Yes, it's approaching that fast!!

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September 1, 2008

It's T-6 days and counting. People are asking me if I'm nervous which I'm not. I'm not sure if they believe me or not but I think we've got everything under control and no signs of cold feet or anything. But it's about a week away.

I got the ring last Friday. I ordered it from some company called New York Wedding Ring. They offered a number of choices but I liked the mokume gane in white which is a combination of palladium, white gold, and silver. I chose the star pattern. He asked me how many stars I wanted - 3 to 5. I chose 3 because 5 is too many and 4 is bad luck (4 in Chinese rhymes with "death" in Chinese).

I had also bought a titanium one in the "Abyss" design from the movie of the same name. I knew the titanium one would come within a few days and the mokume gane had to be made from scratch. After speaking to Sam, owner of NY Wedding Ring, he said it would arrive the week before or week of the wedding. It was a little too close so I picked up the titanium one for $150 (I upgraded to a higher quality titanium) as an insurance policy, in case it didn't make it on time.

Fortunately, it did and I couldn't be happier with my ring. Hanh had her ring delivered a couple weeks ago and she goes on and off with wearing it as by Vietnamese custom, we're already married but by the Church's and the State's standards, we're not. Whatev.


July 20, 2008

I haven't been able to write because I've been busy with a bunch of stuff. go grab a drink cause it's a long ride.

The sample Wedding invitations

Wedding Invites

So we're using the same printing company as Hanh's sister used for their wedding invites, AP Printing. They were very helpful and tolerant of my less-than-OK Vietnamese as they walked me through the selection of the invitations, font, color, and wording. Even if it took about 4 proofs via PDFs. Hanh was in DC for most of this so I kind of made most of the decisions. Fortunately, they could print them in her colors.

Everything was going along smoothly until it was time to pick them up. I was informed that we would have to assemble the invitations which I thought meant putting the RSVP stuff in the invites and then into the envelopes. No. Not even close. When she said "assemble," she meant IKEA assemble. Every single component of the invitation were in stacks ready to be attached to some part or another. They offered to help me but I wasn't going to sit in their office for however many hours so I took the boxes away and proceeded to assemble as many of the 300 invititations I could. I managed to do about 200 or so over a 3 day period watching TV. I did the remaining with the help of Peter, her youngest brother. Hanh and her sister, Xuan, tried to help but they were mangling the invitations. I suspect they feigned ineptitude like those guys on those late night infomercials to get out of doing it.

I'm working on a dotcom start-up (who isn't in San Francisco) which gives the bride and groom an alternative to the usual wedding registries like Macy's, Bed Bath and Beyond. Couples are getting married older and already have all the stuff for a house so they certainly don't need more stuff. What they do need are things that'll help them with things that will truly help them in their marriage like the down payment for a house or kids' education. So I had the idea to put this service together and figured it would be a win-win situation for everyone. The bride and groom get the thing they really want and need. The guests, instead of spending say $100 on some plates, they just buy some shares of stock for the same amount but they don't have to pay any tax, shipping charges, or transaction fees.

working with limited resources - developers and graphics people - we finally put the site up in a 0.9 version. There are some more things that need to get before I consider it a 1.0 but it does work.

Rehearsal Dinner

Of course, you have to have a rehearsal dinner after rehearsal. It's just part of the deal. The problem is usually finding a spot. Before I continue, I need to throw out a caveat to those who live in the Valley and Modesto area but there is a dearth of viable restaurants in that area. So far, the only place I can handle is a Chinese place called Dynasty - surprised, huh? - but I can't do or inflict Chinese on these people two nights in a row.

So on a whim, we checked out this place called La Morinita - Mexican. It's probably one of the best Mexican places in Modesto but the problem is that they won't reserve large parties on Friday nights. Go figure. So the best they'll give me is a late lunch/early dinner so we're going to do that before rehearsals.

