Like pillars to a building

I thought I’d share my main takeaways from the marriage preparation course as well:

  1. Start your marriage with a clean slate.
    You ended up marrying each other, so forget your spouse’s history with Mr X or Miss X. Also try to erase prior negative perceptions or stereotypes you may have had about husbands or wives in general.

    Now this second point is going to be a challenge for me. I’ve seen women suffer at the hands of oppressive husbands, and as a result I’ve become very defensive, swearing never to let myself be bullied in my own marriage in future. No one can deny that this is an excellent principle to hold, but the inadvertent problem with being prepared is that you’re expecting it to happen, even if just a little. And this will affect the way you act in your marriage.

    Will I allow myself to do things (e.g. cooking or cleaning) for my husband out of sheer love, if at the back of my mind I’m constantly worrying that he will eventually identify with my acts of generosity and kindness as an obligation on my part?

    This is an area in which I have to moderate myself. I have to establish boundaries, yet I cannot let my defensiveness be a hindrance to doing good for my husband because as we all know, marriage is an edifice of rewards. I need to let him prove himself first as opposed to going into the marriage with my stereotypes and punishing him with them, because not only will it be unfair to him, he may also turn out to be absolutely nothing like them.

  2. Protect your marriage like a fortress.
    How? Stay away from anything that might jeopardise or weaken it. And on top of that, fortify it by doing the things that keep each other happy.

  3. It takes work to make a marriage/family work.
    This may seem like the stupidest thing to say because everyone knows that. But why is it then that couples stop working once they get off from work? The work has to continue, even at home! It’s an irony, really. When asked who, in essence, they’re working for, they answer “Family”. But isn’t it ironic that they reach home understandably tired but in a foul mood, firing at the very people they work for to provide a comfortable living — the ones they supposedly love?

    Where’s the “work” in that? 

  4. Method is just as, if not more important than outcome.
    Naturally we want the best for our families — the best in values and morals, and a spot in Jannah. But sometimes we’re so focused on the outcome that we neglect the method. Our thoughts are only as good as our actions. So if our intentions are noble, our methods should also be noble. 

    If we impose caustic methods to fulfill a noble intention, isn’t our purpose defeated?

The Certificate of Entitlement

So thrilled that we now have in our hands an important marriage pre-requisite document: the mandatory marriage preparation course certificate!

We attended the course recently (19 & 20 Jan) and I had this post written just a few days after….but as usual the pitfalls of being a perfectionist prevents me from ever publishing a timely post. It’s a long shot, but I’ll try to get Faz to blog about it as well to provide a guy’s perspective of the course as well as document the thoughts that went through his mind during the course.

We didn’t do a comparison between the different course providers, but since we came across good reviews about one in particular, SuChi Success, we decided to just go with them.

What I think of the course

On the whole, I’m really glad the course is made mandatory for Muslim couples to attend before marriage because it is indeed useful. The general theory aspect of the course may be quite blah for those of us who already know it, but I suppose it’s better to err on the side of caution to cater to those who don’t know, and those who think they know.

Fortunately our trainers who were tasked with these potentially mundane sections, Mr Mohd Khair and his wife Mdm Suriati, did a commendable job in making them more enjoyable by injecting humour into their presentations. However I found myself listening the most intently to the religious sections covered by Ustaz Abdul Jalil, because it’s an area I’m lacking in. He was entertaining as well, which helped a great deal!

All three trainers, having an abundance of experience in their respective areas of profession (Ustaz Abdul Jalil is a divorce mediator at the Syar’iah Court), gave lots of case examples for participants to relate to.

However what I think couples enjoyed the most (myself included) and found useful were the note exchanges between them. In between topics, each of us was made to list our thoughts, expectations and aspirations pertaining to those topics. We were then made to exchange them with our partner, who would in return pen their comments.

It was a process of discovery. There were a good number of things I discovered about Faz!

For example, we were on the topic ‘The Language of Love’ and were asked to write down what we thought was our partner’s preferred mode of affection. Feeling quite confident, I penned my answer. It turned out that he values words of affirmation the most! Who would’ve known?

