A Bride Unveiled
Bride : Natalie Ha
Wedding Date : 19/03/2012
My parents are Chinese, they were born in China, where they lived for a few years and then they moved to Vietnam where they spent a lot of their years. They had to make a run for it when the war started, my mum and dad split the children up, they had five children at the time, dad took the boys and mum took the girls. My mum made it to L.A and my dad went to Hong Kong, and they had to somehow find a way to meet each other again. Eventually my dad also made it to L.A, him and my mum met up and they moved to England. They pretty much trekked around Asia, then to L.A (where they could have settled down) then they moved to England, where I was born.
My dogs are my life, they are the two most important men in my life, not Evan, he comes third, but that’s not even close – I don’t think he counts as an important man in my life (only joking). My first dog was actually my brother’s; he bought it for his kids but the dog bonded with me so I asked to take him to my university. To this day, I am known as the aunt who stole my nephews’ dog, they have another puppy right, and they said to me “Aunty Nat, can you not steal this one please.” Then a year ago, Evan had this great idea to get another dog, I happily tagged along, and that’s the best decision of my life, to have two dogs, I love them. I even dress them up, they have dinosaur outfits, they have cow outfits and even a little Chinese suit.
Just before we flew over to Italy for this shoot, I had an innocent “oh I wonder if I still fit in my wedding dress” moment; most brides lose weight for their wedding, I was no different. I tried my dress on and managed to do up the zip so I was like “YES! This calls for a celebratory cookies and tea”, so I sat in my computer chair watching video games, eating cookies and drinking tea with my dogs desperately trying to dig their way into the dress. They love material, if you put a duvet down, they will dig into it, I guess the dress in their eyes was the same thing. I even hid them underneath my dress as a joke, they got a bit confused but they loved it, erm, yeah, so, I put on my wedding dress, ate cookies and drank tea ; Similar to the episode of Friends where all three of them buy their wedding dresses and just watch TV and eat popcorn.
EVAN & I:
So me and him (my husband Evan) met online 8 years ago through a game, we are both gamers! We played a Korean MMO online. We spoke, I hated him at first, I thought he was obnoxious and arrogant. He asked, “Oh my gosh are you Asian?” (he has a thing for Asians, which I didn’t know at the time) and I stupidly said yes and we started talking. I don’t know how, but along the lines, we became a relationship, I guess you could call it boyfriend and girlfriend but at the time I was too young to think of him as a boyfriend, I thought of it as an online romance – I use to be on MSN all day – and I would to change my status to songs and love lyrics. I was in his guild (part of the game), he was the guild master, as a result, we started talking more and more online, eventually it led up to phone conversations, so I was constantly buying phone cards to call him. I was living in England and he was living in upstate New York, Rochester. Eventually my daily routine became me going to school, playing online games and then staying on the phone all night, not sleeping and repeating the cycle with naps in school. Then there was a point where Skype came along!
Both my parents passed away, within three months of each other. It was really hard for me as I was still young and was doing my GCSEs at the time. This was really difficult to take and I was hurting as a result. I completely shut down – away from everyone. However, Evan never gave up on me, he kept on talking to me, he helped me out a lot during this difficult period which lasted nearly a year. He made it a lot easier for me to voice my feelings. Talking to Evan helped a lot! I guess that is when he realised (through talking to me) that he liked helping people, counselling people through tough times, and this influenced what he studied at university.
With time, I eventually started to heal; Evan remained my rock through it all. We had been together for about 3 years by now.
There were times when we broke up and made up, but that was just the pressure of having a long distance relationship. To be honest, I never expected to fall in love with a boy from New York or expected something to come out of it which is still going strong to this day. I mean, my first ever proper relationship was a long distance one; that was never something I could have predicted. It wasn’t until I started university that we started to think about our future. The first time I actually met him was during my first year at university in 2008. We had broken up a few months before, Feb 13th 2008 to be exact – a day before Valentine’s Day (I think he didn’t want to give me a present that year). I did the typical girl thing where I would push him away and expect him to come back to me – in his mind I was playing games; in my mind I was testing him. I guess I wanted to make sure this was the real thing, but he broke up with me. As a result, there was nine months of no communication what so ever! He eventually told me that for the whole nine months he was not happy. He never found a girl like me apparently!
