My Take on PWC

Quite a few bees have had PWCs (post-wedding chops). But since short hair makes me look like a muppet, I went for a post-wedding curl instead.

That's right. I did what I said I'd never do again after a hairtastrophe that I shall call the "poodle perm incident of 1988." (No offense to Mrs. Poodle, who has a lovely hairstyle.)

"Don't cry. I'm not a poodle, I'm your new big sister!"

I got a perm. A digital perm.

Inspiration photos scanned from Japanese hairstyling magazines

Turns out perm technology has advanced significantly since I was in sixth grade. I found out about the digital perm from Angel Swanson, wedding planner extraordinaire. Instead of the tight, uniform curls of 1988, the digiperm can give you relaxed, sexy waves, like the inspiration photos above. But after my middle school humiliation, I was pretty freaked out about submitting my hair to the vagaries of chemicals. Plus at almost $250, the digital perm was a very expensive experiment.

I was so tired of the straight, shapeless hairstyle (above left) that I've had in the last few years, though, that I decided to risk it. Not that I'm out to escape humiliation entirely, since I'm showing you evidence of how totally insane I looked with the digital perm device hooked up to my head!

I got my digiperm at the Mie Higashimoto Salon on Newbury St. in Boston, with Fumiko, my regular stylist. She and her assistant were really comfortable with the equipment. My hair was washed, then cut, then prepped and rebonded with the first round of chemicals and washed again. Then they put curlers in, which were connected with leads (picture a cyborg Medusa) to the digiperm machine. When they first took the curlers out, I looked like a Hassidic rabbi, with tight coils. Horrifying. But then they applied a another round of chemicals, and after a quick wash, the curls relaxed into soft waves. The whole process took a little over three hours.

Fumiko used a combination of medium and large rollers to create a natural effect, and she started the curls above my cheekbones, so that the perm wouldn't look sad while it was growing out.

With the digital perm, if you're in a hurry, you can scrunch in a bit of mousse and just air dry; the results will be loose waves. For relaxed curls, my stylist taught me how to blow dry while twirling small sections of hair with my fingers.

In the photo on the left, I just sprayed a bit of Frederic Fekkai wave spray and then blow dried the hair while twirling it. To get big, neat curls, like those on the photo on the right (and the curls in the top left inspiration photo), I still have to supplement with a curling iron. But whereas my curls would usually fall out after a few hours, with the digital perm, the curls last until I wash my hair again.

Although it's not the wash-and-go hair that I was hoping to get out of the process -- I have to blowdry and hand style or else my hair gets frizzy -- I definitely like the fact that my hair finally has style and lots of volume. Plus I think it's shinier and healthier-looking because of the rebonding!

If you're considering a digital perm, here are some sites I found particularly helpful in my research:
  • Digital Perm thread on Purse Forum
  • Angel Swanson's blog
  • I am Style-ish blog (posts 1, 2, 3)
  • Pinkfish Pie blog
Are you considering a style change for your hair?


Executive Inspiration

Now that we're married, I know I should stop seeing "wedding" everywhere. But I saw these gorgeous photos from the White House State dinner, and my inspiration radar just went up.

The emerald and fuchsia! The gold and amethyst! The stunning chandeliers, chic menus, and elegant chargers.


And while we're at it, let's just appreciate the gloriousness that is Michelle's dress. I'd wear that as a wedding gown. In a heartbeat.

On this Thanksgiving, like a little magpie, I am thankful for beautiful things!

Are you finding wedding inspiration in the Obamas' style?


愛-Vey! This Is the Hora that Never Ends

Being a bride and groom is a bit like being a cute baby: people applaud you for doing completely banal things, like entering a room. After garnering huge applause for managing to get onto the dance floor without falling on our faces, Mr. HC and I snuggled up for our first dance.

We did the sixth-grade sway to Springsteen's "Drive All Night," which we selected as a romantic allusion to our fourteen years of long-distance dating.

Since we knew our awkward nerd moves would not be particularly entertaining, we asked our band leader to invite the rest of the wedding party and all the other guests onto the dance floor after a minute. But to our embarassment, one minute became two, two became what seemed like an hour. Mr. HC looks like he is smiling adoringly at me in that photo, but I'm pretty sure he was muttering under his breath, "When is this going to end?" And I was whispering back, "I wish we had some moves! We need moves!"

Finally, after what felt like days, our wedding party came to save us from humiliation. And soon enough our dance floor was packed with couples far more graceful than the two of us.

As soon as the last notes of Springsteen faded away . . .

the familiar, joyful sound of the hora began. And what an unbelievably fun, ecstatic, and loooooooong hora it was!

I was a bit nervous about whether our horah was going to be off-putting to some of our guests. So many of our Chinese guests had never been to a Jewish wedding. Would there be a split in the room, with half our guests feeling left out, alienated, or confused?

