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Destination I Do
Friday, May 20, 2016

A Dreamy Dominican Wedding

Words by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Bagwell Photography

Mikalah and Kyle had a distinct vision in mind when it came to the wedding of their dreams. Most importantly, it involved the couple celebrating in a tropical paradise with those they love most. “We believe that the greatest memories happen on vacation – ours have,” says the bride. “We wanted to create an intimate experience for our friends and family packed with beautiful views and fun for all.” There’s no doubt the couple had pure intentions, but not all of their loved ones were initially thrilled with the idea of a destination wedding.

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“There were quite a few [family members] that were not happy with the decision due to the price of the trip,” explains Mikalah. “We resolved the concerns about price by sending out save the dates 16 months in advance. This gave everyone time to save up funds. Looking back, all the guests that had initial concerns said they wouldn’t have changed a thing and everything was ‘perfect.’ So, stick to your gut, ladies!” Once the decision to marry away was made, these travel-lovers had to choose a destination.

“We specifically chose Punta Cana because it was a new destination for us just waiting to be packed with memories,” says the bride. “The Dominican is lively, fun and nice on the wallet compared to other Caribbean destinations. There are a variety of airlines that fly into Santo Domingo and we were pleased with the accessibility as our guests were coming from all over the country.” That being said, choosing a destination they had never visited before did present some hurdles.

“[The experience was] challenging and stressful at times,” says Mikalah. “We were planning a wedding in a destination that I had never been to, booked the venue sight unseen, our families and bridal party lived on opposite sides of the country, and we lived right smack dab in the middle.” Thankfully, Mikalah was resourceful when it came to finding help executing the destination wedding of her dreams.

“The resource I could not do without was a Facebook group of all the brides planning their weddings at Jellyfish Beach Restaurant. All the brides would post visit pictures, wedding albums and best practices, as well as connect you to vendors that they highly recommended. It was such an incredible resource and a direct connection to those who were in the midst of the same whirlwind wedding process.” The couple also sourced help in the form of a wedding planner and travel agent.

“Robin at Destination Wishes arranged our guests’ travel,” explains the bride. “We booked our guests’ travel at the NOW Larimar for its food, location and lively vibe. Due to our party size and number of rooms that were booked, she negotiated a healthy discounted rate and secured a ton of great perks for our guests, including upgrades and special services.” The couple’s wedding planner helped to keep them on-track and on-budget.

“I came to Amanda, of Vineyard Events, with the destination, venue and overall vision and she helped me bring it to life,” says Mikalah. “I had a secret Pinterest board with my wedding planner. We would take pictures of all the items we were bringing or having the venue create. We then took these images and created separate, detailed documents to provide to the planners at the venue. All around, distance did not hinder our ability to create the wedding of our dreams!”

The couple also got creative when it came to making the most of their creative and fun-loving friends. “We saved money on a videographer by having GoPro’s scattered amongst the ceremony and reception. For our ceremony, Kyle’s longtime friend, with the most amazing stage presence and sense of humor, married us. We sent him our vows and left the rest up to him. The outcome was incredible.”

These lovebirds had various professionals to help keep them on budget, but opting for a wedding away ended up paying off in more ways than one. “[We] spent less money by having a destination wedding,” explains the bride. “Hands down. We priced out multiple venues in the States and the type of wedding we could afford within our budget was comical. After crunching the numbers when it was all said and done, we saved close to $20K in venue fees and food and drink alone.”

When we asked Mikalah and Kyle how hosting a hometown wedding would have been different, they had an immediate and passionate response. “Destination weddings are intimate, romantic and they provide you with an opportunity to vacation with your favorite people in the world. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up.”

When it comes to advice for other brides currently planning a destination wedding, Mikalah had three solid tips to share.

“Book a photographer with experience. The moments that occur throughout the day only happen once, so it’s important that your photographer is a seasoned vet that won’t let those special moments go to waste. You also want to be relaxed and comfortable with your photographer. They will be your right hand through the entire day and what they capture through their lens will be how you remember your day for the rest of your life. If you’re uncomfortable or there’s tension, it will show through your pictures.”

“You will be so overwhelmed with the opinions of others. You will want to please and accommodate everyone and their feelings. Always remember that as much as you love your family and friends, in the end it’s about you and your husband and the vows that are said to one another. Celebrate your love the way you always dreamt and trust that when the big day has come and gone your guests will not have one negative thing to say.”

“Find a wedding planner! The language barrier and “island time” can both be hard to overcome. Amanda was relentless and organized and helped me navigate the communication and planning with ease. Your planner knows your vision, how you want the napkins folded, which chairs should get the flower garland and who to pass the mic to during the speeches. When it came time for the big day, my glass was never empty and I wasn’t the least bit stressed. I now have a friend for life and someone I can call to plan our baby shower and vow renewal (because vow renewals are the sweetest thing)!”

Vendors: Photographer: Jennifer Bagwell Photography, Wedding Planner: Vineyard Events, Venue & Florist: Jellyfish Beach Restaurant, Stationery: Three One Nine Design, Cake: Cake Studio Bavaro, Hair: Krystie Ann Hair, Makeup: Linda Hodge with J and L Makeup, Gown Designer: Allure Couture, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Ted Baker, Bridesmaids/Groomsmens’ Clothing Designer: David’s Bridal/Nordstrom, Travel Agent: Robin Hawkey with Destination Wishes

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