Years ago, a dear friend was planning her big day while cribbing to me about how expensive it was going to be. She wanted a diamond-studded Rolex as a wedding gift, reception in Shangri-La, honeymoon on a cruise-ship and a big home to move into directly after the wedding. She wanted nothing to do with the in-laws or family members while she built her life on a pedestal. She had way too many expectation from a relationship which was about to start.

And she was not the only one. Many women who worked with me then, were busy planning elaborate weddings without even realising what they were getting into.

It all sounded too much for me. I was married for two years then and cash was tight those days. We used to live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in downtown Abu Dhabi where the bed and the wardrobe were crammed together in a pea-sized bedroom. We shared a rental car and drove around the city feeling like royalty.

We ate cheap meals, especially AED 15/- pizza from a local bakery and spent many evenings walking hand in hand on the corniche discussing foreign films and books. The concept of happiness even then was very concrete in my mind.

I asked my friend a simple question — Do you want a wedding or a marriage? She looked confused and said that it was a stupid question as both meant the same thing.

Did they?

In retrospect, I am so glad we got married in the embassy with three friends as our witnesses. There was no fancy wedding dress, expensive jewellery, or big reception. We were living a simple life with huge dreams and fluid ambitions.

A friend hosted a small henna party at her place, a day before the wedding, and we ordered takeout from the cheap Indian restaurant across the street. Another friend gifted me AED 101/- for good luck at the signing of the marriage. Right after we drove in our rented car to a restaurant by the beach for pizza. The sun was shining, and it was happy day that remains fragrant in my memory even today.

That night we got bumped off on staff airline tickets to Sri Lanka for what was to be our honeymoon. I was so disappointed that I cried all night. That’s when my husband said let’s drive to Fujairah (three hours away) and we did exactly that. We stayed in a 2-star hotel and spent glorious four days and came back to Abu Dhabi.

This picture was taken by the dam there. Till date, it is the best holiday we ever took. I am so glad I chose marriage over a wedding!

I look at this picture everyday on my desk to remind myself of  how far we have come!