We started talking again, but as just friends in September 2008. I decided to go and see him as a “friend” in November that year. For my birthday, I got a credit card, booked the tickets and left. I didn’t tell many people, not even my family that “I’m going to America to see a boy I fell in love with and can’t get over, I’ll be back in four days.” This is what I told them instead, “my phone has been stolen, and it is taking me a bit of time to get a new one so just email me if you need me; I’m not coming back for my birthday, I’m too busy with university work.”
I was a bit worried when I got to the airport, but there he was waiting for me and we sort of did the whole running into the arms thing! During those four days we spent together in New York, we realised that we can’t live without each other. So we got our relationship back on track, from then on there wasn’t a day when I didn’t speak to him.
I gave up going out I if hadn’t spoken to him all day. Because of the 5 hour time difference between London and New York, around 10pm (UK time) is when I could talk to him, however this is the time that me and my friends would usually go out so I would tell them: “go without me because I don’t want him to go to sleep without speaking to him.” I sacrificed nights out with my girls just to speak to him. We would have arguments (what couple doesn’t right?), however, we never broke up again once we got things back on track. I would go over to New York and he will come over to London sometimes. I get on great with his family, all his brothers and sisters are lovely to me and my family loves him too.
The proposal was very non-traditional! There was no getting down on one knee, no romantic setting – there was no flowers on the bed, none of that. It was a mutual agreement over Skype, No! not Skype I think it was over the phone. I think I said we should get married soon, he was like yeah we should, when should we start getting the visa ready? Erm pretty soon…should we just do it yeah? then that was it. We were going to get married! We decided when we were going to get married, it would be when he finished university, he had another term to go so I said, right, that is when we will start getting the papers we require to get married.
I didn’t have an engagement ring, Yep! No engagement ring, ha. I would say to everyone, Yeay! We’re engaged!
I think at that time we had been together for 6 ½ years, so it felt like we were already married. I knew him, he knew me, and both our families knew each other, we were pretty much married. It didn’t have to be stated by either one of us that we were going to get married or shall we get married? It was just the case of, when we were going to get married. Well I knew in my heart that I was never going to go and choose anybody else. He knew that as well. So yeah, The formalities were over the phone and it was like “yeah lets’ get married, let’s do it!”
This engagement ring is actually my mothers, it is a heirloom, she left it for me. Evan asked my sisters behind my back to use the ring because he knew how much it meant to me, and I actually prefer it. I think in my heart I wanted him to use it, I wouldn’t have accepted any other ring. Three days before the wedding he sat me down on the sofa and said “sit down, sit down, close your eyes.” I said “what are you doing? stop wasting my time, I need to do flowers okay, there is so much to sort out for the wedding.” Then he said “open your eyes.” He was down on one knee with a ring in his hand, “is that my mother’s ring?” I asked; and he said “Nat will you marry me?” I replied “just give me the ring, Yes! Yes! Get up.” That was it, after that we continued with the wedding stuff.
PLANNING THE WEDDING:
In regards to planning the wedding, I did most of it myself. I knew the theme I wanted – an English rose garden vintage theme. The first thing was to research the type of flowers I will need. I had all these amazing grandeur sort of dreams of purenes and lilies and roses but my dream was crushed when I was told that purenes were not in season as my wedding was in March, the beginning of Spring, and not quite Summer.
My sister-in-law told me to go to a flower market to get the flowers because she know how to make them into bouquets, so I ended up getting them from a local flower market. I ordered them, and they came two days before the wedding.
