Invitation to Disaster (#38)

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The wedding invitation designer put her head in her hands.

“You can do it,” I told her encouragingly. “I’m sure you can find some way to fit them all in.”

The invitation designer raised her head. “But you’re talking about three sets of parents. Just for the bride!”

“Couldn’t the invitation read something like: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ashbough, together with Mr. and Mrs. Stanton and also Ms. Anderson, request the honor of your presence together with Mr. and Mrs. Wong at the marriage of their children Autumn Ashbough and Andy Wong…’”

The designer protested: “But that’s two ‘together withs!’ Plus, the guests aren’t going to know who all these people are and how they are related!”

Andy muttered, “I’m not sure I know how all her family members are related.”

I glared at him. “I gave you the PowerPoint chart.” I turned back to the invitation designer. “Do you want the PowerPoint chart?”

She held up a hand. “No, no, that’s okay.”

“It’s not really that complicated. There’s my dad and his current wife, Mr. and Mrs. Ashbough. Mr. Stanton is my Ex-Stepfather, and he’s coming with his third wife.”

The designer tried to digest this. “But he’s not related to you anymore.”

“Nope. But he did give me a surprise contribution for the wedding and he likes to think of himself as a dad.”

“And Ms. Anderson is your mom?”

“No, she’s my first Ex-Stepmother. My dad’s second wife. My mom is dead. The wedding is in Ex-Stepmother #1’s town, and she’s helping with everything. Closest thing to a mother of the bride I’ve got.”

“Why can’t we just use your father and your, uh…current stepmother?”

“Are you kidding? Ex-Stepmom #1 would be so hurt if Current Stepmother was included and she was not.”

The invitation designer pleaded, “Can’t we just put your dad’s name down, then?”

“Current Stepmom would be feel left out and make a scene. One of my sisters deliberately didn’t hug Current Stepmom at a graduation and the woman pitched a fit. Stormed out and refused to come to the celebration dinner. I’m trying to make all the parental units feel included and reduce potential for drama.”

Andy muttered: “This is why the open bar.”

The designer’s eyes glazed. “There’s just no way. The names will look awkward, and so will the wording, and that’s if they even fit.  No, all those names won’t fit. The invitations would have to be much bigger.”

Andy: “Does that mean more expensive?”

“Of course. It will also increase the cost of the envelopes and postage.” She sighed. “It’s not usually done, but we could do an invitation with just the groom’s parents inviting—”

“No,” I said. “I can’t put his parents on and leave mine off. My dad even gave me some money. Andy’s parents haven’t given us anything for the wedding. Except a hard time.”

The invitation designer stifled a chuckle and shot Andy a nervous look.

Andy shrugged. “It’s true. What are the other options?”

“I’d recommend just your names, then, and ‘together with their families.’”

Andy agreed enthusiastically. I was more reluctant, but finally acquiesced. We handed over a check and the list of addresses from Hong Kong to London (Andy’s father apparently had relatives in the UK that Andy had never heard of). Andy was happy to get one more item off the wedding “to-do” list, but I felt uneasy. I had a feeling the lack of parental names was going to bite me in the ass.

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 I was right. Only not the way I expected. The weekend the invitations arrived in mailboxes, I made the mistake of answering the phone at Andy’s place. (Andy’s place didn’t have caller ID. Everyone should have caller ID.)

Me: “Hello?”

Angry, heavily accented, gravelly male voice: “Why [unintelligible] Wong [unintelligible]?”

Me: “I’m sorry, who is this?”

The voice said something else I couldn’t understand. I figured it was a wrong number or Chinese telemarketer (yes, Andy gets those) and hung up.

The phone rang again. This time it was Sunny, Andy’s mom.

And she was mad. “Why you hang up on Jay?” Jay is Andy’s dad.

Aw, crap. “Sorry, Sunny, I didn’t know it was him. I asked who it was, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying.”

“He want to know why his name is not on wedding invitation!”

