In the next three weeks, Esther and i prepared what we could in Beijing, like wedding gifts for our guests, her wedding dress, my Marriageability Affidavit from the embassy (Do you swear you are not already married? Yes, of course. Ok, that'll be $50.), my ring, and logistics for how we wanted to run the actual wedding.
Esther was the calmest bride-to-be i could ever imagine. She was wonderful. One day we were out and saw a store selling wedding dresses. One hour later, we had bought one. At one point we learned we would need an MC for the wedding, someone to stand on-stage with a mic, introduce us and keep people entertained. Jim agreed without hesitation.
Her mom was great too, helping to sort out invitations and book a banquet hall. There was a lot to get figured out, of course, but everything just seemed to fall into place without much trouble.
Esther and i spent the week before the wedding in Xiaoshan taking care of any last-minute preparations. But really, there wasn't much to do. On Monday, we spent about an hour at the banquet hall/hotel, which is within walking distance of their home. On Wednesday, Esther and I went to Hangzhou to register, which meant we were officially married, but it was so anti-climatic we didn't really feel married until the actual wedding. We had to fill out some basic information about each other, education level, occupation, date of birth, etc, and read it aloud to each other. It felt like reading out the ingredients to a recipe. True story: on the marriage form where it asks for your current status, the options are "Divorced, Widowed, or Spinsterhood."
We wanted wedding photos, but we didn't plan far enough in advance. In China, you take your wedding photos weeks or months before the wedding, on a day when the weather is perfect. Not doing it was our one regret leading into those final days, so we decided to call a local place, cuz, y'know, it never hurts to ask. Amazingly, they had only one slot available due to a cancelation but we had to go the next day, Thursday.
... and I am so happy we did. All together, we had 5 different changes of clothing, over 10 hours, in 15 different scenes. They had a huge wardrobe of clothes to select outfits from, and 20 different set designs for backdrops. They gave Esther a different hairstyle for each clothing change. They took us out to a beautiful lake nearby to take some outdoor shots as well.
The whole experience was pretty entertaining too. The workers are used to seeing unenthusiastic and dull guys. I show up, a foreigner speaking pretty decent Chinese (and even a few words in their local dialect), picking out my own clothing and joking around. We turned their somber operation into a lively place for that day. They loved us.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, are our favorite of the 180 they gave us. Enjoy!