It was just a usual night out as we sat in a friend’s bar in Koh Samui, Thailand. My boyfriend Billy* and I had both had a bit too much to drink, and our conversation was getting deep and personal. Like many of our nights out in Thailand, we had ended up staying out late, drinking too much, and hobbling home in the early hours of the morning. Suddenly he was down on one knee asking me to marry him.
I said yes and before I knew it, the night out had turned into an engagement party. We bought everyone in the bar tequilas and danced to ska music.
That was the start of my engagement to Billy.
We decided to get married on Valentine’s Day the following year. We had a year’s visa to live in Thailand, and wanted a beach wedding surrounded by family and friends. Unfortunately, we’re both pretty laid back, to the point where if we don’t make a concentrated effort to get things done, we won't.
Although we knew what we wanted for our special day, we didn’t get round to really planning it until late January. By that time, friends and family members had booked flights and rented rooms in hotels, and we were starting to feel a bit anxious.
We had half-heartedly hired a South African friend of ours, an ordained minister, to perform the ceremony, but as the day neared, he bailed, citing that the date was insanely popular with people wanting to tie the knot and he had other priorities. We then found out that in order to get legally married abroad, we had to have already notified the British Embassy in Bangkok, something that we had neglected to even think about.
My mum and best friend were flying over from England, Billy’s uncle had already flown over from Scotland. We had to put a wedding on, even if it wasn’t a real wedding.
Billy, his best man and I rallied. We hired a boat for the service, asked Thai tailors to make our wedding outfits, and booked an after-party at a nearby resort. Our best man sorted out a cake (in a delightfully putrid blue colour) and the flowers, and two of our wedding guests offered to take photos for us to help us save money on the cost of a professional. (The photos actually turned out amazingly!)
When our guests arrived from the UK, we rushed around getting bridesmaid's dresses measured and made, booking salon appointments for the big day, and making sure that everyone was having a good time.
We finally found someone who was willing to act as a registrar just four days before the big day. He was amazing, and even provided fake wedding certificates for us to sign. We also found a couple of rings from a market vendor for 50 baht (around £1) each. I somehow managed to bluff to my mum that leaving things until the last minute was the way things were done in Thailand. Too embarrassed to tell her the truth, we continued on with getting everything ready for the ceremony.
Billy’s stag do and my hen night passed by in a blur. There I was, the night before my wedding, hanging out in my mum’s hotel room, with my best mate (and maid of honour) Amy. I could have told my mum the truth then, but she was so excited. So I opted not to.
On the morning of the wedding, my mum woke me and Amy up at 5 a.m.
“It’s your wedding day!” She was too excited to sleep, and wanted us to start getting ready. While my mum headed down for a hotel breakfast, I tried to wake myself up with a shower and a glass or two of Sangsom. By the time she had returned, my other bridesmaids and hair stylists had arrived, and it was time to start getting our slap on.
This is when I realised that rushing to get everything done wasn’t such a good idea. My wedding dress, made by the Thai tailors, had been sewn with yellow cotton, which was already loosening. Our makeup was being painted on so bold that I would be wearing the Joker look for the day. And we hadn’t left ourselves enough time to get ready that morning, so I finally showed up to my wedding with nail varnish on one hand and foot.
The ceremony itself went well. The boat had been decked out beautifully, the flowers were gorgeous, and the guests all seemed to have a good time. We both cringed as we read our vows –- neither of us like being the centre of attention. We had opted for a non-religious ceremony, and so the service was short. We kissed, and were “pronounced” man and wife. We signed our fake certificates, and relaxed with a glass or four of rum punch.
Everyone had a great day, as far as I know, and it was nice to be able to celebrate with all our friends and family in such a beautiful location. Although it wasn’t technically a real wedding, it was a great pre-wedding ceremony, and I’ll never forget it.
When we returned to England a few years later we did get married legally. It was a small event, taking place in a registry office, followed by a few drinks at a local pub. As far as we are concerned now, the Thai ceremony was our wedding day, and the marriage in England was just done as a formality. My mum still doesn’t know (unless she reads this) that our first marriage was fake. But I’m sure she would understand our reasons. She knows what we’re like.