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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.