By the time you read this, I will be married. This isn’t a milestone I find particularly terrifying. Nour - my girlfriend - and I have been together for two years, get along swimmingly, and already make great life partners. This isn’t gloating. This is true, plus it’s pretty handy given we’re committing to a lifetime together. Added advantage: getting married means people can stop referring to us as each other’s ‘fiances’. This is undoubtedly the ugliest word the English language has ever borrowed from another language, and it should give it back. Immediately.
Engagement itself is such an odd, mildly annoying state of being. You’re essentially still just a couple and nothing has changed. Yet - despite yourself - everything has. People ask more questions, things have suddenly gotten ‘serious’, although they’ve always been serious to you. And, worst of all, you have to plan your wedding.
Doing this, however small the shindig, adds a lot of stress to lives that are already a cacophony of information and decision making, compounded by a world that seems to be - to all intents and purposes - falling apart. So deciding what color the tablecloths are going to be at a party in four-months time isn’t something anyone should really spend time doing.
In my case, things got so overwhelming at one point, that I couldn’t keep track of everything I was doing, and I actually sent my girlfriend a Google Calendar invite to discuss something about the wedding. It was around this low point (seriously, a calendar invite) that we were headed to Florence to a childhood friend’s wedding.
Our Middle East Airlines flight from Beirut to Rome was predictably chaotic. Lebanese travellers see assigned seating as more of a suggestion than a requirement, and negotiations over seating rights go on during the whole flight. The instant we land every seatbelt buckle in the plane comes undone with a loud clang and everyone stands up pointlessly. An exhausted flight attendant screams down the intercom: “We just landed. We’re 10 minutes away from the gate. If you could wait 3 hours to get here, you can sit the hell down for 5 more minutes!”
Things outside the plane aren’t far more organized. This is Italy after all, and everyone around the Mediterranean is essentially the same. However, this being Italy, everyone is suddenly very well dressed. The Carabinieri uniforms make me question my sexuality for a minute.
On our first day in Rome we head out for some tourism. About 17 seconds later we realize it’s 35 degrees outside and the city is full of Americans weidling selfie sticks. We quickly retreat to our hotel and the quiet of its pool, devoid of both. We only venture out once to grab a Negroni (or seven) in Pigneto, an area I found by Googling “Hipster Rome”. Think Brooklyn meets Lisbon, but again, better dressed.
The following day we take the high speed train to Florence. A leathery man thrusts his Billionaire Couture jeans tag in my face as he places his crocodile skin briefcase next to our tattered bags. We smell his cologne for the next hour and a half. It lingers with us during the cab ride to the hotel. After some freshening up we head to the Villa Di Maiano, where the wedding dinner is getting underway.
It was the kind of international mess we love. Our friends getting married were Syrian-Brazilian & Lebanese-Chinese-Dutch from Curacao. And they both live in Dubai. They are ridiculously, absurdly attractive yet also aggressively lovely, which makes them impossible to hate - try as one might. As for the event itself, it was as close to a fairy tale as I’ll ever get I think. And it fits these two perfectly. I tried to imagine Nour and I being at the center of this, and I burst out laughing. We’d look like trained monkeys dressed up to entertain at a carnaval. But I guess that’s what a wedding and - at the risk of sounding melodramatic - life is all about: always doing something that is entirely sincere.
Under the fireworks and general aura of Instagram-ready perfection around us, 3,000 kilometers away from our noisy lives, and well into a fifth round of Jager shots, Nour and I disconnected from everything. Our days filled with multiple email accounts, multiple social media accounts, multiple responsibilities, identities. We took a moment to do nothing and enjoy what was happening around us. And I think it allowed us to enjoy what we have coming our way too.
If everything goes to plan, by the time you read this we’ll have had a small ceremony in Nour’s parent’s backyard in a village in South Lebanon with a few friends. There will have been some drinking, some awkward dancing, some embarrassing speeches. And it will have looked and felt like us.
But what a wedding looks like isn’t important, really. It’s a what a marriage looks like that prepares you for the often difficult reality of life together. And the reason I’m not terrified going into this thing is that I know my marriage started two years ago, and things have never been better.
This article appeared in the September issue of GQ India on sale now, at good newsagents and online.