HOW TO PLAN A DESTINATION WEDDING
like a flight attendant
St. Croix USVI
Growing up abroad, I was obsessed with " airmail” – you know, the international mail that was a lightweight paper and envelope, usually with a red, white and blue set of stripes around the outer edge?
So when we got engaged, I immediately decided that the theme of our wedding day was going to be “airmail.” It was fitting, because my fiancé is a mailman, and I am an international flight attendant. I figured that the odds of other couples with the same theme were pretty slim, and it was the first decision I made planning our wedding day that oozed our personalities. It gave me a "jumping" point from which I envisioned our day.
We envisioned an extended honeymoon in an amazing beach destination, where we could bring friends along to play in the ocean, in the mountains, and in beautiful landscapes. I wanted everyone to have fun, to have the entire trip to be fondly remembered by our friends, and to be beyond epic in way different than what other brides were planning. Being a photographer myself (click for my website ) above all, I wanted our special day to be documented by a photographer who had a similiar vision.
Because we were engaged in January and living in Boston, the winter was in full swing and our mindset was "let's go thaw out under palm trees on some beach - any beach!" We set our wedding date for June 13 and booked our non-stop flights immediately via American Airlines. We choose St Croix in the US Virgin Islands because it was a quiet island compared to St Martin/Martaan, but not as quiet as St John. Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, we chose The Carambola Beach Resort and Spa.
As a flight attendant with so many countries in my back pocket (over 50!) it wasn’t easy to narrow down a destination. I just knew that I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been. So our choice to go to St Croix came from inspiration from another couples wedding photography that was posted to the hotel’s website. Being that St Croix was in the US Virgin Islands, I knew my friends wouldn't have to worry about getting passports if they didn't already have them. I fell in love with the gorgeous mountain range that would be the view for our beach ceremony, and knew we would find epic adventures in the mountains, and the sea...but also amazing wedding photography!
As a photographer, I wanted to continue supporting other small businesses. Again, on Etsy, I found a graphic artist - Cathy's Custom Prints, who designed every single type of custom invitations. Cathy was brilliant. I gave her examples of what I liked, and the creative freedom to pull it off.
My formal invitations were designed as a vintage map folded around the actual invitation, with the “airmail” stamp included on the envelopes. I ordered personalized photo stamps showcasing our engagement photo, a fun idea that put a unique spin that I hadn't yet seen by other brides.
Inside each invitation envelope was a vintage designed “passport.” It resembled a real passport, but showcased our engagement photo, dates of the wedding, location and reception information on the front page. Each passport page there-after featured a day-by-day itinerary jam-packed with excursions for each day of our wedding week.
On Etsy, I searched out and found Faye Marie, a woman who runs a flower business from her farm in northern California. After discussing my vision to use sola wood flowers and vines, she beautifully made me a bouquet that was easy to ship to me, and carry on an airplane. It also would never need to be dried, but could simply be preserved by not crushing it. The bouquet and boutonniere came out beautifully, and so unique. I was extremely please with how these types of flowers traveled, and that I didn't need to find a local florist when I got to St Croix.
I was on a layover in Salt Lake City shopping with a friend, when I walked into a store and bought my dress off the rack - for $40! I purchased it 2 months before I was even engaged - who does this? Apparently me - I was THAT sure about it! The brand was Sweetheart Gowns. It was chiffon with beads and sequins, a court train and was perfect for a beach wedding. I wore it with a chunky pearl necklace with a sola flower in my hair. How's that for not being pretentious? I even went barefoot during the ceremony. The hanger was ordered from another Etsy store: Two Broads Design. Chris wore linen pants, shirt and leather flips flops ordered online from Island Importer.
Our reception was so relaxed and perfect to what we had in mind. We rented a catamaran from Caribbean Sea Adventures, who also organized a bus to transport us from the Carambola Resort where we had a beach ceremony to the boat dock in Christiansted. No dancing at our reception… we were more interested in being in the azul Caribbean waters in our bathing suits.
Our ivory cake, made by a local bakery called Starfish Patisserie, was decorated very simply with sola wood flowers that matched my bouquet. (I bought extra flowers here: Save On Crafts)
What are sola flowers? Watch this video to learn more about these natural wood flowers and how they are made!
Our cake was tasty, but the buttercream suffered from the tropical temperatures of the island. The bakery is used is now closed. My suggestion to you: Go island style with a rum cake topped with a buttercream glaze -- because they are so yummy! St Croix Rum Cakes are amazing!
We cut the cake while in our bathing suits, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and rum punch, soaking up the ambiance of sunset. So that we could immerse ourselves in the flavors of the island, we capped off the night with a reception dinner at a typical Caribbean restaurant run by the owner of Caribbean Sea Adventures, Miles, who hosted our reception on the catamaran.
We wrote our vows individually and typed them out on paper to read them to each other on the beach in front of our friends. After we returned home, we had our vows framed.
ACTIVITIES / EXCURSIONS
We planned excursions daily and each couple could choose to join in or not. Each couple paid for their own excursions, except for the reception on the catamaran and we listed the prices and how to book them in the "passport" invitation.
Activities kept us busy, and included night-time kayaking in bioluminescent waters from a see-through kayak with Sea Thru Kayaks; yoga on the beach the morning of the wedding for the girls, and golfing for the guys at the Carambola Golf Club.
We chartered a boat for a few hours from Caribbean Sea Adventures to explore Bucks Island and its quiet beach and snorkeled on its amazing reef. We hiked to the Annaly salt water pools in our bathing suits at low tide, from a path leading straight from the resort.
We also all rented Jeeps from Budget so that we had the freedom to go off-roading and explore the island. We found many places, but worth mentioning is Rainbow Beach for sunset, Protestant Cay (which may have been our very favorite place to hang and throw a football in the water) and Udell and Issac's Bay for the scenery. We couldn't pass up a stop by the Buccaneer Hotel to see the old ruins of the rum distillery or resist stopping for a drink and lunch at Mt Pellier Hut, in the heart of the rainforest, where the pigs drink beer - - you won't believe it til you see it! Non-alcoholic, of course!
The one thing we were sure of is that we wanted to collect amazing memories with our friends. We knew that a destination wedding would put us in a relaxed state of mind. We did not accept wedding presents (which would have been hard to pack to go home anyway) but instead requested the "presence” of our friends.
We had only given them five months to join us from the time we got engaged, and in the end, we invited ten couples, and four couples were able to make it, including a photographer friend.Everyone flew in on their own schedule, chose from a week’s itinerary of various fun adventures they wanted to be a part of and a specific date and time for the "do-not-miss" beach ceremony.
It's definitely not required, but we were so happy that the friends who came were able to make it, we wanted to thank them so much for joining us. I brought Zum goat milk soaps from home, made by Indigo Wild -- THE best soap in the world, it smells AHMAAAAAAZING and it's earth friendly! (I recommend Frankincense and Myrrh!) I also purchased personalized rum cakes to put in a "welcome" package left on their beds when they arrived. A little touch of the island.
Our photographer was a friend, who no longer does photography. But I am a professional "couples" photographer, specializing in elopements and intimate destination weddings in epic destinations. I am extremely passionate about providing amazing photography for couples who are looking for the same awesome experience- of-a-lifetime as we had!
I hope that you'll take any and all of my advice on planning a destination wedding in St Croix. Planning a destination wedding should be exhilarating, not scary! As a matter of fact, I give you permission to go ahead - COPY my wedding plans, use my same vendors! why don't you consider using me as your photographer? Take a look at MY website and then contact me to help you photograph YOUR day! Sherry