My Big Fat Jamaican Wedding

Counting down to the big day

Wedding Day August 3, 2012

Our wedding day was very magical.  For me, the wedding was the culmination of so many things all at once.  First, the wedding day represented for me the ten years of knowing Adam and eight years of our courtship.  Second, with the help and support of our parents, we were able to bring our dream to fruition– having our wedding in Jamaica.  Then, of course, the wedding day represented months of planning (or almost two years, if you include the research and investigation of venues).  Next, it was the manifestation of everyone’s love, support, generosity, talent, and assistance for the events that led up to that very moment.  And then, in the back of my head, it was like saying, “F&*% you” to cancer.  (The week I got engaged was when the tumours were discovered in my thyroid.  My recovery period, surgery, and radiation were also reasons why we postponed our wedding plans.)  Lastly, the wedding day was not only about Adam and me but also our dear friends and family who trekked all this way to celebrate and special moment with us.

Many a bride has told me how quickly this day passes and one even told me I should do some mindfulness exercises to “be” in the moment.  I felt and still feel that everything took place at a comfortable speed.  There are very few things I would change about the day other than having more time to dance with my hubbie and to talk with my guests.  I also continue to be mesmerized by this day as I watch our video, look at pictures, and re-recite our vows.  The traditions and customs that Adam and I selected for our wedding day(s) (I include the events leading up to the wedding day and the rehearsal dinner) meant a lot to us and represent the cultural symbolisms deemed important by our ancestors.  I continue to reflect on the importance of the day and the significance of the wedding day in my life and my relationship with my husband.

In the next series of posts, I will reflect on the importance of the aspects of our wedding day(s).  Also, I didn’t put any captions so you can create your own.  Our guests told us how beautiful, organized, and “us” the wedding came out.  I am really happy about this especially considering all of the “craziness” that led up to the day (like, having to return home in Toronto to grab my forgotten toiletries (contact lenses and lipsticks) and arriving minutes before the boarding gate closed, leaving all of my laptop, cell phone, and camera chargers at home, not getting to meet with the minister beforehand (but Carlie, Adam’s sister and our wedding planner that day, did meet with him and he was wonderful), having all my appointments run late so I didn’t get to meet with Carlie and Katy before the rehearsal, just finding out the payment for the wedding had to be done beforehand and then not having it go through due to their system not having two account options, finding a hotel guest to borrow a MAC charger from so that I could charge my laptop and transfer the money to the accessible account at 2:30am before the wedding when I finally had time to fix it, forgetting to print off the ceremony and reception details before arriving in Jamaica, forgetting to pick up the black cake which was supposed to be cut up the night before the wedding- a Jamaican tradition- to be placed in favour boxes to be distributed to guests, forgetting the favour boxes, having to buy “over priced” boxes in Jamaica, forgetting my wedding beach sandals crying about it and then finding them 30 minutes later, my two-year old nephew/ringbearer having a “moment” so he couldn’t participate in the procession, missed and cancelled flights for some of my guests, on our last night finding the favour boxes I purchased in Toronto, just minutes before the wedding getting called by the front gate twice about guests not being on the list who were really on the list, floral arrangements missing from the order, waiting for some members of my wedding party, a crappy, late vegan reception with “roti” and “curry”, the “lost” African money dance CD, Tierra having to run across the resort back to my room a few times because I kept forgetting stuff, etc.)  All in all, thankfully, I was able to surrender all of that and enjoy my day because all of these challenges did not impact the wedding day in the end.  So many things did go right like having a great wedding planner for the day, my maids of honours touching speeches, my bridesmaids bringing me plates of food and teaching me how to get my “butt” ready for the African dance, a fun wedding photographer, amazing music selection and dance, spending time with family and friends, the black cake did get cut up on time as a team of our guests pitched on the morning of the wedding, Joanne doing  a great job on my reception make-up, the children having a wonderful time with their bubbles and loot bags including my nephew, my hairstylist could style dredlocks and understood my vision and did not look at me like I had three heads when I wanted to put cowrie shells in my hair, my maid of honour sister, we did not have to cut short our ceremony because we started a few minutes late nor did the videographer cut the session abruptly nor short, and guests caught other flights, I saw relatives I had not seen in years and others I met for the first time, and amazing weather with sunshine, a gentle breeze, and no rain.  I had my gown(s), my groom, the minister, the venues, and our 65 guests… all in Jamaica!  I was so ready to get married.

