Language of love wins day
Their meeting at Cantonese classes as university students put Denise Lau and Henry Li on the same page when it came to organising a wedding. Both agreed it would begin with a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, where the couple took turns to serve sweet tea to their new families.
It was also a poignant opportunity for Denise to wear her mother’s wedding dress, a traditional long red gown with gold embroidery that she wore for her wedding in Hong Kong more than 30 years ago.
Although her family, who settled at Strathfield before Denise was born, did not expect her to marry someone from Hong Kong, she says they immediately liked Henry from their first meeting.
“So they were very happy when I chose him to be my husband,” Denise says.
The couple met in Denise’s first year as a commerce student at the University of NSW in 2005, when she and Henry, in the second year of a science degree, began sharing lunch after weekly Cantonese language classes.
Henry was born in Hong Kong and arrived in Sydney as a child, so, like Denise, already spoke Cantonese.
Aside from their shared cultural backgrounds and interest in improving their language skills, Denise says she was attracted to Henry’s “gentlemanliness” and sense of humour. He was attracted to her long hair and bright smile.
The couple shared their first official date after about three months of weekly lunches. Denise, a business analyst, says she and Henry, a project officer, found they both enjoyed fine dining and travel.
Denise was sent to Auckland on a work trip in August 2015, when Henry decided to join her for a weekend. As the couple visited Waitomo Glowworms Cave, Henry surprised Denise with a marriage proposal.
“We were sitting in a boat in the total darkness, except for the glow-worms on the ceiling,” Denise says. “Just before the end of the trip Henry proposed. I was extremely surprised, I didn’t expect it at that time, especially in darkness.
“And I was completely shocked when he had a classical Tiffany six-prong solitaire diamond ring hidden in his pocket.”
Denise tried several wedding dresses before going back to the first outfit she had tried at Karen Willis Holmes at Newtown. She chose the ivory Saskia-style strapless corsetstyle lace bodice over a layered Selena-style organza skirt, with a long, lace-trimmed train.
Before their official ceremony at Peter Chanel Catholic Church, Hunters Hill, on September 17, 2017, Denise and Henry visited Denise’s relatives at Beverly Hills, where they served tea to her parents and aunts and uncles, then did the same for Henry’s family in a private room at Pier One.
“We knelt on the ground and handed up cups of tea to our family,” Denise says.
“The tea is sweet because it is a happy occasion.”
For their reception with 120 guests Denise and Henry had the Water room at Pier One decorated with a canopy of fairy lights to recreate the Waitomo caves.
Denise also added floral arrangements in pink and purple, her favourite colours, and admits she and Henry practised for two months to perfect their bridal waltz to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.
The couple, who live at Burwood, plan to take their honeymoon at the end of the year visiting the UK and Europe. PHOTOGRAPHY: INLIGHTEN