Dates Islington Reflections

Donny’s daily mini-blog for Monday 13th

So following on with Chris’s mini-blog update, here’s mine:

We’ve been quiet on here the last couple of weeks…but only because it has been a flurry of activity filled with daily discussions with different vendors, friends, and each other about lots and lots of details. I was doing OK until a couple of weeks ago, when it suddenly dawned on me one morning that we had only TWO WEEKS LEFT. I like to think of myself as being relatively calm and unflappable, but I underestimated how the anxiety would creep into my subconscious (via a series of strange vivid anxiety dreams), and the physical symptoms that also accompanied the mental ones. Having several work deadlines also didn’t help.

Nevertheless, there was some time for humour. I played a roguish trick on all my Facebook friends by posting a picture of someone else’s wedding at the Town Hall with the caption “What a lovely day it was”…which note doubt caused many brief moments of panic across London as friends double checked their invitations.

Anyways, I was glad that we had distractions such as the Olympics and friends visiting from the States over the past two weeks. And in fact, we have been attempting as much as possible to continue with our normal busy lives. For example, this past weekend, in addition to wedding planning, we had a Thai food cookery course in west London on Saturday, and an evening at the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday to hear two youth wind orchestras.

So these final few days, now that we have just FOUR DAYS LEFT, will be filled with speech writing and vow writing, and a bit of cleaning before family and friends start descending on Islington en masse. And everyone, keep your fingers crossed for dry weather!




Back to the beginning

OK, time for a deep breath. Things have been moving along amazingly quickly…and surprisingly easily so far. Through the power of Microsoft Excel, our guest list has been finalized, menu options have been sorted and communicated to the restaurant, and quiz responses analyzed. (Yes, we know who said and thought what! But don’t worry, we won’t name names.)

Venue one (town hall) is more or less sorted, although we still have to write our vows to each other. Venue two (drinks reception) is more or less sorted as well–the key was to find a single point person to communicate with who also had the power to make some decisions and suggestions, and in this case it was figuring out who the bar manager was. I went in and introduced myself and asked for a tasting and we finally settled on drinks options that are fun, but which won’t break the bank. And most importantly, will be less hassle for me and Chris. Venue three (restaurant) has been amazingly well organized, and after dinner there we also had a wine tasting and have decided on some yummy choices (including a grape I have never heard of). And venue four (pub) has finally come together as well now that we have reconnected with a couple of people who seem to have a vested interest in making sure the pub runs smoothly. And our entertainment for the evening is coming along nicely as well.

I think also a lot of credit needs to go to the fact that Chris and I work so well as a team to get ideas generated, sorted, organized, prioritized, and then realized. Together, we do complement each other in all the right ways–from the fantastical/brainstorming stages to the practical stages.  And that’s why I think the process so far has not been as stressful as what everyone has been telling us it is supposed to be like.

A good example of this is our seating plans. Everyone was telling us that this is typically the most arduous part of the wedding planning process and one that is the source of the most arguments. With the help of a suggestion from our friend Melissa (to use paper plates and post-its) we were done in about 30 minutes. And we didn’t even need to split any couples up! (P.S. I chose a small image on purpose, so no cheating to figure out who will be sitting next to whom!)

So considering that so far (fingers crossed!) things are running smoothly, it’s a good time to reflect on the process so far, which started way back in November of last year, when after a long time of already knowing that Chris was a perfect partner for me, I finally got off my a$%e and did something about it by proposing. In fact, I even won some free Thai food kits with our story, which you can read by clicking the link. (Although I was hoping for a trip to Thailand…still, free food is always good food!). Anyways, here’s to many more sunrises with Chris!





Awww…a nice story to warm your heart

While flipping through the Wedding Announcements section of the New York Times, we came across this really cute story about this 49-year old couple who just got married in New York, once gay marriages became legalized. They first met when they were 10 years old! Follow the link to read the touching story of how they met:

Cute puppy having a smooch
Family Reflections Suits Uncategorized

Searching for a connection

Those of you who have been following my part of the blog know that I have been dealing with a lot of conflicting feelings about my family and their reaction to the news that Chris and I are getting married. I genuinely did not know if my parents were happy about the situation or not. And they are probably as conflicted as I am.

On the one hand, I am certain that they were still holding on to a shred of hope that this “gay thing” was a passing fancy and that I would eventually find the right woman to settle down with. Getting married to another dude obviously dashes this last remaining hope to smithereens. (And never mind that I had previously been in a relationship with my ex for 14 years, which is still longer than the marriages of most of my school friends). If it is indeed a phase, it is one to be measured by decades rather than by seasons.

On the other hand, they have to feel at least a modicum of happiness that their younger son has found someone (whom they profess to also like) to spend the rest of his life with. The only thing is that the person whom I have fallen in love with is not of the gender that they had envisioned for me when I was growing up, and they still dont have the emotional wherewithal to embrace us for who I am, rather than who they think I should have been. So this modicum of happiness is likely to be bittersweet, at best.

So it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I landed in San Francisco last week. I had been in Philadelphia for a medical conference, and decided to tack on a few days in San Francisco for some client visits and to see my family. As a bonus, it was my brother’s 40th birthday and my older nephew’s 5th grade graduation, so there was plenty of opportunity for the whole family to get together.

One thing I noticed almost immediately was that the invitation we had sent to my parents was nowhere to be seen. I eventually found the invite and the save the date card, both tucked inside an old birthday day card inside a big pile of cards. The invite had obviously been hidden from sight, in case anyone visiting the house should see. I was not at all surprised by this (but I also could not help but feel a bit annoyed, since I knew that even wedding invites sent to them by distant acquaintances would often be displayed prominently on their dining table for months before and after the wedding was over.)

You see, I was already used to being marginalized in this way by my parents. For example, despite all those years that my ex and I were together, there were never any pictures of us on the fridge or any of the walls. However, the walls are festooned with pictures of my brother and his wife, and of their two kids. On the fridge there have only ever been two solitary pictures of me–one of me alone and one of me with my brother’s dog–and these have been up for well over 15 years. In this way, they could acknowledge that I existed, but also continue to fool themselves and others into thinking that I was not gay but merely single, as in the pictures.

And so, for the first couple of days, I did not mention the wedding. And neither did they. I had already written a lot about the Elephant in the Room, and they were still playing this game of avoidance. They had shown no interest at all in attending the wedding, or even talking about the wedding. So I needed some way to engage with them, and to connect with them because this game of avoidance is a zero-sum game, with no winners and only losers on all sides. Continued avoidance would just create further distance between us–an open wound which would eventually turn into a chasm or void. Life itself and the physical distance between us was hard enough. No family needs such additional obstacles.

My big opportunity to bond with my folks came from my suit, of all things. I had brought back my wedding suit for my dad to alter. He’s a master tailor with over 50 years of experience and it is not uncommon for me to bring back some “homework” for him to do in the form of trousers that need hemming, zippers that need repairing, or pockets that need re-lining. But for this suit, in addition to helping me save a few bucks, I thought it would be a good way to get him involved in the wedding, albeit indirectly. However, when I first brought out the suit for him to inspect, his first reaction was to ask, “Why on earth did you buy another suit? You already have so many suits that I have given you.” (Yes, that is how deep the power of avoidance and compartmentalization can be–he truly had no clue what the suit was for).

“It’s my wedding suit, I replied.” And then at last he understood. The change in his expression and demeanor were instant. And I finally saw a glimmer of hope that it was even possible for him to engage with me and with the wedding. He might not have the words to express his feelings, but his youngest son was going to get married, and he was determined to make sure that the suit fit me better than any suit he has ever worked with. After pinning and marking all the alterations that were needed with my outfit, I showed him a photo of Chris in his suit and in addition for chastising me for not having brought Chris’s suit for him to alter, he proceeded to document in detail all the changes that Chris’s outfit would need in order for his suit to also fit like a glove. We’ll be taking these instructions with us when we go back to the shop in London for Chris’ fitting.

