How bored are you, really, of seeing weddings and rings and baby pictures in your newsfeed?
I mean no offence to those that are blissfully loved up, and/or blissfully (or otherwise!) knocked up; but some of us just don’t want to settle yet, some of us just don’t want anything clawing its way out of our special place just yet, and us single girls don’t really enjoy being smacked in our ever-ageing ovaries with the tick-tock of reality.
BUT, yesterday I ended up attending an exciting paradise wedding on the beach (as you do), that challenged my outlook, and as such I wanted to share it briefly.
Not only has the experience just made it into my list of top peculiar travel encounters, it has made me feel alive; because it has reminded me there are people out there who really do live life in the fast lane, DESPITE getting married- which I have always assumed, if I’m honest, to be the beginning of the end.
Weddings scare me
What does marriage mean to me? It means you’re a grown up, you’re mostly done.
You’re just a mortgage, a 9-5, a sensible car and a screaming baby away from death. I’m sure there’s some comradeship and some cuddles thrown in too? Great, but the thought of picking one person and being bound to them forever is quite frankly terrifying.
Bleak I know, but I’m the girl who gets itchy feet after three months in the same place.
I’m the girl who looks at babies and feels her (incredible, thankyou very much) pelvic floor muscles recoil in abject horror.
I’m the girl that involuntarily crosses her legs when babies scream.
I’m the girl who doesn’t have any tattoos because it’s too much of a commitment.
I’m the girl who doesn’t know which country to live in next.
I’m the girl who chases the adventure instead of the men (actually, sometimes I chase both, and ultimately I always end up being ‘the one that got away’- which is actually just a glamorous way of saying ‘the one that got her heart broken’).
But yesterday I stood on a tropical beach with a handful of sunkissed kiters, a community of barefoot smilers with flowers in their hair- people I have come to consider family- and I witnessed something that challenged me and my terrified assessments of marriage.
And what’s better than an awesome travel encounter that smashes your preconceptions?
When kiters elope
I was lucky enough to attend the wedding of two incredibly interesting, exceptionally well-travelled kite-surfers, who pretty much eloped.
Leaving all their family and friends behind, bringing only one witness, they had an impromptu beach wedding in paradise, and they invited us all to join them!
The bride wore a bikini under a white beach dress.
The groom wore board shorts and a collared white shirt.
They both wore smiles as wide as the beach, and flowers as bright as the ocean.
Everyone was barefoot (obviously).
The rings were produced from within a sea shell.
The aisle was made of sprouting coconuts set in the white sand.
Afterwards, he carried her under the threshold… a kite.
Then there were beers, a bonfire, a sunset, some kiting in the fading evening light.
We drank champagne out of coconuts, and we toasted the start of their adventure.
Go your own way… together
No fussing mother in law. No drunk uncle dancing to Abba. No horny bridesmaids on self destruct.
Just them. Just their adventure.
It is selfish? Who can say. And heck, isnt this the one day you SHOULD be selfish?
Has it annoyed the bride’s family? Perhaps.
But do you know what i think? I think forget them all.
Commitment is a beautiful thing, but often the wedding day itself seems a stressful crusade of convention and conformity.
Because the more weddings I attend, the more I find myself wondering what it’s all about, what it’s all for?
It seems to me that often the wedding is more about the family, about the photos, and, apparently, about spending a crap load of money to get people you hardly know drunk.
It seems that it is all stress, and procedure, and protocol, and obligation to obscure relatives, and-have-we-done-this?, and making old Aunt Dorris happy, and posed photos that literally take HOURS to get through.
And then people do endless speeches, and then you get obscenely drunk, because you’ve just made small talk with someone’s pervy uncle for four hours while he stares at your tits and asks if you have a boyfriend yet.
Quite frankly, traditional weddings can be very dull and ttiresome. And for those that the day is about, seemingly very stressful and exhausting.
Would we all rather just bugger off and stand barefoot on the sand with the one we love? Probably.
And oh, the money! My word! Wouldn’t couples rather just jet off into the sunset? Or buy a house? Or start a business?
But when it comes to marriage, it seems to me that most people aspire to rock the cradle, not the boat. Traditions are comfortable, expectations are awkward to ignore, and every girl (and her mother!) wants her white wedding, right?
Well, I don’t. And I can’t be alone?
I want it to be about me and him- that crazy bastard that won’t try to ground me, but instead fly alongside me. That insane fool that’s out there somewhere who will look at me and go, yep, I’ll runaway with you. I’ll chase untold horizons with you. I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth and back.
And that was these guys, in a nut shell.
They met on a beach in Papa New Guinea. She is Belgium, he is some exotic mix of Indian / Malay / British educated.
They married surrounded by barefoot kiters, free spirits, tanned lifestyle-travellers, on a tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
At the beginning of the week, we were all strangers to them. I asked the groom if this was weird.
He responded thoughtfully,
…because this way, it’s just about us.
But I think it’s more than that- it’s a statement about the way they live their lives and how they interact with the people of the world. Here are a couple that love to meet new people, that make friends easily, and fit straight into communities with ease.
They are expats. They are citizens of the world. They are travellers.
Why should their wedding be any different?
Cocos: A community paradise
Besides, ‘stranger’ is not a word often heard on Cocos- there are about 100 people on West Island, and the sense of community is unparalleled.
Almost instantly, you’ll feel like you belong. Like you’re one of the family. Like you know everyone, as you pad around the supermarket barefoot and everyone says hello. And probably, if you come to the club for a game of pool and some beers in the evening, then you do know everyone.
And this is what makes Cocos such a special place- the people, the sense of community.
Kiters come here for a week, and straight away they feel at ease, as if they have been here forever. The flights come in, and us ‘locals’ all go and stand beside the runway and welcome them. Then we make friends. Then we have adventures together, we kite together, we sit round bonfires together, we share travel stories together, we make plans to go for a kite and a beer back in Perth together.
And so, this is not just a holiday destination, it is a complete holiday experience.
You are not just a tourist, you are part of the community.
And that was not just a Cocos Island wedding. That was the beginning of an adventure.
Now a commitment like that… a commitment to running away together, a commitment to going your own way together, a commitment to living recklessly, a commitment to sticking two fingers up at convention, a commitment to live each moment to the fullest, a commitment to spontaneity and beauty and risk and unexplored horizons…. that, with the right partner in crime, I think one day I could make.
So thank-you to the eloping kite-surfers, you are truly an inspiration. A reminder to us all to keep pushing the limits, and to design our OWN lives on our OWN terms.
Do you want a paradise elopement? Get in touch with the wonderful Ash and Kylie at Cocos Islands Barefoot weddings, hire the beautiful Karen from Karen Wilshaw photography (or utilise Rick’s awesome photography skills from Adrenaline Board Sports if you are a kitting nutter!) and check out this info from the Cocos Keeling Islands Visitor Centre.