“Not only are you my partner, but you are my best friend. And without you, I would not be the person I am today. I promise to love and cherish you, as we fill our lives with decades of new memories.”
Back in April, Sydney-based committed couple Chris and Richard shared their very special wedding day with their friends and families in South Africa.
You may remember seeing Chris last year on Nine’s Top Design, entering the show as an intruder and designing a lavish gay wedding on his last episode.
He got in touch with Same Same in recent days to share his joy after seeing Benjamin’s epic Big Brother win and proposal to his boyfriend last week.
“Ben inspired me,” the graphic artist explains. “He reminded me to stand up and to help show the world how normal gay marriage is.”
Chris was born here in Australia and Rich was born in South Africa – both are duel citizens of each other’s countries, which means their marriage is 100% legal and recognised in the African nation.
We were keen to chat to Chris about what being married means to him, and the couple happily shared a few of their amazing wedding photos with us.
“After ten years together, I can not tell you how amazing it feels to be married!” Chris tells us. “Shouldn’t marriage be about love? Isn’t that enough? I think it is.”
Same Same: Chris, how did you and Rich meet?
Chris: We met on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean back in 2002. It sounds very romantic, however – we were actually crew.
I had been working on board for about four months before Rich joined. I was one of the first people he met, and to this day, I can still remember exactly what he was wearing. I remember thinking “Wow. What a hot guy.”
We were great mates for the first six months, and we even had friends try to play matchmaker. People would continuously tell us how compatible we were and that we should get together. At that time, being in a serious relationship was not a part of either of our foreseeable futures, so nothing happened. However, as the months passed, it was obvious we had feelings for each other. So we stopped fighting the chemistry… and the rest they say, is history.
“The ceremony was very emotional. This wedding was created from a decade of friendship, memories and love.”
Who proposed to who, and how?
I proposed to Rich in a gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It was very romantic, and he had no idea. I completely caught him off guard and he was totally speechless. After a few seconds, he said yes. It was an amazing, emotional moment.
Planning your wedding, what aspects of the ceremony were important to you?
Getting married in South Africa was a no brainer for us. It’s Richards home country, and we lived there together for four years. In addition, South Africa has one of the best constitutions when it comes to same sex marriage. It’s completely recognised, legal and is called ‘marriage’. Fortunately for us, we are both duel citizens of each other’s country, so getting married in South Africa meant that we would be 100% legally married. This was very important to us, so we were prepared to work harder than most to make it happen.
So even though the Australian government does not ‘recognise’ our marriage, there’s actually nothing they can do about it. We are in fact, legally married – sorry for you, Gillard.
As a designer, I also enjoyed being able to plan and style the entire day myself. In the second last episode of Top Design, I designed a gay wedding set in South Africa. Unfortunately, the judges crucified me for it… and I was ultimately eliminated. This time around, it was a much more personal design. So I put a lot of effort and thought into creating something more beautiful than I ever had before… and that’s just what I did. It turned out better than I’d ever imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier with the finished product.
How did it go on the day? Any unexpected surprises?
I know everyone says it, but it was the most perfect day. The weather in Cape Town can be very unpredictable, and it’s also a notoriously windy city. However our day was a crystal clear 26C without a breath of wind – a good thing given the wedding was at an open venue, on the side of a mountain. Also, it could have potentially been a logistical nightmare, as we had guests from all over the world arriving. But after a LOT of preparation, everything fell into place on the day.
The ceremony was very emotional. This wedding was created from a decade of friendship, memories and love – and I think that all came out during the ceremony. Us, along with most of the guests (and even one of the photographers), had tears during our vows. I’ve never felt so much love and emotion before. Being that this day was also our ten-year anniversary made it even more special.
However, it wasn’t just the ceremony that was memorable. Our reception, which was much more relaxed than most weddings – without many of the formalities, was the most amazing dinner event I have ever attended. The atmosphere, location, weather, music and styling made it the most perfect night for us and our 40 guests. There were smiles, laughter and enjoyment all night!
Given that about 50% of our guests had flown in from overseas, we decided to host a cocktail/engagement/bachelor party with everyone in the heart of Cape Town the night before the wedding. This was a great way for everyone to meet and mingle – and would give us a chance to do all the introductions before the big day. It was one of the best decisions we made, as everyone lapped up the relaxed atmosphere and really got to know one another.
What does it mean to you both to get married?
More than anything else, it’s being able to choose that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Richard is my best mate and we truly make one hell of a team. Our relationship is built on friendship, respect and love – and I cannot wait to go through my life with him by my side.
Which makes it crazy that we aren’t given the same choice to marry as everyone else. A wedding ceremony is an extremely personal thing. Declaring your love for another person in front of all your friends and family is one thing, but to have it recognised legally makes that commitment so much deeper. Our relationship is just like any other – and I believe it should be treated as such. This is definitely why people are so passionate about gaining marriage equality in Australia. We truly hope it changes soon – and when it does, we will have our marriage made legal here.
What do you think has been the key to making your relationship last?
For us, it’s definitely good communication. It’s so important in a relationship to establish a foundation of honesty and trust – and open communication is key to making that happen. We talk about everything, and even after ten years, we’re still discovering new things. We also accept each others differences, are respectful of one another and make sure we have plenty of laughs.
A line from Richard’s vows:
“Our love has opened windows to the world. We have lived our lives for us… and filled them with adventure, new discoveries and a decade of lasting memories. I have always had you right next to me, creating not only an unbreakable love, but an amazing friendship.”
A line from Chris’s vows:
“Not only are you my partner, but you are my best friend. And without you, I would not be the person I am today. I promise to love and cherish you, as we fill our lives with decades of new memories… and I look forward to growing old next to you.”