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We got married in the winter of 2017. There were 28 people including ourselves. Our criteria for an invitation was simple: Would we go on holidays with them? (Jonathan Tay)Source: Jonathan Tay
I'm a florist, but I didn't have flowers at my wedding. I had my bridal bouquet and Andrew had his buttonhole.
By
Madalene Chu

12 Jul 2021 - 5:08 PM  UPDATED 17 Dec 2021 - 1:49 PM

I come from a large Vietnamese Catholic family. Both my parents are one of seven. My partner is Vietnamese Catholic, too. His parents are one of seven and ten respectively. On my side alone there are more than 80 aunties, uncles and first cousins and their partners and children. So from the beginning, the odds were stacked against us in our dream of having a small wedding. That's a lot of people to disappoint.

Andrew and I were together for nine years before we got married. At almost every family gathering during those years, my family would ask me, “So when are you getting married?” I would always respond with, “Oh we already got married. You weren't invited!” and we would laugh and laugh. Little did they know I was preparing them for what was to come. 

We got married in the winter of 2017. There were 28 people including ourselves. Our criteria for an invitation was simple: Would we go on holidays with them?

We got married in the winter of 2017. There were 28 people including ourselves. Our criteria for an invitation was simple: Would we go on holidays with them?

Because we had a small wedding we could afford to have the best of the best. We had it at our favourite restaurant, a small neighbourhood haunt called Kindred in Darlington. We had an eight-course meal, where we hand-picked every dish. Guests could order any drinks they wanted off the drinks menu. And we got the entire restaurant to ourselves. 

I'm a florist, but I didn't have flowers at my wedding. I had my bridal bouquet and Andrew had his buttonhole. We decorated the restaurant with a hanging plant installation. The orchids in my bouquet were cut directly from the plants and all the plants are still in my garden. Every year they flower again for our anniversary.

We broke tradition when it came to what we wore as well. Andrew wore a beautiful vibrant green Paul Smith suit. I wore a black animal print dress from an Italian brand I've been admiring for years called Vivetta. I love that dress. I still wear it all the time - to nice restaurants, baptisms, other weddings, to visit art galleries and even when I go out to market to buy flowers. It’s a treat to be able to wear my wedding dress over and over again. And because it was winter, I wore it with my late mother's fake fur coat and it felt special to have a piece of her with me on the day.

Our wedding may have been small, but it was all that we wanted. We had the choice of having a large wedding or buying a house - so we chose the house. The average wedding can cost almost the same as a home deposit. For us, it was an easy choice. When our family and friends saw that we bought our first home later that year, they quickly understood (and forgave) their missing invite.  

The average wedding can cost almost the same as a home deposit. For us, it was an easy choice. When our family and friends saw that we bought our first home later that year, they quickly understood (and forgave) their missing invite.  

And months after our wedding, we threw a huge party to celebrate with our extended circle - which felt like a nice compromise. 

With the onset of COVID, the idea of a small wedding has become a lot more common. During the height of restrictions, weddings were limited to five people only. Most couples were forced with an impossible choice: either to postpone their wedding until restrictions eased or to have a small iso-elopement and live stream the event to the family and friends who couldn't attend.

This year, as our anniversary approaches, I can’t help but to think of all the couples who weren’t as lucky as us. Those for whom a small wedding wasn't a happy option - particularly if they come from a large family, or if they had to wait for borders to open up again for parents or siblings to attend.

You see, despite the fact that our small wedding was everything we could’ve hoped for, I know all too well the pain of not having a parent you love at your own wedding. 

You see, despite the fact that our small wedding was everything we could’ve hoped for, I know all too well the pain of not having a parent you love at your own wedding.  

In 2011, six years before we actually married, my mum was lying in a hospital palliative care unit. In the week before she passed, in a pink hospital chair that was just big enough to fit the two of us, I turned to Andrew and asked him to marry me. The social worker helped us get a priest in and we exchanged vows at the foot of my mum's bed, just us, a priest and a nurse named Shirley. Even though the ceremony wasn't legal, we were committed to each other. Because when you plan on spending the rest of your lives together, why does it matter when and how you get married?

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