After almost a year of dating, we decided to join in matrimony. It didn't matter to us that we were from two distinctly different cultures, and despite many who predicted an imminent failure. Besides, we were good friends and we had promised each other that "we would make it work" no matter what! Little did we know there would be so many hurdles. The first hurdle began even before the honeymoon.
Preparations were well underway for the wedding reception. We were to be married at 5:00 pm and then gather with friends and family at a nearby reception hall. My husband had asked a Polynesian music group to play and sing so we could have a wedding dance.
I was in charge of the flowers, cake and decorations, and my fiance was in charge of the food. Things were going pretty well until I locked myself out of the hall while decorating it. That was only the beginning of a very stressful chain of events.
After the finishing touches on the decorations, and picking up the cake, I proceeded to get ready for our ceremony. I felt like a princess in my long veil made by my own grandmother. I had drawn a sketch of what I wanted for my dress. It was fitted and was two piece in a style befitting a bride of a handsome Polynesian groom.
Off to the temple, and our ceremony was beautiful! Tears all around and happiness as we two were joined in holy matrimony for eternity. What could possibly go wrong? Life was perfect, at least for the moment.
I discovered that there are many distinctions between a typical American wedding and a Tongan wedding. Most palangis (Caucasian) that I knew sent out invitations to invite guests to the reception. They also expected an RSVP so they knew how many to expect. On the other hand, I found that Tongans invite everyone through the grapevine (word of mouth). I was surprised to see that there were so many at the reception that we did not invite. Not only couples, but whole families showed up for the food and wedding dance.
I was glad that my fiance had offered to prepare the food. It came in droves - whole suckling pigs, large plates of lu pulu (corned beef and taro leaves), root crops cooked in underground ovens, huge bowls of macaroni and potato salads, seafood and baskets full of fruits. It was overwhelming to see the amount of food that was brought into the reception hall. I started to panic when I saw grease from the suckling pigs dripping all over the floor. I had paid a deposit for the hall, and knew that it had to be cleaned well before midnight. All of the receptions I had been to had little desserts, mints and beverages for to the guests (easy peezy), but this was a feast! Obviously many people were involved in the preparation, and now they were ready to dig in!
The wedding cake in a Polynesian wedding is made to share (not to save) to honor special people in the couple’s life. It is not uncommon to have a ten or more layer cake, with bridges, pedestals, and fountains. Our tiny cake did have a fountain, but it was only three layers - not enough to give whole layers to people important in our relationship. I even had planned on keeping the top layer for us to freeze until our 1st anniversary. Stupid me!
Being a Mormon, we do not drink, but I'm sure that night it would have helped me get over my culture shock with all that was going on. My own family members had arrived, greeted us, saw all that was transpiring, and most left with their eyes as wide as saucers in disbelief!
I was trying hard to be the perfect little wife to my new husband. He was so proud and happy with all the people that had supported him in preparing the food. I had honestly done most of my part of the wedding all by myself, since I didn't want to bother anyone else with it. The reception hall rocked with the sound of Polynesian reggae and teens, babies and elderly all wanted to dance. One thing for sure, they really know how to let go and have fun.
Once the crowd finally subsided, guests left with leftovers and we said our last farewells, the hall was left in a rearranged fashion (to put it mildly). I knew we had to change into our jeans and get busy cleaning up the place before the clock struck midnight (Brings a new light on the idea of Cinderella, doesn't it)? We had reserved a honeymoon suite in a hotel not too far away, but did not get there until 2:00 am after mopping up all the spilled grease and various other culinary delights.
When we checked into the hotel, we still had our working clothes on. We told the attendant at the desk that we were there for the honeymoon suite. He said "Are you sure?" We explained what we had been doing, and then he apologized and made an empathetic expression. At last, finally in our elegant room fit for royalty, I headed straight for a soak in the bathtub. My husband turned on the tv and laid on the bed waiting. When I came out, he was sound asleep, and realizing all the work he had done, didn't have the heart to wake him up, so I went to sleep too, totally exhausted.
The next morning, my husband suggested that we needed to go and feed his family that had come a long distance to attend our wedding. It is the least we could do before they left to go back home. This one blind sided me! But, still trying to be the dutiful little wife, I bit my tongue and we went back to our little apartment and fixed food (dinner rather than breakfast at 10:00 in the morning) for my husband's brother and his family. I found out years later that my husband's culture do not even consider being alone together until after the first Sunday following the wedding. We had gotten married on a Friday. It is all about family and showing gratitude (very admirable custom), but it was far from what I had believed would happen.
Sorry if this hub was not what you had expected - now you know how I felt. Surprisingly, we have been married forty years now. We seriously meant it when we promised each other "we would make it work!", although I admit it hasn't been easy!