WEDDING WEEK

As I write this over a seven months after my wedding I can not believe it is here and gone in a flash. 
Everyone told me to soak it all in, it would go so quick.. I am glad I listened. 
I soaked it all in, I enjoyed every moment, and even when I was 'wedding stressing out' I had the best people around to remind me to enjoy the moment! Brides and/or Grooms to-be I tell you now SOAK IT ALL IN. Enjoy every moment

Our week started off on Friday, May 27th at our Church with our immediate families and grandparents to celebrate our marriage in the church. (This is not necessary for a destination wedding but we wanted our marriage recognized in the Catholic Church so 'technically' our wedding in Aruba was a renewal of vows). We 'got married' - I wore a basic dress with my grandma's wedding veil, we all went for sushi at our favorite go-to place followed by Ben and Jerrys and went home early to rest up because Nick and I were off to Aruba early the next morning. 

We woke up and both jumped out of bedding excited to get our wedding week started. I felt like such a celebrity bringing my wedding dress through the airport - everyone knew I was the bride!

Once we got on the plane the stewardess stored my dress in the captains closet (make sure to ask this during check in - there was no way my wedding dress was getting checked or stuffed in above storage areas!) I was corny and wore my bride hat. I heard moms telling their young daughters ' look hunny it's a bride ' and I felt so cool because I had been one of those little girls not so long ago. Nick and I wore our wedding bands because once we got them on we decided they were too cool to take off like we had origionally planned we would.

We arrived in Aruba and Arlette (our Aruba partner) picked us up and brought us to the Marriott. We checked in and got our gorgeous upgraded suite for the week. Arlette came up and champagne was delivered to our room. We popped the bottle and discussed some final wedding planning logistics. (For most brides this would all be taken care of prior but I insisted on being the 'planner' throughout the whole process because I am a control freak. Good thing Arlette knew me!) 

Arlette left and Nick and I walked around the Marriott property as we have many times before but this time in a matter of days it would be filled with 85 of our closest family and friends! We ate dinner and dreamed about how cool it would be and imagined how the week would unfold. 

The next day we enjoyed some time in the sun and was greeted in the late afternoon by our parents, siblings and some other family members who arrived on Sunday. We hung out by the beach and everyone who had not been to Aruba before enjoyed the beauty in amazement. I was so proud and excited to welcome our guests to MY ISLAND. 

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The next morning I had our family assist me in putting together our incredible welcome bags which included a custom bag we created, pool tubes, a 'for sickness and in health' baggy containing proper hangover tools, candies, snacks, customized wedding cuzies and squeeze bottles which everyone would use for our Wednesday island adventure.)

Over the next few days guests trickled in and each one was more exciting than the next. I wore my bride hat every day and by Tuesday everyone else vacationing was starting to know our group. 

On Wednesday about 95% of our guests had arrived so we decided to show everyone our island in a different light! Everyone rented ATVs and UTVs and we were joined by Jeffery (who was also our minister for our ceremony) leading 35 ATVs in the desert. We went all around the island, went to the natural pool, had a ton of laughs, got super super dirty and had THE TIME OF OUR LIVES. Besides the wedding - this was everyone's highlight of the entire trip. Never again in our lives could we duplicate something like this. 

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On Thursday night everyone joined us at our favorite restaurant Casa Tua for our 'rehearsal dinner' / 'welcome dinner'. We all ate and drank and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a nice chance for everyone to get together and to reflect on the trip thus far. 

Friday was THE BIG DAY! Nick and I woke up like two little kids on Christmas morning. We could not believe the day we had been waiting for was FINALLY here. Nick packed his things to bring over to his parents room being that I would not be seeing him the rest of the day and he walked me over to my mom and dad's room to say 'see you at the alter'. The walk over there was as if we weren't going to see each other for days.. we did not want to say good bye but at the same time we couldn't wait to skip through the day to get to 6:00 PM when I would walk down the isle. The butterflies were incredible. I got all of my crying out at our church ceremony the week before so now it was pure bliss - and no ugly tears! Nick left me and I hung out with my mom and dad.

Then my dad took me over to our room - I have an event sheet which would have everything done for any other bride but wedding planner for herself Ashley forgot to have my own dress steamed and remembered the night before! While we were in the room my dad noticed my manicure was not up to par for my wedding day (I had been in the sun and on adventures all week!) So he took me to the salon at the Marriott to get a fresh French Manicure for the big day. He took me back to my room and my mom and sister came because hair and makeup was about to start (this day was flying by already).

 

I had my sister deliver a note to Nick and his brother delivered a note to me.. here comes the crying! Before I knew it my mother in law and sister in law, cousins and grandma were in my room and it was 3:30 PM!

