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.
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.)
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?”