once upon an island wedding..

so hey guys. here it is.. finally..

the wedding post, as promised! (even if you guys don’t care, it’s for posterity. and me. and many, if not most of you, have already seen a bunch of the wedding photos on Facebook. there are more there than there are here, but here’s the backstory.)

ready.. steady.. go!

so as I’ve mentioned, husby is from Tonga.. and that’s where we had our wedding. on a little third world beautiful friendly tropical island in the South Pacific. it was nothing like I ever thought my wedding would be.. but it was wonderful, once it finally happened.

after an uber long flight and a fat layover in Fiji, where we toured the island but were so tired it barely sank in, the afternoon and night that we first arrived in Tonga were blissful.. I was reunited with mister, and could not have been happier. that night, after we’d taken my parents around for awhile and then dropped them at the hotel, he took me out to the shore and we sat on a rock wall and he had me pick a ring*. we talked about us and marriage and happiness and how strange it was to think that we were marrying “Elder Havea” and “Sister Wilkinson,” respectively, from the mission (the good old FTM) in a day or so. and then it started raining.. and we stood on the rock wall along the ocean and laughed and kissed, soaking wet, in the rain. it was a perfect night.

(*sidenote: the ring saga. since I’m basically using this blog post as a journal entry, and I’d like to look back and remember how it all went, I’ll include this part. the ring I’d been wearing throughout our engagement was a flat gold band with little diamonds set into the top that his sister-in-law had given me in New Zealand. Mote had ordered me a ring from New Zealand and his brother and sis-in-law were supposed to bring it with them when they came to the wedding in Tonga, but.. they ended up not coming. so.. Mote, being stressed, went to a local woman who makes jewelry to get me a pearl ring, and he had me pick out of 3 options. I ended up liking the pink one, which surprised me. but it’s gorgeous. and I wore that on the wedding day and for the majority of the time I was there, until it started to tarnish and turn my finger colors. we went back to the lady, because the ring was way too big anyway, to see if there were any other options for settings. she said the pearl is real but I should get a real metal setting that fits when I went back to the U.S.. but then she suggested that we get a whale bone ring with a pearl set on top from her, because it was much more durable. we said we’d give it a shot and she made one for us within a few days, right before I left, and we ended up really liking it. it has a super cool look and everybody loves it because of its uniqueness.. but just two nights ago, I was cleaning and putting away laundry, and then realized..
my pearl had fallen out of the ring.
I was obviously super upset.
my ring life was over, which is one of the few connections I have right now to husband that make it seem real.. since we’re living apart.
but later that night I felt like I should look on my closet floor, so I pulled out the shoe rack and parted the sea of clothes.. bam.
there was the pearl.
I’m not wearing the ring now because it’s pearl-less, and I want to take it into a jeweler and get it set in real metal on the whale bone, rather than glued in something cheaper. so at this point.. I’m half wearing the other tarnished metal pearl ring that’s way too big, and half not wearing a ring. and it’s been a big dumb mess. so there’s the saga of the ring. all you ladies who had easy peasy lemon squeezy times with getting the ring of their dreams in fancy proposals by their hubbies should now count themselves luckier. please and thank you.. because nothing about my wedding gets to be easy. end sidenote/saga.)

SO. in case you haven’t had enough drama yet.. and you’re getting bored.. here you go.
the day before the wedding.. we had basically the most stressful day of our lives. we’d had somebody go check for us prior to the trip exactly what we’d need to do to get married in Tonga with me being a non-citizen of the country, we thought we were good to go, but apparently they didn’t check with immigration. so we found out we were supposed to have had one of us living in Tonga for at least 6 months prior to the wedding, (he was living in NZ, I was in the U.S.. none of those initials spell Tonga) and have completed all sorts of applications and gotten approval from the supreme court of Tonga, etc. and that the process would all take about 2 weeks to process through immigration.

TWO WEEKS.

let me remind you.. this was
the. day. before. our. wedding.

can we say meltdown material?