My mom’s opportunity to participate came when I modeled the finished product for them. She came over for a look, and to fuss a bit over the outfit, and I could sense that she was proud of me and of the man I had become (although again, the words were lacking). She again lamented that the wedding was so far away, and that there was no way for her to get there without having to board a plane.

And finally, on my last morning in San Francisco, they presented me with a monetary wedding gift for me and Chris, with apologies about their inability to come to the wedding. Most importantly, however, the gift also came with verbal reassurance that they would be happy for us both, even though they wouldn’t be there in person. That was worth more than any amount of money. And so I was able to finally breathe a big sigh of relief, and to smile a bittersweet smile knowing how difficult of a journey it has been for them and for me to arrive at the very point we had just found ourselves at.





Family Key Events Practicalities Venue

The joy of practicalities

So we have had a fairly eventful week in the Wong & Dicken household. First of all, after much hemming and hawing and trying on dozens of suits, we have finally gone back to a nice one that we both liked very much the first time we saw it and tried it on. Our suits fit all the criteria on our checklist: European cloth, design, and construction; can be worn on occasions other than our wedding (otherwise we would have just hired something for the day); festive enough that we don’t look like we just left the office; special enough that we look like grooms rather than guests. Hopefully none of the guests will upstage us by showing up in tailcoats or a tophat (which I did see happen at one wedding we attended).

And NO, we didn’t go for this outfit.

Nope, not that one!
What we did NOT choose for our wedding

So the next step is that I will be taking my wedding suit home to California for my dad to alter. He’s a master tailor with over 50 years of experience working on high end Italian suits, so I think he will do a great job on mine. Plus, it will give him an opportunity to participate in the wedding, albeit indirectly. And for him to have to handle the wedding suit will make it all more “real” to him, if that makes any sense. It’s too bad that Chris can’t join me on this upcoming business trip since it would have been great to be there together, as a couple. (Plus my dad would be able to alter Chris’s suit too). We still need to get our accoutrements for the suits too (ties, shirts, pocket squares, etc), so if anyone has any recommendations (or knows of a good tailor in London who can alter Chris’s suit), please feel free to pass along the details.

Also, after a couple of weeks of waiting, we have learned that our invites are still stuck in customs. They were designed and printed by our talented friend Kiki at Alternate Greetings, but the Royal Mail doesn’t seem to care. Nor do they care that we are working on a deadline. Instead, they are treating the invites like any other business shipment entering the country, which needs to be checked for contraband and for which duties must be levied. With foresight Kiki has mailed out the U.S. invites on our behalf, so at least one portion of the invites are out already. (A slightly scary thought, as this now means the event is on for REAL and there is no turning back!).

And we have also touched base with each of our venues. One venue apparently has come under new management since we made our deposit, and has had a complete turnover of staff! A nightmare scenario, but the new manager was very accommodating, and they were able to find our names in the Big Book (where all the important pub events are listed), so we at least still have the venue. And I checked in with the venue for our drinks reception too, in order to get a few details (that affect where we purchase bubbly)–and have now been informed that we may not be able to bring our own bubbly after all! I have an appointment to speak with the manager next week, so hopefully we’ll get that detail sorted soon. And lastly, we’ve also been in touch with the restaurant, and those of you coming to the wedding will be happy to know that we have now added a dessert course (with a choice of crème brulee or raspberry white chocolate mousse!). Yum. And lastly, we have paid the final deposit for the Council Room at the Islington Town Hall. Again, it’s all real and it’s all happening!

Any lessons from this past week? Probably a “touching of bases” 3 months before the big day should be prioritized on the diaries of anyone planning a wedding. And as we go into the final stretch, I would aim for once monthly touching of bases with each venue and stakeholder. Also, especially if international guests and invites are involved, if I had to do things all over again I would err on the side of caution and have invites printed, delivered, and sent even earlier than the 6-8 weeks recommended by most wedding planners. (Who makes up these rules anyways? And do they apply to all countries and cultures?).

