After Bae Chuaparm returned to Thailand, Brett Cato didn’t know where their relationship would take them. Bae had come to Charlotte as an au pair, getting an education while working as a nanny. The couple met on Match.com and became inseparable after their first date. Discovering they had a shared love of travel, they even took a trip to Charleston together.
When Bae’s visa ran out, they decided to try a long-distance relationship. “We were exactly 12 hours apart (with the time difference),” Brett recalls. “When she was going to bed, I’d be getting up.” The pair took every opportunity to Skype with each other, but after six months he took a chance on their relationship. Using all of his vacation time, Brett flew out to celebrate Songkran (the Thai New Year) with Bae.
Just as they had traveled around Brett’s homeland, the couple took the opportunity to explore Thailand together. When they arrived at the Bang Pa-In Palace in Ayutthaya, the serene gardens provided the perfect opportunity for Brett to pop the question. “I wanted to propose to her, but I didn’t know where I was going to do it,” he says. “I wanted it to be a private moment, and there was nobody in the gardens; it was beautiful.”
Later that night, Brett and Bae shared the news with her family. “We had a conversation with her parents and they said they wanted to have a traditional Thai wedding,” Brett says. “I completely agreed, and for the next six months we were trying to figure out all the things we needed to do.” The couple followed all the Thai traditions, like getting their wedding day blessed. Using the bride’s and groom’s birthday and year, a seer predicts the best days for them to wed. Since eight is a lucky number in Asia, the pair chose Jan. 8 for their big day.
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Continuing with tradition, the wedding was held at the bride’s home, with monks from the local temple performing the service. While Brett and Bae were putting on their Thai garb, her family moved all the furniture and put down ornate rugs for relatives and a few close friends. The monks performed several rituals to bless the marriage. At one point, a monk drew a design on Brett’s forehead which he then had to redraw on Bae’s. “I had no idea what they had drawn,” he laughs. “Bae’s dad had to help me a little.”Once they were married, the couple put on a hat that connected in the middle (symbolizing they were now one). Then, each guest approached the newlyweds with two strings and a conch shell filled with water. One string was wrapped around Bae’s wrist, the other around Brett’s, and the guests poured water over their joined hands. “It’s a way to bless the marriage and have a personal moment with the bride and groom,” he says. “It’s really emotional, too.”
For the evening reception, Bae changed into a white gown and Brett into a tux. The party was held at a ballroom on her dad’s military base, and while there were speeches and dancing, the pair didn’t dance with their parents or each other. Instead, Brett and Bae stood at the end of a red carpet and all 600 guests stopped to take a picture with them. “It’s the thing you do,” says Brett. “If you don’t get a picture with the bride and groom, it’s like you weren’t there.”
All the vendors were from Thailand except for Lindsey Lee Photography. “We invited them along for the ride,” he adds. “Lindsey took us out the day after the wedding and did a whole day of photography in sunflower fields. She did a great job.”
Since the wedding in Thailand and their honeymoon in Nepal, the couple hasn’t slowed down on their travel plans. In celebration of the holidays and their recent anniversary, Brett and Bae took a tour of the American Southwest. They went to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and hit Death Valley as their last stop. “We enjoyed some of the treasures of the Southwest,” says Brett. “It was a fantastic and amazing first anniversary.”
Lindsey Lee Photography
Continue reading real wedding stories! Up next: ’North and South’