Jamaican Beach Wedding Recap
8 weeks y’all! That’s how long I’ve been a Mrs. and after the most amazing month of my life, we’ve now fully transitioned back to reality here in Minneapolis.
In all honesty, it’s still a bit awkward calling Austin my husband & legally, I haven’t changed my last name yet (it’s a work in progress) but even the thought of not using Schulz anymore seems crazy to me. Regardless of all of the legalities surrounding official name changes, the deed is done & we are officially married!
One of the biggest questions I received throughout our engagement and the wedding planning process was “why did you choose a destination wedding?” quite frankly, it was something that we had decided upon long before we were engaged for an assortment of different reasons.
1) We LOVE to travel.
2) We wanted to share the joy we feel while traveling with as many of our loved ones as possible.
3) Finances. The average wedding cost in Minnesota right now costs over $30,000 (and that’s without a honeymoon). In full transparency, we only paid $16,000 total for our wedding; attire, alterations, decorations, flights, everything included. And the only reason that was over $10,000 is because we chose to spend the money to fly down & board high quality photographers and videographers because that shit is important to me. Additionally, our 3-week honeymoon in Bali, Indonesia cost us around $7,000 in total. So if you do the math, for a month long holiday filled with the most amazing experiences of our lives, we still paid significantly less than the amount most people pay for 12 HOURS.
4) Stress. Or should I say lack thereof. I know a lot of people that are currently going through the wedding planning process and are stressed out of their freaking minds. Like panic attack, wake up in the middle of the night to email the florist, which type of silverware do we use… STRESSED. All for what?! Endless decisions and dollars spent that in the grand scheme of life do not mean a darn thing. Planning a destination wedding was a breeze. I was maybe stressed out for 2 days out of our entire engagement and the rest of the process was chill AF. Stress is hard on your body and even harder on a relationship so we stayed as far away from it as possible.
5) The fifth & final reason that we chose destination is simple. Have you ever been to a wedding of a loved one and you get to chat with them for a solid 3 minutes after dinner before they are pulled in 10 other directions and then you don’t see them for the rest of the night? Us too, way too many times. We didn’t want that for our guests at all. We wanted real, quality time with those who love & support us. Call us selfish, but our friends & family are our most prized possessions and there was no way we were going to shoot them a quick “hi/bye” on the most important day of our lives.
For us, the decision was a no-brainer.8
On the flip side, it turned out that sharing the news about this exciting decision with friends & family wasn’t as well received and “easy” as we had expected. Initially everyone was so excited about our engagement, but once we sent out the save the dates and people realized we were serious about doing a destination wedding, things got weird. REALLY freakin’ weird.
The excitement of our engagement vanished and instead many of our closest friends & family members chose to ignore us (& the fact that we were engaged/getting married) altogether. At family gatherings, during phone calls/outings with friends, at events, it didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, our wedding was not spoken about. And IF someone dare start a conversation about our wedding, it merely consisted of them sharing how expensive it was over & over & over.
And while we fully understood that attending our wedding was a large financial commitment and not everyone we invited would be able to attend, I’d be lying if I said that Austin & I weren’t bummed out by a lot of these behaviors. And to be totally honest, our hearts broke when some of our best friends completely ghosted us during this process & still haven’t spoken to us. Why did this happen? I don’t think we’ll ever know, but it definitely didn’t/doesn’t feel good.
Also, to be very clear, not everyone on our guest list acted this way towards our decision. Our parents, for example, some other family members and a few friends were all very supportive & backed us the entire time. And then there were those people who initially met our decision with a lot of hesitation, criticism, doubt, judgement, etc. yet over time, those feelings subsided and they decided to join us in Jamaica. Those people were difficult to deal with for awhile, but we were so grateful when they finally decided to join us on the island!
In hopes that this doesn’t happen to others whose dream wedding consists of something other than a traditional wedding, I’m going to share some advice with you just in case you ever get invited to a destination wedding and can’t make it.
