Monday, May 23, 2011

Pre-wedding Episodes: Finding the “Right” Rings

Neither Mark nor I like shopping. But, I’m the woman, which means I “have” to go shopping more often and during those sprees, I end up in Philipsburg once in a while. Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St. Maarten and shopping heaven for cruise ship passengers. Back Street contains the local clothes shops (where I found my wedding dress) and Front Street exists of jewelry store after jewelry store, after souvenir store, after jewelry store. There are literally hundreds of them and ever since we (I) decided to buy wedding rings, I have been dreading the moment of trying to find a suitable ring in this plethora of stores. While running around town for other items one day, I quickly checked out a few and found a great silver ring, elegant, pretty and affordable. Upon my return to Irie and my excitement about the ring and how easy I found it, Mark’s reaction was: “No silver on the boat!” Silver and a salty environment do not go together and that was that.

So, Mark and I marked a date in our calendar to go shopping for rings together. The question was: what were we looking for? Our requirements: something simple, silver color and not too expensive. We are boat people after all and Mark had already indicated he “would never wear it”. After browsing through a few real jewelry stores, checking out the white gold and staggering at the prices, we stumbled across a split store electronics/jewelry. They had an extensive array of silver colored rings to pick from, especially after depleting their sister store and bringing all the items to our store. Our eye fell on very attractive and elegant white gold rings, a matching pair. The price was too high however and after bargaining a bit, the saleswoman carefully steered us away from them and towards another set of rings we had been looking at. These were made of stainless steel and were a better match for us, our lifestyle and our budget.

Mark and I did some thinking, really loved the expensive set, but didn’t have an extra $500 lying around (and only one of us was going to wear it anyway), so decided to go for the stainless steel. All that had to happen was bargain the price down a bit and have the rings resized to our respective fingers. We held our hands out and discovered the size of our main ring fingers. An hour later, we were the proud owners of stainless steel wedding rings. The price was right, the material perfect!

Later that day, Mark and I met up with some friends at Lagoonies for drinks and live music. While excitingly telling the story of finding the right rings, I glanced over at my married friends’ hands. Curious about something, I asked” Why do you guys wear your rings on your left hand?” They gave me a funny look, explaining that that is the hand you are supposed to wear wedding rings… All my excitement was gone in a split second. Mark looked at me and blamed “Why did you not know this? You are a woman! Women should know this kind of thing.” I got right back at him “And you’ve been married for seven years before, wearing your wedding ring every day, on your LEFT hand!” Then both of us: “Why didn’t they say something at the store where they measured our sizes?” At the end of the day, we just decided to wear our rings on our right hands. It fits our status of always being a bit different. Mark’s explanation: “I tried wearing a wedding ring on the left hand and that didn’t work out so much, so now I’m trying it on the other hand!”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pre- wedding Episodes: the Rum Punch Contest

With all the commotion and chaos and stuff leading up to the wedding party, I really didn’t find the time to write about all those fun and interesting events that are/were wedding related. I can’t remember how we did find the time and energy to get involved (or dragged) into it all, but I’d like to share some of the stories over the next couple of weeks!

One of the things I wanted to do after the wedding ceremony on the beach, was offer Caribbean rum punch to all our guests, while family portraits would be taken and the sun supposedly set behind the watery horizon. For months, I had this great plan of inviting a whole bunch of friends into Irie’s cockpit and experiment with rum and other liquids. Finally, less than two weeks before the big event, an unofficial invitation went out and about ten people showed up for Irie’s Rum Punch Contest.

Mark and I provided a whole array of ingredients, from nutmeg to hot pepper sauce, from bitters to triple sec, different kinds of rum and tons of healthy Ceres juices. The crew of SV Mojomo provided their own secret ingredients and arrived with a secret recipe and a blender. Cheaters! After offering some nibbles to line our stomachs, the contest was open. Everybody present was supposed to make a full pitcher of their own rum punch creation, all ingredient combinations were allowed. One by one, Rosie, Sim, Jon, Sam, Matt, Denise, Axel, Liz, Mike, Mark and I did our best to please the thirsty crowd.

The more choices of ingredients, the more stuff you are inclined to put into the mixture, with as a result that nobody remembered what went into their creation by the end of the evening. Mike’s didn’t have much more than rum in it, just the way he likes it and the trend went from a yellow solution to darker and darker red, the more the evening progressed… Everybody loved the Mojomo rum punch, but because it was so sophisticated, Mark and I decided to keep it a bit simpler for the final beach event. The consensus and main conclusion of the tasting was that a good rum punch requires passion fruit juice and lots of rum!

Of course, the day of the wedding, things went a bit crazy and I almost forgot to make the pitchers of rum punch to follow the beach ceremony. At that point I didn’t really care too much about the ingredients, but remembered the passion fruit juice. I started pouring -oops, a bit too much rum – and mixing, throwing the main rum punch ingredients together. The outcome was something like 1/3 of white rum, 1/3 of passion fruit juice, 1/3 half and half orange juice and pineapple juice, a splash of grenadine and ice when served by our beautiful ad accommodating (“We won’t take anything back to the villa, it all has to be drunk! Here, take some more!”) hosts Sim and Jon. And yes, I did forget one ingredient: freshly grated nutmeg. But, the concoction was strong enough to make sure nobody noticed!