Of course, I'm on the lookout for other options and came across some place called Carina's or something like that. They have a space that's just perfect for a large party. I get Hanh and her sibs to come with me to try it out last weekend. It's a decent looking enough place but there were some warning signs. First, the menu was large; more often than not, a kitchen staff that has to be able to make many things usually doesn't do any of them well. Second, when the Caprese salad and Caesar salad came, the plates were cold which meant that they were pre-prepared and refrigerated. The fried calamari was just a bunch of fairly uniform rings, no tentacles which basically means they came frozen and out of a package. We also had some appetizer that was called Sicilian Fire Sticks which were chicken, peppericini, and a bunch of other stuff rolled and fried in a sun dried tomato tortilla. It's OK but huge and more along the lines of a TGIF than a decent Italian spot.

Then the spaghetti wasn't al dente which isn't good but is OK if you like it that way. Peter's Chicken Alfredo was pretty flat even though I can smell and see the bacon in the sauce. And the chicken tasted like it was boiled and then microwaved and then thrown into the sauce.

I don't want to go on but we were all stuff and feeling basically pretty gross about the entire meal. Hanh's sister later told us that she'd been there and it sucked as well - "worse than Olive Garden."

This is what I've been going through trying to find a decent place for dinner. Ugh.


February 15, 2008

The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa

So we've been trying to figure out where to go for our honeymoon. One of her criteria was some place that neither one of us had been to which seriously reduces the possibilities. Most of Asia was out as well as Europe. For some reason, South America wasn't a consideration. At one point, we thought Costa Rica and Bali but those places were in reality space holders until something else came along.

Late January, she and I went to Park City for an annual trip to Sundance Film Festival. We met a couple who are friends of friends of mine - Nomi and Monica. We were running around Park City and met up with them for lunch and the topic got around to their honeymoon. They told us about their week long safari, the animals they saw, and their luxurious accomodations. They also told us about flying to some island for some beach time after the safari. At this point, Hanh was sold. She loved the idea.

It must have been fate because American Express was doing their Going Once promotion again. It's a unique twist on game theory where. They start with a number of packages for a given destination with a given price at 12:00PM and they lower the price some random amount every 20 minutes until all the packages are sold. They're usually pretty high ticket price like $15k for a 7 day, six night deal. Fortunately, they also have smaller packages for under $2,500. I was able to pick up a 6-day 5-night package at a the Table Bay Hotel at Cape Town. This would become the anchor for our honeymoon. We would fly into South Africa for a Safari and then end the trip at the resort before flying home.

We stil had the safari and airfare to contend with. Hanh has been great in working on all this. She had been working on finding a safari guide service probably since she got the idea from Nomi and Monica. There is a broad range of options from the ridiculously luxurious $800 a night a person (Yikes!!) to ones that are a hundred or two per person but we weren't exactly sure of what we'd get. I'm OK with the camping in a tent and stuff as I'd done it many times before but that would be a stretch for Hanh. Anyway, she found a place called Serenity Lodge in Zaire that seemed quite nice and well recommended. The lodge has 6 suites with restaurants, pools, along with daily safari trips.


February 4, 2008

Now I'm working on a bunch of other easy and silly things like our Wedding Channel site and the wedding registry stuff. If we were younger and didn't have much or were more traditional, it'd be easy - just go to Macy's, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Target to put together a registry and be done with it. In fact, it could even be fun running around with that little laser bar code reader gun shooting at all the little items.

But we're not in our early twenties without the household stuff. In fact, we'll be merging both our stuff and having to get rid of the duplicates and unnecessary items that we've somehow accumulated over the years. And the last thing either one of us wants is to add more things, especially that fine China that gets used once a year along with some silly gravy boat.

So she and I talked and have decided on a less traditional approach. We've signed up with Wedding Channel's Charity Registry and will be picking a couple charities for our guests to consider donating to in our name. The other option we'll have is my dotcom start-up Wedding Futures where couples will register for a stock portfolio instead of plates, glasses, and other things, which will allow us to focus on things that are truly important and will contribute to our future like a down payment on a house or tuition for our kids.

I think it's a natural evolution in wedding registries anyway though I'm sure the stores and shipping companies may not be that crazy about it.


January 31, 2008

Getting the church and the restaurant reserved for the same day! Some people reserve the venue first and then get the church but they got the church first and then called the restaurant - China Palace in Stockton. If you're Asian, chances are you're going to have it at a Chinese restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was booked for our first choice so we had to move it to the beginning of the month. Fortunately, the church had availability on that day AND it was an auspicious day. Yes, more fun with superstitions!

