Destination I Do
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Hard-Fought Puerto Rico Wedding

Words by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of Eric Boneske Photography

As much as we would love to say things always go infinitely smooth when it comes to planning a destination wedding – that’s simply not always true. When it comes to planning a wedding, period – destination or not – there are always moments of stress and self-doubt. Michael and Nicole are no exception with their Rincon, Puerto Rico nuptials. In the end, their wedding was beautiful and the couple are newly and happily married, but the road to get there wasn’t so easy.

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Ironically, the easiest part for these two was deciding on a destination wedding and picking their location. “We always knew we would do something simple, small and low-key with our family and close friends,” says Nicole. “We both love the water and loved the idea of a beach wedding…Michael’s only request was that he be able to surf on his wedding day…

“My family had been on a trip to Rincon a few years ago and we fell in love with everything about it. This was an ideal location for us because of its natural, relaxed and bohemian feel, perfect beaches for surfing or relaxing and great food. We also thought it would be easier on our guests because the flight to Puerto Rico is short and the drive to Rincon is beautiful. Finally, our guests wouldn’t have to worry about passports, customs or foreign currency.”

The couple opted for a private villa for their stay, ceremony and reception. Villa Playa Maria and its owner ended up playing an uplifting, positive role in their overall destination wedding experience. Because the couple wouldn’t be able to visit their venue before W-day, Nicole had a hard time deciding on décor and details. So, she got creative: “I looked up other weddings at the venue and in Puerto Rico and looked at [Costa Rican] photographer websites to see what the locales looked like in different styles and light.”

The couple encountered a unique set of challenges since they were getting married at a villa and not a hotel with pre-determined wedding packages, vendors etc. “We had a very bad experience with the ‘wedding planner’ we used, who ended up taking our money and did not follow through on what she was assuring us she was doing,” recalls the bride. “Make your wedding planner give you references and then follow up with at least three brides.

“Make the wedding planner show you pictures of weddings he/she planned, find one which is well done or looks to be your style and then contact the bride to find out how things went. Get everything in writing…it sounds harsh, but if you are planning from far away, you have to take these steps to protect yourselves and your investment.”

Thankfully, Michael and Nicole had both their photographer and the villa’s owner on their side. “The owner of the villa, a wonderful, hardworking man named Stu Lowe-White, did everything he could to make our stay amazing and to make the villa look stunning and magical for the big day. Eric [our photographer] was calm, friendly, outgoing, but firm and focused – when I was about to have a meltdown because of the wedding planner, he pulled me aside and helped me focus on what was important and what needed to be done.”

After more than a few tears, the couple’s family and friends rallied around them to make sure everything came together smoothly and, ultimately, it did! What resulted was a beautiful, simple wedding just as the couple had wished. They let their beautiful location shine and only added some white flowers and smaller details to add a “wedding” feel. Looking back, the couple doesn’t regret having a destination wedding because they got the small, 40-person event they wanted and also think a hometown wedding would have been even more stressful.

The bride has some final words of praise and advice for their vendors and other brides. “If [our photographer] had not been there, I don’t know what would have happened and yet, somehow, the pictures turned out amazing! He took what could have been a disaster and turned it into something beautiful. When I look at my pictures, I don’t remember what was going on in the background…I just remember how I felt when it finally hit me that I was getting married.

“[Also,] don’t spend all your time worrying about your guests – they will adapt and have fun. I was so concerned that family and friends would get lost or hate the weather or not have fun. We had people who were making friends all over town and who have assured us they will be returning to Rincon for their next vacation.”

Congratulations to Nicole and Michael for having a beautiful destination wedding which fit their ultimate vision! Also, for sharing their story and hopefully helping other brides to protect themselves from less-than-qualified vendors.

Vendors: Photographer: Eric Boneske Photography, Location: Playa Maria, Rincon, Puerto Rico, Ceremony/Reception Site: Villa Playa Maria, Stationery: Minted, Gown Designer(s): Amy Kuschel (Voila!) for ceremony & Nightcap Clothing (Caletto Maxi) for reception, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Suit, Perry Ellis Linen & Shirt and Tie, Brooks Brothers, Engagement/Wedding Rings: Custom-designed by Barbara Polinsky of Barbara Michelle Jacobs

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