TGIF: Indulge in This Virgin Islands Adventure Wedding


You can almost feel yourself drifting away

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Lindsay, artist and bartender & Evan, self-employed

Sum-up of the wedding vibe: A laid-back island adventure.

Planned budget: $20,000

Actual budget: $25,000+

Number of guests: 60

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Where we allocated the most funds:

The reception. Initially we had planned to have an intimate reception at the villa we had rented, but as the RSVPs came flooding in, I worried about overcrowding, so we opted to hold the reception at a waterfront restaurant in downtown Cruz Bay. This ended up being one of the best decisions we made. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, every detail was taken care of by our wedding coordinator and their wonderful staff.

Since St. John is an island, everything has to be imported, which drives up the cost of food and drink. We anticipated that the costs would be a little higher than average, but we were in awe of the amazing meal we were served. The table sizes were fairly intimate and each guest was able to make a selection from the menu for their plated meal. Every plate was made to order, and the food was the best I’ve had at any wedding. I love to cook and eat well, so to me that was well worth it.

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Where we allocated the least funds:

Décor and favors. Pinterest can be amazing, but also really overwhelming when it comes to wedding ideas. I found a few ideas I liked and opted to DIY whenever possible. I also make art and really enjoyed taking time out of planning to do some fun crafts. I made a heart-shaped piñata to hold “Advice for the Newlyweds” cards in lieu of a traditional guestbook. I found a beautiful DIY escort card tutorial using watercolors.

I made wildflower seed packet favors with a custom stamp I found on Etsy. My mother-in-law put together traditional Greek Jordan almond favors, and she and my mom pulled together photos from our childhood to display during cocktail hour. The upside of giving something useful: we used the leftover seed packets to plant our garden.

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What was totally worth it:

Spending a week with our friends and family in a place that we love. Evan and I chose to marry in St. John because it was the first trip we took together alone as a new couple, years ago. The island holds a special place in our hearts, and to be able to share the experience with our close friends and families was amazing.

Since we live far away from our friends and family, a destination wedding made the most sense for us. When people hear you are planning a destination wedding, they can often focus on the expense and think of it as extravagant. We love to travel, and investing in experiences really speaks to us. Life is short, and creating opportunities to let your guard down and challenge your perspective for what life should look like can be incredibly liberating.

Hiring Sarah Gormley as our photographer was also worth it. My close friend introduced me to her work and I was enamored by her style. Sarah was so easy to work with, and her calming presence helped us relax in front of the camera. When we got the photographs back from Sarah we were over the moon.

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What was totally not worth it:

The stress and anxiety. I learned a lot about myself and how I work (and don’t work) throughout this process, which was ultimately helpful, but at the time a struggle. I ended up seeing a professional to help me talk through my anxiety and better cope with the stress and pressure I was putting on myself.

I was also frustrated that the only thing just about anyone asked me about for the better part of a year was, “When’s the wedding?” or “How’s the wedding planning coming along?” I know these questions came from a good place, but I guarantee the same wasn’t happening to my male partner. It was hard not to feel like this one day so defined me as a woman in society’s eyes.

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A few things that helped us along the way:

Since we were planning this wedding in St. John, Virgin Islands from Boston, it was very important to hire a coordinator who knew the island. I was lucky enough to get Michelle Fage’s information from someone I knew in my town, which was an unbelievable coincidence. Michelle is a full-time professional planner living on the island, so I felt I was in good hands. Even with a planner, wedding planning can still feel like a lot of work, but if you want something to reflect your personality and style, there’s no getting around it. At the end of the day there is no way this wedding would have gone off so flawlessly without Michelle’s vision and expertise.

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My best practical advice for my planning self:

1. Do you. Don’t worry about what so-and-so thinks you should be doing with your wedding. There is no right or wrong way to approach this, and everyone is going to have an opinion.

2. It’s also okay to make changes. BIG changes. I set a date and cancelled a date after my initial planning wasn’t what I had hoped for. It was getting to be too big and not at all what felt right for us. I totally reevaluated what mattered to me and started over. I don’t regret any of it.

3. Practice self-acceptance. Wedding planning can make you really insecure. So much of the beauty culture around weddings is perpetuating this “perfected” image of your everyday self: dieting, shape wear, facials, professional tooth whitening, spray tans, etc. While I’m all about feeling like your “best self,” for me the journey was more inward. Accepting that who I am in the here and now is something to be proud of was important. It’s all too easy to be self-deprecating, but remember that those thoughts serve no one, especially not you.

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Favorite thing about the wedding:

Sharing this unique experience with my husband! We both had so many nerves going into the wedding. It was daunting to think about being the center of attention, dancing in front of people, kissing in front of cameras… but at the end of the day, we did it together. It was surreal and wonderful to sit back and enjoy everything we worked so hard to put together.

