When we got engaged in October of 2014, we knew we wanted a wedding that would be very "us." We also knew that this sort of wedding wasn't going to be very easy on our families, for a few reasons. We had to find neutral territory, both literally and religiously.
Ricky was raised Catholic in Ireland, and Talia was raised Mormon in the US. Neither of us have been truly practicing members of those religions for a few years and were worried about how our wedding would turn out if we went along with traditional expectations, so we really had to think strategically about the how, when, and where we would do it.
If we had the wedding in Ireland, we would most likely have had to do it the Irish-Catholic way. Since Ricky isn't practicing, the only reason to do this would be to uphold family tradition and involve the family priest. Since Talia isn't Catholic at all, she would have had to either become Catholic or promise to uphold the Catholic beliefs in the home, something she wasn't sure she felt comfortable doing. Her family would have been more than a little uncomfortable going to a Catholic mass and wedding, as well, she assumes. But, Irish weddings are fun, with lots of music, food, and dancing. So there was that to think about. And then only Talia's family and friends would have had to pay to travel.
If we had the wedding in the US, that would have opened up a whole new can of worms. Since Talia isn't a practicing Mormon anymore, they couldn't have the "expected" traditional temple wedding anyway, and without it, she was worried friends and family wouldn't come to a wedding that wasn't "real." Plus, weddings are a lot more expensive in the US and only Ricky's family would have had to travel. So unfair.
So we knew we had to choose neutral territory - a place where both families had to travel - and a neutral ceremony - either nonreligious or a neutral religion.
We discussed China, since that was where we were living at the time. It would have been ok, though a bit expensive, but usually couples get their money back in "hong bao," red envelopes filled with money and given to wedding couple in lieu of gifts. But then we realized that we didn't have enough friends - and definitely not enough RICH friends - for that idea to work. Plus, we were kinda tired of China.
Our next idea, and the one we finally settled on was Thailand. We loved our experiences there while we traveled, and having friends there would make planning a lot easier. We loved the country, and the food, and had good experiences with Buddhist monks there and all over SE Asia. So it was decided: June 11, 2015, Bangkok, Thailand, with a Buddhist ceremony.
We chose June because we knew most of our friends and family in education (as students or teachers) would be out of classes and more available, the 11th specifically because it was a Thursday and Talia always loved Thursdays, for whatever reason. We also wanted to get married before Talia had to leave China for work, starting as a teacher in Houston in July. Ricky still didn't have his fiance visa to come to the US so we really wanted to solidify our relationship before we were to separate for an undetermined amount of time.
So I began contacting hotels, wedding venues, and temples to try to get an idea of how much a tropical destination wedding would cost and what all we wanted to include. We knew the most important things for us were the food and the music. We didn't care about decorations or anything like that. We knew our guests - the few that were able to come - would want to have a good time and we were determined to give it to them.
It felt expensive as I looked up room rates at hotels, wedding packages, bands and all of that, but as I did more research I realized it was a fraction of what a western wedding would have costed. We decided on having the reception at the Chatrium Riverside Hotel since they had the best value for the wedding package (food, decorations, mixers and available BYOB option, sound setup, etc) and decent room rates for a large group. It was a lovely hotel with gorgeous rooms and free upgrades to river view for all of our guests. It was fairly easy to arrange the reception.
The ceremony was another story. We wanted a Buddhist ceremony and did lots of research on if non-Buddhists could do it. It didn't seem like there would be a problem, since it was less a religious ceremony and more spiritual and cultural. It was pretty hard to organize from China, though. It was nearly impossible to contact any of the temples, and we still hadn't decided which one we wanted.
We were able to get a lot sorted before we got to Thailand. We decided to take the whole month of June off, which gave us about 10 days to make sure everything was organized, and we needed every second. The day after we arrived we met with friends that we originally met in Jinzhou. The wife was Thai and the husband was British. They were able to meet us at the Marble Temple, which we ultimately chose for its beauty and the fact that we knew other ceremonies had been done there before. She was kind enough to negotiate with the monks (yes, negotiate, like "donations" and things. It was pretty surprising.) for us and to help us arrange everything we needed. Apparently, there was a lot more we needed that we hadn't thought of. Flowers for the monks, along with donation envelopes, flower arrangements for the water pouring ceremony, and lunch for the monks.
We did run into a few minor emergencies with the drinks, the dress, and the band. But, nothing a few friends and phone calls couldn't fix without too many breakdowns. Plus, we got to do our share of riding around the city, massages, and swimming before the big day.
|Planning a wedding is hard, guys.|
|Seriously. So hard.|
We each had successful bachelor/ette parties and a wonderful meal at Alex's restaurant Que Pasa where our families met officially for the first time. It went off without a hitch.
