During our weeklong wedding vacation in Cancun, Mexico, my father in law wisely said to me that life is a constant cycle of anticipating big events, living off the memories of those big events, and anticipating more events in the future. I find this statement to be incredibly true, especially when applied to weddings. You spend hours upon hours planning the event, agonizing over the minor and sometimes trivial details of the day, looking forward to seeing your friends and family, and of course wondering what the day will be like. You anticipate the event for months, you have an AMAZING two or three days, and then, Blink!… it´s over and you have to return to normal life. Then you wait for the pictures to arrive so you can re-live the memories.
Jon and I had begun planning our wedding a long time ago: just before my diagnosis we had put down a deposit to hold our day of January 19, 2014 at the gourmet, all-inclusive Azul Beach Resort. Of course, last year, during my treatment, a wedding was about the furthest thought from our minds and we put the plans on hold. However, as soon as the news came back that I was in remission we decided to go ahead and continue with the originally scheduled wedding. It seemed that a life celebration was in order and we wanted to formally acknowledge our commitment to each other.
Originally we chose a destination wedding because we wanted to be able to spend multiple days with friends and family since we rarely get to see them, being that we live abroad. In addition, I have always wanted to get married on a beach, and what better beach to be married on than one on the Mayan Riviera? We also thought that people in the northern United States, like Jon´s family, wouldn´t object to traveling somewhere warm in the dead of winter. Of course, there are multiple problems with destination weddings since they are expensive for guests and usually require people to take time off of work. Due to those facts, we scheduled our wedding around the Martin Luther King weekend so hopefully people would have more time to spend with us. As far as the expense goes, we figured that if people wanted to come spend a vacation with us and were financially able to do so, they would; and if they just couldn´t make it for whatever reason, then they wouldn´t be able to make it. To help ease our consciences, Jim and Sandi offered to have a hometown reception in July at their house in Illinois for those who were unable to make it to Mexico. I am very excited that not only do I get to wear my expensive dress twice, but also that we will get to celebrate our relationship with even more of our friends and family in just a few months.
After all was said and done, 42 fun and amazing people decided to join us in Mexico for, what I would call, a picture-perfect wedding…. or, as my father has often referred to it since, a “fantasy wedding”. Although I´m not entirely sure which connotations the word “fantasy” carries in his context, I do think the word fantasy is appropriate for our wedding, considering the exotic setting and the multiple events we had planned before the nuptials took place. For starters, Azul Beach was definitely the most luxurious place I´ve ever stayed in… and I´m glad, considering it was also by far the most expensive place I´ve ever stayed in. When we arrived, we were treated to glasses of blue bubbly as we hand selected our pillows and room scents. Ridiculous and unnecessary, yes… but also a super fun treat after the year we´ve had. Jon and I upgraded to a swim up suite which was about the size of our living area back home in Santiago, contained a Jacuzzi tub, and allowed us to jump from our balcony into the pool. Again, totally ridiculous and unnecessary, but a room I will never forget. I won´t go on and on about the resort´s amenities because it will make me sound like a spoiled brat, but let´s just say that the location was “fantastical”. The staff took care of all of our needs and everyone had a fabulous time. (Hopefully the guests were even able to forget how much it cost. Hahaha!)
I am not going to go into great detail about all the events of the wedding weekend due to the aforementioned spoiled brat status, but on Friday Jon and I booked a private catamaran and took some of the guests on a snorkeling, sunset cruise aboard the Fat Cat sailing vessel. I will never forget looking around and seeing our friends and family basking in the sun´s rays on the nets at the front of the boat, chasing after stingrays and sea turtles in the turquoise water, or jumping off the boat with beer in hand in order to wallow in the ocean. Much rum punch was consumed and spirits were high: it was definitely my favorite experience besides the actual wedding itself. That night my sister arranged for all the ladies to get together and they gave me some thoughtful gifts and we spent a bit of boozy time in the tequila bar remembering the good ole days. I love those girls!
Saturday, some of the guests decided to tour the neighboring Mayan ruins while the rest of us enjoyed the beach cabañas. That evening, Jon and I had arranged for a salsa instructor to come and give a lesson on the beach since we had been taking lessons in Santiago. The colors in the sky as the sun set were brilliant; however, about 15 minutes into the lesson it became clear that a storm was on the horizon. The wind picked up and dark, black clouds approached ominously in the sky. Our instructor, replete with cleavage-bearing, flouncy dance ensemble and pink and purple hair extensions kept a smile on her face and told us not to worry. She didn´t think it would rain and contended that the storm would blow over. As I watched the wait staff scramble around righting the hurricane lamps that had blown over on the tables where we were to have our Mexican beach barbeque, I knew that we would have to go with plan B for the evening´s meal. Eventually, the salsa instructor moved us to a covered pool bar to finish the lesson while the hotel staff braved the rain drops and changed the location of our bbq. The food was yummy and the location ended up being just fine for our group. The weather even cooperated in order to allow us to finish the evening with a bonfire on the beach, complete with Smores, brought to us from the United States by our wedding officiants, the Popes. Jon and I were both exhausted from the previous evening´s activities and so we called it an early night in preparation for the wedding day.
