February 10th 2015
We thought we needed a dress and a suit, rings, beautiful photos. But the truth is, we had none of those things. We were living so far into China that we couldn’t even find a cake to share between the two of us. We had each other. And that truly is the only thing that matters.
Sadie is a world traveler and always living and traveling abroad. She moved to China to teach English and I joined her there for our elopement and 4 week backpacking experience through Asia.
I had the fortune of bumping into the love of my life a little over a year ago. Our journey since then has been rocky to say the least, and our recent elopement and honeymoon was no exception… So much so that I felt the need to share it with you.
Just to clarify, my name is Christofer and I’m a young, Swedish gentleman – Hello 🙂 My wife Sadie is from America and we met when she was working in Sweden as a nanny in January 2014. Nine months later her work visa expired and she decided to move to China and work there while we applied for a sambo-visa here in Sweden. After four months apart filled with drama (having an open long-distance relationship) and romance (I proposed in front of 300 people at a seminar), I visited her in China for a month that was supposed to be the honeymoon of our dreams. The tickets, the money transfers, the visa planning; all of that stuff had been way more difficult than we anticipated so we made sure to plan everything perfectly for these four, wonderful weeks together. But as they say: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”…
So, the first hint of trouble was when Sadie ordered her wedding dress. She went to a tailor with a Chinese friend as an interpreter and made all the necessary measurements to get it just right. She’d saved up as much money as possible to be able to afford something beautiful; you only get married once if you’re lucky and it’s kind of a big deal for a girl. The dress arrived a week before my own arrival and it was completely unwearable! To say it didn’t fit would be the understatement of the century (unless she magically gained 200 pounds the coming week) – it was a disaster. She wasn’t allowed to return it and she’d spent almost all of her money on it, so she was disappointed to put it mildly. With the help of her trusted support system, yours truly and a bottle of red wine, she managed to get over it fairly quickly. She found another, wearable, dress and used all of the money she had left to go to the fanciest hair salon in town and make sure her hair would at least be pretty. The next day I got a call from a hysterical fiance, completely devastated about something I couldn’t quite make out with the crazy sobbing going on. It was about her hair – her newly dyed orange hair. Think Carrot Top but less flattering. Now, I know how much it can bother me (as a guy!) to have even a remotely bad hair day, but having your hair looking like a crossbreed of a carrot and an orange a week before your wedding, in China, with no money left and after booking a $2000 full -day photo shoot the same week can’t be the best feeling in the world. Sadie would agree.
Somehow we managed to get through this too, on Skype, and finally I was on the plane to China. This was my second trip alone and my limited traveling experience didn’t help when I landed in Guangzhou without any of my luggage. I had everything in there – including the wedding bands and a $3000 diamond engagement ring I’d inherited from my mom to give to my wife. I spent hours at the airport trying to communicate with the Chinese while my fiancé was waiting outside, wondering if I’d bailed on the trip and our marriage. I ended up getting my bag a few days later, luckily.
Next up in line was our actual wedding ceremony… I was relieved to find out that none of the two rings fit her fingers, since the conversion chart we’d used wasn’t universal. She ended up wearing the rings with strings tied into them to make sure they didn’t fall off her hands – not what I had wanted but kind of charming and romantic in a quirky way 🙂 The rings inscriptions read “Sadie, Min Gudinna” (My Goddess in Swedish) and “Christofer, Min Klippa” (My Rock).
At the actual wedding bureau, after a lethal cab ride across town and some old fashioned orienteering, we ran into trouble. The papers we’d brought (which were several different expensive forms from different establishments, including ones that didn’t formally exist) wasn’t enough apparently, and they refused to let us marry without going to a non-existent Swedish embassy and acquire additional forms. Sadie started crying and we spent a good hour or two debating with the poor translator, alternating between yelling and ‘understanding’ before getting them to marry us by resiliently stamping a paper – very romantic!
On the day after our wedding we went to get our photos taken for a full day. I felt queasy in the morning and by the end of the day I was getting increasingly nauseous. We went out to dinner that night but had to leave early because of my stomach hurting. ‘China stomach’ seemed like a reasonable explanation so we didn’t think twice about it and went to bed. I spent the night in horrible pains and sweats and in the morning I was feeling really sick. Since our honeymoon around Asia was coming up in a few days, I voted I’d just rest in bed and become better but Sadie insisted we’d go to the doctor. I don’t like hospitals and decided to send Sadie in my place, pretending to have my symptoms and hopefully she’d get some pills that could speed up my recovery. She came back crying, saying that they’d almost taken her into emergency surgery for appendicitis. I laughed at this notion and went there myself to prove it was nothing serious – it ended up being 7 full days at the hospital after immediate surgery. If I’d waited an additional day they said I would be dead. ‘Lucky’ me.
This meant no honeymoon since I wasn’t allowed to fly. It also meant no swimming (or even showering), not much eating, no adventure and best of all – no sex. We had been living in celibacy for almost 6 months and wouldn’t see each other for even longer after this. We managed to talk the doctors into letting me go early and remove the stitches, and we used the $800 from my family’s wedding gift to book a new ticket to Vietnam a few days later.
After a crazy two weeks travelling around Asia against all odds, which included a stay at an Elephant Rescue Camp in Laos, watching the sunrise over Cambodian Temples, traveling through the pagodas of Vietnam, we were excited to get back to Hanoi for our last night at a luxury hotel. After standing in line for three hours at the Siam Reap Airport, with our plane leaving in 20 minutes, we were informed that the rules around visas had recently changed (literally a week previous) and that I wasn’t allowed back in the country. This would mean spending our last night sleeping at their airport with no luxury bed or shower; lovely ending to the honeymoon we thought! Sadie was devastated and I wasn’t overly happy about it either. We decided we couldn’t do anything about it and accepted it; at least it would be a funny story, right? However, once we reached the Vietnam airport we decided to try and charm our way through customs with the old “sad wife and understanding husband”- routine. It was highly dramatic, but we actually f-in did it!! Let me tell you we’ve never slept better than that very night at our air-conditioned, four-star hotel.
Sadie and I are from different countries, different cultures with different expectations. We didn’t want our wedding to be turned into something it wasn’t supposed to be. We made it about us. Everything imaginable went wrong. But it was our beautiful disaster and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Our story is unique in that it was a true elopement. We didn’t have anyone but each other. Not even a photographer. Not even a judge. Not even a witness. There was no frills and no expectations. So, now we’re on opposite parts of the globe again, waiting for a visa-process that is slower than Jabba the Hutt’s metabolism. It’s been almost six months and we haven’t heard a thing back from migration, but our love for each other has never been stronger.
We can’t wait for the day that we can celebrate with our family and loved ones. But until then, we have each other and this crazy elopement story.