{Our Wedding} Getting Ready

The first two posts about our wedding can be found here and here, if you’re interested!

We woke up to sun – and a good bit of wind – on the 29th. I darted off to meet my parents and three of my bridesmaids for breakfast whilst the Brit stayed in our room putting the finishing touches on his speech. After breakfast, we all headed to the pool for a couple of hours. Honestly, the fact that we could do that just made the day even better. We all had time to relax, share some laughs, and sip on mimosas (aka Buck’s fizz to the Brits). It. Was. Perfect.

Around 11 AM, we met with Silvia to check the weather reports and to determine whether we would continue on with the plan of having the ceremony and the reception outside on the beach. The reports looked fine and clear of rain, but there was no sign of the wind calming down. Silvia gave us an hour to determine what our plan would be, so back to the pool it was for more relaxing before we finally just said we were going for it and stuck with the beach ceremony and reception because it is what we had imagined of our wedding from day one.

Soon, it was time for me to head to our room to begin getting beautified. I feel very fortunate that my good friend, who was also my hair stylist when I lived in Washington, made the journey to celebrate our wedding with us not only because she was there to celebrate with us, but she so generously offered to do my hair and my make-up on the wedding day. This was a major added bonus that I wasn’t expecting because I wanted her to enjoy her vacation, so I was overjoyed when she brought it up with me. Having her help with my hair and make-up was incredible because she knows me, she knows my hair, and she knows what I like. She also did an incredible job with my mom’s hair and make-up. Mom and I were happy ladies!

Me&TawnyHugs with my incredible friend who worked her magic on hair and make-up. And, special thanks to my sweet sister-in-law, who surprised me with the cute robe to wear whilst getting ready!

All of the bridesmaids were in the suite as well getting ready and chatting away. It was so fun for my mom and I to be there being made pretty by one good friend whilst my bridesmaids flitted around the room laughing and chatting. I loved every minute of that because I was really surrounded by some of the most amazing women I know.

Soon, the photographer arrived and he was snapping away at us. The next knock on the door was from the best man – still in his swim shorts – with Richard’s gift for me. We had made the decision that he would buy me my jewelry for the wedding and I would buy him his cufflinks.

BmirrorYou can catch a little glimpse of my new favorite earrings!

Because he had never seen my dress, I sent him some ideas of what styles of jewelry would look good with my dress. Well, he went his own route, as he normally does (I truly love this about him!), and he completely blew me away with what he chose. I had images of chandelier-style earrings and a matching cuff, instead he went with beautiful bubble-style studs and a matching bracelet. I never in a million years would have chosen those two pieces on my own, but he knows me better than I know myself sometimes and they were perfect. (I wear the earrings nearly every day!) Funnily enough, he had purchased the jewelry prior to us choosing my wedding band and they all matched! We are terrible at keeping secrets from each other, so I am in awe of the fact that he never let it slip that the three pieces look like they were purchased as a set.

RichardGifts

For his cufflinks, I found a vendor on notonthehighstreet.com who stamps cufflinks with the longitude and latitude of a location, so I had them stamped with the coordinates for Punta Cana. I also found a vendor on Etsy who does something similar with collar stays for shirts. I had one of the stays stamped with the coordinates of another very meaningful location to us and the other stamped with a simple two-line message. I’m so glad we chose to do our gifts this way because it meant we both contributed in an extra special way to the other’s wedding day attire.

Those few hours before the ceremony went by in the blink of an eye, and Silvia was soon in the room telling us we didn’t have much time to go. Truthfully, I had no idea what time it was at any point during the week and the same held true on the wedding day. It was awesome not to care one bit about timing (a first for me!) and this was made better when Silvia informed us that the bride being 10 to 15 minutes late to the wedding is good luck! You can’t not love that!

