With a Groom who works as a wedding photographer by day and a Bride that isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and dable in many a DIY project, this wedding was destined to be a winner. And it’s just as the couple envisioned. Intimate, hand-crafted and pure magic under a sea of sparkling cafe lights. From the far-flung yet insanely gorgeous Philippines, we bring you an al fresco stunner shot by Mark Cantalejo Photography, a.k.a the Groom’s company. See it all unfold under those gorgeous twinkle lights right here.

From the Bride… We’ve only been dating for eight months when Mark proposed to me at the arrival hall of the Mactan airport when I was coming back from a business trip. You know those people you see holding up name cards of the people they’re supposed to meet up when you go out of the airport? Yes, Mark did a version of that but with a twist. Grinning from ear to ear while holding up the colorful LRC (Linette Ramos Canete) cut-out cardboard, I saw next to him his overeager accomplices (Tisha and her husband Teody), immediately bring up “WILL YOU” and “MARRY ME”, as I slowly walked towards him. To say that I was surprised is an understatement! I was too stunned to move and the only thing I could do was hug Mark tightly and cry. But of course, I said yes!

It took a few more months before we finally sat down to carefully plan what would be the happiest day of our lives. As the planning progressed, we (okay, I) realized that we wanted the same things. We wanted the wedding to be a reflection of who we are, we wanted it to be a happy celebration of our love and commitment. So we went for an intimate, laid-back affair with only 60 of our closest family members, friends and wedding suppliers. We wanted to keep it small—just four long tables—so everybody can relax and enjoy the food, music and each other’s company. That settled, it was time for arts and crafts nights—dressing up Mason jars that we would use as centerpiece décor, cutting brown cardboard that we used as envelopes for our invites and tying twine and wooden buttons around it. Being a Fine Arts graduate, Mark was a pro in designing and executing all these DIY ideas, while I tried to be a keen observer and hoped that I wouldn’t be entirely useless in this project. When I finally learned how to tie the ribbons just right, I took over the invites while Mark moved on to designing and printing the menu on brown paper that doubled as table napkin holders. Mark also taught me how to fold the napkins neatly so they would fit snugly into the menu cards-slash-napkin holders.

For the place cards, we wanted it personalized like everything else, so we opted for recycled film rolls with the names of the guests handwritten on a cardboard strip. Instead of table numbers, we glued our initials L, M and C (and S, in honor of our Chow-chow dog, Siri, who couldn’t make it to her parents’ wedding) on matte gold wooden frames, which perfectly complemented our rustic theme. Hiring a stylist or a planner is great but there’s just something about being totally hands-on that makes DIY weddings more fun and personal, It gave Mark and I the time to bond, so the planning and preparations were just as fun and memorable as our wedding day. We would have missed out on the stress wondering whether or not we would ever find the jute sacks we needed to use as table runner after a whole afternoon’s search in the wet market. We almost gave up when luckily we found a market vendor who had piles of jute sacks hidden away.

The anxiety, the relief and joy, the feeling of being pleased with yourself—I think every bride and groom needs to go through all that to be able to truly appreciate the beauty and meaning of your wedding day, and to appreciate and love each other more. Last July 19 of this year, we experienced all of that, and more. Having our families and friends celebrate with us and seeing how God spared us from heavy rains made us realize that we are abundantly blessed. To our dear friends in the wedding industry who helped us generously, you all just made it extraordinary. In the end, Mark and I got everything we wanted and hoped for our wedding. Indeed, it was the greatest day of our lives.

Wedding Photography: Mark Cantalejo Photography / Ceremony Venue: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in Cebu City, Philippines / Reception Venue: White Sands Resort and Spa in Maribago, Mactan Island, Philippines / Wedding Coordination: Tisha Sanchez Cue of Bliss Unlimited / Wedding Cinematography: Franz Arrogante Videography / Centerpiece Floral Design: Debbie Huang of Simple Wishes / Bride + Bridesmaids’ Bouquets: Michael Badang Rueda / Boutonnieres + Ring & Coin Nests: Padecio of {etc} Handmade Goodness + Vatel Manila / Wedding Cakes: Marissa Rodriguez Unchuan / Dining Area Concept + Wedding Details: DIY by the Bride + Groom / Wedding Gown: Ronald Enrico Couture / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Edwin Ortiz Alba / Hair + Makeup: Jessie Colon Recola Glova