I got married in secret - and don't regret a thing

After seven years together, we'd talked a lot about marriage before my boyfriend proposed. I said yes straight away. It didn't take us long to work out that we wanted to do it - we  just didn't know how.

At friends’ weddings, we'd often noticed how little time the couple seemed to spend together and it felt such a terrible shame. We also didn’t like the idea of saying our vows in front of an audience of people – some of whom we barely knew. It felt too intimate a thing for others to witness.

In the end, we opted for a secret wedding. It is something increasing numbers of celebrities are fond of - James Bond director Sam Mendes recently wed classical musician Alison Balsom in a hush-hush ceremony. And last month, Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie married Tom Ackerley in secret.

Of course, her motivations for doing so were probably linked to her A-list fame - one problem we didn't have.  For us, it was more about enjoying the day together. 

A photo posted by @margotrobbie on Dec 19, 2016 at 7:56pm PST

So we decided to combine our wedding with an already planned holiday to Africa. To us, it seemed like perfect timing. After a lot of research, we settled for an intimate beach venue in Zanzibar for the ceremony, before trekking in Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas and climbing Kilimanjaro.

Sleeping in a tent for seven nights in sub-zero temperatures on the side of a mountain might not be everyone’s idea of a romantic honeymoon, but we couldn’t wait to start our marriage with a big adventure.

From the UK, we hired a local wedding coordinator, Donna, to do all the legal paperwork and someone to marry us. She recommended a local photographer and organised a surprise band for the ceremony at an exclusive hotel.

That was it. We spent more time planning the honeymoon than the wedding itself.

The hardest part was telling friends and family. Before going, we visited our parents to break the news: we were getting married, and they weren’t invited.

Mine were not in the least bit surprised and my mum said she was proud of me. I breathed a sigh of relief at how understanding she was (and how well she knew me.) 

His parents were a little more disappointed. My mother-in-law told us she understood, but had always thought she'd be there to watch her son get married. I think she would've liked to be involved in the planning of the day and to have invited some family friends, too. 

They all gave us their blessing - but after hinting that they fancied a holiday as well. So we appeased them by agreeing to have a celebration at home in Richmond for our families afterwards. We asked my mother in law - a keen baker - to make a cake, while my sister helped with the favours and a table plan. It was a way for us to make sure our loved ones felt included. 

I did have moments of doubt. Were our parents going to resent us? Or worse -  turn up unannounced? Would our friends be annoyed? (They weren't, although one did call us selfish, saying: "You do realise a wedding is not just about you?")

It wasn't until we arrived at the Kilindi, in Zanzibar, that we knew we’d made the right choice. The beach, the view, the vibe – everything was just as we’d imagined. Exotic and, most importantly, secret.

Before the wedding, we called our parents back home. It was Wednesday evening, so they were just finishing their supper and getting ready for work the next day. It must have seemed like such an ordinary week in England for them, but we lay in bed sipping champagne and giggling - we were getting married!

On the morning, we woke up together after a nice lie in and had a lazy breakfast together. How many couples can say that of their wedding day?

I helped my husband steam the creases out of his trousers (they'd been shoved into his backpack until that point), and he took himself off to the poolside bar, while I did my own make-up and put on my dress.

When it was time to go, just before sunset, I made my way to the private beach where my husband was waiting, alone. We read the vows that we’d each written the day before on hotel stationary, while sipping coconut water by the Indian Ocean.   

My mum wasn’t there, my dad wasn’t there. None of my family or friends were. Nor his. It was just my barefoot husband in his shirt with rolled-up sleeves. Perfect. 

After the ceremony we enjoyed a candlelit dinner on the beach. We ate, laughed, drank, kissed.

There were no Instagram posts, no dad dancing, and no chatting to distant relatives we don't really know. And the best thing? Our adventure had just begun - we still had a mountain to climb.

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