- OMG WE DID IT U GUYZ. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
I had a dream. Then I googled "custom talking pull string toy" and my dream deflated with a thin, pitiful squeal ending with a blubbering balloon fart. The dream isn't completely dead—somewhere in China there's a factory with my dream inside of it, as long as I order a minimum of 3,000 pieces of that dream. But I was thinking something easier, a single digit commitment more along the lines of those creepy custom 3D-printed figurines mixed with Build-A-Bear Workshop, plus a plastic ring tied to a string. (I know I'm not the only person who wants custom talking pull-string toy. This random person of Internet's past knows what I'm talking about.)
So there will never be a pull-string toy based on me on my wedding day. And thus I have preemptively made landfills less filled. But if there were, this is the list of phrases the toy would have stored in its plastic voice box:
"WHERE'S THE COTTON CANDY MACHINE?"
"WHO'S GONNA PUT THE COTTON CANDY MACHINE TOGETHER?"
"WHAT? PEOPLE ARE HERE ALREADY?"
"CRAP, WHERE'S THE WATER?"
"THERE'S BEER NOW!"
"WANNA LEFTOVER PORK? TAKE A PORK BAG!"
"PORK BAG? PORK BAG? PORK BAG?"
"OH GOD I FORGOT ABOUT THE GLOW STICKS!"
"WANNA ROAST MARSHMALLOWS? TAKE A STICK!"
"HEY EVERYONE, PARTY'S OVER, WE HAVE TO CLEAN UP NOW!"
I yelled a lot at my wedding. Not in the bridezilla "DO MY BIDDING" sense, but in the "I'm trying to convey information to a bunch of people at once and I don't know how else to do it because I don't have a bullhorn" sense. Considering loads of people were eating cotton candy, all the pork and marshmallows were consumed, there were no leftover glow sticks, and no one keeled over from dehydration, the yelling worked. Also, I think all that collective activity means people had fun.
Kåre and I have been engaged since 2013. He proposed to me on the summit of Ramnanuten, the mountain next to his family's summer house in Tysnes, Norway. Over the course of the one-hour hike to the top, he picked a small bouquet of tiny wildflowers. I noticed the growing bouquet of flowers in his hand during the hike, but all I thought about it was something like, "Huh, Kåre must really like wildflowers if he's bothering to hold on to those lil' things. I wonder what they're for. But I don't wonder enough to ask. Whatever." My lack of perception is a gift that allows me to enjoy life's surprises like a toddler and not like a full grown adult who has the ability to analyze her surroundings and infer what the future may hold based on such observations. This is my way of living life on the edge.
At the top of Ramnanuten activities include sitting on a makeshift log bench, staring out into the fjord, and doing both at the same time. There's also a mailbox containing a guestbook you can sign, making you feel like you accomplished something, until you noticed the five names of people who climbed the mountain that morning while you were still lying in bed. We were hanging out alone on the summit for about an hour before I made this astute observation:
"Your flowers look like they're dying."
Shortly after, Kåre whipped around with his wilting bouquet clasped between both hands. "Will you marry me?" My first response was of silent confusion. Huh? Is this a joke? Waaait, people don't make joke proposals. Oh this is real! ....OHHH. WHUUUUUH? The thought process probably only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like many awkward minutes. This is surely how Kåre wanted the whole thing to go down.
At some point after the teary transition from "Huh?" to "OH!" I said yes. It took longer than Kåre would have hoped for. It shouldn't have taken me so long to blubber out an answer. Even though we never had a serious discussion about marriage, unless "mentioning the possibility less than a handful of times" counts as a serious discussion, I had decided quite a while ago that I would probably marry Kåre. I couldn't imagine anyone being a better, more supportive husband and/or father. Also, I'm not sure who else could stand to live with me and love me until death, aside from my mom.
- Group shot! Photograph by Amber Marlow.
On August 22, 2015, we got married at The Onderdonk House in Queens with about 60 of our closest friends and family in attendance. Kåre's parents and some of his closest friends* came from Bergen, and his sister's family came from England. Most of my friends and family lived within subway/driving distance, but some friends flew in from other states, and my dad came from Taipei. The weather was perfect. Nothing was missing. Nobody got lost. Everything and everyone looked better than I could have imagined. The only hiccup was when two wedding crashers strolled in near the end of the night to grab some remnants of dinner. I wouldn't have had a problem sharing extra food with wedding crashers, but they didn't want to admit they were wedding crashers. They preferred to act like they were confused locals who didn't know they were at a wedding. YOU DO NOT EARN FREE PORK WITH LIES. I mean, you can eat it, but you didn't earn it.
