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Friday, April 27, 2007

Buddhist Wedding

Was invited to a colleague's wedding over the weekend and it was held at Shuang Lin Monastry 双林寺 at Toa Payoh.

I said yes of course.

Ang Pow issues
Before the day, we were discussing amongst each other how much angpow to give. Should it be at the level of a full fledged wedding dinner in a hotel, or a dinner in a restuarant, or malay wedding held in the void deck? Seriously, how much do mock meat and vegetable costs?

In the end, the going rate for colleagues in the same dept was $60, and i decided to give the same as i would for a full fledged dinner in a hotel. Angpow is not merely money in exchange for a meal right? It is also a form of blessing to the newly weds.

Clothing issues
On the morning, i had a problem choosing my clothes. Ok, it is a monastry, so nothing too tight, revealing or flamboyant. All i could think of is black, blue, brown and white. But but but it is a wedding, so cannot wear this type of sombre colors also right? dilemma, dilemma.

In the end i opted for a pretty 2-layer red blouse over dress pants. Only to see that some of my colleagues wore black shirt and jeans... *rolleyes*

The Wedding
As we were stepped into the 观音殿 temple, we started taking off our shoes but the usher told us that we were allowed to keep our shoes for the day as they got special permission. The temple was grand, swarth in gold and many lights, with rows of chairs on 2 sides, a long white cloth with red rose petals strewn on top and a table in the front center for the solemnisation.

First a nun came in, with all us asked to hold our palms together as a sign of respect to welcome her. But old habits die hard and some started clapping their hands.

The wedding couple walked in amidst chinese instrumental music, and the audience throwing red rose petals over them. I was a little bit relieved to find that they were very normal wedding clothes, he in a suit and tie, and she in a long white dress with flowers in her hair and no veil.

The Ceremony Part 1
They proceeded to the table and knelt down, and solemnisation proceeded. I was some what moved by the simplicity of the ceremony and the (hopefully) eternal vows that the couple exchanged to cherish and love each other.

The nun gave a small sermon about mutual respect 相敬如宾, accepting each others shortcomings 互相包容 etc. and abit about financial planning where 1/4 is for essential living expenses, 1/4 for investment (studies/ self-improvement etc), 1/4 savings and 1/4 for charitable purposes. All very earthy and reality based. Interesting seeing that it comes from a nun who has devoted her life to a higher calling.

This was over in 15min, then the surreal part.

The Ceremony Part 2-99
A high monk in ceremonial red robe and 4 other monks came in and started religious chanting, with the beating of the gong, brass urn and a small drum. It was foreign to me, maybe even in a foreign tongue, or was it heavily accented mandarin?

I endured the whole 40min standing, and tried not to fidget, since it was (i guess) to bless the newly weds. But i couldnt stifle a yawn that came when the ceremony was finally over.

The banquet
We were then ushered to a basement 2 event hall for lunch. An 8-course vegetarian meal. A colleague joked that it will be comprise of 1st and 2nd courses flour, 3rd course tofu, 4th and 5th course flour, 6th course veg, 7th course noodle and 8th course fruits. LOL.

Well, he was almost right. Though he forgot mushrooms and tomatoes.

Unfortunately the courses were served really really slowly, 2 hours for 4 dishes. We joked that perhaps the meal were cooked by a solo monk who had to chant over every dish before serving them. :p

I had to leave at 230pm before the rest of the meal was served, stomach only half full.

and went straight to tapao laska with extra hum for lunch.

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