During the reception,we had a beautiful musical interlude by my HOGWASH friends from college.  We have a tradition of writing songs and singing at each others’ weddings.  So with Nadine’s crafty lyricism and ukulele playing and the lovely chorus of Susan and Brenda, they sang “Not Single No More” based on the melody of Bob Marley’s No Women No Cry.

Here are some photos from the day.  The day consisted of three parts: the ceremony, the reception, and the after party.  I tried to separate the photos by part but they were a bit of a feat to assemble since the photos came from different sources.  I could not find my digital camera charger so some of these photos are of the precious “few” I took in Jamaica.  (I tend to take a tonne of photos.)  Thank goodness, there were guests who were a lot more prepared than I was.  So some of these photos were taken from their albums posted on facebook (is it too late to ask for permission?).  Disposable cameras were placed on each table at the reception.  Unfortunately, these were cameras in which you had to switch the flash on so a number of pictures came out too dark or not at all.  Thankfully, there were several that we could use which are displayed here.  You may want to add some roots reggae music.  (I will do a post about the music of our day.)

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Note to other brides: Putting disposable cameras at tables are an excellent way to save money.  In our case, it allowed us to save almost $ 1, 000 from not having our photographer stay for the entire reception.  Test out the quality of your disposable camera to ensure that photos do not come out grainy.  Also, give a little tutorial to your guests about how to use the camera and the types of photos to take.  You may also wish to tell the guests that the resulting cameras are gifts for the bride and groom.  In this way, the cameras won’t become unintended wedding favours.  We only lost one disposable camera that day but the manager at my photo store told me at his best friend’s wedding, guests took home 8 out of 20 cameras.

Also wear the most comfortable shoes you can find.  I was barefoot on the beach but I alternated with some sexy silver Papillio sandals which are made by Birkenstock.  For the reception, I wanted to wear red heels for dancing and lucked out with a heeled pair at Naturalizer.  I wore both pairs of shoes in a little bit at home.  My Naturalizers lasted me the whole night and were hot.  I learned later in a book that wearing something red is a good thing in Jamaica culture.

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The first of many kisses

We’re married! August 3, 2012

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A Tale of Three Showers: Part 3

When I tell most people that I lived and took classes at a Mennonite college, they tend to think of this.

This could not have been further from the truth.  Instead my experience was more like this.

Do you see that Black girl there in the corner? No? I swear she was there just a second ago. That would be me.

Why did I choose a Mennonite college?  When I was searching for a residence to live in while studying at a university out of town, one wrong turn and a step into the Mennonite college made me feel at home.  First of all, the food that the students were eating actually looked like real food.  (Mennonites cooking is delicious.)  Secondly, I got a wonderful welcome.  A mixed (Black and white) student who probably saw the confused expression on my face and wondered, ‘She’s not from around these parts’ walked over to welcome me and gave her take on the residence which she highly recommended.  At that point, I was still still sitting on the fence until I looked down at her feet and saw no shoes.  She wore her socks in the residence dining room.  I too wanted to be comfortable enough to walk around without shoes.  Right then and there, I was hooked and decided to make this college my home.

My experience at the Mennonite college taught me several things.

1.  Always eat dessert.

2.  Gaining a few pounds (or 15) is really no biggie.  (No pun intended.)

3.  Doing really Canadian stuff outdoors in nature like going on a hayride, sledding, tubing, and play ice hockey (not exactly outside).

4.  Having community dinners each week is really centring no matter how busy my schedule got.

5.  There are more than one ways to settle conflicts without fighting or arguing.

6.  How to sing in five-part harmony.

7.  How to start a film festival with no money.

8.  Some white people have hair as kinky as mine.

9.  Young adults getting involved in community service projects on the other side of the world, especially in areas of conflict.

10. How to have loads of fun without alcohol.

11. Keeping the doors unlocked.

12. How to dress very casually and not give a #$%^ about how you dress.

13. How to appreciate and love my afro (at the time) even more.

14. That there are many other ancient writings that were not published in the Bible and talked about Jesus like the Jesus child with super powers or the first feminist missionary.

