Our wedding day began before anyone else was awake but the birds.
Jeremy padded up to our private rooftop with coffee to finish his vows. I welcomed in a hair stylist who couldn’t speak English, then creatively called the front desk for a bellhop to please translate while we smiled politely at one another in silence. I was soon joined by just my sister, mom and her best friend of 45-years who together steamed my dress.
We wanted to spend as much time together as possible on the day, plus take photos on the beautiful streets before they filled with anyone else. Thus our first look was just us, before we’d seen anyone else, and one of my favorite moments.
It had taken me so very long to find my dress. (A post for another day, but thanks to the brilliant team at Mark Ingram Atelier for finally being my dream spot with this Monique Lhuillier finale gown and impeccable alterations.) So many times I begged Jeremy to please see them and help me decide, but he wisely resisted. The look on his face made it all worth it. He told me the dress was perfect, he loved how sexy it was, I looked like royalty. Meanwhile he looked dashing in his custom Alton Lane tuxedo (a brand I styled for when I first started my business).
We headed out onto the street for my next favorite part – an entire hour, just us. Wandering around the empty streets, holding hands, grinning ear to ear, saying “I can’t believe this is happening”.
As the city awoke we walked through crowds of applauding strangers and tween girls who must have thought I was Megan Markle for their level of glee. We danced with the local Palenque women I described in this post, blended in with the colorful gardens, and used the city as our breathtaking backdrop.
Back the house, I did a first look with my dad. It’s funny the visions you have in your head. The two photos my mom has framed of my sister and dad at her wedding are him walking her down the aisle and their dance. Neither of those were my favorite from my day as I’d expected, and instead we had all these spontaneous moments.
Fun fact, the cover of the Vogue Weddings book is a bride in this room. Not why I chose our location, but I did flip through that book during my search for a dress pondering what I was drawn to that felt timeless. Meanwhile just when I thought I couldn’t love him more. Jeremy took his inspiration from Obama’s official portrait.
The best part of our plan was getting to spend the whole day together so we'd have as many shared memories as possible, not waiting hours to see one another. The second best part, I got to have two looks for both hair and bouquet, as mid-day I made a change before the ceremony. And thus there was no reason not to have a “party in my room”*. (*A classic Uncle Jeremy jingle that my niece and nephew love.)
I got ready again with my bridesmaids, and this might be the appropriate time to share a quote from our photographer, “I have never seen a wedding day so poorly managed, and you handled it amazingly well”.
We were about two hours behind at this point. I have no idea how as after the timeline debacle of our elopement, I had padded in so much extra time. But around 3pm the wedding planner came bustling into the room declaring, “You’re late! You have to go!” To which I replied, “Yes, the bridesmaids, photographer, videographer and I have been working on it. But you haven’t been here. So coming in simply yelling that we’re late is not helpful unless you have a suggestion of what we should do about it.”
Aside: As mention in my rehearsal dinner post, I hesitate to share this, wanting to simply focus on the joy of the day. But the only reason I’m a girl writing a blog post about my wedding day is to help, whether educate or inspire. So I fear it would be misleading to a future bride to gloss over the bumps, or make a past bride feel she was the only one for whom things went awry. Thus you’ll hear many dropped ball moments throughout the story, of which there are many (many!) more not included here.
We flew through family photos. With sunburned flower girls, one blister-footed ring bearer, and one who had just woken up from his nap and was not happy about this timing! Thus, they're amazing. I told the parents ahead of time you can't have children in a wedding unless you're willing for their to be humor!
Then we were off to the church! Jeremy and the bridal party walked the few blocks, while Dad and I drove in a beautiful old car. It felt like I was living in a movie. It was magical.
In one of those brilliant organic moments, Dad gamely helped with my cathedral length train.
