Last weekend’s wedding was amazing, and we’ve been in recovery mode ever since. I’ve been so busy getting caught up with other clients that I just haven’t had a minute to blog. But I want to write about the Valentine’s weekend wedding before I forget any of the little details because it really was just that fabulous! Tori Johnson and Victor Velazquez were married on a breezy Valentine’s Day evening, capping off three days of meticulously-planned fun for their wedding guests with a fairyland-ish wedding reception at a posh villa on the water. But let’s start at the beginning!
Tori and her mom, Pat, hired me a year ago to help plan a fantastic Valentine’s Day wedding here in Vieques. When they hired me, Tori’s parents had just put down a hefty deposit on a venue that was having some management problems. I agreed to plan the wedding there, but as the months passed, it became obvious that things at that particular hotel were rapidly spiraling out of control. Because it was very important to both the bride and her mother that every detail be perfect, and that their guests receive excellent service, we finally made the difficult decision to change venues. After a battle royale with the hotel, we got their entire deposit back and began the arduous process of choosing a new venue.
Tori and her parents opted to rent two beautiful oceanfront villas on the same street so that she could have her ceremony at one villa and the reception down the street at the other. It made it easy and fun for the guests to all be staying so close to one another. The only tricky part was that, prior to changing venues, both the bride and her mom had a good idea of what kind of space we were dealing with because they had both visited that hotel. Even though I provided pictures for the new venues, they were pretty much taking it on my word and blind faith that things would turn out to be exactly what they wanted. I think that probably added some stress to the planning process initially, but in the end, it was well worth the extra work. Once they got comfortable with the new venue and learned to trust my judgment on some of these things (not easy to do with a wedding planner you’ve never met face to face), the planning process started to become much more fun for everybody.
Tori works in the hospitality industry, so she knew what she wanted and how she wanted things presented to her guests. From the very first moment everybody arrived on the island, Tori made sure that everybody felt welcomed and had lots of fun activities to look forward to. Their welcome bags were simple, but perfect. Navy blue (her theme color) beach bags with a map of Vieques on the side, filled with welcome packet materials, bottled water, personalized bottles of Coqui Fire hot sauce, and sweet and salty snacks for all the guests. We delivered the bags all over the island before everybody arrived so that they would have all the information they needed about where to be for what once they got here.
Thursday night, we had a welcome party at the Bili restaurant on the Malecon in Esperanza. They shut the place down for our group, and we were treated to a fantastic array of foods — paella, brie en crout, mini mofongo fritters, and more — and a fun open bar with a number of tropical signature drinks like funky magaritas and rum punch. There was so much food — if anybody left that welcome party hungry it was their own damned fault! The atmosphere on the Malecon was lively and many of the guests enjoyed the outside seating near the action. The party ended at 9:30 but a number of their guests stayed much longer. There were still a few folks there when we left at 11!
Friday morning, we were all up bright and early for the wedding rehearsal at Belle Vista Villa, the venue where the ceremony would be held the next day. Everybody showed up on time and actually paid attention — kudos to this group! The rehearsal itself only took about 20 minutes and then everybody was off to enjoy the day. We met up again a few hours later at the beach party.
Tori and Victor opted to go traditional for their beach party (Victor’s family is from Vieques, after all, so it certainly seemed appropriate). They hosted a big pig roast on the beach for all of their guests and everybody had a great time! We served a beautifully roasted pig (of course), shrimp and chicken pinchots (a Puerto-Rican preparation of shish kebabs), traditional rice and beans, Puerto Rican macaroni salad, a big green salad, and homemade chocolate chip and chocolate chocolate chip cookies! The bar offered quite a selection, including the very popular rum punch and sweet tea for all those southern guests the bride’s mom was so worried about. They’re from North Carolina so she wanted to make sure her friends could get a sweet tea fix while they were here, but I gotta say, I didn’t see those southern ladies drinking tea. They were all drinking rum punch!
Tori and her mother were good sports and helped to continue our Weddings in Vieques “official” pig roast tradition. Yes, we do have pictures of the bride and her mother kissing the pig! It was hilarious! Pat, the mom, isn’t really the pig kissing type. Nor was the bride. In fact, when she first leaned in and puckered up, Tori took a big step back and looked at me and said “he has teeth!” Indeed he did. But he was a happy pig because he got kissed by the two prettiest ladies at the party — the bride and her mom. Yes, we do have pictures to prove it for those of you who know Pat and Tori and don’t believe they were kissing a pig on a beach in Puerto Rico.
Now I need to be fair and give some equal time to the gentlemen of the day. Victor, the groom, was a great sport as well, and managed to keep a straight face when we were telling his bride that kissing the pig is an island tradition. He didn’t say a word to dissuade her, and the entire crew circled around to take pictures of the big event. But I thought the father of the bride, Tom, was going to fall over laughing when he saw his wife taking part in the process. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have bet him big money they’d kiss the pig (he definitely would have taken the bet) and I would have won!
