My darling Hubby and I embark on the 10-hour train from Puno to Cusco as part of our Peruvian honeymoon. It's three days into our marriage and I still find myself feeling warm and fuzzy. We have reached one of life's biggest milestones and, reflecting on the whirlwind of excitement surrounding our wedding, we realise it has been character building in itself.
After deep and meaningful chats with friends in the lead up, it's clear that the concept of marriage is contentious among our generation. Their antipathy is understandable. Many have witnessed the tumultuous marriages of those close to them, their parents or older siblings, even their friends of a similar age. What remain are scars from the wounds of the past, leaving most cynical and unwilling to take a leap of faith.
In my case, I saw it as an opportunity to do it right just once, and tackle the commonly feared challenge head on. What I've come to realise is that perfection doesn't exist, marriage is about compromise without breaking each other's spirit, understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses, and being the best that you can be towards one another. Friendship is a vital ingredient, and with this, you build the most formidable team you can, as you go through life's adventures.
I'd be lying if I said I was armed with confident determination and complete calmness throughout the entire process leading up to the big day. Such with life, there were moments of weakness, where with the highs also came the lows. I began to realise why some people choose to run off to a cheesy Elvis-themed chapel in Vegas.
As a newly-engaged couple, you're immediately confronted with noise. Intense excitement from others, relentless questions (where's the wedding? What date?), pushy opinions, cultural pressures and the grandiose expectation that you will have "the best day of your life". You start to feel overwhelmed, without any room to breathe, to take it all in at your own pace. Your throat clenches, the anxiety sets in and you start to think, is there something wrong with me? Why aren't I bursting with enthusiasm as those are around me. You pull a forced smile for the audience.
Luckily I had trusted confidantes who gave me the breathing space I needed. They understood me, spoke candidly, and guided me. They empowered me with their wisdom and were there to catch me every time I'd fall. They reminded me when I felt lost and alone -- with my loved ones on the other side of the world - to just take a moment to appreciate my best friend, my soon-to-be husband. The anxiety would slowly dissipate; the unnecessary noise became muted.
Fast forward one year, and I'm at our glorious sunset welcome party in Tulum, Mexico, greeting family and friends from all around the world. I had begun my personal journey as an incredibly naive, anxious version of myself and had surprisingly graduated into a quietly confident woman. My girlfriends who have recently wed and I shared a private joke over margaritas that we all deserve a trophy. Not enough women reveal their journey around what is effectively a transition into womanhood. You have become the person you are determined to be as you enter into the next chapter in your life with your lifelong partner.
It's May 9th 2014 on Tulum beach...the big day has arrived. I find it hard to believe that all those prolonged months of answering to everything and everyone, whilst staying true to what you believe in, both as an individual and as a couple, is now coming to a close. I take my early morning walk alone along Tulum's mash-potato sand, mesmerised by the crystal clear waves kissing the shore. I bump into my first love, my Dad, who looks just as contemplative as I do - I am, after all, my father's daughter. I give him a long embrace, knowing he's most likely feeling a mixture of happiness and emptiness. The next time I see him, that'll be it, but I want him to know that all the happy times shared won't become distant memories and that new ones are about to be created.
It's true that a wedding brings out the best or worst in the people around you. I reflect on those who have surprised me and touched me in different ways. Despite feeling at times that I was knee deep in an uncomfortable human diplomacy situation, where running away from it all seemed to be the only solution, my mixed feelings lead to one main thought. That people are unique, and express their unconditional love and care for you in strange ways that can be misunderstood by yourself and themselves. What resides beneath the masquerade of noise and drama, is warmth, kindness, support and love, that eventually unites us all.
I've always been a strong believer in experiencing moments in life, rather than investing in trivial things. And it is in that very moment, as I walk down the bamboo aisle to a violin version of "As Tears Go By" with my dapper looking Dad proudly on my arm, towards my love, that everything just makes sense. All has fallen into place and the journey has been worth it.
I look at the beaming faces of my Mum and family, my friends from various chapters in my life, and the sheer magnitude of that poignant moment hits me. I get it. The big day is a special day that will forever live in our hearts and minds. It is a day to be shared, as these are the people who have contributed to your lives and shaped you into who you are.
I walk silently proud, with my Dad by my side, soaking up the power of the music, lost in nature's calm and the magic of the moment. He tells me to "slow it down"...we live in the moment that bit longer. We reach the altar, full of heightened determination by witnessing the crowd's pure untainted joy for us and our families.
If you have the chance to go on a journey towards marriage, I urge you to experience it at least once in your life. It marks the start of an amazing life adventure together as husband and wife, and gives others who have had the pleasure to share in your special day a renewed sense of optimism for the future.
Here's to love, life, commitment and adventure.