Fair warning—this wedding is about to give you a serious case of wanderlust. Set against the natural beauty of Costa Rica, these high school sweethearts said “I do,” in a beachside wedding the Bride had been dreaming about since the fifth grade. With vibrant pink flowers, gold spray-painted flamingos and a celebratory reception back in Sioux Falls, this couple started Happily Ever After in the prettiest way possible. See it all from Jeff Sampson Photography in THE VAULT.
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From The Bride… Justin and I met 10 years ago at Roosevelt High School (whoop whoop High School Sweethearts!). We happened to be in foods class together and one day after class he asked for my number. Not to age myself, but this was before all high schoolers had cell phones so I had to give him my house number – Embarrassing! He called after school one day to hang out so we got a Little Ceasars pizza and watched “The Ring”. It terrified me and I haven’t been able to watch a scary movie since. Luckily I didn’t have the same feelings about him and we eventually started dating! We eventually parted ways when he went off to College, but got back together through mutual friends a year or two later. The rest is history!
For as long as I can remember, I have ALWAYS wanted to get married on the beach. I even have it stated in a 5th grade power point presentation about ‘My Future’ that I’ll get married on the beach someday. I would’ve been happy to elope just the two of us, but Justin is more traditional and wanted a traditional wedding. Well, we both love to travel and I get uncomfortable in large crowds with people watching me, so a destination wedding with a reception back home seemed like the perfect compromise!
I started to search for locations for a wedding that were both exotic, yet affordable for our close friends and family. It was important for the both of us to have our immediate family and close friends there with us to celebrate. I always heard from other brides that the day goes by so fast, they barely remember their wedding day; so I wanted to make sure we had a trip to remember! Why limit your wedding to 1 day when you can celebrate over an entire vacation?
We decided to go with a March wedding for 3 reasons. 1) Both my sister and best friend were due with babies in November of 2014. We didn’t want them to either miss out or feel they had to travel with a newborn, so we gave them a few months to get settled. 2) If we decided to go on any anniversary trips, we didn’t have to worry about hurricane season getting in the way! 3)If we were going to travel to a tropical destination, we wanted to do it while it was still cold back in SD.
One day at work, my boss mentioned a resort brand called “Dreams” that his family really enjoyed. I checked them out online and noticed advertising for a new resort of theirs in Costa Rica. It opened in January 2015 which made us a little nervous, but you couldn’t beat the deals! So on a whim, we booked the trip and notified our friends and family of the dates. They all contacted our Travel Agent, Tracy, and she got everyone booked for us.
When trying to put together a vision for our wedding, I got lost in the wedding black hole known as Pinterest. I had about 50 different directions that I wanted to go with it. Seriously, the possibilities are endless! Finally, my MOH Jenna got after me and told me I needed to start making decisions. Everything would be easier once I picked a direction.
While online shopping for myself, I ended up finding a dress on Banana Republic that I loved and thought it would make the perfect bridesmaid dress. It didn’t look like a ‘bridesmaid dress’ and that was exactly what I wanted. It was elegant yet not overly flashy, worked for a destination wedding, and as cliché as it sounds, they could all use it again after the wedding. I had 6 bridesmaids in my wedding, and ended up ordering 15 of them in various sizes right then and there. I had all of my bridesmaids find which size worked best for them, and then mailed the rest back to Banana. I didn’t want to risk everyone ordering their own dress and then having the store run out. From that point on, everything was planned around the bridesmaid dresses. I got really lucky planning that way, because the wedding dress I ended up falling in love with, went perfectly with the bridesmaid dress. I would NOT recommend planning a wedding this way, but I’m oddly glad that I did it.
Since my dress was white, and the bridesmaid dresses were a soft gold/silver color, I decided to stick to neutral tones and then add in a pop of color with the flowers. I was originally going to go with all neutrals because it’s so trendy right now, but it wasn’t me. The more I scrolled through Pinterest, the more I realized that I had been pinning colorful flowers and bouquets. I asked Justin if he cared that we had pink flowers and he was game.
Once we had a general idea of what we wanted to do with the décor, I emailed the wedding planner in CR (Cynthia), and she made everything happen. I put together a powerpoint that included colors, flowers, chairs, lights, etc. then she would tell me what they could do that was similar. It didn’t take much correspondence before we had things figured out. Now, I will say that I tried to be as laid back as possible knowing that everything wouldn’t look exactly as I had it planned in my head, but Cynthia did an amazing job taking my vision and turning it into a real life wedding. She went above and beyond with what I had asked and couldn’t have been more of a pleasure to work with. Everything in regards to planning and set up were stress free for me, which was VERY nice!
Our next issue was planning our reception back home with extended family and friends. We hired Envision Event Planning to take care of the décor, but we weren’t quite sure how to bring Costa Rica back to SD. I wanted to avoid doing the seashells and starfish that you always see, but also wanted to make our venue feel like a tropical oasis without being too “theme-y”.
Once again, I turn to Pinterest. It doesn’t take long until I find a picture of a gold lawn flamingo. Consider me inspired. I text the picture to my mom and MOH to see what they think. Most people would say it’s crazy, but they understood my love of the tacky pink lawn ornament, and told me to go for it. So we bought about 2 dozen flamingos and my parents spent an entire weekend spray painting them gold in the back yard. Bless their hearts. We brought 2 flamingos with us to Costa Rica and used the rest at the reception in Sioux Falls. I also found the cutest flamingo cake topper at BHLDN.com. While Justin thought I was joking about the whole flamingo idea, he ended up really being a fan of it in the end.
Working with Leah at Envision for the Sioux Falls reception, she helped to pick out flowers, décor, and gave us a ton of other fun ideas to go with the Flamingos. We worked with ICON Lounge to make signature drinks (ones that we enjoyed while in Costa Rica) and that way it was like our guests could enjoy Costa Rica with us. One signature drink was called a Costa Rica Tropical which was a blue and yellow in color with a fruit garnish. The other was a Malibu Coke, since that’s what I drank at our actual wedding.
For food we decided to go with heavy appetizers rather than a sit down meal to make it feel less formal. We wanted everyone to get up, walk around, and enjoy each other’s company. We re-used the flamingo cake toppers for our reception and they looked adorable on top of our wedding cake with all of the colorful flowers. Chef April also did an amazing job of putting 5 wedding cakes together. When she asked me what I wanted all I could say was, “I don’t know.. I just want 5 cakes, and the main one has to be naked!” She helped me to pick out a variety of flavors and styles, and they all came together beautifully. Our DJ, Jake Hill, also did an amazing job. He steered clear of my “Do not play these overplayed wedding songs” list and also incorporated some of the Hispanic songs that we heard while down in Costa Rica into his playset. Thank you Shazam! It gave a nice Latin American twist to the dance and our guests had a blast!
If I were to get married again tomorrow, I wouldn’t change a thing! It was the most memorable time of my life and we were able to share it with those closest to us. We’ve got a lifetime of memories with those we love and I couldn’t be happier with how everything came together.
Photography: Jeff Sampson Photography | Event Planning: Envision Event Planning | Floral Design: Bella Rosa | Wedding Dress: Romona Keveza | Engagement Ring: Greenberg's | Rings: Deb Blazer (Etsy) | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Banana Republic | Venue: Dreams La Romana | Local Reception: Icon Event Hall, Sioux Falls