Kicking off our first edition of Real Weddings is AJ Lund, a professional model, production assistant and stylist assistant in Minneapolis (you can follow her professional journey here). AJ and her husband Nate had their destination wedding at the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort in Playa Del Carmen in 2010 and it was absolutely fabulous! I'll let her give you all of the details herself in just a minute. Keep in mind as you review this post that you can click on the photos to view a larger/high-resolution version. All photographs are courtesy of Jacquelyn Senske Photography.
When my husband and I got engaged in December 2008 we immediately started discussing what we wanted to do for our big day and within hours we knew that we wanted to have a destination wedding. We decided that we wanted to have our wedding on 1*10*10. We chose that date because it was easy to remember, it would be before the busy season (less expensive!) and our friends and family would have a new batch of vacation days so most should be able to come! We had our sights set on Playa del Carmen, Mexico because we knew it was a beautiful location and it wasn’t super expensive. We really wanted to be able to have our friends and family there with us.
One of our toughest tasks was finding a resort that would allow our 75 guests (yes, 75!) to celebrate with us without having to pay extra. We found that Sandos Caracol was the winner! They had very reasonable rates, a great kid's section for our family that had kids and they wouldn’t charge us extra for having 75 guests! The only thing that would have been extra was a private reception so we chose to party in one of the bars with anyone that wanted to join.
What I loved most about having a destination wedding was how laidback the planning process was. I’m a planner but I really didn’t want to stress out while planning my wedding. We made most of the major decisions about the ceremony and reception the month of the wedding or once we arrived in Mexico. I also loved that we got to spend an entire week with our friends and family instead of just one day. My husband and I absolutely loved our big day and wish we could do it again every year.
Here are a few tips I learned while planning our wedding:
1. You can only do so much in advance: You can’t book your flight until 6 months before the travel date so it’s a hurry-up-and-wait process of getting estimates and then finally booking when the window opens. Then when you finally do book everything, a lot of the details won’t be hashed out until the month before your wedding or even once you get there.
2. Ceremony any day of the week: The nice thing about a destination wedding is you can have your ceremony any day of the week. You don’t need to have it in a Friday or Saturday so you can pick a date that you like best. My husband and I chose 1*10*10 which was a Sunday.
3. Welcome bags/Emergency kits: I created welcome bags for all of my guests (one per couple or one per single and one per child). It included a schedule for the week with suggestions of activities and maps of the area, a deck of cards, Kleenex, antibacterial soap and an emergency kit including SPF chapstick, Shout wipes, band-aids, EmergenC, gum, alka seltzer, Propel packets, OFF bug spray wipes, Pepto and Advil. In the kid's bags I had glow sticks, silly straws and lots of little toys and games. Our guests were very grateful for the emergency kits!
4. Carpet for wearing heels: Even though you are getting married on the beach you don’t necessarily have to be barefoot or in flats. My husband is a foot taller than me so I wanted to be able to wear heels. I had my resort place carpets down the aisle and then cover them with white sheets. It looked beautiful and worked like a charm! I wore 5-inch stilettos and brought 4-inch platform flip-flops for photos in the sand.
5. Details! Just because you’re having a destination wedding doesn’t mean you have to skip the fun details. Two of my favorite things that we had were adorable mini sand pails with a mini cocktail umbrella for place cards and maracas for guests to shake (for us to kiss instead of clinking glasses).
6. Walkie-Talkies: I highly suggest not seeing your future husband before the actual ceremony. One nice thing about having a destination wedding is that your schedule is much more relaxed than having a wedding at home so you don’t have to worry about doing photos before the ceremony. To help avoid a run-in with your future husband bring along walkie talkies and communicate between groups. We suggested all of our guests bring them along so we could use them as our main way of communicating since texts aren't free.
7. Veil: Some destination wedding locations can be quite windy so think ahead when you’re considering a veil. If you want a full-length veil you could be dealing with it blowing around.
8. Have a honeymoon! Just because you’re having a destination wedding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a honeymoon! We had a 4-day honeymoon at a different resort North of Cancun after our week with friends and family. My husband and I loved being able to enjoy another resort and have four more days to enjoy being together.
That concludes our first Real Weddings posting ever... A huge thank you to AJ for being our first guest blogger! Your photos are beyond gorgeous and you had some awesome input to share. Thanks again!