愛-Vey! Getting Prettified

There are certain moments in life that, try as I might to recall them in color, appear in my mind's eye only in black and white.

This was one of them: my fingers trrrrrembling as I put on my earrings, my grandmother looking on with such pride and love, my best friends and sisters excitedly milling about as we waited for the knock on the door that would signal the arrival of the groom's party and the "official" start of our wedding day . . . .

Eeps! What's with the in medias res? What am I, Homer?

Let's hit rewind.

I woke up on the morning of our wedding still in a state of wonder about the previous evening's welcome dinner. The speeches! The love! The laughter! Pinch me. This can't be real.

It wouldn't have surprised me if cartoon birds landed on my shoulder as I whistled a happy tune. I thought I would be nervous, but I was just. plain. blissful.

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

Bright and early -- and right on time -- were my fabulous bridesmaids, who are infinitely more delightful than cartoon birds. And because no team is complete without uniforms, they all came dutifully dressed in the "Team 愛-Vey" tank tops that I ordered for them from Cafe Press. (If the motif looks familiar, it's because I borrowed it from our invitations.)

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

Just as punctual were our style experts, Lin Breller and her superfly team -- Angela, Rachel, and Beth from Joyce Luck Style.

Soon the suite was awhirl with prettification. As Rachel went to town on my hair -- my frizzy mane needed extra lovin' to get all curly and shiny -- the rest of the JLS team worked their magic on the bridal party.

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

Here is hairstylist Beth admiring her handiwork on friend-of-honor Laura's chic woven chignon.

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

Friend-of-honor Alisa was first out of Lin's makeup chair. She's smokin' hot. All the time. Hate her.

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

Here's Hot Mama Cocoa and Hottest Sister Cocoa, track-suited up and ready for the race to the altar. I was delighted to be photographed with my hair all crazy and no makeup on.

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

I was the last one in Lin's chair, and as she was transforming me from Hot Mess to Hot Cocoa (ah the wonders of airbrushing) . . .

Amateur Hot Cocoa Photography

my friends-of-honor were in the sweat shop -- I mean sitting area -- helping me finish the last of the craft projects. What? You didn't think I'd let them relax on wedding day, right? They came to work.

(Just kidding, I was crafting til the last moment too. No rest for the wedding weary.)

I eventually furloughed the ladies, and Team 愛-Vey changed out of their work clothes into their gorgeous dresses. My four friends-of-honor wore amethyst Amsale dresses from Bluefly . . .

while the two sisters-of-honor wore different styles of Jim Hjelm dresses in silver.

The ladies accessorized their dresses in very different ways, so their individual styles came through despite their matching dresses.

Moments like these make me so thankful for my friends. They were so generous with me and each other, so calm and happy . . . I know it sounds like I was high on a cocktail of valium and Velveeta, but that bridal suite was the coziest, warmest, loveliest place.

And then it was time for me to get dressed for the Chinese tea ceremony. I put on my qua all by myself, uber-sexy suspenders and all. But Hottest Sister Cocoa had to help with the accessories, mostly because there were a LOT of them.

Gold bangles, often engraved with dragon and phoenix designs, are staples of Chinese wedding attire. In the olden days, brides would wear dozens of them; the more bangles she wore, the richer she appeared.

Six was about all I could handle: two were from my mom's wedding, and the other four were gifts from my uncle and one of my aunts. Those suckers were heavy! And I sounded like the Tin Man as I bobbled around the suite.

"Hey, Bec does this qua make my ass look big?"

And then it was two o'clock. Game time.

Photos, unless otherwise noted, by Leigh Miller Photography, Luna Photography, and Della Chen Photography.


2 Weddings and a Graduation

This weekend the Hot Cocoas racked up 500 miles on a rental car, squeezed our butts into two very uncomfortably seats on one wee little plane, got about 8 hours of sleep, attended two weddings in two countries, and picked up one diploma.

And I'm glad to report that we're still married!

We started our adventure in Far Hills, New Jersey, where we celebrated the wedding of our friends Kim and Dan.  They were wed under a gorgeous, rustic dogwood chuppah, which was set up along the banks of a babbling brook on the grounds of Kim's family farm.  The scene was straight out of Anne of Green Gables; the meadow couldn't be any greener, the waters more sparkling, and the bride and groom more radiant.

