When I arrived back in Taiwan again to pick up my Love, we toured around
a little more, relaxing. Sara had been working very hard all summer,
arranging the Wedding Dinner all by herself, which included inviting
over a hundred friends and families. Suddenly all the work I put into
moving my huge home office around my apartment (6 heavy desks with 6
heavy hutches, 400 books, several computers and lots of office
equipment) looked like a walk in the park. I felt ashamed to complain
that I was tired.
I had brought my Tuxedo to Taiwan and Sara picked up a beautiful dress
from the same store where we had our photos taken (part of the package -
no extra charge). She gave me some instruction as to what we do at the
Dinner. And then the big day came...
"Our Chinese Wedding"
The Dinner took place in a large reception hall at a hotel. After we
were dressed and all the guests arrived, Sara and I strolled in from a
white canopy near the entrence and everyone cheered and threw glitter
and ribbons and took photos. We sat at the end table with Sara's
Grandmother, her mother's brother and his wife, her brother, her best
friend (who made the corsages herself), and Gerd and Odd (who stood in
for the Groom's family).
Many dishes of food were served on a huge "Lazy Susan" in the middle of
the table that we could rotate around and choose from. I am a very
finicky eater and I have fears of many Taiwanese dishes (most of the
time I didn't recognize what was being served), so I dined slowly.
Meanwhile groups of people would come gather behind is for a photo.
The two of us then walked around the room to each table with Champagne
and they toasted us. I had no idea what anyone was saying, so I just
smiled a lot and said "Sheah-sheah" (Thank-you in Chinese) with a modest
bow. That's all I did the whole evening. Someone could have walked up
and said in Chinese "You do not look like the right man for Sara, she
could have chosen better," and I would have bowed with a big goofy smile
and said "Sheah-sheah, sheah-sheah."
and Chris at their Chinese Wedding in Taiwan
Sara's best friend Wendy (behind us on
the right) is one of the first friends I met in Taiwan, back in November
1998. She is the person responsible for encouraging Sara to get on the
internet and find a man, and pointed her to lavalife.com. Sara was in
lavalife.com for only short time before stumbling upon my "Backrubber"
Wendy is also a teacher of English to children, and speaks very good
English in fact. She was originally a little concerned about our
relationship before Sara and I met in person, afraid that she might have
pushed Sara into dangerous territory. I think the original intention was
for her to find a Taiwanese man that they could meet easily, not an
American man. But Wendy became more comfortable after she met me.
Sara's families also trusted me, but so far the trust was more of a
gesture of Good Will I think. They wanted to give me the benefit of the
doubt, because they liked me and they trusted Sara's judgment. But they
were all nervous, I feel, in a hidden way.
Although usually there is an exchange of rings during the party, we had
already been wearing our rings, and were planning on doing the official
exchange in our American wedding.
After our toasts at each table, we stood at the exit as guests filed out
and they greeted us one last time. She held a tray of candies, I held a
tray of cigarettes, and guests would choose what they wish on the way
by. This is also part of the modern tradition. Sara said goodbye to many
of her long-time friends and family members, as this would be the last
she would see them for a long time. It was both happy and sad for all of
"Exchange of Rings"
Sara and I decided to wear our wedding rings since May, when I proposed
to her on the beach. We didn't have engagement rings, really. We did
have another set of rings that we gave each other (Promise Rings), but
as far as our hearts were concerned, we were married already. We've
always been married. We wore our rings during the Chinese Wedding Dinner
in September, but obviously we took them off before our American Wedding
in November, and put them on each other during the ceremony.
Sara's ring is a .64 carat diamond set in a pair of hearts that join at
the bottom. Mine is a White Gold band set with a .20 carat diamond
embedded deeply inside.
The traditional formal Chinese wedding was quite elaborate and even more
involved than the formal English weddings, although I think the English
formal weddings have survived the years more successfully.
Once upon a time, the Chinese bride would be carried in a procession,
hidden inside a sedan chair like the one shown below. Some of these
sedan chairs were much more elaborate than this however, highly
decorated with symbols. The color red played a very important symbolic
role in the Chinese weddings, found liberally in both the bride and
groom's wedding costumes, as seen in the studio pictures we took for
When the sedan chair reaches the home where the Bride would live with
her husband, fireworks would be set off to frighten off evil. Many of
the symbols on the sedan chair would serve the same purpose, or
conversely, to bring good fortune.
The purpose of the sedan chair is so that the Bride's feet never touch
the ground since she is dressed for the wedding, as that would also be
The day after our Chinese Wedding Dinner was the last day of Sara's life
in Taiwan. She had arranged to have herself Baptised on this day. I
actually didn't know about this until just a week or two prior, She
chose a small independent Christian church not far from her home.
Unlike Christians, Taoists and Buddhists are not insecure about who
believes in what. Sara's families were mostly very Taoist, and some had
large shrines with collections of gods. (So little did I know about
Taoism that I thought they were Buddhist until I was told otherwise.)
But her families were not only accepting of her conversion to
Christianity, they approved it. In this culture it is expected for the
wife to adapt the lifestyle, religion and culture of the husband. But I
made Sara understand that she should not do this for tradition, she
should only do this if she wanted to - this is a personal thing, not a
marital thing. She understood.