15. That you can get married at a really young age (like 19 0r 20) and still be cool.

16. How to build an igloo and that yes it is okay to sleep in it.

17. Meeting real farm kids.  I mean they actually grew up on a farm.

18. Peace and quiet in a college dorm.

19. Co-ed dorms and, in some cases, washrooms.

20. Really good pranks that could go down in history books.

21. My first editing gig.

22. Lots of platonic male friendships.

23. People with really different life experiences.  One girl worked as a fire fighter in BC during the summer.  One guy had a liver transplant.  A few people were adopted.  One girl grew up communally– two families under one roof.  One guy had just one testicle (he lost the other to cancer) and was not ashamed to tell people about it.  There were a few Muslim and atheist (in a Mennonite college, yeah for real) students.  Two girls had Black ancestry but you couldn’t really tell by looking at them.  One guy’s parents were a nun and a priest.  Tons of female engineering and math students.  One guy actually worked in Darfur while the conflict was going on.

24.  How to make a petition to get what you want.

25. How to cram a lot of people into a car.

One of the most treasured things I gained from being at the college were the friendships I made.  My friendships with Clarissa, Nadine, Amy, Brenda, and Susan now span some 14 years.  My does time fly!  We got along so well that we all moved into a basement apartment with one bathroom.  We nicknamed ourselves HOGWASH (House of Godly Women and Spiritual Heroes).  I think Nadine thought of that.  That’s so Nadine.

I’ll tell you about the HOGWASH girls.  We have a few HOGWASH traditions.  We often have two annual gatherings and we will try to attend whenever we are able.  Most of us are teachers.  Most of us are world travellers and have visited many countries.  (I have visited only three but I dream to see more of the world.)  Some of the HOGWASH girls have lived in different provinces, states, and countries.  The HOGWASH girls are also multicultural.  Nadine is Lebanese.  Clarissa is Hong Kong Chinese.  Amy is half Hong Kong Chinese and Scottish.  Susan has Amish and Mennonite roots in Germany.  Brenda is a mix of Eastern European cultures.  Then there is me.  You don’t need to be reminded where my roots are from.  The HOGWASH girls are active and get very involved in our communities and churches.  Our faiths are an important part of our lives.  Though we have slightly differing beliefs along the Christian spectrum, we have always managed to find common ground.  We also celebrate each of our successes, challenges, and transitions– including births and marriages.

I must say that I looked forward to my HOGWASH shower especially since it was with my friends who I have known for so long.  I have to admit that I think the HOGWASH girls were waiting a long time for my turn.  Two of the girls got married since I started dating Adam.  I was also amazed that most of the HOGWASH girls were able to attend my first bridal shower as well as plan the other.  (I guess they were breaking our tradition a bit.)

Squint-o-rama. Four out of the five HOGWASH girls attended my Shower #1. The fifth is across the continent with her baby.

I am also happy to say that some of the HOGWASH girls will be attending the wedding in Jamaica.

The day I spent in Waterloo was wonderful.  We had a barbeque at Nadine’s house.  Then we went to pick up my wedding broom.  Lastly, we ended up with dessert at Susan’s.  What a beautiful day!

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Jump for Jamaica 50!

This year is Jamaica’s 50th year of Independence from Britain.  Celebrations are underway.  This is a huge deal since we Jamaicans tend to be very patriotic and proud of our nation.  Not just on the island but in the Jamaican diaspora.  There have been several events here in Canada already and more to come.

This video features some famous Jamaican-Canadians reflecting on their Jamaican heritage.

Plus, my choir the Heritage Singers will be performing at a swanky Jamaica 50 gala and dinner that is $ 500 a ticket.  I am sad that I can not participate in these events due to my limited time (and energy) to learn all the songs and perform on the day.  My energy and time are going towards planning and putting the finishing touches for our wedding, a very significant event I’d say.  At least I will get to see the Jamaica 50 Festivities first hand in Jamaica.  A lot of Jamaicans from the diaspora (mostly in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain) are heading home this summer which means that the airlines have taken full advantage of this opportunity to capitalize on the increase in travellers.  Our destination package rate was higher than our agent has seen it in the past and flight rates have been unusually high for this time of year since summertime is typically Jamaica’s low season.  Not this year!

Our Big Fat Jamaican Wedding will incorporate two Jamaican holidays.  First, there is Emancipation Day on August 1.  According to wikipedia:

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. Emancipation Day is widely observed in the British West Indies during the first week of August. In many Caribbean countries the Emancipation Day celebration is a part of Carnival, as the Caribbean Carnival takes place at this time.