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Anything else we should know:

The toasts were everything! We only had a handful of friends and family speak during the reception, but what they had to say was so heartfelt, I melted. There are few times in your life when you have people really telling you how they feel about you and your relationship. It’s pure magic to feel such an outpouring of love and laughter.


The Info:

Photography: Sarah Gormley Photography | Wedding Location: Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands | Venue: The Waterfront Bistro | Lindsay’s Gown: Rue de Seine Bridal via Ceremony Boston | Lindsay’s Earrings: Samantha Wills Bridal | Evan’s Coat: Macy’s | Evan’s Pants: Macy’s | Planner: Paradise Planning | Hair: Michelle at Grapevine Salon | Florals: Roses Too | Engagement and Wedding Rings: New England Jewelry | Bouquet Ribbon: Natalie Stopka

 

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  • idkmybffjill

    Everything just looks SO relaxed. What a wonderful wedding to gaze at on a Friday!

    • Lindsay

      Life is good on Island Time in St. John

  • rg223

    We also did a destination wedding at the first place we went on vacation together (Newport RI). Those places you visit together early on just become so special, don’t they? I appreciate how real your story and advice is too. Lovely wedding!

    • Lindsay

      Thank you! I agree, the early moments can really set the tone for your life together.

  • LJ

    “What was totally not worth it:

    The stress and anxiety. I learned a lot about myself and how I work (and don’t work) throughout this process, which was ultimately helpful, but at the time a struggle. I ended up seeing a professional to help me talk through my anxiety and better cope with the stress and pressure I was putting on myself.

    I was also frustrated that the only thing just about anyone asked me about for the better part of a year was, “When’s the wedding?” or “How’s the wedding planning coming along?” I know these questions came from a good place, but I guarantee the same wasn’t happening to my male partner. It was hard not to feel like this one day so defined me as a woman in society’s eyes.”

    THIS IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE my partner has such a hard time relating or comprehending it. THANK YOU for this.

    • Lindsay

      This comment made it all SO worth putting it out there! Thank you! I’m so glad this feeling resonates with someone else.

      • LJ

        !!!! oh my god yes. YES. My fiancé and I get on very well and we’re really happy together, but he is not that aware of his white hetero male privilege (better than a lot of people I hear about online and through friends, but not as aware as I want him to be ideally haha)…. and wedding planning has opened his eyes. He’s been a little terrified of how aggressively feminist I’ve become since we started planning a wedding, so I’ve been trying to turn it into a learning experience. He doesn’t understand how people, who are well intentioned, asking about the wedding can cause me stress. He is trying, but he just doesn’t get it because since they mean well, how could it be annoying? And he’s expressed grief that SO MANY women love planning wedding and he is adjusting to having a fiancée who doesn’t…… (he has specific wedding ideals in his mind, he cares way more than I do about the “party” part)….. and he doesn’t understand how that in turn perpetuates expectations…. he’s called me one of the 5% of women who don’t like planning weddings…. it’s so exasperating. Soooo thank you a million times. I actually sent him the link to this with that same text copied into the email body as soon as I read this.

        • This post and your comment LJ make me feel a bit more at ease with feeling like an “antibride”. I hate the influence that Pinterest has on planning these days and I honestly never envisioned a spectacle of a wedding for myself. I’m also planning a small destination wedding with my partner and the anxiety + stress has been a lot at times. I’m tired of hearing the same questions and I don’t care about the dress and I know my partner never gets these questions. It’s so frustrating!

          • Lindsay

            It’s awesome that you know what you want… and what is important to you. What’s the point in getting mired down with the fluff? I totally share your frustration and I’m happy to hear another voice that gets it.

            At the end of the day all that matters is that you and your partner are on the same page and happy with the way you honor this amazing commitment you are making to one another. It will be so much better than you could ever imagine. Seriously. It’s worth the work. But those questions that come, relentlessly, are just small talk. Don’t pay them any mind.

          • Thank you. Your post is is encouraging and what I needed to see today. We’re planning a 15-20 guest wedding at a home outside of Joshua Tree and approaching it as an intimate, celebratory dinner helps quell my anxiety. I’m not sure we can snag a professional planner, but I’m optimistic we can create something laid back and true to us. The property manager has been very helpful and they’ve had elopements + intimate weddings there in the past. I keep reminding myself that everyone will have opinions. I can’t please everyone and I don’t have to!

          • LJ

            hahahah I am also having a [inviting 43 expecting 35] dinner. anti-brides think alike… ;) best of luck!

          • LJ

            I hear you :) I actually had a friend call me the “anti-Bridezilla” in that I was still being Bridezilla-y, just in the opposite direction that was conventional. Anti-bride is a good word :)

            I got really miffed that no one was asking “hey, so the engagement period is about establishing compatibility. have you got fun things planned for it?” or anything remotely to do with the fact that making one of the biggest legal and personal commitments of your life revolves around more than a g– d– party.