How many of us actually do ask our partners how they would like to be loved? Most of the time we just make assumptions about it based on the obvious but sometimes it’s really the unspoken that has more bearing. If we weren’t forced to come face-to-face with this grey area, I probably wouldn’t have known that about Faz at all. And this is after close to 10 years of knowing each other!

And trust me, there are so many other grey areas that need to be addressed in order to manage each other’s expectations in terms of finances, family, kids, jobs, duties, etc. This course really helped to do just that.

Aww moments

Aside from discoveries, there’ll also be a lot of “AWWW” moments as you retrieve your notebooks from your partners and read their comments.

It was endearing to see all the husbands-to-be taking the exercises seriously. Once in a while I’d steal a glance at Faz and see him penning away, engrossed in his thoughts.

There was this part that was quite cute as well. Ustaz Jalil was going through the motions of the nikah process, starting right from the groom’s house. When it got to the akad part, I stole a glance at the guys and my god, were their faces ever so cuak! It was hilarious!

At the end of the course you’ll also be penning a love note for each other. This is the part of the course that’s infamous for making people cry.

I didn’t really know what to expect from him because 1) he doesn’t like writing 2) anything sweet he tries to come up with faces a risk of sounding cheesy 3) there’s also a risk of him plagiarising content from songs 4) even then he always messes up the lyrics!

But all my worries were put to rest because his note was the sincerest piece of literature I’d ever received from him. I had already felt like crying when I was crafting my own note, so imagine how I felt when I read his!

My review of SuChi Success

I would recommend for anyone to attend their marriage preparation course. As I’ve said, the trainers are experienced and their delivery, engaging. Course content is relevant, although I think they could’ve just skimmed through briefly some of the points which we could’ve read on our own.

But there were several shortcomings as well. We attended the course at their training centre but I think it may be wise for anyone who hasn’t registered yet to attend the course at a participating mosque instead because their facilities are not that great. The chairs in our room were not ergonomic at all, considering the fact that participants were going to spend two full days there (9am – 6pm). They were rigid, and there were no desks attached, forcing us to hunch forward to write in our notebooks.

And the aircon wasn’t fully working those two days! It got really stuffy, which affected my concentration. Participants were seen fanning themselves.

Lastly, improvement also needs to be made to the administration process and customer service. Poor Faz — I don’t know why but in our wedding planning, he almost always gets tasked with liaising with people who end up making his blood boil.

We had already paid for the course via internet banking and sent the transaction reference number to them via email. No response although we had indicated a preference of an acknowledgement of receipt. After a while, I ask Faz to follow-up with them regarding this. They said they would check and get back to us. A week passes and still no response. Faz calls again. Same response. Faz waits a couple more days and calls again. SAME RESPONSE! Faz runs out of patience and expresses his disappointment in their inefficiency. They finally scramble to their feet and get back to him the same day.

A week or two afterwards, the SAME PERSON calls him again….to ask him to send over proof of payment if we’ve already made payment!

#BADMOVE #FACEPALM #TAKTAHUAPANAKCAKAPLAGI

One of our couple friends who attended the course the same day we did also faced the same thing, although others we checked with didn’t face any such problems.

So in conclusion, yes, I would recommend SuChi Success based on course content and delivery but they don’t fare so well in the facilities and admin areas. It’s indeed an overwhelming two-day course but if you go with an open mind and a sincerity to learn then you’ll get a lot out of it, for sure!

Some friends have suggested that it’s better to attend the course nearer to your wedding day so that you’ll remember the du’as and it apparently will be “lagi feel”. But from a practical point of view, you’ll be busy tying up the loose ends nearing the day. Plus, if you really wanted to memorise the du’as, you can always just whip out your notebook and refresh your memory a few days prior to your nikah. But to each his own, I suppose.

Anyway good luck to you couples who will be attending the course soon!


My Eid Twenty-Twelve

Eid Mubarak!

