30th Anniversary Vow Renewal at the Maya

July 31st, 2008 – My family left Mexico for what I believed was the last time. I didn’t think I could handle another medical emergency in a country where I didn’t speak the language. Although the outcome was good (really, it was great, fantastic, wonderful), I didn’t ever want to go through anything like it again. I don’t remember how long that feeling lasted. I do know when I told people I wouldn’t go back to Mexico, they responded in a similar way…”But you love Mexico.”

And I do. I haven’t even been to Disneyland as many times as I’ve been to Mexico. The first time we went to Mexico it was for our 25th anniversary. I had never before had the desire to go to Mexico. We had wanted to go to the Turks and Caicos. But the timing didn’t work out and a co-worker had raved about how much she had enjoyed Cozumel. Long story short, we went to Playa del Carmen for our 25th anniversary trip. We stayed at the Royal Hideaway and we fell in love. With each other, all over again, and with the Riviera Maya. We returned home and I couldn’t stop thinking about Mexico. The amazing color of the ocean. The way the staff had seemed thrilled that we chose their country to spend our vacation time. The tolerable, direct flight. The feel of the sand between my toes.

I knew we’d go back.

Fast forward…heart attack trip…”I’m never coming back to Mexico”…fast forward…”we should renew our vows for our 30th anniversary in Mexico, because we can, Zung was alive and our 30th anniversary seemed like an appropriate time to celebrate in a memorable way that our marriage had lasted longer than the average marriage in the US. Having gotten married at 18 years old, I defied the odds. Zung, having survived a heart attack that is nicknamed the “widow maker”, defied the odds. It seemed like celebrating these amazing odds deserved a ceremony and celebration.

In my most favorite place in the world. Mexico, the Riviera Maya.

The decision was made to renew our vows on our 30th anniversary in Mexico. There was much planning to be done. Where would we do it? Who would be there? Who would do the ceremony? How much would it cost?

What kind of dress would I wear? I watch the TLC show, “Say Yes to the Dress” and in one episode a woman came in who was renewing her vows for her 10th anniversary and she bought a full-on wedding dress. I remember thinking, “You can do that?” and then thinking, “I can do that!”

It would be us and our kids and Karen, my original maid of honor.

I had known Karen since we were in first grade. We were best friends in high school and she was my maid of honor when Zung and I got married. She dropped out of my life when I had Nicholas, my first child. I didn’t hear from her for about 23 years. One day, right before Christmas I checked  my messages on my answering machine and her voice came out at me. It was the best present I got that year. She wanted to be there for our vow renewal and it made an amazing vacation a little more special.

I did a lot of research to find a place to do the ceremony. At most hotels, if you say anything that resembles “wedding”, they respond with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$. I think the best price I got was $2000 for the ceremony and flowers and cake. Maybe some sparkling wine thrown in. I’m not sure. When I was done with my research I decided that when I retire in Mexico I will become a vow renewal planner and provide that service at a reasonable price.

There was not a resort or hotel that would do it for, what I considered reasonable, or with reasonable terms. We seriously considered Barcelo Maya, but they required you to arrive three days before the ceremony and Sunday didn’t count. That didn’t work with our timeline, so they got crossed off the list. Iberostar was too expensive. Ultimately I hired Weddings In Playa and worked with Erika. We wanted a Mayan ceremony with a Shaman.

We booked our hotel reservations with the Iberostar Lindo. We’d had one awesome vacation there in 2007. Our vacation in 2008 was horrible, but no fault of the Lindo.

Reservations were made. A dress was bought. (I remember saying to the woman who sold it to me – “This is so much fun. I may have to do it every five years from here on.”) Clothes were bought for the rest of the wedding party. Everyone got to wear whatever they wanted.  Susie wanted to wear a long, blue dress. Nicholas wanted to wear a white suit. He later wanted to wear a Denver Nuggets jersey. “No problem, ” I said. “But we’ll have to return the white linen suit.” He chose to wear the white linen suit. Zung wore a long-sleeved white linen shirt and tan pants and Patrick wore a short-sleeved linen shirt and tan pants. Someone asked why I let Nicholas wear a suit when Zung wore just a shirt. “Everyone got to wear what THEY wanted.” There were no “rules.” It was about celebrating a marriage, not a dress code.

Of course, there were the shoes. Although it would be a ceremony on the beach, there would need to be shoes to walk from the hotel room to the taxi and the taxi to the beach and back to the hotel, and to dinner and back to the hotel room. Shoes are needed for all that walking.

And, I don’t “do” flip-flops.

Hotel reservations were made. Dresses and shoes were bought. Wedding planners were hired, who in turn arranged for Shamans and Mayan ceremonies. We were good to go.

Then the swine flu hit.

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