When a couple plans a destination wedding, they fully understand that not everyone on their guest list will be able to attend & guess what? They are a-ok with it. Also, believe it or not, but when a couple plans a destination wedding, they know exactly how much it’s going to cost each person to attend -- they are the ones who did their research and chose the resort for goodness sake. So if you’re ever invited to a destination wedding, here are a few suggestions I have for you.
Please don’t ever complain about the cost. Like I said, the bride & groom know and chose that cost for their guests. Maybe it’s because the resort is really nice or the food is top notch or the location is unmatched… whatever it is, they chose it because that’s what THEY wanted and you complaining about it is insulting their decision for THEIR day.
Do not use money as an excuse. We had people from all income levels attend our wedding, zero income college students to successful professionals. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
In fact, don’t use excuses at all. Just be honest. Be honest. Be honest. Be honest. You’re either going or you’re not. The couple is not going to be mad at you either way, just be honest with them, be supportive and let them know as soon as you’ve made your decision.
And if you can’t make it, a simple lunch date/call/text/card stating that you are bummed you can’t make it but you love them, wish them all the best and will be sending your thoughts from afar is AMAZING and so appreciated. To put this in perspective, I think we invited over 150 people and we received less than 3 messages like this -- and we will never forget them.
Be excited & supportive even from miles away. We actually did have a good amount of people reach out the day/week of our wedding and those messages were equally as appreciated.
Throughout this all, always remember that the bride & groom will never be upset at you if you’re simply honest about not being able to make it.
Ok, ok, enough of that. Now onto the details of the day itself! Like I said earlier, we made the decision to fly down our photographers and our videographer, because high quality images have always been important to me and videography just happened to be an amazing extra that fit into our budget.
As far as decorations go, I chose to forego real flowers due to their insanely high costs at the resort and purchased all of our bouquets & boutonnieres off of etsy. The only thing I needed additional decorations for were the dinner tables (because when your ceremony is on the beach at sunset decor really isn’t necessary), so for this I used a mix of very simple but chic lanterns, votives, candles and eucalyptus wreaths and that’s about it. We also chose to bring all of this ourselves in order to a) save money and b) make sure our decor was something we actually liked (I wasn’t in love with any of their decor packages at the resort). We did end up needing about 4 extra carry ons to house our decor during travel, but even with the fees for the baggage, it was way cheaper than purchasing decor from the resort/their vendors and we loved how it turned out.
I ended up getting my hair done in the salon at the resort which was probably the thing I was most nervous about because I’m very particular about my hair and a lot of stylists struggle with fine/thin hair. But, I did a full trial with my stylist the day before the wedding and she just basically un-did my hair immediately after & fishtail braided it so nobody would see it. This made me feel so much more comfortable and I was in turn, able to relax much more on our actual wedding day. Lucky for me, one of my bridesmaids is amazing at makeup so she took the reigns on that and killed it as per usual. Things I did to prep before leaving the states included: getting my lash extensions filled (I got extensions 2+ weeks before the wedding to make sure I liked them/felt comfortable in them), a mani/pedi and a spray tan.
The bridesmaids wore these adorable but super fun, mauve 2-piece sets that I didn’t actually see in person until the day of the wedding but I/they ended up loving them! The groomsmen all wore light khaki pants (and got them tailored for the beach/skinny fit) and white, slim-fit shirts, easy peasy. Austin’s suit was the same color as the groomsmen’s pants (again, lots of tailoring) and his white button up completed the look. Shoes were whatever people wanted because we all went barefoot for the ceremony anyways.