To our great joy and amusement, almost all of our guests joined in! Jewish bubbies, adorable Chinese grandpas, boys and girls of all ages . . . everyone piled right on the dance floor and started madly circling like a drunk Yiddish dance troupe. And, judging from the photos, all seemed to have as much fun as we did!

It was a supremely awesome Chewish moment.

Seriously, it was beyond fantastic. And I can objectively say that it was the horah to end all horahs. Not only because it rocked -- which it did -- but because it lasted for more than 20 minutes.

You see, the hora is Mr. HC's favorite aspect of a Jewish wedding. And when he requested a thirty-minute hora from our band leader, I thought he was just exaggerating out of exuberance.

But he was serious. And so was our band leader.

About a third of the way through the insanity that was our hora, we got put on chairs -- chairs with no arms! -- and lifted up.

I nearly peed in my pants.

I think my mouth was open in that ridiculous expression of horror and laughter the whole time.

And then they wanted me to let go and hold onto the damn napkin? Do I look like I have a death wish?

Apparently, yes. (By the way, how hilarious is the look exchanged between groomsman E -- of the purple yarmulke -- and friend J -- of the black yarmulke? They appear to be cursing us for consuming a whole platter of hors d'oeuvres before being lifted up.)

Finally, they set us down, and a very kind soul brought me some water and brought Mr. HC a napkin to mop up his copious schweatiness. But just when we thought it was over . . .

a very familiar looking purple flag appeared! It was the flag that Mr. HC had used at his election as Junior State Governor fifteen years ago. (Some of you might remember that we met through the Junior State, an organization for high school politics geeks.) One of his best friends had secretly gone to Mr. HC's parents' house, dug through the garage, and unearthed this archeological artifact!
The flag was part of the "schtick" that Mr. HC's groomspersons had planned for us. At traditional Jewish weddings, the groom's party would perform a funny routine to entertain the bride and groom. As you can tell, Mr. HC's friends were very entertaining indeed.
They even staged a "horah-off" between our groups of friends -- the MD/MBAs (representing Mr. HC) and the JD/Ph.D.s (representing me).

Eventually, I think one of my dear friends-of-honor, seeing that we were about to collapse from hora-induced exhaustion, signaled the band leader.

Alas, even the hora that never ends, had to end. But wow was it amazing while it lasted!


愛-Vey! You had me at . . . eggroll.

Once the ceremony was over, Mr. HC and I, per Jewish custom, giddily scrambled off to yihud. Yihud means "seclusion," and it refers to a tradition in which a newly married couple spends a bit of time on their own immediately after the ceremony. In ancient times, this is the first time the couple would be alone with one another and when they'd get it on for the first time.

In honor of the custom, Mr. HC and I engaged in some hot and heavy activity of our own . . .

by ravenously devouring the plate of hors d'oeuvres that had been delivered to the yihud room for us. Over a platter of sushi, satay, and fried artichokes, we giggled over the amazing and wonderful fact that we were married!

Meanwhile, our guests were enjoying a festive cocktail hour full of Chewish delectables, including mooshu duck, smoked salmon on blini, yaki soba served in Chinese takeout containers, and sliders. (Ok, there's nothing Chewish about sliders, but food in miniature is just so darn delicious!)

Some managed to drag themselves away from the food and drink long enough to pick up their escort cards, which were laid out under the orchid arch that Kate created. Kate also put together darling cocktail vignettes of giant peonies and dahlias nestled in Chinese teapots and bamboo steamers, but sadly we can't seem to find any close-up photos of them.

After we emerged from yihud, there was a lot of this:

"Holy crap, you guys are married!!"

And some of this:

"Yeesh . . . even our socks matched!" (Groomsman E did not seem to have gotten my memo about shaving.)

But mainly, there was a lot of this:

"Holy crap, we're married!"

Yes, my facial expressions are beyond ridiculous.

Up next, a horah to end all horahs. Grab your Gatorade and hang onto your hats. There will be no rest for the weary.


愛-Vey! Welcome to the No-Rose Zone

I adore flowers, but I have to admit that I wasn't one of those brides who obsessed about the personal flowers for the wedding. I had more of a "feel" than a concrete vision: I pictured slightly wild, romantic, not overly-manicured florals -- more Grey Gardens than Cantitoe Corners. Kate, our awesome florist, took my vague suggestions and made prettiness happen.

The bridal party bouquets were each composed of a single type of mauvish or purplish flower, with minimum greenery. I don't know how the ladies ended up picking their bouquets (I like to think that arm wrestling was involved), but each seemed to have ended up with a flower that suited her personality.
What tied the bouquets together, other than the color scheme, was the bit of Chinoiserie fabric that Kate wrapped around the stems. I purchased the fabric in China, and it was used not only in the bouquets but also in the reception centerpieces. I loved how Kate found a flower to correspond with each color in the fabric.
The variety in the bouquets, I thought, would deemphasize the matchiness of the dresses.

