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Old World Charm in Havana

It’s always beautiful to see couples embrace diverse backgrounds so wholeheartedly. Getting an insider tour of Havana doesn’t hurt, either. We also have to give props because on top of wedding planning this couple also coordinated a group effort to bring supplies for the ceremony.Yay teamwork! We’re glad they did because now we get to enjoy a whole gallery of Matt Kennedy‘s lovely photos.

From The Bride…We struggled to find the perfect destination for our wedding, given our different backgrounds and our international guests, but we eventually decided on Havana, which incorporated a bit of family history and undisputed old classic charm.

Choosing a destination like Cuba with its scarcity of supplies, meant having to bring a lot of our own food & personalized decorations: from signage, napkins, candy bowls, candy, votive holders to desserts and even cigar cutters. We had friends and family help us bring them over making this wedding a truly collective effort!

The wedding day was planned around giving our small group of guests a great Havana experience: some guests were visiting Havana only for a few days and we wanted to show them sites that took them to different districts in the city: from the cocktail reception in an old restored peanut factory to the two venues for the wedding: The ceremony took place in the garden of one of the oldest hotels in Havana, guests then enjoyed a classic Cuban car ride taking them into the heart of Old Havana for a rooftop reception overlooking the city as the sun set.

To add to giving our guests a great experience, one thing we wanted to do was to ensure every guest was thanked. We took great care to ensure that each guest’s name card on the table had a personal message of gratitude written for them inside

The favorite moment of the day was definitely the reception, where we both got to relax, kick up our feet, forget about all the worries and being able to just enjoy the evening with our amazing guests.

Instead of a traditional wedding cake, we had wedding cheese cake (which was difficult to source in Havana anyways); 16 different types of artisanal cheeses weighing around 6 kilos, made in a small cheese shop in Philip’s hometown in the North of Sweden and carried all the way over to Havana for us all to enjoy.

The one thing that will remain most special to us is to see all our family and friends closest to us gathered from around the world in one place together. It was truly overwhelming to see everyone representing a part of our lives in Havana for the wedding. It was spectacular.

From Matt Kennedy Photography…It was such an honor to travel to Cuba to photograph Christine and Philip’s beautiful wedding. They both have so much connection with Cuba from their travels, and their desire to share that with their friends and family was so apparent. They worked tirelessly to arrange everyone’s travel and accommodations in a very difficult country to communicate with from a distance. It was a pleasure to see such warm and inviting people from all over the world, come together to support such a great couple.

Their wedding was impeccable, and perfectly planned from beginning to end of the entire week. The details that they had worked on, and the special things they did to treat their guests like royalty were incredible. One of my favorites was the specially made cocktails by one of their groomsmen who is a cocktail genius in the food and beverage industry in Dubai, it was a great personal touch. Christine was glowing in her Monique LHuillier dress, and Philip didn’t look too bad himself! Everything was just such a joy to photograph and really be a part of.

Photography: Matt Kennedy | Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier | Ceremony Venue: Hotel Nacional | Reception Venue: Hotel Saratoga | Decor: AIRE DE FIESTA

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Jose Villa in Cuba

When Jose sent over these images from his recent trip to Cuba, I told him that they deserved to be in a gallery. We all know Jose Villa thanks to his beloved wedding photographs, though what we don’t always get to see, are the images that he captures along the way. The photographs that tell a story beyond white dresses and fairytales and capture life in a slightly different way. Through historied faces and beautifully worn moments. Click here to see even more and read on for Jose’s experience in Cuba.

SMP: What was your overall impression of Cuba?
JV: I’ve been to Cuba once before so I knew what to expect (well, sort of) and I was dying to go back. As a photographer, the people, food, light and color are my main loves and Cuba has it all wrapped into one.

SMP: What brought you there?
JV: I had been talking to my photography friends about how amazing Cuba is for some time now. My husband, Joel, and I decided it was time to show them ourselves so we all gathered together for a fantastic guys trip.

SMP: Where did you stay?
JV: We stayed in a rented home in Havana the first 4 nights, then we ventured off by car four hours north to Vinales where we stayed at a local hotel over looking the town. The views there were stunning to say the least. We spent 3 nights there, then drove the 6 hours south to Trinidad where we stayed for 3 more nights. We then headed back to Havana for one last night.

SMP: What was it like?
JV: Humm, like living in the 1950’s, like breathing the fresh air of life and like seeing the world with brand new eyes. It was a dream that I want to relive every single night.

SMP: Any not-to-miss excursions?
JV: Our goal was to travel with out any real agenda. We did do a few tours, but only to take in the things we wouldn’t have been able to discover on our own. We capitalized by asking the tour guide about their live’s in Cuba, and got the the scoop on insider, local spots. One day we even headed to the beach in Varadero to please our SoCal buddy, Lane Dittoe.

SMP: What’s the best way to get around?
JV: We actually rented a car. So many people advised us not to, so of course we did the exact opposite and we’re so thrilled we did. As a photographer, renting a car allowed us to be on our own schedule. It gave us the opportunity to stop and capture incredible photos, even if that meant stopping in the middle of a busy road. We were also able to stop off the side of the road for some local fare.

SMP: The most beautiful thing you saw during your travels?
JV: All of it. Seriously. ALL of it. The people are the most beautiful, both inside and out. The colors of Havana, the old cars .. It’s a scene you won’t ever find anywhere else in the world.

SMP: Any not-to-miss restaurants?
JV: It’s hard to say because I honesty can’t remember any names! We usually asked our local tour guide where to go. We never even paid much attention to where we were headed, our goal was just to find lobster every night! Ha!!

SMP: The most delicious thing you ate?
JV: I have to say the locally caught lobster… Oh, and the rice! Yum.

SMP: What about sights?
JV: The sights in Vinales are out of this world. It’s even better by horse in the back country.

SMP: Your favourite thing about the Cuban culture?
JV: The fact the people live life to the fullest. That they take the time to value family and that they embrace their culture and love their country like no other… They just have such a passion for living.

SMP: What did you find most inspiring about being able to capture Cuba through your lens?
JV: Besides of course the amazing people. The colors and the old school cars really added to the experience of what felt like stepping back in time. There’s nowhere else on the planet like this and I’m so happy that I’ve been able to enjoy it twice now!

SMP: Anything notable you’d like to add?
JV: Yes!! Get your booty on that next flight to Cuba. Just don’t take too long – I know you’ll regret it!!
[dotted] Photography by: Jose Villa Photography

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