Greetings readers. It’s been a while since I last penned something for you, or at least, a while since I penned something which wasn’t a hotel review, a food tour, or a guide to some city you’ve never heard of. But today I’ve been hauled out of semi-retirement and conscripted by my wife to write something about us. Specifically, I’ve been asked to tell the tale of the circumstances which led to the two of us saying our wedding vows in Honk Kong City Hall, dressed in casual attire, and in the company only of a high-flying international banker, an old bloke from South London, and a barefoot travelling busker from the Czech Republic; none of whom we’d met prior to our wedding day.
In short, exactly the sort of situation that anyone who knows us would have thoroughly expected.
The impossible wedding plans.
It didn’t start out so unconventional. I made the kind of marriage proposal that could have preceded the ending credits of a thousand sloppy romance films. On one knee by moonlight, with waves crashing around us, atop the deserted sun-deck of a luxury paddle-steamer, deep in the heart of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. So far, so storybook, right? But it was soon thereafter, that our wedding plans began to veer somewhat off-script.
The problem, essentially, was a geographic one. Although we live in mainland China these days, I’m British, and Miss Marie-Carmen has something of a fluid nationality, dependant it seems, largely upon which countries’ sports team is currently performing best (she’s typically Spanish during the football world cup, French during the rugby world cup, and proudly waving the flag of the People’s Republic of China when the Olympics comes around). The first question to be addressed then, was do we get hitched in the UK, in France, in China, or some place else entirely?
Not an easy question. Flying back to the UK would have the advantage of being convenient for my friends and family, but would necessitate quite a journey for Marie’s side of the aisle, especially as very few of them speak English. And holding the wedding ceremony in France instead would have meant inflicting the same difficulties upon my side. Plus, as an added complexity, the not insignificant issue that I speak very little French myself, and thus, unless our nuptial vows pertained directly to what events may or may not have transpired on the bridge of Avignon, we might have been in trouble. And choosing either of our home nations would also have meant cutting out most, if not all, of our Chinese friends and acquaintances.
Setting the venue close to our home in China was also quickly ruled out, as a brief investigation revealed that two foreigners cannot legally get married in mainland China.
That left option number four: “some place else entirely”. We both loved the idea of a beach wedding, flying our friends and family out to an exotic locale and tying the knot with the sand between our toes and fresh seafood on the barbecue. Thailand perhaps, since that’s where we met. Or Burma where we had our first date, or even Vietnam, where we had gotten engaged. Seductive though this idea was, it’s also expensive, and a quick glance at our respective family trees revealed two startling facts: Firstly, that we both have exceedingly large families, and secondly, that neither of us appears to be a direct descendent of either John D Rockefeller or Scrooge McDuck.
The bottom line was, that after many lengthy discussions, we concluded that however this wedding was done, it would be a logistical nightmare, and would undoubtedly involve unfairly excluding many of our closest friends and family.
Taking a decision: Getting married in Hong-Kong
Our solution was beautiful in it’s simplicity. Exclude everybody. You can’t get fairer than that. After all, all those distant aunts, work colleagues and high school friends can hardly complain that they didn’t get a wedding invitation when we can quite truthfully say: neither did the bride’s mother or the best man!
Hong Kong was the ideal candidate, because it’s a short flight from home, because wedding ceremonies can be done there in English, and because the finer things in life are close at hand. This last meaning that we could take all of the money that one would usually allocate for bridesmaid dresses, wedding cars, and shitty DJ’s, and instead blow the whole lot on a top-notch hotel and the fanciest meal you’ve ever set eyes on.
Booking the wedding proved to be as simple as mailing over copies of our identity documents and a $50 cheque to the registrar, and we were all set. With one small hiccup; a wedding needs witnesses.
An intimate wedding: finding witnesses
Two witnesses were required to, well, witness, the proceedings, and we couldn’t invite anyone we knew because this would have negated our ‘exclude everyone’ policy. So instead we put a message on a Hong Kong travel forum a week in advance asking if anyone with an hour to spare on the given date wanted to attend a wedding, in exchange for us buying a few drinks. And if you think that sounds disorganised, wait till you hear of our backup plan for if it failed; a plan which basically amounted to grabbing the first backpacker, taxi driver, or drunken tramp that we encountered on the morning of the wedding, and offering them $100 in cash for an hour of their time. Yeah, we like to live dangerously. Or at least, chaotically.
The day before the wedding came around and there was some concern, as our online message had attracted only one taker, a Hong Kong based banker who was likewise considering getting married in the city and figured it’d be worthwhile for him to see the procedure first hand.
We struck lucky later in the evening though when, while covering a food tour (that’s right, we work even on the night before our wedding. All for your benefit, and absolutely nothing to do with free food!) we encountered a retired chap from London, who was enjoying the last day of his holiday in China. I made my pitch. “Your flight is 4pm tomorrow, you say? Soooooo, you’re not busy around 11am, then?”
Witness number two in the bag.
Arriving back at our hotel late at night I found an email waiting for me from a man from Czech Republic, who described himself as a travelling busker. He told us that he was planning to be playing in the park next to City Hall the following day anyway, and would be happy to act as a witness, even offering to bring his guitar and sing a few songs. We’d already got our two, but I figured a third would be a good idea just in case one of the others didn’t show. And besides, we’d neglected to consider the soundtrack during our comprehensive half hour of wedding planning.
The wedding day, to the city hall
So that was us. We didn’t dress up for the occasion, as we’d already done our wedding photos some weeks earlier in the Chinese Style (ie: on a snowy mountainside), and the ceremony was only scheduled to be 15 minutes long anyway. But our impromptu guests each did, to their own style. From our banker fellow in his immaculate suit, tie, and rosette combo, to our busker with his dreadlocks, cut-off jeans and guitar slung across his back. As broad a cross-section of society as any wedding with only three guests could possibly boast.
And after a few parroted sentences to the registrar, and a quick round of celebratory beers with our new friends, we were back at the hotel less than two hours after we’d departed.
I recently read an article detailing how studies have shown that the chance of a couple remaining happily together is inversely proportionate to the amount of money spent on their wedding. Our entire wedding took less time, and cost less money, than my last trip to Ikea did. I reckon that bodes well. Think it through when you’re having your 9th argument about the colour of the seat upholstery, or why auntie Mabel can’t be seated at the same table as Tiffany’s new boyfriend.
ps. Our heartiest thanks to the three random strangers who gave up time out of their schedules at short notice to allow our wedding to go ahead. Wherever you guys are now, know that we drank a toast to you on our first anniversary!
Pin our wedding in Hong-Kong
Did you like it? Share it on Pinterest!