After the beach party, the guests were treated to a private tour of our famous bioluminescent bay and a tour of the stars we can see down here that are usually hidden at home. As always, the tour got rave reviews.
Saturday morning arrived painfully early for those of us on the setup crew. Because we were decorating two separate venues for the ceremony and reception, I wanted an early start in case we ran into any bugaboos. Fortunately, we didn’t. Unless of course you count the truck one of the setup guys put into a ditch near the villa, but that was easily solved with a tow rope and good sense of humor. I think the boys tried to hide that little oops from us ladies on the setup crew but we busted them when one of the girls went out to her car to get something and saw the truck with its rear tire two feet up in the air. Oops!
Tori was one of the calmest brides I’ve ever encountered. I’d like to take the credit for that and say she must’ve felt very comfortable that I would execute her vision exactly. But I think the truth is that Tori is cool as a cucumber when she’s under pressure and that’s how she kept all the wedding chaos from getting to her on the big day. Her mom was pretty nervous, but I don’t blame her one bit. Tori is her only daughter and she wanted everything to be just perfect. So did I.
When I work with a bride and groom, or in this case bride and her mom, for so long, I get emotionally attached and invested in the wedding. It’s not about providing a service, it’s about making the biggest day of her life meet the expectations she’s had since she was a little girl. I don’t want any bride to be disappointed, even in the slightest. I want them to all react the same way that Tori did when she arrived back at the villa after the ceremony — totally blown away by the overall presentation. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Tori and Victor’s ceremony was gorgeous. We’d been having high winds for a few days, and it was still breezy, but the wind definitely died down before the ceremony so we didn’t have any veil disasters. We had a hard time with the rose petal aisle, but the petals looked just as lovely in the pool behind the ceremony as they did when we first put them down the aisle and under the arch. 🙂 However, when we were setting up for the ceremony, the wind kicked up, and we almost had a mess on our hands. If you’ve never worked with tulle, you might not be able to appreciate the humor in this anecdote, but if you have, you’ll totally get it. We’d open up a package of tulle for decorating the chairs and the arch and it would take off like a kite in the middle of March. We didn’t let go, fortunately, but it was hilarious. One of us held the base of the tulle while the other one wadded it up into a workable ball that we could manipulate through the backs of the chairs. Every once in awhile it would slip out of our grasps, and we’d be blinded by giant sheets of tulle wrapped around our heads. My husband thought we’d lost our minds, and Candy and I were laughing so hard I didn’t think we were ever going to finish decorating.
Tori’s flowers were absolutely gorgeous. For her ceremony decor, she chose to put small bouquets along the back row of chairs and to decorate the arch with tulle and flowers. Tori carried a bouquet of ivory calla lilies and roses, tied with a white satin ribbon and topped with a navy blue ribbon (her something blue). Her bridesmaids carried smaller bouquets of yellow calla lilies, coral roses and lipstick roses (yellow petals with hot pink edges). Each of the moms and the groom’s grandmother received small bouquets of ivory and yellow mini calla lilies. The bride’s mother wore an ivory mini calla lily in her hair. The gentlemen all wore mini yellow calla lilies as boutonnieres. Bouquets made up of a combination of all of the flowers adorned the chair backs at the ceremony and the arch under which Tori and Victor were married. Ivory rose petals created an aisle and puddled underneath the arch. It was gorgeous!
Tori’s wedding gown was a story all unto itself. Tori’s gown was created from a combination of her mother’s wedding gown and her grandmother’s wedding gown. They used the lace from her mom’s dress to decorate the bodice and hem of her ivory sleeveless gown, and the taupe silk that had been her grandmother’s gown was used to create a beautiful pleated sash and a short kicky train at the back of the dress. A formal bridal portrait of Tori, along with wedding photos of her mother and her grandmother in their gowns, was featured on the guest book table, along with a beautifully embroidered ring pillow that was made with fabric remnants from both dresses.
The bridesmaids wore navy blue, short organza dresses, and the groomsmen wore tropical weight khaki suits. All of the parents looked fabulous too — this was a well-dressed group!
The ceremony was short and sweet, and the wind died down to just a breeze before Tori made her way down the aisle on her father’s arm. Afterward, all of the guests made their way four houses down the hill to Playa Martineau, the enormous oceanfront villa where the reception was waiting for them. Guests were greeted at the door with champagne flutes filled with colorful signature cocktails.
Tori had every detail covered in planning her wedding. She chose a beautiful wedding invitation — ivory with navy ink — for her wedding invitations. The invitations featured small navy seashells at the top, and she used the same theme for her dinner menus and her placecards. Each dinner table held creative centerpieces of three cylindrical vases in a variety of heights. The bases of the vases were filled with navy blue and purple seaglass, and featured a white floating candle. The vases were set on square mirrors in the middle of the round tables. Each menu was tucked inside a navy blue napkin and centered on the place setting. She used faux wax pillar candles with LED lights as centerpieces on the cocktail tables strategically positioned around the pool deck for guests who wanted to be close to the action but didn’t want to dance.