Outside the church our eldest flower girl wisely inquired where their flower girl baskets were? (Ahem, planner.) Oh and ring bearers didn’t have their Bibles (one my mother's, another a French antique as a nod to our elopement, upon which were tied inexpensive Amazon ring replicas which we now wear when going to the beach). We let the latter go.
A bridesmaid turned and said, “We have a groomsman down”. Poor guy apparently had a virus he’d been pushing through all day, and realized just as he was about to walk down the aisle he was going to pass out. I feel like this photo captured Dad’s and my expressions in that moment!
Dad chased my nephew who attempted to flee the scene. It was all chaos, and I was so chill and loved the “it takes a village” vibe.
When it was our turn Dad and I stepped into the center of the doors. Curious, he looked back over his shoulder at the large crowd of locals and tourists that had gathered, then spontaneously gave them a wave and a cheer went up as though they had just received it from George Clooney. It’s one of my favorite memories of the day. (Yes, I'm saying that a lot! A great day to have many favorites!)
Dad walked me down that gorgeous black and white marble tiled cathedral aisle to a soprano singing Ave Maria. At the end my nephew was flinging himself on the benches I had told the planner not to order (obsessed with my sister cracking up at me trying to get him off with one hand).
The ceremony was admittedly a blur. I remember so much more of our elopement ceremony. Partially, the acoustics were such at the front of the cathedral that we couldn’t hear anyone else. I didn’t know if people were laughing, crying, singing along with the worship songs. It was hard to hear what people were saying into the microphone. So I just focused on Jeremy and let the rest spin around us. I tried to ignore that the worship songs were being played in half time, discovering later the planner had given the musicians the wrong songs so they had never practiced them.
The two moments I remember most, were the funny ones. The priest blessed the rings, then was fumbling trying to untie them from the ring bearer Bibles. I told him those were the fake rings, as the best man showed him the real ones in his pocket, and he looked aghast as to why on earth I would think it appropriate to give him fake rings to bless. (Ahem, planner.)
Then at the end of the ceremony you’re asked to sign the marriage certificate. The best man was bent over for quite a while. We learned after from when my sister leaned over as matron of honor:
Priest: Do you know your passport number?
Sister: No sir.
Priest: Drivers license number?
Sister: No sir.
Priest: Just write down four letters and two numbers.
Thankfully we were already legally married in New York, as I don’t think that one would pass deep inspection.
It was declared official, we kissed, then danced down the aisle to the one song I hadn’t technically submitted to the priest, the same we exited to at our elopement. Church weddings there are open to the public, and Jeremy declared that was surely the first time Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” has been played in that cathedral and there are still some old women present doing hail mary’s on our behalf today.
I know I’ve already used the word favorite a lot, but what came next were maybe the best 15 minutes of my life. Culminating in the most breathtaking magic garden dinner of my dreams. It was too much goodness to get in one post, so it's coming next in a final part two…
Our incredible team, whether vendors or brands, based in the US or local to Cartagena:
STYLE: Wedding Dress and Veil: Monique Lhuillier at Mark Ingram Atelier, Headpiece, Red Shoes, Clutch: Thrifted, Earrings: Mom's // Bespoke Tuxedo: Alton Lane, His Shoes, His Watch: Nomos Tangente // Bridesmaids Dresses: Rent The Runway, Flower Girls and Ring Bearers: one, two, three, four
CREATIVE TEAM: Photographer: Erich McVey Photography // Videographer: Brothers Martens // Florist: East Olivia with the help of local VivaFlor // Welcome Map + Directory (this post): CW Designs // Style Illustrations: Deanna First // Invitations: Minted (modern initials suite)
CARTAGENA: Church: Catedral de Cartegena // Getting Ready + Reception: Casa Pestagua // Hair & Makeup: Carlos Torres // Musicians: 3Cuerdas // Performers: Afrobatata // Reception Band: Nelson Gomes // DJ // Lighting + Sound // Tablewares // Alcohol // Cake // Sparklers // Photobooth // Nanny Service // Vintage Car