Just Married, Simply

No one can accuse our family of being conventional.

My husband Irwin and I were well into our road trip across the US when Maia, my youngest child, called to announce that she and her longtime boyfriend, Jensen, would get married when we got to Brooklyn, which was eight stops and almost three weeks away.

The reason they chose the date was that my other daughter Jaja, a journalist temporarily based in Manila, would be in New York at the same time as us. The date was also convenient for the rest of the family – my son Carlo, stepson Irwin Jr., and for Jensen’s entire family. No long engagement, no elaborate arrangements, just the rare occasion when we could all gather together in one place.

A torrent of emotions swept through me – a common reaction, I assume, among parents when they get the news that their child plans to wed. There was joy, of course, because my baby is marrying a good man; excitement because our family would be together for the event (except for Bien and Anthony who had a major scheduling conflict); impatience because it would still take weeks; and consternation because I only brought rugged travel clothes and not the right shoes.

And then there was that part of me that felt sad about missing out on the usual wedding preps – not necessarily pamanhikan (the Filipino tradition of the groom and his family visiting the bride’s family to ask for her hand in marriage), which I find a tad anachronistic especially when the bride and groom have lived together for years--but the whole nine yards of deciding on a venue, choosing the gown, sending out invitations, hosting a rehearsal dinner, etc. It would have been fun to experience the usual emotional turmoil that I imagined would accompany these rituals

But then again, our children are not exactly tradition-bound and we admittedly have set an example of ditching conventions in the wedding arena. When my husband and I decided to get hitched early last year, we didn’t tell any of our children beforehand. The ceremony involved just the two of us and the officiant, who was also the photographer, the official witness, the notary public and the bouquet- and boutonniere maker. After we had lunch in a local restaurant in Lake Tahoe, we drove home and gathered our five children via Skype to tell them the news. Simple, quiet, no frills.

It didn’t surprise me that Maia and Jensen chose to have a likewise simple and very personal ceremony, with just family and a few friends present. When she and I would chat about other people’s weddings, I’ve told her about my not being a believer of big weddings, that making the event personally meaningful is more important (and definitely wiser financially) than grandiosity. Obviously she took the lesson to heart.

But Maia being the master organizer, meticulous with details as well as being a good bastonera (literally herder of a flock), she knew that even the simplest of ceremonies needed some management. We were each given an assignment and she made sure everything was in time. Here’s how it went:

It was a beautiful Friday morning in Brooklyn, sunny but a bit breezy. Maia dressed up in our Airbnb apartment with three girlfriends helping her with her hair. Then, with the photographer clicking away, we –Jaja and I, plus my husband, stepson and five friends -- walked down with her through three blocks of sidewalk, toward the famous Prospect Park where Carlo, Jensen and his family, and a smattering of friends and cousins were waiting. It was exhilarating to be greeted by strangers offering their good wishes (an old lady yelled, “Enjoy your husband”), people in cars honking their congratulations, spectators clapping while we waited for the lights to change. That walk was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that no church aisle can beat. “Very Sex and the City,” one of Maia’s high school friends tweeted.  

Walking to Prospect Park in Brooklyn (Photo courtesy of Gemma Nemenzo)

Walking to Prospect Park in Brooklyn (Photo courtesy of Gemma Nemenzo)

Maia and Jensen exchange vows (Photo courtesy of Gemma Nemenzo)

Maia and Jensen exchange vows (Photo courtesy of Gemma Nemenzo)

A rainbow appears as the wedding takes place. (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

A rainbow appears as the wedding takes place. (Photo by Gemma Nemenzo)

Jensen and Maia (Photo courtesy of Maia Almendral)

Jensen and Maia (Photo courtesy of Maia Almendral)

Jensen is the newest member of our expanded family, which includes Bien and Anthony who couldn't 't make it. (L-R Irwin, Irwin Jr., me, Maia, Jensen, Jaja and Carlo) (Photo courtesy of Gemma Nemenzo)

Jensen is the newest member of our expanded family, which includes Bien and Anthony who couldn't 't make it. (L-R Irwin, Irwin Jr., me, Maia, Jensen, Jaja and Carlo) (Photo courtesy of Gemma Nemenzo)

Jensen’s younger sister, Carla, as the officiant, wrote a very personal script that made their vows incredibly sweet. The entire event, from the time we started walking to posing for pictures took all of 40 minutes, but it was 40 minutes so beautiful and deeply affecting that our hearts were bursting with happiness.

Lunch was at a local pizzeria (how New York can you get!) and a large crowd of the newlyweds’ friends gathered that evening at a local bar to party the night away.

Irwin ended the day with this entry on his travel journal: “The rite was simple but elegant. Perhaps what matters most is not the big splash tendered on one’s wedding day but how long and how wide the ripples of their love could grow.”

Maia and Jensen’s wedding wasn’t the first in the family. Bien, Irwin’s eldest son, wed his longtime partner, Anthony, last May and because they likewise created their own rituals, their wedding was just as beautiful and meaningful. And that’s how all weddings should be.

Bien and Anthony (Photo from Bien's facebook page)

Bien and Anthony (Photo from Bien's facebook page)

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino