After 12 years together, longtime sweethearts Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho Jr tied the knot in a grand yet meaningful ceremony in the romantic City of Lights

From a wedding proper at the American Church in Paris to a lavish reception at the elegant Palais Garnier, the marriage celebrations of doctors Hayden Kho Jnr and Vicki Belo could have been torn out of the pages of a fairy tale.

“It was a visual spectacle, yes,” says Vicki. “But above all, it was meaningful.” Indeed, there wasn’t a dry eye in the church when she and Hayden, following a tumultuous 12-year romance, pledged themselves to one another at an intimate Christian ceremony at the American Church.

How they met

The unconventional pair met under atypical circumstances in 2005, when judging the Mr and Miss Medicine pageant at the University of Santo Tomas. Hayden instantly caught Vicki’s eye. “I decided to introduce myself,” she recalls. “I found out he was the president of the interns’ association of the Makati Medical Centre, as well as Mr UST and a member of the varsity basketball team. He was a bit of a star, really.”

She invited Hayden, who intended to become a plastic surgeon after graduation, to visit her clinic to learn the ropes. To this day, the couple still can’t say when things turned romantic. “We had our own little world,” says Hayden. “We were happy in the bubble that we’d created for ourselves.”

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A rocky start

Initially, marriage did not seem in the cards. “Because society does not really approve of older women dating younger men, even those close to us had their doubts,” says Vicki. “And it took its toll on Hayden, too. Around his peers, he was a big deal. But in some of my circles, he would be dismissed. When we were alone together, we were alright. When we had to mingle, things would grow difficult.”

Hayden first proposed to Vicki in Houston, Texas in 2011, but it was not to be. “It was a difficult cycle—we kept breaking up and making up,” recalls Vicki. However, after a lengthy counselling process brokered by their spiritual advisor and mentor, the renowned Christian apologist Dr Ravi Zacharias, the couple realised that they were unable to stay apart.

They were finally wed in a civil ceremony in Manila in June last year, followed by a religious ceremony and reception in Paris on September 2. The reception was held at the Palais Garnier, a neo-baroque opera house built by architect Charles Garnier in 1874. 

The dress(es)

A special occasion, of course, calls for an equally special gown, and Vicki was given not just one but four Michael Cinco creations to choose from. Handmade by 11 seamstresses, her beautiful blush wedding gown with a three-metre train was made of French lace and fully embroidered baroque pattern, beaded with transparent and rose opal Swarovski crystals. A veil and a bouquet of white Lily of the Valley completed her elegant look.

Vicki and Hayden’s daughter, Scarlet Snow had custom dresses of her own for the big day, by children’s couture brand Mischka Aoki.

Declarations of love

For many of the guests, the exchange of vows was the highlight of the wedding. Vicki professed her love to her husband by saying, “When I was at my ugliest, when I couldn’t even look at the mirror because I was so ugly in my mind, I would look at my reflection in your eyes, and you would always make me feel beautiful and desirable.”

For his part, Hayden promised that he would love Vicki fully and exclusively. “You are my beloved, Vicki. There is nothing you can do that can make me not love you. Even if I lose the friendship of everyone else, I will be on your side, by your side, and we will sort things out together as we trust God for guidance.”

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 A night to remember

After the church ceremony, the guests were shuttled off to the Palais Garnier, where they were greeted by a red carpet and a crowd of cheering onlookers. Event stylist Robert Blancaflor and florist Anne Vitchen of The Ritz Paris collaborated on a set-up that beautifully complemented the venue’s ornate interiors, from the bouquets that lined the Grand Staircase to the arrangements atop the gold mirrored tables at the Grand Foyer.

“The group that was to use the venue after us asked permission to borrow our design,” says Hayden. “When we agreed, they ended up scrapping their own.”

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The fairy tale-esque first dance

One of the most memorable moments of the night was the couple’s first dance on the Grand Staircase. Hayden, dressed in a white Tom Ford tux, and Vicki, in a pale blue gown by Mark Bumgarner, danced a waltz choreographed by Lala Dinglasan to the tune of Take Me as I Am, which they had sung, and then recorded, themselves.

“Our rehearsal period for both the dance and vocal recording was very short,” says Vicki. “We had one voice lesson a week for three months, and about six dance rehearsals. And I was quite scared because the floor was very slippery, and I never really got to practice with the gown on. There was this one dance step I was only able to perfect at the wedding itself, thanks to Hayden being a supportive partner.”

The grand finale

After the dance, guests were ushered into the Grand Foyer for dinner, which was prepared by prestigious French catering service Potel et Chabot. Guests were entertained with a magical selection of opera serenades, as well as love songs from Filipino singers Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez.

The festivities were capped off with a post-reception party that went on until the wee hours of the morning. “We truly enjoyed our wedding; we did not feel as if we were performing for an audience,” says Hayden. “And we were so touched that so many of our friends and family took the time to fly out and be with us on our special day. We really cannot thank everyone enough.” 

Though they have been together for more than a decade, married life marks a new chapter in Hayden and Vicki’s lives. And though the future is uncertain, it is one they will walk together. As Hayden promised his wife, “walang iwanan”—“I will never leave you.”

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Wedding details

Photography: Joel Serrato and Jose Villa, and Marc Henrich Go | Bride's outfits: Michael Cinco for the wedding dress, Mark Bumgarner for the evening gown | Groom's outfit: Tom Ford | Venue: Palais Garnier, Paris, France | Event stylist: Robert Blancaflor | Flowers: Anne Vitchen from The Ritz Paris | Caterer: Potel et Chabot