Now that we’d found the venue, we used the context of “what would give our guests the best vacation ever?” to determine every choice we’d make about the wedding. We planned a three day affair that was magical and so very us.
There are certain moments that play back in my memory like a movie scene, which could not be more indicative of all that can happen – good and bad – in a destination wedding:
There was the 1 AM text message from American Airlines canceling our flight from Atlanta to Miami (fun fact: out of 40 guests, only 4 made their original flights without delays. Everyone else was canceled or bumped due to “weather.” All guests made it in time, but lesson learned: ALWAYS fly in at least a day, if not more, before the event itself).
After a sleepless night, there was actual running through the Miami airport (after flying into Ft. Lauderdale, hailing a cab, and scrambling through security to make our original Miami-St. Kitts flight). This was all done as Jeremy held a wedding dress above his head, of course. I also doled out ample boxes of Ferrero Rochet chocolates as bribes along the way (tip of the trade: if it’s a special trip, pack a few boxes of these to give to front desk agents, security guards or people you need to cut in line).
We chose to surprise Jeremy’s family with the fact that we made it onto that flight. I will never forget the entire Sulek/Romanello clan when we saw them that morning. I cried. A lot. It felt like winning the Amazing Race, just without the million dollars. Easily one of my favorite group hugs of all time.
While we made it to the resort, we spent the next day anxiously watching as American continued canceling our friends’ flights – but those troopers all made it and spent the evening with us in the private dining area of Fisherman’s Village. We introduced them to one another and sat back, watching the magic of those connections take flight. We just knew our people would love each other like we love each of them.
Everyone caught up on their sleep in time for the nonstop laughter of the BYOF (Bring Your Own Floatie!) pool party that Friday during the day (and beforehand when we busted out our $20 Amazon air pumps).
Our photographer and videographers geeked out over the underwater shots & slow motion movie scenes of jumping into the Park Hyatt’s epic main pool.
That evening, we watched as our friends and family were escorted onto the boat transfers to take us to Salt Plage for our rehearsal dinner. We got on last. I felt like Beyoncé but with a way better looking Jay-Z. I’ve also been told we look like we belong in an ad for Sunglass Hut.
At Salt Plage, the sky reflected the emotions of the evening. The sun set behind us and a blood moon rose in front of us as our guests took to the mic to tell us their life advice, share their favorite stories, and raise a glass to the love we have in one another. We were issued marriage challenges – to love each other as much after fifty years as we did that day, just like my grandparents – and welcomed into one another’s families.
Everyone felt fizzy and buzzy and giddy from the dinner, which led to the spontaneous after party in the Great House where Manish the bartender mixed up world class cocktails. Jeremy and I snuck out to dance on the lawn, under the moonlight, in the spot where we’d be having our first dance less than twenty four hours later. Jeremy is known for his Irish Exits and managed to do so even at his own rehearsal dinner. What a champ.
The next morning, I woke to an incredible peace as I stared out at the clouds rising above Nevis and read through the journal entries that I’d written to my future husband. The wind stilled and I knew that every moment in my life, from the stumbles to the victories, were an overwhelming gift from God to bring me to that day to marry the person he crafted perfectly for me.
I spent the rest of the morning at breakfast with my parents as we exchanged letters and gifts, laughter and tears. More than that, we exchanged gratitude. I am abundantly thankful that they raised me the way they did, thankful that they both could be there on such a special day, and thankful that they’ve accepted my groom as their son.
The rest of the day plays out like a montage: my future sister in law stepping in to do my makeup, my bridesmaids laughing at what their floral arrangements looked like when held a certain way, our videographers working around shots when there’s still a blown up whale shark floatie in the bathroom from the day before. There are the sweet moments with my mama as she helped me get ready, then there was the knock on the door from my father, signaling that it was time for him to walk me down the aisle.
In the air, I heard the first few notes of Ben Fold’s “The Luckiest.” At the altar, still out of site, everyone told me how much my sweet groom cried at this moment. As I walk arm in arm with my father down the stairs, I think I’m moving in slow motion, but I’m told later that I was nearly sprinting down the aisle to my man.
Our good friend-turned-officiant led our guests in prayer. Throughout the ceremony, there was a stillness that can only be attributed to the same stillness I felt that morning of, especially on an island as windy as St. Kitts.
Then there was the kiss, the cheers, the flowers thrown high in the sky in a scene that I thought could only happen in movies.
When we stepped away from our guests for our couples photos on the beach, I became a barefoot bride and found that I loved it. At some point or another, my veil flew off and the manager of Fisherman’s Village ran to retrieve it – while still in her heels – because the Park Hyatt St. Kitts is very much the best resort with the best people on earth. Period.
The reception is laced in flowing white curtains, lit by tiny tea lights, and filled with so much love and laughter. Moment by moment, we’re present for the dances and the speeches and the sparkler sendoff where one of our guests lights too many sparklers on fire – because there’s always that one person, ours just happened to also be our officiant – and after the party there was the after party. Sometime after two in the morning, Jeremy jumped into the pool because he lost a game of rock, paper, scissors (shoot) to his sister.
At the end of it all, in the dead silence of the resort at three in the morning, we walked back, hand-in-hand, as husband and wife, with hearts so full they could possibly burst.
And all of those in between moments that could never be captured in words or on film are forever engraved in our memories and in our hearts.
So what’s it like to plan a destination wedding?
It’s a dream come true.