Island "I Do's" in BelizeWords by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of Christina Karst Photography
While Kristiana and Q knew they didn’t want a traditional wedding, they did somewhat compromise when it came to their destination wedding. “We wanted to keep it small and simple, and we love to travel, but eloping would’ve broken our mothers’ hearts,” says the couple. “A destination wedding was the perfect choice.” Thankfully, their closest friends and family were on board with a wedding away in Ambergris Caye, Belize. However, the couple’s desire for an intimate ceremony did ruffle a few feathers.
“All of the invited guests were excited about the destination wedding,” says the bride. “However, because of the small size of the ceremony, the guest list was very short. Some family and friends were upset about not being invited. Q and I ultimately decided that we couldn’t please everyone - that it was our wedding and all that mattered was that we were happy. We also decided to host a party at home after the wedding to include those who couldn’t be in Belize. So, you might hurt some feelings if you do a small destination wedding, but it’s your day and people will get over it. Also, you can have a local celebration to include a larger group.”
Q and Kristiana love to travel, so how did they narrow down the location for the destination wedding of their dreams? “We wanted to build a vacation around the wedding ceremony,” explains the bride. “We love to scuba dive, and Ambergris Caye is a perfect destination for diving. Q’s family has been going to the Victoria House to vacation for years, so they vouched for its excellence.” While the venue was an easy decision, thanks to a familial recommendation, the destination did hold some risks.
“The only issues were worries about weather and bugs,” says the couple. “August is the start of hurricane season in Belize, but due to guests’ schedules it was the only time that worked. It was a leap of faith that panned out – we had gorgeous weather. We did, however, have a rain contingency plan in place, just in case. As for the bugs, we provided bug spray in the welcome bags. A word to the wise…stick to basic Off! bug spray.”
While the destination was a relatively easy decision, Kristiana did consider an alternate strategy and venue at the start of the planning process. “I originally wanted to rent a big house through HomeAway or Airbnb and plan everything myself. It became clear early on that it would be very difficult to coordinate everything from the US. I am so glad I changed my direction.” After booking Victoria House for their ceremony and reception site, it was smooth sailing.
“I had a wonderful experience planning the wedding – largely due to the fact that the Victoria House employs an amazing wedding planner – Javier Williams,” explains the bride. “I gave him an idea of my vision and he went above and beyond to bring it to life in the most perfect way. For example, I sent him a picture of a driftwood arch beneath which I wanted to be married. Javier spent weekends driving the coast of Ambergris Caye with binoculars searching for and collecting the perfect pieces of driftwood. As you can see from the photos, it was incredible!”
The couple’s wedding planner also did all the coordinating with the wedding vendors – a huge help to Kristiana and Q. The bride and her planner did get creative when it came to one aspect of the décor. “The only challenge was the flowers – the ones I originally wanted had to be imported from Chetumal, Mexico, which was cost prohibitive. I was able to look on Google and find flower alternatives that were just as beautiful, but indigenous to Belize and therefore less expensive. My suggestion is to stick to local flowers for the majority of the arrangements – then, if you want, get a few statement flowers that might have to be imported. My statement flower was the orange pincushion protea - it was really stunning and made all the arrangements pop.”
While the couple let their planner handle the majority of the W-Day details, they still incorporated several personalized touches. Kristiana spent a lot of time making sure her guests felt welcome and that the reception reflected the couple’s vision. “I collected the pieces of the reception decorations – vintage bottles & lace, feathers, votives – through Etsy. They have so many great and creative items – it is an incredible source for decorations, cake toppers, barefoot sandals, etc.
“I [also] created welcome bags for all of the guests. I included items in the bags that I thought the guests would find fun and useful – customized sunglasses, beach towels, sand toys for the kids, hydration Nuun tablets, Emergen-C, snacks, Advil, bug spray, a waterproof map of Ambergris Caye that had a fish identification chart as well, etc.”
The couple was smart to roll out the red carpet upon their guests’ arrival. As it turns out, some of the guests encountered a speed bump en route. “About half of our guests arrived a day late due to a flight cancellation,” says Kristiana. “Luckily, we asked the guests to arrive a few days before the ceremony, so everyone was in attendance. My advice would be to build in a day or two on the front end just in case of travel complications.”
While there are countless things the couple loved about their wedding away, an added bonus was that it was much more budget-friendly. When asked what a hometown event would have looked like, this is what the bride had to say: “I think it would’ve been a much larger affair had we held the wedding at home. Paying for a venue to fit all of those people, plus a dinner and open bar, would’ve been much more expensive. [Plus,] I don’t think I would’ve had the time to enjoy the company of everyone in attendance like I did on the island. The destination wedding had an intimate atmosphere that I loved. I also wouldn’t have had such a beautiful ceremony setting and I would’ve had to wear shoes!”
Not only did Kristiana and Q have the beautiful, intimate destination wedding of their dreams, but they learned a lot in the process. Thankfully, the bride was kind enough to share her sagest advice:
“You should enjoy your wedding day – you shouldn’t be stressed. Having someone local to organize everything is essential. We went diving the morning of our wedding because the staff at Victoria House had everything totally under control – that is the way it should be.
“Also, check the sunset time and allow yourself some daylight for photos in town after the ceremony (assuming you get married on the beach or at a resort like I did). Driving a “Just Married” golf cart through the cobblestone streets while locals cheer and congratulate you is super fun. Plus, the pictures are much more authentic and interesting.
“About the photographer – find a fabulous one. The pictures, in my opinion, are one of the most important parts of the wedding. You will have them forever. I spent more time researching and tracking down a photographer than I did searching for my dress. Do not settle for one of the local photographers at your destination. If you like the style of one of the locals, great, but if you don’t, do not limit yourself to the locals. There are many fabulous photographers who are willing to travel to your destination to capture your wedding day – I would highly recommend Christina Karst!” Congratulations to Kristiana and Q for achieving the laid-back, island extravaganza they always wanted.
Vendors: Photographer: Christina Karst Photography, Wedding Planner: Javier Williams, Ceremony/Reception Site: Victoria House, Stationery: Paper Place, Gown Designer: Custom Saison Blanche, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Altered J.Crew inspired by Angus Young, Band: Flutist Pablo Collado & accompaniment
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