The next best thing to having your very own private island? Getting married on one. And when you see this gorgeous couple’s island wedding (planned on just a $15,000 budget!), you’ll be packing your bags to follow in their footsteps. From the Bride’s beautiful Claire Pettibone gown to the breathtaking beach ceremony and reception, this day is the perfect start to happily ever after. See it all from Mimi Nguyen assisted by Kim Le Photography in THE VAULT!
From The Groom…Shortly after my wife and I started dating we began traveling. We fell in love abroad, we got engaged abroad, and so, naturally, we decided to get married abroad. I distinctly remember standing with my bare feet in the sand, on the other side of the world, looking into the eyes of my soon-to-be wife and thinking, “I can’t believe this is our wedding.” On November 26th, 2014, my wife and I got married in the Philippines on this tiny Island in the Palawan province called Cowrie.
Trang and I got engaged in the summer of 2013. With a small budget of fifteen thousand dollars, we weren’t surprised to learn that almost everything was out of our range. Disappointed, we started looking into different options. In the end, sticking to our initial budget was one of the best decisions we ever made. We were able to transform that 15k into a week-long celebration, that not only brought us closer to our family and friends, but it allowed us to share with them what we love most in life, traveling.
I wish I could take some credit for making our wedding what it was, but, other than choosing the location, it’s safe to say I did little to nothing to help plan the wedding. My wife was the driving force that made everything happen, and it didn’t happen instantly. It took her about 11 months to plan, and she did it in steps.
The first step was to find the place, and the second, to pick a date. Together we searched the earth for a place where our guests could best stretch their money. For this we had two requirements. One, to find a place our guests could spend as little as a thousand dollars for a week vacation which included their flight, food, and excursions (we covered the lodging and breakfast), and two, not to have our guests miss too many work or school days. After a few days, we settled on Thanksgiving week in three potential places: Bali, Vietnam, or the Philippines. Pro and cons considered, we went with the Philippines because of a tour guide named Omar Silva that I was lucky enough to meet on a previous visit. Every moment spent with him made a lasting impression on me and I knew I wanted this for our guests. With his help I was sure we could create a week long itinerary for everyone to enjoy. Through TripAdvisor we were able to find our lodging at Palo Alto Bed & Breakfast. More importantly it got us in touch with Pauline Ylaya, who not only runs the Palo Alto with her family, but she offered to be our wedding coordinator.
Over the course of the year we learned that a destination wedding can only be as successful as the trust you have in your coordinator. Being on the other side of the world we weren’t able to be hands-on. Pauline worked so hard for us, visiting countless places to find our perfect location. She did such an amazing job, finally leading us to Cowrie Island, and the thoughtful Rafols family that allowed us to have our wedding on their Island. They provided their island, food, and transportation for 50 guests, for a price that made me want to run screaming through the streets like a crazy person. From there it was easy handling the cake and flowers. For the cake, the city of Puerto Princesa only offered one option, so we went with La Patisserie French Cakes & Pastries. For the flowers it was almost as easy. After the first shop fell through, we went with the second shop that was recommended by our coordinator. We can honestly say we were so happy that we worked with Jacqs Floral Design! They did an incredible job recreating my wife’s vision for our wedding.
All that was left was the decorations and the capturing of our wedding. Thanks to two little known sites by the names of Style Me Pretty and Pinterest (I’m kidding, I know what Style Me Pretty and Pinterest are), my wife already knew what she wanted. Working with Pauline everything was either purchased or built on the island. As for capturing the wedding, we knew who we wanted, and we were just hoping that we could make it work. Leading up to our engagement, we had become fans, and eventually friends, with Mimi Nguyen. If you ever have the pleasure to see Mimi at work you’d be quick to notice how good she is with her clients. She has the amazing ability to work with anyone and quickly put them at ease. She’s so good, in fact, that I was convinced we were friends after our engagement photos, and I’m not that easy to warm up too! So we crossed our fingers and sent her an email asking if she was available to travel Thanksgiving week, and lucky for us, she was! Along with her second shooter, Kim Le Pham, we were extremely happy to have them on board. Things quickly went from great to unbelievable when we met Kim Le’s husband, Jason Huang, and we were able to work out a deal to have him be our videographer for the wedding.
The year flew by, and the day had finally come. As we boarded our flight to the Philippines with only a couple days before the wedding, all we had left to do was: meet our coordinator, check out the island, do a cake taste, do a food tasting, and set the menu, all while coordinating the safe arrival of our 40 guests…no sweat! As soon as we landed, we dropped off our bags and were taken straight to the island. It was beautiful. The island was so much more than we deserved or could have ever asked for. Working with owner/chef Rix Rafols to prep the island and set the menu was fun. We filled our stomachs with delicious seafood and traditional Filipino cuisine. All of which we couldn’t wait to have our guests eat.
With our first day coming to a close Trang and I were so happy with how everything was working out. The location was amazing, rain or shine, we were going to be getting married on an island closed off to the public and tourists, exclusively set aside for us and our guests!
The morning of the wedding I spent some time finishing up my vows. I had been working on them for a while now, so it was really just nailing down the final touches. I wore a beach friendly linen vest and pants outfit from JCrew, and Trang wore a beautiful dress from Claire Pettibone that matched her lacy, flowy style through and through. One of my oldest friends/board-line sister did Trang’s makeup. Trang looked perfect. I can say this because seeing her at our first look got the “feels” going. Feels that I didn’t expect to get until we did our vows. We made our way to the island holding our breath. Dark clouds from an arriving hurricane threaten the entire day. In some sort of miracle the clouds seemed to avoid our island completely as they drenched the rest of the surrounding areas. Score one for the wedding party!
The ceremony took place feet away from the shore, officiated by one of our best friends. We left it up to him to create the structure of the ceremony and surprise us on our wedding day. Not only did he do a great job, but he also brought us to tears. The vows were equally as emotional and had to be paused at one point because our guests were crying loud enough to make me lose my place. It was pretty funny. After we kissed the festivities began, and everyone settled in as the stars came out. Eating and dancing through the night, we couldn’t have asked for more.
Photography: Mimi Nguyen | Cinematography: Table4 Weddings | Event Planning: Pauline Ylaya | Floral Design: Jacqs Floral Design Studio | Wedding Dress: Claire Pettiebone | Cake: La Patisserie French Cakes & Pastries | Invitations: Michelle Le | Bridesmaids' Dresses: ASOS | Hair + Makeup: Christy Rivera | Calligraphy: Anne Robin Calligraphy | Groom's Attire: J.Crew | Hotel: Pauline Ylaya | Venue: Cowrie Island | Bridal Boutique: Claire Pettibone | Photography Assistance: Table4 Weddings