The way that Eva and Jean wrote to me in their first email warmed my heart. They told me they were getting married in the ruins of an old chapel which became the hideout for some bandits the middle of a forest in The Netherlands and everyone, including me, would be camping there. My plans had been to leave Europe straight after Mike and Cecila’s wedding in Sweden (three weeks before Eva and Jean’s date) but this was a perfect excuse to stay a little longer – and I’m so glad that I did.
I received these invitations in the mail a few weeks after Eva, Jean and I Skyped (along with their cat Mr Momoni – who is now incidentally Internet dating myself and Kristen’s cat Quark according to Eva and I). I knew this was going to be awesome.
We spoke a few more times before the wedding and we agreed to meet at the Schiphol Airport Railway Station where Eva met me. We hugged and and led me to Jean who was illegally parked in a big truck. This vehicle was what we would take everything we needed to the wedding in – and it was still empty. We shared some amazing Dutch pancakes, chocolate and Coca Cola (Jean has a slight addiction to the sickly sweet brown beverage) before heading back to Eva and Jean’s place where we loaded up the truck, and I got to spend some time with Mr Momoni on the air mattress which I was sleeping on in the lounge. And the four of us (well three…) chatted late in to the night.
The next two days are still firmly embeddeed in my memory, I doubt anyone who was present would ever forget it. Eva and Jean had created their own wedding venue, a beautiful field in a rural part of the Netherlands which they had called Lovelands. This field was a celebration of their love and the things that they loved (although sadly, Mr Momoni was missing!). With only a small “interruption” where Eva and Jean had to go and officially get married at the local civic office, the sheer amount of work that went into this wedding was a sight to behold. But all of their friends and family were there, helping and it felt like it was already a party.
The story of their wedding I probably don’t need to explain, hopefully my will images do that. But there was one particular moment, I felt moved like I’ve never felt at a wedding before. Eva and Jean, the newlyweds walked down the aisle of the robber’s chapel hideout and Eva, who was jubilant with happiness, started crying. When I turned around and saw what was behind me, I realised the cause of these tears. A few years ago, Eva’s father had passed away and he’d always said that he’d learn to play the bagpipes for Eva’s wedding. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to achieve it. But Eva and Jean’s friends had organised a bagpipe player to attend – in the end, even though Eva wasn’t with him, he was very much with Eva. I don’t cry at weddings, but I’d grown to love these two beautiful and wonderful people in front of me, and my emotions overtook me for a moment and a tear rolled down my cheek.
But everything else, was happiness exemplified.
There are times when you need to pinch yourself and ask whether what’s happening is real. Being in Sweden for Mike and Cecilia’s wedding was one of those moments. Sweden is a beautiful country, a huge geological contrast to Iceland where we had been for the previous two weeks – it was green and lush. It’s such an intangible experience trying to explain another country and why it feels different to you own but I must admit, it felt so very unreal to be there. But having experienced it, it’s one of those unforgettable things that is a watershed moment in your life.
Mike is a Filipino-Aussie who was living in Melbourne when one day, he happened to meet a beautiful Swedish girl called Cecilia who was visiting Australia on a holiday. Their meeting was quite fateful, it changed both of their lives from the very first meeting. Cecilia soon returned back to Sweden and a short while later, Mike decided that Sweden was where his heart and future lay. That was a little over two years ago and I can see why he traveled across the world to be with her. Mike and Cecilia are absolutely perfect for each other and part of what I love about them is that they’re perfect to other people as well. From the first email that I received from Mike describing himself and Cecilia to the moment that himself and Cecilia met us on the platform of Stockholm’s Central Railway Station, to the instant that we walked into our hotel room to find a small hamper of delicious Swedish treats for us and to Mike and Cecilia inviting us to go to a theme park in Stockholm with their bridal party a few days before the wedding, it felt like Kristen and I were spending our time with long lost friends. Life was wonderful – and so were Mike and Cecilia.
I distinctly remember feeling like there was a really beautiful destiny attached to Mike and Cecilia’s wedding, even before we went to Sweden. And it was all confirmed during the ceremony held on the edge of the lake where we were staying. Cecilia loves karaoke and had decided that she was going to sing a song to Mike and the song she’d selected was Songbird by Fleetwood Mac. And just at that moment, from out of nowhere appeared a majestic swan that casually cruised past on the lake. It was a very unusual feeling – I’m not a man that believes in signs, but this was something pretty special and symbolic. And believe it or not, it was the only bird we saw the whole time we were there.
So here it is, Mike and Cecilia’s beautiful hand made wedding in the beautiful Swedish countryside – may their love last like the sunlight of the Scandinavian midsummer.
It’s always strange going back to Wollongong – I was born there and then spent 20 of the next 27 years of my life living there. I feel like I knew the city so well, all the secret back roads, where everything was and I would recognise people every time I was outside. But now, after nearly 5 years away from it, it feels so foreign. The roads are still the same but everything else is different. The town feels quieter, maybe the contrast of living on the edge of one of the busiest roads in Melbourne gives you some perspective… But the main thing for me is that I don’t seem to know anyone there any more. I walked down the main street expecting to see someone I recognised, a seemingly futile exercise. But thankfully, Graeme and Vanessa are an exception. In a roundabout kinda way, I’d probably met both of them before – Graeme is a brilliant cricketer and we’d no doubt played against each other in junior cricket and Vanessa played soccer for a team that were local rivals with the team that I coached. But I honestly don’t remember them and that’s unfortunately one of my weaknesses as a human – the inability to remember names or faces (maybe that’s why I seem to document people using my camera, it’s a surrogate for a bad memory).
But the six degrees of separation in Wollongong is always strong. You always know someone who knows someone who went to school with someone (and the driver of the beautiful car you’re in just so happens to be your old high school careers advisor). And that’s kinda how most of this wedding felt for me. People felt familiar and I felt like I was a local all over again and it’s kinda nice when that happens.