My dress was from Katie May Bridal out of LA but I got it locally at a and be here in Minneapolis and I am obsessed with it. Funny story, I had unknowingly pinned that dress to my college girl dream wedding Pinterest board (come on we all had them) that I hadn’t looked at in years and after an unsuccessful day dress shopping, I came home and opened that board back up, fell in love with the dress, researched the dress/designer, called the only shop in MN that carried it, went in to try it on and that’s the end of that story. PS - my mom was the only person who had seen my dress, me in it or knew anything about my dress before our wedding day which was so so special. Getting my dress to Jamaica? That was actual cake. I just brought it with me on the plane as my carry on and since our flight was actually fairly empty they let me keep it in it’s own overhead bin. This worked well for me because my dress was not large at all and didn’t wrinkle easily, but if you’re thinking you want a giant ball gown for your beach wedding, just remember that you have to haul that thing around with you everywhere, find a place for it on the plane and have access to a steamer or be comfortable sending it to dry cleaning when you get there.
OUR WEDDING DAY
The big day and everyone so lovingly calls it, was extremely laid back (in my opinion). The night before, I spent the night in our honeymoon suite with a couple of my favorite gal pals so after our rehearsal dinner (which involved zero rehearsing and only dinner/drinks) and a bit of bar hopping, I said good-bye to Austin awkwardly as everyone watched like a bunch of weirdos and then I didn’t see him until the first look the next day. On the morning of the wedding, I woke up at a normal time, worked out with my girls, grabbed some breakfast, showered and then headed to the hair salon maybe around 10:30a. My hair was quick so I think I was back in our room (where the girls all got ready) before 11:30a, which meant lots of time to chill/hangout/get makeup done and obviously let the photographers work their magic. As we all know, it takes females much longer than males to get ready, so they guys hung out all morning and then started to get ready many hours after us in a separate room provided by the resort.
As I got ready to put on my dress, we sent the bridesmaids out on the patio to sip some champagne so it could be just my mom and I. As I stepped into my dress I got pretty emotional which was so not expected! My mom was there to help zip me up but before she got to it I guess I just needed a big ol’ hug to stop the unforeseen waterworks ha! Like I said, I never once thought that that would have been a time that I cried, but looking back it’s an incredibly special moment that I will never ever forget. After that charade, we did a big reveal for my bridesmaids (remember they’d never seen my dress) and then it was off to meet up with Austin for some pre-wedding pics.
The first look was underwhelming if I’m being totally honest, but I think that was partly because Austin & I aren’t used to being super emotional/PDA-ey in front of others, so we felt a bit awkward with paparazzi surrounding us. Awkward or not, I was pumped to see him -- he was looking like a straight12 that day and it was nice to have a tiny bit of us time before the ceremony. We spent about an hour walking around the resort taking pics, stopping for water/AC breaks and getting congratulations from every worker and guest that the resort could hold. Seriously, everyone was SO nice.
After that, our wedding party joined us and we took a bunch more pics before heading over to the ceremony location to finish up pre-wedding photos with our families. There was a bit of a pre-wedding hiccup when our soloist came up to me minutes before the ceremony and said that although I had confirmed 3 times prior to leaving the states that the resort had the correct equipment to accommodate her, they in fact did not. But Faith Boblett, is a class act gem and played/sang acoustic just like the pro she is without even batting an eye.
As nervous as I was our entire engagement about getting emotional and ugly crying/ruining my makeup as I walked down the aisle, I didn’t even tear up except for maybe half a second when I hugged my dad at the end. My theory for this (since I cry at every other persons wedding when the bride walks down the aisle) is that it was sunset and I was literally blinded from seeing anything including the faces of Austin and all our guests as my dad walked me down the aisle. Saving grace? I think so.
Comedy aside, our ceremony was both Austin & my favorite part of our entire wedding. Don’t get me wrong, we loved the whole entire day/week, but the experience, the words, the people, the emotion at our ceremony was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. We crafted the entire script ourselves and swapped out standard traditions like generic readings for words of advice from our grandparents, officiants & soloists for our best friends and cliche vows for handwritten ones. Although the ceremony probably didn’t last longer than 15 minutes, I wouldn’t be lying if I told you that there wasn’t a dry eye present. Being at the center of all of the love in that moment was unexplainable and more than we had ever imagined.
