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A Modern Day San Francisco Wedding With Fun Chinese Wedding Traditions

We sat down with our bride Melanie to get her take on planning as Asian-American wedding.

Fun Fact: Even though she and her husband went to the same university, it took them 7 years before they actually met and started dating. That's what we call #meanttobe.


Give us the scoop 😉– how did you two meet?

Andrew and I started college at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the fall of 2003. We lived less than half a mile from one another but never met. We even took the same class together and didn't realize it at the time.


Seven years later, officially met when I went over to play board games with my college friend in the Mission District.  Andrew lived with my friend at the time. 

My first thought was: "Oh, so this is Drew? He's so handsome. Where has he been all these years?! Nice to meet you Andrew." 

Andrew would later share that when he first met me, his stomach felt funny and it wasn't due to food poisoning or indigestion, it was love.

Over the next few months, our mutual friends would invite us both to hang out and Andrew and I would have our first real date not long after. 

During this time, Andrew also asked me to marry him jokingly (little did I know he wouldn’t ask again for 7 years!). 


Obviously, y’all put a ring on it 💍– tell us your engagement story!


We had been together for 7 years and knew we had the same goals in life, but we also wanted to settle into our careers first, pay back student loans and ultimately save up for a wedding.

We eventually decided to go ring shopping together and in February 2018, Andrew picked up the ring one day and had it waiting for me on our coffee table when I got home from work. 

I put the ring on promptly and sported my new bling around the house for months. I half-jokingly said, “But I don’t want to set a precedent for a lack of romance."

Accordingly, over the next several months, Andrew then thought of many less than original but funny ways to propose to me.

For example, I called him from Whole Foods one day and asked, “Do you want corn?” He said, “Will you marry me?” … Me: “So, no corn?”

Another time he sent me an emoji ring 💍 via text, followed by a question mark “?”.

In August 2018, we were traveling abroad to attend a friend’s wedding and it was a million degrees. When we stopped to rest on a bench in front of the Paris Courthouse, he handed me the map and a ring box and officially asked me to marry him. I said yes, and that was that. Then we got ice cream! 


You both had a vision for your wedding 🔮– how did you come up with ideas?

We were paying for our own wedding so our budget dictated much of our wedding choices, but we knew we wanted to get married locally in the Bay Area and we decided on a San Francisco skyline theme. 

My grandparents were both born in San Francisco Chinatown in the 1920s and were celebrating their 71st wedding anniversary on July 5th. Andrew and I celebrate our anniversary on July 4th so it made sense to get married on either the 4th or 5th of July. 


We decided to have three days of events for people coming from out of town. On the first day (July 4th), we had a bbq at Lafayette Park in our neighborhood. The next day, we held our ceremony at City Hall and took a cable car to El Techo (where we had our very first date) for a Latin luncheon. On the last day, we had a Chinese wedding banquet with our extended family.



Tell us about your fams and cultural backgrounds 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

Andrew is half Cuban and half Polish.  I am half Chinese, a quarter Japanese/Korean and a quarter European. 

In addition to hosting a Latin luncheon after our City Hall ceremony, we had a Chinese banquet with our extended families at Hong Kong East Ocean in Emeryville (my parents also had their wedding reception there) that served yummy dim sum and other popular Chinese wedding foods.

For the Chinese banquet, my brother hired traditional lion dancers through San Francisco Chinatown’s Cameron House, which has been a staple in the San Francisco Chinese American community and offers resources and programs for Asian American youth and families (fun fact: Ali Wong was a camp leader there).

My brother also had us play a game where we had to dodge cabbage being thrown at us (apparently, cabbage is supposed to represent the abundance of money in Asian culture) and go fishing for the lions.


Location, location, location 🎯 –  where did you get married?


My husband and I come from multicultural backgrounds and growing up as hybrids, sometimes I felt a little out of place not belonging in one category or another, but I eventually learned that in fact, feeling like you do not belong to one group or another teaches you to try and belong everywhere.

We identify as Americans, Californians, and San Franciscans, and our venue locations reflected these identities and allowed us to celebrate with those we love while making everyone feel included and comfortable.   


San Francisco City Hall We got married here because it is such an iconic and beautiful place. We also took a cable car (another iconic San Francisco thing to do) to our luncheon afterward.

Lolinda El Techo This is where we held our luncheon at their rooftop bar in the Mission. It was a great way to incorporate my husband’s Latin heritage and was where we had our first date (plus there was no venue fee as everything went towards food, drink and gratuity)!

Hong Kong East Ocean – We had our Chinese banquet here in Emeryville. We chose this place not only because it was beautiful but also where my parents had their wedding reception. The Chinese banquet allowed me to incorporate and share my heritage with my husband’s family as well.


Girl meets dress 💃🏻 –  how did you learn about East Meets Dress (EMD) and why did you choose an EMD cheongsam?