- From left to right: Lee Anne, Charlotte, Diana, me, Kåre, Tristan, Petter, and Joar. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Kåre's best men were his longtime friend Petter and his cousin Joar. My bridesmaids/bridespeople/bridesdudes were all friends from different times and places: Diana (high school), Lee Anne (college), Tristan (later college), and Charlotte (last year! Taipei!). Originally I thought I should only have two bridesmaids to match up with the best men, but then Kåre told me I could do whatever I want because it's my wedding. Oh yeah. So keep that in mind, future brides and grooms. Do what you want. You probably knew that already.
- Normal Eric face. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Our friend Eric officiated our wedding. He's damn good at it. Unfortunately, you can't hire him unless you're already good friends with him, in which case you can hire him for $0. I wish I could go back in time and tell my depressed high school self, "In 2015, you will get married to this awesome Norwegian dude named Kåre...and EMOTION ERIC WILL OFFICIATE YOUR WEDDING." That would've made me less depressed. As well as very confused.
- Kristian and the rings. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Kåre's nephew Kristian was our ring bearer. We thought it would be cute if we got Petter and Lina's three-year-old son William to bring us the rings, but the problem with three-year-olds is that they do what they want, which might be "sleep" instead of "be part of a wedding ceremony." Kristian was a great last-minute ring bearer. We're sure William would've been too if he had been awake. :)
- Ring pops and bubbles!
- Finally, I had a use for all that washi tape I've been collecting over the last five years.
- Bask in the roast pig's golden aura. Photographs by Amber Marlow.
My biggest concern about the wedding was that people would get bored. My solution was to provide bubble solution, two Instax cameras so people could take polaroids for themselves and for sticking in our memory book, a cotton candy machine, a dance floor, and glow sticks. Arrogant Swine catered our dinner with whole hog barbecue, along with five vegetarian sides dishes (baked beans, cold slaw, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and a corn-mushroom-onion thing) so my vegetarian friends wouldn't starve. For dessert, we got brownies, banana cream pudding, and two cakes (carrot cake and milk & cookies cake) from Robicelli's. For drinks, we had soda, beer, and water.
Some people asked me if I was nervous during the wedding. I don't know about other married people, but from my experience the bride and groom are too busy to be nervous. We spent over five hours trying to talk to everyone (not too hard when you have about 60 people at your wedding, but you don't get to talk to anyone as much as you would like), eat food, and make sure everything was going as smoothly as possible. From the time most guests arrived around 5 p.m. to when I got home around 11:30 p.m., I didn't have to pee. Or maybe I had to and I willed the feeling away due to lack of time. (Sorry, kidneys.)
- Kåre and his parents, Aslaug and Arne.
- Me and my parents, Wendy and Charles. Photographs by Amber Marlow.
I remember just one pang of nervousness, when the bridal party was lining up in the house before walking down the makeshift "aisle" towards the guests. It was the quietest moment of the wedding, just the sound of the creaky wooden floor mixed with the faint strumming of Eric playing the ukulele outside. He played, per my request, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" as the processional music. While I stood in the hall, flanked by my mom and dad, waiting for our turn to walk out, I felt a lump in my throat. I don't think I felt nervous. It was an "OH GOD THIS IMPORTANT THING IS HAPPENING NOW FFFUUGUGH" kind of lump. ...Or maybe I was nervous. There was no key telling me what the lump translated to.
- Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Eric did the best job of conducting our ceremony. Yup, I've determined that none of the other billions of people on earth could've done a better job. The ceremony was just funny and sentimental enough, as opposed to not funny and too gooey. Kåre and I prefer to avoid sappiness. I think this was conveyed in our vows. We prepared a back-and-forth series of vows that we intended to show that we are silly people who are perfect for each other and thus the marriage thing is totally a good idea. Alas, after the wedding Eric told us that some (or maybe more than some) of our guests couldn't hear our vows. So maybe no one got the memo that we're good for each other. Crap. I'll post our vows here for your mild enjoyment:
K: I promise to always offer you my coffee.
R: I promise to always reject your coffee, because you drink black coffee and it tastes terrible. I also promise to add lots of sugar and some sort of milk or cream, thus turning your beloved coffee into something you despise.
K: I promise to take you on short mountain hikes. It's the Norwegian way.
R: I promise to begrudgingly accept your invitations to go hiking. Because I'm a lazy American.
K: I promise to always offer you my hand to hold.
R: I promise to hold your hand...until it gets sweaty.
K: I promise to tell bad jokes. Eventually there might be one you really like.
R: I promise to listen, and probably make fun of you.
