Sunday, March 22, 2009



By Kevin Anthony Stoda, USA citizen working in Germany

While many others around the globe were celebrating International Women’s Day 2009, I was married in a church ceremony in Salmiya, Kuwait to Maria Victoria M. Baradero of the Philippines.

In some ways, Maria Victoria’s and my church wedding in Kuwait was similar to several international women’s day events.

For example, we newlyweds had invited guests from not only Kuwait, the USA, and the Philippines, but also from other lands, such as South Africa, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, India, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK.

Also, there were a majority of women in my church to plan and help Victoria prepare and celebrate her day.

Most of all, a wedding day is primarily successful for making the woman (or bride) most happy and loved. My friends and I succeeded in this.

Concerning the international aspect of our wedding, my pastor, Pradeep Kutty, who officiated the great day for my bride and I is from Kerala, India.

Moreover, the bridesmaids and maid of honor were multicultural—i.e. from the Philippines, India, and the USA (of Dutch heritage).

Finally, one of the more memorable activities was when Zeinab from Syria, her children, her husband, and in-laws joined in a traditional Syrian wedding dance for my bride and I along with the many guests present—as some Egyptian friends of mine clapped along.


Victoria had experienced grave duress during the last weeks of 2008 as we struggled to complete the civil papers for marriage conducted at Kuwait’s Ministry of Justice in Mirqab. There were many surprises and new demands made by bureaucrats every other day on our marriage paperwork in Kuwait.

For example, in a ten day period, we had to revisit the Philippine Embassy numerous times for paperwork which Victoria had already received in Manila earlier in December—but which Kuwaiti’s found not to be good enough.

NOTE: In addition, the Philippine bureaucracy at the Embassy in Kuwait also had us pay several for unnecessary paperwork as well. It was as though we were forced to purchase from the Philippine Embassy three pieces of worthless paper for every actual document which Kuwait bureaucrats really needed.

Meanwhile, Maria Victoria and I also were required to go to the Evangelical Church Compound in Kuwait City several times to acquire a small piece of paper, which stated that we were, in fact, Christians—and not atheists or from some Eastern—non-monotheistic faith. We only received this paper late in the afternoon on December 30.

In short, Victoria and I were therefore only able to get married after much effort and prayer on December 31, 2008—two and a half days before I flew to Germany to go to a new job.

Most interestingly, on the morning of the 31st of December at the Ministry of Justice, Maria Victoria and I had witnesses on hand from India and Philippines. Alas, in Kuwait, women do not count as full witnesses before the law courts—each woman is considered only half a witness under Kuwaiti law, so only the two Indian male witnesses were asked to sign our Civil Ceremony wedding papers.

On the other hand, this will surprise you readers!!!!!---

Despite the lack of women rights to act aswitnesses in Kuwait, the very Kuwaiti official who oversaw Maria Victoria’s and my civil ceremony in the Ministry of Justice that last day of 2008 was a wonderful black-hijab wearing Kuwaiti female.

In short, just as most of our world is full of stress and contradictions for lovers these , the world and lives of women in Kuwait are particularly similarly full of contradictions, stress and surprising turns of event.

Since a few days later, I flew to Germany to start on a new contract, our Kuwaiti church fellowship and Maria Victoria had to undertake the preparations for my wedding in my absence.

Soon—after carrying long-distance e-mail and phone contacts and negotiations on two continents--Victoria and I were eventually able to settle on March 8, 2009 for our Christian Wedding date.


Anyone who has ever put on a wedding knows, they cannot do it alone.

My Kuwaiti church family provided the first and strongest ring of support for our wedding.

NOTE: Due to distance, neither my family in the USA nor Victoria’s family in the Philippines.

Slowly, the members of the Kuwaiti church fellowship from America, India, and her homeland, the Philippines, were discussing, negotiating, and aiding in the planning and implementation of a very memorable INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY WEDDING for my bride, Maria Victoria.