Hope everyone’s been having a ball of a time. I, on the other hand, have seen better days. I developed a throbbing headache a day before Eid, and it went on for a couple of days! I suspect I may have taken the spring-cleaning a bit too far. I took a week’s leave from work the last week of Ramadhan to help prepare the house for Eid. I didn’t think it would actually take a whole week, but it did.

My parents are such hoarders! The amount of stuff they’ve amassed over the last 28 years is just….unbelievable. It’s a challenge to convince them to throw stuff away. Sure, these things cost them money but if they’re just sitting there and eating into living space, then I think it’s just better to pass them on, seriously.

But it’s a lesson learnt. When Faz and I get our own place, I’ll make it a point to buy only the things we need. And if I want to buy something new, something old has to go. It’s the only way I can think of to prevent stuff from accumulating.

On the topic of Eid, I really enjoy looking at my Facebook timeline during this period. I love how colourful it is! It’s endearing to see people making an effort to dress up in Malay garb (polka dots seem to be in trend this year) and unite with family and friends over good food.

I must be under some sort of spell because for the first time in my life, I did not buy a single piece of clothing or accessory for Eid this year. Hell, I didn’t even set foot in Geylang to get the customary dengdeng and Ramly burger! Instead of buying our raya goodies like we always do, I also convinced my mom that we could bake them. Seriously, this is a breakthrough for me because I’ve never been thrifty type. Boyfriend, if you’re reading this, you should be proud because this illustrates my level of commitment! My hope is that one day I’ll finally be able to fully internalise thrifty living, making it a principle of life. Very tough to do, though.

What I’m NOT proud of is….that Project Wedding Body has taken a backseat! Instead of taking advantage of Ramadhan to lose weight, I took the bloody backseat. I’m very, very, VERY disappointed in myself. It’s such a waste because I was doing so well before. I’m back at square one now, having to work hard to build up my stamina — again. Especially after all the sugary stuff I’ve been eating. PFFT.

To make things worse, I totally forgot that the 10km Safra Bay Run that I had signed up for is on 9 September! That’s in two bloody weeks. And the 6km Yellow Ribbon Prison Run is just the week after. I thought I had a couple more months to go! I’m so dead.

Looks like I’ll have to redeem myself during the Great Eastern Women’s 10k in November. NO EXCUSES.


Little Miss Anal(ytical)

My company sends us for developmental courses (I work in marketing communications) every now and then and recently, I attended my second communications course. Both had us participants fill out a bunch of multiple choice questions, choosing answers that would best describe us in the scenarios given.

Basically at the end based on your answers, you will find out which of these profiles are your dominant ones: The Analytical, The Driver, The Amiable or The Expressive (we are in fact all four).

Lo and behold — both times I took the test, I scored the highest for the Analytical profile, which makes it my dominant profile. My supporting profile was Amiable, followed by Driver and lastly, Expressive.

Can you tell, judging from my blog entries?

I think it’s fairly easy to tell, isn’t it? I am not quick to commit to a vendor (I size up the pros and cons, and want to be able to compare against another), I take forever to publish a blog entry (because I go over it 91472937642692 times to make sure it’s perfect, and I don’t just stop there — I routinely go over my published posts and make edits, too!), I go into the nitty gritty (I live for details, which is why you will rarely find a short entry in this blog — though much effort has been made in moderating the length of my entries). Perhaps you may even have picked up other analytical traits.

These brief tests I took are not to be taken conclusively though. For example, being analytical doesn’t mean I must be good at maths. For the record, I can’t do maths to save my life. If you’re interested, there are even more extensive tests around that will tell you in depth about your profiles under different circumstances.

Anyway the objective of attending such communications or profiling courses is that you will be more aware of your own profile, be able to identify other people’s profiles, and then be able to tailor your communication to fit the person you are in contact with.

I think it would be so very beneficial for to-be-married couples to undergo this so that you have an even better understanding of one another…..even if you think you’re already doing well in the communications department.

This is because at present you only see your other half….what, at most thrice a week? If you currently think your partner is just a little annoying, well — imagine if you have to see him everyday. Tell me that annoying trait is not going to be magnified nth-fold!