I wanted to do a first look with my dad (I strongly suggest this). We met on the bridge at the Marriott where he had walked with me many times before throughout the years. He was so over joyed this day and instead of giggles and jumping in puddles he was holding me and crying happy tears.

From there I went with our photographer to Arashi Beach where Nick was waiting for me for our first look. Another opportunity I would recommend for any bride - especially a destination bride is taking first look photos as well as family and bridal party group photos prior to the wedding so that you literally don't miss a beat at your wedding. 

Meeting Nick for our first look gave me literal butterflies. I felt like I was meeting him for a first date. Hoping he liked the outfit I chose, hoping he thought I was pretty, hoping his reaction was what I envisioned - lucky for me - it was. I tapped him on the shoulder and I said 'are you ready' he paused a second because I guess he was soaking in all the moment had as well. He turned around and his smile was so big it looked like he was at Disney World for the first time. He hugged me and held me and told me how pretty I looked. Then he moved away holding my hands to look at my dress and kept saying how perfect it was - I knew he would like it.. it only took what felt like 500 years to find! 

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Our family and bridal party then arrived on the bus for pictures. Another thing I would recommend is having an exact list of every picture you want and who in it. This allows for the photographer to call out names, not miss anyone and have every picture you want. Nick and I are not big picture takers so we wanted this quick, structured and out of the way. We agreed that any other photo not on our list would be candid at our wedding. Everyone has a different opinion but this really helped us. (It helped to see my prior brides and grooms and learn from their experiences as well! - Thank you all!)

Everyone then jumped on the bus and my dad and I jumped in a Mustang Convertible! We ran back to the hotel because I forgot something (now I can't remember) and drove to Eagle Beach.

My dad parked and got out of the car and my makeup artist jumped in the driver’s seat to touch up my face and put baby's breath in my hair -- then we were off. My day had started in a flash and now the next 6 hours were lighting speed. As I think about the following moments - my wedding - now, I literally can only explain it by telling you to picture a movie when they are telling a story and fast forward sun up, sun down, to move to the next part 15 years later - this is how quick my wedding went. 

The next moments were Arlette putting me between my mom and dad, walking down the aisle, crying over how beautiful my arch was (that was difficult for me to decide as well so I was beyond thrilled it looked how I imagined!), seeing Nick tear up because I was tearing up, saying our vows, thinking in my head 'is this real life'?, kissing my HUSBAND, and being pumped up walking down the aisle because the ceremony was just everything I could have ever wished for!

Nick and I then took a few pictures as 'real' husband and wife down the beach and walked right over to cocktail hour. During cocktail hour I had a steel drum band playing, a coconut man hacking coconuts (Nick and my FAVORITE), delicious passed hors d'oeuvres and two stations. Our guests were then asked to move over to the seating area. They found their place cards on a starfish shell and EVERYONE had a perfect seat because I made my layout so that every table was facing the dance floor. They bustled my dress and introductions began. At this point everyone was drinking for a bit already so some people were just running in (I didn't even know this until watching the video - I was having too much fun to notice! I guess my event planner brain turned off at this point good thing we had the perfect team in control.)

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Nick and I were introduced as husband and wife and we had our first dance. It all hit me here. As we danced our first dance as husband and wife as corny as I can sound - everyone else disappeared. The music, the people, even the beautiful decor around me was all drowned out and it was just Nick and I dancing on the beach. My prince, my dream, was all happening.. and just beginning. Next Nick danced with his mom (we switched up the regular order because my dad and I had a surprise in store for everyone). After their dance was done my dad and I got on the dance floor. We both cried. I saw how proud and happy he was. This was his dream too. At one point in our song we knew we had to wipe our tears and get ready because our SURPRISE FATHER DAUGHTER DANCE was about to start! Our song 'because you loved me' turned right into Hakuna Matata which then turned into We Go Together from Grease.. then my sister joined in.. then Nick joined in.. then my father in law and sister in law.. and finally my mom, mother in law and brother in law all joined in a completely choreographed dance which I had everyone practicing for weeks prior! Everyone was laughing and smiling and clapping. The thing I liked about the surprise dance was usually at weddings (for me at least) the first dance, mother son and father daughter dances are very emotional and then you are expected to dry your tears and continue. With a surprise choreographed dance we were able to enjoy the mushy stuff but end with happy and funny stuff to allow everyone to get the party started! 

Another awesome idea I had to make our destination wedding more personalized was to have a dance where all of our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents were called onto the dance floor. 'We are Family' played and our DJ called everyone up by name. I wanted our immediate families to know especially how much we appreciated them being there and making our wedding dream come true. 

