WEDDING WISDOM: CHRIS & SAMRUAY
“How are you going to get together and how are you going to stay together?” This was a question many people had for Chris and Samruay. A valid one given Chris lives in the UK and Samruay lives in Thailand. But, there’s something poetic about the fact that their relationship began in Kanchanaburi, site of the famed bridge over the River Kwai, because their marriage spans cultures and distances and flourishes as a result.
The two met 5-years ago through mutual friends, while Chris was traveling in Thailand. “I saw Samruay and knew he was the one.” But, Samruay’s best friend had eyes for Chris, which led to Chris’s six-month “stalking” of Samruay. Samruay was doing right by his friend. But, once Samruay gave in, thus began a relationship that is “non-traditional in every way shape or form.”
“We decided right from day one that we were going to make it work, and we have,” Chris said. Both because of professional commitments and a deep commitment to remain close with their close-knit families, the two live in their respective home countries and travel to see each other on a near-monthly basis. And, have done so since the start. “We have shared values which is what keeps us connected.”
Over three years these gents developed a deep and loving relationship that led Chris to “buying a ring and getting on one knee in front of his whole family and asking him in Thai if he’d marry me. I shocked the hell out of him!” Though the two had discussed getting married, Samruay never thought Chris would actually go through with it!
Samruay is from Kamphaeng Phet, a rural area half way between Bangkok and Thailand. “I am usually the only foreigner who turns up there,” Chris points out. So, for the two men to have a traditional Thai wedding was a ground breaking gesture. Said traditional Thai ceremony includes: Chris and his wedding party processing to Samruay’s house in traditional Thai dress. Once at the house, Chris had to clear a number of obstacles to make his way to the room where his groom was awaiting him. “You have to pay people and almost wrestle with them to get into the room!” Next, the grooms gathered with 9 Buddhist monks who presided over the 30-minute ceremony. As part of the ceremony, every one of the guests approached the couple to tie a piece of string around the grooms’ wrists. “All of this in 40-degree heat!”
As for the reception, Chris learned of yet more Thai traditions. “In Thailand, invitations go to the household, so you never actually know how many people are going to turn up,” Chris remarked. “I sent out invitations to all of my mates, expecting few would make the journey to Thailand. But, 100 made it.” As for Samruay, his list started with 250 and ended with 650! When it matters, people will be there for you!
“What made me most proud of Samruay, was that, as a same-sex couple, he followed every step of a Thai heterosexual wedding.” Right down to having the press cover the ceremony, which landed on the cover of the paper and on the television. “Though Thailand is very gay friendly, same sex marriage is not legal. And, in a rural area, where Samruay was a bit of a blokey bloke, this all came as a bit of a shock,” Chris explained. But, for Samruay, it was simple. He just wanted to show everyone that we want what everyone else does.
The two were legally wed in the UK. “A smaller wedding, just 200 people, in medieval costume! A bit ‘Gay of Thrones,’ really!”
One observation Chris makes about getting married in Thailand, “It is less about the legal piece of paper. People, men and women, gay couples, are coming to Thailand for Buddhist celebrations, humanist celebrations, celebrations about life, really. Thais are gentle, humble people.”
When asked what advice he’d share following the wedding, Chris pointed to two things. The first, “prepare for the unexpected!” Like 200 extra people arriving for the receptions. And, the second, “when marrying into another culture, do your best to understand everything about the culture and the tradition around the wedding.” You are marrying both a man and his traditions, whether those traditions are different across cultures or simply across family idiosyncrasies. They are part of who he is and who you are becoming in saying “I do.”
For Chris, looking into Samruay’s eyes as their wrists were bound together, stands out as his most resonant memory of the wedding. “In that moment I realized that I had everything that I ever wanted.” There is no distance that this connection can’t bridge.