The weather on Sunday morning was a bit gloomy and caused many to wonder if there was a back-up plan for the ceremony in case the beach location wasn´t going to work out. Strangely, I was not phased by anything that day, and knew that no matter where the ceremony was held, at the end of the day, Jon and I would be married, and that everyone would have had a great time regardless. Luckily, the afternoon provided us with the clearest, sunniest skies of the entire vacation so we were in luck! At 1:30, I went to the spa where my lovely hairdresser, Irma, was successfully able to wrangle my short, curly mane into an acceptable wedding hairstyle, completely with sparkly Swarovski headband rented from Adorn.com. She also successfully applied my make-up and perfected the smoky eye concept while making up for my lack of eyelashes by inserting fake ones. The ladies also did a nice job beautifying my two bridesmaids (Ali and Randi) and my mother in law. After that, it was back to the room where the photographers were waiting to capture those awkward pictures of the bride trying to fit into her cumbersome, yet beautiful dress. Since I had purchased the dress in Chile neither bridesmaid had been to the fittings with me in order to learn how to lace up the back or bustle the train. So we had to watch some videos in Spanish that the store clerk had taken for me while the ladies attempted to strategically yank down tulle. I am looking forward to seeing those pictures for sure! We even had time for some cheesy mother-daughter pictures and a few of me sipping rum out of a straw poked in a coconut. After that, I was whisked off to the beach just in time for our 4:00 ceremony, where I found our wedding party waiting in line to walk down the aisle. One of the highlights had to be the cute-as-a-button flower girl, Jon´s niece Harper. Although I have not yet seen the video, apparently she attempted a few times to throw some rose petals before figuring out that all eyes were on her and scuttling down to the end of the aisle in order to give Uncle Jon a hug. Too cute!
To be honest, I don´t remember much about the actual ceremony itself, except that the tropical colors really popped. I remember that Elliot and Renea did an extremely good job leading the ceremony, and that Elliot even let forth a tear or two. I sang a song with the bridesmaids, Elliot, and Jon´s aunt, and Jon and I both had lovely vows for one another that I was able to deliver without bursting into tears. The ceremony seemed like it lasted all of about 10 seconds, but apparently was more like 25 minutes, which seemed about perfect. Another favorite flashback was turning to face the guests to take in the moment and seeing all those smiling faces. (And also the faces of the resort onlookers… One stranger even came up to me after the wedding and told me that my wedding was so beautiful, she cried…. Interesting!) I also enjoyed walking back down the aisle as the guests tossed their beach balls in the air. (Yes- I stole that idea on pinterest from a previous Azul Beach bride…) After the ceremony, guests headed up to the Sky Deck for cocktail hour while Jon and I took romantic pictures on the beach, which I apparently still need to wait another month to see. Sad… Anyway, the cocktail hour location was out of this world as we had a rooftop view of the surrounding area and were serenaded by a Yucatan Trio as the sun came down. Again, “fantasty wedding” comes to mind! After cocktail hour we moved back down to the beach before entering the reception. Since Jon and I met in China we thought it would be a great idea to incorporate fireworks into the wedding since no event worth mentioning in China goes on without the accompanying light displays. We weren´t allowed to actually set off fireworks (HUGE bummer…) but instead were promised sparklers. It turns out that the sparklers they were able to find were about as long as a toothpick and much more suitable for decorating a cake than for making a lighted arch for the bride and groom to walk through. I am looking forward to laughing a LOT when I see those pictures….
The reception was fabulous. The decorations looked beautiful, the food was good and served right on time, and Jon and I successfully showed off our salsa moves during our first dance. My favorite part of the reception would have to be the balloons, bubbles, and glow sticks provided by the DJ, and also the tear-jerker speeches provided by friends and family on both sides. Cancer was mentioned a lot in the speeches, but despite everyone´s best efforts to turn me into a blubbering fool, luckily I was able to hold it together. I do find it quite amazing that just over a year ago it seemed unlikely that I would ever be able to attend my wedding ceremony in Mexico, and yet- there I was, in the dress, surrounded by life-long friends, and taking tequila shots with my mother. Good times!
Needless to say, once most of the guests left the next day, and I was able to emerge from my bed despite my terrific tequila hangover, the resort seemed a bit lonely. The luxurious tropical location just wasn´t the same without a big event to look forward to and friends and family to celebrate with. Before returning home, however, we did enjoy a nice visit to the ruins of Chichen Itza and were able to spend more time with Jon´s family and some of the other guests who had chosen to extend the vacation as well. And so, as the saying goes, Jon and I successfully got hitched, in a truly romantic place, and are left with lasting memories of a fantasy wedding. I, for one, would like to thank those of you who came from the bottom of my heart. I truly had such a wonderful time with each and every one of you. I thank my family and Jon´s family who made the sacrifices to be there to celebrate with us and not give us any grief about having a wedding in a non-traditional way.
And lastly, I´d like to thank my new husband, for sticking with me through the tough times, laughing with me through the good, and agreeing to be my partner in life. Despite my mixed feelings about marriage and weddings, I know that we have made the right decision and look forward to anticipating more big events with you. I have included my vows since I think they sum up our relationship pretty well. Besitos, Love Bug!
The words “in sickness and in health” carry new meaning for me now. We´ve been through so much together, both good and bad… we survived three years in Dalian, China together, we´ve traveled the globe and seen so many amazing things. We´ve moved continents, savored countless bottles of Chilean wine, and acquired a pair of furry Mongol warriors only to lose one a month ago. Last year we faced our biggest challenge so far: we battled cancer and won… I am so proud and excited to be standing here with you today. Your kindness, patience, humor, and empathy have meant more to me than you´ll ever know. Having you in my life has made it that much easier to smile, laugh, and live life with a positive outlook. And so, today, in front of our family and friends on this beautiful beach here in Mexico, I vow to you the following:
I vow to cherish every moment I spend with you, whether it´s on one of our grand travel adventures, or a simple evening walking Chingy and cooking dinner at home.
I promise to focus on the good times rather than let life´s problems prevent us from making happy memories together.
And lastly I vow to spend the rest of my life caring for you and supporting you as you have done for me.
I will love you forever.