Another notable takeaway I thought I’d share is: There is no one profile that is better than the other. Maybe we already know this, but a little reminder wouldn’t hurt — especially because as human beings we tend to judge people. What I lack, you might have and vice versa, so ideally we should position each other’s strengths such that we complement, not oppose.

It’s not enough for one party to undergo such a course, though (I’m thinking to do one with the boyfriend). As we all know, for a relationship to work, both parties need to pour in effort. Plus, the journey to re-discovering each other might actually be quite fun!

I’d say this is pretty useful knowledge to have because it’s also basically universal knowledge you can apply to pretty much every single person you come into contact with, so that it’ll help you get heard and get the outcomes you want.


A tragedy.

Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with this picture?

Conversations with a chauvinist pig 1

I hope women and men alike can identify the issue here. Because if not, we are doomed. This, among other things, is why many 20- to 30-year marriages go down the drain.

This conversation took place on my facebook news feed. I was fuming when I read it. Of course I had to say something.

Conversations with a chauvinist pig 2

His reply below, I swear, was the most tak bersalah reply ever. In my head it triggered a trail of possible replies, mostly consisting profanities. I surprise myself how I managed to sound the least bit civil.

Conversations with a chauvinist pig 3

The bugger apparently just did not know when to drop it and said dunia dah terbalik. Yeah? Well, indeed. Because the last time I checked, our beloved Prophet didn’t banish any of his wives to a lifetime of housework.

Conversations with a chauvinist pig 4

And as if one male chauvinist pig wasn’t enough, along came another — and was even “Liked” twice. Total facepalm.

It is my personal opinion that many Muslims (in Asia, at least) are gravely mistaken about the roles of the husband and wife. Looking back, perhaps I was too quick to blow my top. Perhaps he too, like me — and many others — were brought up in the typical Asian home environment in which our fathers were the sole breadwinners and our mothers would stay at home to tend to the children. Inevitably, staying at home also meant that they had to cook and clean — and they did so out of their own free will.

Until.

Until our fathers got a little too comfortable with the arrangement, and henceforth deemed it an OBLIGATION. They developed an expectation to come home to food laid out on the table, in a house that’s in tip-top condition — or incur their displeasure, and therefore God’s displeasure.

And people think: So this is Islam.

But this is NOT Islam, as I’ve learned. I’m ashamed to say it took me 25 years to learn this but I’m grateful to know now that this is not religious. This is cultural.

Sure, incurring the husband’s displeasure is incurring God’s displeasure. But Islam does not make it difficult for the wife by setting household chores as a requisite for entrance to heaven. It is the husband who burdens the wife and makes it difficult for her. So husbands, if you claim you love your wife, enlighten her duties. Why make her journey to Jannah difficult over something as worldly as household chores? If she requests help and if you have the resources, hire a helper. If you don’t have the resources, what’s wrong with rolling up your own sleeves to help her? What, too lowly of a job? Indeed, in Islam it is the husband’s honourable responsibility to lead and provide for the family. But some husbands think that it’s the ONLY responsibility — they forget about the house, home and and children.

I must clarify that I’m not campaigning for wives to shirk housework. What I’m campaigning is for husbands to change their attitudes and mindsets.

Every other chore that the wife does around the house apart from caring for you, nurturing your children, and protecting the good name of the family, is not her obligation, but an extension of her goodwill to you. So thank her and show appreciation for her help. Of course, it indeed is a bonus for her as well if she chooses to help you because the pleasure of her husband is next to the pleasure of God. But again, in no way is it an obligation.

Husbands, please also realise that her job as a wife is no less important than the one you hold. Safeguarding your good name and nurturing the very children that will grow up and continue your bloodline are also huge and honourable tasks. So treat her with the respect and honour she deserves. If you need her help, ask nicely. Anyone would be a little more willing to help instead of cursing you under their breath.

To put it simply, your wife is not your maid. Wives, know your role and know that it is not to be a servant to your husband.

