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Philippines Destination Wedding on a Private Island

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!

Al Fresco

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.

Vault CTA

Photography: Mimi Nguyen | Cinematography: Table4 Weddings | Event Planning: Pauline Ylaya | Floral Design: Jacqs Floral Design Studio | Wedding Dress: Claire Pettibone | Cake: La Patisserie French Cakes & Pastries | Invitations: Michelle Le | Bridesmaids' Dresses: ASOS | Hair + Makeup: Christy Rivera | Calligraphy: Anne Robin | Groom's Attire: J.Crew | Hotel: Pauline Ylaya | Venue: Cowrie Island - Private Island | Bridal Boutique: Claire Pettibone | Photography Assistance: Table4 Weddings

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Travel to the Philippines with Mariel Hannah

So I’ve said it time and time again, but these travel posts are always so detrimental to both my productivity and my wanderlust. The Philippines have always intrigued me, but Mariel Hannah has just ensured that it’s skyrocketed to the top of the list. Have you ever seen anything more picturesque? I just can’t get over all the beauty. And if you’re anything like me, you might want to spend some time getting lost in the gallery. 

From Mariel… During my stay in the Philippines I traveled around the city of Davao. Some days were spent within the city, but most days were spent by the beach. Those days I spent lingering by the ocean are the days I long for. The beautiful white sands, the perfect blue waters and wonderful world of wonder that lie beneath.

We stayed at the Pearl Farm Beach Resort, a premier destination resort that lies within a smaller island just an hour boat ride from the main city. During your stay, my biggest recommendation is to take your days slow and enjoy every minute. Spend your days snorkelling and spend your evenings watching a movie on the beach. Both of their AM and PM yoga classes take place high on a hill overlooking the beautiful ocean and Mount Apo (one of the largest mountains in the Philippines) – it’s worth the morning wake up call.

Another highlight of my trip was scuba diving. Pearl Farm offers a package for a day trip tour to some of Davaos best diving locations. My favorite ended up being the Coral Gardens. I did the 40 foot dive which allowed me to see some of natures most amazing views. I recall seeing all of the vibrantly beautiful life that flourishes below. The purples, the pinks, the blues, yellows and green coral… Absolutely exquisite. I can’t even begin to describe the beautiful creatures that live within them, each more beautiful than the next.

When it came to city life, I stayed in the Microtel. It’s within walking distance of Davao’s greatest malls, which was right up my alley! The best hotel in the city, however, is definitely the Insular. It’s simply gorgeous and worth every penny.
Photography from: Mariel Hannah

Jacquelyn Clark

Philippines Wedding from Foreveryday Photography

This affair is answering all of my light-filled wedding fantasies. Dreamy is another adjective that comes to mind and it’s woven into everything, from the adorable DIY elements incorporated into the day to the images by Foreveryday Photography. It’s a happy collaboration of color, smiles and a rainbow of heels. See so much more in the full gallery!


From the Bride…After Nev and I got engaged in November 2011, I didn’t jump on the wedding planning mode immediately like most brides-to-be. Though we knew we wanted to get married the following year, we didn’t have any planned dates yet; we just wanted to enjoy the engagement bliss. But months went by so fast, and the next thing we know, we’ve been engaged for 8 months and had 6 months left before the year ends. So we finally decided to get married under the cool breeze of December and that’s the only time planning started.
We wanted to have a relaxed and cozy wedding with a handful of people we dearly love. This was the focal point of our whole planning, so everything we did was centered on making our guests feel our love and gratitude to them. We chose a small Catholic church for our ceremony, and found a big house with a bare garden and a great view of the famous and scenic Taal Volcano. The bare garden was perfect for all the DIY styling I had in mind; and the natural breeze, the hilly surround, and the laid-back and dainty feel of the place was the right fit for our countryside theme.

With the help of friends and family, we planned our wedding and gathered everything we needed. Weekends and lazy weekday afternoons were spent doing DIY décor, from the makeshift chandeliers to the wooden panels to the hanging lights to the pompoms; and even the invite, which I worked on w/ Nev’s brother, who also luckily happens to be a freelance graphic artist! Some weekends, Nev and I will go to flea markets and buy small decorative items, while our families went on a mission to collect recycled bottles and jars, as well as create hundreds of paper flowers. He also took me to his grandma’s place, which was just filled w/ amazing furniture perfect for our theme, and she happily let us borrow them. We also talked about our ideas to our suppliers, and even had a DIY dry run of the reception setup at home for our caterer to see! I would buy flowers, arrange them, take photos and send them to our caterer, who did a great job in translating our vision into reality. We, together w/ a couple of our siblings, were at our reception venue three days before our wedding to make sure my vision becomes a reality, and up to the night before the wedding, we were setting up and making sure the place looked pretty.   

We had a very short program, something atypical in a Filipino wedding. After a couple of speeches the first dance, we spent the rest of the time just chatting with guests and letting everybody have a good time. The setup of the venue definitely helped put everybody at ease. We placed cocktail tables on one area, a bench on another, and tables under a tent under the night sky. We think it’s safe to assume our guests really had a great time. When we left the venue, our guests stayed to enjoy the breeze, the hand-picked bottles of wines, and the company. In fact, when we went back to the venue the next day, our friends and family were still there cooking breakfast!

We love our wedding to bits! All of the details we incorporated enhanced the overall feel and mood of the occasion. Now I have a bunch of mason jars and photo frames at home, and the beautiful photos by Foreveryday Photography, which all remind me of the day when I married the man of my dreams.

Photography: Foreveryday Photography | Floral Design: Yho-An’s Flower Shop  | Event Design: DIY | Event Planning: Once a Bride Weddings | Ceremony Location: Chapel on a Hill | Reception Location: Tagaytay Estate | Invitations: Jonathan Manaois (design), Amis Print (printing) | Catering: K by Cunanan | Entertainment: Serenata Strings | Ceremony Dress: Percy Barillo | Reception Dress: Tammy Tan | Shoes: Pedro | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Tammy Tan | Groom’s Suit: JC Ulanday | Makeup: Mickey See | Hair Stylist: John Valle