Our plans leading up to the blissful moments this photo was taken can be described two ways. I've decided to use details from our Riviera Maya wedding to highlight the pros and cons in planning a wedding abroad.

Here's a priority list Clint and I made before planning for our wedding. You may remember it from our Chicago elopement post. Missed it? See all the photos here.

1. Marry in a quiet and non-frilly way
2. Create memories with our parents and siblings on a warm and relaxing holiday
3. Have really amazing photos
4. Pick out classic wedding clothes we would still love in years
5. Write our own vows

There is a massive amount of photos and information to share so this will be a multiple part post. Let's tackle a few of the topics right now; Location, Beauty, Travel and Clothing Details.

Narrow your choice of location, until you do it will be impossible to begin planning.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

PROS : Endless choices, Pinterest is a helpful tool to see both the fancy resort photos and actual travelers snapshots, If you've found a resort - look it up on Instagram to see what visitors are actually posting. A very raw, unpolished look at what your getting into.

CONS : Endless choices! Don't allow the idea of a perfect location let you miss a great location. This was the hardest part for me, slowing down our process SIGNIFICANTLY. Securing dates for your event can be very competitive, specifically if you are looking for a certain date and time.

We created a monster for ourselves by trying to make wedding plans within 3 months time. Not impossible, but not recommended either. Both families run similar small businesses allowing a small window of opportunity to travel each year. Top it off, both our leases in Chicago are up in May so the practical side of us won as we began merging our lives together in only 3 short months.

Be a skeptic, make sure you have a recommendation from a trustworthy travel agent or friend. You're not just planning a trip for 2 but considering your whole party (no pressure!). Dive in, the internet is your BFF. What's being said about this resort? Which holidays fall during your dates? Take note of seasonal weather trends.

BEAUTY - Build a theme for your wedding that begins with YOU.

You are probably wondering why I think beauty holds such a prominent place in your wedding planning? Right, well here's what I've learned in the last 10 years from my clients and now personally that made the biggest difference. Ever.

You HAVE to feel the part.

Early in the planning process I didn't have a theme for our wedding, at least not one with much cohesion to it. Honestly, I had a hard time knowing what part to tackle first. Location, dates, guest list, style, travel, clothing reception, food, entertainment??? So I took on everything. 'Besides, I knew talented people in all these areas I wanted to work with.'

I had nothing to base my decisions on, EVERYTHING was in limbo. I couldn't even choose a dress, which NEVER happens. I almost always have a vision before I even go shopping. This felt like a colossal waste of time.

So I quit.

Insert ah-ha moment. I was planted in a salon chair in Gold Coast responding to e-mails as fast as I could, not wanting to waste a whole afternoon getting my hair done.

My phone chimed with a client's text asking which outfit would bring cohesion to her family photo... we already knew where it would hang... And thennnn it hit me...

I refuse to help anyone else with clothing for a family photo shoot until I KNOW the mom is TOTALLY happy with what she's wearing. But, I don't want her to just be happy, I want her to feel amazing about herself.

You're right, I do get a lot of kick back... but only the first time I have to be firm about my rules. Once her canvas are on the walls, we are scroll bars deep in texts about which outfit is more flattering to wear at her niece's wedding and whether or not she should still be wearing under eye liner.

I AM the mom in this situation. I'm wanting to zoom ahead to take care of everything (and everyone) first. I don't want to slow down long enough to figure out a plan that I adore. A dress I LOVE. A hairstyle that fits my entire vision. Shoes I can give to my future daughter.

Instead I'm spinning. The worst is, I know, literally KNOW from ten years of experience, that if I'm not happy with how I look I won't cherish these photos like I should. All because I didn't take a bit of time for myself.

Sounds selfish you say? Maybe. Try to put yourself in these shoes. If we're truly honest, it hits pretty close, eh?

*Special note... the Pros and Cons section on beauty is DIY. We all have different priorities. Its up to us to be honest with ourselves. Don't feel confident... maybe ever with your beauty routine? Its OK. Ask for advice from a trust worthy source. It can be as simple or involved as you decide. No need to constantly reinvent your routine. If it works, own it. Even extra sleep can be part of this beauty routine! Please do take a sliver of time for yourself, its reflective and It's interesting what manifests itself in other negative ways when we don't take the time.

 

 

Naturally, I woulddd kick-start this destination wedding series talking about hair. Seriously, here's why I think it's important to plan your wedding hairstyle MONTHS ahead.

Hasty decisions are often ones you live to regret. Don't change your color OR significantly cut within 6 months of your event. (I'm talking to Bride and Momma here, we know you care just as much how these pics turn out, and you should!)

Leave yourself enough time to get comfortable with your style. This topic is similar to why I think its a terrible idea to wear new clothes to a photo shoot.

Oh, you haven't heard this rant? The KEY to outstanding photos is LOOKING COMFORTABLE. Until you wear an outfit once or twice you can't possibly know how it will photograph or how it will make that strange wrinkle that looks like a gut when you move a certain way. I could go on...

Only buy what you LOVE and wear what makes you feel good. Same applies to your hair. New doesn't always hold the trump card, even if it makes you feel good for the moment.

Practice perfecting your ideal hairstyle instead of reinventing.