Second, there is Independence Day on August 6 marking the day in which  Jamaica received full independence  from Britain in 1962, fifty years ago.  The early 1960s were also the time in which the new country developed its own musical styles– ska and rocksteady– which mirrored the optimism and rhythm of the time.  This was an important time musically since these genres laid the worldwide stage for reggae music.

In true Jamaican fashion, there are several songs written to mark these occasions.  One such song is When August Morning Come which is a beautiful folk song celebrating emancipation.  The lyrics are:

When August morning come

Me want to be free

When August morning comes

They say we must free

Take off the slavery chains

And give we back we name

Read the paper now

And mek we walk free

Here are also some songs specifically for the Jamaican 50th anniversary.  Warning: Some of the lyrics to the songs are a little corny.  However, it is so evident the sincerity, pride, and creativity of the people.

I have no idea who sings this song.

Jump for Jamaica is by the Jamaican All-Stars.  I wish they had a music video.  It was made here in Canada with a lot of Jamaican celebs both locals from here like Kreesha Turner, Kardinal Offishall, and Jay Douglas and from the island like Marcia Griffith and Beenie Man.

You can even learn the Jump for Jamaica dance here.  (There are about a million Jamaican dances for every occasion.)

Here is the Find the Flag In Your Heart song by local Jamaican artists.  Earlier I had said, I have no idea who sings this song.  If you click on the song, you will see a long list of singers including  Ken Boothe, Freddie McGregor, Capleton, and Tarrus Riley.

This one is called On A Mission and includes artists like Shaggy, Damian Marley, and Tarrus Riley.

This one is called Yeh Man Jamaica by Lenya Wilks.

This one is called Jamaica 50 by the Tennors.

This one is my absolute favourite and called Come Home Jamaica by Grub Cooper of the Fab 5, singers of Jamaican Woman.  This style of music is a little different and features a modern mento, the genre that preceded ska, rocksteady, and reggae.

Then there is this one called Sweet Jamaica by Mr. Vegas, Shaggy, and Josey Wales.  This song is not specifically for the 50th anniversary but it is certainly patriotic.  This is a beautiful music video and while watching it, I realize I can’t wait to be there.

So this is the list folks.  Listen at your leisure and I hope you’ll be in Jamaica soon.

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A Tale of Three Showers: Part 2

There is a bittersweet thing about doing a destination wedding in Jamaica.

Sweet: You’re going on a vacation to Jamaica, you’re getting married on a beach, right?

Bitter: So many of your friends and family will not be able to attend for a host of reasons like financial, work-related, family commitments, and health.

Two of my close friends Denise and Marla will not be able to attend my destination wedding.  (Although, we all have “held out” for seat sales and surprises.)  I realized early on that I wanted to do a special intimate shower with my friends.  This was a perfect task for my honourary bridesmaid Njeri.  Over iced tea at Starbuck’s, I asked Njeri if she could co-ordinate a smaller shower for me and my friends.  I had a couple of requests: close to the water, making something together as a group, and having something to take with me.  Njeri took it and ran away with it.  The result: a beautiful moment shared with my dear friends.

They packed a nice picnic lunch for me and we headed over the Toronto Centre Island at dusk.  This was also a special treat since Marla was in from out of town.  She recently passed the bar and accepted her first job as a lawyer.  We had a beautiful dinner and shared words of advice and best wishes.  We also made charming waist beads.  The waist bead tradition originates from West Africa where women wore waist beads for centuries.  Still today, I know plenty an African sister who wears her waist beads and never removes them.  After searching the internet, I found different meanings for the waist beads.

Possibly how the original waistbeads were worn

A modern take on waistbeads

On one site, I learned:

The beads were symbolic of Mother Nature’s initiation of a young girl – the first menses. Some say the beads  may have  been used as an anchor about which  the monthly  cloth was wound similar to the old style sanitary napkin belt.  The menses was the beginning of  the reproductive cycle of womanhood and admitted young girls into the lodge of female mysteries.  

All over Africa beads were money, a successful suitor would commission a set of beads for the waist, ankles, arms, wrists  and neck of his bride.  These beads formed the foundation of her personal wealth. In matriarchial socities it was the man who offered his bride  and her family *gifts*.  In a patriarchy the  onus was reversed as the woman’s family  was the one who offered the male a  substantial *dowry*.

Or on this site, I learned:

Traditionally worn under clothes by African women, waist beads have several different meanings. Ranging from rites of passage, to enticing your husband to healing and rejuvenation.

