Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Wow.  Does Barbara and Robert’s wedding ever look like FUN. Not only did their guests get to join them at a beautiful island location, they were treated to four days of parties and local culture. Barbara raves about her wedding planner – and I can see why.  Every detail was accounted for.  And then some. And then some.  Take a peek and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Bride and Groom: Barbara & Robert | July 3, 2009  | St. John, USVI

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

The ceremony
We live in Hawaii, but decided to get married in the Virgin Islands where my husband is from.  The ceremony took place on a grassy knoll on top of Peace Hill in the National Park.  There is an old stone windmill on top of the hill and views of beaches and the ocean all around.   It was absolutely beautiful and natural with virtually no added decoration necessary.  The fun part was that guests had to hike up the trail to get to the ceremony.  We provided flip-flops for unsuspecting women that didn’t want to ruin their heels and male ushers to help the older people to the top.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Once at the top, there was a violin and guitar duo playing classical music.  Our wedding parties were pretty unique.  We are not exactly traditional people, so I had my sister as my Maid of Honor and my brother and 2 guy friends (also best friends) as my Bridesmen.  Rob had his sister as his Best Woman and three brothers as his groomsmen.  Then, when the time came, I walked down the aisle with both my mom and dad to a live instrumental version of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida.

One of the hardest parts of the ceremony was when the string duo played Ave Maria in dedication to Rob’s parents who have both passed away.  Rob and I were standing up there in front of 125 people trying to fight back tears.  But I think it was good we recognized them because they were surely there with us.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Rob wore a Maile Lei around his neck.  This is not Caribbean.  It is traditional in Hawaii for the male to wear a Maile Lei – a bushy lei made of green leaves.  This kind of lei is considered the oldest form of lei making in Hawaii. We wanted to bring at least one piece of Hawaiian culture to the wedding.

The reception
Our reception took place at a Villa we rented, which was nice because we had no time restrictions.  The Villa had three unique outdoor spaces and we utilized all three.  The pool deck area was where the evening began. Upon entering this area we hired Moko Jumbies (part of Caribbean Carnival tradition) to greet people.  Moko Jumbies are essentially people walking in stilts dressed in colorful festive wear and a mask.  It has to do with spirits.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Everybody was also given a signature drink – Margaritas or a Rum Punch.  We hired this local band we found at a festival and they played Island Calypso on the deck – it was an 8-person band with horns, guitars, keyboard and all kinds of percussion, even a triangle player!  While they played, appetizers were passed around.  Food was the most important thing to me so I picked out each hors D’oeuvre personally and tried them beforehand. Eventually, the Food Stations opened up – there was a Mofongo Station (my favorite), a Salad Station, a Fried Pupu Platter Station and a Mixed Grill Station (each with complimentary sides and sauces).  Each station had a chef working at it making the food to order.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

We opted for no assigned seating; in fact we only had table seating for about 60 people.  For the rest, there were high tabletops to mingle around.  We didn’t want the reception to feel stuffy or contrived at all so we created a social atmosphere where people could walk around and graze at the different food stations, talking to everyone and anyone as they pleased.  And of course there were multiple bars.  The whole setup was really untraditional.

Really the only conventional thing we did was the Cutting of the Cake.  We didn’t allow speeches or the garter toss silliness.  As soon as the cake was cut, we had champagne and our Carnival Dancers came out in full force.  They danced to the Calypso music and kind of led everybody down a trail to the real party.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Waiting down in the “party” area was another band on stage, one that played more varied dance music.  It was a 6-person band, which included a saxophone and bongo player (my favorite sounds).  There was also a big white tent filled with low lounge-like seating, a large dance floor, industrial sized fans to keep everybody cool, dressed up palm trees and a Crepe Station! In addition to the cake we had chefs making crepes to order with tons of filling choices.  And of course, another bar.  The music in this area was pumping and the dancing was crazy.

