I do

I used to not believe in marriage. It always seemed to be a silly institution established by out-of-date religious organizations and later co-opted by secular governments. Why would a piece of legal paperwork affect the kind of relationship you have with your partner? It certainly increases your risk profile for that relationship ever going south but outside of that, what’s the point? Taxes, perhaps? In the US, it can simplify filing with the IRS. It all seemed hopelessly banal, a far cry from champagne and kisses.

But then 2014 came along. We have seven friends getting married this year (i.e. seven couples, fourteen people). That’s a LOT of weddings. On top of that, we got married. Twice.

Wedding #1

Our first wedding was up in the hills east of Oakland in a gorgeous redwood grove. We wanted to highlight just the things we really care about. Two longtime family friends played live music as the guests filtered into the park. My mum and aunt who works at a nursery literally walked around Berkeley and Oakland and illicitly snipped flowers and greenery from people’s yards for decorations (ninja bouquets!). A fantastic hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint from sketchy East Oakland catered with the best damn tacos ever along with favorites like guac and horchata. Our dear friend officiated the ceremony, another friend’s dog was the ring-bearer, and the rest of the afternoon was packed with lawn darts, Suzie Sticks, beer pong, and kubb. Guests signed Jenga pieces instead of a guestbook. On the whole, a fabulous day the park.

Wedding #2

But like more and more couples now a days, our families span continents. My dad’s Dutch, my mum’s Canadian, and my extended family is scattershot all over the place. Drea’s from Colombia and most of her family lives in Cali. So, of course, we wanted to do a second wedding in South America. It ended up just as fantastic and completely different. Everyone gathered on beautiful Lake Calima up in the mountains outside of Cali in Southern Colombia. Another family friend officiated the brief ceremony (I had to brush up my español). Then we dined on an exquisite array of Colombian delicacies, danced the night away to a live salsa band, planted a tree, watched Colombia decimate Uruguay in the World Cup and then jumped in the pool fully clothed to celebrate the win.

From there we took off on our Colombian honeymoon. We started by exploring the coffee growing region and Nevados National Park with our immediate families and ten friends who had flown in from overseas. Then Drea and I took off to the northern coast of Colombia where we spent a sweltering four days trekking out to The Lost City in the middle of the rainforest in the remote Sierra Nevada mountain range. From there, we stayed at a beautiful little boutique hotel and hiked through Tayrona National Park, a series of spectacular connected Caribbean beaches. Then we were off to San Gil, north of Bogota, where we rafted unbelievable Class V rapids, downhill mountain biked the Andes, walked the historic Camino Real, and paraglided the gargantuan Chicamocha Canyon. Packed with adventure, just how we like it.

During the 7 hour delay on our the flight back to California, we finally had some time to reflect. The entire experience had really changed and shaped us. We had gone into it casually. We would often say, “it’ll be super low key, just a fun party.” It did turn out to be a fun party. It also turned out to be low key. It didn’t turn out to be “just.”It was truly humbling to look out at the people that had assembled for both occasions and see so many friends and loved ones standing witness to the event. Both our friend-officiants touched our hearts with what they had prepared and making our vows before the group etched them into our souls. Wedding days number one and two have already firmly established themselves on our running list of Best Days Ever. Seeing the hoops that everyone jumped through and the lengths they travelled to attend will inspire us forever.

At the end of the day, marriage isn’t an institution. Or at least, that’s not the important part. Marriage is a community. It’s all the people who make it their business to empower the promise you make to each other. We stood at the center of a little village and the villagers are going to travel with us for the rest of our lives. I used to not believe in marriage. But now, I do.

Nothing says honeymoon like downhill mountain biking.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my beautiful wife and best friend Drea. She’s brilliant, gorgeous, and her giggle is dangerously contagious. She’s packed with Colombian-grade passion and her love means the world to me. Oh, and if you’re a foodie, her blog is awesome.