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Destination I Do
Friday, January 14, 2022

A Las Catalinas Real Wedding

Words by Lauren Ertl
Photos courtesy of Perenchio Photography


“Drinks turned into dinner, a nice walk home, and a goodnight kiss - making for a six-hour first date,” Renee says. “Just like that, single as could be on a Monday morning, and by Friday that week we’d been on three dates!”

In the same manner, after the couple got engaged, they wasted no time deciding that a destination wedding was right for them.

“We are avid travelers and had already visited about 11 countries together in our first 2.5 years of dating when we got engaged, so it seemed appropriate to share our passion for travel with our friends and families,” the couple says.

And since Francisco hails from Ecuador and Renee’s family from the West Coast of America, it made the most sense to select a destination somewhere in the middle. Costa Rica fit the bill! 

After working with a fantastic team of Costa Rican vendors, the couple’s springtime tropical wedding plans came to a screeching halt in late March of 2020. 

“It was tough,” Renee admits. “But, the people in Las Catalinas, the team at the hotel, and all vendors were incredibly flexible and allowed us to continue pushing the date back and rescheduling (three times, in fact!) without any penalty. It was really incredible.”

The vendor’s gracious flexibility allowed Renee to make the needed adjustments for the three days of events, transportation, group housing, and activities. And, with the additional time (due to COVID quarantine), the couple went all out with fun DIY projects.

“I designed all of the custom stationery and collateral used in the welcome bags provided to each guest using the tile at Santarena as my inspiration,” Renee says. “There were the invitations, table cards, signage, thank you cards, etc but in the bags, there were custom maps of towns plotting the events and everyone’s housing, schedules, welcome notes with custom cards, a bunch of local goodies, and probably most notably, we made labels using the tile graphic that we applied to half lb coffee bags filled with our own unique blend of local Costa Rican coffee that each guest received. I also included hand-made cross-stitched handkerchiefs for every woman’s welcome bag with unique messages sewn on them in our wedding colors.”

All-in-all Renee and Francisco tell us they likely spent about the same on their Costa Rica destination wedding than if they’d held the event closer to home. 

“We got SO much more out of what we would have spent probably on one night. With our budget, we were able to host welcome shuttles, travel insurance, a rehearsal dinner for all guests, transportation to off-site outings, an open bar, pretty stacked welcome bags that included full-sized sunscreen bottles, and lots more, and we hosted a welcome BBQ at our rental house for all guests the day prior to the rehearsal dinner. We definitely would not have been able to do that in the US!”

After finally getting to say “I do” in a tropical paradise, Renee and Fransico encourage other couples not to shy away from a destination wedding because of COVID. 

“Everyone needs to get away and you know what, if it ends up being smaller than planned, there are a lot of silver linings of that,” the couple says. “The bonding that happens there when everyone has multiple days together cannot be replaced by even the best party on one day in your hometown.”



Vendors: Photographer: Perenchio Photography; Reception Venue: Santarena Hotel; Floral Designer: Artflower Costa Rica; Equipment Rentals: Costa Mesa; Hair Stylist: Mitchell Spackman Hair; Accommodations: Las Catalinas; Cake Designer: Deli Cafe; Dress Designer: Stella York; Dress Store: I Do Bridal; Coordinating: Gabriela Esquivel of Santarena Hotel; Furniture & Décor Rentals: Eventos Artesanos; Group Catamaran: Panache Sailing; Outdoor Adventures: Congo Canopy

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