Perhaps it was the proliferation of romance in the Disney fairytale context, pre-empowered female heroines, or the grand gestures of love in the dusty literatures of our time that have successfully subverted the idea of true love punctuated by a fairy tale wedding as an end all and be all—women especially. As seemingly dictated by these archaic scriptures and rolls of celluloid, there isn’t a more important red-letter day than a woman’s wedding day, complete with decorations of a sparkling white dress that is set to captivate, a canopy of dreamy florals, as well as all the little details that make up that much longed for dream union. Oh, and then of course, there’s the man waiting at the end of the aisle. (In tears, obviously.)
Who hasn’t meticulously daydreamed about their wedding day—whether a ring or even a partner is in place? An industry worth millions, billions even, in various currencies across the world, weddings are a serious point of concern for many a woman…and their mothers. Everything from the cake, to the flowers, to the number of guests are imagined to no end, with crude, childhood drawings filling up the vast tapestry of fantasies that have dazzled many an impressionable youth. The dress is something else entirely, it being the pièce-de- résistance of the spectacle. The late designer Oscar de la Renta has even gone as far as proclaiming it as “the most important dress in the life of a woman.” Clearly, subversion in literature has gone so far as creating a galaxy of ideas, which can be quite the concerning thing, really.
Look, this isn’t to take away from the romance of a wedding. It is after all, a milestone in all aspects. As ideal, quote-unquote, as this may be for many young girls, some do not necessarily subscribe to this time-honored paradigm. And Iza Calzado has been one of them; long before the empowered movement of feminism has swelled into the reality we live and thrive in now.
“This is the thing, even my future mother-in-law asked me, ‘Didn’t you ever think of what it would be, your dream wedding?’ Nope, I answered. Honestly, where I’m at right now, we should’ve just eloped—just throw a massive party,” she says with pause, before letting out a hearty bout of laughter. “But kasi, I thought, my dad always wanted to see me walk down the aisle. That’s where the sentimentality lies. And of course, it would be nice to look at these photos down the road.”
This is where the new chapter of her life’s story begins. It is no sanitized, archetypal kind of fairytale—but it is a tale that is just as romantic, inspiring, self-actualizing, and of course, aspirational. Her story could very well be yours, too. And now, she’s cracking open the spine of the book and scratching the nib of her pen to write it down, not for anyone at this point— but for her and for her husband-to-be.
THE SWEET LIFE
“Wala talaga, I really cannot eat cake every day,” she relents of a guilty pleasure she finds so hard to give up, especially as the gears of her wedding preparations are kicking into high-octane territory by the day. “It’s really the realization, kasi sometimes I get so envious with other people who can eat cake whenever they want to. But you know what, I said: “It [the wedding] is still at the end of the year. So, I’ll take it slowly and surely.”
Taking things slowly and surely means being kind to herself for the things that are significantly out of her control. This means having cake when she feels like indulging or tacos (as she did the night prior to her engagement. “Had I known he was going to propose, I wouldn’t have eaten so much,” she shares with a laugh), and really, loving her body and self for what and where it is. “I’m 35, the metabolism is not where it was. Sometimes, I think, I should have just gotten married at 30 to 32. It was easier pa,” she sighs. “But you know what, it’s just a matter of finding what works for me at this point in my life and of course, accepting where it is. Parang where I am now, okay lang. I feel like I’ve done enough; I’ve been doing enough. I cannot beat myself up for not being as skinny as I was before. That’s really why we started our campaign on body and self-love. That’s what prompted it. I was so frustrated last year that I couldn’t be where I was physically.” Of course, there is her story also, one that is at this point canon to the doctrines of self-love on the local front, but this internalization just added a more intricate nuance to what is already an inspiring narrative.
“Sabi ko, bakit ganon, ang dami mo nang dine-deprive sa sarili mo…it was so frustrating for me. I told myself, if I wasn’t going to accept myself or love myself, no matter what diet whatever I do…wala, walang mangyayari sa akin,” she opens up. “The first step, and the most important one is to be happy. But you know, it’s not just the physical thing. It’s working towards a goal. It’s already ingrained in me, plus, it’s health also.” It may seem a little too easy to say rather than do, but it is a precise kind of persistence that will allow this ease and peace of mind to settle in your system, thereby allowing you to yield, making for a more enjoyable process—whatever you set your heart into.
ALL ABOUT TRUST
“A very good advice my friend from grade school told me the moment I got engaged was to prepare for the marriage, not just the wedding,” she shares. “And that’s the most important thing. Don’t blow out all your money for one day. That’s my thing also for the wedding dress. It’s so hard to justify to myself shelling out so much for a dress. I know there are people who have spent more, and I’m happy for them. I guess I got it a bit from Ben, being logical in the way I decide on things.”
A self-confessed bride-dedma (that’s a step away from being bridechilla), she is taking a more zen approach to planning her wedding, preferring a more organic and laid-back kind of efficiency between her and Ben. “There are things I care about, like food and entertainment. The decisions that the couple, mostly the bride, depends on what kind of groom there is. More often, it’s the bride that calls the shots right? In terms of aesthetics, design, color. I was like, ang daming decisions! I was overwhelmed! Seriously, I just want to attend the party,” she relates. “Kidding aside, the whole process for us has been very interesting. From the venue to the wedding dress, has been a bit of a challenge, just zeroing in on where exactly it would be held and what exactly I would wear. We actually just locked in our venue recently.”