In West Africa, waist beads have several names.; Jel-Jelli, Jigeda, Giri-Giri, Djalay Djalay or Yomba. They’re always worn under clothes. In Ghana women knew that waist beads helped form their body into a particular shape and adult women wear beads to sexually stimulate the male. In other parts of West Africa, women would wear waist beads with bells on them, and when they walked it would make a jingling noise. Dipping them in oil scented the beads.

We stayed for a few hours until the mosquitoes started to make us their dinner and it was too dark to work.  We moved from their and finished our work at another location.

A beautiful meal of Barbequed Tofu, my favourite dish, from One Love.

Ducks played close to the inlet where we had our dinner.

Marla and a sliver of Denise prepping the table for dining.

I’m makin’ my waist beads.

The lovely beads

A box to keep them all.

Thanks Njeri for coordinating this with everyone!

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Wedding Survival Tip #5: Get Help

Adam’s sister Carlton has stepped up in a big way. She has not only offered to design the decor and details for the reception but she’s also going to be our wedding day coordinator. Here she is thousands of miles away in Victoria, BC armed with “glue guns, reggae and mimosas,” according to Katy, Adam’s stepmom. “A day of crafting with Carlie as we countdown to the Big Fat Jamaican Wedding!” Exciting!!!

I did not realize how difficult this Wedding Survival Tip would be to accomplish and how much I like to have control.  I had a very clear vision of what I wished for my wedding– lots of DIY (do-it-yourself) features, a rootsy island feel, very creative, and very “us”.  We made our own invitations down from scratch down to printing them on my home printer.  I wished to make my own veil again from scratch but decided to just buy one.  (Read my post, Wedding Survival Tip #3 Pay For It!)  But lately, it’s occurred to me that there was yet another lesson I so desparately needed to learn.  Get help!

The nice thing is that so many people are willing to help.  When I told my friend Denise, I wished to make my own cake toppers.  She said, “Great!  I want to help!  I’ll make her dress.” Do I know the first thing about designing, making a pattern, and sewing a dress with a machine?  No!  So that one was easy.  Denise, take ‘er away!

Then there were other things that I knew that I could not obviously do myself like plan my showers.

Lastly, I recruited many family members and friends, guests for our wedding in Jamaica, to pitch in and take on a number of positions to make our week irie.  A few declined for personal reasons, but for the most part, everyone jumped in.  This wedding is really going to be a team effort.

On that note, what I realized last night, the “last pillar” of control was my wedding day.  The actual day!  As many a bride has told me, there comes a point when you have to say to yourself, “Let go.”  So when Carlie (what she is commonly called) reassured me again that she was more than capable and had a lot of experience with weddings at a professional level.  I realized that this was not about qualifications and credentials any more, this was about me being scared to let go.  What I realized is that everyone who is attending this wedding (and helping out) wants very much for it to turn out spectacularly.  Plus, I also realized that it isn’t humanly possible for me to do everything myself (especially with a week to go).  This photograph is proof that it can and will get done with love, care, helping hands, and reggae music.

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A Tale of Three Showers: Part 1

Adam and I were not only blessed with a Stag and Doe, I was also blessed with three bridal showers.  Some brides get one but I had a few and I am thankful that I not only got to spend time with with many people, as in my first bridal shower, but I also had times to celebrate with my friends in a more intimate way.  This post is the first in the series, A Tale of Three Showers.

On July 7, I was blessed with a shower by my maids of honour Nyisha and Tierra, mother Valerie, and mother-in-law Mel. I had an amazing time.  It was light and fun and good energy.  The team worked hard to give me the shower of my dreams.  Nyisha asked me if I had any special requests for the day.  I did.  I wanted an advice book.  I wanted my guests to write down their best wishes and thoughts for the union.  I also asked for sunflowers, blue butterflies, and my favourite colours– blue and yellow.  (I also love green.)  Wishes granted.

My bridal shower was a fun-filled day.  I had just arrived from my friend Suzanne’s shower earlier that day.  About thirty of us filled my parents’ backyard and family room while the organizing team flitted about in preparation.  Tierra filled the role of a gracious and charming host.  Nyisha had things rolling along and made sure everything fell into place as well created the awesome decor and nice touches as the coordinator.  My mother had been cleaning and preparing the house for weeks before my shower.  Mel helped run errands, offered help wherever possible, and made some amazing vegan cupcakes.  (I gave her my recipe and I swear that her version of the cupcakes turned out best.)  Everyone was willing to offer a helping hand.

