Carmena Su, 47, and James Wvinner, 64, live in Blenheim, New Zealand, with their seven-year-old daughter. They both work as yoga teachers, and run a film production company
The first time Carmena saw James, she knew he was the man she was going to marry. They were at an intensive two-month yoga course in Australia – Carmena was 28 and from New Zealand, and James, 45, was from the US – and she spotted him on the first day by the door of the yoga studio. “He was sitting down, he had this awesome chest, dreadlocks, and I saw immediately he had such a beautiful warmth to his eyes,” she says. A psychic had told her that she would meet her husband before her 29th birthday. “I saw him and I thought: ‘That’s the guy!’ I was in total disbelief,” she says. “I was terrified, actually. I was like: ‘What happens if he rejects me?’” She turns to him. “After class, you came up to me.”
“I think you came up to me,” says James. “We both have tattoos, so we started talking about them.”
The group’s routine was to rise at 2am to practise yoga until 8am, then have a nap, breakfast, “then do whatever you want,” James recalls. After about two weeks, a few of them arranged to go out for dinner, but only James and Carmena turned up. Afterwards, they had a moonlit walk on the beach, then – rather less romantically – kissed for the first time by a “garishly lit” service station before going their separate ways to their accommodation.
Did James feel that same instant connection? “A bit. Something happened the first time we were together. I felt that this was a very special person and this wasn’t to be taken lightly, this moment.”
When James’s visa ran out three months later and he returned to the US, they planned to continue the relationship long-distance but it was a wrench. “It’s funny because I’ve always been very detached around romantic feelings, but this was so all-encompassing,” says Carmena. “I cried for, like, six weeks, and we were calling each other every day.”
An immigration official told James it would make everything easier if they got married. “We had the oddest proposal ever, right?” he says. Carmena smiles. “James said: ‘We could probably just get married.’ I said: ‘Oh yeah, cool.’ We were very cool about it but then I hung up and I started going: ‘Oh my God, he asked me to marry him.’ I was running round the house, like: ‘I can’t believe it.’”
She flew to Los Angeles and, six months after they met, they got married at San Francisco city hall. “We kind of got married without really knowing each other,” says Carmena. “Over time we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well.” Their families also had to make some adjustments. “It caused a bit of a ruckus because my mother thought the [17-year] age difference was too great – she was thinking of Princess Di and Prince Charles and how their marriage was doomed because he was so much older,” says Carmena. “And James’s family had a few reservations about it as well.” James says: “We won both families over.” They lived in Los Angeles for 12 years, then moved to Carmena’s hometown in Marlborough in New Zealand.
Neither had been looking for a partner when they met. “It was a total surprise,” says Carmena. “I had just come out of a really dysfunctional relationship, which reaffirmed all the reasons why I didn’t want to be in a relationship. Even when I met the psychic, I was like: ‘Oh yeah, right.’ I totally brushed it off and I didn’t even remember her words until I saw James.” What did James think when she told him, shortly after their wedding, about the prediction? He laughs. “I’d been around a lot of yoga people, so I just kind of went with it.”