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Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Ireland in June.

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Well, I never expected this post to be a memorial one. 

I’ve struggled greatly with how to share the wedding I attended in Ireland in June. It was a trip overflowing with happiness and joy — the epicenter radiating from Gemma and Tommy, a couple who found love on a Banyan barstool. And it is now a memory that seems more precious than ever given the shocking, heart-wrenching and sudden news of Tommy’s passing in the final days of 2019. 

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

As the months have passed, grief and memories have flowed through our Koh Tao community, and as I reached this point in coverage of my 2019 travels, I asked Gemma how she’d like to me to proceed.

She replied bravely that she wants Tommy to be remembered always, that she wants his story forever told, and that she wants our love for him to be eternal. While it went against my first instinct, upon reflection I realized I relate so deeply. Having said so many heart-wrenching goodbyes in 2019, I too know that the only true death is to be forgotten. And Tommy never will be. We will be sure of that. 

So I want to share this wedding day the way we lived it — full of anticipation, joy and goodwill.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

I first met Gemma, I believe, in 2009, on my very first trip to the small island in Thailand that would become my home. Over girl’s nights, Banyan conversations, sunset happy hours, flying trapeze lessons, hikes through the jungle and crafternoons, our friendship grew. I can’t quite recall when I really got to know Tommy — he just seems like one of those characters that was in your life forever. I think probably Ian, who he was dear friends with, first introduced us at Banyan.

I knew something was up when suddenly everywhere I turned it seemed Gemma was there, beaming. I’d never seen her quite so happy. It turned out she had a good reason to be — she was dating Tommy on the sly. Soon the secret was out, and after an entire adult lifetime as an expat in Thailand, Gemma was packing her bags and selling her businesses to move to Dublin with her Irish love.

Dinner at Farnham Estates in Cavan
Dinner at Farnham Estates in Cavan

I was thrilled when they announced their wedding for at the Farnham Estate in Cavan, a scenic hamlet in Ireland straight out of a movie. I knew, despite my own delicate circumstances at the time as a caregiver for my terminally ill mother, that I had to be there. It’s a testament to their friendship that so many people came together from around the world to celebrate for them. It was nice to have such a personal, love-filled reason to visit Ireland, my 41st country.

The trip consisted of a few days in Cavan for the wedding and a few days in Dublin playing tourist. From the moment our ferry from Wales pulled into the Emerald Isle port, we were overwhelmed by Irish hospitality. From our cab driver who had not a clue where we were going but was absolutely determined to give us advice to the jolly waiter at the cafes we stopped through warning us about the pace of Irish weddings, I’ve rarely felt more welcomed. I could see how Tommy became, well, Tommy. 

Spa at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

I’d driven to Cavan with Ian and our friends Janine, Ben, and Kathryn. Gemma had asked me to teach a yoga class the morning of the wedding but when rain threatened to alter all our outdoor plans, Janine and I had an ace backup plan: take advantage of the estate’s expansive spa. We spent the day working out, wandering through various saunas and steam rooms, splashing around in the pool, experimenting with mud masks, and getting excited about the evening ahead.

Spa at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

We simply couldn’t wait to see our reprobate friends all dressed up in their Irish wedding finery. 

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland
Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

And soon, it was time to head to the magical manor for “I do’s.”

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland
Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

This photo, of us seeing the exuberant groom for the first time, has become one of my most cherished of the day. It captures every ounce of the sheer joy we felt.

Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

And soon, we were all seated for the ceremony.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

While Irish Catholic weddings are somewhat formally structured, the bride and groom still managed to make it their own.

And Gemma, the girl so gorgeous we nicknamed her Lady Gemma, had never been more radiant.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

After the ultimate kiss, the real celebrations began.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan

How amazing that these two brought together so many people from all across the world?

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland
Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

I loved seeing all of Gemma’s beautifully crafted details around every corner. This girl managed to get creative and craft even from a remote tiny island in Thailand — no wonder she made her wedding so personal, too.

Polaroid picture bar at wedding

Sparkler bar at wedding

And, well, it wouldn’t be a Banyan wedding without a tribute to our old favorite bar

Joss Bar at Wedding in Ireland

Joss Bar at Wedding in Ireland

Needless to say, the guest of honor was Gemma and Tommy’s beloved dog Marc, who had made the journey from Koh Tao to Dublin and was clearly adjusting well to life as an expat.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland
Dog in suit for wedding

That suit! I just couldn’t get over the level of cute.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland
Dog in suit for wedding

I cannot tell a lie — after attending a Scottish wedding years ago and making the horrible mistake of choosing not to wear a fascinator, I couldn’t have been more grateful to Gemma and Tommy for choosing to get married on Irish soil, as tempting as a Koh Tao beach wedding may have been. I can’t imagine a better way to see Ireland than to celebrate the wedding of one of its finest residents, and I can’t imagine a more fun way to notate the excitement of a wedding day than to wear feathers and flowers upon one’s head. 

