A small, personal ceremony and reception was the perfect way to celebrate a romance that was several years in the making. Carlos and Ester started as high school sweethearts and only grew closer when she returned from college seven years later. Their Puerto Rican ceremony was simple, highly personal, and a perfect reflection of the two.
Destination42: So tell me a little about you guys, where are you from, how did you meet?
Ester: Actually, he is from Bolivia and I’m from Alexandria, VA. We met in high school! He moved here from Bolivia when he was 17 and we had math class together. I looked at him and thought he was adorable. When we graduated, I moved away to Florida to study and when I came back seven years later we found each other again.
D42: How did you get engaged?
Ester: It was my 28th birthday and he recreated our first date. He took me back to the restaurant in Alexandria and he proposed to me.
D42: What made you decide to have a destination wedding?
Ester: We have a large circle of family and friends in Virginia and we were both in school at the time, so we needed something economical. We knew if we had a wedding here we’d easily have a guest list of 300 people, so destination seemed to be the way to go. My mom is originally from Puerto Rico and I’d taken Carlos there a few times and he fell in love with it. I think it reminded him of the city where he grew up.
D42: How was the experience of working with your wedding planner?
Ester: It was amazing. We were both working full time and in school so I didn’t really have a brain to put together a wedding. She came and sat down with us for a good four to six hours (but it didn’t feel like that) and she got so much information from us. Every idea I had she knew how to find, every detail I wanted she knew how to get it. We would put up the ideas and she would make it happen, and if we said the price wasn’t comfortable for us she would negotiate that for us. It was so easy and so smooth. She was very much in touch with us about everything, and we had monthly meetings where she caught us up with what was happening. It took about a year to plan the wedding.
D42: What advice do you have for couples planning a destination wedding?
Ester: Having a wedding planner helped, but I haven’t done another wedding. Just always make sure you hear each other. From what I hear from other friends, during the wedding planning process the wedding can get bigger than you are. So just always making sure that you touch base with each other and keep each other as the front runner. The wedding day is all about the two of you celebrating that day and your love, and the beautiful part is that your friends and family come to celebrate with you. Just remember that the day is about both of you, not just one of you.
D42: What would you say was the favorite part of your wedding day?
Ester: The whole thing was so fast it was hard to pinpoint my favorite part. Probably the calmest part, after we said our vows and they announced us as husband and wife we got to walk down the aisle as husband and wife. It was a surreal moment. Just to be standing there, looking at him, knowing that this was the man that I was walking into my future with. Knowing we had made this beautiful promise to one another. The icing on the cake was looking up and seeing my friends and family who had traveled all this way to celebrate with us, who have seen us grow and supported us.
D42: Did you incorporate any personal elements?
Ester: Everything. I think every nook and cranny of our wedding was us. That was the great part of our wedding planner; every idea and every detail I had she made sure it was there. We had a custom rum bar. Since we had it in Puerto Rico we really wanted our guests to taste the island and experience the island. We had a beautiful violinist playing when we walked the aisle. The DJ was very us, and it’s becoming very popular in Latin weddings to do what’s called in English a “crazy hour.” The DJ puts on random music and everyone gets dressed up in props, like for a photobooth, and you dance around and you get everyone in the wedding to get up and experience the moment. There were a lot of personal elements about the wedding.
D42: What about the food and the cake?
Ester: We have a little dog and he had to be included in the wedding even though he couldn’t be at the wedding. There was a photo of us with him on the table. The food was amazing, everyone raved about it. I wanted everyone to be able to taste the island and we really wanted to marry our two cultures, the Puerto Rican and the Bolivian, because the Carribean and Latin America are very different. It was hard to marry those two. We had a pig on a stick, a roast pig. It can be very hard to get something like that right, but it was amazing. The caterers were amazing. They had flavored water for the guests when they arrived because the island was hot. They did a custom drink for the wedding as well. Just the hospitality was amazing.
D42: Did you guys stay on Puerto Rico for your honeymoon or did you go somewhere else?
Ester: We stayed for about a week on the island, and that was the fun part of it. It was kind of a family honeymoon. A lot of our guests got there on Wednesday and we got married on a Sunday, so we spent Sunday to Tuesday together. Like I said we were students, so just paying for the wedding was enough. We took it as our honeymoon there and we had so much fun. We got to explore the island and see everything. So it was a honeymoon but with family and friends included.
D42: Any other fun details from the day you want to share?
Ester: I definitely think the main thing to do is to make sure to have a spectacular photographer; speak with them and let them get to know your personality. Don’t let them go in blindly. A videographer is completely important. The day goes by so quickly that you will forget it. We got our video back and it helped us remember every moment we couldn’t capture on our own.
Get in contact with whoever officiates your wedding. We spoke to our guy over the phone for a few hours so he could get a feel for us and he customized our ceremony. It was so beautiful how he spoke, and it wasn’t a fully religious ceremony. There was a prayer that he lead, which is one of the more common ones, the “Love is Kind” prayer. The fact that he got to speak with us made all the difference.
When you’re doing destination that contact you have with your vendor is extremely important. It’s important for them to understand your personality so they can understand how to customize their service for you. The more your vendors know you the more they can do for you. Our wedding planner made it super easy for us because she contacted all the vendors for us and she did all of our negotiations, but there were points when I said “OK I want to talk to them” so they can understand. I wanted my photographer to understand why I wanted some of these goofy photos and some more serious photos and our videographer as well. With the DJ it was important for me to be able to talk to him as well, so he could understand if there was an empty moment if he could fill it in or what he could fill it in with. That all definitely helped.
DESIGNER & PLANNER: PASSIONATE WEDDINGS, LLC www.passionate-weddings.com
VENUE: HACIENDA SIESTA ALEGRE- RIO GRANDE, PUERTO RICO
CATERER: BLISS CATERERS
CIGAR ROLLER: GONZALEZ CIGAR ENTERTAINMENT
FLORAL & DÉCOR: ARQUETIPO
CAKE: MI CASA CAKES AND MORE
PHOTOGRAPHER: AVANTI PHOTO STUDIOS
DJ/PHOTOBOOTH: SPL ENTERTAINMENT
VIDEO PRODUCTION: INNOVA VIDEO PRODUCTION & DESIGN