One of the things that I will simply never be able to get used to in Singapore is the wedding dinner. Really, they are just plain weird.
Wedding dinners to me are supposed to be a celebration when close friends and family come together to rejoice at a couple’s union (which, hopefully, will be long lived, but that’s another story).
It begins with the ceremony where everyone gathers in church or by the beach. The bride shows up in glowing white (although I’ve been to a few where the mother of the groom will whisper in a penetrating voice that the bride simply has no business wearing white, ‘If you know what I mean!’, but that too is another story). During the exchange of vows, the groom will get misty-eyed, the bride’s mother will cry and all the guys in the church are wondering who that hot bridesmaid is, while the women are wondering who the slut is.
Then it’s off to the wedding dinner, where the champagne flows freely, hilarious speeches and toasts are made, and everybody dances the night away and, as happened at one wedding I attended, the groom was found making out with that hot bridesmaid behind the stage.
Meanwhile, this is what happens when two Singaporeans get married. There is a signature session at the ROM which next to nobody attends. Then the bride goes home to her parents’ home and the groom to his (there is a quick meeting later at the HDB lawyers) and everyone forgets about the whole thing until a year later, an invitation arrives in the mail announcing a dinner at the Shangri-la ballroom.
Now about this dinner…I love the fact that by the time you’re into the main course, people are still arriving, oblivious to the fact that they are over an hour late. And completely unapologetic about it all.
“Ah, I overslept, lah!” one guest announced at a recent wedding when he and his date showed up during the second yum-sing. He immediately began handing out his business cards.
“It’s 9.30 – uh, Eriche!” my flatmate, Saffy blurted out, reading the card carefully. “Are you working the nightshift or something?
The man looked at her blankly. “No. I was having a nap.”
Saffy stared at the man. “Till 9.30 p.m.?”
The girl laughed. “No, lah! We had to go to my parents’ house first for dinner!”
“But I don’t get it!” Saffy said later, with considerable agitation, as she forced me to accompany her to the bathroom. “This is a wedding dinner! Why would you have dinner somewhere else when you’re already invited to a dinner? Why? Why?” she muttered as she disappeared into the ladies.
When she eventually emerged twenty minutes later, she was still venting, “And what sort of a name is Eriche anyway? Is that like a pretentious version of Eric?”
By the time we got back to our table, the speeches had begun. Not that you would have known since no one was paying the best man the least bit of attention. The table next to us was being regaled to a dirty joke, while people got up and walked around chatting on their phone. Years later, people would be surprised to learn that the best man had delivered a speech at all. “Got, meh?” I imagine them asking.
After a while, our other flatmate, Amanda simply gave up shushing people and whipped out her handphone to start messaging her current boyfriend.
“If you can’t beat them, join them!” she said with a shrug to Saffy’s exasperated glare.
“How come there’s never any dancing at these weddings?” Saffy complained. “I want to dance!”
“This is so boring!” I moaned, picking at my roast duck. “Can we go?”
“They’re still speaking!” Saffy exclaimed, her ample chest heaving with agitation.
“Saf, people are already leaving!”
“But dinner is not even over yet! Where’s everyone going?”
“Probably to get supper,” Amanda said crisply, deliberately turning away from the dirty old man seated next to her who’d been giving her looks all evening.
As if on cue, Eriche and his girlfriend got up to leave, their party favours safely tucked away in the girl’s handbag. “Udderwise, stuck in traffic, lah!” he said cheerfully.
Later in the cab, Saffy swore that she would never get used to Singaporean weddings. “No games. No music. No cute, single, straight men. No dancing. No fun,” she recited, ticking items off on her fingers. “I might as well have stayed at home in bed.”
“I can’t believe that we just collectively spent $300 on that wedding dinner,” Amanda said. “We could have had such a great time at Morton’s!”
There was a brief silence in the cab. Then Saffy piped up quietly, “You gave a $100 ang pow? I gave $70. And I thought that was too much!”