The attendees were a bit of a surprise to me. I didn’t know who would actually be able to attend the shower.Although there were some guests who were unable to make it, I had an amazing time with those who actually did.  We played fun games, ate food, and talked and laughed.  The time passed quickly but I enjoyed it all.  It was such a nice day, so sunny and fun.

Thank you to all my guests for blessing me with your presence (and presents, hee hee hee)!

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Supermodels for the Day: Engagement Photos

Njeri is not only bright and beautiful, she is also an amazing photographer.  She offered to take our engagement photos.  These photographs were taken in October 2010, almost four months after our engagement and just a few weeks before I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  We wished to capture the beautiful fall season here in Toronto yet maintain a rootsy island vibe.  We thought it would take only a few hours but it took a whole afternoon.  By the time we got through some of our scenes, we were starving (and a little chilly too)!  Here is a taste of our day.  (I’m so glad I found this slideshow feature on this blog.  It made posting these photos so quick and easy.  Stay tuned for more photos of other events.)

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The Irie Dream Team: Introducing the Wedding Party

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Nyisha is mama caliente.

Nyisha- My Matron of Honour

This “hot mama” of one and wife is muy caliente y intelligenta.  Known for sense of style, take charge attitude, and generosity, this transplanted Canadian and graduate of the reknowned Wagner School at New York University (NYU) holder who makes her home in NYC is a matron of honour who takes her role seriously.  Not only did she spearhead my bridal shower from south of the border and co-ordinate everything on very little sleep, she checks in with me by phone many (did I say many? several) times a week to make sure that the wedding plans flow smoothly.  She does all this while keeping things chill on the homefront, raising a two-year old, and holding down her career which involves work trips to places like Las Vegas and Florida.  Sigh!  Plus she tested gifted in Grade 5 and choreographed and performed dances with her friends in elementary and high schools.  (And guess who she learned it from?  Moi.  The older sister should get some credit.)  Nyisha is a force to be reckoned with and lots of fun to be with.  She’ll have you doing rolls on the floor with laughter (okay maybe that’s just me).  We have our inside jokes.

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Unripe mangoes make an excellent backdrop for Tierra.

Tierra- Maid of Honour

“Baby sister” is no longer a baby no more.  (She has proven she is all grown up.) Poised and loveable, she hosted the bridal shower and kept the guests entertained with her charm and line-up of games.  Baby girl started a company called Untouched Beauty to “help young women worldwide”develop better body images and senses of self-worth.  This second-year Carlton University student chose to focus on international business but fashion was a close second.  (Sigh! I wonder who she gets her ambition from?)  Also inheriting the flare for fashion and my love of words, she has “switched roles” by checking in on her big sister during the last few months and offering to take on the role of organizing the bachelorette party.  I am sure she is looking forward to being able to legallyshare a few drinks with my sister.  Not!  (What kind of older sister would give drinks to her youngest sister when I used to change her diapers?)  Just kidding.

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Njeri is a natural beauty who enjoys trees.

Njeri- Honourary Bridesmaid

My “sister from another mister” and oldest friend has often been called my twin.  It does not bother us now.  It is much easier (and fun) to graciously accept this especially since she also shares the last name of my late Grandmother Stamy, my uncles, and aunt.  And who would have guessed that both me and “my twin” would have outgrown our nerdiness and develop into these intellectually-stimulating and stunning ebony goddesses?  Njeri will always remain the friend who called me daily while I lay in bed at the hospital for four days and would continue to do so as I recovered from surgery.  Would you expect anything less from a woman who swam with dolphins, interprets dreams, ran for political office at 21, and, while in high school, had her own talk show?  Plus she has a Master’s degree and began Osgoode Law School this past year, fulfilling her lifelong dream?  Plus she’s gifted (like my Nyisha) and I forgot to mention that she also took our splendid engagement photos.  Cho, as my father would say.  (Old Jamaican expression.)  Armed with sageand the knowledge of the sages, I am glad to have this grounded diva in my corner.  Even if she is Trinidadian.  (LOL.)

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Justin is on the train track to life.