When it came to the dress I didn’t know what I want, I was given a lot of bridal magazines, but in all of them the models were skinny, tall, white, with porcelain skin. I simply could not see myself in any of those dresses “that is not me” I said, “that dress is not going to look good on me, she looks buff but how would I make this dress look good?” So I said “screw this I’m just going to go into Alders and find a dress; And YES, I did find a dress that I loved. Both of my sisters went with me, they looked through the rails and picked out really elegant lace gowns, ones with lots of diamante waist bands. But I told them “that’s not me, that is not what my wedding is, my wedding is not glitzy, it is not glamour, I just want an innocent vintage English garden setting.”
I kept looking through the rails and I picked out a dress and I knew it was the one. As soon as I saw it I knew this was it, even before I tried it on and when I did try it on it was perfect! However, my sisters insisted that “you don’t know that it is your perfect dress, you’ve only been to one shop.” “Yeah, but I know, I just know.” I replied. But they refused to accept it so we went to look for more dresses at other shops, this ended up with me trying on eight more different dresses, against my wishes. I tried on expensive ones and cheaper ones too. The expensive ones I do not care for, personally I thought they were the biggest waste of money; as much as I hate saying this, I could not justify spending £1200 on a gown that I will wear only once and I’m glad I didn’t!
I even tried on tiaras, I knew I didn’t want one, but my sisters were adamant that I had to have a tiara because I was “a princess”, I told them “No! this is simply not happening.” It was just my preference, I didn’t want anything glamorous, I wanted it all to be simple. My wedding was a small, understated one.
Eventually, we went back to the original shop and I tried on the dress that I loved once more, this time my sisters actually agreed that the dress did suit me. “I told you so” was my victory speech and they accepted defeat. The icing on the cake was that the dress was only £300, it was a Alfred Angelo dress and I was really happy with it, I didn’t need an expensive designer dress, this was the dress for me.
My sisters did get a consolation though when they made me buy a pair of shoes for the wedding, initially, my plan was to use a pair that I already owned – my reasoning was that they will not be on show throughout the day as my dress will cover it, but they said “No! No! No! you have to get a pair of shoes for the wedding.” By now the ball had started rolling and all the preparations started to come together so I reluctantly agreed. However, It was a pain to find a pair of shoes, the Winter season had just finished, and there were sales everywhere, but most of them were winter styled shoes. In the end we found a pair that worked in House of Fraiser, but I don’t know how important the shoes were to me, nobody saw them on the day of my wedding.
THE WEDDING DAY:
The day was an accumulation of everyone, my lovely helpers! My best friend helped me to make the wedding favours; the Maid of Honour, the bridesmaid and two of my guests Deanna and Amy helped with a lot of the preparations. We also made the bouquets ourselves the day before the wedding; I made my own, my Maid of Honour did hers and the bridesmaid did theirs, and the buttonholes. Everybody chipped in, my family, bridesmaids, and guests helped me out on things such as putting together the playlist and setting up the tables for the wedding.
We woke up late on the day of the wedding! We should have woken up about an hour earlier than when we actually did. My sister-in-law, was already waiting at the venue, I received a phone call from her asking “where are you?”, this had me frantically running around the house and I left immediately for the wedding venue. I didn’t have a wedding planner so we had to do it all ourselves, my wedding was very intimate, with about 40 people so I didn’t think I needed one. Together with family and friends, we set up all the tables and named them after houses from Harry Potter. I bought a set of floral vintage tea cups from eBay, all the flowers were in massive boxes and we had to trim them all, then place them into the cups and get all the centrepieces ready. It was a massive challenge but we got everything done just in time.
The wedding took place at Oats Farm in Surrey, Croydon, which is a beautiful venue; where the actual ceremony was held was simply stunning, the wedding breakfast then took place in a barn which had exposed beams. The venue helped keep the day intimate – this made it very special. All the guest started filtering in and before we knew it, it was time to leave.
I know that most brides will have the traditional processional music, but I wanted to be different, I am not your traditional bride! I walked down the aisle to The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme Song). And the best part about it, we found a band to cover it using classical instruments. It caught everyone by surprise, my friends were like “she did not just do that.” They didn’t expect it, and that was what I wanted, I wanted to keep everyone smiling.
