Today is a wonderful day. Exactly 3 years ago, I married my best friend and the love of my life on a beach in Aruba. Happy Anniversary honey!
2 nights before our wedding, Aruba 2008
I’ve been wanting to tell you all about my destination wedding for some time now, but I thought it appropriate to wait until our anniversary celebration. I hope you’re ready for a lot of information and a lot of photos. Because that’s just how I roll.
After we got engaged in September 2007, Shaun and I decided that we wanted to buck the lavish Jersey wedding tradition and do something a little more low-key...a little more ‘us’. Aruba had been my family’s annual vacation destination for some time so I immediately knew that the laid back ‘tude, blue seas and breezy, never-fail weather would also be the perfect place for our dream wedding. After a lot of discussion and a lot of family-convincing, we planned our big day for July 11, 2008 at the Westin Aruba Resort.
Unlike most weddings, we had more than just one evening to play with so we planned a full-blown long weekend wedding. We planned lots of fun activities, dinners and of course, a sunset beach ceremony. And since we have such wonderful family and friends, we had a whopping 80 guests in attendance, one of the biggest weddings Aruba has seen.
To plan from far away did mean relinquishing the power of options (since there's about 3 photographers and 2 bands to choose from), but just because we got married in a far away place didn't mean sacrificing an ounce of style or personality.
Since it was a beach wedding, it was easy to carry my favorite color - blue! - through in each and every detail. Starting with the invitations, we settled on dark blue, light blue and white. The invitations featured information about the nighttime rehearsal dinner and sunset beach ceremony and reception (which we chose to do indoors since the Aruba humidity can be a bit overwhelming and we wanted our guests to be comfortable) all wrapped together with a light blue ribbon.
We also included information about restaurants, activities to do while in Aruba, and recommended attire for the big day. I should also mention that we sent out very detailed Save-the-Date cards way in advance so that people would have lots of time to plan, should they want to attend.
The theme of the wedding was casual...or island elegant, as I like to call it. It meant no suits but also no shorts. We tried to keep some sense of formality while still taking to the elements - sun, sand and water.
While most of our guests spent the day on the beach, my bridesmaids and I spent the afternoon at the hotel spa getting our make up and hair did.
The Westin put us up in a gorgeous suite, so the girls and I got ready there. It seemed like it took forever (!) for the wedding planner to finally call us down to the beach. After getting into our gowns - and doing a paparazzi-style photo shoot on the terrace outside the room - we had some champagne and I got my sweat on waiting for the call.
My dress (which I still dream about because it is hands-down the best garment I’ve ever worn) was classic and simple crisp white chiffon. It was tight, corset-back and fell straight down. No poofieness for the beach. Oh and I walked down the aisle barefoot. Meanwhile, Shaun wore a fitted light brown suit matching the beautifully tan sand with a shiny white tie to match my gown.
I chose a shiny, strapless light blue dress for the bridesmaids while the groomsmen wore dark blue Tommy Bahama shirts with light blue details. While the guys wore dark brown boat shoes, the ladies ditched their shoes at the top of the aisle for a barefoot beachy vibe.
The bridesmaids’ flowers were a mix of coral, blue, white and purple, the perfect complement to the girls' dresses. For my own flowers, I chose calla lilies, the same flower that my mom had carried at her and my dad's wedding 30 years earlier.
After the guests and groomsmen were in place, the girls and I headed down to the beach. The beach was set with white covered chairs with blue and silver sashes along with a calla lily-crested archway at the end of the aisle.
I also designed sweet beachy wedding programs for our guests.
The religious aspect of our wedding was very important to our families, so we also invited Shaun’s family’s pastor to join us and perform the ceremony. As their long-time pastor and family friend, it was wonderful to have him officiate our ceremony, rather than an island-issued ordained person (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either).
With our closest friends and family by our side, we promised to love and take care of each other until the end of time and beyond. It was the happiest day of my life, and one that was 8 years in the making.
Following the ceremony, we had a small cocktail hour on the beach while Shaun and I posed for sunset photos.
Inside the reception, the beach theme carried through to all the details. Table assignments were written on sand dollars and each table featured flowers reminiscent of the girls' bouquets. I also had blue and white starfish shipped down for the occasion to be used as table decor. We even did the matchbook thing, once again showcasing starfish as the signature icon of the night.
Since the whole event was fairly casual, we chose a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner. We dined on stuffed Dover sole, cornish hens, lamb with rosemary (Shaun's favorite), beef tenderloin, plantain & sweet potato salad and lots more!
My sister Kimberly gave a beautiful toast that made me both laugh and cry.
The cake was fun and playful in white and our signature blue. The top was adorned with an H monogram, signifying our last name. The flavor? My favorite chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream (since Shaun isn't a dessert person, I was given free reign to choose the flavors).
We also knew that a simple favor just wouldn't do the trick to thank all of our fantastic family and friends for not only attending our wedding, but spending more than a couple of days with us in paradise. In welcome gift bags, we supplied Shaun & Rachel's Wedding in Aruba t-shirts (which everyone dutifully wore the morning after)...
... bottles of Aruban water (they are famous for their fresh water) and a matted photo of a Divi Tree, a beautifully slanted tree that is swayed by Aruba's strong island tradewinds.
It's a signature icon of the island and as a gift to us, some friends picked out a plaque with a Divi tree painted on with the words Bon Bini scrawled beneath it (Bon Bini means Welcome in Papiamento, and it's now happily displayed in our kitchen, which you may recall from my Avid Kitchen article).
We danced the night away. I'm pretty sure that every person there had a fantastic time at our wedding week!
As you can tell, I'm kind of obsessed with our wedding. And I'm not going to lie...I kind of want to do it again :)
I have a couple other posts coming up for you this week, including our civil service at the Aruba town hall and our pirate-themed rehearsal beach BBQ.
So there you have it. A lot of detail about our beachy island wedding. I hope you made it this far without changing the page :) So what do you think? Have you ever been to (or had) and out-of-the-ordinary wedding?
Psst...if you like this, check out the story of how we met and fell in love.