Juliana & Joan

You want a perfect wedding? Well. I think today’s wedding might be as close as it gets. It’s not perfect in a single traditional sense (no white dress, no big party, no details to speak of, only a few weeks to plan), but it’s perfect in the ways that matter. They decided they didn’t want to live without each other, they braved multi-national legalities, they planned a wedding in a few weeks that reflected them. Plus, I have a huge soft spot for the ladies who thought they would never marry and then decided they could rock marriage in their own damn way, just like everything else in their lives.

I had never given much thought to a wedding, or even marriage. I pictured myself as one of those mature women who wears red dresses and big floppy hats with large sunglasses and sips wine on sidewalk cafes with a book by her side, with lots of cats waiting at home, or perhaps making time before she meets with her current and not permanent beau. But married? Nope.

Half a year before our wedding, my boyfriend of four years and I decided to split up after I moved to Costa Rica, when we realized that traveling back and forth was completely out of our budget. He had mentioned the option of marrying in a Mr. Darcy way—not the “I ardently love you” proposal but the “against my better judgement” one. I was in shock at first and then shot it down as more trouble than it would be worth and had a dozen different reasons as to why it didn’t make sense when neither one of us has ever been “the marrying kind.” A couple of months later we discussed the more realistic possibility of him traveling to Costa Rica on a tourist visa, finding work and a way to make his stay more permanent. We even joked about getting married to buy time while they sorted the paperwork out. Two weeks later when his visa application for Costa Rica was rejected, we had to think fast and plan. And then it became crystal clear to me, in a way that it hadn’t before, that although I could live without him, I didn’t want to. He made my life better, and I wanted him with me. So I proposed and he said yes. It might be good to mention that all these conversations took place on an instant messaging client while we were sitting miles and miles away from each other.

I told my parents, he told his. Due to study and work issues, I could only take a month to go to Colombia, plan the wedding and get married. Getting married in Colombia requires quite a mountain of paperwork and I had to be there in person to hand it in and then get approved to schedule the wedding date. We had to jump through legal hoops and over hurdles, but in the end, I got him some papers so my fiance was able to act in my name, and we had a wedding date. We also had less than six weeks to plan.

Planning this wedding had very little to do with the fluffy bits: decorations, food, flowers, dresses, cards and invitations, engagement photo shoots or gift registries. It had to do with practicality, with simplicity and a lot with boring things like running around the city getting paperwork signed and stamped in different offices and then getting them mailed off. We had long conversations over skype and through chat about our personal goals and expectations of married life and one of the important items had to do with money. We decided two things: we would pay for the wedding ourselves, even if that meant having a really small wedding, and we would not get into debt to have the wedding. Neither one of us has a credit card and we are debt free, so we thought it wouldn’t be wise to start our life together by throwing a party we weren’t able to afford. We decided that we would only spend as much money as we already had. Not having had time to save up for the wedding was just something we would have to deal with. So we were looking into a wedding that had to be simple, inexpensive, easy to plan and that represented us.

We got married on a Saturday morning. We bought our clothes off the racks, and both of us wore blue. My bouquet and his boutonniere were made by one of my aunts as our wedding present. Invitations were delivered a scant five days before the wedding, although most people had already been invited over the phone or in person. I made my veil the night before and my sister took care of my hair and makeup. We didn’t hire a professional photographer, but between friends and family there were plenty of photographs taken.

Instead of the wine soaked fruitcake that is traditional for Colombian weddings, we ordered a fondant covered chocolate cake that we would actually enjoy. We had planned for only six guests, but as more people were able to travel and make it, and our mothers asked about their family members, it grew to twenty-eight. The reception took place at the hotel where my family was staying. My mom found it and learned that for the price of the food we could have the reception there. They even included the flower arrangements and centerpieces.

I asked my family to bring a couple of images that represented my other cultures: A nigüenta figure for Costa Rica and an Ekeko for Peru, where I was born, and we had fun taking pictures of them with the plaster iguana that decorated the courthouse’s fountain.

I didn’t have much time to obsess over details, but sometimes doubts struck. I vividly remember a crisis as I leafed through a wedding magazine that was trying to sell me this idea of what a decent and respectable wedding should be, and that if I didn’t invite all of my extended family then I was a hateful ungrateful person.

