From blissed-out to blessed | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

“IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH”: Wedding vow seems custom-made for the children at Kythe Foundation. Photo by RV dela Paz
“IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH”: Wedding vow seems custom-made for the children at Kythe Foundation. Photo by RV dela Paz

How does that nursery rhyme go? “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage…”

Nathan and Marissa Joyce Wong-Bernardino chose to scramble the sequence a bit and decided that babies—with or without their carriage—should come alongside the marriage.

Which was why the couple’s wedding day turned out to be a children’s party as well. But people who know the couple weren’t a bit surprised at this turnabout. Both Nate, 27, and Mars, 30, have been involved in Compassion Philippines, an organization committed to helping children living in poverty through child sponsorship.

The two worked as tours and visits specialists who servedas hosts to foreign donors visiting the country to meet the young wards to whom they extend financial support.

Wong-Bernardino eventually went to work for Kythe Foundation, a local NGO that cares for children suffering from chronic illnesses. As a partner relations manager, she seeks out donors to fund the medical services needed by the ailing kids from poor families, such as chemotherapy and laboratory procedures.

McNUPTIALS: The Bernardinos at their fastfood reception with their young wards. Photo by RV dela Paz

Working with these groups made the couple realize that their passion extended beyond their shared advocacy, and into their personal relationship. It was a bond so strong that on February 8 this year, the two exchanged “I do’s” in a Christian ceremony held at the garden of Enderun College in Taguig City.

As the bride walked towards the altar, a choir of kids from Compassion Philippines sang Sarah Geronimo’s version of “A Very Special Love.” The dashing groom meanwhile remarked that he had waited for this special day like a kid longing for his McNuggets.

And that was exactly what he had after the wedding rites, as the bridal party motored over to a McDo branch at McKinley Hill. Still in their bridal wear, the bride and groom enjoyed a few games with the mascot Grimace and the children from the two NGOs they work with, before heading back to Enderun College for their lunch reception.

The wedding reception displayed the theme close to the couple’s hearts:  children, and the wonder of play.  Instead of lace and flowers, the venue was decked out in stuffed toys and balloons, while the dining tables displayed arts and crafts made from pinwheels, beaded flowers and paper airplanes.

To save on wedding costs and thus be able to donate a bigger amount to their advocacies, the couple took on the tedious job of organizing the details of their wedding reception cum children’s party themselves.

Keeping within their tight budget was a formidable challenge.  They spent a lot of time researching and canvassing the best but least expensive wedding suppliers. The bride ended up going to Divisoria to have her wedding gown made.  Instead of renting a luxury car, the couple hired a jeep as bridal car.  They also painstakingly collected cartons of McDo’s Happy Meal and fashioned these into wedding invitations.

It was quite stressful, the newlyweds admitted, but fulfilling as well, since it was their first joint project as a couple.

Having supportive parents proved to be crucial. Although initially concerned about the stress that all that preparation entailed, the Bernardinos’ elders and in-laws felt justifiably proud to have raised children who know “how to love and serve others.”

Aside from the fitting ambience, the newlyweds also wanted to give their guests a clearer idea of what they were into. Unlike in most wedding receptions where a prenup video and shots of the bridal march and ceremonies are shown to the guests, the Bernardinos chose to show a video about Compassion Philippines and Kythe Foundation.

Though emotionally charged, the video presentation was not as depressing as others might have expected, nor was it inappropriate at such a happy occasion.  The focus was not solely on the painful situation the children were in, but on the hope that they could have better lives—thanks to the help of others, including the guests at the wedding.  It was, in a sense, an empowering moment for the guests who were given the opportunity to make a difference in the life of these children.

To set the mood for sharing, the couple donated a significant amount of their cash gift to the Kythe Foundation to support the medical needs of children with cancer. It was, the newlyweds said, a good start to their life together, and a concrete commitment to the wedding vows that bind them “in sickness and in health,” “for better, for worse.”

From a “circle of two” to community sharing:  How’s that for wedded bliss? •

For more details on Compassion Philippines, visit  For information on how to donate to Kythe Foundation, email [email protected] or call 376-3454.





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