Justin- Best Man

If a picture is a thousand words, Justin may have a few novels stacked to his credit.  You see, Justin works in film.  So that gazed expression you see in this photo is probably his inner gears “in motion” while he conjures up his next project.  What will it be?  A music video?  A commercial?  A television episode? Hmmm…  I know.  Nadia and Adam’s Irie Island Jam.  We had the stag and doe of our dreams thanks to this man.  I wonder what he will think of next.  A bachelor party to rival all bachelor parties?  Known for his generosity, creativity, and “wing-man”ness, this Russell Crowe look-alike (sorry Justin, I had to mention it) is more than just a “pretty face”.  Justin met Adam in Winter’s College Residence (the artsy school) at York University and shared experiences that would go down in history books.  Looking forward to having him in Jamaica.  Stay out of trouble!  (Another cool fact is that his girlfriend and I share the same birthday.)

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Sam shows off his abs of steel. Say cheese!

Sam- Groomsman 

Ladies and gents, sure you might be seeing an image before you of a young man enjoying his vacation.  Perhaps you are reflecting on your own vacation experiences as a youth or the time to come in Jamaica.  Sigh!  Currently in his second year of studies at “St. FX” (St. Francis of Xavier University) in Nova Scotia, Sam is a stellar athelete.  An aspiring professional soccer player, he is known for receiving the “Lion’s Paw” award at kindergarten graduation for knowing more lyrics of Bob Marley songs than any of his classmates (and his teacher for that matter).  You can thank his big brother Adam for that one.  Between his soccer playing and lyric knowledge, I’d say he’s got two things going for him when he arrives in Jamaica.  Perhaps he could help the Reggae Boyz (Jamaica’s national team) qualify for its first World Cup in fourteen years!  Lahd a mercy!

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Wedding Survival Tip #4: Make a To Do List

Two weeks to go and I’ll be Ms. Hutchison.  (Or maybe Ms. Hohn-Hutchison, Ms. Hohn Hutchison, Mrs. Hutchisohn, Mrs. Hohnison, or simply Ms. Hohn.  I ‘m still figuring this one out.  My feminist-side says keep my name.  My tradition-oriented side says I am embarking on a new life and will be making a new family with my beloved.)

Insert scream: Aaaaaah!!!!!!  Now that I’ve got that out of my system.

Should I be wearing this t-shirt?

I sort of picture a Black feminist to look her… Dr. Angela Davis

Or will I be the traditional wife with a modern twist like Michelle Obama? Educated, poised, accomplished, loves her husband and kids, and takes her husband’s last name.

I can’t believe that all of our plotting and scheming and planning of our wedding has already brought us less than two weeks away from my wedding.  I was hoping to make this blog a weekly post and even more frequently since I have been on summer holidays.  However, I have been sooooooo busy with wedding plans that I have been absent from blogging for the last twenty days.  My helpful TO-DO list has expanded and with the major stuff taken care of, there are so many little things to do.  Here is a condensed version of my completed TO-DO list which I condensed thanks to lots of internet searches.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SO FAR…

 4 Months Before Your Destination Wedding 

__X_ Decide on a wedding budget

__X__ Find your wedding style

__X__ Announce your engagement

__X__ Choose a wedding date

__X__ Choose a wedding location. You might also want to read about beach wedding tips and how to have a perfect outdoor wedding.

__X__ Research the location, including using online resources, renting books from the library, purchasing books, talking to the local tourist bureau, and talking to friends and family who have been there. Ask resorts for “package deal information”, special honeymoon/destination wedding offers, and other informative literature.

__X__ Look into marriage license requirements, and confirm them with the local tourist board

__X__ Find a local wedding coordinator – resorts often have someone on staff or you may be able to find someone through the tourist bureau.

_X___ Put together a wedding guest list

__X__ Send “Save the Date” cards

__X__ Follow up with guests by phone to get a general head coun

__X__ If you want a traditional wedding dress, find it now

__X__ Start considering the wedding party’s attire

__X__ Obtain necessary legal documents, including, if necessary, passports, divorce certificates, visas, identification, birth certificates, notarized declarations of never having been married.

__X__ Consider your Bridal Beauty

__X__ Work with your wedding coordinator to find a wedding florist, musicians, wedding photographer and wedding officiant. You may also want to find a hairstylist, makeup artist, and/or nail salon.

