“Law school, bar exams, and the wedding are done! I can finally write for Berto,” I told Joaquin. His eyes lit up. “What should I write about?” I asked. He grinned. “Wedding planning,” he answered.
What did I get myself into? My husband’s sense of humour was not lost on me. Wedding planning, he says, knowing fully well that I dumped that responsibility on his lap. It’s only fair that I should write about it.
Let me explain.
I was a second year law student when I ran into Joaquin in early 2012. We had known each other for ten years when we serendipitously bumped into each other again, hence it was an easy transition from friendship to courtship. Towards the end of my fourth year in law school, he proposed. By December 2013, I was an engaged woman.
Joaquin acquiesced to my parents’ request that we get married after I take the bar exams so that I could keep my focus on academics. Since I was enrolled in the evening program of UP Law, a five-year program for the working students, I had one more year of school to finish and the bar exams to hurdle after graduation. My parents’ request/condition thus translated to a two-year engagement for us — we could only schedule the wedding after my graduation, bar review, and the month-long bar exams in October 2015.
During the initial months of our engagement, we would talk about what kind of wedding we wanted. We were in agreement that we should be as economical as possible in planning and spending for the wedding, because the wedding is just a day. But it is a special day, nonetheless, that we want to celebrate with family and good friends.
As the months went by, our simple and budget-friendly wedding plan started to take shape. We made a list of our own wedding non-essentials: paper invitations, the grand entourage, and a formal reception program. These were the first to go. A website instead of paper invites, an entourage of children instead of a full entourage, and two wedding receptions: a lunch reception for family, and an informal party at night for friends. We also decided to choose friends to be our “suppliers” — not because we expected them to give us low rates, but because we believed in them. We wanted to support their business and to pay what is fair.
We set the wedding to December 2015. Joaquin had all the romantic reasons for it: it was a cold month, my parents also got married in December, it was the perfect year ender, and we get to spend Christmas as husband and wife. I, on the other hand, had my own practical reasons for choosing December. There were rumors floating around that the bar exams might be moved to another month, and I thought that December was a “safe” and untouchable month. Eventually, we pinned down December 11, 2015 as D-Day in Baguio City, where I spent all my childhood vacations.
During the 2014 Christmas holidays, we made a trip up to Baguio. We wanted to have the lunch reception in the garden of The Manor. We set an appointment with their Event Coordinator (hereinafter called Miss EC) and arrived on time with giddy smiles.
The very short and curt meeting with her left us silent. Then Joaquin spoke up. “Why did you not ask questions?” Admittedly, I lost interest halfway through the meeting. Miss EC was not very amiable and did not return our smiles. She shot us a round of questions — When is the wedding? What time? How many guests do you have? Lunch time in the garden? You need a tent. See that tent over there? That’s P60,000. Any more questions? If there are, just email me. Then meeting was over. Barely a ten minute meeting that we travelled roughly five hours for. I answered Joaquin defensively, “I don’t know, I didn’t feel like she was genuinely interested in our business, she didn’t even pretend to be interested.” “What about you?” Joaquin asked me. “Are you still interested in the wedding?” Joaquin was annoyed. At me. “Of course I am!” I answered in a higher pitch than intended. “Then why didn’t you ask her questions?!” He asked in a more irate tone.
I called a timeout. Wedding planning was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to be exciting. But we were fighting.
“I’m sorry, love, it shouldn’t be this way,” he said, as if reading my mind. “From now on, anything that causes us stress during the wedding planning is out.” I fondly call it the Stress Veto.
Needless to say, lunch reception at The Manor was Stress Vetoed.
The next day, we found ourselves knocking on the front door of Mama’s Table after a friend suggested it to us. Mama’s Table is the home of Chef Vicky Tinio Clemente who opens her house for intimate dinner soirees, and sometimes, wedding receptions.
Chef Vicky opened the door and welcomed us in. Five steps into her home and we both knew we found The Place. The walls were made of glass and there was a grand fireplace. Her garden overlooked La Trinidad mountains. Please say yes to us. Please. After a very pleasant conversation with Chef Vicky, she agreed to share her home with us. We felt at ease with her, as if she was our own aunt. She asked all the right questions, asking for details we didn’t even think about. She asked us what WE wanted to eat, not what we thought the guests would want to eat. After all, she said, the wedding day is OUR day, a celebration of our love for each other. Joaquin and I felt angels blowing kisses our way.
Wedding planning came to a halt for me when my last semester in law school started in January of 2015. I was slapped back into it when the Supreme Court came out with an announcement that the 2015 bar exams would be held on the month of November instead of October. Fantastic news for the law student in me — more time for bar review. Horrible news for the bride in me — I will have exactly eleven days from the last day of the bar exams to the wedding. Eleven days to plan a wedding. A destination wedding.
It was late March when the Supreme Court released the Bar Bulletin No. 3 (a.k.a. the announcement) — 2 months before graduation, 7 months before the bar exams and 8 months to the wedding. WE still had a lot of time.
