We met Alex last year when he moved into our apartment block. He was attending the same Spanish school we had dropped out of, so we bonded over discussing the apathetic teacher and the mundane, grammar-driven classes.
Several weeks ago, my landlord told me Alex was back again, but it wasn’t until a week or so later that I bumped into him and his girlfriend Leah in the courtyard of our building. They were thrilled to tell me they were expecting their first child and planning to get married.
When Alex told me they were having their wedding in Playa del Carmen the following week and would I like to be a witness, I replied, “yeah sure!” with a laugh, not really having any idea what that entailed or if they were actually serious.
They were, and before long we were submitting photocopies of our passports and tourist visas to the relevant authorities to prove we were real people and discussing the details of what was involved.
Leading up to their big day, Alex and Leah seemed completely non-plussed about the details. Over dinner at Alex’s favourite local restaurant the week before, they played down our questions about what we had to do or wear (much to Tyrhone’s relief – he finds ‘dressing up’ almost as much of a chore as doing the dishes).
“You can wear whatever you like,” Leah told us, “Dressing up won’t make our marriage last longer!” she joked with a chuckle, leaning in to snuggle Alex as he devoured a sizable plate-full of Arracherra.
“We can take some photos if you like,” I offered, not sure if they had any plans for capturing the day on camera. They told us they would have a larger celebration with family after the baby was born, and this was just to make things official. Being from different countries (Alex: Russia, Leah: The Philippines, but living in Florida), it was tricky getting everyone together, so a big bash in the Philippines in a year or so would give both families time to organise their travel plans.
I made Tyrhone get a haircut and a beard shave that morning and I had a much needed trim of my fine, unruly hair. Our traveler’s wardrobes are fairly sparse, so it was about all we could do to look the part. I remembered Leah telling me she wasn’t too worried what she looked like, so I felt okay in my $7 blue sun dress and flip flops.
When Alex appeared in the courtyard looking sharp in a crisp collared shirt and dress pants, I’ll admit I was quite impressed with the effort he made on a scorching summer’s day. Leah soon emerged from their apartment diagonally opposite ours, and literally took my breath away in a stunning soft pink satin gown with a beaded bodice.
“Wow!” I gushed, completely blown away by how beautiful she looked.
“I’m shaking!” she said nervously as I gave her a hug, “I don’t know if I want to cry or laugh, is this normal?”
I told her I guessed it was, and began arranging them together for some pre-ceremony photographs to lighten the mood and calm her nerves.
Enrique and Alex (another one) arrived at our gate shortly afterwards, friends of Alex’s who were also witnessing the ceremony. After a few more photos, we bundled into Enrique’s car behind the bride and groom to be and headed through the early afternoon traffic towards the registry office on Avenida Benito Juarez, the main thoroughfare of town.
The sun beat down as we hurried across the busy road toward the office, Leah receiving a few looks, hoots, and ‘felicidades!‘ in her gorgeous dress and sparkly sandals.
Inside the office, tiny babies were bundled in loving arms, being officially registered as people.
“Now it is spring, the time for registering babies,” Mexican Alex informed us, adding that April is the month of children and that Dia del Nino (children’s day) was coming up at the end of the month.
Shortly afterward we shuffled down the stark hallway past dusty boxes bursting with official documents, and into the ceremony room. To everyone’s surprise, the room was decked out in flowers and white fabric, an unexpected touch which set the scene for the moments to follow.
“It’s hot!” Leah said, fanning herself due to the absence of air conditioning, adding “Can we make this quick?” with a laugh.
I laughed too, impressed with her casual approach and sense of humour on one of the biggest days of her life.
The ceremony was simple, yet poignant with a decidedly Mexican feel. The same reading is recited at all Mexican weddings apparently; I especially liked the part about “Using your head and your heart to solve disagreements instead of fighting.”
Mexican Alex read the translation in English, apologising when he stumbled over some of the sentences, then grinning widely when the opportunity came to pronounce Alex and Leah ‘husband and wife’.
Once the marriage was sealed with a kiss, it was time for us to perform our duties for the day and witness the signing of the marriage documents.
And have the obligatory group photo:
Wedding photographer extraordinaire Tyrhone, embraced his new role and snapped some great shots of the new bride…
And her groom…
Then it was down to the beach for celebratory cold drinks and a bite to eat at Zenzi beach club, followed by an impromptu photo shoot on the beach.
After a bit of R&R back at the apartments, we headed back to Zenzi beach club and dined under brightly lit palm trees whilst a reggae band entertained the chilled out crowd.
Laying back on wide day beds and devouring ice cream sundaes, we looked out across the panel of shimmering, silvery water lit by the full moon. I reflected on what a wonderful day it had turned out to be. Leah and Alex were certainly the most relaxed bride and groom I’d ever encountered in regards to the bells and whistles associated with most weddings, and yet, they had manifested a glorious day of friends, food, music and love on the beach.
Some other friends joined us later in the evening, and I overheard one girl ask Leah how her day was. “It was magical,” she replied happily, clutching Alex’s hand in hers.
I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
Thank you to Alex and Leah for inviting us to be a part of their special day (and letting me write about it!). Big thanks to Tyrhone for the wonderful photographs – I think he just added ‘Wedding Photographer’ to his ever-growing resume…