My wife, born Maria Victoria M. Baradero and native of Palawan in the Philippines, has worked in Kuwait for over six years. My church, which consists of an almost equal number of Filipinos and Indians (plus a handful of Americans and visitors from everywhere) has been functioning in Kuwait since the late 1990s, but it is just now undertaking the paperwork to be recognized in Kuwait by the Evangelical Churches of Kuwait.

So, after trying for over a month, Maria and I gave up on holding a wedding of some 75 to 95 guests in either our small congregation meeting place in Salwah or in the official churches in Kuwait City. This key decision could only be reached early February—or less than a month before the wedding.

In the meantime, Victoria had to get her gown started. Deanne, Bing, and others helped select the new clothing designs for the kids, maids of honor and the usherettes. She also wrote her own vows.

Lolitha helped Victoria make invitations. Victoria chose to put a bible verse from the Song of Songs (8:6-7) in the guest’s invites
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Soon, Vince and Pradeep found a wedding hall in a place called The Jungle. They also helped me to select a multinational and multicultural meal for the banquet by long distance.
All-in-all, all kinds of people in and out of the church chipped in to help. Some bought flowers. Others volunteered to help with the photography bill, etc.

My sisters and mother in Amererica wrote letters that were read to us and the guests at the end of the ceremony on March 8, 2009

Finally, my boss at Edgesharp allowed me to fly a few days early for my wedding from Germany, so I could help hand out invites and make last minute decisions with or for my wife—who was certainly burdened by my distance.

I also desire to note that I am thankful for Victoria’s boss, the owner of Al-Kindi Pharmacy in Jabriya, who allowed Victoria to take off 15 days in a row to prepare for the wedding and spend a week with me catching up (after the ceremony and my two months away in Germany at my new job).


My old friend Dr. Fouad Al-Salem , a Kuwaiti and professor of finance, was waiting to greet me an my bride early as I came through the elevator door to the meeting hall of The Jungle Restaurant in Salmiya at just after 7pm on March 8, 2009


The bride as-usual was a bit late, but Fouad waited anxiously for her arrival. After all, the wedding day is particular special for the bride, the woman in any marriage arrangement. Meanwhile, Vince and Pradeep tried to get me to look sharp in tie and coat.

By the way, I had spent the last few hours before the wedding with Vincent, my right-hand man, at his favorite barbershop, where he had set me up to have the most expensive barber visit of my life.

The treatment I received that special day was called the “marriage package” and the treatment was given to me by an Iranian. It involved a facial wax [OUCH!!!], cutting of eyebrows by thread, and other arts of Asian salons—as well as the haircut, my first hair coloring, and a blow dry.

I don’t think I want to pay 50 dollars again for such a package—and the wax is hot and painful to have taken off. However, the day is special, eh?

Meanwhile, earlier that same afternoon, my wife, Maria Victoria was receiving a similar treatment for free from her friend and beauty salonist friend, Aisha.


From the beginning, Victoria and I knew that our wedding would be fairly unique in many ways.

First of all, our church congregation or family is fairly special and unique. For example, less than four years earlier, two worshipping fellowships had found each other in Kuwait. One had been planted by help American leaders. They were joined by a handful of other leaders from India later.

Meanwhile, from another corning or our migrating planet, i.e. the Philippines, numerous members of the International Church of Christ decided to come together in another Kuwaiti township and met every Sunday.

Suddenly, like the characters in Dr. John Grey’s metaphor and best-seller, MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, our two fellowships found each other, fell in love and were soon united—as one.

This had occurred in late 2005.

My wife, Maria Victoria, was the first new member baptized into this newly combined church fellowship in 2006. (I had been baptized in Sharjah in the Persian Gulf some six years earlier.)

So, our wedding would certainly include American food and beverages, Indian clothing, and Filipino wedding elements.

In particular, Some of these Filipino traditional elements included the style of dress that Victoria wore—which included a thicker veil than is today the current practice in the West—and more like the veil worn in Middle Eastern Christian weddings.

Moreover, there were also (a) the rope and (b) the dual bride- and groom veil.