I did not say, “Because my family is a confusing mess and your son is cheap!” Instead, I said, “Put Jay on the line and I’ll explain.”

Jay came on the line. Before I could say a word, he launched into an angry tirade. Luckily for both of us, I only understood about a quarter of the words. I think some were in Cantonese. Probably there were phrases like “imbecile,” or “daughter of a goat,” in there. But after five minutes, I think I had figured out why he was ticked.

When Jay paused for breath, I asked, “So, without YOUR name on the invitation, you’re worried that your distant relatives in the UK won’t know who the Andy Wong getting married is?”

Such are the perils of having one of the top twenty most common surnames in the entire world. (Another reason why Andy should take my name.)

Jay said, “Yes.” Then he resumed his tirade.

Since this was my future father-in-law, I did not yell, “Why the hell am I sending invitations to England to people who don’t even know who Andy is?!”

Instead, I waited for Jay to take another breath. As quickly as I could, I apologized and explained that because I had so many parents, it was impossible to put all their names on the invitation. I told him we didn’t feel right about recognizing some parents and not others, especially when some of them had given us money to help pay for the wedding.

When I finished, Jay hung up on me.

When Andy got home, I told him the story and ended with, “So do you think they’re still coming to the wedding?”

Andy looked at me like I was nuts. “Why wouldn’t they?”

I looked at him like he was nuts. “Your dad hung up on me!”

“He’s always like that. Sometimes he calls, I answer, he says, ‘You okay?’ I say ‘Yeah,’ and he hangs up. It’s annoying.”

I wasn’t convinced. I spent the next few days chewing on my fingernails, writing and rewriting imaginary dialogues with Jay where I alternately told him off or convinced him to apologize after he saw the error of his ways.

When the mail came the next weekend, Andy had an envelope from his parents.

I ate my last remaining nail while he opened it, guessing at the contents. “They aren’t coming. No. Worse. They’re disowning you. Disinheriting you with a formal letter, right?”

Andy shook his head. He handed me a slip of paper from the envelope.

It was a check. One for more money than the checks of my parental units, combined.

“But – but – that wasn’t the point!” I protested. “We expected to pay for the wedding ourselves. I wasn’t trying to guilt your dad into giving us money by telling him my parents did! I was just trying to make him understand why we couldn’t put ANY parental names on the invite if we didn’t put them ALL on it!”

“Oh, honey. Once you said other parents gave us money, it was all over. He had to save face by making sure his check was the biggest.”

“But – but…” I waved the check, inarticulate. For once.

Andy took the check away and patted my back. “Next time you’ll know better. If we have a kid and you tell my dad how much money your family spent on gifts, make sure you double the amount, okay?”

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Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

34 thoughts on “Invitation to Disaster (#38)”

  1. I feel like the hanging up of the phone without a good-bye is pretty typical among Chinese people I know. There is usually some indication that the conversations is ending, often a series of grunts, and then one person hangs up. I don’t like it.

    I had some trouble deciding how to do my invitations too. Weddings are just ripe with opportunity to offend people. So stressful!

    1. Rosie, thanks so much for telling me about other Chinese people hanging up with grunts! I was starting to get a complex. It’s nice to know it’s not personal.

      How what wording did you settle on for your invitations?

      1. I think it went:
        husband’s mother
        with
        my father and step-mother
        and
        my mother and step-father

        One of my friends had her step-dad on her invitation (as he’d been in her life since she was young) and not her step-mom (who she hardly knew) and there was MAJOR drama.

  2. A very interesting read as always! There are many people in America with step mom/dads, I wonder what they do when they get married?? Do they pick favorites or are there some invitations where they list everyone on there? I think what you did was pretty diplomatic (and money saving, haha), definitely a good save!

    As for the phone thing, my boyfriend and I actually *just* talked about this. When we first started dating I noticed he would just hang up and not say goodbye. When we started living together, I realized that he didn’t say bye on the phone–to anyone. He just hung up. I had to tell him that if he doesn’t start saying ‘goodbye’ or state some kind of ending remark on the phone, it comes across as rude. He had no idea! Just last night he said: “Hey Mary, I’m starting to say goodbye to people on the phone now!”