My mother, who is very Christian, felt very honored by Sara's gesture of
faith, and its timing. Sara had no idea how important this was to my
mother, who of all the family on my side was the most concerned with my
We had packed about 8 bags. Probably the most difficult part of this was
the formal farewell to Sara's Grandmother and Father. Sara's little
sister Meng Chin and her friend Hua helped us get the bags to the bus
station, and from there we took a towncar limo to the airport in Taipei.
Sara's older sister Sophie met us there with Amy and Perry. As before,
the kids were all over the hairy exotic foreignor they called Uncle
Chris. Amy loved my hat and was fascinated by my nose - she said it was
too big. (In fact I got that a lot from children in Taiwan.) Perry -
like most boys - was more interested in my digital video camera.
When Sara and I finally departed, there were tears. Sophie was very sad
to see her sister move out of the country, but happy for our marriage.
Although I wished we could have flown 1st Class, we sat in "Economy"
Class all the way back to JFK Airport in New York where I had a towncar
limo waiting there to take us home to White Plains. We were exhausted.
"New Home" - Fall 2000
Sara settled into my apartment and made herself at home very quickly.
She spent the following months trying to adjust to her new life. The
change did cause some health problems that are stress related, but we
got through it okay. We were very satisfied with our choices and felt
proud of each other and of ourselves.
Sara quickly found things to do while I was away at work every day. She
discovered the YWCA down the street and joined up, then landed herself
volunteer work at its Daycare Center. She also took English As Second
Language classes there, and from other students she learned about local
churches where they have even larger classes of that sort. She began to
attend these English classes at the churches, and networked her way into
a free English school where she could study English more formally. And
that was just the beginning. I was amazed at how quickly she built up
her network and began growing roots. Within just a few months she had
friends all over the area, many of them from Taiwan, Japan, and other
countries. This would later prove to be very helpful...
Meanwhile, we flew to Florida for our second visit with Rabbi Fischer,
and ordered our Marriage Certificate from the County Clerk. With Mom's
help arranging the Wedding in Florida, we sent out all our invitations,
and made our Wedding Favors. Suddenly it was November, and the Big Week
was upon us...
"Thanksgiving" - November 2000
Once again, Thanksgiving Day was upon us, and once again I had a lot to
thank for. It has been officially 2 years ago this day that I met my
wife-to-be for the first time, a day I made an embarassing mistake and
waited an hour for her before going through Customs. On Thursday,
November 23, 2000 we were confident and relaxed. Well, mostly relaxed.
Family has converged, and never have we seen some of these people
together in one place at one time before.
We had our Thanksgiving at the Yacht Club restaurant. Sara's sister Meng
Chin managed to arrive on time for this, and got to experience an
American tradition for the first time. She did not speak English very
well, so Sara translated for her. Interestingly, just as I had a hard
time with the food at the Chinese Wedding Dinner, Meng Chin had a hard
time with the American food. It is not just the food that is different,
it is the way it is prepared.
The next day - Friday, November 24, 2000 - would be the Wedding
Rehearsal. As it would be a Jewish style wedding in a Presbyterian
Church, nobody was quite sure what to expect!
As all of my family are Protestant Christian, or otherwise just familiar
with American style Weddings, and all of Sara's guests had only seen
American Wedding on TV and were otherwise just familiar with Chinese
style Weddings, a Jewish Wedding was a learning experience for all of
us. As you might remember, Sara and I chose this style because the Rabbi
was a good friend of mine and I have respect for the Messianic Jewish
cause. I also enjoyed the idea of my families and friends learning
something outside of their own traditions!
Rabbi went through all the rituals we would have to remember under the
Huppah. Mick, now my Best Man, suddenly found himself with a lot to do.
He had to put the glass under my feet to crush (and remove it) and place
the Tallit around our shoulders (and remove it). We all met at the
Woodlawn Presbyterian Church on Friday afternoon before Shabbat (Rabbi's
service at the Synagogue), where Mom and the gals had prepared a Huppah.
They did a great job, especially for a group who had never even seen one
before! Rabbi walked us all through what we were supposed to do. Most
people are familiar with the "crushing of the glass" - but there was a
As I would walk down the aisle with my parents, Sara's parents could not
be here because her Mother had passed on and her father was too crippled
to leave his house. So her Maid of Honor and Bridesmaid would escort her
down the aisle.
There was to be the Signing of the Ketubah and the Veiling of the Bride
prior to the ceremony, the circling of the Groom by the Bride at the
start of the ceremony, and the wearing of the Tallit during the
Blessings which would be chanted in Hebrew by the Cantor.
My original Best Man, Paul, called in sick just before the Rehearsal. So
Mick became my Best Man, and Joe became my Groomsman. I called Joe at
the last minute and asked if he could join us in the rehearsal on Friday
afternoon. He was originally going to attend as a guest, but to find out
suddenly that he was IN the wedding with only 24 hours advance notice
was a little startling for him! But he was a trooper, and I enjoyed
having him up there with me.
Afterward, we all went to a restaurant in the Hotel where Sara and I
would stay when we are first married. This was our Rehearsal Dinner.
Then, Mick and I took off on our own, and I wouldn't see Sara again
until the Ceremony! Mick and I went to see the end of Rabbi's Shabbat
services, visited with a few people, and then around Midnight we went to
see a movie. I had no Bachelor's Party because I refused to have one. It
was far more relaxing to hang out with an old friend, talk late into the
night about our dreams and ambitions, and see a good movie
(Unbreakable). I guess I just relax differently from other men!
>> Continued in