Not too long ago, I had the wonderful privilege of being a bridesmaid to a very near, very dear, and very old friend, and the experience was amazing on so many levels. As you can imagine, I was incredibly thrilled and extremely touched that she had thought to include me as part of her very special day. It was also my first time playing bridesmaid (and not a flower girl) and when I heard she was up for some gate crashing fun to get the festivities going I was ever so eager to assist :)
So I know some of you are going to require an explanation as to what “gate crashing” is (no, it’s not crashing a party you weren’t originally invited to). It’s a Chinese custom (though this in itself is highly and heatedly debated so let’s just say it’s a pseudo-chinese custom) where the groom and his merry band of men, upon arriving at the bride’s family home, have to overcome a set of trials and tribulations, pay some bribes and play some games, in order to get access to the bride. I’ll admit, some of the games I’ve read about are a wee bit psychotic (and I don’t think I’d ever want to torture my future husband or his friends in this way), but it can be fun for the whole family (if the bridesmaids do it right) and a great way to get things going on wedding day.
When the men arrive, there’s a round of general man-bashing and cat-calling (as you can see, we’re pretty good at acting like a bunch of hooligans when the occasion calls for it) We mostly insinuated that Mark (and by extension his merry band of men) might not be man enough for a woman as magnificent as Charmaine. You must understand, there is good reason for this, it isn’t all fun and games! It’s important that the man your friend marries will stick with her through thick and thin, hardship and happiness! So on that gorgeous sunny morning in July, the bridesmaids banded together to test the wit, grit and general fitness of Charmaine’s intended, cos only the very best of men would do for our dear friend.
Then the real ritual begins. It starts with a test of strength, willpower and the willingness to suffer for your lady love. This is a little like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – you start at the bottom (the most basic provision), and ensure that certain lower needs are satisfied in order to ensure the higher needs can and will be addressed. Thus the first few tests should center on the man’s ability to satisfy the physiological needs and safety of your friend.
While the sun shone and the aunties cheered on, the lads went through fire (downing shots of chilli padi mixed with capsicum and a wee bit of water), tasted bitterness (1 liter of freshly juiced bittergourd), and overcame a sour patch to prove that they were indeed man enough for the marvelous Charmaine. They were rewarded with overwhelming sweetness to quench their thirst, extinguish the fire, and get rid of the bitter aftertaste – though they really had to work hard for that as well (the straw was pretty much riddled with hundreds of tiny little holes). Lesson in life: Nothing comes easy, especially the good stuff.
This also represents the man’s ability to endure the “joys and sorrows” in life (酸甜苦辣) alongside his wife, with each flavour representing the different phases they are likely to experience as a couple. To be honest, I could be getting this entirely wrong – but this is what the great guru called the internet tells me. Will someone write a book on this already?
Next came the test to ensure the man Charmaine was about to marry had some brains (okay, so he has a lot of brains, far more than his fair share! But hey we just wanted to be sure). The mark of a true man is someone whose wits can withstand the barrage of questions and not crack under the intense mounting pressure of all the aunties who are getting closer with each passing moment looking for the right answer.
Rachel (quiz master of the highest order) grilled him on everything from the time was she born and in which hospital (her mama got REAL excited about this one), to what her first sports injury was (her brothers booed loudly when he got this wrong), to the mountains she’s climbed and conquered, her favourite black and white movie, the meaning of her chinese name (there were many how can you not know!?! that resounded around the living room), to what she wore on their first date (he just barely got this one right, there was a lot of debate around which was considered their first official date), to naming her favourite poem and then translating it into Chinese (oddly enough, the groomsmen all knew the answer but Mark said, cannot be lah). Fail. Max.
All in all the quiz was by far my favourite part of the morning as it let everyone get to know the couple just a little better :) Which is really what weddings are about – celebrating the coming together of two people with two separate histories who want to make one future :)
With each question answered (correctly), he advanced a step or two, towards his intended who was not so patiently waiting (and wondering how her purportedly highly intelligent husband-to-be could get so many answers wrong!) At the end of it all, weary and battle worn but not worse for wear, we let him in – because Mark proved to all of us just how much of a man he was – man enough for our magnificent friend.
Okay, not quite the end. Because sharing is caring and because October seems to be yet another wedding intensive month (I know of 3 MGS girls getting hitched), I thought some of you might enjoy reading about family-friendly gate-crashing ideas that won’t humiliate but are still pretty damn great :)
1. Guessing games where the questions are all about the bride (what time was she born/which hospital, what was her first sports injury, what mountains has she climbed, favourite restaurant in NY, favourite black and white movie, meaning of her chinese name, what she wore on your first date…) If the groom answers correctly he advances one step forward. If the groom answers incorrectly, torture one of the groomsmen! It’s entertaining and EDUCATIONAL for everyone. Plus you can get family members to send in suggestions for questions via sms or email in real time (yeah, we’re that high tech these days) which makes it really interactive and inclusive for everyone, kaypoh aunties and all.
2. Make the groomsmen do yoga poses for a stipulated amount of time – they look ridiculous and it makes for super funny pictures. You can also tell who’s fit/ and who’s seriously out of shape :) Great way for the single bridesmaids to screen the groomsmen. Better yet, make them spell I LOVE YOU with their bodies in yoga poses.
3. Dance! If you have a wii / kinect put on a funny routine (I like Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff on WII) and make the groomsmen do a routine together – again great pictures and great laughs and you’ll be surprised how UNCOORDINATED some people are (stay far far away on the dance floor). See Alber Elbaz did it too!
4. Paste a piece of mahjong paper on the wall, create the outline of the word “ai” (as in love in chinese”) or a heart, get the guys to wear lipstick and kiss to colour the entire word red. (this is actually very tough)
5. Take polaroid pictures of lips (or other body parts) of the bride and the bridesmaids, jumble the order and stick them up on a wall. Get the groom to guess which one belongs to the bride. If he gets wrong…………… Die. hahahahaha. I’m a big fan of this one!
6. The usual list of awful concoctions that the groom and his merry men will need to choke down – BITTER GOURD JUICE (Lots of it. It is SO disgusting), something super sour (an entire box of war heads anyone?), a little bit (or a lot) of spice, and of course, a sweet treat.
All pictures courtesy of Charmaine’s photographer.