**WARNING, there is a long blog post ahead so scroll to the bottom if you would like to get straight to the photos**
It has been over a year since our #bestweekendever took place in dreamy Koh Samui, Thailand. I’ve wanted to share my experience planning our destination wedding for quite some time and now is the time! My now husband, Ray (a.k.a #tallasianguy on Instagram), and I planned to wed in front of our closest family and friends in an intimate wedding affair near where my dear aunt’s ashes were scattered at sea after she had passed away 5 years ago. He knew the importance of me being “near” her on my wedding day and didn’t think twice about the work, travel and challenges that would come with planning a destination wedding.
We’ve been blessed to have such close relationships with our friends for years, so planning our wedding also became planning an unforgettable vacation with our friends and family. We requested our guests to find their own flights but made sure to take good care of their transportation, rooms, and meals for the weekend once they landed on the island.
We first visited Koh Samui, Thailand with my parents (since my father lives in Bangkok) in March of 2014 to scout venues and meet vendors. After an extensive amount of researching venues I finally found the venue of our dreams on AIRBNB! We found a gorgeous villa on a private beach overlooking the ocean in Koh Samui. The villa was beyond perfect to wed and dine beach front with our guests. During the trip, we decided on the hotel that would house our guests, the restaurants our guests would dine at for two nights, the florist who would curate and style our floral, and the caterer who would satisfy the tummies of our guests. I would say that making all those decisions on one trip was pretty efficient planning. What do you think?
The remainder of the planning was done in the U.S. with the help of our planners, Gloria Yi and Gloria Lee. They were the key to a flawless and exciting weekend with our guests. We planned 3 days of events with a welcome dinner on Thursday, elephant riding and rehearsal dinner on Friday, and to save the best for the last: the most unforgettable wedding day that I could possibly ask for on Saturday. The wedding day was absolutely perfect. I’m not going to lie and say I was worry-free because I definitely did do some worrying! Two weeks prior to the wedding, I was constantly checking the weather because the forecast suggested a rainy climate on our wedding weekend. Leading up to the pre-wedding festivities, it poured buckets and stormed like there was no tomorrow. Fortunately, God was on our side and the sun filtered through the clouds and the weather cleared up just two hours prior to the first group of guests arrival. The remainder of the weekend was filled with clear skies and blue waters.
As a wedding planner, I am always a teensy bit emotional at every wedding. A sweet set of vows, an emotional first look or even the sight of a father-daughter dance will definitely tug at my heart strings. However, my wedding day was a flood gate of tears from the moment my hubby and I opened our eyes and prayed together to start the day. These tears continued to pour out generously when my girlfriends came to do my hair and makeup, when my friends gave their speeches and even when the fireworks lit up the sky to brighten the night once more in celebration of our wedding day. It was just a day of ugly crying all around. Do I regret it? Not one bit.
Having 75 guests at the wedding was the perfect number for us. Because we have a close relationship with each person who was at our wedding, we wanted to ensure that everyone was somehow involved over the entire wedding weekend. The wedding day was not just about us, but it was about everyone who came to celebrate with us from the U.S.
My girlfriends did my hair and makeup, the person who introduced Ray and I officiated the wedding, our childhood friend emceed the reception, my former client-turned-dear-friend prayed over the ceremony, and the individuals who knew us best gave speeches over the past three days. Our photographer and videographer were also close friends who came along with us to capture the unforgettable weekend.
I probably could go on and on about all the amazing memories I had but I should probably stop somewhere so I think I will end on a note with some tips and advice in combination with my favorite moments of the wedding day:
1. Getting ready in the morning with my 8 girlfriends, some who have known me for 25 years: One of my friends who was unable to attend the wedding had written a letter for someone to read to me that morning. It was horrible because my makeup was a mess after, but the emotions I felt while sitting/ standing together in a circle after hearing the message my friend read will be a memory I will cherish forever.
2. The first step I took walking down the aisle: I had seen that platform empty many times before but it was different on the wedding day. The moment I stepped down the platform on and saw all of our friends and family standing there, I realized how loved we are. (I tear up writing about this just thinking about that moment again!)
3. The fireworks: Something about the fireworks were magical. It was the perfect ending to the reception dinner before the dancing commenced. The song we chose, “This is the New Year” by A Great Big World was perfect and blasted over the speakers bringing light and optimism to the new year that had just begun.
My advice as a bride/planner for those who are planning a destination wedding:
1. Don’t try to plan a destination wedding alone. I have helped clients plan destination weddings in Puglia and Venice, Italy and know the importance of trusting others to help you run the show. I was blessed to have two of the girls in our company come along on the journey. They were absolutely amazing and worked well by adapting to oncoming changes and meeting all the guests. I honestly didn’t have to worry about a thing on the wedding day and made sure to trust in God and our team.
2. Arrive early to your destination. We actually traveled to Bangkok, Thailand two weeks prior to the wedding and it was THE BEST! We had the lovely opportunity to not only welcome many of our guests to the country but had a chance to explore the country and take care of some last minute errands. Some unforgettable days and nights were made during those two weeks =)
3. When guests are traveling great distances for you, be sure to make them feel special: These are probably the closest people in your lives that know you as well as you know them. We sent out many emails to our guests such as a roster of all the attending guests with their Instagram handles and a map of the hotel property the guests were housed at. We created custom pin buttons with quirky nicknames for each guest to wear to stir conversation among one another. We also wrote a letter to each guest and placed it in the welcome back they would receive upon arrival to their room. We wanted everyone to know how HAPPY we were to have them be a part of our wedding weekend!
It was absolutely the best weekend ever. We miss every moment about that weekend every single day and are so thankful for the love all of our guests showed us through attending our wedding/sharing an unforgettable vacation. Would I highly suggest a destination wedding? Absolutely!
If you are considering a destination wedding and would like guidance, please feel free to contact me to chat!
Here are some of the many photos captured by our dear friend and photographer Christine Farah.
The TEAM that made OUR wedding possible:
Wedding Planning and Coordination: CCL Weddings & Events – Gloria Yi and Gloria Lee
Photography: Christine Farah Photography
Videography: Studio 205 Films
Hair and Makeup: Friends of the Bride
Officiant: Friend of the Couple
Flowers: OK Samui
Catering: Toast Catering, Samui
Accommodations: The Sea Samui
Wedding Venue: Villa Riva
Fireworks: The Firework Shop Samui
Favors/ Table Seating: Krazy Straws
Invitation Design: Small Paper Co.
Hand Lettering: Skye Cho
Bridal Dress: Watters
Wedding Party Gifts: Avarcus
Groom’s Suit: J Crew Men