A rope?

The Filipino rope is more reminiscent of a lasso--in the shape of a sideways-8 or the infinity symbol used in mathematics.

The doubled-over rope is placed over both the bride and groom as part of the ceremony in order to symbolize eternity, i.e. or not-even-death will do us apart.

The veil hung over us both after the rope was placed on our necks symbolized a purity of relationship—not based on gold or wants but on love and commitment.

The commitment is, of course, is what we focus on when we place rings on each other’s fingers, too. This ring exchange was done prior to the rope and veil ceremony.

Even prior to the ring ceremony, were both our vows and the lighting of candles. Lighting a single candle by the newlywed couple indicates that what was once two has now become one. In other words, the focus was on unity.

My vows to Victoria went as follows:
“I, KEVIN, take you, VICTORIA, to be my wife, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever. With deepest joy, I receive you into my life that together we may be one.”
“As is Christ to His body, the church, so I will be to you a loving and faithful husband. I will trust you and honor you. I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will love you faithfully through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easier times. With great joy, I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you, caring for you, nurturing you.”
“Whatever may come, I will always be there. I have given you my hand to hold so as to say that I will share & give you my life to keep, so help me God!!!”
Meanwhile, Rradeep, our pastor shared a short message on the three Cs in our lives: (1) Christ, (2) Communication, and (3) Commitment.


Back in the hallway after the wedding portion of our event together to celebrate with church and with friends, Victoria and I had our first chance to relax and to have some photos made from both professional photographers and from our many friends, especially from those in the church, link Bing, Gen, Sonia, Hannah, and Deanne.

After more than a few dozen photos with grooms-men, brides maids, usherettes, and children in Indian clothing, Victoria and I next reentered the meeting hall only to be attacked by friends throwing confetti and a newly reorganized hall set-up (now) for a reception.

After we cut the cake, Victoria and I undertook our first dance as newlyweds—and invited others two join us. Soon, representatives of nations on four continents joined us on the floor.

Then Victoria and I made a relaxing tour of all our friends. It was very pleasant way to talk to our guests and well-wishers. (I’ve never held much from making the guests stand in long lines. ) While we were walking, the other guests grabbed a piece of cake.

Our tour of The Jungle meeting hall was only interrupted by first a toast of grape juice in wine glasses.

Victoria also quickly tossed her bouquet.

The bouquet flew well over any of the young women’s arms, so Vik had to do it again.

With the next toss over Victoria’s back, the flowers (picked out by Victoria to match the gowns of the bridesmaids) landed in her best friend’s (and hair stylist) Aisha’s hands.

Soon Victoria and I were sitting down to eat in the front of the entire room. Sitting beside us were our maid of honor (Deanne) and my best man (Khel). As we sat and enjoyed the banquet, Bing came forward and sang us two songs.
She sang beautifully.

Soon more dance music was going.

Eventually, my Arabian friends got up to dance to a Syrian song.

It was a blessed night. Our guests from all walks of life 9and corners of the planet) were present.

There were tailors,

there were university professors,

there were lifeguards from the public swimming pool,

there were engineers and housewives and children of Victoria’s boss.


Thanks for celebrating—Kevin & Vik ©2009



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gen, was one of our bridesmaids in the wedding.

For many months, she has been trying to get released from her work in Kuwait by her Dominoes Pizza employers. Her boss had allowed her to go finally a month ago, but the owners of the company overroad this stance.

Now, Gen, is returning to the Philippines but Dominoes Pizza in Kuwait is refusing to pay her plane ticket home.

One of the main reasons Gen has to leave that employer is that they have placed her over the past two or so years in a shared apartment with other women who work different shifts at different businesses. These women keep Gen awake when she needs rest after a 12 hour shift answering telephone orders for Dominoes.

Gen has been known to pass out from dizziness due to fatigue related to these two years of lack of sleep.

Put pressures on dominoes to let Gen fly to the Philippines and to let her out of her contract.


Kevin Anthony Stoda

9:56 AM  

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