"A third we...what?" My husband looks at me from across the living room. "I think we've had enough weddings. They were both great, don't you think?"
My husband Rick is not a man of many words, but he is often right, like in this particular bout of wedding nostalgia. We had two wonderful weddings, which I completely adored, but my soul ached for a third time around with the same fantastic life partner of more than seven years. You'd think I went nuts, or that I don't have anything better to do than to plan another wedding. Let me explain.
The first time we got married, I was twenty-three, and I had just moved from Europe to what felt like the end of the world: South Africa. I landed in the country one week before the planned nuptials. It happened after a whirlwind romance that read like this: a chance encounter in London, three months of dating followed by a three-year long-distance relationship, and a few holidays spent together, including one in South Africa, where my husband was born. Add a New Year's Eve engagement on the top of a snow-covered hill, with the pine forest around us as the only witness, and you get the picture.
I went from the twenty-year-old girl who had never contemplated the fairy-tale dream of walking down the aisle (I had all the time in the world for that), to a crazy-in-love woman with a ring on her finger, minus the rock sized diamond and the usual Hollywood drama. We were young and so in love that nothing else mattered. After a deliberate mind-chase of 'pros' and 'cons' (as if they actually mattered), I jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live with my future husband in Africa.
We got hitched in the hot summer season in December 2008 and had a lovely ceremony followed by an intimate reception at a country venue south of the capital city, Pretoria. The venue was literally on a farm where one of my husband's friends used to live and work (her sister owned the place). The building complex had a Tuscan-style chapel built on the premises and a restaurant with a beautiful rose garden and sprawling green lawns. It was utterly romantic in a Shakespearean sort of way.
On that happy day, I wore a royal blue short dress with a small bouquet of white roses. I had my hair curled at a salon in the city, where we'd both lied that I needed to look good when I met his parents for dinner that night, so we won't have to pay the full bridal cost. I did my own make-up.
Our blue wedding, as I themed it, was nothing short of an unusual and unique way in celebration of our love. We walked together hand-in-hand through the chapel door, as Michael Buble sang "Everything" on the soundtrack played by another of my husband's friends, who was also the DJ for the day. Although I don't recall choosing the exact song ourselves, it was nonetheless the perfect choice.
The hostess did a fantastic job with the decor. The eighteen guests sat together at a long table adorned with white roses in beautiful tall glass vases. All guests were from my husband's side: his parents, brother, sister, and friends. Some, like his family, I had met before. Others, not until the very day.
My parents-in-law brought the wedding cake, a rectangular fruit cake with more icing than I could ever eat, in true South African style. The desert, served before the traditional cake cutting, was one of my favourites: strawberry-laden chocolate mousse. I had not seen the complete menu or the table decorations until the festivities began, but again I had trusted Rick and his friends with most of the details, from the venue choice to the menu while I waited miles away to finish University and then fly into his arms.
The hosts and some guests took beautiful photos of our special moments, and we have a great collection of digital memories as a result. Although the party ended early before midnight, like most South African weddings, it was a memorable time, one that many of our friends still call "the best wedding ever." I think the fun dancing games had a lot to do with that.
I vowed to wear a white wedding dress just months after our South African ceremony when my parents were due to visit. I wanted to have everyone under the same roof, or skies: my family, his family. They did eventually meet each other, but it wasn't in polished suits and fancy dresses. Although Rick and I visited and chose a lovely nature reserve with chapel and restaurant for our white wedding, we hadn't gone past the booking fees. The costs of having a second white fairytale ceremony were higher than our blue wedding. Our newlyweds budget would have simply not allowed it.
We had our second spring wedding two years later, this time in my home country, Romania, surrounded by my family. Sadly, my in-laws could not attend it. This time, my parents went entirely over the top. I had not lifted a finger with the wedding preparations either. The invitations arrived as promised to the over one hundred guests, everyone from aunts and cousins to a few of my mother's work colleagues and her boss. Traditionally, the bride and groom's parents can invite as many people to celebrate their son or daughter's happy event. Who can argue with that?
