A Fiji Family Wedding

From left Mia Cross holding Silameci Cross, Isikeli Cross, Claire Fordham, Max Cross holding Mia Rose Cross. There’s a wonderful tradition in Fiji where the husband names the first born after his favorite family member. They get to call each other Yaca (pronounced Yatha) which means namesake. Photo by Lindy Simpson

I’d already been to Fiji four times before but this trip was going to be extra special. I was going to Savusavu to meet my grandson for the first time. Because my daughter and I were going to visit, my son decided it would be a perfect time to marry his girlfriend.

There’s a good reason to have children before you get married: your daughter can be your flower girl and significantly magnify the guest “gasp” factor.

My son’s wedding has taught me something else, too: you don’t need a year to plan a wedding. We organized and shopped for his in half a day.

Once his girlfriend had said yes (she thought he’d never ask), my son asked my daughter and I if we could bring a few things over for the wedding party scheduled for two days after our arrival—including a wedding dress for his bride.

Our shopping list was compiled during the planning committee’s first meeting on FaceTime: wedding dress, shoes for the bride, lilac, purple and white balloons and paper lanterns, purple napkins, cake topper, lilac tie for my son, and a lilac bow tie for his baby son.

I glared at my husband as I wrote down “lilac tie.” I had wanted my groom to wear a pale green tie to match the tablecloths at our nuptials, but he refused on the grounds that he didn’t want to be an accessory at his own wedding.

My daughter and I drove up Topanga Canyon to the Westfield Shopping Center in Woodland Hills. First stop: Forever 21. As luck would have it, white lace was fashionable that summer. I snapped our two top picks on my phone and emailed them to the bride who couldn’t decide which one she liked best, so we bought both. To go over the dresses, we found the perfect long lace coat in H&M.

On to Target for white sandals. The bride chose the pair she liked best from the selection of photos we e-mailed. She didn’t ask for any, but we were on a roll and bought her a couple of lace bras and panties as well.

Next stop, Michael’s where we bought the cake topper, wedding bubbles for ten bucks that were a massive hit with the children and yards of white netting to make bows. We even found a lilac bow tie, matching socks, a white shirt and black shorts for my grandson in Walmart—shrieks of joy and high fives.

Our last stop was Party City in the Fallbrook Center. Party Heaven, more like. We bought balloons, lanterns, napkins, purple paper cups and a ton of other purple and lilac stuff that wasn’t on our list.

The entire wedding was organized in three hours from the moment the bride said yes.

My daughter and I managed to get our clothes in one case, but we still needed two extra cases plus the other one we were allowed for all the wedding party decorations. Each extra case was $150. Gulp. Mission accomplished with two days to spare.

While Fiji doesn’t offer many choices when shopping for wedding supplies, there is a wealth of choice for beautiful locations to hold the event. My son’s job was to find a suitable location for the ceremony and reception and he came up trumps. He and his bride wanted somewhere fun, unusual and memorable. They hired a tall ship for the day, the Tui Tai, to be anchored in Savusavu Bay. Guests (maximum 50 allowed on board) were ferried over on tenders.

The wedding wasn’t all smooth sailing. The night before we were due to fly out, I found a small wound on my head above my temple. It started spreading, so my husband and daughter took me to the ER at West Hills Hospital. It was shingles. Nothing was going to stop me from getting on that plane for my son’s wedding. The ER doctor made me promise to take things easy while I was away. No chance.

My advice to brides: you don’t need a designer dress to look fabulous on your big day, find a memorable and unusual venue for your wedding, have a designated photographer to capture the magical moments, bubbles and balloons, a must for younger guests.

Oh, and make sure your parents get the shingles vaccine if they had chicken pox when they were children. You never know when it might flare up.


Claire Fordham

Fordham worked for the BBC, ITN and Sky News in the UK and wrote a weekly anecdotal column for Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, The Sun. She currently writes regularly for Huffington Post, The Malibu Times and the Messenger Mountain News. See "A Chat with Claire Fordham" on this website under Podcasts.

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