Fingers crossed that everything else will run more smoothly from next week onwards…

Islington Practicalities Venue

More about Islington

So here is another article about us and this blog, this time in the Islington Gazette. We’re sandwiched in between a few stories about the Arsenal football team, a missing paedo who failed to check in with the police, and an article about a Twitter campaign against the “dog poo menace“.

I guess this is a cue to write more about Islington, and some practical tips that we can pass on to anyone else planning a wedding in Islington.

1) The Islington Town Hall is gorgeous, and everyone who works there is super friendly. Go visit if you are considering a wedding in Islington. However, be aware that the Town Hall is an office building first and foremost, so if you are planning a weekday wedding like we are doing, be aware that some rooms will be off limits (due to meetings). We originally wanted to have our drinks reception in one of the adjoining rooms near the Council Chamber where our ceremony will be held, but because it is a weekday, there are conflicts with groups using the space for its original intended purpose. A Saturday wedding would have allowed for a reception, but Council Chamber hire fees are a bit steeper on Saturdays (and the Town Hall is closed on Sundays). Also, there are not many town halls in the boroughs within Zones 1-2 that can accommodate 100 guests. Most can only hold 50-60 guests. Because of this, Islington Town Hall is quite popular, even among non-Islington residents, so book as far in advance as possible if you want to get married there.

2) We opted for the Vineyard across the street for our drinks reception. It has a lovely outdoor space if the weather decides to cooperate, but you can reserve space inside just in case. The deposit is only £50 for semi-private hire. Full private hire, which we considered as an option (but only briefly until we found out about the cost!) can be as much as £10,000 minimum spend on a weekend evening. Ouch. The Vineyard can also do canapes, and their corkage fee is a reasonable £10 per bottle. Hence we are currently on a quest to find excellent (yet reasonably priced) bubbly that would come in at (or hopefully lower) than the price of the venue’s house bubblies after adding on the corkage fee. Other places we considered for a drinks reception included the Almeida Theatre, which has a lovely foyer next to the cafe and bar. Unfortunately, the theatre will be undergoing some maintenance and refurbishment late this summer, so we weren’t able to book the space.

3) There aren’t very many restaurants along Upper Street that can accommodate greater than 75-80 guests in one room. In fact, most restaurants would be jam packed with just 50 diners. We probably looked through the windows of almost every single restaurant along Upper Street. The two that stood out were Fredericks and the Almeida Restaurant, which can each seat around 100 guests. Fredericks also has a lovely garden and conservatory, which would make a great reception and photo venue. We had a meal at both restaurants to try out their food, and both delivered on that front. The team at the Almeida, however, has been extremely accommodating and flexible so far, and we have enjoyed ourselves immensely each time we have dined there.

Other venues that we briefly considered included St Lukes (a former church now turned into a concert hall, but with a £6,000 hire fee. ouch!), Clissold House and Stoke Newington Town Hall (council chamber is too small), some of the various guild halls in the City (too expensive), Kings Place (where we could have arrived at the reception via canal boat), Tower Bridge (too expensive and too small, although it would give a great view over the Thames), Lincoln’s Inn (too formal and expensive, although beautiful), and the Central Library by Highbury Corner (would require too much work to turn into a suitable venue for a wedding reception, but it is a great space for putting on a stage show). We also considered a few options further afield: a friend’s restaurant in Camden, and a pub in Muswell Hill that used to be a church. However, both would have required the extra complication of requiring transport from the Town Hall. (The Wedding Special double decker bus would have been a fun option, but costs about £500 per bus, each fitting about 50 guests).

4) We also checked in with almost every decent pub within a 1.5 kilometer radius of the Town Hall for a place to go to after our meal. There are some lovely pubs with beer gardens in Barnsbury. The Albion and the Drapers Arms immediately come to mind. However, these gastropubs consider themselves to be restaurants first, and pubs second. (and because they are in residential areas, they are also quite sensitive to noise and large groups). And several could have been nice places for exclusive hire for the entire reception (for a smaller guest list), although also with £4-6K minimum spend. Many of the pubs with lower minimum spend were a tad too small for our group, but again, two stood out: The New Rose on Essex Road and the Florence near the Town Hall. Both serve food, and also seem responsive to calls and emails. (This might make it into another blog post eventually, but I am amazed at how so many pubs and restaurants can be so poor at returning messages! Especially in this current economic climate, don’t they realise they are losing business?).

