Maja Karonen’s 30-year dream of the perfect wedding ended in a relationship crisis. Eventually, something much better came from the disappointment and uncertainty: unwavering love.

The sun is shining in a clear sky, and joyful chatter fills the yard. The atmosphere is expectant. Family members and friends from Finland, Sweden and Spain have gathered near Stockholm to celebrate the wedding of Maja Karonen and Angel Toribio – finally. The couple’s road to marriage has not been easy, which is jokingly indicated in the wedding invitation:

“After long deliberation and a few therapy sessions, we decided to get married.”

At the end of a long and winding road, the wedding is taking place in an idyllic rural setting in the early autumn.

“I have been dreaming of this day for 30 years,” says the bride. “In my mind, I have planned everything, down to the smallest detail, dozens and dozens of times. Over the years, everything has changed many times: the groom, venue, guests and catering. Just as often, I have decided to give up on my dream, as the dream has felt unattainable or even foolishly childish.

“But here I am, at the age of 47, ready to say those well-known words for the first time in my life: I do. I thought I would start crying the moment I opened my eyes in the morning. Instead, I’m feeling confident, strong and courageous beside Angel. This was definitely not the case when we cancelled our wedding a year ago.”

IMG_6707FotoTarja_Savela_860x600px.jpg“I love life in our blended family. Angel’s daughters and my son get along very well. At the weekends, we go climbing, hiking and picking mushrooms. Daily life between two cities works perfectly.”

A rainy first date

“We met online. I had been single for three years and had gradually started losing hope of ever finding the one. I noticed right away that there was something special about Angel.

“We had scheduled a date, but Angel called unexpectedly a few days earlier and asked me out for a coffee at short notice – fifteen minutes, to be precise. The weather was horrible, but he wanted to go for a walk after coffee. It was sleeting, which was not romantic at all, but we had a great time. Angel later told me that it had been a test. He wanted to see whether I knew how to seize the moment and be spontaneous. The weather was the ultimate test. Little did he know that Finns are known for their sisu – their gutsy determination.

“I have a son from a previous relationship, and Angel has two daughters from his first marriage. At the time, I lived in Stockholm, and Angel lived in Mariefred, about an hour’s drive from Stockholm. Our dating gradually turned into a relationship and life in a blended family between two cities.”

Don’t you love me?

“We had talked about marriage, and I had revealed having dreamed of my wedding since my teens. Later I realised that the wedding was my dream alone at that point, rather than being our dream.

“We decided on the wedding date together, and our plans began to fall into place. We informed our loved ones about the date in good time so that all of our relatives from Finland and Spain could make it to Sweden. However, we had trouble finding a venue, since the best ones in Stockholm are booked several years in advance.

“I was ecstatic about my dream finally coming true, but Angel had retreated, which I hadn’t noticed in my enthusiasm. When he suddenly announced that he didn’t want to go through with the wedding, my world stopped. Why? Don’t you love me? Questions kept whirling in my head. In a split second, a stone wall had emerged between us. It was clear that the wedding needed to be cancelled.”

IMG_6815FotoTarja_Savela_860x600px.jpg“Even though many things changed, the wedding menu remained very similar to the one we’d planned originally. The Mediterranean buffet also included an important detail: Karelian pasties.”

A silence that felt like a lifetime

“Fortunately, life had surprised us both many times before. We had got to know ourselves well enough to seek help. We decided to turn to a therapist we knew. We wanted to stay together, but was it possible?

“At the end of the session, the therapist gave us a task: we were to spend the following 24 hours apart, with no contact with each other, to think about everything we had gone through and to figure out whether we wanted to stay together. The silence felt like a lifetime. I wanted us to stay together, but I was uncertain about Angel’s thoughts. I took out my phone many times to call him during that 24 hours, but we had made a commitment to follow the therapist’s advice.

“After the 24 hours had passed, my phone rang. We simply couldn’t stop talking and had to continue face-to-face. It was such a relief to see and hear that he was also ready to do everything he could for our relationship – including marriage, even though that had never been his dream so much, and the fuss had been too much for him. I was ready to forget about the wedding. Just being with him and sharing a daily life felt much more important. We decided to take our time and postpone the wedding. A few months after our crisis, in the autumn of 2018, Angel knelt down before me on the slope of Kebnekaise.

“My dream was coming true, after all.”

IMG_6630FotoTarja_Savela_860x600px.jpg“Låsta Gårdshotell, the Locked Farm Hotel, provided a fairy-tale-like rural setting for our wedding day, which was full of memorable moments. Our relatives and friends from Finland, Sweden and Spain celebrated with us. That meant a lot to us.”

Cancelling the wedding was our best decision

“Much to my surprise, I was all smiles when we walked down the aisle. When I saw all of our loved ones stand up and turn to look at us, I was living my dream. The day finally came, but not easily. Cancelling the wedding was our best and most courageous decision – in addition to eventually getting married.

“I will keep my last name, and we will continue to live in two cities. At some point, we will move under one roof, either in Stockholm or Mariefred. In a way, everything remains the same, yet things have still changed. Living your dream is exciting and wistful at the same time.

“The strongest feeling is gratitude – for him, me, us, our children and our loved ones. Somewhere along the way, I realised that for my dream to come true, I must first build up the courage to let go of my dream.”

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