Was I missing out by having this small wedding? Should I have let my parents get into debt to help us out with a bigger affair? Should we have asked for presents or started a wedding registry? Should I wear my ring on my left hand which is what I’ve been exposed to through TV and movies or right hand as they do in Colombia? (Answer: right hand, except when I feel like wearing it on my left.)  Reading APW calmed my mind and centered me, reminding me that the important thing was that we would be getting married. The wedding was just a way to share it with the people we love and care about.

I have to thank our families for making our wedding as awesome as it was. I stayed with my in-laws for the month before the wedding. My mom helped out in a million different ways, making appointments, researching options, finding the venue and with my dad paid for our wedding night at the hotel. My siblings who flew in and helped us get our wedding rings and the general problem solving and support. My sister for making me look beautiful and putting together the most awesome playlist at the last minute the night before the wedding. And my brother-in-law’s wife who helped me with the design and printing of the invitations and announcements.

In the end our wedding was great. It was low key and relaxed and no frills and well, it was us. It doesn’t mean it was perfect—the hotel made a several mistakes including a major one with payment—but even if we couldn’t control the situation, we could control how we reacted to the situation, and we decided that nothing mattered enough to put a damper on our day. Are there things I’d do differently? I would’ve hired a professional photographer. As well meaning as friends and family are, I would’ve loved pictures of people having fun and smiling naturally instead of everyone posing for the camera at the tables, and I don’t have any pictures of our first kiss.

Sadly, we knew our time was limited, and a week after our wedding, I had to come back to Costa Rica. It’s been two months since the last time we saw each other but we keep connected by chatting daily and emailing back and forth, trying to think positive and keeping extra busy on those days when we miss each other desperately. We still have lots of paperwork to get through, and it might be a long time before we can really establish our home and live in the same country. But we are ready to wait, and we settle for now with extended visits. After all, we’re experts at the long distance relationship. We know that every day that passes gets us closer to the rest of our lives together. And we’ve decided to focus on that.

The Info Photography: Friends and Family, Lizette Rincón, Kristina Fernández, RC Bates / Venue: Hotel Casa Laureles / Wedding Rings: Kinekt Design / Bouquet & Boutonniere: Gladys Parra / His Suit: Zara

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  • Wow! This post made me all goose-bumby. So amazing. You looked so beautiful!

    I never thought I’d get married either. My sister and I agreed to be old spinsters together. Guess that plan is ruined!

    Here is hoping you can be together soon.

  • “Even if we couldn’t control the situation, we could control how we reacted to the situation, and we decided that nothing mattered enough to put a damper on our day.”

    Or, it seems, the rest of your lives together. Congratulations on your marriage, and I hope you’ll be physically together soon! (And I love your dress!!)

    • Yes, was going t highlight this phrase, it should be a philosophy of life or something. You choose to be happy even in difficult, hard situations, maybe more importantly then.

      • This was my favorite line too. As perfect as it is for weddings, it relates to every day life too. We always have the choice to smile & be happy. It looks like you did just that & had a beautiful wedding day. Congratulations & may the day you can be together come quickly~

        • Thank you! I am trying to make it into my rally cry for life as well… it takes work to remind myself of it, but I can fall back on the wedding experience to know that I can!

      • Hello. I was blogsurfing today with blog epixoslon and came across your site. I didn’t follow all of the wedding planning, but I did catch the pics today. It looks absolutely lovely. CAtherine

  • I love this, I love this, I love this.

    Marriage as a way to deal with immigration authorities – I understand it very well.

    Also, you look very lovely. Blue suits both of you so well, and that dress is just plain awesome!

  • “And then it became crystal clear to me, in a way that it hadn’t before, that although I could live without him, I didn’t want to. He made my life better, and I wanted him with me.”

    I completely relate! And it was visa issues with my boyfriend (now husband) that brought that point home to me, too.

    Lovely post and you both look so great! That dress is fabulous!

