In a rolling out exclusive, Why Did I Get Married? and “For Better or Worse” star Michael Jai White and fiancée, actress Gillian Iliana Waters, share their wedding fairytale. The Hollywood couple exchanged vows amid a parade of exotic dancers tossing flower petals, Thai drummers, painted elephants and heart-shaped fireworks. The magical ceremony was held at the multi-acre river front estate of financial executive Michael Selby on July 3 in Thailand.
Buddhist monk and martial arts star Tony Jaa co-officiated the hybrid ceremony — traditional Thai and Western — complete with an altar and holy water. Jaa also serenaded the soul mates with a traditional Thai wedding song as he blew into a conch shell trumpet.
The couple was surrounded by 50 of their closest family members and friends, including their three daughters: Alaia 14, Niahla and Morgan, both age 6, Gillian’s parents, godson, best friend and her husband. Escorted by her father, Gillian couldn’t hold back her tears as she greeted her Prince Charming, Michael, who stood before a Lotus pond at the river awaiting her arrival.
Gillian was just gorgeous in the wedding gown she proudly designed. In speaking with the blissful couple, who repeatedly complimented each other and completed each other’s sentences, this writer couldn’t help but reflect on Fulton Sheen’s quote: “Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing.’ It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”
Michael and Gillian met and dated nearly 20 years ago. It wasn’t until their reunion three and a half years ago, that they realized it was time to make it official.
Why did you get married in Thailand?
Michael Jai White: We’ve fallen in love with the place. The people are so peaceful and so beautiful. We have good friends [here] … and half of our family was going to be here because I am directing the movie we’re both in. We wanted a unique wedding. It exceeded our expectations.
How are your daughters getting along?
Gillian Iliana Waters White: Amazing!
Michael: Our 6-year-old daughters called themselves twins from day one. They insist on dressing alike. They really couldn’t be closer.
What about your parents?
Michael: My parents have passed. I have parents in hers. They are like my mom and dad, too.
Michael, when did you know she was the one?
Michael: I knew a long time ago. We’ve known each other 19 years now. We met and dated and wound up going on different paths. We were addicted to helping people through their drama. We were always the common forces in our relationships and friendships. She and I were so low maintenance together that we ended up doing our missionary work in other places. We’ve remained friends and close. We were blessed with the opportunity to reunite four years ago. We haven’t looked back.
What is your take on that Gillian?
Gillian: It was all about timing. When we dated back in 1997, the timing wasn’t right. Too much else was going on in our lives. With us reuniting four years ago and coming together at that time, it was just right for us. We were settled and we knew what we wanted. It’s 10 times better.
Michael, in interviews, you often referred to Gillian as your “wife” before you tied the knot.
Michael: It never felt right calling her anything other than my wife. She transcends wife. I have been married before and our best day doesn’t compare to Gillian’s and my worst day. To this day, we have never had an argument. There is no human being, even guy friends, who I get along with better than her or [anyone I could] have more laughs with.
(Michael and Gillian just wrapped filming the movie Never Back Down in Thailand.)
How are you balancing work and your relationship?
Michael: This is the first time we did a movie together. She plays my romantic interest in the movie.
What is so great about it is the Sony executives had no idea who she was when they saw her audition tape. They selected Gillian based on her audition without knowing her connection to me. It was the greatest thing for me because it’s almost like, how can you really celebrate if you feel like it is nepotism or just because you knew someone? That [free selection] makes it even sweeter. We asked over and over, “Are you sure?” [They replied, “Oh yeah; we can make her an offer.” We asked, “Are you positive? [They said,] “Yes, yes; we love her.” [We followed with,] “Well here’s the kicker. We only need one room.” [They asked,] “What do you mean?”
What was funny is they’ve seen [Gillian] in pictures with me, but her hair was longer. They had no idea at all that it was Gillian.
I directed [the film]. It was an intense shoot. But everything went great; it came in under budget and on time.
Gillian: Everybody was happy. Now, we really get to celebrate.
Is the ending in the movie as happy as your life together?
Michael: Nothing is happier than my real life.
Where will you spend your honeymoon?
Gillian: It’s a magical place called Krabi. It is in Thailand along the beautiful beaches. It will be an amazing four days.
Why did you get married?
Michael: I’d be crazy not to marry her. She’s made me the best version of me I could possibly be. I could have never become this without her. Even if we didn’t get married, I would still be with her for the rest of my life. With the ceremony or not, it’s something that was preordained.
I feel so blessed. I would feel guilty if I didn’t share some of what I have learned about relationships with other people. This is one of the reasons I was inspired to write. I grew up without a lot of knowledge. A lot of us who grow up in single-parent households don’t know the dynamics of relationships and how to really foster a great one, an exceptional one. I wish I’d had the knowledge growing up. I had to learn through trying to be the player, wasting all this time doing so much of what the status quo expected or what was trendy to be the “alpha male.” When I really learned what a true alpha male is about, I just want for my people [to witness] the happiness that I have found. There is nothing at any point in my life that has made me as happy as I am now.
Gillian: I got married because I would be a fool not to marry this man. He gets funny when I start complimenting him. There is no man that I have ever met that is more amazing than him in every way possible. I would have to be out of my mind not to marry him. That’s why I got married. That’s my soul mate.
I have never been happier in my life. This guy right here just lights up my whole world. There’s nothing better than being married to your best friend. I know that sounds cliché. In my case, it’s the honest truth.
Exclusive Photos by Michael Selby