Today’s post is about a million wise things at once: it’s about weddings and loss, it’s about making your own wedding dress, it’s about an international wedding, and a destination wedding. The post comes in two parts, because the story is so rich, so here we go….
Marriage wasn’t in my mind. In fact I kind of had given up on meeting somebody.
You know what comes after that sentence, right? The typical, “two people meet, date for a while, get married in a castle, she wears a beautiful big gown that fairies made and they live happily ever after.”
Not quite. It is more something like, “girl meets boy while working in a bar, thanks to his mum who is a customer and his brother who works with the girl. Boy is English and lives in England. Boy travels for two solid years every 6 weeks to visit the girl, both saving every penny to afford the tickets. The day comes when they both think it’s not great to carry on like that. So, girl moves to England. They both know they want to commit seriously, get married, buy a house and a dog, have babies, the lot.”
So. What’s next?
After realizing flying any of our families to the other side of the world for the wedding was both impractical and expensive, we settled for the middle (almost literally) and decided to get married in Mexico. We started looking into hotels, prices, etc. and found a resort that we could afford and set a rough date. My partner proposed formally inside the Winchester Cathedral, a beautiful building with lots of meaning for us. I was not bothered about an engagement ring, but was happy when I get a one. So far so good. Until 3 months later, when my mum calls me with the news that you dread the most when you live so far away from your close family: doctors had discovered a brain tumor in my dad. And the world seemed to collapse in front of my eyes.
My dad had surgery. It turns out that it’s not just a tumor, but a metastasis from his lungs. Cancer. The bloody big C. He has chemotherapy for the first time.
We braved it as the loving close family we have always been. We lived on the phone. My sister (who by that point had lived in Spain for years with her husband) and I make lots of effort to travel and visit him. Meanwhile the wedding becomes the elephant in the room that nobody dares talk about. Some friends ask when we will book, we don’t know what to say. We make plans, but to me everything seems so distant and impossible that I almost don’t believe it.
Suddenly a ray of light emerges from the clouds. My dad gets better for a few months and we are back on track. Then again, another tumor appears. More chemotherapy, but the doctors are still hopeful and we battle it together again. My dad feels so good that they even go to Spain for a month to see their first grandchild be born. We feel confident, my mum especially has such great faith, that we think life will get better and we go ahead and book the wedding. Thinking the trip will be more than the holiday-plus-wedding-combo we originally thought, and it will turn into the celebration of my dad’s recovery as well. We are six months away from the departure date.
I decide I will, after all, make my wedding dress. (I am a former fashion designer and used to make prom dresses for a living. I also made my sister’s wedding dress, to my dad’s pride, in 2006.) Just after the new year I start on my dress, very aware of the little time I have to finish it, but content with the fact I didn’t start early in order to focus my energy on a promotion I got at work. I decide not the tell anybody except my close family and partner that I will be making the dress for fear some people will judge me for choosing a career changing opportunity (you know that thing you do in order to get money and that you have to do for most of your adult life) over my dress (you know, that rather overrated piece of clothing that could cost you more than your entire wardrobe or a small car like Meg once, and that you will only wear for a few hours).
Things take an ugly turn and my dad’s body has enough of chemicals. His kidneys fail. Continue reading Wedding Graduates: Valeria & Stuart, Part 1