By this time, my gorgeous bridesmaids were all ready whilst I was still in my robe, so they quickly helped me dress. I did follow the tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” with the added UK bit of “and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” The two most touching were my something old/blue and the silver sixpence. My mom had found her garter from her wedding to my dad in 1980 and had gifted it to me. I was unbelievably touched by this gift from my mom. The marriage the two of them have is one Richard and I look to as inspiration in how we want to live our life as a married couple, so it was with extreme honor I wore her garter on our wedding day. What’s even more amazing is she has trusted me with it, and hopefully, one day, if we are blessed with one, I can pass it on to my daughter. It was a really amazing moment to have my mom put that garter on me.

Momgarter

The other was the silver sixpence which was gifted to me by Richard’s mum. It was another incredible surprise when she walked into our suite on the wedding day and handed me this tiny box. I was worried I would lose it in the sand if it were in my shoe, so you can see the concentration in the photo below as my friend uses body tape to stick it to my side. It was really amazing to be able to take part in a tradition that reflected Richard’s heritage as well.

BMshelpingI wish I could say this photo was staged, but I was in need of major help in getting ready. It’s not easy to fasten your shoes in a form-fitting dress!

M&DbeforeweddingMy incredible parents!

BMsPosing

BMtoast

Next thing we knew, after a few quick snaps by the photographer, we were in the elevator heading to the ceremony. On our way to the ceremony location, we had to walk by one of the resort pools and the people there were clapping and offering their congratulations. The bartenders at the pool bar were crying, which in turn had my mom crying. My bridesmaids were all smiles, and my best friend from when we were in middle school was twirling around in her dress and I was overcome with happiness! I wasn’t nervous. I was SO happy and I could NOT stop smiling! I had my best girls in front of me, my parents on either side of me, and a handsome groom waiting for me by the ocean. This was the wedding day Richard and I had planned for and dreamt of. We were about to become husband and wife with the most amazing group of people as our witnesses.

All photos were taken by Miljan Vasovic from HDC Photo.

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{Our Wedding} The Rehearsal ‘Dinner’

Want to read the first part of the {Our Wedding} series? Find it here.

I’ve mentioned before that the rehearsal dinner is not a wedding tradition that is common in the UK, but we still wanted to honor the tradition in our own way. Also, because we knew we wanted to invite all of the wedding guests (instead of limiting the invite list to immediate family and those in the wedding party as is common with most rehearsal dinners), we chose to host a cocktail reception. With the resort being all-inclusive, we felt that everyone would be fine having dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants and then we would all meet up later on Friday evening.

We did have a very short wedding rehearsal earlier in the day dressed in our best swimming attire. This gave Silvia, our wedding coordinator, a chance to let us all know what would happen for the ceremony. It was also a good opportunity for our friend who was marrying us to give us a brief outline of his ceremony and to let those doing readings know exactly when they would need to come to the front of the ceremony space. (I tried to think of a better word for this, but couldn’t as we got married on a random spot on the beach.) It was absolutely hilarious because as we were gathered in a circle listening to Silvia an older gentleman in bright multi-colored Speedos joined in to listen. A friend of mine did catch this in a photo and posted it to Instagram with the caption of ‘Honorary groomsman,’ but I feel a little weird putting it on the blog even though I’m really tempted because I want you all to see how enthralled he was in what she was saying despite him having nothing to do with our wedding!

We approached our wedding coordinator, Silvia, with this idea of a cocktail and dessert reception, and she thought it was a great idea, but had to check with their chef about the dessert portion. She also knew immediately of the perfect location at the resort for the reception, which she showed us during our visit in November. That space is a terrace off the buffet restaurant that she planned to decorate with tiki torches amidst the tropical surroundings of the resort. We could truly picture it and it was exactly what we wanted. So, that was the plan!

carnivalterraceCarnival Terrace during the day

Then, Christmas Day rolled around and the Brit, myself, and our friend went to dinner at the Mexican restaurant at the resort — how’s that for mixing it up for your Christmas dinner?! Our waiter was absolutely fabulous, so fun, and kept calling us his ‘table of beautiful people!’ (I’m sure he has a new table of beautiful people every week, but we were loving it!) We enjoyed our whole meal immensely and he made it so much better. When Friday rolled around, he was the bartender at the swim-up bar and asked us where we were eating that night. We told him we had no plans yet, so when he said he would be serving at the Mexican restaurant, we thought, ‘Why not?!’ So, he was kind enough to reserve two tables for 10 in the back of the restaurant for us. There were 24 of us that all went to dinner together, so in the end, we did have a a slightly more traditional yet informal rehearsal dinner and it turned out to be great! Because there were so many of us at dinner, our meal took a little longer than expected so we were 20 minutes late to the cocktail and dessert reception, but it didn’t matter as everyone was on island time and not too concerned.

