When Randy was nine, his parents separated for a year. During that time, Randy and his mom and sister moved to Holliston, Massachusetts to live with his mom’s brother’s family. Hu and Caroline are the parents. Clint and Roz are the kids. Randy and Clint are close in age and shared a room. I think prior to that Randy and Clint had always gotten along well, but this time together cemented their relationship. Clint was the brother Randy never had. They drove go-karts in the backyard, played games on the Commodore 64, and went sledding and exploring.

Much later, after college, Randy was looking for something to do and moved to Boston. He lived with Clint again, this time in less spacious surroundings, sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Jamaica Plain, where Randy slept in the living room and there was little illusion of privacy. The train going by outside rattled the whole apartment. Even after this, they remained good friends.

So Randy was thrilled and honored when Clint invited us to be part of his and Joanne’s wedding celebration in Hawaii. Zoe was thrilled and honored when Joanne asked if she would be the flower girl. None of us had been to Hawaii and we were delighted to have such a special occasion as our excuse to make the trip.

Joanne was extraordinarily thoughtful and meticulous in planning the wedding and making sure that all of us were taken care of. She picked out a beautiful flower girl dress for Zoe, along with a flowered headpiece and little satin basket. She mailed us print-outs of maps and information about the wedding-related activities and locations. We were impressed by her kindness and graciousness in every detail leading up to and during the wedding, even down to the gift she selected for Zoe to thank her for being a flower girl–a little jewelry box with a ballerina that dances to a piece from Swan Lake when you open the box. Joanne herself is a ballerina, as well as nearing completion of her doctorate doing research into cancer drugs.

So we, along with Hu and Caroline, Joanne’s mom Esther (who came from Singapore for the wedding), and Joanne’s sister Rachel and Rachel’s son Mathieu (who came from Paris for the wedding), had a marvelous time.

Randy and I especially enjoyed learning about and observing some of the traditional Chinese wedding rituals that Joanne and Clint included in the celebration. Clint had to spend the night in a different hotel the night before the wedding and arrive at the door of Joanne’s room early the next day to try to bribe his way in. Traditionally, the would-be groom must offer the bride’s family increasing amounts of money, in little red envelopes, until the family is satisfied with the price. The cash is not sufficient, however. The bride’s family can also ask the groom to perform any number of feats of intellect or strength or bravery, such as doing push-ups or sit-ups, eating or drinking very spicy things, or answering riddles. Since there were so few people there, Clint didn’t have too tough of a time. He negotiated mainly with Rachel, who was firm but not unreasonable. I’m not sure what the final price was, but Rachel took a picture of Esther holding a check. I’m pretty sure it won’t be cashed.

Zoe wanted to participate in the testing, so I asked her to come up with a riddle. We thought of one prominently featured in an episode of Dora, the Explorer, when the ugly old troll asks Dora and Boots to solve his riddle before they can cross the bridge: What goes up when rain comes down? Easy, right? Apparently Clint is too smart for his own good. He suggested temperature, air pressure, the barometer, and various other answers before someone gave him a clue that the desired answer was umbrella. Zoe also asked him to do five jumping jacks. He did a great job.

After he passed the tests, Clint had to go into the three-bedroom penthouse suite where Joanne and the bride and groom’s parents were all staying, and find Joanne behind one of the many closed doors. He did.

We then sat down for the Chinese tea ceremony. There was a script written out in Mandarin and English. Luckily we were allowed to participate in English. Clint and Joanne served tea to Hu and Caroline, who then presented them with gifts in red envelopes. Then the couple served Esther, Rachel, and us, all of whom gave the couple red envelopes as well. We each sipped the sweet tea, except for Randy, who threw it back as if it were a shot. After the tea ceremony we all sampled a variety of Chinese pastries that Joanne and Rachel and Esther had bought in Honolulu’s Chinatown the day before. Zoe wanted some mooncake because she remembered learning about it from Ni Hao, Kai Lan (who knew Nick Jr. would come up so many times during a wedding day?) but decided she actually didn’t like it much.

Everyone who wasn’t getting married lounged around the penthouse for a while, taking in the view from the balconies, while Clint and Joanne changed from their Chinese outfits into their traditional Western wedding attire. We went downstairs to wait for the limo, with Zoe instinctively holding up the train of Joanne’s dress all the way. The limo took us to Waimanalo Beach, which was, as you might imagine, simply stunning.

A native Hawaiian, who had grown up with that beach as his backyard playground, officiated and another local serenaded Clint and Joanne and played the ukelele. Zoe sprinkled the flower petals and Mathieu brought up the rings on a little pillow (with some assistance from Rachel). There was kissing, sparkling cider, and coconut cake. But mostly there was sheer joy and sparkling beauty. Randy and Zoe and Caroline and I played in the surf while the photographer took thousands of pictures of Clint and Joanne. It was unforgettable. I am filled with gratitude that we were able to be there to share the moment with Clint and Joanne and our families. Thanks, guys.