As for my own bouquet, I wasn't too nitpicky about it. The only rules I gave Kate were: 1) no roses (I'm sorry for being such a rosist, but I am not a big fan), and 2) don't make it too perfect. I wanted a vintagey, freshly-gathered-from-the-rambling-country-garden-out-back look. I loved what Kate came up with. The dusty miller picked up the silver in the sisters-of-honor dresses, and the peonies, ranunculuses (ranunculi? LOL), and dahlias were gorgeous. The overall style was very close to that of my favorite New York florist, Saipua.

Even though I loved the bouquet, I still managed to forget to take it back with me down the aisle after the ceremony. My mom ended up doing the recessional with two bouquets! All in all, I think I had my bouquet with me for about 1% of the day. That was an expensive 1%!
Speaking of Hot Mama Cocoa, she and Hot Grandma Cocoa, as well as as MIL HC and Bubbie HC carried single-flower nosegays. MIL HC and Bubbie HC picked dinner-plate dahlias, while my mom and grandmother chose orchids.
In traditional Chinese weddings, even female family members usually wear boutonnieres (with -- ugh -- red ribbons labeled with their title), but my mom and grandmother would have had a conniption if I were to suggest that they make tiny holes in their outfits with pins. Whew. Thank goodness that in my family, vanity beats tradition every time!

The groomspersons also sported single-bloom boutonnieres. Each, like the bridal party bouquets, was unique, while at the same time picking up the lilac shades in their Banana Republic ties.

I like to think that here they are smiling out of their love for their chic bouts. More likely they were laughing at my forcing them to wear matching lilac argyle socks.
Mr. HC's boutonniere had a bit of dusty miller and a few mini versions of the blooms in my bouquet.
What's up, good looking?

How specific were you about your personal flowers? How would you describe your floral style?


愛-Vey! Our Ketubah

The Hot Cocoas may look sweet, but don't be fooled: Mr. HC is an MBA, and I a JD, so we are fierce negotiators. And when it came to hashing out the language of the most important contract we'd ever sign -- our ketubah -- we brought all our haggling skills to the table . . . .

But I'm getting ahead of my self. Let me tell you how we got to that negotiating table in the first place.

Backing up. Beep. Beep. Beep.

The ketubah is the traditional Jewish marriage contract. Historically, its purpose was to document the "acquisition" of the bride by the groom and to lay out, in terms likely progressive for the time, the "rights" of the bride. For a feminist scholar like myself, this history was enough to a) give me the hives, and b) send me deep into the stacks of the library, searching for an alternative.*

While I wasn't exactly comfortable with the original purpose of the ketubah, Mr. HC and I both really wanted to honor and embrace our traditions. For various reasons, we also wanted to have a "kosher" ketubah -- one that would be recognized by many Jewish institutions. When we approached our rabbi with this little conundrum, she challenged us to write our own English "interpretation" of the traditional ketubah -- to revise and personalize the tradition rather than abandoning it entirely.

Great, in theory. But what could we say that would encapsulate the whole of the commitment we were making to one another? Oy vey, indeed.

Despite our initial trepidation, the process of drafting the ketubah turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of our wedding planning. We each wrote our own draft and then came together at a diner to negotiate the final language. The process took hours . . . actually, days. It gave us a chance to talk (and argue! oh boy, did we argue!) openly and honestly about what was important to the two of us, and how we imagined our futures. These conversations -- about how we wanted to raise our children, what we imagined a Chewish household to be, how we expected to care for our parents in their old age -- were a reminder that we were planning a life together, not just a wedding.

So, in addition to the traditional Aramaic text, which has bound Jewish brides and grooms since ancient times, our ketubah featured our own English "interpretation":

On the first day of the week, the fourth day of Nisan, in the year 5769, corresponding to the twentieth-eighth day of March, in the year 2009, Mr. Hot Cocoa, son of FIL and MIL Hot Cocoa, and Miss Hot Cocoa, daughter of Hot Mama Cocoa, join each other in Marina del Rey, California, before family and friends to make a mutual covenant as husband and wife. With love, Mr. and Miss Hot Cocoa each vow to the other:

"We establish today a partnership of equals. We promise to accept and treasure each other’s individuality and to be patient with each other’s idiosyncrasies; to challenge, inspire, and support one another in our independent pursuits, while experiencing each other’s dreams, laughter, and tears as our own.