  • Jo

    May the “fun” that is long distance soon become a fuzzy, sweet memory. Having been miles apart from the man I love, I know that it is a challenge, but it also allows you to build some magnificent foundational parts of your relationship – talking, compromise, balancing priorities… and then it will be over! Best wishes and congratulations!!

  • Oh Congratulations. I loved every bit and was nodding the whole time. We had a few miniature painted iguanas as little table decorations as well. I wish you all the happiness. I know long distance can be hard, but you will go through it and come out of there stronger. And you will soon be together.
    Also completely off the subject, I loved your intro: “I pictured myself as one of those mature women who wears red dresses and big floppy hats with large sunglasses and sips wine on sidewalk cafes with a book by her side” is just how I would like to age… I already own a cllection of red dresses and I love to sit in a cafe with a good book.

  • Kate

    TARDIS mugs! I’m so jealous!

    This is a great post & story, plus I love the blue dress.

    • Michelle

      Ditto on the TARDIS mugs!!!! So cool.

  • Vmed

    “The wedding was just a way to share it with the people we love and care about.”

    THIS. This a million times.

  • “… although I could live without him, I didn’t want to.” <<— THIS is such a beautiful and wise statement. I just love it.

    It speaks of being whole as individuals, but choosing to create a life together out of want (and not a warped sense of *need*). Congratulations to you both!!

  • V

    So excited to see a colombiana on here and one with an awesome wedding no less!

    Congratulations to you both. Your wedding was beautiful, your attitude sane, and I have no doubt that the rest of your lives will continue to be beautiful because of that attitude.

  • Hang in there! You’ve been so proactive about your future together, trust that this separation too, shall pass.


    There needs to be a big fuzzy greeting card send to Skype headquarters for all of the relationships it has helped hold together over the years. (Not even kidding.)

  • Congratulations! (And good luck with the immigration process and necessary paperwork!)

  • Congratulations! I love the simpleness of it all — it’s very beautiful.

  • You rocked the hell out of that blue dress and I admire that you focused on what you needed–paperwork, a bit of family–instead of all the things money and time wouldn’t allow.

    From the other side of a long-distance relationship: it’s all worth it! Stick in there, sista! xo

  • Moz

    I love it. Congrats on your marriage!

    (Are those TARDIS moneyboxes??!!)

  • I like the way of simple weddings also. If you want to marry because of love, there are no obilgations of a “huge” wedding. You still can have a party or a feast with your best friends.

  • I love many parts of this graduate post, particularly this: “And then it became crystal clear to me, in a way that it hadn’t before, that although I could live without him, I didn’t want to. He made my life better, and I wanted him with me” I think this is key, acknowledging oneself as an independent human being, but realizing when we found that one person that makes our lives better, happier, more beautiful every day. Congratulations, and here’s my toast for you to be together very, very soon!

  • Rachel

    the flowers in that bouquet are stunning

  • leslie

    This is my favorite wedding grad post ever, and I’m delurking to say so! All of your decisions and priorities really resonated with me, and although I had a very tiny, simple wedding with a number of non-traditional elements, I still feel that there were things I could have done without (e.g., the white dress and makeup-artist makeup). This was inspirational, and I wish you and your husband all the best!

  • Thank you SO much for all your lovely comments and best wishes, it is amazing to see that there are so many people who have been through the long distance relationship adventure, and come out at the other end! We are keeping positive, and just weathering things out.

    Thanks for the comments on my dress… I fell in love with it when I saw a mannequin wearing it in a nondescript store in downtown San José, a day before flying out for my wedding.. and it was a steal as well. PLUS I’ll get to wear it again in two weeks for a formal event!

    The TARDIS mugs were presents a couple of friends gave us, one for each for those moments when we wish we could travel through time and space and be together again.

    And well, thanks for taking your time to read and leave a comment!

  • ¡Felicidades, Juliana y Joan!
    As Pluis alluded to above, marriage (for love) is an effective way around the immigration obnoxiousness. My partner and I had already planned to be together forever, with or without a legal declaration saying so, and then wanted to move to another country together… being married helped that process so much!
    And I was so excited to see your name, Joan! My husband is Catalan (from Barcelona) and named Joan, and I didn’t realise that that name was used for men outside of Spain. ¡Qué gracia!