For most of my life, I thought that being a good wife in Islam meant, well, carrying out household tasks well and dutifully carrying out what your husband tells you. But to be honest, the idea never really settled within me. Apart from being brought up with this thinking, I think the type of Islamic education that we get here in Singapore also shares the blame. I’ve attended my fair share of religious programmes growing up, and I’ve always had the impression that the man had the upper hand. This was of course never explicitly mentioned because it is not an Islamic principle to begin with, but my impression could probably be attributed to the fact that there was a lack of focus on the rights of the wife. It was always about the duties of the wife towards the husband, and not so much the reverse, apart from provision for the family.

Watching Islamic programmes from elsewhere around the world online made me realise how different Islam is preached outside of Asia. In this post, I shared a video of Sheikh Khalid Yasin talking about the roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife. I have never EVER heard any of our religious figures in Singapore say (or tried to say) what he did with such straightforwardness and clarity.

But I think the situation in Singapore is much better now, with the younger next generation of religious educators being more open-minded and objective, and less conformant to cultural expectations.

I must also thank the recent Obedient Wives Club (with a name like this, you can replace ‘Wives’ with ‘Dogs’ and it will make little difference) furor for casting the role of the wife under the spotlight, opening doors to discussion, and inadvertently creating awareness on the true role of the wife in a marriage (read Ustaz Haniff Hassan’s commentary with regards to the OWC’s infamous book about “sex in Islam” here).

Discussing this issue always gets me all riled up because it’s one I feel very passionate about. I feel like I owe it to myself and other women and men who might not be in the know to dig deeper into this.

My key takeaways from the video and commentary I spoke about:

  • A successful marriage does not depend solely on the wife carrying out her responsibilities.
  • Men are not the commanders of women — they have a responsibility to them.
  • Men and women are equals but because men have this added responsibility, they are granted respect one level up. And fairly so.
  • But before commanding respect, a husband must be worthy of that respect.

Real lessons

This blog as we know it is dedicated to the buzz of planning for a wedding — happy things, basically. But life isn’t all the time made up of sugar and spice, and everything nice. And once in a while it would actually do us some good to be reminded of the flip side.

Which is why I wanted to write about this.

Over the weekend, I witnessed the funeral of a relative. She died young, from cervical cancer. She would’ve turned 31 had she lived up to her birthday this year.

Relative of mine she might’ve been, but I had never met her before. She was a distant relative. All that I’d ever known about her, I knew on the day I attended her funeral. I knew that she always kept her spirits high, even in the face of cancer. And the first time I ever saw her was when they lifted the white cloth covering her face to let family and friends kiss her a last goodbye.

But God works in mysterious ways.

How amazing is it that even without having spoken a word to me, without having to do anything but lay there with her eyes closed forever, she had taught me and reminded me of life lessons so easily forgotten — especially when you’re caught up with the world.

As I gazed upon her face, she looked like anyone else sleeping — just like you, or me. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? That at any moment in time, it could be you — or me, looking like we’re asleep, when in reality we’ve had no choice but to leave everything and everyone. To face the Creator. A lot of us may not even be ready.

Then as I gazed upon her lone, motionless body covered with nothing but a pure white cloth, she spoke to me about the things we strive so hard for in life — in particular the things that we ‘invest’ in so much, but cannot even take to the grave. Fame. Popularity. Status. Money. In the end, what would it all have been for?

Looking around her, there were no bags packed, no belongings to take with her, even if she wanted to. But there were people. People who knew her, and possibly people who didn’t — like me. But everyone who cared enough to be there were there, offering prayers for her and seeing her through.

The sight of so many people present at her funeral touched me and spoke to me, telling me that no man is an island. If we live a life full of arrogance and hate, and are in turn hated by others, who is going to gift us the gift of prayer when we need it? No matter how independent we claim to be, it pays to do good simply because whether we like it or not, we will continue to depend on others this way, even after we’re long gone.

And the good that you’ve done is really all you have to take you through.

Thank you for the lessons, Nor Aleena Binte Tasrif.

Al-fatihah.


