In three weeks' time, I'll likely be a ball of anxiety, nerves, emotion and elation. I'll also be trading in my last name, which has served me well for 32 years, for a new one. And I'll be ticking a different box on every piece of paperwork from now on: Mrs, instead of Ms.
In roughly 21 days, I'll finally be marrying my partner of 10 years after several months of (barely) planning our big day. Friends and family will congregate in London, coming from as far and wide as New Zealand and New York, for which we already feel overwhelmingly grateful. After years of making trips across the world for friends' nuptials, we're truly touched that many are returning the favour.
While the day will formally tie together our Welsh and New Zealand families (two countries that are opposites on the globe, but similar in so many other ways), we’re also bringing a touch of Dubai to the UK with us.
Our aisle will be decorated by a Persian rug sourced in the streets of Satwa, I’ll be wearing a dress handmade by a couturier in Jebel Ali and, if my suspicions are correct, the groom will also be clad in a suit crafted somewhere in the city. (Although part of me is fearful he’ll in fact be dressed in the Kiwi uniform of shorts and flip-flops.)
While we're tying the knot more than 5,000 kilometres away, it's important for us to have some reminders of our adopted hometown at our ceremony. Because while we might have grown up on opposite sides of the world, Dubai is where we've now built a life. It's the city we got engaged in, the city where we've both found incredibly rewarding jobs, the city where we've made new friends and also been joined by old ones, and the city we'll return to once wed.
Geographically, the UAE has also provided a happy compromise for us, where, after spending four years in New Zealand, I’m close enough to see my family several times a year. In return, it’s also less of a mission for our loved ones from the UK to visit, compared to the 30+-hour flight to Oceania.
It's now the city where we'll ease into life as a married couple, the place where we'll prepare to start a new chapter by saving for our first home and, who knows, perhaps where we start a family. And, despite not living on the same continent as our relatives, it seems like the perfect place to enjoy the first few years of playing Mr and Mrs.
Much like our cross-continent relationship, Dubai itself is a marriage of cultures and nationalities, where we've been fortunate enough to meet myriad couples who've similarly battled with the many aspects of coming from two different countries. From bemoaning the time spent waiting for the other to get through immigration from a separate passport queue to visa issues when moving from country to country, we've been surrounded by friends able to offer sage advice.
The UAE has also been a country in which we've been able to grow as individuals and as a couple through new shared experiences, which has only strengthened our bond. Whether discovering more about the region through sightseeing days out or exploring Arabic music and film, the few years we've already spent here have invigorated our relationship as well as enriched our world views. It feels as though we've been on quite an adventure and yet, in a sense, it's only just beginning. (Unless he indeed plans on meeting me at the aisle wearing flip-flops to an October wedding in autumnal London. That's a divorceable move in my books.)