IS IT POSSIBLE TO REDEFINE WHAT A WEDDING "SHOULD BE"?

FULL-0260.jpg

On October 14th, 2015 I sent Todd an email. It said: 

My sweetest friend, 

I won't text you because I don't want to wake you but I can't seem to stop myself from sharing something with you in this very moment in time. I am so madly in love with you Todd Maki. I can't focus, can't concentrate, can't keep my mind on anything else other than you. I know I should be enjoying my last days here (in Italy), but it just seems to empty without you. So dull and unfulfilling unless I have your voice in my ear and your arm on my shoulder. I don't ever want to be without you.

Your Chelsie

---

I came across that email early in our trip. During a jet-lag induced sleepless night pouring over old photos and emails. I paused when I read it remembering the longing; the trepidation and uncertainty in our situation. 

Then a smile crept over my face. Sleeping next to me was the love of my life. And in an instant that resurfacing anguish evaporated, vanished my from mind. Replaced only with the warm comfort that I would never have to be without him again.

And while it could hardly be considered his choice or mine, our paths converged. When that happened it became clear a beautiful space existed between us. A space filled with love, time and a feeling we had been here before - together. Even when we fought to deny it, our love was bigger and stronger than both of us. It was patient and it was kind. And when we did finally open our eyes it was the only thing standing in front of us. 

That night, I thought about how grateful I was. For him. For the way he loves - so fiercely, selflessly and pure. For our life. And how perfect it felt in that very moment. I became so intensely overcome with emotion I had to fight for my next breath, and eventually laughed out loud. Trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, not to wake him. There is something ridiculous about catching yourself so emotionally aware. To realize you are so happy, you can't do anything other than laugh at the miraculous idea of it all. 

When he awoke the following morning, I whispered in his ear that I didn't want to wait. He didn't either. We began planning and were married less than two weeks later in the South of France. 

---

Historically an elopement meant running away secretly with the intention of getting married. And while that meaning still stands, there was definitely no parental or governmental objection to the exchanging of our vows. Rather, we wanted to merely escape. Escape the chaos, the expectations, and the frustration planning a wedding can, and too often, brings. 

It seems to me that weddings have become an event with clear expectations. Diamond rings, bridal parties, long guest lists, and over-priced white dresses. All of which put extreme amounts of pressure on two people who just want to declare their love for one another. Is it possible to press the reset button and redefine what a wedding "should be"? How do we shift the focus in the right direction again? 

For us, we wanted to start our lives together, truly together, just the two of us. Make our commitment to one another in the most intimate way possible. To say the things meant only for each other's ears. Without shifting our focus to seating charts, expensive decor and lofty expectations from family members about what our wedding should be.

And while we also decided to have a bigger celebration with friends and family, planning as husband and wife has lifted the stress associated with it. Our wedding is no longer a highly anticipated milestone, but a mere party to celebrate our love, and the support of our friends and family throughout our journey to finding it. 

Photos by the lovely, talented Elodie Winter

DEJA VU IN LISBON

All over Lisbon you see colorful homes with laundry hanging from every open window. Red roofs radiate against the overcast sky and provide a striking contrast to the blue water of the Tejo river. The way the buildings stand tall against the hill make it difficult not to compare Lisbon to our old home, in San Francisco. The street cars and bright red suspension bridge in the background only further echo the resemblance.

The local people are kind, laid back and diverse - in a homogenous sort of way. There isn’t a distinct look about them, but it’s clear everyone is European. They walk slow and observantly. They talk with their hands. They yell from window to window and laugh with a cigarette between their teeth. Among them are an equal number of tourists - many European and American. They spill onto the streets dodging trams, tuk-tuks, cars and more people. 

It’s what makes Lisbon easy, like San Francisco. A good city to cut your teeth on if you haven’t traveled much. It feels cultural without being overwhelming and has a certain allure that is agreeable to many. 

For our first night in town we walked from our temporary home in Alfama to the Bairro Alto district. The streets are easy to navigate there as they were rebuilt in a grid after the major earthquake of 1755. Another peculiar similarity to San Francisco. Bairro Alto is a more cosmopolitan district – the walls a smooth baby blue instead of the crumbling pink you see in Alfama. A DJ played in the square while people sipped on cheap gin cocktails from a street cart. We got in line, but decided a cozy corner was more our speed for the evening. Mini Bar around the corner looked perfect. Set inside an old movie theater, the theme was adopted quite elegantly throughout. Act 1 - cocktails in the lounge. Act 2 – deciding on the tasting menu because we were already tipsy and overwhelmed with the options. Act 3 – minds blown after 3 hours, 8 courses and a bottle of wine. The final scene – trying to figure out how exactly we were going to get home.

In the time we had spent indulging ourselves, the streets had emptied completely. Only a few lovers remained, sitting on the many steps that decorate the city hills. We couldn't spot a taxi anywhere and decided instead to walk the mile or so home. Even when dark and deserted, the city always felt comfortable and safe. 