East-Meets-Dress-Modern-San-Francisco-Chinese-Wedding-Banquet-TraditionsI first learned about East Meets Dress when searching for unique cheongsams on Etsy, and then I went directly to their site and was blown away.  I wanted something that would be special and also fit the occasion.

My grandparents were in their 90s and our wedding was also purposefully on their 71st wedding anniversary. Our grandparents come from large families, so I wanted to find something that I would be proud to show off to them as well as my 90-year-old great aunties and uncles, my husband’s parents and grandmother, his family from out of town (who have not attended many Chinese banquets), and also something that was comfortable, stylish and unique to me. 

EMD went above and beyond to work with me to design a dress that fit what I was looking for.

I love the look of the lace and wanted a red and gold dress to match the occasion. I ended up customizing the Emma Bespoke Dress with gold trim and the fabric was so forgiving and comfortable.

I was able to climb on rocks with ease the morning before the event in my cheongsam, chase after my little nephews and nieces, carry centerpieces into the restaurant, and felt comfortable and elegant the entire time. 


I received many compliments from family members (who I know would have candidly told me that I looked bad or fat at my wedding without a second thought if they felt otherwise 😅). 

When I opened up the thoughtfully packaged dress (with a personal note from the founders, which was really nice), my mother rushed in to take a look.  My mother can be critical at times so it was telling that even she loved the dress.

She asked me where I got it because she too wanted to order a red dress from them to wear to the banquet.


Putting your own spin on things 💕– How did you make your wedding more unique and personal to you two? 

We really just wanted to make sure our friends and family had a nice time. For us, the day was about celebrating with the people we loved all together in one place.

To make our guests feel special, we made name tags and Haikus about each guest with information about them that would encourage people from different parts of our life to meet.

For our family party, we had name tags with their Chinese last name and how the family member was related to the oldest generation (which also helped me to not mix up our relatives).

My dad helped make our edible wedding favors which were made with Himalayan sea salt and smoked olive oil.

We also made centerpieces of vases with the SF skyline and tea lights inside. For our invites, we printed them at home which was fun and helped to save money.


The big day 👰🏻– How did everything go on your wedding day?

Honestly, we were anticipating that things would not go perfectly and there were a few things that I would do differently, but these minor hiccups are all part of the fun and memories we created that day.  It was so lovely to get married and be surrounded by our loved ones, who were so excited for us.

The biggest unexpected win was that an extra cable car showed up at City Hall and the driver was so nice and took our guests to the restaurant earlier than expected and gave us more time to take cheesy pictures on the cable car.


The lion dancing was also more fun than we had anticipated. It was great to have a Chinese banquet and to introduce this part of myself and my life with close friends and my new family who maybe otherwise have never experienced anything like it before. My new grandmother-in-law was raving about it for months.


Seeking your wisdom 🙋🏻‍♀️ – lastly, do you have any advice for other brides planning an Asian-American wedding?

1. Set objectives. Why are you getting married again?

If things get overwhelming, think back to why you want to plan a wedding in the first place. What are you and your partner's top three objectives and write that out along with your to-do list?

Balance your dream wedding items with ones that also fit your budget but keep a few of the ones you truly want (You don't need to be a self-sacrificing martyr).

2. A wedding for two. What does your partner want as well?

You very likely are not marrying yourself and your partner may have some thoughts about what he or she has always wanted. Start your marriage off on the right foot by making sure BOTH of you have a celebration that you'll enjoy. Find ways to compromise and don't forget why you're marrying each other in the first place!

3. Manage your emotions. Sleep on it.

If you are not feeling so great while wedding planning take a deep breath, go for a run, take a nap, or eat something. Sometimes it helps to just sleep on it and think about it with a fresh mind the next day.

4. Be mindful of your family but set expectations. 

It's important to be mindful of your loved ones' needs and desires, but making everyone happy on your wedding day can be draining. Set boundaries upfront in a diplomatic way and perhaps utilize an ambassador to assist in these endeavors (such as a beloved cousin who can do no wrong or an auntie who is beloved by all).

5. Craft a dream team wisely.

The key to any success is building a great team to help execute your vision. If you're utilizing your family and friends to help, assign tasks wisely.  Some people are more reliable than others and if they are doing you a "favor", it is different than if they are contractually bound to you. Our photographer, Boris, was wonderful and went above and beyond.

6. Prioritize certain details when on a budget.

Think about the details that will truly make the day special to you both. We made choices about what to splurge on and on what to cut back. For me, making sure that I looked and felt good was important and that showed in my pictures and in my expressions when I wore my dress.

We avoided venues with fees. We went to the SF flower mart to get my bouquet but did not buy any other flowers. We skimmed Pinterest and Etsy for ideas and did a lot of DIY crafts.

7. Try to enjoy it!

It all goes by in a blink. Oh, and don't forget to eat something the day of!


Special Thanks:

  • The Bride & Groom: Melanie & Andrew
  • Photographer: Boris Polissky (@borispolissky_photo) | Website 

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