Or so I thought. I momentarily forgot I was a law student. Law students have no time. My groom and I strategised. We came up with this: From this point on, I will be in charge of the wedding gown. He will be in charge of everything else.
Good plan, I thought, albeit a little unfair. In my defense, I would like to say this: Between the two of us, he is the more creative one. If he left the wedding planning to me, guests would sit on Monobloc chairs.
April came. Farah, my matron-of-honor, whisked me off to go dress hunting despite my “I can’t — I have a ton of readings to finish” overused and abused excuse. Our first stop was a Ready-To-Wear bridal gown shop to try on some dressed and get ideas. I did not want to splurge on my dress. My plan was to find a good mananahi who can execute the design I want. It’s a one-day dress, my practical mind screamed. I set the budget to 20k OR less (preferably less). Farah violently reacted. Okay…30k then. The gods of time and budget were on my side. I knew I had found The One when I tried on the second dress (the first dress was pretty and grand, but it didn’t feel “me” and was way over budget). The second dress was simple, yet elegant. It was classy, yet playful. It fit me almost perfectly, just needed to tighten some parts. Farah, as if on cue, asked how much the dress cost. “Ma’am, that piece is on sale. It’s the last of its kind. P35,000.” Done. Sold. I found The One in less than 30 minutes, within our budget, plus I still had enough time to return to the “ton of readings” I left behind.
Joaquin did not dare bother me in May. I was preparing for my final final exams in law school, the last set of tests separating me from graduation. So he went up to Baguio by himself to find a venue for the evening party. And he did, with the generous help of Francis Blanco. We met Francis and his brother Carlo through common friends in Manila. Little did we know that the Blancos were owners of the famous restaurant in Baguio City called Canto Bogchi joint. So when it came to taking Joaquin through the ins and outs of the pine city, Francis was the perfect guy.
In June, I graduated from law school. Spent July, August, September and October in my study cave, only coming out for air on the weekends — because I had to go to bar review lectures. Once though, I snuck in a day trip to Baguio with Joaquin to fix church documents. While there, he introduced me to the Blancos who then introduced us to the two angels who would eventually make our dream wedding come true: Bang and Dimps.
Bang was in charge of styling and prettifying the 1) PMA church; 2) Mama’s Table; and 3) Bell Ampitheatre, while keeping the costs within our absurdly low budget. One meeting with her and she got our (or should I say Joaquin’s) concept right away — simple, if at all minimal decors that told a story. We didn’t want lush and elaborate elements that were beautiful on the outside, but empty inside. We wanted the designs and the place to be representative of who we were, and who we aspired to be.
Dimps would then be in charge of the food for the evening reception. Joaquin and I wanted to share with our family and friends everything we loved about Baguio, from the Craft Beer, Canto’s signature ribs, street food, strawberry taho, smores, coffee, hot chocolate, bread… name it. Canto Bogchi Joint became our official caterer for the evening, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
All too soon it was November. The Bar Exams Month. Joaquin cut me off from all Viber groups with “suppliers.” As I crammed and cried my way through the four Bar Sundays, Joaquin finalised the lunch menu with Chef Vicky, prepped the photo team led by Aaron Ebio and the video team of Ace Sayat, badgered Bang and Dimps with last minute additions, and pulled in the help of one of my closest friends, Sheryl, to fill in the gaps and details we overlooked. He even secured the entertainment for the evening party: 5 singers, 4 hosts, 2 DJs and a sax player (say what?!). He did all this during his busiest work month while dealing with a very emotional, bar-stressed fiancee.
The days between the last Bar Sunday to D Day went by fast. I jumped into wedding planning as soon as the last exam was done. But there was hardly anything to do anymore except last minute shopping of things we needed to bring for D Day. Sheryl took on the role of wedding day coordinator and had all bases covered; She put to work all members of our highschool bakada — my “bridesmaids” in the truest sense.
Our thank-you gifts, all Philippine-Made and purchased months before, had all arrived. Our wedding cakes were to be made by our good friend, Gel Colet of Swell Sweets Confections, so we were confident it would look good and taste even better. No frantic last minute meetings with the photographer and videographer — we knew what they were capable of and gave them free reign on what to shoot. No trial session with my make-up artist, Bev Almazan. I trusted her completely because she knew us, and she knew our hearts.
December 10. Everything was set. Everything except my vows. Naturally, Joaquin being himself, had already finished his.
So there I sat, in the bridal suite of Le Monet Hotel, poised in front my laptop, in deep thought. I thought about that serendipitous meeting with Joaquin 3 years ago that started it all. I thought about the boy I met, and the man he has become today. I thought about the highs and the lows, the laughter and the tears, the triumphs over trials.
I thought about this past year, how the preparations for the bar and for the wedding revealed so much about ourselves and what we truly value.
I thought about him and what I wanted to tell him today and everyday for the rest of our lives.
And so I started to write. To my favourite person in the world, Joaquin — “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “I appreciate you”, “I love you.”