10 Year Anniversary in Chiang Mai

Our Epic 10 Year Anniversary Trip to Chiang Mai

Our Bucket List Dream Come True

A few years ago, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary by having a wedding vow renewal ceremony in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was one of the most magical experiences of our life, and a serious bucket list dream come true!
I’ve been meaning to share this story with you for a couple of years now. It’s finally time to make this post happen! Hopefully it will inspire you to take these special opportunities to make some serious bucket list items come true! So here goes…

The Inspiration

Many years ago, when Jetset Extra first began, they posted a video interview about the founder of Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai. It was such an inspirational story, and I immediately fell in love with the place, the founder’s vision, and the story.
Watch the video here:

I really wanted to visit one day, and I put it at the top of my bucket list. It seemed like such a far-fetched dream, especially since we weren’t dripping with money, and international trips like that seemed like such a pipe dream, especially with work schedules limiting our time off.

How this Bucket List Trip Became Reality

New York City is a very expensive place to live, and we were already living out our dreams by even living here! Now, we had a baby too, so it seemed impossible to pull off going to Chiang Mai. I kept going to Chiang Mai at the top of my “someday” list and hoped that once in my life the day would come when I could go.  

The year before our 10 year anniversary, we were flying home from visiting family for the holidays, and on the plane ride, I was discussing with my husband how I would love to do a 10 year wedding vow renewal ceremony for us. I thought we needed it.  

Doing a wedding vow renewal ceremony is definitely not common practice among any of our friends, but I’ve seen it online and knew there were people out there that did it.  

To be quite honest, one of the biggest reasons I wanted to have a wedding vow renewal ceremony was that the first 10 years of our life together was anything but peachy keen. There were SO many fights —way too many to count — and divorce had become almost a daily conversation that we discussed thousands of times in those first 10 years. Not exaggerating here! Seriously, daily, for almost a decade. It was that bad…  

Of course there is a lot more to it that I won’t go into here, but from my side, I definitely held onto the hope that we could get through this and somehow we would one day have a romantic fairy tale relationship. (Yes, I am a dreamer.) At least I wanted things to improve, and I just didn’t know how long it would take.  

As a dreamer and romantic, I thought that perhaps an extravagant dream-come-true wedding vow renewal ceremony could somehow restart and reboot our marriage. As I was suggesting this to my husband on the plane, he suddenly suggested we should do it at Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai!  

My jaw dropped. Here I was — I thought I was going to have to sell him on the idea of doing it at all — after all, these sort of things are usually the woman’s dream and initiative. But, I was so happy that he jumped right into the idea, and even suggested we do it at our top bucket list place. Wow!  

I immediately agreed before he could change his mind. I had no idea how we’d pay for it, but honestly, even if this was put on our cards, it was something that HAD to be done to save our marriage.  

We looked into it when we got home. It turns out that they had a package that they could do for our wedding vow renewal. It was an all-inclusive package that included everything — the photographer, the outfits, makeup, the stay, food… everything! And, it was so much cheaper than any wedding at a hotel in the United States.  

Obviously we wouldn’t want to pay for something remotely close to the cost of another wedding, but the price was equivalent to a big international trip anyways, so it was an opportunity for us to do something just for us. We weren’t doing this for family or friends. It was just for us and our marriage.  

We did extend an invite to family and close friends, but it was too expensive for them to fly out, so in the end, it ended up being just the three of us. Conner wasn’t born yet.  

We picked the photographer we wanted, and pretty much everything else was taken care of for us. We selected the dates right that would be during our actual 10 year anniversary date and they would take care of everything else. All we had to do was wait for the day to arrive!  

Well, actually, that’s not true. There was a little prep. I wanted to look good for pictures, so I needed some exercise. To make sure we prepped on that front, I signed my husband and I up for a duo pilates class that we did for 10 sessions before our trip. It was enough to get us looking not so flabby for pictures! Hahaha.  

Then, the day finally came when we flew with our daughter to Bangkok, stayed for a layover in Bangkok, and then flew to Chiang Mai.  

From the moment we were on our way in the car there, it was such a surreal experience. I really felt like we were about to be in a real live fairy tale! It was so beautiful… I couldn’t believe it. It was just as I had imagined, if not better!

We were assigned to a butler as soon as we arrived…  

Wow, a butler? Yes, a butler. We’ve never experienced this level of service before, and we didn’t even know what to do with a butler! Our butler was a woman, and she was there to help us plan our entire stay with whatever we wanted to do. Anything we wanted, we would ask her. She was there to take care of us during our stay.  

We asked for a cooking class for me, and a massage for the both of us. There really wasn’t much else we really wanted to do.  

The Food

Everything there was so amazing!  

The food… wow… I really wish I took more pictures. The buffet was amazing and I just remember how all the food there was just so good! Here is one salad picture I managed to find.  

The pool was absolutely gorgeous next to the main building, and so much fun for Sophie! She was 4 and a half years old at the time.  