The next day, we prepared ourselves for the ceremony. We got ready together, and came downstairs together, to meet our guests in the hotel lobby. They were to take a bus we rented to the temple, while we left before them to get there early to make sure everything was prepared.
|Getting ready to get hitched.|
That's where things got interesting.
We got into a taxi from the hotel, and the hotel guy told the driver where to go. After we got in we realized he hadn't put the meter down. Well. that was wrong. We told him to put the meter down and he said no. Too much traffic. 400 baht. 400 baht isn't really all that much money, in western terms, but we weren't thinking in western terms. We hadn't been for quite a long time. So it was a lot, and it was too much. We told him to take the meter. He said no. He pulled over in the middle of terrible traffic. and told us to get out. We did. Ricky slammed the door and it bounced open again. The driver got out of the car and started coming after us. There was a bit of pushing and shouting and eventually he left.
What a way to start a wedding morning.
We debated getting another taxi or a moto-taxi or a tuk-tuk. We walked a bit and were able to get a taxi that used the meter and it took about 50 baht to get to the temple. All of our guests were already there and we were stressed out. We also suddenly realized that our ceremony wouldn't be in the main part of the temple but a small room off of the monks' dwelling areas. That was a surprise but we went with it.
|Nothing's going to bring us down today!|
We sat down, helped out by our Thai friend and her guidance. The monks entered in their saffron robes. We sat next to each other, in gilded chairs, our hands pressed together in front of us and the monks began to chant. Immediately, I (Talia) felt calm. Their voices washed away all of the stress of everything we had been doing to get ready for this moment.
I sat, serene, next to the man that would be my husband. Our guests sat behind us, fanning themselves in the heat. They may have been bored, or hot, or tired, but I was loving this.
There was a bit of moving around, lighting a candle, kneeling before the monks, more chanting. It was the most beautiful thing.
The monks finished their part and sat to eat the meal we had provided. Then we knelt behind an altar and our guests participated in the water ceremony, and also of tying Baci strings around our wrists, and three dots of white clay were placed on our foreheads while a string connected two yarn crowns on our heads.
|A friend pours water onto Ricky's hands.|
|Our amazing guests who made a long journey to see our wedding.|
The ceremony ended and we left to take photographs outside the main temple building, and then we all left on the bus back to the hotel in order to rest, change, and dry off from the sweat-inducing heat of the morning.
And the rest of the day went as perfectly as you could imagine a wedding day to be. There was no stress about cake or flowers or decorations or first dances. Instead...
We had lunch at the hotel. And then we went swimming. Yep. We all went to our rooms, changed, and went down to the pool for a swim. I tried to keep my hair as dry as possible, but wasn't even stressed about that. After swimming, we went back to our rooms to change again and head up for the pre-dinner cocktail hour. We chatted and hung out for a while, and then headed to dinner. We enjoyed some delicious traditional Thai fare, including my favorite - tom ka gai. Then, tables were moved back, the band set up, drinks were brought out and we started the real party.
By then I had changed out of my dress - sweat does a real number on pure silk and I was afraid the dress wouldn't hold up. So I got into a nice-ish dress and some flats, ready to dance. And dance we did!
|Our unintentional first dance.|
Our music was provided by a Bangkok supergroup, with help from the amazing Curtis King, who we met in Dalat, Vietnam during our last travels. He was kind enough to let us bring him out and play for us. And it was exactly the music and party we could have every hoped for. Even the guests got up and played, including, of course, Ricky.
|Ricky's ready to rock.|
We didn't follow any western wedding traditions for the reception: no bouquet or garter toss, no first dance (intentionally) or father-daughter/mother-son dances, no cake - although we did have ice cream brought out unceremoniously halfway through.
The night ended when our reservation time for the even room was finished and we took the party outdoors to sing and talk together. Our guests were happy, we all had fun, and we were finally married.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out more!
EDIT: I almost forgot an important part! How much did all of this cost and what did it include?
Our 5 Star hotel bill was about $5,500-ish for:
2 nights stay in the hotel for 30 guests and ourselves (for three nights)
AMAZING breakfast buffet for 2 mornings for everyone.
Wedding dinner and service
Reception hall rental for 5 hours
Cocktail hour in the lounge
Mixers and beer (we provided our own wine and liquor)
We then spent around $1000 more on miscellaneous wedding related things:
Bus rental and taxis
Donation to monks and temple
Lunch for monks
Flowers for monks
Flowers for water ceremony
Wedding clothes for both of us (custom made suit and custom designed dress with several alterations)
Ebony bands for both of us from Ian Gill: $60
We aren't including our own travel and extra days stay in Thailand. We also helped fly out some family members so they could be there, but we also aren't counting that. If we were, the total would be around $10-11k. Still not bad.