Note: This post is the first part of a three-part Hmong American wedding story.
My husband and I had been dating for about 9 years before we got engaged. In 2014, he popped the question when we were on a trip in Monterey Bay, California, one of our favorite vacation destinations. Even though we had been discussing the prospect of getting married soon, it came as a surprise to me and I was thrilled. Relatives, friends, and co-workers had been asking us for years when we were going to get hitched and now I could say that we were part of the way there.
My two older sisters were married in their late teens and early twenties. My husband and I got engaged when I was 27 years old, which was considered old for a Hmong woman. Needless to say, my father whose health was failing was eager for me to get married. As for my mother, not so much.
I grew up in what I would consider a non-traditional household. Something that few people outside of my family know is that I am the youngest daughter of my father’s first wife. Though legally married, my parents had been separated for quite some time by the time I was engaged. My father was living with his second wife, my stepmom. My mom lived with my second eldest brother. As for me, I had been living on my own for quite a while with my husband who was still just my boyfriend at the time.
I remember when my husband and I first moved in together when I was 23 years old. My mother was worried that my relatives would look down on me and my father lectured us about getting married first. Having been born and raised in the U.S., I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I wasn’t particularly close to my extended relatives and I had the perception that I couldn’t care less about what they said because their opinion mattered very little to me. Furthermore, while many of my relatives’ daughters married young and moved out of the house at a young age, I was already a full-fledged adult who had ambitions and plans for my life that did not include living with my parents. I suppose you could say that it was my Western mentality that caused me to be quite rebellious. However, as I saw it at the time, I was too old to be living with either of my parents as my Caucasian and Americanized friends had long moved out of their families’ homes. I had a stable career and was able to support my brother, my boyfriend, and myself. I didn’t see what was wrong with a little independence.
So, since the age of 23, I hadn’t been living with my parents. I did move in briefly with my mom for a few weeks when I was 25 and then lived with my sister after that for about a year, but eventually I craved my independence and moved back out on my own.
In 2014, my husband and I were seriously discussing marriage and where we would like to settle down to start a family. We decided that Sacramento would be a good move because it was close to both his family and mine since his family lived in Oroville, California. It was also a great move professionally, since I would have more opportunities for career growth and he would have more job prospects. When an opportunity to work for a field office in Sacramento arrived, I applied for the position and got the job. My husband was also offered a position as a web administrator in Lincoln, California, so he was able to commute to work from Sacramento. We made our big move together.
My mother was upset that not only was I going to be living with a man who was just my boyfriend, but that I was moving away with him. She cautioned that he might not want to marry me after all of the years we spent together and might break up with me, leaving me ruined like one of my cousins who had just gone through a similar scenario. Confident in my relationship and my boyfriend, I told her not to worry and went ahead with the move anyway.
By the time that my husband proposed to me in Monterey Bay, we had already been living together in Sacramento for a few months. Our biggest concerns after the engagement were letting our families know, deciding on a date, the logistical issues, and conflicts with work schedules. These concerns and more will be addressed in the second part of this three-part Hmong American Wedding Story series.