are a genius."  

(This, by the way, is the insanity that develops during the last months of your wedding planning when you realize that no one wants to hear about your wedding anymore.)

I searched on Etsy, and discovered the amazing work of papercutdiecut.  Her art pieces are so meticulous and detailed that it boggles my mind that they are done by hand.  And while she is clearly well practiced in the ancient art of papercutting, she has an aesthetic that is modern and quirky -- this is definitely not the papercutting you get on the streets of Shenzhen for a dollar.

I convo'd her, and she came up with a few beautiful designs for me to choose from.  We ultimately settled on a design that is sort of rococo meets art nouveau, and within less than a month, she produced these amazing papercut numbers!

Aren't they so delicate and lovely?  I'm going to frame them in floating glass frames, and put a votive behind each frame so that the numbers will cast pretty shadows on the table.

All photos courtesy of papercutdiecut

I can't recommend papercutdiecut more highly.  Not only is her work exquisite, she is also the most responsive and honest of any etsy seller I've worked with.  When it turned out that the numbers took her less time to produce than she anticipated, she refunded a significant portion of my payment.  When does THAT ever happen?!

Papercutdiecut can do table numbers and letters, as well as art pieces that would make great gifts for parents or an officiant.

How will you personalize your table numbers?


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