My favorite wedding detail was their paper goods: everything from the invitation to the out-of-town packet (above left) was personalized with watercolor drawings of the farm.

We then flew to Burlington, Vermont, rented a car, and drove across the border to Montreal to attend the wedding of one of our best friends, Ilona, to Mr. HC's cousins' cousin (got that?!), Ken.  It was such joy to see someone who has always felt like part of the family become an actual part of the family!

KenLo married at the breathtaking Bagg St. Shul, the oldest synagogue in Montreal, and hosted their reception at a fabulous jazz club.  The highlight of the wedding was the music.  Ken is very involved in the jazz scene in New York, and 15 of his incredibly talented musician friends assembled to play at his wedding!

Mr. HC's immediate family and I then piled into our rental car and made the 7-hour trip overnight from Montreal to New Haven, Connecticut, for his graduation from medical school. That's right: Mr. HC is now officially Dr. HC!  There he is above on the jumbotron!

After the exciting but exhausting weekend, I was already pretty excited to get home.  But I was positively giddy to see this package waiting for me:

Enclosed were our proof book and four DVDs of edited photos from our wedding.  Oh, Leigh Miller, how I love thee!

This means recaps can really begin.  Woo hoo!

How was your Memorial Day weekend?


愛-Vey! Our Chewish Welcome Dinner Continued

Since about half of our guests were coming in from out of town, and traveling from locales as far-flung as Hong Kong, London, Montreal, and the Hague, we wanted to kick off our wedding weekend with a shindig to welcome our out-of-town guests and to keep their bellies full and spirits up. 

And what better place for MIL and FIL Hot Cocoa to host an Asian fusion welcome dinner than the mecca of California Asian fusion cuisine, Chinois on Main?

What's awesome about Chinois (other than its famous Chinese chicken salad) is its "Miami Vice" meets "Grey Gardens" decor. It's a DeLorean DMC-12 back to the mid-80s. If it were a dude, it'd be decked out in a rad Hyper-Color t-shirt, white khakis, and a gold lame blazer with big shoulder pads and the sleeves rolled up.  If it were a lady, it'd kick it Jane-Fonda-style with a lime green leotard, magenta tights, and leopard legwarmers.  And it'd be rocking a perm . . . or a mullet . . . a permed mullet.  

It's so unabashed in its whackiness that you just gotta love it.

There's no competing with the aesthetic of the place, so the only quasi-decorative items we brought were the items for our guestbook and wish-tag vignette (more about this in a later post), and a pair of digital picture frames, one with photos of all the friends we had at the welcome party and the other with photos of our family.

Not that I even noticed the decor that night, because soon after Mr. HC and I arrived, the room was packed with our friends and family! 30+ years' worth of relationships in one room. And everyone was there . . . for us! Holy crap!

Here's my husband making his "Holy crap, are they here for us?" face.

This expression pretty much captured the way we felt for the first hour of our welcome dinner.

The next few hours? These expressions:

"Holy crap, I think they are here for us."

"Holy crap, they are here . . . for us! We are such lucky mo-fos!"

Lucky mo-fos, indeed. All the stress and anxiety of the preceding days vanished. We just felt so loved, so excited! It struck us like lightning: our wedding weekend was really here!!

I can't even explain the joy we experienced seeing our friends from various different parts of our lives mingling. And since we didn't have reserved seating for dinner, people sat down with whoever they were chatting with during cocktails and really got a chance to get to know one other.

And some of our new friends, like Weddingbee Pro and wedding planner extraordinaire Angel Swanson, were there too!

We wanted the evening to be raucous, fun, and festive, and so we invited our guests to give "toasts, roasts, or performances."  Mr. HC's med school friends set the bar high with a hilarious Powerpoint roast that skewered, among other things, Mr. HC's proclivity to make looong Powerpoint presentations!

The awesomeness of their presentation is captured precisely by our expressions in this photo.

Mr. HC's twin sister and oldest group of friends roasted him in poetry, song, and Powerpoint (sense a theme here?!)  . . .

. . . while his friends from business school leveraged their collection of embarrassing stories of Mr. HC's exploits for an impromptu toast . . . that ironically did not include Powerpoint.