After the ceremony everyone headed to a cocktail hour at a bar that was right upstairs and loaded with drinks and amazing appetizers including the best scallops I’ve ever had (damnit why didn’t I eat more than one?!) and shortly after we capitalized on golden hour with our wedding party and then a few with just Austin & I before heading to the rooftop for dinner. Dinner was delicious (probably the best food we had at the resort the whole time) and was at least 12 courses. So. Much. Food. Because it was served family style and the dishes came out one at a time, it took a good amount of time to get through dinner, but it was well worth it. Dessert was part of the 12 courses so we skipped the extra frills and opted to not purchase additional cake or cupcakes for the classic ‘cutting the cake’ photo… because who actually wants to do that anyway?
Dinner done. Bellies full. What else would you do other than dance the next 6+ hours away?! We skipped paying for a DJ and created our own playlist on Spotify, plugged it into an aux cord and jammed. I’m biased, but it was honestly the best wedding dance I’ve ever been to. We had people of all ages at this dance and everyone was out on the dance floor getting down. We even had a someones jumper split right up the ass because she dropped it a bit too low when her favorite song came on --- does it get better than that? And when they kicked us off the rooftop because it was quiet hours, we headed back downstairs to the bar turned club and closed it down.
The next day we rented a catamaran and if guests wanted to they could join us for a day long trip including snorkeling, cave swimming, lunch, cliff jumping, a sunset cruise and all the red stripes and/or rum punches you wanted. This was so much stinking fun! We didn’t plan any excursions like this before going to Jamaica because we wanted everyone to be able to do whatever they wanted throughout the week but it turned out that a lot of people were interested in this so once we were there we booked it & I’d highly recommend doing the same if you’re thinking of doing a destination wedding.
Overall, our experience with Azul Sensatori - Negril was great. It was a gorgeous, modern resort, with the majority of their staff being extremely friendly/helpful and all of their staff members knew Austin & I by name, even if we’d never met which made us feel like royalty the whole week! To me, that goes to show that they put a lot of effort into giving their couples the best service possible and ensuring that their “special day” as they call it goes perfectly. I will admit that they were sometimes hard to communicate with throughout the planning process (not a giant deal because there was so little to actually plan) & there were a few hiccups while we were there regarding guests accommodations, but I think that’s to be expected when traveling with a group of 50+. In the end, the place is beautiful, our guests had a great time, we had a great time and I’d definitely recommend this place for a destination wedding.
Although we felt a lack of support throughout our engagement, once in Jamaica, every single one of our guests came up to us and thanked us again & again & again for having our wedding there. You see, a lot of our guests hadn’t done a lot of beach vacations or traveling in general. Heck, some had never even swam in the ocean! But, Austin & I knew this from the start and being able to help people experience the joy of travel was one of our reasons for hosting a destination wedding. So, while we expected to see a drastic change in people’s mentality about a destination wedding once they were actually able to take in the entire experience, their words of appreciation while there really meant SO SO SO much to us both.
Making the decision to host a destination wedding was one of the best choices we’ve made in our lives thus far. Our wedding turned out even more perfectly than we could have ever imagined and more importantly, the relationships we have with our guests grew 100% stronger over the course of that week. The people made the wedding. Our people made our wedding. And for this, we have gratitude that runs so deep that words could never attempt to describe.
Is a destination wedding calling to you? Stay tuned for my 8 Tips For Planning A Stress Free Destination Wedding post to see just how easy it can be on you and your future partner in life.
Videographers: Dan Flaherty
Lashes: Grace Noelle
Bridal Jewelry: Olive & Piper
Bridal Sandals: MagoSisters
Bridesmaids Dresses: Revelry
Bridesmaids PJs: Le Rose
Grooms Suit/Groomsmen Pants: ASOS
Florals: Blue Orchid Creations
Hair Piece: Brides & Hairpins