    1. Thanks, Ruby, and well done on the boyfriend training. 😉

      Maybe it’s a guy thing — Andy’s Mom says good-bye, and I think Yee-Mah does also. Men care a little less about social nuances, for the most part.

  3. Ahhh, saving/gaining face, sounds like Andy is already familiar on how to game the system. It is always entertaining watching 2 grown men(stepfather and uncle) fight over who gets to pay the check, grabbing each others wallets away, shoving each other away from the counter. Even women get into it too, my own mother sneaking off mid-meal to pay for the dinner bill, even though I haven’t been a poor college student for years. My family is Taiwanese, so I have grown up with the face saving/gift giving, fun times.

  4. Hi, Jelgar! Thanks for the comment and I adore your avatar picture.

    Yes! The check-snatching is crazy in Andy’s family (mostly from Hong Kong). It’s interesting to hear that it goes on in Taiwan as well.

    Mine gets competitive about the check, too, although it never gets physical. It’s more of a game of wits to see who can insist that the server/ hostess bring them the check first. Ex-Stepmother #1 is super crafty at this game.

  5. On our invitations for our Canadian wedding, we didn’t put our parent’s names on them either. However, there was no drama.

    But, there was drama with my choice for one of the toasts. I picked my uncle’s girlfriend to do a toast to my grandparents and when my aunt found out, she told everyone that it should be one of the grandchildren and she actually didn’t go to the wedding.

    With weddings, even if you try to please everyone, you never will.

      1. No, I don’t think so. My aunt don’t really like my uncle’s girlfriend. From what I understand, my aunt didn’t like her calling my grandmother ‘ma.’ Sometimes I have no idea about the latest family dramas brewing because I live in Taiwan.

  6. I love Andy’s sense of humor. And I love the way he takes his parents’ tirades with a grain of salt.

    1. Grace! Delighted you stopped in! (Okay, now I feel like I should offer you tea.)

      You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “My wedding went off without a hitch! Everyone was perfectly behaved, the day was gorgeous, and no one got drunk and threw up in a plant.”

      Sometimes the wedding prep is more stressful than the wedding, though. I remember the dry cleaning nightmare about your dress. 🙁

  7. I wouldn’t feel bad about the check. From what I understand, and correct me if I’m wrong, but in Chinese culture doesn’t the grooms family pay for the wedding? My future MIL already apologized to me because she doesn’t have much and won’t be able to pay for our wedding (not that we’d let her). I had to explain to her that in our culture typically the brides family pays, she didn’t know that. In a rare event in Chinese culture and w/e Michael’s father skipped town, leaving many other “mystery” children behind and now lives in Vietnam with another woman. So we provide more for her than she could us.
    Oh and with that said I don’t care if they are still “married” and he comes home twice a year, his father IS NOT going on our invitations. I am not inviting him either, even though Michael argues that elder respect nonsense and says we have to. See I’ll have plenty of drama at mine too.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I saw in several other expat blogs — the groom’s family paid for the weddings!

      So, Michael’s Dad hasn’t made any offers, I take it?

      Oh, my, yes, I’d be interested in hearing what happens during your invitation skirmish…

  8. Michael and I have been together for 20 months and I have never met nor seen his father……….
    He knows I exist and when he comes back to the states I don’t visit the house. Nor does he ask about me. He only once made a negative remark about me being white, Michaels mom defended me by saying I’m different and respectful. End of his awknowledgment.

  9. I seriously chocked at the end of your post. “Make sure you double the amount” – ahahahahaa. Good one, Andy! xD

    Also, Autumn, you were really diplomatic as far as the names on the invitations are concerned. I’m pretty sure it was the best thing to do.

    Oh, and I hope you no longer feel guilty about that thing. 😀

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