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Friday, July 14, 2017

A St. Lucia Destination Wedding

Words by Courtney Cox
Photos courtesy of Valorie Darling Photography

New York City couple Kelley and Dave entertained the idea of a hometown wedding, but ultimately followed their gut instinct to get married away and host a St. Lucia destination wedding. “We looked at countless local venues and, no matter how breathtaking the space was, we always felt like something was missing,” says Kelley. “We wanted our big day to be just that: a big day! We simple didn’t think we could fit that into your classic afternoon wedding at a country club or ballroom in the metropolitan area. We both love to travel (the bride is a travel-video host) and we both wanted to give our guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience. What better way to celebrate than to go on a tropical vacation with 90 of your closest friends and family?”

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While the couple was confident in their decision to host their wedding in St. Lucia, not all their loved ones were immediately convinced. “At first, both of our parents were against the idea,” says the couple. “They had envisioned a large, local wedding where it would be easy for all of our family (especially the older generations) to attend. One of our parents commented, ‘Why do you have to fly to another country to celebrate with people who live here?’ We were worried about having negativity surrounding the day, so we invited them all to come with us on our planning trip a few months out from the wedding. Before we were even checked into the hotel, everyone was on board. By day two? No one wanted to leave. They understood how special the venue was to us and how perfect it was for our special day.”

So, how exactly did the couple decide that St. Lucia was the perfect place for them to get married? “We traveled to the exact same beach in St. Lucia about five years ago on a winter weekend getaway,” explains the couple. “We fell in love with the one-of-a-kind beauty of this special beach – the only one on the island in-between the Grand Piton Mountains. We had framed photos of this beach hanging in our apartment for years after and always talked about it as our ‘happy place.’ When Kelley was filming her show on the island, she went back to the beach and saw that a stunning resort, Sugar Beach, had come in and made her paradise beach even better. It was only a few short months after that Dave proposed and it just seemed meant to be. Once we decided to do a destination wedding, [St. Lucia] was the easiest decision we’ve ever made.”

While Kelley and Dave knew they were making the right decision, it didn’t simplify the wedding planning process. “We will say this: planning all the intricacies of a wedding when the venue is thousands of miles away can be extremely difficult. We found out the hard way that not all people move at the breakneck speed you want when making such big decisions about your wedding (especially in the Caribbean, where most people seemed to be on ‘island time’). While everything of course worked out, and it was the best decision we’ve ever made, we would highly recommend anyone attempting a destination wedding to hire a wedding planner. Trying to plan a wedding is a full-time job. And, it’s much harder when, for instance, your florist doesn’t have Internet access.”

To help simplify the process and put their minds at ease, the couple made a planning trip to their destination a few months before the big day. “The most helpful part of the research was getting a list of the island’s best vendors and then doing a pre-wedding trip to meet with them and see if they were a good fit. Many of our plans changed when we got to the island, met with the local vendors and had a better idea of what would be in season, what had worked in the past and what the venue recommended.”

While the couple pulled off a gorgeous event, there are some thing they would do differently if they were to go back in time. “The only issues we really had concerning logistics were, surprisingly, when people actually got on the island. We spent a lot of time worrying about how people would get to the island (which they did easily), but probably not enough time arranging travel logistics for the few miles around the resort to hotels, etc.” The couple also stresses the importance of having your immediate family and bridal party book their travel and accommodations as soon as possible. “Given most destinations have more limited hotel options than local locations, you don’t want to end up in a position where your room block is booked immediately and people integral to the wedding aren’t on location with you.”

One move the couple made was to arrive to St. Lucia well-ahead of the wedding and before any of their guests. “We ended up arriving on the island a full week before the wedding date, simply because there were so many loose ends we wanted to tie-up before the big day. We would recommend any couple doing a destination wedding to get there as early as we did (if possible). Not only for the peace of mind, but also the ability to relax a little before your guests arrive.” Once the couple’s 90 guests arrived on-island, the wedding celebrations began and the couple considers that time invaluable.

“By having people travel, we ended up having events for guests on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Some of the events were more low-key, of course, but by the end of the weekend we felt like we really got to spend quality time with all 90 guests. This is something we probably would have missed out on if we had done a local wedding…it have us a lot of opportunities to truly enjoy our guests and it took a lot of pressure off the actual wedding day.”

In the end, the couple really only has one regret – not hiring a wedding planner. Kelley and Dave were able to pull-off the event of their dreams, but know it would have been an easier and less stressful process for them if they had hired a professional to handle a lot of the details. “While planning a destination wedding is probably more complicated than planning a local wedding, the reward is indescribable. Just watching the look on guests’ faces as they arrived for our Thursday night sunset boat cruise – what enchanted us five years ago – is something we’ll never forget. Everyone is away from their normal lives, so all our guests seemed even more excited to be there. It can be stressful, but the best way to think about it is that you aren’t just planning a wedding. You are also planning a vacation with all your friends and family. What could be more fun than that?”

Vendors: Photographer: Valorie Darling Photography, Ceremony/Reception Site: Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort in St. Lucia, Florist: Flowers Express, Dessert: Banana Rum Cupcakes from Sugar Beach, Hair & Makeup: Rainforest Spa at Sugar Beach, Gown Designer: custom by Hayley Paige, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Suit Supply, Bridesmaids/Groomsmens’ Clothing Designer: Amsale Nouvelle/J.Crew, Steel Drum Band: The Sulphur Stars, Sunset Catamaran Cruise: Le Carnival Sailing, Rehearsal Dinner: Ladera Resort, Rehearsal Cocktail Party: Mango Tree at Stonefield Estate Resort

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