BRrehdin

table1rehdin

table2rehdin

The Brit and I finished our meals and raced over to the terrace for the reception. As we were approaching the terrace, the doors that lead out to it were opened for us and we were both greeted with a melon cocktail, which was the ‘welcome drink’ they created for us that night. The terrace looked absolutely perfect with the tiki torches lit and the moon shining down. Scattered around the terrace were high tables lit by candles for people to gather around. There was a bar at one end of the space and a table full of dessert bites at the other side. (I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was too busy enjoying myself!) A server passed the desserts around while people were arriving. There was a great mix of desserts ranging from cheesecakes to chocolate tarts, and the whole gathering was exactly what we had imagined!

BMrehdinMe with my beautiful bridesmaids.

Everyone mingled and those who hadn’t met each other yet were introduced. It was absolutely amazing to see all of these people we love – most of whom had never met before – getting along so well. I walked up to a table full of my closest girl friends just chatting away like they had always known each other. It made my heart burst and my smile couldn’t have been bigger. I think one of the incredible things about a destination wedding is that because everyone is there longer than just an afternoon and evening – as is the case with a more traditional wedding – then people really have an opportunity to get to know one another. It’s a pretty fun time, and I say that having been a guest and the bride at a destination wedding.

Months before, I had decided to say a few words that night because we planned to keep the speeches at the wedding reception in line with the English tradition, which include speeches from the father of the bride, the groom, and the best man (in that order). About halfway through the Friday evening event with time moving very quickly as we were having such a good time, the Brit pulled me aside and suggested I give my little speech. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t just fumble through it with tears streaming down my face, so I put thought and planning into what I was going to say. Not that I really had to be worried about being embarrassed in front of this crowd, but I wanted to be composed.

We managed to pull everyone away from the amazing time they were having with some shouts and maybe even a whistle or two, and I started off by thanking everyone for joining us in this celebration and expressing how touched we were that so many of our nearest and dearest made the journey to be there with us. I maybe then might have poked a little fun at my handsome groom before I went on to thank my incredible bridesmaids, the Brit’s parents, my parents, and finally, the Brit. I think it went down well, and I even had my dad and the Brit tell me I had stolen pieces of their speeches! The bonus of going first!

Soon after, we were kicked off the terrace and continued the celebrations at the lobby bar before a large group of us made our way to the night club. It was a blast, and I think our dance party gave us all a little insight into what a great time we would have as a group the next night! The photos, which include one of my brother and the Brit embraced in a hug on the floor and another of the Brit on our good friend’s shoulders, really paint a picture of the fabulous time we had. I can’t remember what time it was, but the Brit and I (okay, it was mostly me) decided it was time for us to go to sleep. We did have a big day ahead of us in a few short hours!

brosisrehdinUs with my brother and sister-in-law

And, in case you are wondering, we had planned to stay in separate rooms the night before the wedding and try to stick with the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony, but we soon realized we would definitely not be able to avoid each other during the day of the wedding, so we just stayed together and it actually kept the whole thing so much more relaxed.

Next up, the WEDDING DAY!!

{Our Wedding} The Week Before

I’m still laughing at myself for hitting ‘Publish’ instead of ‘Save Draft’ on this post the other day — oops!!

The Brit and I knew from the start that we wanted to have a destination wedding. We wanted to find a balance and a sort of ‘neutral territory’ between our two countries, and although the Caribbean is closer to the US, we knew we wanted a warm destination so it seemed like the best choice.