Photos courtesy of Axel Busch and Liesbet Collaert

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Liesbet and Mark’s Caribbean Wedding Party

After months of preparation and anticipation and weeks of planning, organizing and stress, Saturday April 30rd, 2011 arrived. Mark and I had picked up 5 sets of family members the previous days and everybody was settled in our rented Villa Steel Magnolias, enjoying their Caribbean vacation while we arranged last minute preparations, pick-ups and shopping. During the day of the wedding, our friend Eli, who runs Lagoonies, took over the villa’s kitchen and prepared all the side dishes. Kristen and Tim helped out tremendously and from 3:30 pm on, we had Tess and Milo take over the presentation, food prep and grilling. As expected, Mark and I ran around and were busy bees until 5 pm came around…

While Mark greeted all the guests (of which some unfortunately “cancelled” last minute), maid of honor Rosie assisted the bride (= me) in getting ready. Shower, dress, jewelry and make-up were all finished within ten minutes and for the occasion, I blow dried my short hair, the first time in fifteen years! The realization that I probably shouldn’t show up at the beach ceremony with wet hair prompted such decision. There was something old (white ankle bracelet), something new (white dress), something borrowed (Rosie’s perfume) and something blue (bracelets sent by Emily), when I walked outside our luxurious suite to approach the beach on my dad’s side. Kristen had made a wonderful and colorful wedding bouquet with flowers from the villa’s garden.

Barefoot and with a massive smile, I

joined the beach scene for the ceremony. Mark and all the guests welcomed me in their midst and I took in the pretty beach decorations of black stones, pink flowers and palm leaves, creating a natural altar. Cruising friends Rosie, Liz and Sam had done a great job! Mark’s brother-in-law Brian led the informal ceremony and turned it into a very personal and special moment. But first, Mark decided “better late than never” and asked me to marry him! Some speculated that he just wanted to be sure of the answer before proposing…

Brian took over and after the welcoming words and a bit of background information about my “future” husband and me, it was Mark’s turn to read his self created words to me. When he started, his lips trembled and his voice was poignant. My eyes turned watery and everybody else’s as well. His text was beautiful and so true, to the point and funny at other times. Tears and laughs sounded from around. It took me a moment to read my own poem and words of love and respect for him.

Mark’s mom Carol read her poem about the ebb and flood of the ocean and of love, followed by another poem, picked by Kristen, which Brian read. Our good cruising friend Dave couldn’t attend the wedding, but had written and composed a song about us. We played it on the beach while everybody followed the personal and fitting lyrics on sheets of paper. Mark’s best man Ed dunked our stainless steel rings into the ocean as a blessing for/by Neptune and to ensure them a rust free life. The wedding ceremony finished with the short words of my dad ”Take her, she’s all yours now, my responsibility is over!” and a blessing by Stanley, Mark’s father. Then, it was time for rum punch, distributed by Sim and Jon who made sure nothing went to waste.

Our German cruising friend Axel donated his talents and camera gear to capture the whole wedding event, from set-up to ceremony to food to party to atmosphere to fun. We had a short photo session in front of the Caribbean Sea and the group pictures came out splendidly. When the sun started to set, the party moved back to the villa for scrumptious appetizers of salmon, different kinds of pâté, an array of French cheeses, crunchy baguettes and locally made plantain chips. The self-serve bar consisted of gallons of beer, wine, liquor, soda and juices. Everybody did their best to make a dent, but most of it had to be taken to Irie afterwards. It’ll make our provisioning when leaving St. Martin a bit easier!

Eli’s voluminous and classy side dishes complimented the tasty shrimp, chicken and beef skewers prepared by Mark, Tim and Kristen and grilled by Milo. Everybody enjoyed all the yummy food and seemed a bit too stuffed once the party started. I thanked all the guests for coming and Ed presented a very spontaneous and interesting speech. Matt played a bit of violin, before the opening dance took place. Half way through the combination of my two favorite Ben Harper songs, Mark invited his mom and I took my dad for another slow dance. This was the official start of the party and the dessert buffet of mouth watering French pastries. At some point, I threw my beautiful bouquet, caught by Sam, and Mark ripped my garter off with his teeth. It somehow ended up in Matt’s hands. I guess we’ll have a couple more sailors’ weddings next year?

People talked, laughed, danced, ate and drank until the wee hours. Only one couple, Matt and Denise, “accidently” fell into the pool. Everybody was on their best behavior. Mark and I had a fantastic and special evening that finished around 2:30am. The villa was a perfect location for this event and without the help of so many friends and family members we wouldn’t have been able to pull the whole thing off! We really appreciate the help of our cruising friends and Brian, who turned Liesbet and Mark’s Caribbean Wedding Party into a very memorable, romantic and unforgettable experience!!!

All pictures by Axel Busch

Thank you!