So there you go, some practical advice and things we learned while investigating wedding venues in Islington. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We’re happy to share our views and experiences.

Key Events Practicalities

Suits and Bubbles

Just a quick update–we’ve been relatively quiet over the past few weeks. I had a bit of work travel, and Chris went to visit his family. Then we had a lovely long weekend in northern Spain where we attended the Williams College annual European alumni reunion–this year held in San Sebastian. In fact, this is the first weekend that Chris and I had together at home in nearly a month!

What this also means is that Chris and I finally had some time to do a bit more work for the wedding. We are now coming close to a consensus on what to wear. By virtue of being a tailor’s son, and also being the beneficiary of one of my father’s clients who collects suits (and who then discards them whenever he gains a bit of weight), I have a collection of very nice suits — some far nicer than I was aware of. We photographed ourselves wearing pretty much every combination of suits that Chris and I own to see if any of our outfits fit our criteria: A) we want to make sure we look like grooms and not like guests, B) we don’t want to look like we could have just stepped out of the office, and C) and we want to look great and not cheesy (so no top hat with tails, and no shiny suits like what a car salesman might wear or the guys from Miami Vice). I’m not going to let the cat out of the bag, but we’ll be stepping out for a shopping trip sometime soon–and will end up with two variations of the same overall outfit, each accessorized to complement our individual colours and tastes, yet with common themes to show that we are a couple (but not clones of one another). We also found a nice looking shop at Covent Garden with a two-for-one offer on at the moment…so stay tuned.

The other task we have been slowly tackling is to try to find the best bubbly under £10. This is rather fun, but also a bit disconcerting as it has been slim pickings so far with this tight of a price limit. Our drinks reception venue charges £10, so we  have to really watch our spending here. Having champagne instead of cava or prosecco automatically brings us to a minimum £25/bottle (+£10 corkage = £35). But too often, we have had totally un-memorable and forgettable champagne at different weddings and events. Unless you go higher end (Veuve Clicquot and Perrier Jouet are favorites, but not cheap at minimum £35/bottle), most champagnes represent very poor value for money. Meanwhile there are some very nice cavas and proseccos out there that don’t bear the premium attached to the French AOC.

So slowly (well, not so slowly since the stuff goes down so easily!), we have been picking up different bottles on offer at various stores. We’re looking for fine bubbles rather than large rough ones, and ones that “pop” (with forceful bubbles that you can feel on your face as you sip), and most importantly, a nice colour and flavourful memorable finish. Our frontrunner at the moment is Martini Prosecco, which is dry, light, zesty, and refreshing, with nice amount of fine bubbles. On the other side of the spectrum, there is a Chilean Vina Maipo Brut, which Chris wrote in his tasting notes as being “‘somewhat ass’, too astringent, and with an odd mouth feel.” Another one we tried recently was a sparkling sauvignon blanc, which would tick the box for something with a different finish. However, as soon as we unwrapped the foil and saw the artificial resealable cork, we knew it was not something we could serve in good conscience. And our suspicions were verified after the anemic pop of the artificial cork and the lack of vigourous bubbles.

So while we are having fun trying to pick a bubbly for our big day, we do need to also deal with the practicality of ordering large quantities of bubbly–it’s one thing to order 32 bottles, but another to have it stored, and then making sure it is all transported to the reception venue, chilled, and in time for the reception.

If any of you have any particular bubblies you would like to recommend, please let us know! And if you know of any distributors in the greater London area who are able to deliver chilled bottles, by all means please get in touch. In the meantime, we still have a few months of tasting left to do (there are worse chores in life!).