So much fun in the pool!
This cute little dolphin floatie was available to use in the pool.

We had massages up in this building below…  

And did some touring around the hotel grounds.  

And I took my cooking class where I learned how to cook some Thai dishes.  

The class included a trip to the market, which was a fun experience to see how the locals shopped.  

I was very surprised to see all the pork… we are not much pork eaters, so this was the one thing we did not expect or realize how much of the diet in Thailand revolved around pork.  

The food in the hotel was not all pork-based, so there was plenty of us to choose from there.      

Trying on Outfits

The day before our big day, a few people had come to our room to have us choose our outfits. Sophie had so much fun!  

I was so excited for all the cute photos I was going to get with my little girl. That was the best part… that we were here with our daughter, and that she could be part of this experience. She had expressed several times before that she wished she could have been at our wedding, and now here she was, at our wedding vow renewal ceremony, which was like a wedding!  

The Big Day

On the big day, we were moved to a new room where the makeup artist came, and they brought all our outfits to change into.   The makeup took a while because they really did convert me from a Korean mom to a Thai princess (or queen) that day! From the thicker eyebrows to tape to change my eyelid fold… it was a serious transformation. I couldn’t believe how Thai I looked afterwards!  

Sophie was also part of the transformation too. She was our mini Thai princess! So cute!  

Jae was also part of this process… he transformed into a Thai king! At least that is what he looked like to me. Looked so regal to me that day!  

I wish I had videos of this entire journey.

For our actual wedding in back in 2005, we had a Catholic wedding ceremony in a big cathedral in downtown Chicago. It was also beautiful in its own way because the cathedral is very ornate and had a waiting list over a year and half just to have a wedding there.

Even with the 6 weddings they have on Saturdays, we were only able to get the last slot, which was a shortened version of an actual Catholic mass. The slots were just completely full even though we tried to book a year and half in advance.  

Although both the Thai ceremony and our Catholic ceremony had its own rituals, there was so much more emotion and sensitivity that I felt during this wedding vow renewal ceremony. I could feel the depth of feeling that people must go through on their actual wedding day.  

These are some of the amazing photos the photographer took for us that day:

The hotel staff were all there to be out “family” for us since we didn’t have any family there with us that day. It was so amazing that literally what seemed like everyone that worked at Dhara Dhevi showed up. It was such an unbelievable feeling being blessed by all the hotel staff… I could only imagine what it would be like to go through an actual wedding there with all of your family and friends.  

Below, Jae is going through 3 gates in order to be approved by the “family” before he meets his bride. They make him go through different tests, such as dancing, in order to pass.

It was such a great experience to experience another culture in this way. To this day, every time I see these pictures of us, it brings back such a positive emotion, and also a feeling of hope that our relationship would be healed…   There was a candle lighting and many blessings by all the “family members” during the ceremony.

Once the ceremony finished, there was confetti thrown as we walked down the steps.

A carriage was waiting for us to take us to our hotel room.

After the ceremony, they moved us to a villa with a private mini pool. It was so beautiful and surreal… the best service and experience we’ve ever had on a trip.  

After our stay in Chiang Mai, we went on a “honeymoon” in Bali. I will post a future post about our stay in Bali.  

Looking Back

It’s been almost 4 years since that day, and although the changes in our marriage didn’t happen within a year as I had hoped, almost 4 years and another baby later, I can say that our relationship is in a very different place. We are finally moving forward together as a unit, dreaming up dreams and creating our visions together. So much has been healed in our relationship and we’ve both grown so much.  

And although I cannot attribute all of that to just that ceremony, as there were so many other events and learnings along the way, I can say that it created a renewed commitment within us. A decade at a time, we’ll renew our vows in various ways to show each other our commitment and love for each other, no matter what happens.  

And travel always helps.  

Life is not perfect, but I believe it’s worth celebrating… especially if you are in some dark places and going through some hard times. Those are the times you need to shine the most light onto your life. I’ve found that getting excited for something, especially when that something is BIG, can help catapult you out of any funk.  

It gives you something to look forward to, and even if you have to look forward to it for a whole year, it’s exciting to think that it is coming soon!   Use big events as an excuse, and go for that bucket list item that you’ve been wanting to do! Your future self will thank you for it as it looks back on the fond memories. That’s what I’ve learned. You won’t regret it. Life is short and goes by quickly… especially when you are busy with kids!  

Did we have money lying around to pay for this? No. But we found a way and it has created a memory that will last a lifetime.  

Have you gone on an epic adventure that was an ultimate bucket list item? In the comments below, tell us what it was and if you used an excuse to go, or if you just went for it! We’d love to know!

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  1. How amazing ❤️ This looks and sounds like fairy tail.. Feeling inspired! Beautiful pictures and lovely story. Thank you for sharing! Love your blog

  2. You four are a beautiful family! And you all looked so regal in your gorgeous outfits! I wonder if they’d be able to make my American eyes look Asian; I would love that! Such a blessing for all of you to have this glorious time together!

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