愛-Vey! What's a First Look?

You know the whole fantasy of the first look? The one where the bride appears for the first time in front of her groom, and his heart skips a beat as he hyperventilates . . . no, cries . . . cries and hyperventilates at the mere sight of this stunning woman that he is lucky enough to spend the rest of his life with?

We missed that memo.

In fact, I don't think Mr. HC was ever briefed on this whole "first look" thing. Poor guy shows up in the lobby, our photographers tell him to face the corner, which he does dutifully, but with no clue as to what was going to happen next. It's possible that he thought we were playing hide and seek. Or, from the scared look on his face, it's far more likely that he thought he was about to get an ol' fashion ass-kicking.

Turns out it was just Miss Giggles.

Some brides show up to their first look all dignified and beautiful and serious. This bride bounded over with her silliest Muppet face and asked of her groom, "Am I a hot bride or what? Snort. Snort."

And then held up her veil, as if to say, "Check it, honey, I got wings." (More likely, I was marveling to Mr. HC, "Look at this veil thingy I'm wearing. Do I look like a bride or what?")

And then I did my best sexy face and attacked him with my over-glossed lips, much the same way I did when we were sixteen and he was too shy to kiss me.

Okay, for you incurable romantics out there, these are probably more along the lines of conventional first look photos: Mr. HC seems to be looking at me adoringly, and we share a sweet kiss. I assure you, though, that it's far more likely that he was thinking, "I've been standing around for five minutes, and this was my big surprise? Where's the brand new car?" It's amazing what black and white photos can do to make a moment look all lovey dovey.

Recently wedded bees, what was your "first look" like? Hilarious -- and heartwarming -- stories welcome.


愛-Vey! From Hot to Haute

After the tea ceremony, it was time for me to change from my potato sackish qua to the far sexier, and oh-so-appropriately named, Mona Lisa.

By "change," I don't want to imply that I got myself dressed. No sooner had I put on my uber sexy, high-waisted, granny Spanx (ooh la la!), than did Team 愛-Vey swoop into action. I had more well-manicured hands on me than a discount Prada bag at a Barney's tag sale.

As you can see from this photo, I was still the handsiest of the them all. Yeah, I got to second base with myself, and I liked it.

Allow me this moment to give thanks to Ms. Lhuillier. Those delicate beaded cap sleeves, the vintagey embellishment . . . you, Monique, are a true genius. And no one but Weddingbee and Dream Bridal LA knows that this was your work circa 2005 and that I got it at a pretty discount.

Of course, the transformation from Hot to Haute Cocoa wouldn't have been complete without properly haute accessories: a pair of luscious violet silk shantung Manolos and some shiny baubles gifted to me by Hot Mama Cocoa.

What? You didn't think I put the jewelry on myself, did you? Hands. Prada. Sale. Barney's.

Since we had so many events before dress time, our hair and makeup team had already left. But friends-of-honor L and A stepped in and put on the finishing touches. Look at the concentration on those faces. And the "holy crap that's a veil on my head" look on mine.

And with that, the transformation was complete! All I had to do was work my fiercest Tyra walk . . .

. . . and I couldn't resist throwing in a little Julie Andrews "Sound of Music" twirl for good measure. After all, I was all brided up and ready to go!

Next up: A second first look!


愛-Vey! The Tea Ceremony

We had so much fun at our raucous door games that no one -- not even Hot Mama Cocoa, the keeper of time and traditions -- paid attention to the clock. So by the time we collected ourselves and got back to bit'nez, it was past 2:30, the auspicious hour when the tea ceremony was supposed to begin.

Sorry, Chinese astrologer lady who set our schedule; we tried!

I hustled my embroidered Chewish butt downstairs to one of the hotel's meeting spaces, where all the relatives participating in the ceremony were already gathered. Who knew that Jewish and Chinese people could be so on time?! And there wasn't even going to be food involved!

* Funny sidenote: We asked the hotel to set the room up theater style for our tea ceremony. Apparently, they thought we were having a tea party, because they provided us with dainty cups and saucers, a selection of fancy teas, and tiny little jars of honey.

With Hottest Sister Cocoa serving as "good luck lady" and mistress of ceremonies, the tea ceremony began with our serving tea to my grandparents. Since the tea ceremony was, for all practical purposes, the Chinese wedding ceremony, my then-fiance really wanted to make sure that everything was done just right. He was so nervous serving my grandparents that his hands were shaking. Of course, that just made my grandmother laugh! (There's not much empathy in my family, I'm afraid.)

My grandparents presented us with lai see -- red envelopes with cash -- but my grandmother also gave me a stunning diamond heart pendant that she had a jeweler make for me.

We then served my mom (isn't she stunning in her cheongsam?), who also presented me with some fab-u-lous jade jewelry and gave Mr. HC a pair of diamond cufflinks. (His "oy, how'd I become the kind of dude who has diamond cufflinks?" look above is hilarious.) My mom is not the most sentimental of people, but she just radiated happiness at that moment.

As I knelt there, I suddenly -- and rather unexpectedly -- felt a deep connection to my heritage. Generations of brides in my family had experienced that very same ritual: the embroidered red dress and the clanging gold bangles, the conflicted feelings of joy, freedom, and loss serving tea to one's mother, the gold teacup filled with sweet tea and lotus seeds . . . though I was marrying someone of a very different ethnicity and culture, all these were the same.

After serving the rest of my family, we served tea to FIL and MIL HC. It meant so much to my in-laws to participate in the ceremony; they were 110% on board with creating a truly Chewish wedding -- one that honored both Chinese and Jewish traditions.

In addition to red envelopes, each had also prepared a blessing to share with us. In fact, what was so beautiful about the ceremony was that it gave each of our relatives a very intimate and personal moment to share with us their blessings, advice, and good wishes. Mr. HC's paternal grandmother told us how overjoyed she was to have made it -- in her eighties -- to this mitzvah, and counseled us to take care of one another. One of Mr. HC's uncles used the occasion to talk about how much his mother -- Mr. HC's maternal grandmother, now deceased -- loved the two of us together. I first met Bubbe when I was sixteen and Mr. HC and I had just started dating, and her absence was much felt at the wedding; Mr. HC's uncle's comments made her memory come very much alive at that moment.

To say that we were touched is an understatement.

Although preparing the two families to be comfortable with and excited about participating in each other's traditions was hard work (see the extensive tea ceremony program that we prepared for Mr. HC's family here), we are so glad that we invested the time and effort. It made our day uniquely Chewish -- uniquely us.

At the end of the ceremony, I got to smooch my new lo gong (husband). That's right: according to Chinese tradition, we were officially married!

Next up: Costume change!


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