 

 

I chose a simple hairstyle for my sister and I. I knew we would be battling wind most of the time so we found a style that actually is perfected with weather. I think I still underestimated just how much wind and humidity we would have but I was over all happy to have stuck with my plan.

 

 

I wanted a style that wasn't too far off from my everyday look but longer, thicker and no too perfect. I began far in advance finding my wedding hair style. I knew for me an updo would never stay totally in place with this weather, so I built my bridal theme around that soft, free spirit look I envisioned, keeping everything else simple. I call this statement hair. It doesn't need other accessories, its the main show.

If you're curious about my wedding hair style... I've shared more detail here of my love affair with permanent extensions. Curious about how to find the more cost effective non-permanent extensions? Sign up on our home page. I can hardly wait for this feature with my friend and stylist, Bonnie Knobloch.

 

 

TRAVEL CAREFREE 

PROS : Find a travel agent you trust. Did you know there's no extra cost in working with an agent? I've traveled internationally frequently and felt confident I could assist in this task. I quickly decided planning for 18 instead of 1 is a job I don't need or want.

As a wedding gift our agent, Julie, from Suzi Davis Travel upgraded our suite to a beach front. This walkout was perfect for us and just steps from everything! She also was privy to other travel discounts with her position. Most agents are required to visit resorts. Again, find a like-minded agent. Ours knew our goals and was not afraid to tell us the truth about resorts that looked far better online then in reality. 

CONS : I only wanted to travel to locations I could have first hand recommendations of, so this limited us. We traveled with Apple Vacations. Navigating O'Hare Airport was simple thanks to the vacation agents waiting for us. Travel home was very different. Cancun's International Airport was a right mess. Not many agents waiting in their blue Hawaiian shirts to direct our group (moving 18 people is no easy task).

Make sure everyone in your party has current passports, yes, even babies. Birth certificates are no longer accepted crossing a boarder via air. #noquestionisadumbquestion

 

 

We needed to find a resort that would allow monkeys. Ahhhem, small children. My two nephews plus brother/11 year-old-man-child, Henry, planned to attend our wedding, so the elimination process happened naturally for us.

 

 

You can't do this sort of four-wheeling at just any resort. We ended up at the Now Sapphire Resort which is a branch of Secrets Resorts that welcome children but still have a classy feel with loads of chic photo opts!

Zara kids, have you been?! Loved these beach friendly outfits for the littles.

Zara kids, have you been?! Loved these beach friendly outfits for the littles.

 

Remember I mentioned the suite upgrade? Clint and I ended up with Preferred Club status as a wedding gift from our agent. This quieter, adult-only pool/lounge area made for magical photos. The Now Sapphire Resort has smartly staged another area called, "Kids Club", near the main pools but separated by landscaping. Kids definitely are treated like VIP instead of unwelcome guests here.

 

 

The nearly hidden entrance to the Preferred Club was a perfect fit for the casual photos I planned to take. I love my wedding dress but knew I wanted a more casual (yet bridal) look for some of our photos. You can find our clothes here : Suit (similar) / Sneakers / White Shirt / Belt / Watch / Cropped Top (sold out) / Leather Skirt / Flats

 

(Many of you have asked... we have decided not to share the source of our rings. It's our one secret. Anything else we will gladly share our opinions! Hope you understand.)

(Many of you have asked... we have decided not to share the source of our rings. It's our one secret. Anything else we will gladly share our opinions! Hope you understand.)

 

WARDROBE DETAILS - the beauty of pairing high end and low.

PROS : We agreed early on that we would try to choose simplicity over excess for our wedding. As minimal lovers we would rather have one item of great quality then five items so-so. Think fewer better things. It became a game for us to find items with multiple uses.

We choose a wide selection of colors to make it simple for guests to choose their clothing. This is another area hard for me to not micro manage, but thankfully for everyone's sakes I found far too many other obligations. Clearly I NEEDED a wedding photo coordinator and thankfully I had one in Chicago - but wished I had brought her to Mexico!

In the end, a shoe-free wedding was a choice I'm glad I made instead of approving 18 pairs of shoes. Remember friends, only take on a few important tasks and delegate the rest. Besides, the best man had lovely bare feet thank to his spa visit earlier that week.

CONS : Finding great quality items is very time consuming. I spent days trying on gowns before finding the one. Hours and hours in search of a pink stone and the thinnest band possible (for both of us), White sneakers only worn once b/c of the nasty blisters they leave behind. Remember what I said about never bring a new item to a photo shoot? I'm eating my own words!

Share a sample of your colors with all your guests unless you trust your perception of blue grey and blush to be on point with theirs, just trust me, they never are.

 

Bow tie (similar) + Watch

Bow tie (similar) + Watch


 

Want to make the best suit choice? Check out this article where we break it down for you... everything you need to know, plus a little manly style.

 

Flats

Flats

I'm excited to share the next few posts with you ... images of our wedding and the celebration following that live in that tender place in my heart and head... Thanks to Tami Page Photography and Charming in Love for your hard work in telling our story with your photos.

Please don't miss this... as much as I bang on about colors and style and vision, your wedding is about two very unique people building a life together. Now that's something to celebrate and if I can share my thoughts to make your day just a little sweeter, then I will, plus some.

Until next Sunday  - Laura

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