Monday, August 10, 2009

The Court Wedding

Liu Yuni signs his life away.

Ma Liu signs as a witness.

I affix my John Hancock.

All lined up and waiting for the judge.

The judge conducts the ceremony.

Our name has been called to go up and get the signed certificates.

Outside the restaurant with both sets of parents.


My parents arrived in Taiwan on the evening of December 24, 1986. They were there a few days before the church wedding to attend our court wedding. The following morning, Liu Yuni and his parents drove up from Chung-li, and we all headed off to the court. Liu Yuni wore his engagement suit, and I just wore a purple skirt and sweater vest. Since we were having the big party and dinner feast in a few days, we decided to keep things simple for the court.

When we got to the Taipei Municipal Court Building, it was a zoo. There were several courtrooms, and mass weddings were occurring in all of them. Women in white wedding dresses and men in formal suits were scurrying up and down the halls looking for the restrooms or a place to change or the right courtroom. Little girls in white dresses were running around trying to find their relatives. The entire building was buzzing with the sounds of all this humanity. We found the check-in table and presented our letter. We were in the 11:00 group, but we got there a little bit after 10 in the morning to be sure we had time for everything. The clerk at the check-in desk gave us our courtroom number and told us to sign in at the table beside the door. We found the place, and went to sign the wedding licenses. We had wanted both our fathers to sign, but the clerk said that we had to have Taiwanese citizens as witnesses, so they had changed our second witness to Liu Yuni’s mother. She got very nervous at the thought of having to sign her name because she had only completed second grade, and it had been more than thirty years since she had written anything. The clerk said she could just use her thumb print, but she wanted to sign her name because she was not totally illiterate. The clerk gave us a sheet of paper so she could practice. Liu Yuni wrote her name out clearly for her to copy, and she practiced one or two times. She did a great job. We all signed four times, twice on the Chinese licenses and twice on the English translations.

Then we stood outside the door and watched the 10:00 group getting married. The couples were lined up in five lines of five pairs in the center of the courtroom. Their witnesses stood along the walls at the back and sides of the room. The judge stood behind his large desk in the front of the courtroom. His bailiff called out the commands. First, the couples bowed to the judge. Then they turned and bowed to their parents. Finally, they bowed to each other. The judge said a few words and then sat down to sign twenty-five marriage certificates in duplicate for Chinese only couples and in quadruplicate for international couples who needed the English translations. The couples stood in their places waiting for their names to be called. Then they walked up, got their certificates and left the courtroom. As they were standing there waiting for the judge, their friends and relatives ran around with cameras taking pictures from all angles. It was a very simple ceremony, and it was carried out with great efficiency. (We later heard on the news that 3000 couples were married in the court in Taipei that day.)

By 10:45, the 10:00 group was all finished. The judge went back to his chambers and the bailiff called in the 11:00 couples. Yuni and I were in the middle of the second row. After we were lined up, we all practiced the bowing routine once, and the bailiff called in the judge. The judge did and said exactly the same thing as he had done and said for the 10:00 group. We bowed three times, listened to the judge pronounce us husband and wife, and then got our signed official marriage licenses when our names were called. Since we were only the seventh couple called, we were out of the court and finished with everything by 11:30. The friends who had let us use their home for the engagement ceremony had given us gift certificates to the Christmas dinner buffet in the western-style restaurant on the first floor of their building. The six of us went for a nice turkey dinner. Then the Lius went home, and I took my parents back to their guest room at the church.

I felt so relieved because our biggest hurdle had been crossed. I had an official court wedding certificate that I could get registered with the Department of Household Registry. Then I could get an official copy of the Liu family’s Household Register with my name on it so that I could get my permanent resident status and renew my passport in time. I was sure that I was no longer in danger of becoming a “woman without a country.”


Cloudia said...

What a privlege to "attend" your wedding!

One month later, I met my husband, and we've been together ever since.

Where does the time fly?

Thanks for sharing like this, eneighbor...Aloha-

Comfort Spiral

Teresa said...

Thanks for coming to the wedding, Cloudia. This was the first of three, and really the one with the least hassle. I was quite grateful to receive your e-red envelope :)

murat11 said...

Teresa: This is a hoot: of all the blogs on my blogroll, yours is the only one that gets blocked by the "filters" at the Instituto. A big ACCESS DENIED page popped up when I tried to go there earlier. There are times when my own blog is the only one denied, so you never know. You'll be relieved to know that the denial was based on "web blog" status (What are all the rest of us blogs - chopped liver?) and not as porn. That's happened to perfectly legitimate sites in the past.

ANYWAY, the humanity and gentility of everyone comes through in this post once again. I love the details of Mrs. Liu's signature, her insistence on writing her name, the practice, etc. The bureaucratic efficiency is pretty amazing, too, given what we all know of the American vintage.

Teresa said...

Hello Murat: I can't believe my blog was blocked. I haven't even gotten to the story of my wedding night :) Maybe your instituto installed that Green Dam software from China and it's blocking my dissident poetry posts.

Glad you liked the story.