Mirka & Tony's salty 'n' sweet tropical fiesta wedding

September 1 |

beach portrait
Photos by Jennifer Hale

The offbeat bride: Mirka, artist and jewelry designer

Her offbeat partner: Tony, photographer and graphic designer

Date and location of wedding: Bahía Salinas Hotel, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, USA — June 16, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: After 12 years of blissful living in sin (with our two kittehs), Tony and I decided, what the hell, let's have a party! Our wedding was offbeat lite. We went for a bright, tropical beach vibe for the decor, with a bit of '50s vintage flair for our attire. This was our chance to drag our family and closest friends to Puerto Rico for a destination wedding. I grew up in Puerto Rico and my mother, sister, and other relatives live there. Tony and I had been to the island on many trips together and had always had a fantastic time.

beach portraits

In 2008, after a day trip to the Cabo Rojo lighthouse and its lovely beach, we stumbled upon the Bahía Salinas Hotel, a small, family-run inn, and had lunch there. We eventually did choose this place as our wedding venue. It is located within a wildlife preserve, with gorgeous landmarks nearby, so we felt comfortable that once our guests made the trek, they would feel, as we did, that it was worth it.

our table

Tell us about the ceremony: We went back and forth on some of the traditions. Initially, we'd assumed we'd just write our own vows. After talking to some of our recently married friends, we decided against super sappy and baring of our souls in public. That's not really us. We wanted to keep things fun! So we went for somewhat traditional "I do" vows, Tony in English and I in Spanish, and then said some brief words to each other. It's a good thing we did that, as I got totally choked up as it was.

ceremonia / ceremony

We customized the Sand Unity Ceremony by using salt instead. The hotel where we had the ceremony and reception is located right near sea salt pools and there's an interpretative center for the area where you can buy the local salt.

ceremonial salt

Our photographers, Jen and Tony, graciously picked up some salt for us the day of the wedding. We filled up a fish-shaped wine bottle from my mother's house and used it as our vessel. From the ceremony photos, it looks like we're mixing up drinks right there on the beach!

Our pastor, who we didn't meet until the day of, but had talked to on the phone, was very accommodating. We didn't want a super religious deal. He used his Ipad during the ceremony with his notes on what we had discussed.

mr. & mrs.

Our biggest challenge: We knew the planning would be a bit of a challenge. Not only would it be a destination wedding, but the location would be off the beaten path. Thankfully the inn had its own wedding coordinator! I couldn't have done it without her help. We ended up using a lot of her local contacts and vendors. I did tons of online research so that I could send the vendors very specific pictures and descriptions of the flowers and cake.

purdy cake

I designed the wedsite, invitations, place cards, floral arrangements, and made the flower girls' and my own accessories. If it had been a local wedding for us, I would have done more DIY with the flowers. But our philosophy was to keep things as simple as possible, to minimize last-minute running around and to focus on enjoying the day in this beautiful location with our guests. I shipped in advance what I could to my mother's house, such as the parasols, hand fans, and whatever I wasn't bringing on the plane.

our handmade place cards

our invite
Check out the inspiration!

We couldn't have been happier with the setting; it was everything we had hoped for and more. Because it was a small hotel, we were able to pretty much take it over for the event.

tony greets the flower girls and ring bearer

My favorite moment: Ours was an intimate gathering. Most of our guests stayed the night before and the night of the wedding, so we had a chance to spend quality time with our family and best friends. We didn't have an "official" bridal party, but our friends and family sure helped us a lot the day of. This meant so much to us.

impromptu shimmy

My funniest moment: There wasn't as much dancing as we had hoped, because we had some last-minute table setup changes, so there wasn't much room for it. But we did manage to get everybody going with a Latin cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" by Señor Coconut.

impromptu shimmy

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I certainly didn't expect any major disasters. The day before, when we arrived at the venue, we were definitely concerned about the heat. It was sweltering. The dawn of the wedding, there was a tropical thunderstorm, which is quite common and a good thing. It ended up being a little cooler and overcast, which was perfect.

twilight view

I was running late getting ready. My hair took forever, as if in slow-motion, and I had to literally run to bathe and slap my makeup on. It was a panic moment. Tony was sweating, not because he was worried I wouldn't show up, but because he was wearing a suit in the tropical heat!

my awesome shoes and handmade accessories

My advice for offbeat brides: This probably applies to any wedding, but is oh-so-critical for a destination wedding: be flexible. Ship some things in advance if possible. Travel light. Show up a bit in advance. You can only plan so much, so let others help you. If I could do some things over again, I would have kept a low profile, sequestered myself, and started getting ready much earlier.

emma's beach artwork

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. First, those shoes are amazing. Second, the pictures of the "Beat It" dance train are fabulous. Looks like it was a beautiful wedding!

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    • Thanks Mindy!

      I stalked Etsy for vintage 50's dresses for a while. They either got snapped up fast or were a 24" waist. I had been hoping to just find a vintage dress locally. I saw this one listed on Etsy and it happened to be by a local SF store. I tried it on and it fit! I thought the lavender-blue would be so pretty for a beach wedding. It was the only dress I tried on. I bought it immediately and cancelled an appointment I'd made at a bridal shop, which I was dreading. I love how easy it was!

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      • You are lucky. I tried on over 60 dresses at 5 different bridal shops before I stumbled upon my vintage dress at a thrift shop. You looked beautiful and I agree it's the perfect color for the beach!

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  2. Your friend with the blue/green hair….love it! I love all the little touches you did to your wedding. It's so pretty! Anything 50s/vintage will always get me. :)

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  3. Gorgeous! I too have been looking at EllanaCouture! I really love her dresses. :)

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  4. the shoes…i. die.

    the flowers are beautiful. really, it all looks so vibrant…love it all!

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    • Thanks! I can't wait to wear the shoes again, haha!

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  5. I haven't even read the article yet, but I saw the first picture and thought "Wow! She looks like a princess!" and had to comment while the thought was fresh in my mind.

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  6. This was a beautiful wedding! I am Dominican and my fiance is Puerto Rican (his parents live in Adjuntas) and we recently decided to have an intimate wedding in Puerto Rico so I'm on the hunt for venues and ideas! I don't want to do San Juan as I want to do something a little different, unique. I'm going to check out your hotel since it seems so nice, calm, comfortable, away from the city madness! Wishing you and your husband many, many more years of happiness!!

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