When I left you in part one, guests were filing out from the cathedral, while my bridesmaids attempted to bustle my dress. Outside the church awaited drummers and dancers in white, part of the traditional wedding recessional in Cartagena.
I love curating joy. I had been so excited about the surprises of the weekend, such as this parade awaiting the guests. But it turned out to be a surprise for me, as I had never pictured such a crowd of strangers gathered, clapping along, cell phones held high.
We exited to a roar of joy, drummers drumming, dancers dancing, confetti flying, guests shaking maracas, and found ourselves trapped in the middle of the circle with nowhere to go but to spin, laugh and dance together.
Eventually the dancers broke through and started our parade through the city as we led our guests from the cathedral to the reception. I can’t imagine what could possibly be more fun that leading a parade with your husband, whose face is lit up, wearing the most stunning gown through palm trees along cobble stone streets. Pure delight.
Back at Casa Pestagua, a live band awaited our guests. I had been so intentional to leave oodles of time earlier in the day for photos so we could be present from here on out, but alas as I shared in the last post with planner mishaps that didn’t happen.
Thus we were whisked off for bridal party photos, which became some of my favorites. I had dreamt for a year of colors and textures that made my creative director heart soar, and it was beautiful. Tuxedos, palm trees, those jewel tone hues, with vintage lace… even our signature cocktails unintentionally matched the color palette.
Which, was pulled from the city herself. Knowing how many colorful buildings would be our backdrop, with the local foliage around us, I leaned into the greenery paired with pinks, oranges and reds.
Then there was the heaven that my dear friend East Olivia created. A river of bougainvillea and beyond beneath hanging lights through the tropical trees. It’s so beautiful I want to float on it, sleep on it, wrap it around me like a blanket, live with it as my backyard forever.
We headed up to the roof for a few final pictures before sunset, just the two of us. You can see on the roof yet again, how I pulled our color palette straight from Cartagena herself. (Also quite literally, the florist was so kindly allowed by the venue to pull some of their flowers to put in my bouquet!)
Meanwhile downstairs guests found their seats on the back of style illustrations hung on a gallery wall. Some were glamorous, others humorous like my sister-in-law’s scuba diver look which she declared the coolest thing that’s ever happened to her. Thus the seating chart doubled as a personalized gift and I have loved since visiting friends to see them on display in their homes!
In lieu of a guest book, we had a list to make sure we got a photo with each guest to put in an album. Of course the outtakes, flip flops with tuxedos, and launching oneself to smell the flowers, are my favorite.
We passed out sparklers and had out first dance to “Paris In June” by JohnnySwim, a song I loved before meeting Jeremy and before our first trip which was indeed to Paris in June where we fell in love and which inspired our elopement back to France. My dress never did get bustled, and as we were announced and walking out my nephew launched himself on my train like a slip n’ slide. Who can blame him, I’d take a free ride on that cathedral train!
Before dinner, my sister spoke about how Jeremy had “just fit” in our family from the beginning. One of my oldest friends Alex shared how rare it is to see an adult choose so intentionally to grow and become better as he has watched me strive to do. Jeremy’s sister got choked up saying she’d seen her brother in a new light hearing what friends had said about him the previous evening in rehearsal dinner toasts.
It was all beautiful in words, and the photos look to me like stills from a movie – a life so beautiful you could only dream about it through films.
My desire was for the reception to feel like the party in Audrey Hebpurn’s “Sabrina”. The Gatsby-esq party I had only ever dreamed I might be invited to, of an era gone by. The vision came to life.
As much fun as I was having, my head was aching from hair extensions. So as I headed upstairs to change into my dancing dress, I took them out and threw my hair into a ponytail. I had encouraged guests to bring a change of clothes as they might want something lighter for dancing. My bridesmaids changed with me, one of them borrowing a dress of mine, helped me decide which of two pairs of shoes I had, and we went went back down for more!
Soon it was midnight and time for the next surprise. Jeremy and I came down the main staircase leading a colorful crew of dancers and singers there to ring in “crazy hour”, another local custom.
They passed out props and accessories we had brought, and proceeded to lead a non-stop joy-fest of boys vs girls dance offs, conga lines, limbo, call and response. Everyone’s faces looked so happy, and I was on cloud nine.
Final surprise, I wanted to jump in the pool. The planner had warned us this might not be allowed, so I gathered everyone to do it quickly at once in case we were made to get out after. Rented tuxedos were shed for boxers, button-downs discarded for bare chests to dry in time for flights in a few hours, and we all jumped!
Around 1am I asked for my first piece of our cake, which I ate from the pool, then went back to floating with our family and friends.
There were a million things that went wrong this day. Which, for my fellow brides past and future, is a post for another day to ensure no one thinks they’re the only one.
But this weekend held memories not photographed that sum it all up for me.
Eating breakfast each morning at a long table with my family, parents’ friends of over 45 years, my business partner and his kids, friends from New York – it’s what I hope heaven is: one big table with everyone you love just spending time together.
My sister-in-law sending me a thank you note for creating once in a lifetime memories for their family.
Multiple couples who left their kids at home sharing this trip was so needed for their marriage, and time they never would have done for themselves otherwise.
And my mom breathlessly proclaiming multiple times a day as though it had just occurred to her again, “This is so fun! This is the best trip of my life!”
Which today, months later, makes me cry every. time. I think about it.
I just want to feel loved. So it’s what I imagine everyone else wants to.
Jeremy makes me feel so incredibly loved every day. I wanted the people in our lives to feel loved by every thoughtful detail, delightful surprise, beautiful experience. And by the message that above all, we simply wanted to create memories with them we hope to still be reminiscing about together on our 50th anniversary.
May you always feel as loved, by us and the people in your own life.
Cece crew, five-year-anniversary-group-trip scheming begins now….
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