K: I promise to try to make you like salty black licorice.
R: I promise I will never like salty black licorice.
K: I promise to try to wake you up in the morning by any means necessary.
R: I promise to be really difficult to wake up.
K: I promise to love you even after you're old and wrinkled.
R: I already love you even though you're old and wrinkled. I promise to love you even after you're DEAD.
And then it was over.
Nuh, we had SECRET VOWS. Kåre's was super sweet, like you would expect. It's the kind of thing that could've made me cry if I weren't so focused on getting my last vow right. We had written our vows down on little cards so we wouldn't totally blank out at the apex of our public declarations of love, but still. Brainfarts can happen at any moment.
Luckily, my brain did not fart, and I retained the ability to read my increasingly non-legible handwriting. Here is THE FINAL VOW:
I promise that if someone invents time travel, I will try to take advantage of it, no matter how risky or how much future stuff I'd screw up, to go back in time to 2006 when I first met you and tell myself that you're not out of my league even though you are way hotter than me. Basically, I would try to nudge us into a relationship sooner so we wouldn't have to wait until 2010 to fall in love with each other.
- Ooo, we're kissing.
- Oo, we're high-fiving.
- Ooo, we're selfie-ing. Photographs by Amber Marlow.
Then rings were exchanged, hands were held, husband and wife was pronounced, lips kissed, selfies were taken, "Never Gonna Give You Up" was played during the recessional. Traditional wedding stuff.
- Chatting and beering with Kåre, Petter, and Joar.
- Kristian vs. Giant Jenga.
- Kåre's dad, Arne, making a speech.
- Dance-master Erik, moving in a way that I cannot.
- Tam, Erik, and baby-sized cotton candy.
- Throwing the bouquet!
- BOUQUET-GRABBING FRENZY. One of the Arrogant Swine peeps caught it. I hope he wants to get married soon. Otherwise...oooopssss.
- Tristan and me staring at his glorious campfire. Photographs by Amber Marlow.
Over the next few hours my original schedule kind of went to shit, but everything we wanted to happen happened. Heartfelt speeches from the wedding party, lots of pork, Giant Jenga-ing, synchronized dancing enhanced by luminescent accessories, lots of dessert and cotton candy, bouquet toss, and a campfire enhanced by marshmallows.
- Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Unfortunately Kåre and I only got to eat one bite of cake each during the ceremonial cake stabbing. After we successfully released a wedge of cake and fed each other a bite for the photo op, we immediately ran off to do something else that was probably more important than eating cake, but maybe not, because what's more important than eating cake?
...Yeah, months later Kåre and I still think about the cake we didn't get to eat. A regret we shall carry to the grave. If you're in New York, do yourself a favor and get to Robicelli's before they close on Christmas Eve and move to Baltimore! Or if you're in Baltimore...wait until they get to Baltimore.
I didn't hire a wedding planner. If you were at the wedding, that's probably obvious. But I did have plenty of help from my friends, family, and vendors. So I actually had a small army of part-time wedding planners. I can't thank them enough, but I'll give it a go.
Thank you, Tyson Ho (of Arrogant Swine), for not just providing the food and drinks but also recommending the Onderdonk House. I don't think I could've found a more suitable venue on my own. Tyson readily made himself available to me and answered all my dumb wedding questions even though he's insanely busy running a restaurant and catering other events. Tyson is a super chill and helpful guy with lots of experience. If you need a pig roast, he's your man. Don't forget, he also has a set of giant Jenga for your giant Jenga needs.
Thank you, Amber Marlow, for not just taking beautiful wedding photos and engagement photos, but for helping us, like, plan the entire wedding day. If I had written a schedule without Amber, it would've been a mess. With her experience, she was able to give us loads of helpful advice I would've never thought about until it was too late. If you want natural wedding photos from a super reliable and efficient photographer (she gave us a framed portrait from our wedding as a gift...before the wedding was over...like magic) and you need a shitload of help figuring out how to wedding, get Amber!
- Sunflowers for the table, flower crown for my head. Photographs by Amber Marlow.
Thank you, Aunt Elain, for handling all the flower arrangements. Once upon a time I didn't think I needed flowers for the wedding. "The wedding's outside. Aren't there already loads of plants out there? Is Mother Nature not enough?" But then I met Elain for the first time this summer at a family gathering (she's my mom's cousin) and she immediately wanted to help out with my wedding even though we had just met. The flowers on the tables, the flowers above the archway, the bouquets for the wedding party, my flower crown—they upped the elegance of the wedding by a bajillion percent.
