83: My Husband Married a Woman Named Donna

83: My Husband Married a Woman Named Donna

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

My Husband Married a Woman Named Donna

You can fall in love at first sight with a place as with a person.

~Alec Waugh

Sunlight danced across the turquoise water, and a warm breeze filled our sails, propelling us and our dreams into an uncharted future. Captain Alex stood barefoot on the stern of his sailboat with its tiller held between his knees and the mainsail’s sheet in hand. With a rich, melodious accent, he joined our lives together. “Do you, Duke, take this loving woman, Donna, to be your wife?”

Donna? But my name is Dawn!

Well, let me start at the beginning. Duke and I are the type of people who enjoy an uncomplicated life, so when we planned our wedding, simplicity was key. Duke had traveled extensively, so when he offered to take me to Roatan, the most beautiful island in the western Caribbean for our wedding and six-week honeymoon, I immediately agreed. He’d been coming here for the past five years and had fallen in love with the island and its people.

Because we planned to spend a lot of time exploring the coral reef that hugged the island, we spent more time choosing masks, snorkels, and fins than a wedding dress. The simple outfit I chose had tiny beads sewn on the bodice of the sleeveless top and on the hemline of the flowing ankle-length skirt. True to his uncomplicated nature, Duke decided to buy his wedding clothes when we got there.

Visitors would be foolish to wear expensive jewelry in a country where people earn eight dollars a day, so we purchased two inexpensive bands for the ceremony. We followed suit with our clothing, bringing items that were faded or old and only taking shorts, T-shirts, sundresses, and swimsuits, which we rolled up to save space in our canvas suitcase.

I had minimal travel experience, so when we boarded a plane in New Orleans, I felt as if we were traveling to another world. And we were, I realized, at first sight of land. Tall mountains with steep slopes covered in dense green jungle poked through the clouds as we descended to the coastal town of La Ceiba, Honduras. We landed on an airstrip cut from the jungle and then took a puddle jumper to the island of Roatan thirty miles off the coast.

We chose to stay in a cabin on Mermaid Beach, and after settling in we set out to explore West End village. The sun set with an explosion of rose and orange that spread over the water as we walked the white sand beneath the palm trees on the beach. Soon, a trillion stars lit our way. We followed a sand road and the sound of distant music, and came upon a home and yard crowded with people. A young man shared a drink with a corpse that lay in a wooden coffin balanced on two chairs in the yard.

These island people didn’t mourn the man’s death. They celebrated his life. A band played, and people danced. Friends and family shared a meal. It was a simple ceremony that said it all. I knew we’d come to the right place to be married.

In the following weeks, we snorkeled and scuba dived, rented a Jeep and explored the island, hung out with the native islanders, and generally became part of the community. We attended both churches in West End village, but neither of them seemed to be the right choice for our wedding.

We took a trip to the clinic in Coxen Hole to take the required blood test before marriage and received cards stating we were disease-free. With another stop at the town hall we finalized our paperwork.

A two-hour ferry ride brought us back to the mainland, and La Ceiba bustled with activity. The street market held wares of every variety and gave us a chance to see how the Hondurans lived their daily lives. Guards armed with AK-47s were posted at the haberdasheries’ doors, and shopkeepers with guns in their belts followed us as we shopped for Duke’s wedding shirt.

With just two weeks left, we decided to get in some sailing. We planned a day trip with our Belizean friend, Captain Alex. I secretly believed he was a pirate. He’d salvaged the twenty-five-foot sailboat after a storm and now made his living by taking tourists on day trips to snorkel and fish.

On our way to an outer reef, he drummed on the side of the boat to attract dolphins. They came! Hearts racing, we donned our snorkel gear and eased into the clear blue water. A pod of hundreds swam by us close enough to touch. We felt one with all God’s creatures. Suddenly, we knew where to have our wedding ceremony and asked Alex to do the honors.

Duke, handsome as ever in his Honduran shirt and contented smile, held me close as we waited for Captain Alex and his wife, Mariana. We barely noticed they were late. Our hair blew in the wind as we listened to his poetic words that bound us together. I didn’t even really mind being called Donna. I tossed my bouquet of island flowers into the water, and we kissed as Captain Alex blew into a conch shell to finalize the event.

We held our reception on the beach in front of our cabin. Our island friends came and enjoyed the cake our friend Dora had made. Alex slurred his words as he congratulated us, and we realized he’d been drunk all along. Mariana confided that it was Alex’s birthday, and he’d been celebrating at the bar before she’d found him and reminded him he was to marry us that day.

Finally alone, we watched the sunset end the day.

“I love you Donna,” said my new husband, pulling me close.

~Dawn Baird

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