January 13, 2023

All the People We Love Are Here

G and I generally spend NYE quietly, going away to a remote town when we can and reserving time to talk about goals and look at our photos from the past year. This year we celebrated it in the airport as our flight back to New Mexico was delayed for six hours. We spent our day at the airport doing end-of-the-year errands. This for me includes backing up all my photos from the year, and in the process of doing that, I was reminded that I never wrote about our wedding. As far as reflections on 2022 go, I can't really do that without processing this event. Here are my most treasured elements of the day.

Sharing Our Families

Undoubtedly I am most grateful for the opportunity to share parts of my family with everyone else in my life. My parents and brothers are so much the core of how I've become who I am, and any friend of mine has heard endless stories about them. My biggest wish for the day was for my four brothers, so very different and so very much from the same fabric, to give a speech while standing together. All avidly against being the center of attention, they were each incredibly nervous about it, and they each did an incredible job. Hoang talked about raising me (he was often mistook for my dad) and shared tidbits of the many letters I wrote him over the years. Stephen wove a narrative that captured so much of our bond: our shared love of specific novels, the deep value we hold for our family, and the hard work it takes to nurture relationships. This was my biggest cry moment of the day. Duy chronicled our many travel adventures--summiting Kilimanjaro, camping across Iceland, sky driving and hiking glaciers in New Zealand; and how in these challenges and those in life we were always there for one another. Binh read a poem that rhymed through our connection from childhood until now, traversing the sibling relationship which for me has evolved the most. Our friends are still quoting back to us lines of his poem (Gabe, he is from France / like my sister, he only eats plants). It meant so much to hear from so many guests that this was a standout moment for them, and that people received a small glimpse of the relationships that have defined my childhood and growth into adulthood.

Gabriel's sister was the last person to speak during the ceremony, and she was the only one to speak in French. It was an intimate moment to feel like amidst so many people she was speaking only for him, and the closeness juxtaposed to their physical distance was such a moving moment for him, and all of us as witnesses.

Our niblings surprised us with a song that chronicled moments we had shared with each of them over the years, and we were blown away by their talent and thoughtfulness. Ayden has an unparalleled memory so he conjured many details of our moments together, and he also wrote both the music and lyrics. Ally, a natural performer, shined as the singer. And Ethan, shy as he is, braved it and defined the catchy refrain of the song. Chloe bopped around happily as they sang. 

G's mom narrated his life from beginning to end, and I loved seeing the red of their hair and green of their outfits complement one another.

Our other parents preferred to remain in the background, but I hope that people know that everything in the day comes from their love and sacrifice. 

Homage to Our Communities 

One friend wrote to us after the wedding: "What struck me the most was not just what people thought of you, but rather your love for everyone in the park that day. Every person was important and valuable, if you've known them for 3 years or 30."  (Letters and sharings like these are our favorite kind of celebratory gifts, so thank you to everyone who took time to share reflections like these with us). Our number one goal for the day was to give thanks to all these loving, generous people who have been in our lives at different periods, all leading us to our capacity to give to each other. So it was such a gift to hear that this resonated with our guests, and to know that in an event where you aren't able to spend much time with any one person, people felt valued.

We had eight groups of people come up during the ceremony to speak for a few minutes about our connections, and each placed a puzzle piece into a puzzle that G had made. We were a little worried that with so many speakers, people might get restless or bored, but so many shared how much they enjoyed hearing from everyone. 


It was so special to have people travel to be with us. It's not easy to journey to the desert, and so we were so grateful to Gabriel's family coming from France, family of mine coming from Australia, friends of ours coming from New Zealand and different parts of Europe and from all over the US. It feels like it's not so much the celebration itself, but all that it takes for people to be present, that makes it wondrous: for people with kids and challenging life circumstances, and really for anyone, to make the time and effort to celebrate our community.

The Details

G and I decided early on to spend very little time and expense on decor. Instead, we focused on details that felt more meaningful to us - namely, sharing little things that we hold close. For that reason I especially loved hearing from people the small details that they appreciated. One friend mentioned how much they loved the ceremony music. The entrance song was a song by Hot Chip, a band that Gabriel and I both love and have seen in concert together. When he proposed he referenced them by asking me to have a one life stand, an album and song we'd listened to together many times over. The song we chose for our walking down the aisle song was a song he introduced to me, "Crap Kraft Dinner." He'd told me he played it over and over during a particularly moody winter when we first started dating. The title belies its moving and loving feel. The beginning refrain sings over and over "All the people I love are here" and we loved that sentiment for the gathering of all our loved ones. 

The exit song was "Santa Fe" by Beirut, another artist we both love (we discovered later that he is actually from Santa Fe, which moved the song even closer to our hearts). We love the fast, happy feel of the song, and of course we'd listened to it on our first explorations of Santa Fe, and seemed fitting to be shared as we gathered our friends and family in our new city.

Several friends commented on the caliber of the pastry desserts, which made me very happy because they were from our favorite bakery in NM--Burque. I've always loved that G and I share an extreme sweet tooth, because indulging in sugar is all the sweeter with a companion equally relishing it. Having tried dozens of bakeries here, we were excited to share the uniqueness of this one - the perfect texture and sweet flavors. Having bought ten pounds and a dozen varieties of cheeses, I also loved hearing about the specific cheeses people enjoyed. The bread was from G's favorite bread place in NM--Wild Leaven. As with music, I feel like the best sort of food is the kind that speaks to you so much that you long to share their amazingness with others. It was such a pleasure to share our local favorites, cheese and bread and pastries, with everyone.