We danced and had a blast. I had a playlist of just about every song I wanted played so every song meant something to me and Nick. One song in particular was 'check yes or no' by George Strait. I would play this song when I lived in Hoboken while I was getting ready to see Nick while we were just starting to date. I would be in my bathroom putting on my makeup or doing my hair while picturing dancing at our wedding. (Pathetic I know - but I knew he was the one!) So the night was just about over and 'Check Yes or No' comes on. Nick knows the story so he grabbed me. At this point my hair was in a ponytail because it was my wedding and I was doing it Ashley-style. We danced to the song with our family all around us and I cried the happiest tears i have ever cried.. because all of this was better than anything I had pictured while getting ready in my Hoboken apartment two years prior. 

I knew the night was almost over when the DJ announced for everyone to go by the water. I wanted to send up paper lanterns so badly... and the wind would have to be just right to do so and lucky for me.. we got the perfect moment and Arlette caught it! We chose to play the song from Disney fireworks and everyone attempted to get lanterns up. A lot went up.. people were really enjoying themselves by then so I am not sure of the exact outcome but I remember me and Nick being so excited it was even happening!

Then we all went back under my perfect gazebo - that was now lit with string lights.. for Cake by the Ocean! (I told you I was pretty clever and very specific about every detail!) Nick and I cut the cake - again - my hair is in a pony tail at this point so pictures are not that fabulous but if you know me or Nick.. they are perfect for us!

We all went back to the dance floor to dance some more! (By the way - we did eat a wonderful seated dinner of ceviche, then duo plate of red snapper and filet mignon - which was delicious but forgotten by me being that I was so consumed with everything else!) We are very blessed our staff in Aruba with the catering company we work with is THE SAME as Personal Touch Experience here in America. Our bridal attendant made sure I was eating - and of course drinking all night long! - eating definitely helped the next morning! We always do this for our brides and grooms and it was so nice to experience how it felt.

I heard the second to last song and could not believe it was almost over. We all danced and then.. it was done. Everyone left to get on the busses to an Aruba carnival song (I also chose) 'Aruba ta Hot'! It is an upbeat song I thought would be great to end the night with - and it was!

While everyone was grabbing their shoes from the shoe check to get on the busses Nick had an idea to go under our gazebo together one more time (he is so romantic sometimes).. I listened to him and we stood under the gazebo both in awe of the INCREDIBLE experience we just had beyond our wildest dreams. I think we cried a little.. we kissed and we had such gratitude to God for allowing us to begin our journey together this way. What an incredible blessing. 

We wrapped all of our crazy emotions up, got our shoes and got on the bus to Moomba Beach! At Moomba Beach everyone came to the after party where we drank some more and had pizza and fries. Moomba Beach closes at 1 and we just couldn't believe the night was over - but we were exhausted. We danced.. and jumped around ALL NIGHT LONG - which is EXACTLY how I wanted to experience my own wedding. All of the planning, all of the logistics, all of the anticipation was over.. it was all now just becoming a memory. 

The next morning we woke up and had breakfast and went to the beach. We all reflected with everyone how awesome the party was and everyone’s smiles and awe of the night showed me that all of my planning was worth every late night and being a complete control freak planning my own wedding!

The following day we had a Happy Hour on the beach where my mom and dad put out a huge spread of drinks and picking foods. We wanted to thank everyone as much as possible for coming out. 

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The following days everyone slowly left and our happy island got smaller and smaller. I cried when people were leaving because every single person that was there truly made my dream come true. In different ways they probably didn't even know it they helped shape the beginning of Nick and my life together so beautifully.

Our wedding week was filled with so much joy, abundance of laughter, eating, drinking, adventuring, discovering, reflecting, and pure enjoying. I wish this pure joy and happiness for every couple. Being a destination bride is so unique in the fact that you get to be with all of the people you invited for as long as your stay is.. so the wedding is just a bonus! I truly recommend the experience to all and would love to make your wedding dreams come true as well. 

the best wedding video that sums up our incredible destination wedding experience!

Flash forward 7 months later and we are still in pure bliss. Our wedding is still always brought up as the best wedding anyone has ever been to. We often reflect on how much fun we had and how different it will be the next time we return to the island. We would have returned to the island already but we have to put that on hold until next year. We have a little boy joining our family in early May and can not wait to show him and his future brothers and sisters where their mommy and daddy began their life together. 

I am so incredibly grateful for my destination wedding experience and all of the blessings 2016 had to offer for Nick and I. A beautiful ending to my destination wedding blog and beginning to Nick, our family's and my life!

Wishing everyone a Happy and Blessed 2017 and I look forward to working with you and planning your destination wedding in Aruba!