She’s Thai, and I’m Malaysian. In less than two months’ time, it will be our 3rd anniversary of being together. Mostly importantly, we will be tying the knot.
This is something I feel we’ve been prepping forever. From buying the ring to getting engaged, to selecting the wedding dates and to making our pre-wedding photoshoot happen, so much effort has gone into every little aspect and detail of our wedding leading up to its actual days. In fact, everything is happening so fast it feels so surreal.
The whole process involves a lot more steps and procedures given this is an international marriage. Not that we’re perfectionists in any way. We are not, and we know that unless you’re rich enough to make money work for you, there is no such thing as being perfect when it comes to a wedding that involves two cultures and nationalities.
This whole international relationship thing that often looks sweet on the surface and is constantly glamorised, is more than what it seems.
For me, the whole process hasn’t always been rosy and straightforward. There is so much that I’ve encountered and learned in the process, something which I believe will continue on even after our marriage.
Among the less pleasant encounters in my journey to getting married, for one, it is inevitable to have some conservative relatives or friends who would be shocked to find out that my fiancé and I are going to have our wedding ceremonies done on two separate dates, the first and the grandest of which is going to be done in Thailand against the norm of the patriarchal Malaysian Chinese society.
“But I thought being a Chinese and a guy, you should be doing it here [in Kuching] first,” one individual said to me, referring to my hometown in Sarawak.
For my case, most people in my social circle would expect the Chinese wedding ceremony to happen first, followed by the Thai ceremony. But beyond this “rule of thumb” are actually a lot more things that need to be taken into consideration.
For example, the Chinese and Thais have their respective auspicious months and days for weddings. In my case, the auspicious month for my Thai wedding is either in June or August this year. However, my sister just had her wedding in May, and my parents subscribe to the belief that if there are two weddings from the same family happening in the same year, they have to be at least three months apart. Therefore, this would mean that my fiancée and I will have to go with the August option for my Thai wedding.
On the other hand, the auspicious month for my Chinese wedding falls in September, right after the Chinese ghost month which the Chinese would avoid. The native Thais do not have such a concept and therefore do not take consideration into the ghost month, so there is a possibility that their auspicious wedding date may coincide with the “inauspicious” Chinese month.
From this instance alone, it clearly shows that going through an international wedding, especially when involving two Asian cultures, isn’t as simplistic as just going by the “rule of thumb” or what one party feels is right or wrong.
After all, in my case, I’m marrying not a fellow Chinese with the same culture, but a Thai of another system of values and beliefs. There is so much technicality over a seemingly simple wedding. So it isn’t at all about which family should take a lead on the wedding. It’s give and take.
Having said that, so long as a sense of self-righteousness exists within one party, being in an international relationship or having an international marriage will never, ever be a piece of cake.
But I’m still such a blessed person. I’m thankful to have very understanding parents with enough courage to embrace my decision and to ignore the judgmental stares of some people in the society.
There are those who feel I should be dating and marrying a girl of my own race, which isn’t a value I subscribe to. That is to me a kind of racial superiority, whether subtle or not. Worst is when some of them think that marrying outside our own race is a taboo – unless it’s with a westerner. Sometimes there is so much contradiction and inconsistency in what they believe in it’s funny, really.
I’ve spent the past 13 years being away from my family, studying, working, backpacking, buying a house, and living a life of my own. I’ve mingled with people of different walks of life, people of different races and cultures. And through this process there are bits and pieces of other people’s values which I’ve picked up and internalised.
To put it simply, I don’t have a set of Chinese values as “pure” or conventional as those who have the opportunity to spend their entire lives living under the same roof as other family members.
I’m a vocal person by nature. While you can have your own opinion about something, I will defend mine if I feel you’re imposing your values upon me. My parents, however, are much more gracious than I am. They always take the high road by not responding to such noises.
My soon-to-be wife is Thai, and my sister-in-law is Bidayuh, a Sarawak native. Living in this very Asian society, one can imagine how much courage and positivity my Pa and Mi have to have cultivated within them to be able to come to terms with such unconventional decisions of my brother and mine, while ignoring judgemental eyes.
Then there are also those who think that being away from home, I may not consult and discuss major decisions with my parents. It’s so easy to judge. But contrary to what they may think, my parents and I are always sharing what’s happening over the phone.
I may not always listen to others when it comes to my personal decisions, but I’m someone who would seek my parents’ blessings before making major ones. There are enough worries in this world. Pa and Mi have worried their whole lives raising me and my siblings up, so I don’t want them to still have to worry about me now that I’m a grown person.
As my parents are in their retiring age, I don’t like the idea of having them to be financially responsible for my wedding.
I’m not rich; I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. So if I want something, naturally I will have to work hard towards it. It has been this way ever since I left home to study and pursue a career in Peninsular Malaysia, and forever will be this way.
I’ve told Pa that I didn’t want money from him to pay for my wedding. I want him to be free from such a financial burden for something that is my own, and I would save my own money for it.
Due to this, I’m very much involved in every detail of the wedding, and so is my fiancée, who has to put things together from her side as I provide financial support.
On the personal side with my better half, beyond the sweet and happy pictures of us I occasionally upload on social media are moments that are sometimes rosy, sometimes thorny.
We’ve had lots of laughter and fun together; we’ve travelled places together, even done crazy things together. But we’ve also had our fair shares of quarrels and cold war. Growing up in different environments and cultures, it is only natural we have different personal values and ways of life.
I’m more of an organised person, but the environment she lives in doesn’t permit her to be so; she does things in a more impromptu fashion. I’m a left-brainer, also critical and analytical, sometimes reading too much into something; she’s the total opposite.
Being with each other for close to three years, I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned to let go being stubborn over certain things. I’ve learned not to be too serious over the tiniest thing.
And I’ve realised that when I let go of certain things, I actually feel happier.
Being in a relationship – any relationship in fact, international or not, it isn’t about being egoistic and always having things our way. I’ve tried that and it didn’t work. Like I’ve said, it’s about giving and taking. It’s a long journey that is sometimes rosy, sometimes thorny for us to learn and be a better partner.
And the judgement of a handful of individuals over what we should or shouldn’t be doing? F*ck it, we’re not robots. I say, we decide our life and be responsible for it.