Now, don’t mistake this as taking their wedding preparations lightly, because they are in fact buckling their belts and getting down to the nitty gritty as the milestone date draws nearer and nearer by the day. “It’s been an interesting ride. I guess it’s because Ben and I are both not maarte. I have lang my specifications, like it [suppliers] had to be Pat Dy and Bob Nicolas. I had people in my mind already, definitely.” Apart from the people who would encapsulate and immortalize their memories, she has also sought out the topnotch skills of wedding planner, Amanda Tirol to fully realize their union in the best way imaginable. “I love my planner. I think she’s great and she’s militante, which I dig, kasi nga, dedma kami. I needed someone to be on top of everything, someone who had to constantly and consistently remind you of the checklist.”
More than anything, however, Iza Calzado is making sure that her wedding will be an experience, a lasting memory that will truly sear itself into the hearts and souls of those who will get to share that special moment with her. “The things that I am concerned with are those that people will really remember; that’s what they talk about,” she shares. But staying true to who she really is, she isn’t allowing herself to be caught up in the planning, so much that she loses the fun in it—something that can be prone to happen in high-stress circumstances such as this. “I’m at that point that wherever I’m at, that’s where I’m meant to be—especially in this process.”
RIGHT KIND OF LOVE
While there was no tangible vision to speak of or file through in her memory bank, Iza Calzado knew from the get-go that marriage was something in the table for her and her fiancé, Ben Wintle. “It was a conversation we always had,” she relates. “But I wasn’t in any rush, neither was he. Most girls my age kasi, they’re all rushing. Ako naman, I was so clear that by the time I hit 30, I knew already that I didn’t want to get married before 33 or 34. I was thinking I’d get married at 35 or 36, which is just about right.”
Getting it right is something that is of the essence for the premiere actress; especially since the reality that we live in today includes several declarations of the death of romance. “What Ben really taught me was love,” she declares. “This isn’t to say that my past relationships didn’t have love in it. With Ben, it was timing. It’s almost always timing. It is the right kind love at the right time. It was exactly what I needed, not even what I wanted. That’s also part of the delay in getting ready. May mga struggle, may mga tanong ako sa sarili ko. But I’m glad I didn’t rush anything, otherwise you’d say yes without being 100% or worse, you’d pressure him to propose without being sure yourself. I cannot imagine how people can do that.” Holding the sanctity of marriage at a high regard, Iza made it imperative that the love that she and Ben have isn’t hinged on a literary kind of romance or the pressures of society. “It’s not those grand moments that will make the relationship work and last for a long time. It’s those daily things, the little things that you know, him reminding me to take my vitamins,” she says of the most important lessons she’s learned from her relationship with Ben. “Perhaps it’s the drama queen in me, the grand gestures and all these things, but it isn’t what will make the relationship or marriage last. One biggest thing was Ben gave me a book, The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. It said there, of course not verbatim, but basically, don’t mix love with passion or lust. You know, there’s a difference. That carnal desire is not exactly love.” This level of awareness and realistic way of thinking may prompt people to assume otherwise, but is actually a higher form of love to be able to not only give in to the throes of emotions, but to also ensure a future with a significant other.
Much like who anyone who dreams of spending a lifetime with a significant other, Iza Calzado’s imperative was that the love she shares with Ben is, as one of her favorite songs from Beverly Hills 90210 (the original series, mind you, as that is the only one that matters) goes, “The right kind of love.” Needless to say, it is in fact an affection of a lifetime.
“Wow, what do I want to say to him?” she asks, before taking a pause, when asked of what she will eventually want to say at the end of the aisle to Ben. The silence stretches on, her nail finding its way to the edges of her lips. Eventually, a smile cracks from her face and her words tumble out in a most rhythmic and beautiful cadence. “Thanks for being patient with me. It’s not even a promise, but that’s the first thing I want to tell him. Yeah, there are more things to be patient with me. I know that he’s had to put up with a lot, but I’m just really grateful for him in my life. I believe I’ve evolved into a better human being because of him and I’m really grateful for that. So, the promise is that I will always try to be a better version of myself for him and for our future family.”
The story is barely getting a foothold in the grander scheme of things—that is their eventual life together as husband and wife. But by every indication, they already have it figured out, especially Iza. It is a dance they both have been learning for so many years, picking up new things along the swing of the music, as well as unlearning fragments that need to be left behind where they ought to be. “Gusto kita makasama at makasayaw habang-buhay,” Ben professes to Iza during their engagement. With a chuckle of disbelief, a coping mechanism she is known to sanction in emotional moments like this, she eventually settles and concedes into the surreal moment. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she tells to herself, “This is happening. It is really real.”
Yes, it is really real. From here on out, we will be waiting and watching for this most genuine telling of love and romance unravel in the most memorable and beautiful way possible. The time has finally come, Iza. And now, the rest of your life together begins. “It’s not magic or fantasy. It’s simple and true,” continues the song you hold dear. It’s you and him together. “It’s the right kind of love.”