Above, on the deck, became more mellow and it was nice that people could go between the two areas depending on their mood.  To get to the third outdoor space – a private beach, one had to follow a romantic candlelit pathway.  This area was setup mainly for people who wanted some alone time, if you know what I mean.

But back at the party area, the Carnival Dancers did their job getting everybody on the dance floor and we all danced the night away, resting only for a crepe or to hang with friends in the “chill-out” lounge section. Rob and I danced to a live version of Cat Power’s SEA OF LOVE.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

The moment Barbara will never forget
The moment we talk about the most is when I surprised everybody, including my husband, and played the ukulele and sang I’M YOURS (Jason Mraz) at our reception.  I actually started taking lessons a year before our wedding and practiced all the time but was never confident with my skills (or my voice).  I didn’t even think I would go through with my plan.  But, I jumped on stage and got everybody to gather around and sing with me while I played the ukulele.  It was pretty awesome and Rob was definitely surprised!

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Then end of the night
The reception finally started to die down over 6 hours later.  When we thought it was all over, Rob and I walked down the path to the beach for some alone time and found some friends skinny-dipping in the ocean.  It was pretty hilarious when my best friend got a sea urchin in his hand.   That was when the real party began…

The wedding’s theme
The theme of the whole week was Caribbean Carnival.  The day after our wedding, July 4, was St. John’s biggest celebration – Carnival, and we wanted to take part in the fun. All of the food was Caribbean inspired dishes (except for the crepes) and the decorations utilized local things, like large palms, mangos, sea glass, pebbles, etc.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

In addition, everybody was given Carnival beads and asked to wear them to the following day’s Carnival Brunch.  Our Brunch took place at a restaurant in the middle of the Carnival Parade route.  People could come and go joining in on the festivities outside where local music, costumes and dancing flooded the streets or relax inside and help themselves to unlimited food and drink.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Lastly, we had a Beach BBQ the day before our wedding that included the most traditional Virgin Island band – a scratch band led by Jamesie.  Food served was classic Caribbean food like Fish Creole, Johnny Cakes and Rice and Peas.  Piñatas and colorful hammocks strewn about helped add to the Carnival theme.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

The theme of our ceremony was Nature.  We used the sea and sailboats passing by as our only backdrop.  People had to hike a trail to get to our ceremony and therefore better appreciate the location and beauty of St. John.  Driving to our wedding and reception was not allowed (we had trolleys pick everybody up) which saved on gas and emissions.  Lastly, the only decorations used were bougainvillea petals (natural to the island) as an aisle.

What made her wedding dress “the one”
I probably tried on about 50 dresses and it was the very last dress I tried on that I fell in love with. I tried some on in my hometown, Honolulu, but quickly realized I needed to travel to get more variety.  So, I went to both New York City and San Francisco and visited some of the big name stores.  It was finally just me and my sister and my last store on the trip – Bridal Galleria in San Francisco.  The Monique Lhuillier Claire was the ONE.  Honestly, I never even heard of Monique Lhuillier before that and had no idea how desirable her dresses were, but I just knew it was the dress for me.  First off, it was light, cool and comfortable to wear – perfect for the Virgin Islands.  I also knew it would travel well, but the most important thing is that it was just gorgeous!

Monique Lhuillier Claire Wedding Dress

Advice for other brides
1)    Hire a wedding planner!  I couldn’t imagine how I would have had fun at my wedding if I needed to deal with all the details and behind the scenes work. I hired Jen Johnson of Jen Events a year before the wedding and we worked closely to make sure the whole week was exactly what we wanted.  I have to say, that was the best money spent on the whole wedding.

2)    Make time to eat!  If you can’t find the time initially, make sure somebody makes a plate for you so you can taste everything as well as fill your hungry belly.

3)    If you hire somebody outside of your wedding planner’s world of vendors, make up a contract that protects you.  Most vendors have contracts that only protect themselves.  Our photographer breached our verbal contract and just didn’t give us what we negotiated.

Real Wedding | Barbara & Robert

Wedding Planner: Jen Johnson
Barbara’s Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier Claire