(fortunately, Mote, although stressed to the gills, with all the pressure on high, handled everything amazingly. he was very calm and collected and impressed my parents very much with his composure in a super tough situation. because of everyone’s calm and practical positivity, we were all able to hold ourselves together fairly well. my only brief meltdown was sitting in the waiting room at the temple, as we waited to discuss our predicament with the temple president (our sealer) and tentatively cancel our appointment, crying into Mote’s shoulder for a few minutes.)

anyway, upon finding all this out, we went driving to get my parents, and then happened to stumble upon a lawyer’s office, which are not common on the island. divine intervention? you bet. so we hired said lawyer, who typed up all the documents for us, and his assistant went personally with us to the supreme court and the immigration office and the marriage registration office and the temple.. back and forth.. all. day. she was great. and my sister wired us more money from America for this unplanned surprise.. yet we still didn’t know that night if everything was going to be approved by the next day. our wedding was up in the air.

do you see how miserable we look here? this was at the wedding registry government office. or whatever it’s called. we look like we’re about to be ushered in to a funeral. my dad sneaked this picture, apparently.

so I went to bed that night at the hotel with my parents, hoping.. but not sure.. riding on pure faith. everyone in Mote’s family and circle of acquaintance who is employed with the Tongan government was pulling every string they could reach, and we would see what the morning brought.

and the next morning, Mote called the hotel and told us..

IT WAS ON!

relieved and happy, we busied ourselves with preparations.. getting ready for my wedding was not super easy, given that I was in a third world country.. and our hotel room didn’t even have a mirror.. nor a private bathroom.. and my straightener didn’t work with the converter/adapter.. (haha, and to think I debated in my mind as a teenager as to whether I would get professional hair and makeup done on my wedding day.)
but we borrowed a mirror from the lobby and a straightener from Mote’s sister and I managed.

it turned out ok, I think.

I started out in what I call my “civil wedding dress,” because in Tonga you have to get married by the government first and then have it ratified by a church in order for it to be considered complete and legal.. so in the case of the Latter Day Saint temple marriage, you go get married at the government office first, and then go get sealed either that day or the next.

we did it the same day. I wore a knee-length lace dress that my sister and I modified with a silk plum-colored extension at the bottom to make it more modest.

and then the aunties arrived to dress us in our ta’ovalas.. the traditional Tongan wrap.. and leis to wear for the ceremony.

we felt like tamales… especially Mote. his was huge. but it was super fun to have all these Tongan women surrounding me dressing me in their traditional clothes. I felt like I was in a movie or a dream. and.. gorgeous. my mother-in-law made the beading on top that I wore. it was beautiful.

we were then driven to the office where we’d be married by the government. we waited for awhile out front and then inside. only my parents and Mote’s aunty, Ngalu, were allowed in to the back office with us. it was supposed to be only one person, but Ngalu likes to get her way. haha. she is like Mote’s second mother and she is a SASSY pants.. so hilarious. loved her. anyway.

our governmental marriage ceremony was very short and sweet. the guy on the other side of the desk had us each hold a corner of the Bible, and repeat after him, Mote in Tongan and me in English, swearing to our marriage, and then we each had to kiss the Bible and sign the paperwork.. and that was it!


we emerged from the back office in a whirlwind.. and lots of smiles and comments and laughter from Mote’s loved ones. I understood none of the comments, but apparently they were pretty hilarious. although I do know that while we were waiting to be taken back, they made several jokes about my dad still being young and that he could take on multiple wives. haha. my mom just laughed. go Dad.. you Tongan lady killer.

so then, we drove straight to the temple to be sealed. as we were walking in I was introduced to the huge bouquet and lei Ngalu had made for me from flowers in her yard. she was so sweet to do that for me.. I didn’t even know how to hold so many flowers/foliage! the yellow flowers were especially really cool.

we got out of our ta’ovalas in the temple waiting room and then they took us into an interview room to meet with a temple worker briefly before the ceremony. then they took us each back to our respective bride and groom rooms to change. because of the sacredness of the ceremonies and ordinances that happen in the temple, I can’t go into detail here, but as I mentioned, our sealer was the temple president, President Hopoate. what a wonderful, sweet man. we could not have asked for a better person to seal us for time and all eternity. the spirit in those rooms was so strong it overwhelmed us. we knew that Heavenly Father had given us the miracles that had brought us to this moment, not just the day before, but over the course of our entire relationship, and me being in Tonga with my parents at all, and that this was a good thing… this was right. I don’t remember ever being so purely happy as I was kneeling across the altar from my eternal companion. I can’t even express how grateful I am that we kept ourselves worthy to be sealed by Priesthood authority in the house of the Lord. there is nothing that can compare to it. it was truly celestial.

after the sealing ceremony, we exchanged rings and hugs with family and friends.. and then went back to change into our American-style wedding clothes.

princess time!!!