We exchange vows. I want everyone to know that I didn’t cry, but Evan did! He started to cry even before I walked down the aisle, I actually giggled to myself when I saw him crying because he is an ugly crier! He cried so hard that he had a hard time speaking. We chose to say our own vowels, I think I said something along the lines of, “I won’t keep on looking at other guys at the gym anymore, and I promise not to get mad when you say aluminium (how you Americans say it), before we knew, that part of the day was over. We hired a band to play the music during the meal, it was really chilled out, the speeches came – I still didn’t cry. My brother made a speech thanking everyone and Evan’s dad made a lovely speech wishing us good luck, then we had our first dance and partied all night!
ASK THE BRIDE (Q&A)
1. What was your biggest fear on your wedding day and how did you overcome that fear? Dionne.
The iPod playlist, I was worried about our Spotify playlist because we had problem with it synching up. This had the music for my entry to and departure from the ceremony, as well as during the wedding breakfast. Deanna was in charge of the playlist, and when we got to the venue we discovered that there was no Wi-Fi, so we couldn’t saved the playlist as offline. Deanna ended up going back to my house where she stood outside to connect to the Wi-Fi and saved the playlist as offline so it will play, she then had to make her way back to the wedding venue. I made her got back to my house, there was no way there was not going to be any music, plus I wanted my Darth Vader theme song!
2. How many bridesmaids did you have and why? Cherrelle.
I had one bridesmaid and one Maid of Honour, these were my two best friends. The reasons why I only had two was just because I didn’t feel the need, it was a very intimate wedding with my closest and dearest. It was simpler having just two, and each one had specific role to play throughout the day. I think any more at such a small wedding would have been a bit too much.
3. Looking back, what could you have gone without? Shardae.
My shoes, I know lots of brides place importance on their wedding shoes, but honestly I think the shoes I could have done without, I had to have my flowers, I had to have my dress but nobody saw my shoes. Nobody besides my family and bridesmaids knew what shoes I wore, I eventually ended up taking them off during the evening.
4. How did you keep all planning exciting when there is so much to do and things don’t go as planned? Sharlene.
Was planning ever exciting for me? I really like lists, so anybody who enjoys lists will enjoy ticking them off, which was me. I had a list and I enjoyed putting a line through them once something was done, that got me excited. Having the input of friends and family also made the planning process exciting, I thought I could do everything by myself, but now that I look at it, there were so many other people’s influence. Seeing what other people could say, for example, I had a specific look in my head for my bouquets but you know what, when it came down to it, everyone inputted different ideas and it actually worked out.
5. How many shops do you recommend visiting before making a final decision on your wedding dress? Dionne.
That’s hard to say, I looked in one shop and I found my dress in under 30 minutes. There are so many options that it can bog you down, but I think having an idea of what you want helps. I truly believe that you will know your wedding dress once you see it.
6. Did the planning put pressure on your relationship, if so what activities did you do to keep things fresh and exciting? Lara
It didn’t put any pressure on our relationship at all, I’m really easy going and so is Evan; he was pretty much like, I will just turn up on the day, you just tell me what to wear and that’s it.
7. If you could turn back the clock, what would you have done differently? Nkem
I think I would have invited more people but finances played a part in that decision.
8. Where can I find good reception venues and how did you go about in choosing yours? Bhavikaa
Google! I Googled wedding venues that were close to me and I made a list and looked at them in more detail. I had an idea of what I wanted with the wedding being a small one, so I filtered out all the large venues. I recommend you to go and see some, and the one you like and which feels right to you, go for it.
9. What was the biggest waste of money, the best value for money and can you share any budgeting tips? Lucy
Biggest waste of money: Everything that I had was the essentials that I needed, I didn’t spend any excess money on anything I didn’t need.
Best value for money: was probably my wedding dress, you don’t need the most expensive wedding dress.
Budgeting tips: haggle haggle haggle! Haggle like there is no tomorrow! Haggle like an Asian girl!
Thanks for sharing your amazing story Nat, it was a pleasure working with you.
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