Fairy-tale Wed­ding in Paris

Af­ter 12 years to­gether, long­time sweet­hearts Vicki Belo and Hay­den Kho Jr tied the knot in a grand yet mean­ing­ful cer­e­mony in the ro­man­tic City of Lights, writes MJ Jose

Hong Kong Tatler Weddings - - CONTENTS -

Long­time sweet­hearts Vicki Belo and Hay­den Kho Jr tied the knot in a grand yet mean­ing­ful cer­e­mony in the City of Lights

From a wed­ding proper at the Amer­i­can Church in Paris to a lav­ish re­cep­tion at the el­e­gant Palais Garnier, the mar­riage cel­e­bra­tions of doc­tors Hay­den Kho Jnr and Vicki Belo could have been torn out of the pages of a fairy tale.

“It was a vis­ual spec­ta­cle, yes,” says Vicki. “But above all, it was mean­ing­ful.” In­deed, there wasn’t a dry eye in the church when she and Hay­den, fol­low­ing a tu­mul­tuous 12-year ro­mance, pledged them­selves to one an­other at an in­ti­mate Chris­tian cer­e­mony at the Amer­i­can Church.

The un­con­ven­tional pair met un­der atyp­i­cal cir­cum­stances in 2005, when judg­ing the Mr and Miss Medicine pageant at the Uni­ver­sity of Santo To­mas. Hay­den in­stantly caught Vicki’s eye. “I de­cided to in­tro­duce my­self,” she re­calls. “I found out he was the pres­i­dent of the in­terns’ as­so­ci­a­tion of the Makati Med­i­cal Cen­tre, as well as Mr UST and a mem­ber of the var­sity bas­ket­ball team. He was a bit of a star, re­ally.”

She in­vited Hay­den, who in­tended to be­come a plas­tic sur­geon af­ter grad­u­a­tion, to visit her clinic to learn the ropes. To this day, the cou­ple still can’t say when things turned ro­man­tic. “We had our own lit­tle world,” says Hay­den. “We were happy in the bub­ble that we’d cre­ated for our­selves.”

“It was a vis­ual spec­ta­cle, yes. But above all, it was mean­ing­ful”

Ini­tially, mar­riage did not seem in the cards. “Be­cause so­ci­ety does not re­ally ap­prove of older women dat­ing younger men, even those close to us had their doubts,” says Vicki. “And it took its toll on Hay­den, too. Around his peers, he was a big deal. But in some of my cir­cles, he would be dis­missed. When we were alone to­gether, we were al­right. When we had to min­gle, things would grow dif­fi­cult.”

Hay­den first pro­posed to Vicki in Hous­ton, Texas in 2011, but it was not to be. “It was a dif­fi­cult cy­cle—we kept break­ing up and mak­ing up,” re­calls Vicki. How­ever af­ter a lengthy coun­selling process bro­kered by their spir­i­tual ad­vi­sor and men­tor, the renowned Chris­tian apol­o­gist Dr Ravi Zacharias, the cou­ple re­alised that they were un­able to stay apart.

They were fi­nally wed in a civil cer­e­mony in Manila in June last year, fol­lowed by a re­li­gious cer­e­mony and re­cep­tion in Paris on Septem­ber 2. The re­cep­tion was held at the Palais Garnier, a neo-baroque opera house built by ar­chi­tect Charles Garnier in 1874.

A spe­cial oc­ca­sion, of course, calls for an equally spe­cial gown, and Vicki was given not just one but four Michael Cinco cre­ations to choose from. Hand­made by 11 seam­stresses, her beau­ti­ful blush wed­ding gown with a three­me­tre train was made of French lace, and fully em­broi­dered baroque pat­tern beaded with trans­par­ent and rose opal Swarovski crys­tals. A veil and a bou­quet of white lily of the val­ley flow­ers com­pleted her el­e­gant look.

Vicki and Hay­den’s daugh­ter, Scar­let Snow, had cus­tom dresses of her own for the big day, by chil­dren’s cour­ture brand Mis­chka Aoki.

For many of the guests, the ex­change of vows was the high­light of the wed­ding. Vicki pro­fessed her love to her hus­band by say­ing, “When I was at my ugli­est, when I couldn’t even look at the mir­ror be­cause I was so ugly in my mind, I would look at my re­flec­tion in your eyes, and you would al­ways make me feel beau­ti­ful and de­sir­able.”

For his part, Hay­den promised that he would love Vicki fully and ex­clu­sively. “You are my beloved, Vicki. There is noth­ing you can do that can make me not love you. Even if I lose the friend­ship of every­one else, I will be on y our side, by your side, and we will sort things out t ogether as we trust God for guid­ance.”

Af­ter the church cer­e­mony, the cou­ple and their guests were taken to the Palais Garnier, where they walked a red car­pet, cheered on by a crowd of on­look­ers from the Filipino com­mu­nity in Paris.

Event stylist Robert Blan­caflor and florist Anne Vitchen of the Ritz Paris col­lab­o­rated on a set-up that beau­ti­fully com­ple­mented the venue’s or­nate in­te­ri­ors, from the bou­quets that lined the Grand Stair­case to the ar­range­ments atop the gold mir­rored ta­bles at the Grand Foyer. “The group that was to use the venue af­ter us asked per­mis­sion to bor­row our de­sign,” says Hay­den. “When we agreed, they ended up scrap­ping their own.”

One of the most mem­o­rable mo­ments of the night was the cou­ple’s first dance on the Grand Stair­case. Hay­den, dressed in a white Tom Ford tux, and Vicki, in a pale blue gown by Mark Bum­gar­ner, danced a waltz chore­ographed by Lala Din­glasan to the tune of Take Me as I Am, which they had sung, and then recorded, them­selves.

“Our re­hearsal pe­riod for both the dance and vo­cal record­ing was very short,” says Vicki. “We had one voice les­son a week for three months, and about six dance re­hearsals. And I was quite scared be­cause the floor was very slip­pery, and I never re­ally got to prac­tice with the gown on. There was this one dance step I was only able to per­fect at the wed­ding it­self, thanks to Hay­den be­ing a sup­port­ive part­ner.”

Af­ter the dance, guests were ush­ered into the Grand Foyer for din­ner, which was pre­pared by pres­ti­gious French cater­ing ser­vice Po­tel et Chabot. Guests were en­ter­tained with a mag­i­cal se­lec­tion of opera ser­e­nades, as well as love songs from Filipino singers Ogie Al­casid and Regine Ve­lasquez.

The fes­tiv­i­ties were capped off with a post-re­cep­tion party that went on un­til the wee hours of the morn­ing. “We truly en­joyed our wed­ding; we did not feel as if we were per­form­ing for an au­di­ence,” says Hay­den. “And we were so touched that so many of our friends and fam­ily took the time to fly out and be with us on our spe­cial day. We re­ally can­not thank every­one enough.”

Though they have been to­gether for more than a decade, mar­ried life marks a new chap­ter in Hay­den and Vicki’s lives. And though the fu­ture is un­cer­tain, it is one they will walk to­gether. As Hay­den promised his wife, “walang iwanan”—“I will never leave you.”

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