Friends of Honor, A, L, and G -- all literature professors -- presented a sestina they wrote in honor of our wedding.  I can't believe how creative, brilliant, and touching it was.  Here's an exerpt:

How would one describe such a future?
It was not the least bit daunting to A.
She knew that, although difficult, giving up pork could lead to happiness,
Perfecting her fiancé’s Cantonese could improve marital
Communication, and kung pao chicken paired with
Manischewitz could raise the degrees
On their plates and in the bedroom. Look out, S!
. . . .
We are excited to continue to watch this couple grow by degrees.
There are so many stages which we await, happily:
A little girl who looks up at us with the same sweet smile as A,
Or a little boy who ambles by with the same step as S…
The child’s first word: “deconstruction” or “defibrillation”?—
we can’t know the future;
But we anticipate the beautiful family that will come from this marriage.
Un-freakin-believable, right?!

And the toasts and roasts just kept coming . . . . My college roommates, Mr. HC's friends from Hebrew school . . . there was a seemingly inexhaustible supply of embarrassing stories to tell, and we loved every moment of it!  Mr. HC's twin sister (and my Sister of Honor) E did an amazing job coordinating the toasts with dinner, so that there was laughter between every delectable course.

No speeches happened during the dessert course though.  Once the waiters brought the family-style dessert platter to each table, there was just silence . . . and the occasionally sigh of chocolate-induced bliss.

I would have eaten the whole platter by myself, if not for that damn white dress I had to put on the next day!  Curses, white dress, curses!

And of course no American Chinese meal is complete without fortune cookies!  We ordered purple fortune cookies from Fancy Fortune Cookies and personalized them with Chewish fortunes, like: "You will soon dine on authentic Jewish food . . . Chinese."  Snort snort.

And then, just as suddenly as it began, the amazing evening was over.  Here's Mr. HC thanking our guests and assuring them that, contrary to what his friends said about his tendency to show up for everything just a bit late, he was going to show up at the chuppah on time.  

Just 8 hours until the start of our wedding day!  Holy crap!


愛-Vey! Our Chewish Welcome Dinner

愛-vey indeed. We've reached the point in our relationship about which I've long been anxious. This is the part where I recap our wedding, which thereby necessitates my putting up a lot of pictures of myself, which leads to my feeling like one of those parents who keeps spamming their friends with an endless stream of photos of their baby. Baby smiling. Baby drooling. Baby pooping. You get the idea.

Of course, there's no way around it. So I promise you this: funny captions will be added, embarrassing expressions will be uncensored, and much hilarity will ensue. That's right. It's going to be a stream of hilarity. Mrs. HC smiling. Mrs. HC drooling. Mrs. HC . . . uh, nevermind.

Let's just start, shall we?

Our Chewish wedding weekend did not start out on a particularly promising note. In fact, it barely started at all, since I spent the first two hours of it stuck in bumper-to-bumper, slow-as-molasses LA traffic.

Having pulled too many all-nighters wrestling with evil last-minute wedding projects, I needed some serious beautification. Our family friend Lynn, a ridiculously talented facialist, owns a salon, and as part of her wedding gift to me offered to do my makeup for the our welcome dinner if we came down to her lovely salon, Salon Relini, in Downey. "Sure," I thought. "I'll come at noon, and I'll be able to get from the San Fernando Valley to Downey to Marina del Rey well before the Friday afternoon traffic starts."

Right. In LA, there's no such thing as "Friday afternoon traffic." There's just traffic. At all hours of the day. For no apparent reason. I could have crawled to Downey and gotten there faster than I did driving.

Somehow I managed to survive my road rage and get to Relini. By the time I arrived, Hot Mama Cocoa and Hottest Sister Cocoa had both already gotten hottified. Lynn uses only Bare Minerals products (which is what I use every day), and she managed to make my already beautiful sister and mom look Stunning (capital S). There's some theory floating around the interwebs that you can't get good photos using mineral makeup; as you can see in this unretouched photo, that's just crazy talk.

Other products that Lynn recommends for brides are Yonka's Huile Corps -- a sexy, light oil that left my skin so soft and luminous that people kept touching me all night (at least I think that's why they were touching me . . .) -- and Bare Escentual's Faux Tan -- an instant self-tanner that looks really natural and doesn't rub off on clothes. I ended up getting some false lashes applied, but if I hadn't, I would have gone with Lynn's (and my) favorite mascara, Blinc's Kiss Me Mascara. Blinc mascara "tubes" your lashes, so you don't have to worry about mascara smudge or raccoon eyes.