            Also, there is NO OTHER INDUSTRY that I’ve encountered that finds it reasonable to spend more than a year planning a one-day event. NONE. It’s basically meant to drive people crazy.

          • The wedding markup still blows my mind! White dress? That’ll be $200. White wedding dress? $1,500+. >_<; I invariably spill on anything white so I'm having fun finding "nontraditional" dresses. Honestly, this website and the comments have been excellent resources that keep me sane during this process.

            I couldn't agree more with the engagement period questions! I know they come from a good place, but it reminds me to be mindful in how I approach newly engaged couples.

            Cheers to anti-bride!

          • LJ

            I’m wearing a bridesmaid dress to my wedding :) partially because the selection of knee-length/midlength wedding dresses is horribly lacking from what I’ve seen, and partially because, like you, I see the cost and go “HAHAHAHHA *gag, choke, faint*”…….they’re beautiful, but I’ve seen VERY few wedding dresses over $1000 that looked like they were worth over $1000.

        • Lindsay

          I really struggled with “not enjoying Wedding Planning” and felt like it was something I couldn’t be open about. As soon as I would go into how I really felt about it I could see people’s eyes glaze over as if I was giving the wrong answer. It’s a lot of F’ing work! (That you don’t get paid for on top of whatever else you are doing with your life) We are so conditioned to only think of the ‘blushing bride’ who just eats up this role, but really we aren’t all the same. Don’t feel bad. I honestly credit my best friends for listening to me when I really needed to vent, and of course if you find yourself reeling with stress and anxiety, exercise and a therapist can do a lot of good.

          I highly doubt that the number of women who do not LOVE planning a wedding is a mere 5%… I would be willing to bet it’s a more even split. Maybe 100 years ago when you had a dowry, married at 18, and didn’t have to pay for it yourself?

          • LJ

            Hahahah totally. It’s such socially perpetuated bullshit that I feel like I have to disprove/explain every time someone brings it up.

            For better or for worse, my once-monthly rants on facebook about the sexism and BS in the wedding industry and in the conversations people want to have with me and not my fiancé has basically enforced a hard moat of anti-wedding around me, to the point where people who are friends with me on FB seem genuinely afraid to bring it up. I am counting this as a positive but it makes my mom upset because how dare I have emotions on facebook. :P

          • Lindsay

            I think it’s 100% true that as women we understand more as we age and experience it. I found that Wedding Planning helped me to understand a lot about this world/society we live in. It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and your wedding will be nothing short of amazing. I wish you best of luck in planning. It’s hard, but you and your partner will be so happy when the evening comes to an end. There really is nothing better than looking back and loving that you gave so much to make an impressionable evening and then looking forward to the life you will create together.

          • LJ

            Thanks :) I am basically having him plan it and we’re having a very small dinner at a restaurant in one of the special-events rooms as a reception so it’s not too traditional and we don’t want to get stressed over utensil rentals or setting up tables. I sussed out good vendors for photog, flowers, food and will make sure deposits get paid; he’s the one who gets to care about all the stuff that “make it a party”: decorations, centerpieces, any personal touches whatsoever… he gets to feel special/make it the pomp and circumstance filled event he wants, I don’t have to stress about things I DGAF about… so far win win but wedding is in winter so we’re still a ways out. I’m optimistic now, but it took us 6 months and a lost deposit to get to a point where the wedding is something we’re both excited for.

            I don’t feel near as bridezilla-y anymore, and I don’t post those rants anymore, but it was hell for the first 3 months of being engaged and that just blindsided me.

            Thanks for your kind words :)

    • clairekfromtheuk

      Yes!! I got asked so many time about it. In the end I would just shrug and tell people to ask {husband’s name} and implied he was organising the whole damn thing. Worked a treat :)

  • Alyssa Andrews

    Ah, this wedding resonates so much with me and what me and my fiancee want. We’re going to France because that’s the first MAJOR trip we took together, so like this couple, being married somewhere with significance to us feels so important and special. We’re also camera-shy and the idea of being the center of attention and then feeling responsible for the enjoyment of so many guests paralyzes me, so it’s inspiring to see a wedding I resonate so much with, and feel like I too, can make it through! Looks like a beautiful day.

    • Lindsay

      Sounds like you have a fantastic plan! Don’t worry about the guests- they will just be flattered that you included them in the celebration. You can totally do it!

  • Colleen

    That dress!!!

  • BD

    My husband and I just got back from St. John! Your wedding looks amazing, what a dream – husband and I even had the wistful “if we could do it again” talk, and decided that we would have had exactly this kind of wedding! Lucky you!

    • Lindsay

      Thank you!

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