When you finally meet that special person you wish to spend the rest of your life with, try to make the wedding day memorable for all the right reasons.
I have been working in Saudi Arabia since June 2005 and met my wife-to-be here last year (2007). To have any romantic relationships in KSA is a somewhat difficult task considering it's illegal for single men and women to see each other, with severe punishments if caught.
Fortunately I live in a compound which makes it much easier, so this first hurdle was successfully managed. Next we have the marriage.
The British Embassy performs the ceremony on UK territory insomuch as the Consuls abode. The Banns were posted at the Embassy for the standard 21 days - after we got the mountain of bureaucratic papers from our countries - oh, I forgot to mention I married someone from the Philippines!
From my side the papers were easy, birth certificate, passport Saudi residence permit (Iqama) etc.
My wifes were not so simple. The Philippine Embassy in KSA creates a license to marry (a foreigner) which the British Embassy needs to see. To get the LTMAF you need a DFA stamped CENOMAR from the Philippines which requires the submittal of DFA and NSO stamped Birth, Baptism and any legal papers pertaining to the first two. These can only be obtained in Manila and a cousin had to queue from 3am to do this. I truly thank Michelle for doing this.
Once the CENOMAR was Fed-Ex'd to my wife-to-be, she had to submit this along with the certified Birth Certificate and residence permit and copies of my papers that had already been submitted to the British Embassy.
It took about one month to get the CENOMAR from the Philippines and 30 minutes to get the License to Marry a Foreigner from the Embassy.
Once I submitted this document plus the other certificates we could finally set the date - May 18th 2008.
One thing about Saudi Arabia is that the locals will not help you at all, so when I was looking for a Photographer and Videographer I got no support, likewise for the Wedding Cake, flowers, Chauffer and DJ for the reception. Talking of reception, I booked the restaurant in my compound as the laws in KSA dictate that men and women can't mix, even at a wedding hall (divided halls men one side, women the other and a wall between them) and I wanted our reception to be a near normal as possible.
Thankfully my British and Philippino friends came to the rescue and all the necessary people were obtained.
Next was the Wedding Dress - women can't try on clothes in KSA either, so the dress maker CHRIS PAREL, had to visit us in my compound with mock ups. Philippine superstition means the bride can't try on the dress before the big day.
Chris also made the bridesmaids dresses and the same fitting situation meant my one bedroom shoebox was full.
Chris duly delivered the dresses a week before the wedding and I had no choice but to see the wedding dress before the day, as Chris placed it on a mannequin ready for the big day right next to my dining table.
After finding no Chauffer driven car, I decided I would dress my Nissan Pathfinder and do the job myself (doing things yourself in KSA is the ONLY way to get most things done to our standards)
The Photographer and Videographer were the same person - Oliver, a Philippino optician by trade, and the DJ + crew were likewise Philippino too.
The Wedding Cake became the next issue. Sure, there's lots of excellent wedding cake designs in the UK and elsewhere but you try and explain what the hell Royal Icing is to the cake makers (not really bakers in my opinion) and you come across a 10 foot high brick wall.
John, the restaurant manager offered me a cake which looked reasonable and I gave him the go-ahead with some trepidation.
Meanwhile James McGovern, a GM at Geant in KSA and a friend offered to get me a proper royal iced fruitcake wedding cake, 3 tiers of course, and a good price, so I gave him the go ahead too.
John then said his baker couldn't do "white icing" and the cake would be cream coloured and a vanilla sponge cake. The icing could be white for extra cost, so I agreed. We now had two cakes for the day.
Next was the cake topper - no-one sells them in KSA, so my best man David Anderton offered to get me one on his trip to the UK, as well as a cake knife and confetti.
The night before the wedding day, both cakes were transported to the restaurant where they would be kept in the fridge room until required. Unfortunately James' cake had a disaster and collapsed whist being carried to the car from the shop. James' baker made an emergency replacement but it was nothing like the original.
David had some very bad news and a personal crisis to deal with but hats off to him, he supplied the stuff.
My wife-to-be needed a hairdresser and make-up artist for the day. Step up Chris Parel again. He also denoted how the bedroom should look for the day as well (mainly for photographing his dresses and the accessories (you try getting a decent tiara in KSA) and his choice was white, nice for the photos but very impractical for later....
Once I coordinated everything and everyone I could finally relax, or so I thought... no actually I did eventually chill out and my wife-to-be knew only too well how stressed I was arranging all this stuff in KSA.
My wife-to-be had her bridal shower on the previous weekend and likewise I had a small stag night at the same time.
To transport the bride and the bridesmaids to the Embassy, I used one of the compound limos for practical reasons, and because everyone needed to be in the same place at the same time, my wife-to-be and the bridesmaids all stayed at my place and I vacated and stayed with the best man for the night before the big day.
To stop the girls getting bored, the home-made wedding favours (again you try getting anything Christian wedding related in KSA) needed a final touch (all 120 of them), so they got to work with some ribbon I obtained earlier that day. I left them alone after they finished the favours and watched some disgusting horror film on tv with the best man and then I retired on his sofa to wake up the next morning after about 3 hours sleep.
The Big Day
On the morning of the day I got ready whilst the best man was sound asleep and dressed my car with the ribbons I practiced with a couple of days previously.
Here's me by the car a couple of hours before the wedding. Not exactly a Rolls Royce but at least it's white.
David did a fried breakfast which was welcome then I got togged up ready for the photographer who was already at the brides abode along with Chris and the bridesmaids. The full outfit I'm wearing is a wool wedding suit and the temperature on the day was about 38c which means I basically melted when I was outside.
The photographer took several shots then disappeared back to the brides place. I went to the restaurant to check the hall layout and the decorations and to collect the brides bouquet and the carnation buttonholes. The bride was due to leave the house at 12.00 but due to makeup delays and the flowers not arriving until 12.15 she left late at about 12.40 and the Embassy was about 30 minutes away depending on the queue to enter the DQ.
This delay meant I couldn't get back to the house before the bride left as I needed to get some pins for the buttonholes and I needed the white satin sheet to cover the back seats of the car. This meant that I left at 12.45 with the best man following me in his car. The speed limit on the highway is 120km/h, we were doing about 160 to get there on time (the wedding was booked for 1pm)
We all got to the venue safely and on time and the British Consol (Brian Hefford) offered me and the male guests a large shot of Johnny Walker Red Label which as we are in KSA was duly snapped up by everyone except Colin.
Oliver was busy taking photos but I noticed the video camera was still in its bag on the floor - this was a sign of what was to come later.
The Bride duly appeared with her assistants and Brian then started the proceedings. Oliver kindly left the video camera on the floor whilst the ceremony was taking place, concentrating on taking photos instead. Fortunately two of my guests, Colin and David, had cameras and mobile phones capable of recording video and duly got the footage Oliver missed.