Sheryl & Eric's intimate Costa Rican beach bash

Couple
The offbeat bride: Sheryl – Registered Nurse (and OBT Member)

Her offbeat partner: Eric – Writer and Editor

Location & date of wedding: Spa Beach Hilton Papagayo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica — April 6, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We wanted our wedding to be casual and comfortable. Early on, we decided on a destination wedding so everyone would have the opportunity to share the adventure of us creating a life with one another. It also simplified the guest list and made the first few days of our marriage incredibly fun.

I hadn't seen or spoken to my mother in three years and our wedding became a healing-ground for that relationship. It was important that my son feel integral to the festivities of the day and he shared the spot-light with both of us (he even had a speaking part during the ceremony).

We planned the entire wedding via the internet from different coasts (he's in California and I'm in Virginia). Unfortunately, we'll be a bi-costal couple for the first few months of our marriage. We wrote the entire ceremony and selected every song played during the wedding and reception. Our clothes were chosen for comfort and their ability to be worn again. I wore my favorite color: red. I made the felt bouquets, jewelry, and all the wedding favors. Per our request, the food was locally grown and seasonal. We cut out many of the traditional details (like cake and floral arrangements) to save money. However, we found ourselves the recipients of free add-ons from the resort as well as family members who just couldn't bear to go with-out.

Our biggest challenge: Planning a destination wedding was a little stressful for me because I had anxiety about who would or wouldn't be able to attend. The economic and logistic concerns are intensified when asking people to travel outside the country to celebrate with you. We both acknowledged this reality early-on but there was still disappointment and something similar to mourning when people would tell us they wouldn't be able to attend due to financial constraints.

We paid for the maid-of-awesome and best-man's hotel room to make it easier for our most treasured friends to attend and participate. Several friends decided to make our wedding into their spring vacations (which was our hope for everyone who was invited). In the end, we just accepted that everyone who was supposed to be there made it.

My favorite moment: When Eric read his vows, he started to cry. I felt so moved by the fact that I was marrying this wonderful man and that he was offering his heart to me. I stepped closer to him and gave him a hug and a little kiss on the cheek. He completed his vows with his head on my shoulder.
Felt bouquets
My funniest moment: We told our guests they should drink as much as possible so that we'd get our money's worth out of our bar contract….half joking. At the end of the reception, the best-man asked the bartender if he could get a few beers to go. The bartender asked him how many he'd like. "Ten." The bartended looked in the cooler and said he only had two but he'd go to storeroom to get the rest. The best man said, "I'll get my back-pack."

The bride and groom shared their first sip of champagne with the bride's son
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was incredibly nervous about my mother attending our wedding. We hadn't seen one another or talked in over three years. To say we had a "difficult" relationship is a tremendous understatement. I, of course, invited her but it was unclear if she'd be able to attend until about a month before the wedding. I was afraid that there would be a noticeable discomfort, awkwardness, and tension between us. The day before the wedding, my concerns were all dead-on.
Tres-leche plated cake - I'm drooling!
The day-of the wedding, something effortlessly shifted. She showed up in the spa with my bride's maids. She was smiling, taking pictures, and cracking jokes. She humbly said, "It means a lot to me that you invited me. Thank-you." I let her be a loving and doting mom and, interestingly, that's what she became. Things have become more calm, comfortable, and easier between us. It's as if the wedding initiated healing in our relationship. I've taken to calling it, "wedding magic."

Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently? I have been married previously. My first wedding was an elopement at the JP with a ceremony in the woods of the commune where we were living a few months later. We didn't do much to plan the ceremony or "reception" and had more of an impromptu approach to the whole thing.

Eric has never been married. During our early discussions, he said it was important to him to mark the shift to "married" with an intentional ceremony. It delighted me (and made me a little nervous) to hear that he wanted to do something special to acknowledge our commitment.
Action shot
We ended up making all decisions jointly, writing the entire ceremony, picking every song for the wedding and reception, and planning an event to share with our guests. This level of intention was radically different from my previous wedding.

Both experiences were beautiful and reflect who I've been at particular moments in time. Perhaps the weddings themselves are a reflection of the actual relationships. The first was a bit more flippant (I'm still good friends with my ex and we thoughtfully co-parent…so I can say this J) This wedding was more thoughtful of the creation of a marriage and family.

My advice for offbeat brides: I think the most important aspect when planning your wedding is to not second guess yourself. Every decision Eric and I made was fairly easy to arrive at. We didn't anguish over anything because early on we asked ourselves one fairly simple question: "What sort of wedding do we want to have?" From there, we knew we wanted a casual and comfortable wedding, for it to be in a memorable place, and for our guests to have fun. We made the "big" decisions early-on (when, where, and who) and let everything else fall into place. Trust the universe to give you an amazing experience with your beloved.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I think the most important thing I learned is that by being authentic, forgiving, loving, and generous, a wedding is one of the best opportunities for relationships to strengthen and change.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. A wonderful love in full bloom. I love the idea of having a destination wedding. It's like a wedding and honeymoon wrapped in one.

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  2. Your bouquets are so incredibly lovely. We also chose every song played throughout the whole day and have found listening to the playlists over and over again since so meaningful. Best wishes for a long and happy life together!

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  3. the picture of Eric saying his vows with his head on your shoulder made me cry! In a good way! 🙂 Congratualtions!

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  4. "Trust the universe to give you an amazing experience with your beloved."
    Yes, yes, yes!!!!

  5. Congratulations! So beautiful, and Eric on your shoulder, well I'm a ball of tears over here. So sweet!!

  6. Did you make those bouquets? They are so beautiful! I want to try to make my bouquets and I really love what you did. Any ideas?

  7. Thank you so much for sharing the personal piece regarding your mother. It's always nice to not feel alone with difficult situations. I'm sure there will be some awkward moments, but like you said, I'll trust the universe to take over.

    • I think there are a lot of people who struggle with difficult family dynamics. I figured if i didn't try to facilitate re-connection during our wedding, our relationship would have irreparably damaged. In my instance, it worked out better than i could have imagined.

  8. Im so glad you shared the bit about your mother. I desperately want to get married but I havent seen or spoken to my mother (or father) in years. Its heartening to know that Im not alone.

  9. What a fun and unique destination wedding! Loving the bright red dress – which compliments the sunset… and the handmade felt flowers – amazing.

  10. I really loved the idea of how casual, yyet formal it was. I think you looked so beautiful, and it was so sweet that he cried. I am really thinking about a destination wedding and I am glad you had such a good experience.

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