A perfect wedding in paradise.

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As we were asked us to turn off our phones, tuck them away and simply be present in the moment, I thought oh dang—I sat up a little straighter as the light bulb flicked on and it really sunk in that I was about to witness something serious…that was immediately followed by an equal measure of wonder and gratitude that we had been included in such a special occasion.

Perhaps we weren’t the only ones marveling at our inclusion, as technically we’d spent only a handful of days with the bride and groom since having met at a language school in Antigua, Guatemala early last year. Our paths crossed again as they traveled through Bogotá a few months later, and then again when we all happened to be in San Diego last August. That was when they asked us if we’d like to come to Bali for their wedding.

The amazing thing about travel is that when you’re untethered and drifting, you’re opened up to connecting with people in ways you’d never do when you’re at home, hurrying to work with your nose buried in your iPhone. Traveling is also a kind of personality litmus test because it’s impossible not to form impressions of people based on their travel style: what kind of places they stay, if they prefer to do things on their own as opposed to tours or if they plan or fly by the seat of their pants. Sometimes you meet people that you’ll hang out with because you’re going in the same direction for a bit, and sometimes you meet people that you just click with and wished lived in your town because you know you’d be great friends. Rich and Carly are the latter.

What followed was one of the best trips Cody and I have taken and the most lovely wedding I’ve ever been a part of.

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Crashing waves were a perfect backdrop to the ceremony. Once the sun went down and dinner was over, we were all in that infinity pool.

Committing to a marriage is a big deal and there is a lot of pressure to plan the perfect day. In fact, there is such an emphasis on perfection and that the bride should have everything she wants that I found myself wondering: is it possible to be a bridezilla type if you’re having a destination wedding? If you think about it, there are a lot of difficult concessions: you have to accept the fact that not everyone can be there to share it with you and inevitably, you won’t have the same kind of control as you would if getting married across your state. Not only that but since the loved ones who do come are spending a lot of time and money to get there, your wedding may end up in competition with their vacation.

Because we’d only spent time with Carly and Rich while traveling, we hadn’t met any of their family or friends, a realization that gave my introverted heart a jolt of anxiety somewhere on our way to Taipei. I didn’t need to worry because a full slate of activities (hello water park!) had been planned to give everyone ample time to get to know each other and mingle so that there were lots of smiles and welcomes on the big day. I was also fully prepared to kind of hang back and not expect too much face-time, but Rich and Carly weren’t having it: they came to us to hang on the beach and when we found out we’d be in the Gili Islands at the same time, they dropped everything to spend a day having drinks (or knocking them over?) and playing miniature golf with us. Thanks for that guys :-)

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Pre-wedding beach day at Balangan Beach, just outside of Uluwatu

All through the wedding and reception, I was trying to put my finger on what exactly made the day so magical. Eventually, I realized it was the fact that I have never before been to a wedding where the bride and groom made such a point to make sure that their guests were comfortable and ready to celebrate alongside them. From the drinks handed to us as we walked in, the fans and water misters waiting at our seats to take the edge off the afternoon sun, the flip-flop souvenirs begging us to kick off our shoes and the fried rice packets handed out as we left—it was as if they had walked through the entire day from our perspective.

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The lovely couple, having their first dance

But the best part were their heartfelt and unique vows. After nine years in my own marriage, I loved the way they promised to be partners in life and hearing how important a passionate friendship was as they moved forward as husband and wife. Two people joining into one life is the definition of marriage, but sometimes the fact that a couple is comprised of two different people is brushed over; it was refreshing to hear that it’s our duty to continue to grow as individuals—not in separate directions, but to maintain those things that made you fall in love in the first place—and that one of the most important parts of being a spouse is to support and encourage your partner as they do this.

As you witness two people make these promises to each other, you can’t help but inwardly reaffirm those commitments to your own spouse, and maybe that’s another reason why their wedding hit so close to home for me. Growing in your individual passions, having an incredible friendship, approaching life as partners: all of the things that Rich and Carly vowed to each other have been the things that I’ve relied upon so heavily as I’ve adjusted to life abroad.

It was a beautiful reminder.

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This story was one of the readings during the ceremony and we each received a personalized copy as a wedding favor.

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