The Engagement: The Hiccups

Alhamdulillah, everything went quite smoothly on the 26th of October 2011…except one thing.

I FORGOT TO PUT ON MASCARA AND LASHES.

I’m still quite sore about it. Nevermind the lashes, I should’ve at least remembered to put on some mascara. Naked eyelashes are like totally unacceptable.

Before I get into the details of the engagement, I have to blog about the two potential heart attack inducing scares I had the night before!

There was a MAJOR miscommunication between my then boyfriend (now fiancé…chey!) and I. Remember in my previous post I said I was going to collect my outfit and get some things? Well he accompanied me, and while we were browsing at Sephora, he casually told me, “Eh so tomorrow after Asar, right? We’ll probably reach your place at about 4 plus.”

My eyes widened in shock. AFTER ASAR? Wasn’t it supposed to be after Zuhur? I’d already told my parents we could expect his party to arrive at about 2 plus. That’s like a difference of about 2 hours, and our guests would have to be made to wait! For him, after Zuhur was the time he was expecting guests to arrive at his place for the kenduri! Die, how like that?

After a few phonecalls here and there, we managed to come to a compromise. They earliest they could leave their place was 3pm, so we could expect them to arrive at about 3.30pm.

Phew.

Although we managed to come to a resolve, I was left a little shaken. How did we manage to screw up something as basic as the timing? It is, after all, one of the most important factors of an event. All along we just assumed we were on the same page. Initially it was indeed after Zuhur, but because the idea of the kenduri came up, it was apparently pushed to after Asar. I don’t remember him telling me of the change in timing, but the fact that we didn’t go over these details over again doesn’t let me off the hook, either. Lesson learnt there.

Second scare: things ended up with my tailor’s brother having to send my outfit to my doorstep at the stroke of midnight! Well technically he arrived at 11pm, but just to illustrate the sheer last-minuteness of it all, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference had he arrived at midnight.

I still don’t know what happened. Whether they forgot my order, or whether they were so swamped they couldn’t get my outfit done in time, or whether there was an irresponsible staff somewhere along the line who for some reason couldn’t get my outfit to the shop…is anyone’s guess. I’m still pissed that they weren’t transparent about it, and that they didn’t have the decency to at least sound apologetic.

My kaftan’s inner garment could do with a little more alteration. The sleeves fell a little short and the neckline was a little too low. Overall, I just didn’t feel as comfortable in it as I would’ve liked. But obviously it was too late to do anything, so I settled. I shudder to think if it actually needed some real work. If that really were the case, I imagine things would’ve ended up in blood. Seriously.

I don’t know why I ALWAYS have horrible experiences with tailors! If you have a good tailor who charges reasonably, I am literally begging you to save me from this tailoring hell! To think she had wanted to charge a whopping $120 for a simple one piece inner garment. Hell, even the $80 I paid was unjust.

It wouldn’t be quite right if I blogged about the hiccups in the same entry as the happy stuff, so look for the continuation in another entry!

LESSON #04:
Don’t take for granted the small things you think you know, especially nearing the day. Remember to update the relevant parties of any changes. Check every now and then that everyone has the same understanding of what’s happening.


25 days away from Bridezilla-dom.

As the ticker on the right of this blog indicates, it’s 25 days to Bridezilla-dom!

I haven’t done much preparation for the engagement, and I’m starting to panic. I’ve so far only bought a kaftan to wear on the day (which still needs to be altered), bought the dulang hantaran and also crafted the bantal hantaran (pics after the engagement!).

There’s still an awful lot to do — but I’ll list that later. Right now I want to talk about how much of a far cry my vision of the engagement is from what it’s turning out to be.

In fact, it was — prior to me having to put a stern stop to it — moving further and further away from the idea of an intimate engagement. Just a week ago I asked him for an update on the numbers and he quoted 20 people! Suddenly this aunt was coming and that aunt, and that aunt. And all this, while I had to politely turn away my aunts and cousins who wanted to come, seeking their kind understanding that it was going to be just a small affair.

