After a decade of friendship and 3 years of long-distance relationship, we decided to tie the knot on January 2, 2016. It’s penultimate to our happily ever after journey as we take the road to forever as a newly married couple.
Mark: Our love story is etched deep in our hearts and souls, and we are extremely excited to share it with our future kids and their kids. It is amusing how two nerds met in high school and became good friends since then, continued the communication by exchanging letters for a year, and after drifting apart for some time due to college studies, rekindled the connection that led to a romantic communion.
We temporarily parted ways since I had to move to the US for work. Long-distance relationship (LDR) worked well for us since Ana and I are both busy in our own fields (she’s a professor, while I am an IT audit manager). Technology and social media played an important role in our day-to-day communications. We also continued the periodic exchange of love letters despite the distance.
Ana: After three years of being in a long distance relationship (LDR), Mark proposed to me in a very creative and memorable way. On the same day he returned from the US (December 2014), he invited me to visit the National Museum in Manila, knowing that I love history.
He was planning on popping the question in front of Juan Luna’s Spoliarium. Unfortunately, the museum was not in operation that afternoon due to a power shortage in the area.
Despite the disappointment, Mark didn’t lose his composure, and immediately devised a new plot to continue with this goal. He persuaded me to tour Intramuros, especially Fort Santiago, and ride a kalesa together. He then gave me a book, which I thought was weird. Am I supposed to read it while riding a moving kalesa?
After my initial hesitations, I gave up and opened the book and found the inscribed message — I have a proposal to share and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. So I neither said ‘yes’ nor ‘no!’ I told him ‘maybe’ albeit my eyes were starting to show off some tears. Days later, he officially informed my family of our decision during the pamamanhikan.
We decided to marry twice, the first one was civil and then the church ceremony. After the civil wedding on 2 January 2015, we planned to have the church wedding exactly one year after. As such, we had one whole year to spare and prepare for the second wedding! We both agreed to have a Filipiniana-themed wedding, given the connection with the proposal venue, our common interest, and our desire to showcase our tradition.
While the wedding itself is a one-day event, investment in planning and preparation is necessary and crucial for the overall success.
Here are just a few tips from us to you:
Set priorities for the wedding
Ana: Our first consideration was our preferences for the wedding. We both wanted a solemn and unforgettable day. Mark values elegance while I cherish simplicity. In the process, we also learned a lot from each other. The things you like and dislike affect decisions and we discovered how to compromise.
It was a great opportunity to develop our decision-making skills as a couple. I enjoyed seeing my husband in a different and special context. It was a series of fun exercises! After determining the things that we would like for the wedding, we appropriated our budget.
We kept it high-level since we’re still determining our suppliers and the main sources of expenses, and made the necessary adjustments along the way.
Mark: Ana handled a huge chunk of the preparations, by virtue of her being physically available. She was in charge of all in-person meetings with the suppliers since I was in the US for the most part of our preparations. I handled the majority of online transactions, and maintained an online worksheet, where we collaborated and documented everything related to the wedding.
Book the church and the venue early
We booked our target church, Barasoain Church, a year in advance. We are both Bulakenyos so for us, it was a perfect match, also given its historic background.
We learned throughout the process that booking popular wedding churches, such as Barasoain Church, requires several months to a year in advance to reserve a slot. We were lucky that a few remaining slots were still available for our wedding date.
We started to come up with a list of suppliers for the reception venue. We conducted ocular inspections with the help of friends and scrutinized their wedding packages in detail.
We thought of holding the reception near the church so that we and our guests do not have to travel that far after the ceremony. We managed to identify and sign the contract with our chosen supplier two to 3 months later. We decided to hold it in a hotel that offers wedding reception venue and in-house catering since it would be practical to have the main components in one place, including lodging.
Be creative with the dress and try something unusual
Ana: I decided to wear a Maria Clara-inspired look based on Mark’s suggestion. He showed me a random photo of a beautiful Maria Clara dress and I fell in love with it! I used it as an inspiration to come up with a unique Filipiniana gown, painstakingly embroidered with beads and other threadworks, and accessorized with an alampay.
Identifying a gown maker way ahead is key, as creating the gown involves a series of steps, such as the design conceptualization, the fitting sessions (which could take two to four times, depending on the design and the body change since the last fitting), and the actual creation of the gown that may involve several people, depending on the complexity and the materials involved.
Altogether, this entire process could take between 5 to 8 months. In our case, we started contacting the designer (through a friend’s referral) as early as July, and had multiple fitting schedules and meetings until late December, a few days before our wedding on 2 January 2016.
Mark: With the goal of wearing a unique barong for my wedding, I did extensive research for over a year. Sherwani of South Asia got my attention even before due to its elegance, regality and elaborateness of the traditional designs. Since our wedding theme is Filipiniana, I decided a fusion between our traditional barong and sherwani would be a perfect combination.
Another challenge was to find a willing and skilled designer who can create the wedding barong. Finally, after contacting multiple suppliers, one braved and accepted the challenge. The ultimate masterpiece: Sherwani-inspired, fully hand embroidered piña fiber over satin fabric, trench coat barong.
Enjoy the preparation with loved ones
We didn’t hire a planner or an event stylist. Friends from the academe, childhood friends and relatives voluntarily helped us in the wedding preparations. This setup actually allowed us to strengthen our relationships and bond with each other and our friends.
It was fun checking the venue options, exploring bridal fairs, meeting the suppliers, and designing the wedding props with our loved ones! Everybody had a part, which helped us save a lot of resources down the road. The entire wedding preparation was a product of love, friendship and utmost creativity.
We contacted suppliers for the cake, flowers, hair and makeup, photography and videography, as we need professionals for those areas. We managed to get the best deals out there, primarily because we knew some of the suppliers and we reached out to them way ahead. We learned throughout the process that time is indeed a crucial component of a wedding.
Be open-minded and keep the big picture in mind
The wedding is not just an event to marry your other half, but is also a platform to test how effective the preparation for the last couple of months, or even years, was. We learned that things don’t usually go the way we planned them.
For example, we targeted a garden reception, but since it was erratically raining that afternoon, we had to change the plan and move to an indoor venue. It partially impacted all our planned reception decorations and effects.
We had encountered a few more minor mishaps, but as one ninong quipped, just enjoy your day and let it be. And we did.
Overall, the time and effort we spent preparing for this wonderful day was all worth it. The best moments and even the not-so-good ones – everything will now be treasured as part of a story that we will pass on to our descendants. – Rappler.com
You only have one shot at planning the best wedding with your would-be spouse; so make it a unique and exciting experience. Don’t forget to include your honeymoon plans! Get the best travel and hotel discounts here.
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