Gay marriage equality Islington Reflections

A gay wedding story starts in Islington

It has been both interesting and rewarding to see that this blog has followers, and that it is starting to generate some interest outside of the circle of friends and family that we originally created this for. We wanted this blog in part to record our memories as we embark on this journey of putting on a wedding, but also to serve as a resource. Interestingly, the blog has become a strange cross roads of different friends who read different bits and pieces for different reasons.

One ongoing thread involves my family, who can’t quite get to grips with what it means to embrace their gay son, and all the trappings that come with having to once again deal with issues that had been hidden under a thin veil of begrudging acceptance…but which have now been stirred by the upcoming nuptials. And interwoven with my saga are Chris’s thoughts about being both gay and Christian, and how the search for acceptance among family, friends, and communities has impacted his life. Then of course there are the practicalities of actually putting on the wedding, and our own feelings (and friends’ insights) about what is tradition, what is convention, and what it means to buy into the wedding industry as opposed to doing our own thing, or at least our vision/interpretation of what would be viewed as conventional and traditional, and trying to do things on a budget. (In essence, we are the most offbeat of Offbeat Brides,  especially since we are two dudes).

But beneath all of these interwoven threads that form the tapestry of our blog and our lives, is our underlying desire to be both out and proud, and to potentially be a resource for other couples (both gay and straight) who have found themselves in similar situations–however tangential–or those who may be undergoing journeys similar to what we have dealt with in our past. And that’s why it brings me great joy to see that the interest in this blog, and in our wedding, is gaining some traction beyond just our circle of friends and family.

The first outside inquiry was from a community journalism student who wrote this nice story for Islington Now, an online local news website. And the title of the piece was “A gay wedding story starts in Islington”. And just this week, another journalist, who works for the weekly printed Islington Gazette will be interviewing us for a story on the ongoing gay marriage debate which has been causing some rifts within the conservative Tory party. And furthermore, a friend of mine who is studying for a degree in psychology in California has decided to interview us as a case study for his course.

And who knows what additional traction our story will have? But that is why it is important for all of us who are otherwise marginalized by society (and yes, I think as a gay male Chinese-American expat looking to get married to a gay white male Brit from a conservative Christian background, we do qualify as forming part of the margin of society-although there are of course many more who are even more marginalized) to stand and be counted. Some day, it is our hope that true marriage equality will happen so that  gays and lesbians in all countries will be able to marry exactly as heterosexual couples–both in name and with the full rights of marriage. But in the meantime, until that occurs, we have no choice but to settle for second best. But we do demand to at least be counted. Our gay wedding story does indeed start in Islington (well technically, on the Isle of Wight where Chris and I first met)–but we certainly hope that the story will extend far beyond the borders of Islington!

Chris and Me, from the Islington Now website
Chris and Me, from the Islington Now website



What to wear?

We’ve been talking a lot lately about what to wear to our wedding. On the one hand, it is one of those extraneous details that we can just figure out when it gets closer to the date. On the other hand, it is something important to consider, since it is our day, and we want to look good for the big event.

One difficulty that we have is that getting matching outfits will not necessarily complement our complexions. Media images notwithstanding (no, I do NOT have yellow skin, contrary to the cartoons many of us grew up with), I do have dark hair and dark eyes. Meanwhile, Chris has medium-dark brown hair, but a generally ginger complexion (light skin with freckles). What this means is that I look best in darker coloured outfits (blacks and greys with white shirts) whereas Chris looks best in earthtones (green, brown, rust).

So where does that leave us? It will be difficult to finding matching outfits that complement us both. So perhaps we shouldn’t bother trying to match? We’ve already joked about drag, and wearing wedding dresses. And yes, both of us are equally horrified at the thought of wearing such a thing. (By the way, we are also fans of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which always features incredibly gaudy and eye catching dresses, that oftentimes don’t even fit through doorways). We’ve also been talking about some of the outfits that appear in some of the period dramas we’ve been watching (like Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey)–but that’s something inherently difficult to pull off without it being part of a larger overall theme. I did find this website for wedding outfits that caters specifically to GLBT folks, and a lot of the beautifully shot photos made me smile (and I can’t believe that one day soon it will be us in similar photos!!)…but I unfortunately didn’t get too much inspiration from the pics. (In part because lesbian couples can do a better job of pulling off different combinations of masculine and femine clothing than gay couples can–just look at how great Ellen and Portia look).