__X__ Decide on your wedding menu and cake

__X__ Finalize wedding ceremony and reception details, arrange for signed contracts to be sent to you.

__X__ Order wedding invitations

__X__ Register for wedding gifts

__X__ Buy wedding rings. Consider having your wedding rings engraved.

__X__ Buy your plane tickets

__X__ Negotiate discounts with airlines and hotels

__X__ Create and distribute a wedding website or newsletter to share travel and wedding information

__X__ Finalize the groom’s attire

__X__ Write and order your wedding invitations

__X_ Obtain your passports

_X_ Shop for resort/honeymoon wear

2 to 4 Months Before Your Destination Wedding

_X__ Mail your wedding invitations

__X_ Begin choosing or writing your wedding vows

__X_ Shop for shoes and other accessories

__X_ Make sure all of the wedding party and other essential people have made their travel arrangements

_X__ Finalize the bridal party attire

1 to 2 Months Before Your Destination Wedding

_X__ Order wedding favors and gifts

__X_ Shop for vacation wear, including swimsuit(s), a rehearsal dinner outfit, sun protection

_X__ Make arrangements to pick up your dress or have it delivered.

_X__ Write your vows and choose the readings for your ceremony.

_X__ Ensure hotel reservations for your guests have been completed

_X__ Arrange how your welcome bag items, favors and decorations will be delivered to your hotel.

My version of this list is a bit longer… and much more detailed.  Perhaps I should scale back a bit but nevertheless, my TO DO LIST is helping me to stay on track.

In the meantime, it has not only been “all work” and no play.  Lots has happened in the last two and a half weeks.

Timeline…

* Bridesmaid Appreciation Night with my maids of honour and honourary bridesmaid.  I went for a lovely dinner at Vegetarian Haven and class at Flirty Girl Fitness.  Then I met up with my maids of honour to see the new film Magic Mike.  I will post photos soon.

Let’s see what Magic Mike can do.

* Gorgeous Bridal Shower with friends, relatives, neighbours, and family organized by maids of honour, mother, and mother-in-law held at my mother’s house.  Played games, ate lovely food, and took lots of photos which I will post very soon.  They did an amazing job transforming the home I grew up into a bridal shower oasis complete with lanterns, patio, and delicious food.  I received a box full of “Recipes for Marriage” and a scrapbook album filled with letters.  I am so thankful for the positivity, advice, and gifts.

My sister Tierra and I at my bridal shower. I’m getting married y’all… I’m getting married y’all… uh uh uh.

* A second smaller shower with my honourary bridesmaid Njeri and my two close friends Marla and Denise who will not be able to attend the wedding.  I asked Njeri to plan this shower since I wanted a small and intimate send-off with my friends.  I also wanted to do a ritual, make something creative that I could take with me to Jamaica.  We took the ferry to Centre Island where we had a picnic dinner of yummy vegan food from One Love.  Njeri smudged a circle using sage around the table which eventually served to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  Each of us created waist beads, chains of beads worn around the waist which have been worn by West African women for centuries.  During this time, Marla, Denise, and Njeri shared their best wishes for me and my new marriage as well as a beautiful poster and box decorated with their words and images.  I will post photos soon.

Waist beads… an ancient West African tradition. Many of my ancestors were slaves brought from West Africa.  That’s not my waist by the way.

* A mini-getaway and third small shower.  I wanted to have a getaway, a trip as a “single” woman, a roadtrip reminiscent of my years in my twenties when I toured my film festival across Canada and lived, worked, and studied in Quebec and Nova Scotia.  I love travelling– by boat, plane, car, and train.  Since I could not afford the time to “take off” for a number of days nor the money to make such a trip before the wedding, I compromised.  I went to Waterloo.  My friends who I met while studying university invited me to Waterloo for our traditional HOGWASH shower.  (Each time one of us gets married, we organize a shower for each other.)  This time, I decided to spend the time at the Little City Farm, a bed and breakfast which is also an eco-friendly sustainable urban farm in Kitchener.  (It has always been a wish of mine to stay at Little City Farm, one of my Funky Sexy Manifestos after completing a large chunk of my thyroid cancer treatment.)  I had a nice restful time connecting with my HOGWASH friends– eating barbeque, shopping in St. Jacob’s, and sharing desserts.  I will post photos really soon.

Little City Farm in Kitchener

My HOGWASH Shower… an age-old tradition.  Susan and Nadine (left to right) will join us in Jamaica.  I miss you Amy.

* And delegating, going to dress fittings, attending a bridal shower and wedding, shopping, e-mails, phone calls, making cake toppers, trials of make-up and hairstyles,  following-up, dance lessons,  filling out forms, making lists and checking them wice… and making time for my honey.

Each one is a step to the big day when I marry the man that I love in front of the people I love.

Aisle be ready! (Badoom Ching)

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