OVER A HUNDRED FRIENDS AND FAMILY members gathered on the evening of May 25th to celebrate a momentous event – the 50th wedding anniversary our Mom Nelia and Dad Julius.
I held back tears last night after seeing my parents-in-law, Nelia and Julius, react as they entered the spacious and sparkly Montebello Villa Hotel ballroom. We organized this party for them as a labor of love. They are the epitome of true love and graceful living.
My Mom Nelia specifically told us that she did not want a party. “It’s too much work and there’s too many people,” she said. But my brothers- and sisters-in-law still wanted something special for them. JJ, the eldest of the Neri brothers came up with the idea of a surprise party. My sisters-in-law started brainstorming ideas as early as Holy Week in April, hiding in our rooms late at night to discuss details. Lotlot is the mastermind coming up with themes and details, while Candice added the rest of the missing parts. My husband Jovi started doing sketches and digitally restoring old photos of his parents. I’ve never been part of any wedding anniversary or a surprise party before, so I just listened carefully and promised to help with photos and videos.
We ramped up our party planning skills a month before the event. I shared my wedding guest list from last year, Lotlot started sending out the word about our surprise party to friends and family, while Candice booked suppliers. We even started a private Viber group for the sisters-in-law and another Facebook group for guest invitations.
The hardest part of the surprise party was figuring out what excuse will make them attend. My in-laws are very busy people, but we just had to find the perfect excuse to make them go and dress up. We stuck with what was safest – we told them that Candice was having a white/gold themed party for her company, JLR.
There were moments we almost failed. At one point, Dad Julius told Justin that he’s planning to leave for Camiguin on May 25th. Also, I had lunch with Mom and Dad that day. When Mom started to ask details about Candice’s “party” I got rattled and abruptly changed the topic. It did not help that some of their friends already started congratulating them in the morning. Someone even sent a gift to the house! Mom had been down with flu the past two days, so we’re not even sure she could make it.
The Party Details
The vast Montebello Villa Hotel Grand Ballroom was decked in peach and white roses by Pinky Chang and had a pair photo booth sections with over 80+ pictures and art.
As part of the excellent service in Montebello, we got a complimentary one-night stay at Premiere Suite. Our relative Luis Alvarez, who runs the hotel, went above and beyond by personally checking of each bottle of wine. For the videos, we had greetings from (then) presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte and New York-based relatives Tita Zenda and Tito Iman. Also present at the party were Mom’s and Dad’s original Maid-of-Honor Elma Muangkroot and Best Man Ferdie Jakosalem, who both gave rousing speeches of love and admiration.
Our Roles and Responsibilities
Jj was the calm sounding board for our ideas. Lotlot was the master planner. Candice handled the food and the rest of the major details. For the invitation crystals and envelope printing, Justin was in charge. Jovi restored two 50-year old wedding pictures and made a pen and ink drawing, all of which we used as major decoration for the party. All the brothers (Jed, JJ, Jovi, and Justin) contributed equally to the party expense.
Part of my responsibility was to call Tita Zenda and Tito Iman in New York for the video greeting. During the party, I was in charge of the projector. The grandchildren, Nini and Mikkel, were performers/ party hosts. Nessi had a surprise violin solo, an instrument she started learning only a month ago. Pio, Julian, and Isabel performed 50’s/60’s songs such as Something Stupid, Can’t Help Falling In Love, Que Sera Sera, and Love Me Tender.
Yet, it’s never been about the décor or the food. It was about how every member of the Neri and Garcia family came together to make an event full of love and how we all pooled our resources and individual strengths to celebrate two amazing people we call family. Thanks to my Mom Nelia and Julius for not only loving us but being a living testament of what love is all about.
About the Author
Crystal Neri is a freelance writer who has worked across media platforms in places as diverse as US, Singapore, and Australia. She lives in Cebu City where she covers travel and entrepreneurship at crystalneri.com. Say Hi to her (@nericrystal) on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter: