Losing No Religion (#27)

IMG_3275The reaction of my Chinese-American fiancé’s parents to our wedding plans was muted. Literally. Because Andy turned off his phone.

Andy’s parents refused to consider having the wedding anywhere but the church by their Oahu home. Andy and I (meaning “I”) got around this by planning my dream New Hampshire wedding in a hurry (#26). We sent members of our families a “Save the Date” email telling them our wedding would be in NH next fall. Those family members included his parents.

Then we spent the rest of our engagement weekend in our ritzy hotel, pretending there wouldn’t be hell to pay. We went to the Huntington Gardens for tea, we went out dancing in Pasadena, and we lounged by the pool.

Monday morning, I did the obligatory “Show & Squeal” tour at work with my ring.

Boss B – who was so ancient he still dictated his correspondence and had only the vaguest notion of email – immediately declared, “If you’re pregnant, I’m gonna start looking for a new assistant.”

The head of HR moaned about lawsuits. Pretty much a daily ritual with my archaic boss.

I rolled my eyes at Boss B. “Why bother? You’re on your last legs. I could be four months pregnant and you wouldn’t live to see the kid.” Boss B was addicted to red wine and red meat. He had gout. It’s like I worked for Henry VIII.

Boss B tottered away, half-laughing, half-wheezing. No way would he fire me. I had important skills. Like knowing how to turn on a computer.

I was more concerned about Andy’s parents than I was about job security. What if his parents refused to come to the wedding?

Andy let his voicemail take a beating for a few days, secure in the knowledge that his parents lived 3,000 miles away. Finally Andy’s sister called and convinced him to talk to his mother. After their conversation, Andy sent me a terse text: Talked to Ma. I’ll drive up Friday and fill you in.

My stomach dropped. If Andy was volunteering to drive from the beach to the valley on Friday night in LA traffic, the news could not be good. I wondered if he’d been disowned.

I had a beer ready when Andy arrived. He drank it and asked for another.  I handed him the second with raised eyebrows. “Two straight out of the gate?”

“The first was just for traffic.”   He took a gulp of beer #2. “This one is for courage. And I’ll need a third as anesthetic for when you kill me.”

“You DID NOT promise them we’d get married in Hawaii after all.”

Andy shook his head. “Worse. I promised them a church wedding.”

I was an atheist, from a family of atheists. I loomed over Andy and hissed. “I will crucify you!” And promptly giggled.

“Oh, honey. Really?”

“Sorry, couldn’t resist.” I flopped on the couch next to him. “So that’s the deal? They’ll get on board with the New Hampshire wedding plans, but it has to be in a church with a minister?”

“Yeah. It’s sticking point with my dad. I knew you’d hate it.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Are you messing with me? I thought you hated religious people.”

“I don’t hate religious people. I have no patience for religious fanatics. Here’s what you don’t get about us atheists. We don’t care. It’s like Santa Claus. If you want to believe, and you aren’t hurting anyone, WE DON’T CARE. It’s when fundamentalists start demanding that everyone must believe as they do, when they insist that the Bible takes precedence over the Constitution, THEN we care. Try and teach magic instead of evolution in school, and we care a lot.”

“Your family isn’t going to freak out?”

“Well, Pretty Space Cadet Sister is, in fact, quite religious. She’s Wiccan. She could probably find us a priestess to perform the—”


“Just think of how hilarious—”


“Fine. Ex-Stepmom #1 is Methodist. I’ll see if she can find a willing Minister.”

“You sure that’s okay?”

“It’s fine.” I grinned. “When Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister got married, she had a Justice of the Peace.  They, um, aren’t quite as practiced as religious officiants.”  Doc Sis had married right before I met Andy, and he’d never heard the story. So I told him all about it.

My Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister got married in rural Georgia, where her husband’s folks lived. She was too busy with her residency to care about the wedding. Her fiancé, however, and his mom DID care. They cared a lot. Georgia Boy his Georgia Mom (who had no daughter) went crazy with the bridal magazines. They planned an elaborate ceremony at an upscale golf course. Doctor Sister was adamant about only two things: 1) Our father was NOT walking her down the aisle, because, “Damn it, I got this far in life by myself,” and, 2) It would be a civil ceremony. Turns out there was only one Justice of the Peace for miles. When Doc Sis and her fiancé went to meet him on a country road, all they found was a junkyard. They finally called, and discovered the Justice of the Peace was also the junkyard owner. Doc Sis thought it was hilarious, but Georgia Boy was mortified. As they stepped through rusting metal to meet their marriage officiant (clad in ripped and greasy overalls), Georgia Boy whispered sternly, “We will NOT speak of this to the wedding guests.”

The ceremony was less than ten minutes, probably because the Junkyard Justice forgot to make Doc Sis promise to share her worldly goods or care for her husband in sickness and in health. And her a medical professional. Oh, the irony!

Doc Sis also had way too much to drink and spilled the whole story at her reception, to her husband’s eternal shame, but the guests’ uproarious laughter and applause.

When my Big Brother got married on a Virginia plantation, he made sure a Methodist minister officiated.

So, yeah, I was fine with having a religious wedding, if it made Andy’s parents happy. “Besides,” I explained, “I really like the phrase at the end of the ceremony, ‘What God hath joined together, let no man tear asunder.’ ‘Tear asunder’ – how great is that? You just don’t find writing like that in civil ceremonies. A minister is fine. But they can forget the church part. I’m getting married in that gazebo, overlooking the lake, with all the gorgeous fall colors all around.”

Andy’s parents agreed to the religious gazebo wedding, provided we would come to Hawaii after the wedding so Jay could throw a more traditional wedding banquet for us. I agreed.

All was again serene on the engagement front.

For a month.  Maybe less.


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Autumn Ashbough

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

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