Imagine sand in your feet, the sun in your hair and the blue of the ocean as far as the eye can see. Sounds like a perfect backdrop for a holiday?
On Dec. 19, that imagery served as the setting for the wedding of picture-perfect couple Iza Calzado and Ben Wintle.
The bride, radiant in her bespoke Rajo Laurel gown, walked down a flower-lined aisle and into the arms of her handsome groom.
For Iza, an actress and entrepreneur, tying the knot seemed the logical step to further her almost seven-year relationship with Ben, surrounded by close friends and family members.
My friendship with Iza began many years before she met Ben, but deepened once the couple started dating more seriously. I would oftentimes be the third wheel on their dates, but I was always struck by how nonplussed and patient Ben was with Iza’s obvious star power.
Although admitting some annoyance at the intrusion of fans wanting to have a photo with her, he didn’t exhibit any insecurity or resentment.
Ben grew up in Hong Kong, the eldest of three siblings to a British dad, Peter, and Filipino mom, Friday. I assumed this is why he remained curious yet detached about Iza’s industry. A good balance, I thought, a grounding rod to Iza’s sometimes frenetic lifestyle.
My third-wheeling soon turned into double dates with the convenience of my boyfriend living in the same building as Ben. It was easier to plan joint dinners, watch Grand Slam finals on TV and go on diving weekends.
Since Iza and I were both dating non-Filipinos, our shared experiences of our cultural differences with our partners brought us even closer together.
Milestones for the couple seemed to happen in succession—the launching of Ben’s restaurant app, booky.ph, Iza in the lead role of various projects—that it was no surprise to me when Ben intimated he wanted to propose marriage.
The proposal, though, remained a surprise for Iza who casually walked into Sonya’s Garden one day to be greeted by her future husband and a group of cheering friends and relatives.
He got down on one knee, she tried (unsuccessfully) to hold back tears, and gave a resounding yes.
Several months after the proposal, I asked Iza if the engagement had changed her outlook in any way. She took a moment before responding, with a wistful smile, “Yes, I wake up every day now feeling more kilig (delighted).”
Although the engagement was solid, the wedding plans were still up in the air as the couple’s busy schedules took over, and they had to take into consideration the guests who were flying in from around the world.
Still, they made it work, finally deciding on a beach wedding in December. They could only pray for perfect weather and that their nearest and dearest could all make the time to attend.
I, on the other hand, was praying to the muse Calliope as I had accepted the role of officiant to the wedding. On hindsight, I said yes out of shock, and the panic ensued shortly after I realized what I had just done.
After many, many deep breaths and sleepless nights, I decided to just ride on the energy of the couple, especially in the days leading up to the wedding.
We had planned to arrive at Club Paradise in Palawan days before the other guests, which allowed my boyfriend and I to spend some quality time with the couple, including getting them to go on one last pre-wedding dive.
The night before the wedding set the tone, which was full of spirited fun. Guests partook of traditional fiesta offerings such as lechon, playing pabitin and palayok, and were entertained by dancers performing the tinikling. The enjoyment was palpable, and the party continued well past midnight, making people forget that there was still a wedding to attend the next day!
At the wedding, I had the best view, witnessing everything from the makeshift pulpit: Iza escorted down the aisle by her kuya, Dash Calzado; and Ben holding back tears waiting for her, flanked by his best man, his brother Ralph.
They said their personal vows.
“… I vow to always be the first soldier to fight your battles… we will figure things out in our way, like we always do… My heart will always be yours, as you know my love for you is unbreakable,” said Ben.
Iza responded: “As we look towards our future together, I can only smile, because I already know that it is going to be even more wonderful than I can imagine it could be. Together we are unbreakable.”
Ogie Alcasid serenaded the couple before they sealed their marriage with rings, and the much-anticipated first kiss as husband and wife.
The reception was an unforgettable fete, complete with dining and dancing under the stars.
Everything was, again, like the couple, picture-perfect. —CONTRIBUTED