Hurricane Irma

Tying The Knot In Key West


February 11, 2019
Words by Emily Garcia
Photos courtesy of Chelsea Erwin

John proposed to Christina during their 11th year of dating. When they started planning their special day, they were a long-distance couple. The newlyweds toured multiple venues in their hometown of St. Augustine, Florida, and knew a local wedding wasn’t for them. After not finding a local venue that suited their needs, the couple thought, “Why not hold it in one of our favorite places and host an unforgettable vacation for ourselves as well as our guests?” Most of the couple’s guests would have to travel because they have friends and family all over the U.S. The pair wanted their guests to feel at ease and be able to truly enjoy the weekend. Having a destination wedding became the only attractive option for John and Christina.

The couple had to convince their guests that traveling would be worth it. Christina’s father was concerned that they had chosen Key West for the part scene. She reassured him that she chose Key West for the laid-back vibes. He quickly became a fan. The couple’s wedding party was thrilled when they learned they would be heading to Key West for the wedding. “Everyone became a mega-fan of Key West and our friends and family immediately knew that it was the perfect spot for our celebration upon arrival,” the bride says.

The newlyweds say that the hardest part of planning their wedding was choosing a location. They knew they wanted the general vibe of relaxed, welcoming, loving and with some elegance. Casa Marina was the last venue the couple looked at in Key West. Upon stepping on the property, the couple had an overwhelming feeling they had found the venue for their big day. “I’m not a crier, but I almost teared up when we were on the grounds,” Christina says. “It was perfect. Then, we visited St. Mary’s to check out the ceremony spot and a similar feeling happened. It was like the town was made for us and we were sold.”

The biggest challenge for the couple was Hurricane Irma, the category 4 storm that barreled through the Florida Keys on September 2018, hit 21 days before John and Christina’s special day that was originally planned for October 7, 2017. The couple was forced to postpone because Key West was shut down with no signs of it reopening. The couple considered changing the location but decided to keep their plans at Casa Marina and change the date to May 12, 2018. The couple used the extra time to make more of an effort to create “a truly unique experience” for their wedding guests. “I put my creativity hat on and became even more excited for the big weekend!” the bride says. “Irma couldn’t kill our vibe!” 

Christina spent a lot of time researching online before signing any contracts with vendors that she wasn’t able to meet. She says it was a bit stressful but she made the right decision and chose the best vendors that helped her a lot throughout the planning process. Her hair and makeup team, Elizabeth C. Williams, scheduled a FaceTime trial with a live model who that looked her, so she could get a feel for what they could do for her before she booked them. 

John and Christina asked all of their married friends if they had any regrets about their wedding day and tried to learn from their responses. The main regret the couple heard was not hiring a videographer; so, they decided to add one to the budget. Christina says, Peggy Russell from Destination Wedding Studios, was a huge resource for her. Their wedding planner made sure that the vendors Christina chose were top-notch, negotiated contracts and made sure everything was executed flawlessly. “If the first and most critical decision for a wedding is the venue or destination, I’d say the second most important decision would be choosing a planner,” Christina says.  

The bride says one of the best parts of wedding planning was making DIY projects. She really wanted her guests to feel welcomed and wanted their celebration to feel like an expression of herself, John and Key West. In Key West, the city has directional signs made from driftwood. Christina was inspired and created a sign made of driftwood for the wedding depicting cities that guests had traveled from. Christina worked with a graphic designer Jessica Marken, to create a wedding program that mirrored a travel magazine. It was called Christina + John: Pura Vida. The bride made name cards by potting tiny succulents in terracotta pots dipped in gold paint, attached a picture of the guest and displayed their name on the back of the picture.

The only issue guests faced with travel was rescheduling flights after Irma. Friends and family did not come to the couple with any stressful problems to solve due to logistics. The bride’s sister, the maid of honor, helped with logistics and Christina provided everyone with a lot of detail on how to get to Key West on the wedding website. She listed major airports, the travel time between different airports and also provided recommendations on which way that would be best from the major cities guests were traveling from. “I also include links to ferries and trains!” Christina says. “I would highly recommend doing this when planning a destination wedding.”

The couple coordinated their vendors through email. The biggest challenge was the time difference, but they managed to figure it out and the vendors were flexible with telephone meeting times. The bride and groom believe they spent less money, but only by a little bit. The pair were able to throw an unforgettable celebration that truly represented them as a couple and vacationed with friends and family in a perfect city and that was priceless to the couple. 

If they had a local wedding, Christina and John say they wouldn’t have been able to create an experience that reflected them as a couple and one in which they thoroughly enjoyed. The bride and groom say to embody the feeling of no worries, no stress and no fuss while planning. “Throughout the process, remain thankful for what you have like your significant other, family and friends!” John says. “Don’t dwell on the mishaps and simply enjoy your celebration.”

Vendors: Photographer: Chelsea Erwin, Wedding Planner: Destination Wedding Studio, Ceremony/Reception Site: The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea and Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Florist: Flower Works and Duarte Floral Design, Stationery: Minted and Jess Tipton with Lefthand Lettering, Cake: Key West Cakes, Hair & Makeup: Elizabeth C. Williams Hair and Alexis Garcia Hair and Makeup, Gown Designer: Hayley Paige, Groom’s Clothing Designer: Hart Schaffner Marx, Bridesmaids/Groomsmen’s Clothing Designer: BHLDN, Adrianna Papell and Show Me Your Mumu, Other Vendors: The Perry Hotel Key West, Florida, Videographer: Anchor Weddings.

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