Adrienne & Dennis' week-long non-resort wedding in Mexico

June 21 |
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Photos by Morgan Sather and Kyle Hodgson

The offbeat bride: Adrienne, Writer/Teacher

Her offbeat partner: Dennis, Lawyer

Date and location of wedding: The ceremony and party were held at the hotel Casa de Las Flores in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The dinner was held at the restaurant Yaxche in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. — April 19, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I asked Dennis to marry me in April 2011 in the courtyard of the hotel we were staying at, Casa de Las Flores, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Exactly a year to the day that I proposed, we had our wedding in that same courtyard. The most important thing to us was to have an awesome celebration and party with our closest friends and family. We didn't want to spend a lot and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of money to have a great vacation and do a lot of scuba diving.

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IMG_7014 (2)We didn't have a wedding party, bouquets, boutonnières, etc. I walked down the stairs by myself to Queen's "Under Pressure," and our 65 guests were gathered around us in the little outdoor lobby of the hotel. We got legally married in Vancouver (where we live) after we got back from Mexico. This is because we have marriage equality in Canada, and that is super important to both Dennis and I since we have many queer friends and I'm bisexual.

We also wanted to choose our own officiant and create the ceremony ourselves. We asked people not to get us gifts, though if they wanted to, they could donate to a charity on our behalf (we selected three: Family Service Saskatoon, Egale Canada [Canada's LGBTQ Human Rights organization], and the Vancouver Street Cat Rescue).

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My mum made our wedding cake and she brought half the ingredients down to Mexico with her. She ordered two blown glass sea horses as wedding toppers, and put sugar around the cake with chocolate sea shells to represent the beach. Both Dennis and I are avid scuba divers and have done most of our diving together in Playa del Carmen. Two days after we got engaged we saw our first seahorse together.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Our close friend Mike was our officiant, which was particularly special because he introduced us four and a half years ago. He did an incredible job leading us through our simple ceremony which consisted of the three readings, our commitments to each other, and a ring exchange. Our guests stood or sat on the ground. My eighty-nine year old oma had the only official seat. We put most of our energy into our vows, which turned out to be really emotional for both of us. Here are two of the commitments I made to Dennis:

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I commit to doing my very best to stay mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually healthy throughout our relationship. As we grow older, I commit to doing my best to grow old alongside you with grace and integrity, and to accept aging as a beautiful part of life.

I commit to a life of open and honest communication with you. I commit to going to counseling with you when things become too rough for us to continue without that help. I commit to reaching out to the members of our treasured community for support, to not isolating myself, and to doing my part to make sure our relationship doesn't exist in a vacuum.

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Here were two of the readings that we felt communicated our feelings on commitment within long-term relationships:

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person.
– Madeleine L'Engle (The Irrational Season)
This isn't a spotless life. There is much ahead, my immaculate little peach. And there is no way to say it other than to say it: marriage is indeed this horribly complex thing for which you appear to be ill prepared and about which you seem to be utterly naïve. That's okay. A lot of people are. You can learn along the way. A good place to start would be to let fall your notions about "perfect couples." It's really such an impossible thing to either perceive honestly in others or live up to when others believe it about us. It does nothing but box some people in and shut other people out and it ultimately makes just about everyone feel like shit. A perfect couple is a wholly private thing. No one but the two people in the perfect relationship know for certain whether they're in one. Its only defining quality is that it's composed of two people who feel perfectly right about sharing their lives with each other, even during the hard times.
– Cheryl Strayed as Dear Sugar

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Our biggest challenge: One of our challenges was planning a destination wedding that was not held at a resort. We rented the entire hotel and ended up covering the cost of a few rooms that we couldn't fill, but it was definitely worth it. We had a week with just our guests at the hotel and there is nothing more incredible than having everyone you love in the same place for a whole week.

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My favorite moment: Hearing Dennis say his commitments to me. We had a lot of discussion regarding the differences between vows and commitments, and we both felt a kinship with the idea that vows imply staying in a relationship whether or not it is working and workable. Commitments, on the other hand, imply that one is committed to being in the relationship so long as both partners are working individually and together to make the relationship function in a healthy way.

