Ritz and Charisse: International Students Made the Perfect Match
Ritz Chu and Charisse Estipona started their year the right way as they celebrated their intimate wedding on January 21, 2021. The newlyweds held their wedding ceremony at San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila. The ceremony was followed by a small reception, which they hosted in their own home, to guarantee the safety of their guests. Despite the challenges they faced throughout the planning, their love and perseverance prevailed.
In 2015, Ritz returned from Hong Kong after finishing his MBA. Charisse was also about to come home after spending four years in Canada getting her second degree in Hospitality Management. Later that year, Ritz attended his friend’s wedding where he sat at the same table as Charisse’s best friend. This seemingly trivial event is what would eventually spark the start of their relationship.
At that time, Ritz was single and Charisse had also been single throughout the duration of her stay in Canada. It was customary in most weddings, for single men to be paired with other single ladies as well. Charisse’s best friend played the most important role of being their matchmaker. She thought that the two of them would be a good match, banking on their shared background of studying abroad.
“The way my best friend broached the subject was by showing facebook photos (swiping left and right) of guys and whoever replied to their message first, would be the guy they would introduce. Upon seeing Ritz’s photo, I immediately said no as he was not my type physically. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he was the first to reply.” Ritz has always been the one to make the first move.
On February 14, 2016, he sent Charisse a dozen red roses before they even had a chance to meet. After that bold statement, she simply thought that “this guy is just too breezy and confident”. But when they finally met for the first time, something in Charisse’s gut told her that it wouldn’t work out. Their personalities just weren’t in sync with one another.
“He was quiet, intellectual, and serious. Whereas I was loud, outgoing, and fun-loving. Suffice it to say, I would indirectly reject him multiple times over the course of the next few months. On one group trip out of town, I resolved to finally firmly ask him to stop the courtship as I felt it was already a waste of both our times.” Charisse was so sure of her decision until a single event turned it all around.
“But one moment with him as we were watching the sunset while in the pool set the mood for a very meaningful conversation on life, dreams, and motivations. I felt I got to see who he was and the depth of his personality. Suddenly the resolve I had to stop the courtship, melted and I decided to give this guy another shot.” That was the start of their journey towards marriage.
They eventually became boyfriend and girlfriend a few months after and dated for four and a half years before finally tying the knot. Throughout their dating phase, they only saw each other twice a month since Charisse was from Bicol while Ritz lived in Manila. They spent more time apart as they were dating, but they made the most out of the time they had when they were together.
Ritz popped the big question in Kyoto at a kawadoko, which was a restaurant built right beside a waterfall. This was a hidden and quiet place in Japan that allowed them to savor their engagement. The entire scene felt like something straight out of a fairy tale. The couple immediately began planning their wedding in September 2019, but unfortunately, the pandemic happened followed by the lockdown in March 2020.
“By February 2020, we were done with bookings and were just waiting for the church requirements, program flow, and prenup photoshoots and fittings. The original plan was to hold the reception in Marriott Manila Ballroom with about 300-400 guests. The both of us studied abroad so we were looking forward to hosting our friends from overseas and having a good time.”
They had to downsize significantly and scramble to find new suppliers while adjusting to the changing rules. The couple kept their guest list to a minimum, only having a total of 12 participants, which turned it into a very intimate wedding. “For the intimate wedding ceremony, it took us less than 3 months to prepare. We started planning almost the end of October 2020 as we were also waiting for new rules and protocols for weddings.”
The couple faced a lot of challenges during the wedding preparation, especially within the context of the pandemic. They were forced to change venues, recalibrate their budget, and guarantee everyone’s safety. This included spending for the swab testing of all their guests and suppliers. Charisse’s mom also underwent a major surgery a few months prior, but they wanted her to be able to attend the wedding.
Despite all the difficulties, they were able to push through with their intimate wedding. They handled the challenges thanks to their wedding coordinators along with other important factors. “It was really faith, a lot of prayers, and the greater love we have for each other. It was also our families’ and friends’ support that helped us get through all the hurdles we had to endure during our pandemic wedding.”
They decided on sunset to be the motif of their wedding coupled with serene scheme colors like antique blue, stone blue, pumpkin, and nutmeg. The newlyweds felt a mix of emotions during their ceremony. “The excitement of getting married, the anxiety of making sure everyone is safe, and also the pressure of making our wedding a memorable event despite not having all the people we love around us.”
Less rigidity and more flexibility are the main lessons that they learned when they were planning for their intimate wedding. “Sometimes just going with the flow will lead to more beautiful results. Appreciating the small moments with the family, we learned that those moments are super precious as it is not every day, there is a free pass to say I love you without the awkwardness.”
As for the other couples planning to get married in the time of a pandemic, Ritz and Charisse have three pieces of advice: First, be cautious and find beauty in the small moments. “In our case, we found that being in a more intimate wedding allowed us to interact with family more. Have more moments with them than we otherwise would have. We imagine that if it was a bigger wedding, we would have gone about things in a more transactional way to ensure that everything would go according to plan.”
Second, enjoy it: “It sounds cliche but that was what we put in our heads. Because we did not have the normal bells and whistles in our wedding. The intimate setting allowed us to focus on being present and enjoying each moment.”
And finally, release all the emotions: “This is the happiest moment of one’s life up to this point, but there are also pockets of other emotions like bittersweet feelings of not being with family 24/7 now, those complex emotions make that day so much more special.”
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The Intimate Wedding Dream Team
Event Preps: Makati Shangri-la | Church: San Agustin | Photo: Mayad (Mico Gonzales) | Video: Stellar Story | Live Streaming: NicePrint | Coordinator: Christine Ong-Te (COTE) | HMUA: Mark Qua, Aries Manal | Invitation: Papel et al. | Event Styling: Petal Swing Event Styling | Band: Sound Cinema | Bridal Gown: Rosenthal Tee | Bridal robe: La Rosa | Bridal Shoes: Dior | Groom Suit: Masanting Sastreria | Groom Shoes: Sapatero | Necktie and Pocket Square:Vanda Fine Clothing