We strung white lights on everything that would stand still. There were thousands of white lights on the columns of the porch on the house and the columns on the bar cabana. We covered the DJ’s tent with white lights. We ran white lights along the railings of the second floor balcony, and more lights along the fence at the back of the property separating the villa from the beach. Tiki torches lined the walkways and provided light around the pool deck area where everyone was dancing. White LED lights in the bottom of the pool sparkled like little stars. It truly looked like fairyland. When we looked back at the villa from the after party at Mar Azul later that night — a couple of miles away — it looked like a carnival!
The reception ran smoothly. Her dinner menu was posh — one guest told me the beef filet could only be described as “orgasmic” — and the guests stuffed themselves. The toasts that followed dinner were brief and heartfelt (as they should be), and then the bride and groom kicked off the dancing with their own first dance. Later in the evening, the bride’s parents (who have been married more than 40 years themselves) danced to “Through the Years” while all the guests watched in admiration. They’ve truly set an amazing example for their children.
Once the dancing started, this crowd got moving! A huge group did the “Cha Cha Slide” and the “Electric Slide,” which I feel compelled to note were actually ON the bride’s must play list. The only challenge was balancing how much rock and how much salsa/merengue/barchata was played to keep everybody happy. After all, half of the wedding guests were Puerto Rican and those Puerto Rican gentleman sure do love to dance. I think it was great — I saw some of the groom’s relatives teaching the bride’s guests how to salsa. It was fantastic to see the two families really enjoying spending time together. After all, they’re all related to each other now!
Tori’s wedding cake was AMAZING! Kudos to my cake lady — it looked just like the pictures Tori had sent me and I’m positive it tasted better than cake I’ve had before. She has finally perfected her red velvet cake recipe, and that was the first flavor to go! The cake was two tiers, round, frosted in ivory buttercream, and decorated with ivory sugar seashells and starfish. I can’t wait to share the pictures!
Tori and Victor got married on Valentine’s Day, but they didn’t throw a typical heart-themed wedding by any means. The only element of Cupid’s day we incorporated went into the wedding favors. Every guest was treated to a cellophane-wrapped packet of heart-shaped butter cookies filled with passion fruit preserves. YUM. I mean really, really YUM. The packages were tied with satin ribbons and a tag with a thank you note from the bride and groom. Very thoughtful and oh-so-tasty at 2 am when we finally got home from the after-party. I totally planned to snitch a spare one at cleanup the next day but there were only three left on the table so I refrained. I hope whoever got them enjoyed them as much as I would have! 🙂
At the end of the evening, all of the guests followed the bride and groom down to Mar Azul in Isabel, a waterfront bar with Saturday night karaoke and dancing. Initially, during the planning process, the bride had expressed little enthusiasm for this activity, but I continued to push because I’m always concerned that people will hang out late at the villa if there isn’t someplace else to go. We have to do part of the teardown after the reception that night, and we really need to shut things down to respect the people who are staying in neighboring villas. Nobody warned them there was a wedding next door when they rented their own vacation villas, so we try to quiet things down. Anyway, both Tori and Victor took off enthusiastically for the bar when the time came to end our party, and most of the guests tagged along, including the bride’s parents. I never thought I’d see the day…
So my crew finished up putting away all the vases and bringing in all the tablecloths (stuff you can’t leave outside overnight in case the wind kicks up or it rains) and we followed the wedding party to the bar to see how things were going. I could see from outside that the bar was packed and there was definitely a group of tourists caterwauling into the microphone. But I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes — when we walked into the bar, the bride AND HER MOM were both at the microphone with the bridesmaids and some other girls belting out New York, New York!!! Her dad sat on the side nursing a drink and looking very, very amused. Her brothers just looked a little confused. We got a ton of pictures! They were having so much fun! And the rest of the bar was backing them up because everybody loves a bride!
Saying goodbye to Tori and Victor and Pat and Tom was really bittersweet. We spent so many months planning (and re-planning after we switched venues) every little detail and it all turned out fantastic! And then all of a sudden, it was all over and we were putting things away in boxes and tearing down flower arches and saying goodbye. I think it’s time for me to coin a new expression. “Post Traumatic Wedding Stress Syndrome.” PRWSS is the feeling we all get the morning after the wedding when we realize that after months of planning, it’s finally finished. It’s a little like “Cruise Crash.” All our hard work is reduced to files of pictures on CD and the memories of the fairytale wedding the night before. I think everybody involved in the planning process experiences it to some extent, and it doesn’t pass until after the bride and groom have returned from their honeymoon and called to chat and catch up and totally post-mortem the event. It’s always so good to hear from people that they feel we gave them the wedding of their dreams.
Okay, enough waxing nostalgic. I have to get my butt in gear to go to a 30th birthday party for one of our vendors. Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra. All of us here in Vieques wish Tori and Victor a lifetime of happiness, good health, success and return trips to Vieques! Tom and the MOB are invited back too 🙂