I was mortified. Angry, even, that all our initial plans were going out the window. It appeared as though he wasn’t conveying the agreement to his family. Even if he did, he was doing little to make sure it stays to the plan as close as possible.

Thing is, his family will be holding a little kenduri doa selamat with his relatives before his party comes over to my place. Do you see how this can potentially turn into an open invitation? His relatives will already be there at his place on the day — they will want to come. How will you tell them no? If you insist they cannot come, what ideas would they get of my family?

I suggested maybe it would be a better idea to hold the kenduri after the engagement instead. But he’d already told his relatives of the time of the kenduri, and made plans with the caterer that it’d be a hassle to change anything.

He assures me his family will take care of it. But I can’t take his word for it. People will come if they want to come. That said, I’m catering extra just in case.

Let me make myself clear: it is NOT about the cost. It is about our initial agreement, which, if I were to be honest, was based on the fact that I am a private person, who is NOT comfortable with receiving lots of attention unnecessarily (no one said an engagement ceremony was necessary). I agreed to the ceremony on the condition that it would be an intimate one. I accommodated his wishes. I made a compromise. But it’s just sad that no one cares about what I, the supposed star of the event, wants!

My mother says when two people decide to get married, it’s no longer about just these two people. You’re marrying into each other’s family, so it is in my interest to please his family and relatives. And I’m fully aware of that, but this is just the engagement, which I would prefer to be just between us. I have a lifetime to get to know his relatives after we’re married. I don’t see the rush, quite honestly.

Since we’re planning for a combined wedding, I foresee that this problem of not conveying messages and sticking to agreed plans is here to stay. I can only hope that we (and by this, I actually mean “he”) learn(s) from this experience, but there’s no telling if it’ll happen again.

Now that that’s off my chest, let’s switch back to light-hearted mode (not that I’ll be exactly light-hearted after listing the things I have yet to do). Here’s my to-do list, in order of priority:

  • Engage a caterer (thinking of ordering for 40 pax) and decide on menu
  • Get the material for the lining of my kaftan, and tailor it
  • Alter my kaftan
  • Finish off my dulang decor by getting flowers, and tassels for the bantal hantaran (I’m doing the decor for the dulang that he’ll be presenting me, just to have a sense of some physical contribution)

I have to seriously get down on it, no more procrastinating!

LESSON #03:
Check on the status of things regularly, to make sure both parties are still on the same page. Keep to the plan or discuss with each other in advance, prior to changing it.


Phew.

After much going back and forth, it has finally been decided that there will be no gifts to be exchanged from either side on top of the engagement ring and tanda hantaran that he’ll be presenting. Read of my dilemma here.

It was after we started to look around for his gifts — we had even shortlisted a few! — that we sat down and really talked about it. I suppose he’d had enough of my rantings and ramblings that he gave in. But really though. Practically thinking, he’s also got a family trip to Beijing coming up, and it would actually help if he didn’t have to get me extra stuff for the engagement.

Although he saw where I was coming from and actually found himself agreeing with me, he was still pretty bummed that this gift exchange thingy isn’t happening. Of course I feel terrible about it because he had wanted it so bad. I, too, secretly feel a bit disappointed because we’d found some really awesome stuff for me to give him that would look good all dolled up on the gift trays.

It’s scary to think how easily things can get blown out of proportion when you’re caught in the moment.

Before these wedding plans even existed, both of us agreed that when the time comes, we would do away with an engagement ceremony because it just wasn’t necessary.

Today, obviously that has changed for him. He wants a ceremony to remember our engagement by. So we agreed on a small affair. But this small affair seemed to be growing in size with the addition of the gift exchange and other seemingly little things. The gifts give the ceremony more feel, he says.

Look at where we started from, and then look at where we are. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

So you see, it’s really that easy to lose sight of your objectives — made even easier with people around you throwing extravagant ceremonies. It’s easy to want what other people are having.

Today he lost sight of what we agreed upon. Tomorrow it could be me. Of course, we try as much to accommodate each other’s wishes – no one wants to be rigid. It’s a wedding for god’s sake, not the frickin’ army. But it all has to be within some kind of boundary.

