Hustling down a wooded path along the Mae Lang river, we’re hoping to find the mouth of the Tham Lod cave before it’s too dark. Half an hour earlier we’d arrived by motorbike taxi to our teak bungalow in the woods after a 4-hour van ride on one of the curviest roads in the world, which from a map looks like a scrunched up worm stretching from the city of Chiang Mai to the rural district of Pang Mapha to the northwest, where we now found ourselves about 12 miles south of the Myanmar border. As quickly as possible we checked into our hut, transferred a change of clothes into a backpack, and spent a moment doing the best we could to primp. As she braided her hair and fashioned for herself a headdress using purple flowers she purchased from a market that morning, I walked out to our balcony, from where I could see the river poking through the trees, and composed photos of our rings using a bunch of the remaining flowers.
After a half-mile of hiking, wondering if we’re headed in the right direction, we arrive at the mouth of the cave and quickly pick the spot where we’ve decided to have our “ceremony,” a term we are using loosely as we’ve forgone having an officiant or any witnesses. This is fine though, as Thai law requires no ceremony to consider a wedding legal. The actual act of marriage is performed in a sparse administrative office in one of the major cities, a lengthy process we had initiated before this leg of the trip and would complete after returning. Before beginning, we take turns changing into our wedding outfits in a nearby, dark recess of the cave, in case any visitors should happen upon us. Hers is a beautiful, flowing white summer dress and sandals she’d picked out for the occasion. Mine, a blue shirt and grey shorts. I had pants too, but it was too hot and she gave me permission to stay in my shorts so I wouldn’t look like a wet rag for the pictures. Few words are spoken. We take out our rings, and I begin to joke “With this ring, I thee wed.” She stops me there. Short and sweet, we both say “I do,” and place the rings on each other’s fingers before sealing the deal with a kiss. We spend the next 20 minutes taking photos and amongst the stalagmites and stalactites and upon some bamboo rafts anchored in the river before a heavy rain begins to fall. Fortunately, it only lasts 10 minutes, freeing us to return home from the cave before nightfall.
That was it. April 29th, 2015. We were married. Well, almost. The legal side of the equation turned out to be much more complicated than we’d read beforehand, and an itinerary that kept us on the go combined with a couple federal holidays kept our legal marriage in limbo until the very last day of our trip. We managed to get it done though, signing the papers and having the official documents stamped and translated back to English with about 12 hours to spare before flying home from Bangkok. It was a relief to finally get it done and to know that we weren’t going to have to lie to people for the rest of our lives about how we got married in Thailand, when in reality we’d done it in an LA courthouse.
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