I love my dress. it makes me feel more beautiful than anything I’ve ever worn. I touched up hair and makeup while mom did up a row of a bazillion buttons down my back with a crochet hook.. and I think I was even ready before Mote was. the sweet ladies in the temple kept ooh-ing and ah-ing over me as I walked out to meet him.. the beauty of getting married in a small temple outside of Utah, is that you get to be the only wedding that day.. so you don’t have to compete with others for photos or attention. it was like star treatment. but we got so caught up in getting everything ready that we failed to collect my civil wedding dress from the closet in the bride’s room. that turned out to be a problem later that night, as that was what I had planned to wear to the dance. so I had to default to a coral H&M number, but that’s fine.. and that’s later.

stop distracting me.

so we walked out of the temple to cheers and clapping and I pumped our fists in the air as we held hands, because I’m awesome.. and everyone laughed.. and we couldn’t stop smiling. it was basically pure, unadulterated happiness.

and then everyone wanted photos with us, especially the palangi and her pretty dress.. which was fine. we felt like movie stars with our paparazzi and fans.

and then, since photography is not exactly a booming business in Tonga, my dad was our photog and we did temple grounds pictures. (this was one of the hardest parts for me to swallow, and again.. not how I planned my wedding my whole life. photos were basically the only thing I really cared about for my wedding.. so the deal I made with Mote when I agreed to do the wedding in Tonga was that we’ll get professional photos done when he gets to the states, because we couldn’t even get engagement pics, let alone wedding photography. some of you know that I do photography on the side. it’s a big deal to me.. so I had trained my dad somewhat on my new camera prior to the trip and printed him a list of thumbnail versions of all the photos I wanted, so Mom helped check off the list and fix details while Dad took pics. he did an awesome job. and thank the heavens for my Photoshop skills! annnnd, glory be, I ended up loving my wedding photos! I recommend everybody make a list of the photos they want on their wedding day, it will help out even a professional photographer a great deal, and you’ll get the shots you wanted.)

whoa. tangent. back on track!!

so after the temple photos, Mote surprised me by taking us to what are called the blowholes for some photos. one of my favorite shots of the whole day comes from this spot. we stood on a huge cliff as the waves crashed below us, spraying water like a geyser to astronomical heights above us. this made my dress smell like seawater later, (don’t worry. my mom got it cleaned as soon as it got back to the states) and I frantically kept yelling to my dad to protect my camera from spray, but it was totally worth it. what an incredible view. this is why it’s cool to get married on a tropical island.

so then we were headed to our feast on ‘Otuhaka Beach with Mote’s close family and friends! or so we thought.

enter.. the awesome Tongan roads.

so… they have paved roads in Tonga.. sort of.. but many of the roads are so bad you end up feeling like you’re going off-roading just running to the shop in town, through potholes the size of small craters in the middle of the road. the poor cars.. and shocks..

so the construction workers had conveniently closed the only way to get to the beach we had reserved and paid for with a beautiful pavilion and tables.. and nobody could get there.

I think Ngalu could see the alarm on my face when I heard the news, because she told me to calm down and that we’d get there. we drove to the spot where the road was being closed by workers, and Ngalu talked to one of the workers who she sort of knew, bribed him with money, and then yelled at him to let everybody through to the beach, or she’d come back and kill him.
hahaha. I told you she was awesome.

so we made it to the beach, but because of the delay plus Tongan time, nothing was ready. we had plenty of time for beach pictures, though. it was absolutely gorgeous. I got a temple wedding and a beach feast.. best of both worlds, baby. I was in utter bliss at this point. I was married to my Tongan honey forever, I was on the beach, and nothing else was even gonna phase me.










so once the feast was ready, we opened with a prayer and sat down at the head table full of various Tongan dishes, complete with a roasted pig right in front of us, and coconuts with straws stuck in the holes to drink from. there were several great dishes, and I filled up fast. then Mote’s sweet dad got up and spoke to the group. he apologized for not being a member of the church, (Mote’s parents go to the Church of Tonga) and said how grateful he was for this day and the ward and my parents coming all the way from America to be here for the wedding. he said he was so grateful to finally have a palangi daughter (haha. p.s. palangi means white) and he doesn’t know why I want Mote, but he is sure glad I do. ha. Mote translated his speech for me as he went, and it was very sweet. then they had my dad speak. Ngalu translated for him. he mostly talked about how grateful he was for the hospitality we had been shown and the love and warmth, etc. but Ngalu spiced it up and gave it all her own extra flavor. she started out by saying that the palangi was scared to be up talking to all these Tongans, and the laughter continued from there. and at the end and said, “and thank you to me for being a great translator, and you can take me back to America with you.” haha.
too many awesome “take me to America” jokes were bouncing around. it was highly entertaining. Tongans are crack-ups.


