By Jason Niedle, EO Orange County member and founder of Tethos
What’s more powerful than entrepreneurship? Love. Two years ago, I took a break from business and married my soul mate, April, in the nearest thing to a castle we could find in California, USA. Then, a week later, we were married in a peaceful Buddhist ceremony in a small village in Thailand. Another week later, we wed in Kenya during a Maasai tribal ceremony, followed by a fourth and final ceremony on the stunning island of Santorini, Greece. Four wedding ceremonies on four continents in four weeks— we called it a “wedding world tour,” and it was the romantic adventure of a lifetime.
Intent on truly engaging different cultures, April and I decided to have wedding ceremonies that were authentic to local practices. We planned one ceremony in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe, and we had adventure after adventure. There was the fairytale wedding in our hometown; a spiritual Buddhist ceremony, where paper lanterns lit the sky; a breathtaking Kenyan ceremony, where we were adopted by Maasai, breakfasted with giraffes and I gave a dowry of cows; and a ceremony set against the island beauty of Santorini.
It was a truly incredible journey, but what we didn’t expect was how much we would learn along the way. Here are a few of our biggest take-aways:
Think beyond borders: We thought we had designed the most spiritual wedding that we could for our U.S. ceremony. But our Thai ceremony, which put us face to face with everyone in a small village, was spiritual in a way that we couldn’t have anticipated. Stepping out of our comfort zone and engaging the world gave us incredible experiences we couldn’t have imagined, and it provided the kind of perspective that will forever shape us.
The power of AND: One of the key factors in deciding to have four weddings was a realization of the limitations associated with the word “or.” When there were two appealing choices, we sought to find the “and” in order to create both. Instead of a wedding here or overseas, we chose to do both. And instead of choosing between Thailand or Kenya or Greece, we again chose the “and.” Where can you replace “or” with “and” in your life in order to create more value (not just more work)?
Every journey begins with a single step: We’re often asked how we planned four weddings for less than the cost of a traditional U.S. wedding … and in just a few months, no less. The answer is simple— one small step at a time! Once we were fully committed to the idea of four weddings on four continents, we just started completing one task after another until, before we realized it, we were on the first of 14 flights around the world.
Love is a journey: In Greece, we were surprised when the Father who promised to marry us denied us a ceremony. But we were determined, so we found a beautiful church in Santorini and married ourselves outside of it. In that moment, we learned the ultimate love lesson. After all of these weddings in all of these countries, we realized that we didn’t need an authority to tell us that we were married. We simply needed to choose to be married, moment by moment, day by day.
It’s been two years since our wedding world tour. Looking back, the one learning that supported all of them was our deeper understanding of what commitment truly means. Whether it’s four crazy weddings around the world, setting the date for our 50th anniversary party or launching a startup company, we learned that the key to creating our dreams—large and small—is simply 100-percent commitment. With true commitment, anything is possible.