It is, however, quieter in Lisbon than we are used to. And so I often forget there is a romance that exists in the absence of sound. An exchange without words that seems to move between people with more fervor, more passion. The other senses compensating instead. Inhabited by the moment, we stopped to kiss under a street light. The the only melody I heard was Todd’s breath in sync against mine. 

It is likely I am being a hopeless romantic, one day into a trip with my new fiancé, but it was a déjà vu moment. The setting all too familiar. The feelings all the same. Falling in love with the same amazing man atop this beautiful city. Just on the other side of the ocean.

2016: A YEAR IN REVIEW

527,0400 minutes came and went in 2016 and while it is impossible to measure, capture or even remember all the wonderful things that happened, here are 6 of my favorite moments. 

1. Moving in with my love. We found our dream apartment on a cold weekend in February. Sipping on cocktails between showings had us more than ready to sign a lease by the fifth apartment.  Celebratory cocktails at Freeman’s became a tradition after that afternoon. And New York slowly became home. 

2. An unexpected invitation. It was early June, but the days were already long and hot. We had been invited to the birthday dinner of our neighbor on the 11th floor. He and his wife had just moved to New York from Germany and were earnest in their intention to make new friends. We walked the distance to the restaurant, arriving about 20 minutes late and forced to take seats apart from one another at the table. Immediately I detected more than 5 different languages being spoken across the table. New and old friends from Austria, Germany, Italy, and more had gathered to celebrate. We shared wine and stories until the staff began putting empty chairs on empty tables, indicating it was time to go home. Initially unclear as to how we had arrived there, amidst people we barely knew, the marvel of New York City had made itself clear. It will always give back to what you put in. Adventure, experience, or new friends from around the world. 

3. Failed missions turned into found adventures. Like our first stop on a weekend road trip where we were duped by what must have been 37 fake 4.5 star reviews on AirBnB. The pictures showed a cozy room for two inside of a clean home. Instead we encountered dozens of empty or opened beer bottles and a variety of different pipes for uses I could only imagine. There was a film of grease on every appliance's surface and dirty dishes sat moldy in the sink, begging to be washed. A layer of dust thick on every surface, including the floor, putting dirt on my shoes as opposed to the opposite. Declining to shower for fear we would leave with more than we came with – hepatitis c or likewise – we left the keys on the table and drove to the local coffee shop as soon as the sun came up. At 7:15AM on a Saturday morning, we sat waiting for the town to open up, laughing about the events of last night. Excited, but a little bit nervous for whatever else laid ahead.

4. Coming home from Cuba without a penny to our name. It was our first time to Cuba and we had been unable to take out money as originally planned. Additional trouble with our bank left us dependent on my younger brother to withdraw cash from his not so grown up bank account. We were 3 people with 5 days in Cuba and no more than $300 to our name. After an unsatisfying 3 way shared entree at a lovely restaurant, we exchanged our tourist currency for the local currency and tourist spots for more local establishments. We had interesting and questionable meals, indulged in cheap bottles of rum and made Cuba Libres at home on the patio. We arrived at the airport without a penny to our name, sharing a bag of chips, praying our flight wouldn't be delayed or cancelled. We laughed as the plane took off, counting down the minutes to a meal with identifiable ingredients. And less daunting bathroom experiences. However, that trip we had prepared so little, and budgeted so poorly, that it left us to truly experience something based on feel, thought, vibe, and instinct. It led us to the organic moments we crave with every trip. By getting it so wrong, it finally felt right. But next time, we will definitely bring more money. ;) 

5. 36 hours in Paris. The first time Todd and I visited Paris was in the summer of 2015, during a rather difficult time in both of our lives. It was there we would say goodbye for what could have been forever. Todd had decided prior to our trip that time apart was best for us over the next several months, unsure of his ability to commit after our unconventional convergence. Perhaps unsure of mine as well. We had run full speed into each other the previous few months, and he wanted to be certain it was because of what was in front of us, and not behind. The inevitable goodbye was always in the back of our minds, which only made us hold on tighter for the short amount of time we had together. Every sweet moment turning bitter at the thought of it all coming to an end. We went back for a long weekend in November of 2016 to re-experience the city as lovers once again. To be back, walking those same narrow streets hand in hand with the man I love so dear was surreal. It didn’t feel like the second time, but the 100th time. I knew then my soul had loved him for lifetimes, not months and not years.

6. Blending families. My family is rather large, a bit eccentric and very blended. Todd got the ultimate introduction during an eventful family vacation to Tulum, Mexico. He endured the chaos and quickly became a part of it. A failed "watch this" moment where he slipped before completing a successful flip into pool drew initial fear, subsequent embarrassment, and endless amounts of laughter - the key ingredients for fitting right in with my family. I too left the familiar discord to spend Christmas with Todd's family - equally anxious and excited. While reflecting on the weekend, I experienced and incredibly feeling of warmth. From the bellies of babies pressed against mine as they slept in drool stained santa outfits. From the tamales at Christmas Eve dinner to my flushed face as I tried to use my best spanish salutations for hello and goodbye. More than anything, the kindness and embrace of everyone I met and spent time with. New family and new traditions were the best gift in 2016. And a deeper more meaningful appreciation for my own.

By Chelsie Maki