We commit ourselves to making our relationship a priority; to being sensitive to each other’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs; and to striving for the intimacy, openness, and honesty that will allow us to realize these promises. As we grow old together and our love matures, may we always be kindred spirits, holding on to the passion, affection, and respect for each other we feel today.

We endeavor individually and collectively to achieve balance between our professional and family commitments, and we vow to care and provide for one another and for any children with whom we may be blessed.

We declare our intention to raise our family in a household rich with the traditions of our Chinese and Jewish heritages, and to create a home amid the community of Israel—a home filled with curiosity and learning, goodness and generosity, community and compassion.

We honor our families and ancestors and all that they have sacrificed to make life so rich with possibility for us. We pledge to uphold the specific vision of intergenerational responsibility passed onto us by our Chinese elders, and accordingly commit to caring for, and opening our homes to, our parents and grandparents in their old age. May this union be blessed with a love as profound and enduring as that they have shown us all these years.”

We joyfully enter into this covenant and solemnly accept its obligations. All this is valid and binding.

As for the design of the ketubah, we couldn't find a commercially available one that we loved. So we had print our custom text onto fine art paper, and SIL HC, a very talented artist, will be painting it and creating for us a one-of-a-kind original! Since she had her own wedding to plan, the artwork isn't finished yet. But soon enough we'll have our ketubah in our bedroom, ready to remind us, in good times and bad, of all the commitments we made to one another.
Will you be writing your own ketubah or vows? Did you have a wedding-related task that reminded you of the life -- not just the wedding -- ahead?

* Anyone interested in alternatives to the ketubah should read Engendering Judaism, by Rachel Adler. Adler, a feminist theologian, lays out a ritual called "brit ahuvim," which offers an alternative to the ketubah that is rooted in partnership, rather than contract, law.


愛-Vey! We're Going to the Chuppah, and We're Gonna Get Married

I faintly remember that our ceremony was lovely, though I can't be certain, because as soon as I heard the first notes of Mr. HC's stirring processional music, I had an out-of-body, giddy-like-a-schoolgirl experience.

Somehow, I floated down the aisle and made it to the chuppah, where Mr. HC and I were to circle each other, per Jewish custom. For most couples, this is a solemn and beautiful moment, signifying the the reorientation of their lives around each other.

For us, of course, hilarity ensued.

The chuppah poles were really close together, so instead of gracefully circling one another, we performed what can only be described as an "I gotta go potty" dance around each other. I did the quickstep, my steps made less quick by a veil that attached itself to every branch on that chuppah (which I named Audrey, after the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors"). My soon-to-be husband, who didn't have to drag a silk train and my large caboose around with him, somewhat nimbly jumped around me. Imagine a drunken polka over hot coals, and you'll get the idea.

For our finale, we held hands and circled together, ring-around-the-rosy style. I don't know why there was so much laughter. Our moves were awesome.

Dance performance over, our wonderful rabbi began the ceremony, with words that were as touching as they were funny:

So there were seven circles. Seven circles only the two of you could make seven circles. Because there are seven layers to a person's soul, and the dimensions of each other's soul are revealed to each of you through the love that has deepened during the years that you have been walking toward this chuppah. Dimensions of the soul revealed in the music that Miss HC encouraged Mr. HC to write for this processional -- beautiful music that reflects longing, love, and gratitude for arriving at this moment in your journey. And I know that I speak for everyone when i say that this journey has taken a really long time. Sixteen years? Fifteen years? Who's counting?

Although we'd only met our rabbi a few months before the wedding, her words to us were so warm, and so perfectly captured our relationship; it was as if she'd known us as long as there was an "us." This sounds so cheesy, but her ceremony made us feel even that much more in love with each other.

As the sun set, we read from and signed our ketubah,

drank ceremonial wine out of a Chinese tea cup,

and exchanged rings.

Then came the sheva b'rachot, the traditional seven blessings. We asked fourteen of our closest family and friends to read the blessings in Hebrew and English. It was as though a chorus -- a whole community -- of the dearest people in our lives came together to bless our marriage.

Mr. HC then broke the glass, to shouts of "mazel tov" and "gung hay" (congratulations in Hebrew and Chinese).

We kissed,

fist-bumped, Obama style,

and, at long last, were blissfully and finally married! (Or at least I look blissful . . . Mr. HC looks like he's scared! Hee hee.)

I know that often the ceremony takes a backseat to the rest of the wedding. For us, though, the ceremony was the centerpiece of our celebration: it was an occasion for us to honor our cultures while at the same time combining them into something unique and truly "us," and it was an opportunity to involve and honor the friends and family who supported and sustained us. Writing our ketubah, translating the program into Chinese, thinking of the small touches, like using the Chinese tea cup for kiddush . . . it was a lot of work, but the smiling faces of all of our friends and family as we walked down the aisle as a newly married couple proved it was all worth it.


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