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Other moments I loved:

  • Wandering around Playa del Carmen with our photographers (who happened to be our close friends) and feeling like movie stars.
  • Sharing our first dance to "In My Life" by The Beatles.
  • When my meticulously crafted iTunes playlist was interrupted by a Mariachi band! My brother-in-law is Mexican and he (and a few others) ordered us the Mariachi Band, who marched into the hotel lobby and played for over an hour at full tilt. Apparently this is as easy as ordering pizza.
  • Swimming with Dennis in the little pool in the courtyard of the hotel at three in the morning.

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My funniest moment: The funniest moments happened in the days leading up to the celebration. Like the night before when half of our guests played poker in one room while the other half played a rowdy game of "I Never" with a giant bottle of tequila in the other.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We had no idea what the restaurant would be like until three days before the wedding since we found it online through Trip Advisor. The food turned out to be absolutely incredible and the service was impeccable. We were also very anxious about having all of our guests at a hotel that only we had stayed at before. Beatriz, the hotel owner, and her husband Francesco were absolutely incredible and the staff did an unbelievable job making our rooms look gorgeous (every day our towels morphed into new adorable creatures). We had no plans to decorate the courtyard for our ceremony as it is already beautiful, but Beatriz and her staff surprised us by setting up huge bouquets of lilies and draping gorgeous white scarves everywhere.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Continue on with regular life. About three months before the wedding we were feeling really depressed with everything we needed to do. We decided to start planning and training for a seven-day long hike along the west coast of Vancouver Island (the West Coast Trail), which we would take three months after the wedding. Having that shared goal and something to keep us occupied physically and emotionally saved our sanity.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Because we had a destination wedding, and there wasn't a lot anyone could do until we all got there, we did almost all of the planning and organizing on our own. Over time, this became incredibly isolating and stressful. The second we arrived in Playa, however, we were greeted by 65 people anxious to do everything within their power to help us get organized and have an amazing time. Guests ran errands, helped strategize with logistical issues (particularly around weather, which was a constant threat that week… torrential tropical storms, yay!), fed us, and kept our spirits up with hugs, reassurances, and tequila. My sister and brother-in-law were especially amazing. We learned that our community of family and friends are invaluable, and we are blessed beyond belief.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. i loved this!

    i also have wanted to do the rent out a whole hotel (bed and breakfast/row of cottages/whatever) for all my friends and family… how did you even start that process? just call hotels and ask what weeks they had available? and, if you dont mind me asking, how much did it cost?

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    • We specifically wanted to get married at the same hotel we got engaged at and since it's a smaller, family-run business that has about 30 rooms it kind of worked out perfectly. We just emailed the hotel and asked if we could book the entire hotel for the week of our wedding. We had to put down a deposit, so we had our guests RSVP early and send us a 50% deposit for each of their rooms. It was definitely the biggest challenge and the most complex part of planning the wedding, as we had to keep track of everyone's rooms and deposits and some people were staying longer than the required week. In the end, we couldn't fill up the hotel entirely but it was totally worth it to just pay the extra for the empty rooms so we could have the place to ourselves! And it was awesome, to have a whole hotel as our home for the week:)

      In terms of cost details, feel free to email me at adrienne.d.gruber@gmail.com and I can give you more info.

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  2. Ooo, love the Madeleine L'Engle quote. Adding the quote to my list and the book to my reading list :-) Thanks!

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  3. Oh, this is all just so GOOD! From one scuba-diving bride to another – congrats! Beach, family, love, scuba and tequila – life does NOT get better than THAT!

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  4. Oh, I love it all!! Fantastic job on doing what you want to do and not what the resorts want. :D
    And the towel creatures?? I DIE. Amazing.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure with us!

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  5. I love this. I just got engaged and part of me wants to do something like this. I was even thinking of doing it in Playa del Carmen or Cozemel, a small gathering of close friends and family that could actually come. But I really have no idea how to make this happen. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  6. This a great example that you don't always have to have your Destination Wedding at a resort.
    Boutique hotels, smaller villas, and rental properties are other alternatives for accommodation.
    The wedding ceremony can be on almost any stretch of sand, at the pyramids, or private haciendas.
    Options in the Riviera Maya are many.

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