Speccie Oz editor Rowan Dean called, sounding incredulous. His mother had just rung him. Radio 2GB said I was eloping to French Polynesia, was it true? Er, yes, but don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret, I said. Days earlier, over a drink with Afternoon show host Chris Smith, the cat had been let out of the bag. Alcohol will do that.
I didn’t mean to offend everyone in my life, but for ages, discussions about the wedding went nowhere. My terrible secret was this; I wanted to be married, but I dislike weddings. They make me feel self-conscious. Discussions about wedding styles, venues and guest lists invariably ended with me wailing “It’s all too much, why can’t people just get married on the internet?”
A friend’s wedding, years ago, provided the lesson in what to avoid. 100 pairs of scrutinising eyes were on the bride and groom, out front, facing each other. At the crucial moment, seconds prior to the exchange of vows, a child cried out with genuine concern in his voice “Don’t do it, you’ll look like idiots!” He was wise beyond his years.
So here was the answer; if we can’t get married on the internet, if we must stand up and say a whole load of embarrassing gumpf, then we must do so surrounded by non-English speaking strangers that we will never see again. Peter, I said with the brightest smile possible, how would you like to elope, we can buy this thing called a Polynesian Tribal Wedding? Days later, the travel agent delivered the tickets in person to our home, along with a bottle of Veuve. He is a good man.
Bora Bora is a small island in the Pacific Ocean. It is circled by tiny islets emerging from the coral reef. The Four Seasons Resort is on an islet but guests stay in luxurious over water “huts”, connected by wide timber boardwalks, sun bleached to a perfect shade of silver. The water is turquoise, calm and so clear every fish is visible. Gaps between the boardwalk planks make walking in stilettos dangerous, so golf carts ferry ladies around in the evenings. On the first night, watching couples arrive for dinner was a treat. Women had perfect hair, glittering diamonds and were wearing statement shoes. I didn’t look at what the men were wearing, sorry. After dinner, our French driver helped me aboard, “my life”, he sighed, “eet ees like a movie”
On the second day, the afternoon silence around the pool was broken by the beating of drums and the sound of a conch shell blowing in the distance. What on earth is that terrible din, Peter asked the pool attendant. He shrugged “eez wedding, zay bang zee drums, zen zee Preest, ee say some sheeeeet and zen, zey drink”. Peter put down his Tahitian beer and looked at me “is that what we are doing?” I couldn’t remember; it was booked on the internet months ago!
On the third day, with newly made friends from the deep South of the USA, we sipped sunset cocktails in the beach view bar. “What day are you getting married, y’all?” enquired Christi. All eyes turned to me. I think it was the ninth but would have to check, did anyone know what the date was today? Peter explained glumly “Grace doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body”. Ouch! There and then I resolved to lift my game.
On the fourth day, at dinner, an English couple approached. Did we know that movie star Jennifer Anniston was here? They were with her in the steam room, apparently. We expressed mild interest, mostly to be polite. We chatted a bit and then she pointed to our American friend, was he Al Capone? Let’s have a drink and talk it over.
That night, the bar shut before 11. The staff left, the lights were turned out and there we sat, two Aussies, two Americans and two Brits, at the best bar in allegedly the best beach resort in the world, in the dark, abandoned, with nothing to drink except the melting ice in the champagne buckets. It was just like an episode of Survivor. Well, you get the drift.
On the fifth day, a cart fetched me at noon. Intense beatification procedures in the day spa occurred. Just prior to sunset, a canoe wrapped in leaves and hibiscus flowers ferried us to a tiny sand island. The beating of drums and the sound of a conch shell blowing punctuated the silent trip across the water. A giant Polynesian priest, in a yellow smock with a stunning yellow feathered headdress stood before two cane thrones. After a formal greeting we walked across leaves and flowers to sit, then stand and say our vows. Water from a giant shell was poured over our clasped hands and the drums started again, 11 dancers writhed, we drank a cocktail out of coconut, got back into the canoe and headed for the bar. It was fabulous. I think I redeemed myself.
On the sixth morning, a private charter boat took us out scuba diving with the two Brits. The Americans had left, sadly. Our captain, a local, introduced himself as King of the Sea!” Within ten minutes of leaving shore a Naval Emergency occured. The boat was dry. The name of the boat was “Champagne”, but that didn’t mean it carried any. I booked it because I assumed it would. We turned back to shore, fridges were filled by mortified staff and we set out again. Crisis averted.
Later that day at the sunset bar, Peter nudged me, rolling his eyes sideways. Sitting next to me was Jennifer Anniston, in the flesh, with her perfect, glorious shiny hair. There was some man with her too, but who cares about him. I didn’t speak to her at all, but for over an hour, just the four of us sat in easy silence, gazing out, contemplating our inner thoughts and each other, until the sun sank over the ocean.
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