After two weeks of debate and scouring the internet for resorts and locations that suited our styles, we finally decided on a resort in the Dominican Republic called Now Larimar. One thing with destination weddings is you aren’t always so lucky to visit your resort prior to making a decision, so we chose Now Larimar based on the website, the advice of a travel agent we were using in the States, and online reviews. (Although I later came to realize that TripAdvisor can sometimes be your worst enemy having worked myself into a tizzy a few times about things I read, so I had to stop myself from reading reviews.) We were able to visit the resort a month before the wedding because we were in the DR for my cousin’s wedding, so that made the last month incredibly easy as we knew exactly what details needed our attention and what decor we still had to purchase.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur room was on the second floor on the far left. I want to go back.

Because this trip was not just any old holiday but our wedding, we splurged on the Preferred Club Ocean Front Master Suite. It was a great decision! We had plenty of room for all of the wedding things we brought with us with a living/dining room, two bathrooms (one of which was the size of the entire downstairs of our house and I am not exaggerating), a wonderful bedroom, and a stunning balcony boasting a hot tub and an outdoor shower that allowed us to wake up to this view every morning….

morningview

The Brit and I left for Punta Cana on Christmas Eve, so we actually spent Christmas Day there. This was the first time both of us were somewhere warm for Christmas, which was weird but incredible all at the same time. (I mean, we saw Santa arrive on the beach in a helicopter!) We were both so excited to be in the sun again and definitely made the most out of our time by the pool. A friend of mine was also there with us beginning on Christmas Eve, so the three of us amused ourselves by making trips to the swim-up bar, soaking up the sun, taking walks on the beach, and tearing up the floor at the disco at night! It was really great!

crabcococollageWe also watched a crab race and drank from coconuts. All funny touristy things that we had a good laugh about!

The Brit and I did have some wedding errands to complete (for example, assembling welcome bags for our guests and our centerpieces) and we had some loose ends to tie up with our wedding coordinator, so we took care of those things as well. One advantage of having the wedding at an all-inclusive resort is that most have their own wedding department, which means they take care of everything from the flowers to the food to the entertainment for your wedding day. We were assigned our own wedding coordinator when we first put our deposit down in early 2012 and she was our contact at the resort throughout the whole planning process. I feel we really lucked out with our coordinator, Silvia, as she was extremely kind with some of our crazy requests and had some great ideas that she thought would suit our tastes.

DSC03681The welcome bags and booklets we made for our guests. The booklets were a BIG surprise to our guests. I’m so glad the Brit came up with this idea because our hard work on them paid off with everyone loving them!

The whirlwind began on the evening of December 26th when more guests began to arrive. It was so exciting and fun to see everyone in a warm and relaxed environment! Our friends and family were there to celebrate with us and they all came with the best attitude of just wanting to have fun! It was really amazing!

ThursdinnergroupOur Thursday night dinner crew — we have some AMAZING friends!

It was also on this day when a storm decided to sweep through the midwest and the northeast of the US, which is of course where nearly all of our US guests live. It’s so funny looking back on it now because I had some tears the morning of the 27th when my parents’ flight was cancelled, but then I just moved on with it because they were rescheduled on a flight for Friday (which ended up being cancelled too and the woman at United got them re-booked with US Airways when my mom explained her daughter was getting married the next day — thank you, United woman!!). Soon after, we found out my aunt and uncle’s flight as well as the flight of one of my bridesmaids and her fiancé were also cancelled, and it didn’t appear they would make it at all. Ha! Still, I was oddly calm. I think I knew it would all work out. And, it did because they all ended up arriving on Friday!

The best part of this is we had no idea my bridesmaid was able to reschedule her flight, so we just happened into the lobby and who comes running at me?! Jessi! I would have loved for someone to have captured a photo of that moment because I didn’t know what to do, and my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All I could say over and over again was, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.” I then remembered I had cancelled their dinners and her bouquet, so the Brit took over and ran to the wedding coordinator’s office and added them back on — no problem at all! That excitement was soon followed by the arrival of my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my aunt and uncle.

Everyone had made it and it was time for the fun to continue with our own take on the rehearsal dinner!

To be continued….