For the most part, it makes a lot of sense to have it at a Chinese restaurant. Other than custom and what people are used to, it's economical as well. Menus are easily created and priced for tables of ten and they don't charge a booking fee that a hotel, country club, winery, or convention hall would charge which can run to $10,000!

I called the restaurant, put down the deposit, and got their menu options which ranged from a cheap couple hundred a table to a high of $500 a table. And this is when the fun started. If you've ever been to a Vietnamese or Chinese wedding, there's certainly no shortage of food as there is a parade of 8-12 courses. And the more seafood - specifically shellfish - the better!

Giving consideration to the guests attending like not enough would only garner criticisms of cheapness or some guests being being allergic to shellfish or vegetarian, we finally came up with a starting menu that we think we could live with. Fortunately, the pre-negotiated price was OK and there were still time for them to re-think and revise the menu.


January 20, 2008

Hanh and me at our Reception in Seattle

Getting to this reception wasn't as easy as it seems. For those who aren't Vietnamese and for those who are Vietnamese and aren't superstitious, there's a superstition about two daughters in the same family marrying. By now, we shouldn't be surprised there is one cause there seems to be a superstition about everything. The way it goes is that the first daughter to marry gets all the good fortune and the second daughter to marry gets the bad fortune. Go figure. The reason why we have to worry about this that Hanh's younger sister is getting married in April 2008.

Normally, we, being two young Americanized Vietnamese kids, wouldn't care but were it that simple. My parents and likely everyone's elders would be concerned and I would know that if I scoffed at the superstition, like I do with everything else, and if anything bad were to happen, I'd certainly hear about it. So in my usual consulting way, I started going through the scenario, the options, put together a decision tree, and even a 2x2 matrix showing the cost-benefit analysis of each option. Part of the solution was to redefine what is meant by "year;" instead of going by the normal Gregorian calendar of Jan 1 to Dec 31, they would use the Lunar calendar where the new year would start on February 7, 2008.

Actually, there was an Option E that was never discussed where Hanh is able pull rank on her sister; that the younger sister cannot marry until her older sister gets married. I may have been able to pull the trigger on this but not Hanh; she's nice.

I was pushing for Option A but that wasn't going to happen as none of them would entertain it. Option C and D were non-starters as well so the only viable option left was Option B - we would have a ceremony in January. And after much back and forth to correctly frame the context of the event as it wasn't a reception nor was it an engagement party, it was finally scheduled, restaurants reserved, invitations sent, etc.

Things went off without a hitch, much to the credit of my parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins for all the help above and beyond the call of duty. I know that none of it wouldn't have happened without any of their help and generosity.

And of course, we have to thank everyone who came to the reception to share in the celebration and the upcoming union. We are very thankful for everyone's time and effort in making the trip as well as for their generosity.


November 17, 2007

Lunch after proposing

After a couple weeks in Europe dragging Hanh from Washington, DC, to Munich to Florence to Pisa to Paris to Provence and back to Florence, I talked her into talking a walk across the River Arno to visit the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens behind. Prior to this walk, we had just seen Michaelangelo's David. To be sure, it's an awesome site which stunned a lot of people, including Hanh. She stood there taking in the giant figure. She might have even been drooling but, to be fair, Hanh thought he was spending a little too long gazing at Botticelli's Birth of Venus as well.

Can you blame us?

I bought her a David coffee mug to tease her which would later become part of the master plan. We stopped back at our hotel, The Bernini Palace, to pick up the ring. I stuck the ring inside the coffee mug and stuffed that into her purse while we were getting a drink in the bar/lobby. As we left the hotel, she noticed the coffee mug in its box in her bag. "Honey, I have this stupid coffee mug in my bag."
"Eh...let's just keep going," I said wanting her to think I didn't want to go back up.

We walked across the bridge and through the Pitti Palace and finally up through the Boboli Gardens. Once we got to the fountain, we sat on a nearby bench.
"You know, I never even checked to see if we got the right coffee mug. Can you check it?" I asked her.
"OK," she said. "What's this? There's something inside the mug," she said seeing the box wrapped in paper.

She was completely stunned when he opened the box. As they say, the rest is history...