I don't have a fresh-from-the-makeup-chair photo of Lynn's work, but here's a photo of me and an oddly petrified looking Mr. HC right before our guests arrived at the welcome dinner. That's the Yonka body oil effect on my shoulder; I mixed a few drops of the oil with my favorite scented body lotion (Trish McEvoy's Blackberry & Vanilla). Admit it, you want to touch my shoulder. Go ahead, touch it. Doesn't it feel smooth and shiny . . . like a computer screen?

Eventually, we made our way back from Downey back to Santa Monica, the location of our welcome dinner. As you can preview from this photo, the event was outrageously fun (either that or cousin-in-laws Dayle and Laurel just said to me, "Hands up, or we'll shoot!").

See? I told you there'd be hilarity.

What's so funny? Well, you'll have to wait for the next post.

What are your go-to makeup products for special occasions? And will you be using the same makeup you use every day on your wedding day? Or trying something new?


Our Chewish Programs: The Text

Dear dissertation committee:

I regret to inform  you that I did not get much done on my dissertation this semester. Lest you think I have just been sitting at home watching "The Real Housewives of New York City," I would like to let you know that I wrote a book; I've titled it "my wedding program."

Will that count toward the completion of my degree?

Sincerely yours,
Ms. Hot Cocoa

Photo credit: Leigh Miller Photography, Luna Photography, & Della Chen Photography

Our programs were a labor of love (or maybe just laborious) but so important to us for two reasons: first, we worked hard to make our ceremony into an expression of our personal cultures and histories and of our combined Chewishness, and we wanted to share with our guests the significance of the rituals; and second, since we had a number of guests (including my grandparents) who didn't speak or read English, we wanted to have a trilingual program (English, Chinese, and some Hebrew) so that all of our guests would feel included. 

The program begins with a list of the wedding party and readers:
The main text is as follows (Jewish and Chewish brides and grooms, please feel free to borrow):

The Ceremony

Music by Mr. Hot Cocoa

Arrival of the Bride
Music by Mr. Hot Cocoa


Jewish weddings customarily begin with the bride circling the groom three or seven times. Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa will perform an egalitarian version of this tradition: they will each circle around the other three times and then complete the seventh circle together. This doubled circling symbolizes their intention to orient their lives around their relationship and family, all the while traveling on complementary yet independent paths.

Under the Huppah

The ceremony takes place under the wedding canopy, or huppah. Open on all sides, the huppah represents the home that the couple will create—a sanctuary, but also a space welcoming to family and friends. To signify the Jewish-Chinese household created by this union, Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa’s huppah is decorated with cherry blossoms, a symbol of love and beauty in Chinese culture. The roof of the huppah is constructed from a tablecloth embroidered by Mr. Hot Cocoa’s maternal grandmother who passed away in 2007.

The Ketubah
Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa’s first task under the huppah will be the signing of the ketubah, or marriage contract. Their ketubah consists of the traditional Aramaic text, which has bound Jewish brides and grooms since ancient times, as well as an English interpretation, written by the couple and reprinted on pp. #-##, which elaborates on their commitments to one another and to their families. After the wedding, Mr. Hot Cocoa’s twin sister, Elizabeth, will paint the couple’s ketubah.

Four witnesses will also sign the ketubah: Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa’s grandmothers, as well as groomsman David and best man Adam.
Erusin (Betrothal Ceremony)
The wedding ceremony is divided into two parts, Erusin and Nisuin. Erusin is the formal betrothal; in ancient times, it often preceded the wedding by a year.

Kiddush (Blessing Over Wine)
One of the blessings said during Erusin is the blessing over wine. Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa will honor their joint heritages by drinking wine from the teacup they used to serve their elders tea during the Chinese tea ceremony that took place earlier in the day.

Kiddushin (Ring Ceremony)
The couple will then exchange rings as a symbol of their commitment to one another. They will also recite the traditional marriage formula, which is translated as: “By this ring you are consecrated to me in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.”

Nissuin (Wedding Ceremony)
Nissuin is the wedding ceremony. It consists of the sheva b’rachot, seven traditional marriage blessings. Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa have asked some of their friends and family to read the blessings in Hebrew and English. Their voices represent the whole community of people who have come together to support and bless this marriage. The blessings are translated on p. #.