- Me and Hailing. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Thank you, Aunt Hailing, for helping me do my makeup as well as everyone else in the wedding party who needed help. Before this summer, the last time I saw Hailing was over 15 years ago. Or maybe 20. Long enough ago that I don't remember. :[ She was eager to help out when she found out I was getting married.
- Hug the Diana! Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Thank you to my bridesmaids—Diana, Lee Anne, Charlotte, and Tristan—for giving me your time and helping me look my best and giving the sweetest weep-inducing speeches and balhlhlffbffloogle brain slurpee sugar mush. [Insert LINE stickers with hearts and hugs and stuff, you know which ones.]
- Eric is having an emotion. Photography by Amber Marlow.
Thank you, Eric, for all the time you spent with Kåre and me after work planning for the wedding when you should've been spending your free time hanging out with your dog like God intended. And thanks for playing the ukulele. And having a ukulele. And marrying us.
- MOOOM, HELP ME TIE MY BELT. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Thank you, Mom, for chauffeuring Kåre and me around Brooklyn and New Jersey, helping a ton with wedding prep and ultimate outfit, and being supportive every step of the way. Thank you, Dad, for being supportive as well...and helping pay for most of the wedding. ;) I've heard nightmare stories about over-controlling parents during weddings; neither Kåre nor I have that problem. Not just during the wedding, but life in general. We're very lucky to have the parents we have.
Thank you, Tam and Al, for being my firewood fairies! I found out the day before my wedding that it's not easy to buy firewood at the end of August. Yeah...I should've planned that better. But Tam and Al found some in New Jersey and brought it over. Phew.
Lastly (for the purposes of this post, but I could go on more and more and more, probably), thank you, Ying-Le and Charlotte, for going dress shopping with me in Taipei. I wouldn't have found my dress without them. And I can't imagine having worn any other dress.
Here's a list of vendors and services I used for my wedding. If anyone has further questions about what I used at my wedding or how I planned it, do ask!
Wedding Vendors and Stuff
- The Onderdonk House! Best name! Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Venue: The Onderdonk House
Caterer: Tyson Ho, The Arrogant Swine
Florist: Elain Yang
Makeup artist: Hailing Chen
Wedding dress designer: I bought my dress from a store in Taipei that may or may not also be the designer, but I don't know because the dress's tags were all removed. Here's the store's info:
3rd Floor Studio 三樓工作室, northeast corner of Jinhua Street and Yongkang Street (street view)
They specialize in Japanese and Taiwanese designs, comfy one-size-fits-most-East-Asian-women type of stuff that I hadn't seen in the US. So if you're my size, which is short (about 5' 1") with an average girth, you should fit into most of their clothes. The scarf I wore as a belt didn't come with the dress; I bought it at a Saks Off 5th in New Jersey.
Suit designer: Tiger of Sweden
Shoe designer: Camper (Robyn) bought on Zappos, Ted Baker (Kåre)
- My wedding ring next to my mom's pearl necklace. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Wedding rings designer: Michael and Hiroyo Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Jewelry, who made our rings in less than a week because they're awesome. Kåre and I aren't into jewelry, but we love our rings. Lee Anne is more into jewelry and she recommended this place to us. You can trust her.
Band/DJ: Spotify + my phone hooked up to a speaker, plus Diana!
- Diana took a most perfect photo of Kåre and me napping on a couch during our vacation in Turkey. Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Programs: We didn't send out paper invites, just emails. Yup, you can tell how well I planned this thing. But to make up for the lack of invites, Kåre and I designed postcards to be used as programs and got them printed the same day at Fairway Printing.
Dining ware: Susty Party for plates, Party City and Fairway for cups, utensils, and napkins
Outdoor lights: Geneve G40 Globe String Lights from Amazon
- Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Wedding favors: Pustefix bubbles from Toydoo (Pustefix bubbles cost more than others, but they're WAY BETTER and totes worth it, as this bubble-loving corner of the Internet can attest), Vistaprint for the stickers we put on the Pustefix bottles, Ring Pops and LumiStick glow sticks from Amazon
- Photograph by Amber Marlow.
Tiny flags: The gift shop at the United Nations building. It's a long wait to get in. Plan accordingly. Or plan more ahead of time so you're not scrambling to buy flags the day before your wedding.
Blank cards and envelopes: Paper Presentation, one of my favorite stores in NYC!
The most Asian thing that happened at my wedding...
...Was when my Uncle Victor took home the leftover pig's head and blanket of roasted skin. Earlier in the night he had actually asked if he could have the head (...there were no other takers), but when the skin remained unclaimed and destined for the trash, he came to its rescue, because no pig parts shall be left behind. One of the Arrogant Swine peeps folded up the skin as neatly as he could manage and stuffed it into a leftover Party City bag. I don't know what he eventually did with the leftovers.
