Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hong Kong Wedding

Hong Kong Wedding


-Elevator at L'Hotel. Photo by Claudia.

Our recollections, our sense of history and time, exist as a series of moments, well-polished episodes we cherish and recount to others with exclamation. They are typically moments in which order seems suspended, life becomes promise or possibility or danger, and we swerve into the unpredictable.

Last week I was at the wedding of PK in Hong Kong. He and I go back to college and so he appointed me as his best man. My own responsibilities were minimal since this opulent wedding had already been meticulously planned. PK had hired a wedding planner who, along with PK, gave form to the week which preceded the wedding, creating and inventing distractions for us guests.

The week adhered closely to the classic narrative, a worthy descendant of a Greek play. Early in the week, wedding guests were taken on private tours of Hong Kong and China. Nightly rooftop cocktail parties introduced new characters into the drama - guests who had just flown in Paris or New York. We chatted and laughed and screened films. As is typical of weddings, I didnt get to spend much time with either the bride or groom (saddled as they are with obligations) but did go exploring with PK's extended family, many whom I met for the first time.

The wedding day of course was the prolonged climax. Early in the day I took part in a ritual in which us, the groomsmen, accompanied the groom to fetch the bride. In preparation for our quest the five of us filled our stomachs with a banquet of dim sum at The Verandah. Nourished, we went off to seek the bride. Our first task was to bribe the bride's maids to let us into the brides apartment. They attempted to extort us. We paid them off in cash and trinkets.

Once inside we were given a new task: The bride had hidden her shoe somewhere inside the apartment and we were to find it. The four of us threw up seat cushions and pushed over tables like four tuxedo'ed thieves. The shoe was discovered above a kitchen counter.

The last trial was for PK himself. He had to recite his love for the bride in language he could not speak - the Wu dialect.

The remainder of the day included the formal wedding at an Anglican church, a lawn cocktail party with overflowing, multi-colored drinks and, finally, the reception, with long tables adorned with flowers, a small army of chefs manning buffets and a band which played into the night. Music was played, toasts were made, and the bride and groom underwent three costume changes.

The next morning was the denouement. A family brunch. A polite exchange of photos and goodbyes.

The wedding had a theme and logo: "Meeting is Destiny" which was printed in books given to guests and, rendered in Chinese characters, flown from banners posted around the reception. The reference was to the meeting of PK and Windy via a series of unlikely events.

Several speakers, including myself, mentioned an episode which was crucial to PK and to his bride Windy. They were survivors of the Asian Tsunami. At one point, trapped in their bungalow in Thailand, as the waters rose above their necks, they were both mere inches from Death. If not for a conjunction of small miracles, they would not have survived. And so this wedding was a celebration too of order, of rituals which bind us, of a cherished victory over the indifferent forces of chance.