WEDDING WISDOM: JUSTIN & ALFRED
No man is an island as the saying goes, but this love story is all about two men and their many islands.
Justin and Alfred met on Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. Alfred was interning at the Grand Hotel from his native Philippines, working the front desk. The two first met when Justin checked in for his stay at the hotel. In a manner of speaking, Alfred checked Justin in and the two checked each other out!
From that first interaction to a first date was a matter of days. But, every date took a matter of hours because living on Mackinac required an hour’s journey to get to or from the island to explore Justin’s hometown of Charlevoix and the many sites and charms of Northern Michigan. But every date was always an event. Alfred, making use of his hospitality chops and connections, made sure that every spot the two stayed was decked out with balloons and champagne!
But, no matter the fancy treats, things took a more serious turn thanks to, of all things, ketchup! “I love ketchup. I eat it with breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Alfred. “So the day Justin gave me a box of Filipino ketchup, I could tell he had been really getting to know me.”
Getting to “I love you” was speedy. “We are both pretty expressive,” said Alfred. “And, we knew he’d be heading to another internship somewhere else,” said Justin, making their courtship a fast one. They declared their love for each other after a few dates, which helped shorten the distance between Justin and Alfred’s next posting at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. If the dates were extravagant before, they only got more so as the two would meet in Florida and all over the US.
So, an hour’s commute became a little bit longer. And, then a lot longer as Alfred later made his way back to the Philippines.
Back home, Alfred took a job at a call center “if for no other reason than to sync my time with his so we could talk a lot.” And, not to be deterred, Alfred reapplied for a visa six months after coming home and was the first person to be granted a second intern visa!
Once back, Alfred was not going to waste time and set out to plan their engagement. Justin was at a conference in Chicago and Alfred decided to join him and pop the question. “When I got to my floor after the conference, I felt like it was on fire!” said Justin. “When I opened the door to our room, there must have been 400 candles burning.”
Alfred’s sat down to a video presentation of all of the couple’s trips and funny moments about their relationship, including Justin’s snoring! “I had no idea that this was coming,” Justin said about Alfred popping the question. Alfred went on: “he had actually proposed to me over the phone a long time before.” Alfred refused to be proposed to over the phone and waited almost two years to do it right.
Two years to the exact date of meeting, the two got married on September 23rd, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency on Capital Hill in Washington DC,
Alfred’s experience in International Hotel Management helped him as he planned the entire wedding in just four months. “I just asked him for his sizes and took care of everything else,” Alfred said. “But, he wasn’t groomzilla!” Justin exclaimed.
Now, it bears mentioning that as swift as their relationship turned into an engagement and then turned into a marched down the aisle, Justin only came out to his family months before the wedding! “They were shocked and happy for me.” And, to make sure of Justin’s family’s acceptance, Alfred pledged to cancel everything if his family was in any way hesitant about Alfred. His willingness to cancel the wedding had Justin’s family expressed any opposition was quite the opposite when their marriage certificate got held up during the government shutdown that year! You know how both situations turned out!
Alfred beautifully brought to life their “royal” themed wedding. The hallmark of their ceremony was a sand ceremony and their original vows: three pages for Alfred and a few notecards for Justin. “That’s why he is the planner,” said Justin! The reception was unique for having sat all guests at one, u-shaped table. And, the real piece de resistance was the couple foregoing dancing for… karaoke!!
Oh, did we mention that while the two presided over their reception in DC, there was a simultaneous one in the Philippines for 70 more people!? “My family in the Philippines sent video messages to us between our karaoke songs!”
While Alfred and Justin didn't’ technically go on a honeymoon – Alfred had to get back to work – the two eventually spent spent a month in the Philippines. “We explored Manila, went to Boracay and some other islands. The Philippines has over 7000 islands,” Alfred pointed out.
And, lest you think that this story ends here, think again! Just last year, the two got remarried in the Philippines at a ceremony that Alfred planned all on his own (again!), this time surprising Justin! “I pretended that my cousin was getting married and that she wanted Justin to be the best man!” Not only was this a full-blown second wedding, Alfred staged a proposal the day prior, flew a 7-foot cake from the US, and brought eight suitcases filled with all the necessary accoutrements for their second “royal” wedding.
Looking back on their wedding, the couple offered up some advice. “Go big or go home. It is worth spending every penny and taking your time doing it,” said Alfred. For Justin, “make sure that you have everyone there that you want to have there. You only do get married once, or twice, or three times!”
Despite the indulgence of their two weddings, Alfred and Justin made a point of using their big days to give back. “Instead of getting us gifts, we asked the guests of our first wedding to give toys and other items to ‘Children Awaiting Parents.’ For the second wedding, we gave some money to the high school where [Alfred} went to school and saved some for us to start our own family!”
Judging by their tendency to making every moment special – and having every special moment twice! – we know that Justin and Alfred are meant to make an incredible family together. “We literally were living on opposite ends of the world. It is quite the story that we met,” said Justin. Here’s to that story spanning many years and many more islands.