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

And gosh, did us forever flip-flop wearing girls love getting the chance to gussy up. I can’t remember the last time I took so many smiling photos (and that’s saying a lot for a blogger.)

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

We weren’t the only ones doing so. I swooned when I saw these photos from the official wedding photographer. What an incredible love they captured.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

With the sun setting, it was time to kick off that part of the Irish wedding everyone kept winking at us about — the party. Yes, the Irish know how to have a good time!

Sunset at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Speeches — and bubbles, of course — are one of my favorite parts of any wedding, and I loved hearing Gemma and Tommy’s family and friends share stories that alternated between heart-warmingly familiar and delightfully brand new. The Banyan table’s highlight was a tribute from Tommy’s lifelong best friend Billy, an infamous pair from island to island.

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Cake made of cheese in Ireland
Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Another classic Gemma touch? The cake was made of cheese. No, not cheese cake — just various rounds of good old cheese, with homemade jams of old secret family recipes. I adored it.

Once the toasts were made and tables were cleared, we hit the dance floor. And in true Koh Tao style, we hit it hard.

It was a night to remember. 

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

Wedding at Farnham Estates in Cavan, Ireland

And Tommy’s is a life to remember. Though bittersweet, I love looking back on this day, and all the many years the people in it shared in so many small special islands around the world. Sadly, now, we will always be united by the loss of this great man, a loss no one feels more poignantly than his wife and family.

Tommy taught all of us something. As someone who can quite easily get wrapped up in her to-do list or retreat into her own mind, I want to be inspired by Tommy’s gift for making any occasion joyful, for making every person he spoke to feel like the most fascinating, important human in the room, and for demonstrating such fierce loyalty and friendship, from every corner of the globe.

We miss you, Tommy with a T.

Wedding sparkler send off

Wedding sparkler send off

rest in peace <3

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14 Comments...
  • Danielle
    March 21 2020

    God, you had so many losses in the last year. I hope you’re doing ok. This is a beautiful tribute to your friend

    • Alex
      April 3 2020

      Thanks Danielle. It was a weird 2019. And 2020 is shaping up to be tough too.

  • Phyl Doppelt
    March 21 2020

    Alex,

    I am a regular reader.
    So sad to know that Tommy passed away soon after he was married.
    I know you had a lot of losses last year.
    If I may ask, what happened to Tommy and how did he pass away?
    If you don’t want to talk about it, I will respect your privacy.

    Thanks,
    Phyl.

    • Alex
      April 3 2020

      Hi Phyl, I don’t see it so much as my privacy but the family’s. Thank you for understanding <3

  • Ramona Puckett
    March 21 2020

    Thank you for this, it was a beautiful tribute to your friends. And the pictures were fantastic ❤️

    • Alex
      April 3 2020

      Thanks Ramona. I appreciate it <3

  • Dominique
    March 22 2020

    What a beautiful tribute. It’s important to celebrate your loved ones, even after they’re gone.

    • Alex
      April 3 2020

      I agree. It hurts to talk about but hurts more not to, if you know what I mean.

  • Chris
    March 22 2020

    Wow, 2019 was certainly a challenging year, and it’s been followed up with a surreal 2020 (at least thus far)!

    Hang tough.

    What a lovely tribute

    • Alex
      April 3 2020

      Thanks Chris. Yeah, it’s a weird stretch.

  • Jane
    March 24 2020

    What a lovely wedding, but also so poignant knowing in hindsight that this was also a goodbye. He seemed like an amazing person and I can’t imagine the heartbreak for Gemma losing her life partner so soon into their marriage 🙁 This is a great tribute to him – if any of us could inspire this sort of loyalty and friendship I think it’s a sign of a life well-lived.

    • Alex
      April 3 2020

      Indeed, love is the best measure of a life’s work, I think <3

  • Rekha Devarapalli
    March 27 2020

    So sorry to hear about the loss Alex. Hope you are doing well during this pandemic. Thinking of you – Rekha

    • Alex
      April 6 2020

      Thanks Rekha. I feel lucky to be in Thailand, a place that feels like home.

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