The couple will then share a second glass of wine, which will be drunk from a Kiddush cup given to them by Mr. Hot Cocoa’s parents.

Pronouncement and the Breaking of the Glass
It is customary to end Jewish weddings with the breaking of a glass. There are a variety of explanations for this tradition. For Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa, the breaking of the glass acts as a reminder that even in a moment of great joy, there is still pain and violence in the world, and they have a responsibility to help relieve some of that suffering. The breaking of the glass also serves as an implied prayer: “May your marriage last as long as it would take to put this glass back together again.”

After the glass is broken, guests are invited to say “Mazel Tov” and
“Gung Hay” (“congratulations” in Hebrew and Chinese).

“Simon Tov u’ Mazel Tov”

Immediately following the ceremony, the newlyweds will spend a short period of time alone with one another. This period of seclusion gives them an opportunity to reflect in relative tranquility on the ceremony and to enjoy each other’s company for the first time as husband and wife.  After some time together, they will rejoin their guests for a festive cocktail hour.
We followed the English text with a Chinese translation.  We also had some appendices (what kind of grad student would I be without appendices?!), including the text of our ketubah and the sheva b'rachot in Chinese, English, and Hebrew.  
We concluded with acknowledgments and the following quote:

The opportunity to establish an officially recognized family with a loved one and to obtain the substantial benefits such a relationship may offer is of the deepest and utmost importance to any individual and couple who wish to make such a choice.
The quote is from In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384 (Cal. 2008), which is the case in which the California Supreme Court held that marriage was a fundamental right under the state constitution and that the denial of such a right to same-sex couples was unconstitutional.  This ruling was invalidated by the recent passage of Prop. 8.  

Not too long ago, anti-miscegenation laws would have prevented the two of us from marrying in many states.  And since Mr. HC is from Connecticut and I am from Massachusetts, two states in which same-sex marriage is recognized, we found it especially poignant to be marrying in a state that did not. As with the breaking of the glass, this quote served as a reminder of the fact that even in a moment of joy and togetherness, much work remains to be done.

Whew.  That was one looong program.  If you are still with me, you deserve a medal.  And a sneaky peaky at our recaps, which will start with my next post:

What special elements will you incorporate into your programs?


Our Chewish Programs

Our programs look docile enough in this photo. But in reality they were mean, hateful little suckers.

Having said that, I ended up fairly pleased with the way the programs came out, so I thought I'd share some DIY details about the process of getting my butt kicked . . . I mean, putting them together.

The programs were simply a booklet inserted into a gatefold cover.  I made the covers using a mix of silver and gold stardream text-weight paper. With a punch that I had picked up at a Hong Kong street market, I punched the double happiness on one "gate" of the cover; the punch effect echoes the papercut motif of our invitations. Using Zots (my fave adhesive!), I then attached Chinese-style frog buttons, which I got for pennies from a fabric and notions mall in Shenzhen.  The buttons added a Chinoiserie touch to our programs, and were a tribute to my grandfather, whose very first business was a textile company.

Hint: If you are going to replicate this style (please do!), make sure to undo the buttons for your guests. Frog buttons can be tricky, especially for arthritic or manly, meaty hands.

At one point in time (i.e., before I realized I had a day to complete the programs), I had thought about lining the inside of the cover, either with Chiyogami paper or with purple rice paper.  I still think that would have been fab, but the final product looked just fine without the lining.

The booklet inserts were printed on gray linen-style paper from Kinko's, which were then embellished with cherry blossom stamps. If you're spatially challenged like me, you'll want to download a program that automatically places your pages in the correct order for a two-sided booklet. For Macs, I recommend CocoaBooklet, which, in addition to having a great name(!), is free and easy -- you just drop a pdf'd document into the open app, and it will create a new pdf document for you, which has all of the pages in the correct order.

To attach the booklet to the gatefold cover, we just glued the back page of the booklet (make sure it's blank) to the inside of the cover. Easy!  

Check out our programs in action in the above photo!  I like to think that all of the guests were as fascinated by our programs as he was.

If there's any interest, I'll put the text of our Chewish program in my next post.

Will you be incorporating a special motif or aesthetic from you culture into your ceremony programs?


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