then it was time to cut the cake. Mote had brought this cake all the way from New Zealand, because it was a couple hundred dollars cheaper over there. this was all him.. it was two-tiered, and he had the bakery print our favorite picture of us together on the cake in fondent with “Congratulations Mote & Aubrey” beneath it. it was very sweet and nice. unfortunately we didn’t get a great photo of it.. but this was how it looked.

anyway, we cut the cake and he was very nice when he fed me a bite, and of course I shoved it in his face/up his nose a little. he was totally unprepared. everybody thought it was hilarious. but I kissed it off, so it was fine.

then they sang a hymn and closed with a prayer.

oh.. but lest ye think this day was long enough already… we were not done yet, boys and girls. it was time for the dance that the ward threw for us in celebration.

we went back to the hotel to change, and Mote went home to change as well, and that’s when we realized we’d left my other dress at the temple, so I went to the plan B dress.

Mote came back around and picked us up again and we went to the church. they had basically made a throne with ta’ovalas and mats on chairs for us and my parents, and it was very cool to feel like the queen of the ball. we danced the night away. Polynesian dances are so much more fun than white dances.. everybody actually dances, and likes it. we kept having to participate in unexpected Tongan traditions that Mote hadn’t warned me about, like having to do a dance where we walk around the room essentially gathering the people behind us in line, and leading them all in a big long line, and then splitting off, me leading the women, him leading the men, and meeting in the middle, and then splitting off in various ways, making our lines longer and longer. it was slightly confusing, but very fun. I was basically like, “uh… I don’t know how to do this.” haha.

(we forgot the camera at the dance.. so all the pictures are crappy cell phone pics. sorry ’bout it.)



and then they had us come stand at the head of the room and played songs while people came up and kissed us and put leis on us… about 20 (or 200) pounds worth of leis each. they were mostly candy leis in Saran Wrap, but a couple of flower ones as well. then we had to slow dance with leis all over us.. to “Love Can Build a Bridge.” it was very romantic and heavy. literally.




we went back and sat on our thrones and shared the wealth of the candy leis with everyone.. and various people would ask us to come dance with them throughout the night. in Tonga, when you ask someone to dance, you just stand in front of them and bow. I think if we did that in America it would really lower the rejection rate. let’s pick up the tradition, guys.

and then we had some dance performances of traditional Tongan dances by young ladies in the ward, like the tau’olunga, which is the Tongan money dance that, traditionally, the bride does.. but since I’m not Tongan and had no teacher to help me learn to interpret a Tongan song with Tongan dance moves… one of the ysa’s in the ward did it. she was wrapped in a traditional tongan outfit and oiled up all over so people could come stick money to her skin. it was very cool.

I think I need to learn how so people can come give me money by sticking it all over me, and have it be totally non-sleazy and beautiful like that. that would be fine.

anyway, we dropped my parents at their hotel, and then drove back to ‘Otuhaka Beach, where we stayed for about 5 days on our honeymoon before we went to stay at his parents’ house for the remainder of my trip.

and there you have it.. the perfectly imperfect best day of my life.. where I ended up hitched to the man who’s imperfectly perfect for me.

did I mention I love this guy?

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5 thoughts on “once upon an island wedding..

  1. Wow. Gorgeous Aubs. Sounds like it was very nearly traumatic but absolutely beautiful (at least looking at the pictures). You are stunning bride. (Okay so I may have typed bridge instead of bride first and thought it was really funny. You are a stunning bride not a bridge. Even though I’m sure if you decided to be a bridge you would be stunning as well.)

  2. Aubrey, what a beautiful, memorable wedding! We love you and Mote and wish you much happiness.

  3. Thanks for sharing. What s saga! It will be a great story full of patience and sacrifice to get married in the right place to the right person you will be proud to share with posterity. Everyone wants a unique wedding and you got it. Gorgeous pictures

  4. Aubrey, i read the whole blog, i laughed and teared up at your Temple moment. My fav part was the “rejection rate” hilarious. I couldn’t tell that all these mayhem took place right before your wedding, the pics i looked at on facebook didn’t seems like what you described on this blog, but you two looked so beautiful together. You have a lifetime to spent with Mote, your separation right now is only but a short time. Thanks for the blog, it was a good read. Love you girl.

  5. I totally just read all of that, and your wedding looks so beautiful. I’m glad that everything went well, you make me want to get married in the islands. 🙂 Best of luck until Tongan hubby gets back to the states!

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