One table of guests were especially enamored with our dinner food - Jamaican vegan food from a local food truck. We knew this food choice wouldn't go over that well with my family and many of our Vietnamese guests (my dad said of the wedding: "It was great, even though I didn't like the food"). But we wanted to support both plant-based eating and the unusual story of a Jamaican family coming to New Mexico to open a small business. Our local vegetarian friends loved it and told everyone else at their table all about the food truck, and one of those guests told me how this local history made the dinner really unique. So we loved that the narrative behind the food touched some of the guests.


We tried to use the bits of decor we did have as a way to incorporate more of our friends. Our friend Victoria designed and illustrated a map of New Mexico which detailed climbing areas and other landscapes where we've adventured, which served as our guest book for people to sign. Our friend Julia designed and drew the imagery for our party favors, capturing the mountain silhouette that gives daily definition to our lives. 

G crafted our lantern centerpieces, and the cutting boards for the bread and cheese, which we gave away as gifts to our friends and family who helped us with the wedding. Our friend Tara, a genius in festive decor, put together the cocktail hour spread and made it look so much more polished than I imagined it would be with the haphazard supply of baskets and cloths I provided her. 


Our friend Caitlin made my bouquet from pieces she found at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market, and our friend Bonney made gorgeous boutonnieres for our families, transported and kept fresh across state lines. Not being artistic myself, I so value the beauty our friends imbue into my life with their creations, and loved having this reflected in our wedding. 

Having our best friends Christine and Nick emcee the event was so emblematic of the ways they've carried us in our lives. 

We were also lucky to have our friends perform the father-daughter song and first-dance song. I see memories of my medical school years through a filter of spontaneous music sung and played by my good friends Peter and Ali, who would randomly break into song in public and private. I knew I wanted the warmth and joy of that feeling in our wedding. After much practicing, Ali unfortunately couldn't make it due to COVID, and literally two days before the wedding our amazing friend and co-emcee Christine stepped in to take his place. Their song led us to forming a circle of parents and children, and I loved this ring so much. 


My Spanish teacher, Sofia, who I have gotten to know virtually over the past two years of regular lessons, blew everyone away with her soulful voice and piano skills for our first dance. It was the background for one of my favorite moments: G quietly crying on my shoulder.

Sharing Ourselves & Our Home

Two big parts of our relationship we wanted to share were our intersection of cultures, and the cultivation of a new home in NM. I loved seeing our friends and family dressed up in Vietnamese ao dai and eat banh mi in the park for the Friday welcome dinner, and particularly loved G in his getup.

Moving to NM together has been such a treasured part of our relationship for me; I'm so appreciative of G's openness and his love for the strange and wild. I loved that some people were able to stay longer and experience the beauty of the desert, and it was unexpectedly moving for me to have our guests from all over in our home. Our co-emcee Nick teared up at the Sunday brunch, telling us how much it meant to see the home we'd created together. He talked about how when you know people, and can see how a place reflects those people, the coming together and visual manifestation of all that, is so meaningful. I know exactly what he means, and it was so sweet of him to articulate.


When we talked to our officiant, our close friend Natasha who had introduced us, about the ceremony we talked about the focus on family and community. She encouraged us to also emphasize our connection because while we wanted it to be about all the people in our lives, getting married is also obviously about our relationship. 

Neither of us wanted the wedding planning to be stressful which is why we tried to pare down a lot of its elements and keep a tight low budget. But aside from wanting to minimize stress, I didn't have other expectations for the planning. I didn't anticipate that it would be such a valuable way for us to reflect on our relationship, improve communication about our varying desires and needs, and create something together. I loved the day for the visceral culmination of that journey we ventured on together, as well as the longer journey of our relationship.

I also loved the day for the space to bask in how much I love this guy. Being 33 this past year, it was his "Jesus" year, a year in which momentous things happen. And indeed it's been a big year for us, getting married (expected) and getting pregnant (a bit unexpected haha). But aside from us, on his own G has progressed in his work (he received two raises and so much respect from his colleagues); broadened his craftsmanship (he made metal & wood bookshelves, nightstands, a stand for my vinyl player, and his favorites - a cubby for cat litter supplies and our toilet paper roll holders...yes, we didn't have any for a year and a half); in his typical quiet and humble way crushed climbing (sent 11a on trad and continued flashing my 12a sport projects); baked the perfect loaf of bread and helped me through first trimester nausea with a constant supply of homemade pizza. Through all his endeavors he always makes me feel first before everything, supporting me through a tough pregnancy and family illness. I'm just so proud of you, and so lucky to have gotten married to you this year.

When I was younger, I'd always envisioned eloping because I didn't understand the pomp of weddings. But as I've gotten older and loved watching others get married, I've come to love them for all the layers underlying the tradition. In writing this, I realize how difficult it is to encapsulate all the people and experiences, and this very long post doesn't do close to justice to everyone who has made our lives so full. I feel so lucky to have so many layers to pull back and grow upon in reflecting on June 11, 2022.

Photography by the unparalleled Chris Bowman Photography

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