Bali, Indonesia

Siang & Chloe

Story by: Ceavs

The sun was setting over the horizon, illuminating the tidal surfs of Seseh beach in a shifting collage of crimson and burnished orange. On the mile-long coast Siang and Chloe stood – fingers intertwined; their gaze transfixed on one another. The air around them was tender as a sigh of a lover.

Just moments earlier, Chloe – in a bit of a role reversal – got down on bended knee and proposed to her future husband. This was their second engagement, in a span of a year. Siang popped the question first, on 2018, sweeping Chloe off her feet with a surprise proposal during one of their coffee-shop dates. And the couple has been on a thrilling ride of wedding preparations ever since, pouring as much of themselves into every detail of their big day – until a debilitating bout of disease threatened to derail their pre-nuptial bliss.

Ten days before Siang and Chloe hopped on the plane that would take them to Bali for the pre-wedding shoot, Siang felt a nodule on his throat. Chloe, a medical officer, insisted on a check-up. “When the test results came back several days later, the news was dire: there is a high chance of a thyroid cancer diagnosis,” the couple recalled.

The whirlwind of uncertainty and the fragility of life often bring up profound questions about meaning and purpose, more so for the couple in anticipation of a simple, happy future of growing old together. Siang was toying with the idea of putting wedding planning on hold, until his new-found anomaly was further assessed. Chloe, on the other hand, was undeterred.

She has known Siang since childhood – when they were 7, to be precise – and has dated him for the better part of 11 years when things began to turn a romantic corner. Their love story hasn’t always followed a neat narrative – more like an electrocardiogram printout – with a fair share of ups and downs thrown into the mix of fine-spun romance. For years, this story suited them. Chloe made up her mind that this time would be the same: they are going to weather the storm when it hits, hand in hand. As they always do. She is all in.

Under Chloe’s persistence, the couple’s pre-wedding shoot proceeded as planned – with just a slight twist to the original script. The bride-to-be made a secret pact with their photographer, Ceavs, and “counter-proposed” her fiancée.

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote in the Tao Te Ching: “Through Love, one has no fear.” More than 500 years later, John the Apostle made a similar statement: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

When Chloe professed her devotion to Siang on one knee, her utterance rang not unlike a traditional wedding vow: she is going to love her man through sickness and health, for better or worse. The force of her words and the shelter of her certainty left both of them unravelled. In that very instance, love neutralised all fear indeed, as the wise men asserted.

The impact of this trip is partly measurable. Siang and Chloe went home with hand-crafted ceramic (“We attended a pottery class at Ubud, Bali! It was an enjoyable and unforgettable experience for both of us!”) and beautiful wedding photos to share. (“We wanted to engage Ceavs since the beginning and we definitely made the right choice.”) The greater part, though, is far less tangible: it lies in their reclaim of power to face their fear and to love courageously. It is also rooted in their realisation that life could be so unbelievably tenuous, but being together made it better.