We got hitched the second time in the same place where we got engaged just three years earlier. It was at a mountain resort owned by one of my mother's cousins and his wife, who were also our Godparents for the event. I haven't forgotten about my white wedding dress, but I still wanted it to be special, and so I chose a white corset beaded gown with a fabulous red trail. Luckily, just a week before the wedding, when I tried it on, it fit so beautifully that I did not need to have alterations made to the dress. We only bought a few things from South Africa, including our rings. Everything else got finalised at the destination. My dress inspired the red and white theme, and we had plenty of bouquets of white and red roses and strelitzias decorating the venue.
I thought about a white outdoor wedding and people witnessing the vows exchange on chairs with pretty bows. I finally got my wish but, just minutes before the scheduled time, nature had other plans. We retreated in a half-open villa, overlooking the resort and the green pine forest. This second time around I had my father by my side to escort me to the altar table, and professional photographers and videographers to capture the event on camera. The priest officiated the ceremony while the rain fell gently. The rain didn't last long and it did not bother either of us. Traditional tales insist on rain bringing forth prosperity and fortune and so far it has been proven right.
In Romanian style, we partied until the early hours of the morning. We danced the night away to traditional folklore and live music provided by a local band. We also had a short rendition of Rednex's song "Cotton Eye Joe" as a dancing surprise for the guests, which was fun. The chef prepared a delicious four-course meal and canapés. We dined like kings and queens, sipped on too much champagne, and my husband eyed the whisky perhaps a little too much.
It was a night of pure indulgence, and I was blessed to live this milestone once again. I couldn't express more gratitude and love for the time and effort my parents had put in making our dreams come true. After all, not everyone had two awesome weddings on two different continents with the same man, right? So why do I want more?
The truth is, I am still looking forward to welcoming both sides of the family at the wedding table, and getting more involved in the planning of such a happy event. I feel that I skipped over that part on both occasions. It all happened too fast. Weddings are memorable, unforgettable affairs. I get teary-eyed at most of them, but I did not flinch at my own. I can't remember being overly emotional as a bride. I was too excited for it. Was I too young? Was I unprepared? Did I miss the chance to express myself fully through the happiest days of my life?
The older I get, the more I discover myself and perhaps make better decisions. I am going to turn 31 soon, which I believe is a great age to say 'yes' at the altar. My younger sister is getting married in less than a month now, and I can already hear the wedding bells ringing. Couldn't they just ring one more time for myself and my hubby, and completely on my terms?
"It's the marriage that counts, not the wedding."
My husband's words ring true as I picture extravagant wedding ceremonies that usually end in gruesome divorces and custody battles. I have to agree. Rick and I are immensely happy and in love, and this is what matters the most. But hey, a woman can dream about a new fantasy reception, another style of dress (there are so many to choose from) and another decadent night in the company of her one true love. Some people, myself included, are dreamers at heart. I, for my part, had just started to dream up weddings in details in my late twenties, but I had already signed the register and walked down the aisle by then. But I gained something more important: the chance to call the love of my life my husband for a little longer.
It's the marriage that counts. The chances are that I might never get my third wedding, but I am now okay with it. Luckily, I have enough time and imagination on hand to plan the next big events of our lives like a baptism. The more I think about it, the more I picture an oversized white tent on a manicured green lawn, beautiful flower arrangements, colourful hanging decorations in various cute shapes and the prettiest cupcake-tiered cake ever. Plus the required photo shoot with the little one(s).
"A party? A photo shoot?" My husband would roll his eyes, and mentally calculate the damage to our bank accounts.
"Well, if I can't have my third wedding, we might as well go with a baptism celebration, love." There, I said it. I just hope both our families witness whatever joyful occasion comes next. As for the location, South Africa or Romania? Oh well, let's do both then.