My fiancé, Bark, and I had planned a simple, elegant wedding. Since we’d already broken with tradition by purchasing a house and moving in together, we also wanted to pay for our own wedding. Our budget was small, however, so we decided to hold the ceremony and reception at home.
The wedding would take place in mid-May. If our pacific northwest climate cooperated, we’d exchange vows in our backyard, among the fallen apple and cherry blossoms. If it rained that day, our sixty-five guests would end up crammed in the living and dining room.
More worrisome than the weather, though, was our families. Most of them hadn’t met and we didn’t know if the elder members of my Caucasian family would mingle with my Asian fiancé’s relatives. As far as I knew, my British-born grandfather had never socialized with anyone from China. Also, Bark’s grandfather was only one of several Chinese relatives who didn’t speak English.
The truth was that not everyone approved of our marriage. I knew we couldn’t change attitudes at one wedding, yet if we could provide opportunities to break down some barriers then it would be a start.
A few members of my fiancé’s family were disappointed that we wouldn’t be offering the customary twelve-course banquet usually presented at Chinese weddings. Bark assured them, though, that the caterer would have plenty of sumptuous dishes.
On the morning of our big day, I anxiously looked at the clouds. As long as it didn’t rain, we could hold the ceremony outside. As the morning proceeded, my plans unfolded beautifully, and by noon the house was spotless. Colorful flower baskets hung in our sun room, red wine was waiting to be uncorked and Mozart tapes were ready to play. All I had to do was finish dressing to receive our guests at one p.m.
When two cars stopped in front of our house shortly after twelve p.m., I was still in my underwear and applying makeup. Bark went to see what was going on.
A minute later he returned and said, “Deb, you’ve got to see this.”
I peeked out the bathroom window to watch two unfamiliar Asian men lift a red wooden platform out of the trunk of their car. Lying on the platform, was an enormous roasted pig. My eyes widened in horror. The head was still on the beast and they were bringing it up the steps to our front door. Members of Bark’s family emerged from the second car, carrying boiled chickens and roasted ducks. I didn’t look to see if the heads were still attached because I didn’t want to know.
“Where are we going to put the pig?” I asked Bark. “The kitchen counter isn’t big enough and the table’s covered with wine glasses.”
“I don’t know.”
“We’ve already ordered tons of food.”
“I guess they wanted to make sure that pork, duck, and pig would be served at the wedding,” Bark replied. “Those foods are believed to bring good luck.”
At that moment, I wasn’t feeling terribly lucky. More cars were arriving, I was still in my underwear, and my house was being overtaken by a fat, crispy, brown pig. What was I supposed to do? Hand everyone a bib and tell them to chow down? I hadn’t even rented fingerbowls. I finished dressing quickly.
The pig wound up on our kitchen floor, surrounded by newspapers and pieces of cardboard. At this point, I desperately wanted a soothing cup of tea, but the porker was blocking access to my kettle.
At one p.m. more guests arrived and commented on the delicious odor permeating the house. It didn’t take them long to discover the uninvited guest on my floor. In fact, the pig rapidly became a conversation piece.
At two p.m., the ceremony began. As we were pronounced man and wife, the sun broke through and the afternoon grew warm, but few people stayed outside. They wanted to see the pig.
One of my husband’s relatives, a butcher by profession, used his meat cleavers to chop and cut with an expertise that had guests from both sides of the family spellbound. While he worked, business associates, friends and more relatives gathered near the kitchen to watch. As the meat was carved into bite sized pieces then transferred onto aluminum plates, people smiled and began chatting with one another. By the time the man was finished, the caterers had arrived and our dining room was soon overflowing with food.
The camaraderie that had begun with the roasted pig gathered momentum all afternoon. By the time we left for our honeymoon, guests were talking and laughing with one another like old friends. Everyone loved the taste of the pork.
We returned from a brief honeymoon to find our kitchen floor clean and our freezer brimming with full aluminum containers. My sister and two brothers-in-law had washed the floor three times to remove the pig grease. Mercifully, one of Bark’s uncles took the carcass home, believing the head would bring him extra good luck.
In hindsight, our uninvited guest provided the best possible means of breaking down barriers that day. Fourteen happy years later, we still live in the same house, along with our two children. And somewhere along the way, we’ve been accepted into each other’s family. I guess that big fat pig brought good luck after all.