I just wanted to write that down for posterity's sake. It was a good family moment.
And I Moved to Norway!
There wasn't a big debate on who would move where. "Hey Kåre, would you liked to move to a country where you'll have a lower quality of life? Also, I have no job and no car and no house. Cool?" Why, yes, I do bring the whole package of a dismal future.
So I moved to Bergen a month ago. Like a normal adult, Kåre has a job and a home of his own. And an espresso machine. And a dishwasher. And a machine that washes and dries clothes in the same drum. I didn't even know those kinds of machines existed. I've been going to laundromats for ages. I know nothing about clothing cleaning technology. My world is so small. Hell, this week for the first time I saw an air pump at a gas station that automatically gives you the tire pressure on a big-ass electronic display and stops when the tire is at the correct pressure. And it was free. If you're Norwegian and wondering what the heck we're using in bumfuck New Jersey, the answer is we use big metal boxy things that you feed quarters into in exchange for a few stressful minutes of alternating between using an air hose and a pressure gauge. (On that note, I've just found out there's a website called freeairpump.com.)
I haven't been doing much here besides sitting on my butt, editing photos, updating Flickr, and rewatching Gilmore Girls. I'm not complaining. I should be more productive, but for now I'm chilling out and enjoying living with Kåre. We finally live together! It's fun! I recommend it! But you can't live with him because I do! Haha! I'm also slowly learning Norwegian at Duolingo. I haven't used any Norwegian in the real world yet because just thinking about it gives me the nervous sweats, but I will. Someday. I'm waiting for a real world situation that requires me to say, "Gutten har en kylling" ("The boy has a chicken").
Kåre and I also go outside sometimes. Mostly to the supermarket. Also, IKEA.
Here are some of the top questions people asked me when I told them I was moving to Norway. If you have more, ask away in the comemnts!
Where are you moving to? Oslo?
Is that near Oslo? How far apart are they?
Bergen is on the west side by the ocean, Oslo is on the east side next to Sweden. It takes about seven hours to drive between them.
Oh, that's farther than I thought. Isn't Oslo the biggest city in Norway?
Yup, Bergen is the second-largest city. It's large enough, but not huge.
What's the population of Bergen?
About 270,000, or 400,000 in the metro area. Also, keep in mind the entire population of Norway is only about 5 million.
Are you ready for the cold? Does it snow a lot there?
It's not insanely cold in Bergen. Northern Norway is a different story. NYC gets colder than Bergen...as well as much hotter. Bergen has cooler weather than NYC, but it's not as extreme. It mostly rains a buttload. So I've got a future of lots of cold rain ahead of me!
What's the food like in Bergen?
Supermarkets are pretty good, and there are a bajillion of them. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many supermarkets in a city center before. Ask me for a dinner rec in Bergen and I'd be like, "Uhhhhhffuuuhhuhh" but asked me for a supermarket and I could direct you to eight different choices. There are a good number of restaurants, but we don't plan on eating out that often. Some of the expensive places are really good, but more affordable restaurants are generally mediocre. Aside from McDonald's and Burger King, "cheap" fast food mostly consists mostly of hot dogs, pizza, and kebabs. Considering how expensive it is to eat out, it's not really worth it. We'll be doing a lot of cooking. Norwegian chocolate is good. Norwegian salty licorice is good if you're into that, otherwise it's the worst candy ever. Cinnamon buns are a staple of the Norwegian pastry family, but I don't know who makes the best in Bergen. I'll have to figure that out.
Are you going to apply for Norwegian citizenship?
NO! USA FOREVER! THE BLOOD OF FREEDOM SHALL PUMP THROUGH MY VEINS UNTIL I DIE! [Bald eagle comes out of nowhere and perches on my shoulder]
I mean, I'm just applying for residency. I don't plan on applying for citizenship, even if Norway's new passports are excessively cool. But we'll see what happens in the future.
Do you have to learn Norwegian?
Pretty much everyone here speaks English, but yeah, I have to learn Norwegian. I've started learning on my own, but after I get my residency permit I'll have to take Norwegian classes for immigrants.
What are you going to do for a job?
I don't know. Um. I'll figure that out later. I don't plan on continuing doing food writing, but something related to editing or writing would be nice. Or I can start that greeting card and postcard empire I've been thinking about. Passively. In my dreams. I can't work here until I get my residency permit anyway. I could do US work from abroad, but I haven't been looking for any. I'm an unemployed bum. I hope that doesn't bother Kåre.