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Destination I Do
Friday, November 7, 2014

A Rock Steady Punta Cana Wedding

Words by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of Sheradee Hurst Photography

Travel-loving couple Elizabeth and Bryce always knew they wanted a small, intimate wedding. Hosting a destination wedding was the best of both worlds: a smaller guest list, combined with a fabulous beach destination. Thankfully, virtually all their guests were excited and even those who couldn’t make it were happy Elizabeth and Bryce were getting the wedding they always wanted. “Out of all of our friends, no one had done a destination wedding yet,” says the couple.

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“We didn’t invite all of our friends, we kept it small, but they still threw us a shower and were just as excited for us. For the grandparents that couldn’t make it, we asked them to join us at our civil ceremony (five minutes and signing papers) that took place the weekend before we left for the trip and went out for a special dinner.”

When it came to picking their destination, the couple didn’t have a specific place in mind except that they wanted somewhere they and their families had never been before. They also wanted a beautiful beach setting. “With the help of a coordinator from destinationweddings.com, we narrowed it down by resort wedding options and packages, price, flight time, weather and what activities were available,” says the bride. In the end, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and the Paradisus Palma Real Resort were the perfect fit!

Once the “where” was settled, the couple continued with their coordinator at destinationweddings.com to help get their and all their guests’ travel and accommodations booked. “Destinationweddings.com was a good resource for booking the resort rooms,” says Elizabeth. “They offer a wedding website where your guests can go to book their rooms and work with the coordinator directly. Besides guests asking questions, it takes you out of the process of everyone booking their trip completely.” Once the couple and their guests arrived in Punta Cana, Paradisus Palma Real Resort arranged complimentary transportation from the airport to the resort.

Come W-Day, the couple hosted both their ceremony and reception on the resort’s beautiful beach. As envisioned, Elizabeth and Bryce got a personalized, intimate wedding. The bride is a graphic designer and put those skills to good use in DIY projects. “For our guest table at the entrance of our cocktail hour/reception, I provided beach postcards as our guestbook, so everyone could give us advice or tell us about their favorite trip memory,” says the bride. “I made a framed sign with instructions for the guestbook postcards and also made a framed sign telling guests to sit wherever, since it was a small, casual gathering.”

Looking back, Elizabeth and Bryce are confident they made the right decision in opting for a wedding away. “Planning a destination [wedding] is still a lot of work, but from what I have heard from friends planning their weddings, with a coordinator or without, [a destination wedding] was a lot less stressful,” says the bride. “In my experience, most of the busy work happened in the very beginning when it came to picking the resort, blocking the rooms, making the invitations and deciding what I wanted my wedding to be like.”

The couple also gives their chosen venue, Paradisus Palma Real Resort, a glowing review. “I sent them photos of inspiration I liked and they gave me ideas of what would work best and price differences,” explains the bride. “I never had any problems getting ahold of anyone. They were always quick to respond to my emails.”

The couple estimates a hometown wedding would have include upwards of 350 guests and so they feel that, even including the honeymoon, they ultimately saved money by getting the wedding away they wanted. “Of course you have to account for all of the guests that travel with you, that adds up on their end, where most likely there would be little-to-no travel at home for the guests. [But,] a hometown wedding would have become more about the wedding experience and accommodating [our] guests than about the marriage itself. More than anything, it wouldn’t have fit our personalities!”

Elizabeth has some final words of advice for other couples planning a dream destination wedding: “I think it’s a good idea to arrive at least 2-3 days before the wedding, just to be prepared for any missed details. The nice thing about a destination wedding is that the onsite team puts it all together, so you can sit back and relax, stress-free with your family and friends before your big day!”

Vendors: Sheradee Hurst Photography, Wedding Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Ceremony/Reception Venue: Paradisus Palma Real Resort, Wedding Planner: Mariela Garcia with Paradisus Palma Real Resort, Florist: Caribbean Celebrations, Stationery: Elizabeth Bechtel (bride), Cake: Caribbean Celebrations, Hair & Makeup: Paradisus Palma Real Spa, Resort Accommodations: DestinationWeddings.com, Bride’s Accessories: BHLDN, Gown Designer: J.J. Kelly Bridal in Edmond, OK, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Perry Ellis Menswear, Bridesmaids/Groomsmens’ Clothing Designer: BCBG/Perry Ellis

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