Direct from the bride. Her words, not mine.
Thoughts about our destination wedding:
I wouldn’t do it any different if I had the chance!
The planning process started initially with a semi traditional wedding in our home state. After multiple meetings with the various options of venues, both Dan and I were starting to feel burdened by the process and noticed we had very little excitement in planning the day that is supposed to be the best day of our lives. We both talked more about the honeymoon destinations than the wedding, and if a honeymoon would even be an option after the hefty bill of the wedding. After multiple talks and much consideration, we decided on a destination wedding. Many of our family members and friends seemed excited and supported us, reassuring they would be there with us. However, there were a few family members who had reservations about the idea. They didn’t say much but we knew a traditional wedding was what they had hoped for and also the thought of some family members not making the wedding bothered them. In the end, they were happy with the choice.
How to find the perfect place?? That was the big question now. We began the search by looking for a place we could legally get married at and we, as well as our guests, could afford! However, in the end, we did not legally get married in the Dominican. The cost for translating documents and paying for a local official to legalize our marriage was more money than we felt was necessary. We decided on a symbolic wedding there with our ordained friend marrying us. We legalized our marriage in our home state when we returned home, in a quick and simple process. The ceremony in the Dominican is still what we consider our wedding and is where we put all the meaning and effort towards.
So, we had ideas, but nothing solid. We decided to go to the Madison Wedding Expo to talk to people and get more ideas. I ran into a friend who runs a DJ service and told him of our destination idea. He referred us to a travel agent who happened to be at the expo, Shannon Grunewald at Blissful Honeymoons and Destination Weddings. We found her, exchanged info and met with her shortly after the expo. In this meeting, we explained our interest, travel style, destination ideas, and concerns with the process. Shannon was very helpful and soon figured out what was important to us; having a blast but making sure all our guests were comfortable. We had some family members who have never left the country, nor did they have a big interest to. Needless to say, they were getting outside of their comfort zone for us, so we wanted to soften the culture shock. That is what lead us to an all-inclusive resort. Shannon presented us with many options of resorts from family friendly to adults only. For our situation, adults only were the best way to go.
Our day began together…I know, not traditional, but we wanted to spend the night together and part ways in the morning. Dan went to the resort to his brother Rob’s room where all the guys got ready together. I started with some much needed one-on-one time with my dear friend Nari, who traveled all the way from South Korea to be by my side. We don’t see each other often so that special time early in the morning was a great start to the day. We then went over to the spa where all my bridesmaids, sisters, and mothers were, to get our hair and makeup done. The makeup was quite an experience! I will never forget the look on my friends Erica (Matron of Honor) and Paige’s (bridesmaid) face. They did a great job at keeping a calm face on the surface and forewarning me about what to expect…but I know them too well and knew I was in for a shock….or should I say they know me too well and I knew I would definitely have reservation about the amount of makeup on my face. To understand the shock you need to understand, I never wear makeup, zero, so this was a huge difference. In the end, it looked good in the pictures!
The ceremony went perfectly with the exception of starting a little late because the ladies weren’t ready!!! I was brought in on a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by my father. It was a special moment with him that I truly enjoyed, but also remember the big laugh we had during the ride. I happened to look back as we rode down the path and saw the horse had relieved himself while trotting along. Maybe it was the nerves, but we thought it was very amusing.
Arriving at the beach was everything I’ve ever dreamt of. All the people who mean so much to us looking back at me, and beyond all of them I see the most important person in my world staring right at me. To top the moment of, I’m walking down the Isle to a song that means so much. A song that I told my great uncle I would get married to someday. He too loved this song and requested it is played at his funeral. I remember the conversation about it as we sat at the computer playing the youtube video of Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of Somewhere Over the rainbow. Unfortunately, he passed before I married and we honored his request with playing this song at his funeral. The day he passed was a rainy day, but shortly after he took his last breaths the rain cleared and a huge rainbow was cast in the sky. We knew it was him sending us a message. The song during the ceremony was my way of having him there and a part of our day. After the ceremony, he stopped by to let us know he was there, with a distant rainbow. Ben captured this message with an amazing picture that I cherish with all my heart.
Between the ceremony and reception, we were able to get many great pictures with all our guests and wedding party. We love the variety and look through them all the time. I was able to create a photo book and relive our day with it over and over.
The reception went off smoothly. We took a chance with hiring the resort DJ without having the chance to meet him or know anything about his style. We were limited with this option but went with our gut and it turned out perfectly. The night went well with dinner and dancing. The only downfall about the reception being on the beach was the poor lighting for pictures during speeches and dancing. With that said though, we love the colorful flare the disco lights added to the dancing pictures. It makes you feel the party every time you look at them.
At the end of the night, about 20 min before our reception time was up it began to rain. It ended our party since the DJ didn’t have coverage for his equipment which was a bummer…but it gave us our most favorite picture of the day; An amazing picture Ben and Alex were able to pull off with great light positioning and expertise, our ‘love in the rain’ picture. We have since made this into a large canvas to hang over our bed. It was a great ending to a perfect day.
We had a whole week with friends and family enjoying the sun, adventure in a foreign country, accompanied by an amazing photographer leaving us with so many photos and the best wedding video that I watch at least once a week.
We had simple decorations that we bought instead of paying extra at the resort. Spent money on what matters most to us: DJ, food, adventures, photographer, and videographer.
Our journey to find the perfect photographer began with looking at the recommendations our travel agent gave us. There were a few listed here locally (WI) that would travel with us at an extra fee. We knew we were going to pay extra for this service, and were prepared to do so, but we didn’t want to just settle on any photographer. As we looked at our options and their photography styles we were not finding any that we really LOVED. For the prices quoted we just couldn’t get ourselves to commit to any of them. We began to explore photographers in the Dominican to see if it would be more cost effective to hire someone local to the area we were getting married in. We learned that if we did this we would have an additional fee from the resort to have an outside company present the day of our wedding. The fee was a little more than we felt a reasonable fee would be. The resort themselves also included a photography package with your wedding package and many upgrade options. Again, the price was high and we were not able to meet or even speak with anyone regarding what was offered and if certain requests would be possible. We liked their photo style, but didn’t feel comfortable with having zero communication with them prior to the event. My mom suggested a family member of my step-dad who had just shot his niece’s wedding in the Dominican Republic. We met with him at our home and felt very uncomfortable with the situation for multiple reasons (seemed uninterested, continued to boast about the resort photographers, up-charged for tedious things- gas, laundry, etc). So, we started asking our friends who travel or who had recently been married for recommendations. It was a high school friend of mine who had lived in the Caribbean for a while that put out a Facebook message asking her friends of any recommendations for photographers in that area or who were willing to travel. I started watching the responses and looking the people up and checking out their websites. Then, another high school classmate posted Boxcar Photography, stating Ben is an awesome traveling photographer. We liked that he was local to WI, so we looked at his website. Instantly my husband and I both agreed that we LOVED his style and wanted to meet. After our skype date, we knew Ben was the right fit for us. He was enthusiastic, engaging, interested in our ‘wants’ and extremely reasonable with price. We went with our gut feelings and hired Ben and Alex for both photos and a video of our wedding day. We definitely got more than we expected and couldn’t be happier. They joined us on the excursions we set up for our guests during the week of our wedding, which allowed them to not only providing us with additional photos from these events but also add some clips into our wedding video. I’m so happy we held out and waited to find the perfect photographer for us!