Anyway he let his family in on our decision, and they think it’s a splendid idea. Phew! But then again of course it’s a splendid idea — it was my idea, and had been all along!

LESSON #02:
It’s easy for things to get blown out of proportion when you’re caught in the moment. Don’t lose sight of your objectives. Keep each other in check.


First sign of trouble ahead.

With just two more months to go to the engagement, the boyfriend and I are ramping it up.

I decided it would be good to gain some hands-on experience with the gubahan of the gift trays in case I would want to go DIY for the wedding. So we’ve started to look for gift trays. We’re thinking to buy the gift trays and sell it off later after the wedding because we haven’t found someone or a vendor who can rent it to us at a price that’s worth us not actually buying it.

Recently the boyfriend was asked by his family how the preparations were going. So he listed the items he’s bought to gift me yada, yada. Then they asked the bonus question: “So what will she be giving you?

Now this is the part that needs explanation.

Remember how I said in this post that I didn’t even want to hold an engagement ceremony? I was, and still am of the opinion that it’s a waste of money. But I later agreed, having in mind that our two families have yet to meet, and on one term: it will be a small affair.

Now different people have different understandings of what a “small affair” is. My understanding is:

  • it’s just between our two families, and perhaps some elder persons to head discussions (my grandfather on my side, his uncle on his)
  • no gifts will be exchanged (just the engagement ring and tanda), and
  • I wouldn’t even have to get an outfit especially for the occasion or hire a makeup artist.

That’s how informal I envisioned it to be. It would be just as informal as say, coming to visit for hari raya.

But he insisted he wanted to present gifts. So we discussed, and our agreement was fine if he wanted to present gifts, but there will be no gift exchange. Meaning I will not be giving any gifts in return. Just a hearty buffet to fill hungry stomachs and satiate taste buds.

I know the tradition is to exchange gifts. But if we were to really follow tradition, there’d be another 101 things we’d have to do. One of the terms of my agreement to the engagement ceremony was that there will be no gift exchange because I didn’t want to spend unnecessarily. If he wanted to get gifts, I shouldn’t be pressured into doing the same, should I? To me, what’s necessary is our families getting to know each other and discussing the wedding.

I totally understand how this might sound to people. Unfair? Stingy? Cheapskate?

Well yes, in fact I AM trying to be “cheap”. To save money for bigger things like the wedding and the house.

I don’t know why this wasn’t communicated to his family earlier — an oversight on our part. Because they were surprised and questioned our decision when the boyfriend informed them that I wouldn’t be presenting gifts.

With proper explanation, I suppose they could see it from my perspective. But the boyfriend felt a little cornered at the time and didn’t do much to help the impression they probably got, sadly.

On one hand if I don’t give in, this whole thing will kick off with them having  a bad impression of me, and it’ll probably nag at me for a while. On the other hand, I hate being pressured into doing something I don’t want to do. And in addition I’ll have to spend on things I didn’t set a budget for.

Some people might suggest getting inexpensive gifts. But just for the sake of satisfying the requirements of tradition? What’s the point, really? I might as well make it worth the while and get stuff he’ll actually appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms getting gifts for the love of my life. He deserves all the gifts in the world! But the real problem here — besides that getting gifts wasn’t even part of the arrangement in the first place — is TIMING.

With this springing up on me just two months from the engagement, I don’t have the budget for it. To be getting everything in two months would be hard on the pocket. Not forgetting that Eid, which is in a month’s time, would also require some spending.

Also, truth be told, I just started saving. Not just for the wedding but my personal savings. I could’ve started saving a year ago after I was done paying for my degree, but I went on a shopping binge instead and found it akin to moving mountains to save. I now wish I would’ve started saving earlier. Well, you live and you learn.

I’m still contemplating if I should get the gifts. I’m kinda leaning more towards getting them, on the basis of making a good first impression, but it’s not final. We’ll see.

LESSON #01:
Keep family updated on plans, even if you’re planning the event on your own.