Destination I Do
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jungle Nuptials in Costa Rica

Words by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of Stories Wedding Photography

Natalie and Todd hail from New York and New Jersey, but now live in Texas. After exploring their wedding options, they happily opted for a destination wedding. “We considered New York because that is where most of our family and friends are or could easily get to, but neither of us had a desire to be married there,” explains the couple. “We then considered having our friends and family travel from a great distance to come to Texas, but thought it would be more exciting for our guests to travel another two hours or so and be in one of our favorite places on the planet.” 

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So, just where was this paradise? Arenal, Costa Rica. “Costa Rica had been on our radar as a wedding location since we visited together in May 2012,” say the newlyweds. “We chose Arenal for various reasons. It was important to include the Arenal Volcano because hiking it in May 2012 was one of the most exciting and romantic things we had done at that point in our relationship. We really wanted to share that with our family and friends. We also considered the high tourism of Arenal as a benefit to our guests. We knew they would be safe there and have the resources they needed.”

After taking their family and friends into account when choosing their wedding location, it was time to pitch their plan. “As we casually brought up the idea of Costa Rica to close friends, they refused to let us do anything else. They were so excited for the excuse to go to a place many of them had on their bucket list and were curious to explore.” While their friends were clearly on board, it was a somewhat different situation when it came to the couple’s parents.

“As for family, Todd’s parents were thrilled despite an illness that prevents one of them from flying,” explains the bride. “They were ready to go wherever they needed to in order to see their only child get married. My parents, in all their loving glory, had a different view at first. They truly cherish the simple things in life and when something is seemingly grandiose, they try to simplify it as lovingly as possible. Admittedly, it was a mission of mine to get my parents to Costa Rica at some point in their lives and I knew this would be the way to do it. I wanted them to experience the majestic, therapeutic and meditative power of Costa Rica’s natural offerings. I wanted them to find the simplicity in Costa Rica that is the cause of its cultural appreciation for life. I believe I succeeded in this venture.”

After sticking to their guns, so to speak, the couple began the process of planning a wedding away. Unfortunately, in the beginning, things didn’t go quite as they had hoped. “Our first issue we encountered was found in our attempt to communicate with hotels, bus rental companies and other vendors,” explains the couple. “We found that even when we would call or email in Spanish, it would take well over a month for a response – if we ever even got one. We resolved this by hiring Samantha [with Events & Weddings Costa Rica] as our wedding coordinator. Having a body and voice within the country made all the difference.”

While the couple initially struggled with making expensive decisions from afar, it was full-steam-ahead with their new planner. “Referrals were HUGE! Samantha had several contacts that she set up meetings with and we ended up using every one of them. It was extremely helpful going to Costa Rica the summer before our wedding to meet with possible vendors and see various venues. Trusting Samantha, our planner, and all of her referrals was our first step and it all ended up working out great.”

Come W-Day, the couple was joined by 60 of their loved ones for nuptials in the jungle. Looking back, they have no regrets in opting for a wedding away vs. a hometown wedding. “Having it in another country allowed us to have less stress, spend less and have even more to look forward to. We were going on vacation, we were going to have our nearest and dearest there with us and we were going to be the center of attention…an amazing feeling that we will never forget. Another very important difference is that our wedding turned into a long weekend of celebrations rather than one night you spend an insane amount of money on and it’s over before you know it.” 

We asked Todd and Natalie what advice and experience they would share with other couples currently planning a destination wedding and this is what they had to say. “Apart from the cliché, ‘seize the moment,’ one of the biggest things for us was to be stress free and open. We tend to like to control most situations and can get easily frustrated when we’re not, but we promised each other and ourselves that we’d practice flexibility. We talked [wedding] business professionally and logically instead of emotionally and that helped greatly.

“We also cared very deeply in catering to our guests. For a destination wedding, especially in the middle of a jungle at the foot of an active volcano, we wanted our guests to feel they were being taken care of, remembered and appreciated. Put yourself in the shoes of your guests and remember what matters to you when you go to someone’s wedding…”

Vendors: Photographer: Stories Wedding Photography, Wedding Planner: Events & Weddings Costa Rica, Ceremony/Reception Site & Florist: The Springs Resort & Spa in Arenal, Costa Rica, Stationery: Wedding Paper Divas, Cake: Construcciones Dulces, Hair & Makeup: Paola, Gown Designer: BHLDN, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Hickey Freeman, Guitar: David Coto, DJ: Banana’s Event Music 

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