All kidding aside, our outfits are part of the big day and we do need to eventually figure something out that doesn’t break the bank. What we’ll try first is to pull all of our jackets out of the closet, and then figure out which combinations work best. And if none of them suit us, then I guess it is off to the shops–unless any of you reading this are size 38R and have nice taste in colours and fabrics?

Family Reflections

Levelling up.

So I have been rather quiet on this blog lately. In part, I have really not had much to say. The situation with my family had not changed in the past month–week after week I held my breath but no questions about the wedding every came about. And we were still tying up loose ends with the venues, so there wasn’t much to report there. And frankly, I was getting tired of planning the wedding and talking about the wedding. It seemed for a while that every weekend activity was centered around the wedding, every conversation was about the wedding, and every time I saw friends (including some that I see on a weekly basis), they asked about the wedding. So I decided to take a break from it all and enjoy some downtime from the planning and from the blog.

But a lot has happened in the month since I last wrote in this blog. We now have all four venues finally nailed down. Town hall, drinks reception, lunch, and then the pub. So now that the macro-level arrangements have been taken care of, and the dates are set, it is only the details that remain to be filled out–and we still have 5 months to do so. (Yes, I know those 5 months sound like a lot, but they will pass really quickly!)

But most importantly, my brother just informed us that he is coming to the wedding! It will be his first visit to London and I am excited to be able to see him on this side of the pond. Unfortunately summertime school schedules and challenges surrounding food allergies and travel for my youngest nephew means that my sister-in-law and two nephews will not be able to come, but I am sure they will be here in spirit.

And it was my brother’s decision to come to the wedding that has had the further consequence of causing my mom to finally mention The Elephant In The Room during my recent conversation with her. This was a huge relief for me, as I was going crazy waiting and was going to just bring it up myself (and thereby breaking the promise I made to myself to wait it out). He had just informed her the previous weekend that he was going to be making the trip–and that in turn was the catalyst that finally thawed the ice.

You see, it turns out that the wedding had become compartmentalized for various reasons. Compartmentalization is something that I also do very well (and I have an amazing capacity for that, according to my old therapist)–but I cannot even begin to fathom the full complexity of what goes through my mother’s mind. I had thought her reticence was due to a sense of shame and her not wanting to acknowledge something publicly that she perceived as something to be hidden away. But I now think that a major part of that reticence was my mom’s reluctance to acknowledge that I’ve grown up and am no longer her baby.

Marriage has that effect on people–it’s one of life’s milestones that most people experience and can relate to. Along with moving out of the house, going to uni, getting one’s first full-time job, and having one’s first child–getting married is one of the major ways that people level-up. And yes, in the conversation, she did refer to the event as a wedding (in Chinese, of course)–and there might not even be any alternative names for it (I wouldn’t even know where to start with defining “civil partnership” in Chinese). But our upcoming wedding has had a most profound effect on my family. It tells them that my relationship with Chris is real, and is lasting, permanent, and lifechanging. Interestingly, my last relationship, which lasted 14 years and was a marriage for all intents and purposes, never quite had this level of gravitas in my family’s eyes, perhaps in part because we never formally got hitched. (And this is another reason why having a dual system of “civil partnerships” and “marriages” is inherently un-equal). Being in a committed same-sex relationship is one thing–but being married is another thing altogether.

I’m still thinking about the details of my conversation with my mom, and I may write about it later. But I do need to thank my brother for being the catalyst that broke the ice, and in advance, for coming to the wedding. And my new promise to myself is to try to include my folks in the wedding discussions as much as possible, now that the impasse has been passed. In fact, they may even get sick of how much I will talk to them about the wedding.  8)