A Sentimental San Diego Wedding


July 26, 2019
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of Mandy Ford Photography

Kevin and Gina are a military couple who planned their destination wedding while stationed in the Middle East. No matter where they chose to say “I do,” they were going to have to plan from afar – something they’re used to! “For us, no matter where we chose was going to be a destination,” says Gina. “So we decided that the place we met, Kevin proposed, and where our relationship bloomed would be the perfect trip to tie the knot and share our special piece of the world with our friends and family.” That place was San Diego, California! The couple’s families, who are primarily from the East Coast, were a bit disheartened at first by the couple’s plan to host a sentimental San Diego wedding.

“It was extremely difficult for a lot of our family and friends,” explains the bride. “We both grew up on the East Coast, so it would’ve been a heck of a lot easier to stay East Coast and have an overwhelming amount of people attend. Instead we decided that, to make our day even more special, we’d have a smaller intimate wedding with those people that, in 30 years from now, we would still be in contact with.” 

When it came to the planning process, the military couple was used to having to handle life’s details while living abroad. Thankfully, they hired a more than capable wedding planner who assembled an amazing team of vendors. “Planning a destination wedding is different in that there isn’t a lot done hands-on…99% of our decisions were made via emails and phone calls with our wedding planner,” says Gina. “We truly lucked out with Stef, who was a lifesaver and made this day happen! 

“When we first began planning our destination wedding in SD, we realized that there would be a lot more logistical complications just to get back to the location than we had anticipated. Flights, rental cars, hotel rooms, etc. In the end, we wouldn’t have changed it for the world and we are very blessed to have found such a great team of vendors who truly made our day possible and magical!”

Not only do the couple advise other destination wedding couples to hire a wedding planner, but they provided specific guidance on how to do so. “Find a wedding planner who gets YOU, and who also is a seasoned planner in the area and has the connections to all the best vendors in the area. Our team of vendors was so good that six months before the wedding when our original ceremony/reception site canceled on us due to unforeseen construction, we seamlessly were able to come up with a whole new plan of action and design and sign new contracts. The shift was effortless having such a wonderful team to work with!”

The couple let their vendors handle the important details and let smaller desires go…like lots of DIY projects. “The small details and intimate touches that you see at a lot of weddings were fewer than what I had dreamed,” recalls the bride. “But the ones we were able to incorporate meant that much more! For instance, our table names were all of the ships and submarines Kevin and I had served on, as well as our grandparents’ ships.”

Kevin and Gina accommodated their guests as best as possible by booking a room block, planning lots of activities and sending them plenty of information about the wedding weekend. In terms of pre- and post-wedding events, the couple hosted a welcome bonfire on the Hotel Del Coronado beach and a day-after brunch.

The most challenging part about planning a destination wedding for Gina and Kevin was the time difference between their location in the Middle East and their West Coast venue – even with a great vendor team in place! “At times we were a whole 11 hours ahead of our vendors,” says the bride. “So we just had to allot an almost two day timeline for correspondence. We were also so lucky to have had a team who was willing to do late night FaceTimes and work with us on a not so typical get-to-know their clients basis. I had a couple of FaceTime sessions with our wonderful photographer, Mandy Ford, who blew us away with her organization and skills.”

While a wedding on the East Coast, where their families live, might have been logistically easier, the couple don’t regret sticking with their San Diego instinct for their wedding away. “The intimate and emotional aspects that came with re-visiting the place that has a special piece to our hearts was worth all of the speed humps,” says Gina. “We don’t regret not having a couple more small do-it-yourself projects, and the money we spent (while a lot) was more than worth it for the memories. Although we were stationed in the Middle East we were extremely blessed to have been able to save appropriately to make it all happen and share such a special day with our friends and family.” 

We asked the bride what special advise she would share with other couples currently planning or considering a destination wedding:

  • “Do your research before committing to your spot! We bounced from the Caribbean to East Coast and back to the West Coast a couple of times. In the end, we made a pros and cons list and decided what was most important to us was how the atmosphere we were surrounded by would make us feel when we looked back at our memories of that day.”
  • “We also suggest taking a trip to the destination location once prior to the wedding. We highly advise seeing the [venue] locations in person! Social media makes it difficult to feel the true vibe of a location without stepping foot in it yourself. Pictures say a thousand words, but being present speaks the most to your soul. Best of luck to you all, the juice is so totally worth the squeeze!”

Vendors: Photographer: Mandy Ford Photography, Wedding Planner: Stefanie Muse with Creative Affairs Inc., Ceremony/Reception Site: Hotel Del Coronado, Florist: Adorations Botanical Artistry, Hair & Makeup: Rare Bird Brides, Bridesmaids’ Clothing Designer: Anthropologie, Videography: Tony Castaneda Films, Music: Thomas Giglio Events & Venue Coordinator: Melody Corvalan with Hotel Del Coronado

For other San Diego destination wedding or honeymoon venues, check out these additional Destination I Do articles: Paradise in San Diego & Keep Maritime in San Diego.

Couple in Punta Cana doing a destination wedding by the ocean
Weddings at Sandals
Black couple getting married in Jamaica
Jamaica Destination Weddings
Couple in Cancun doing a gazebo destination wedding
White couple getting married in Punta Cana, DR
destination wedding couple throwing rose petals in costa mujeres

Find a Vendor

Access our list of vendors based on your destination location.