MANILA, Philippines - The groom wore a kilt, the Scottish national costume, and a bonnie prince Charlie top. The bride walked down the aisle in her beautiful piña gown, as a bagpiper played the dramatic strains of the bridal march, leaving not a few guests teary-eyed.
The altar date of Graham Russell, a Scottish civil engineer once based in Manila, and Francesca Guadarrama, a marketing expert whose family hails from Iloilo, probably seemed unthinkable to many.
For one, they came from different cultures and backgrounds. Their romance, at one point, even became long-distance, when he was assigned to work in another country.
But love, trite as it may sound, transcends everything and conquers all. Five years after their romance bloomed, they tied the knot last July in an intimate ceremony witnessed by only their closest family, relatives and friends.
Babits, as Francesca is fondly called, was radiant in her wedding gown by Veluz Reyes, master of piña fabric, when she marched down the aisle of St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish in Magallanes Village, Makati.
The lone Filipino bagpiper, Roy Espiritu, played the pipes at the ceremony, symbolic of the Scottish rites to introduce the (Filipina) bride.
Graham and Babits actually met in 2001 in a Manila-based British company where they had previously worked for. He has an honors degree in Engineering from the Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, while she obtained her BS Management Communications Technology education from the Ateneo de Manila University.
She later moved to the Belo Medical Group as institutional marketing manager for the renowned institution owned by Dr. Vicki Belo. The noted cosmetic surgeon led the list of principal sponsors for the wedding.
Graham?s first job abroad was in Ghana, Africa, followed by his stint in the Philippines, where he was based for seven years. The youngest child in the a brood of three, Graham hails from Stirling City in Central Scotland.
His parents, John and Agnes Russell, although both retired, flew in to Manila for the wedding, with his elder brother and sister.
Babits is the eldest daughter of Juan Carlos Jalandoni Guadarrama and the former Teresita Sanchez. Her dad still works for Napocor and takes care of the family?s Original Biscocho Haus business from Jaro, Iloilo.
She had a dozen relatives over from Iloilo, as well as from Los Angeles, San Diego, Singapore and New Jersey who also came to Manila to watch her say ?I do.?
?Our wedding, although held in Manila, turned out to be a destination wedding for most of our guests,? Babits says. ?Those based in the US, UK, Australia and other parts of Asia flew to Manila and fit in a holiday just to be part of our big day.?
For a lady who never imagined what her fairy-tale wedding would be, Babits clearly pulled off a remarkable feat in planning her own altar date.
For the bridal gown, Babits opted for a Filipiniana touch with piña silk fabric by Veluz Reyes, who also made Graham?s barong tagalog for the reception. Babits was pleased to no end when Veluz was also able to give in to her request to have the Scottish national flower (thistle) embroidered on the gown.
Florist 7 Lily of Charo Roman-Sy imported a special type of Scottish thistle (Eryngiums) for Babits? bouquet, which also had mango calla lilies and orange Ecuadorian roses.
The gowns of the entourage were by Niko Hernandez. The bride?s hair and make-up were by Toto Bagamasbad and his team. Wedding coordinator was Ai Acosta, while photography was by Nelwin Uy, who even went to Iloilo for the couple?s pre-nup photo shoot.
The wedding reception was catered by Soigné by Lemuria, which prepared a sumptuous, six-course sit-down meal.
Principal sponsors for the ceremony were Dr. Victor Gisbert, Peter Church, Alex Campbell, Leonardo Villanueva, Gerardo Guadarrama, Romeo Nones, David Watson, Jose Mari Hechanova, Dr. Victoria Belo, Gloria Campbell, Eugenia Bionat, Luisa Guadarrama, Yolanda Santos, Christy Puno, Mariflor Lopez-Vito and Dr. Michelle Gatchalian.
It was tough when Graham?s career took him to another country amidst the couple?s wedding preparations. ?Our relationship became long-distance, but truthfully, time flew so fast,? Babits recalls.
?Graham didn?t make it seem like a long-distance romance. He would call me every night and he made it a point to visit me in Manila every two weeks for the remaining seven months before the wedding date. There were odd times when I felt lonely and that the whole thing was hard, but we made it work.?
After the wedding, Babits had to leave her family behind to stay with Graham in his new job assignment overseas. Happily, however, she plays her new-found role to the hilt even as she copes with homesickness.
?Thankfully, technology has turned the world smaller and communication is much better,? Babits declares. ?With the internet, I get to speak and see friends and family from all over the world and from back home. I call my parents twice a week for a regular chat. I?m blessed with a flexible schedule, so I can go home to Manila almost every month for at least a week?that?s until the end of the year for now.?