Chicagoans Henry and Joelle, escaped the snow and headed to San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico to celebrate their wedding celebrations with 130 of their friends and family.
When Henry and I decided to have a destination wedding – far away from the winter snow– we knew it had to San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. When else could we gather all our family and friends from across the United States, vacation in the sun for more than a day? We wanted to have more time to celebrate and enjoy than just the day of our wedding! Call us selfish.
The secret to Planning a Destination Wedding...GETTING HELP!
We knew that we needed someone local to help us create the weekend that we wanted to have for our guests. We hit the jackpot when we were introduced to Lauren Lemke at Amy Abbott Events. She went above and beyond in listening to what had in mind and showing us the different options available and assembled a dream team of vendors! She answered us at all hours of the night from emails to texts. Even agreed to set up a WebEx so we were able to share screens even though she was miles away in much warmer climate.
The minute we got to Mexico – all our work was done. We didn’t have to worry about anything because Lauren had everything under control! We spent the days before the wedding hanging at the pool and having quality time with our guests.
Planning a weekend of Celebrations
The festivities began on Thursday night where we took a crew aged 24-64 to the bars in Cabo San Lucas. It was a blast! It was worth the trip because it was touristy fun for everyone to see the crazy nightlife and mingle before the wedding. Our guests won’t ever forget the Groom being hung upside at Giggling Marlin and the bride dancing in cage with her brothers and cousins at Squid Roe.
Friday night rehearsal dinner was perfect intimate venue for our big family to listen toasts and roasts. A nice surprise was the singer playing acoustic guitar and singing classics. My cousin gave an impromptu performance Sea of Love by Cat Power. After the rehearsal dinner we met the rest of our guests were by the fire pit.
Saturday came before we both knew it! Henry spent the day playing in the waves while I glammed with my friends. Henry surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and monogrammed pajamas and he was delivered a menu to select our dinner for Sunday.
Our wedding at Flora Farms what everything we wanted and more! Looking back at our photos – we were grinning from ear to ear the whole time. Things are never perfect but our day was as close to perfect as we could imagine.
And now we have an excuse to escape Chicago every February in Mexico!
How did you meet, and how long did you date before getting engaged?
Henry and I met ten years before our first date. Freshman year at St. Mary’s College of California far from my home in Chicago and his home in Montana. We don’t remember meeting but over the next ten years our paths undoubtedly crossed multiple times, having mutual friends at a small college, spending a full semester working a across the hall from each other at different internships, and living it up in San Francisco after college. We even moved to Chicago the same month in 2013.
We finally noticed each other over the most romantic weekend of the year in Chicago-–Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend. The timing was perfect because two years to the day later, we were engaged!
Who proposed? When and how?
On a cold Friday evening the night before St. Patrick’s Day (two years after we both caught each other’s eye) Henry insisted that we have dinner in the suburbs near my parents because he was working late. Leaving for work that morning I had an inkling that maybe something was up so I brought my cute coat. By the end of the day when it was time to take the train to the suburbs – I grabbed my big ugly puffy coat because all day my parents and Henry threw me off by being grumpy towards me! There definitely was not a surprise engagement party waiting for me in the burbs.
We walked to dinner, and Henry kept going to the bathroom and he was not paying attention to me! So I thought for sure – nothing is happening. No one is treating me special.
When the waiter asked if we wanted dessert (which I always get) Henry told them – no we are good. I pouted and thought when we get to my parents I’m going straight to bed. I was happy I had my warm puffy coat to walk home.
As we walked towards my parents house I saw that in the windows it said “Will you Marry Me” in lights. Henry got down on one knee and started to recite a poem. He couldn’t get through it because I was screaming and jumping up and down. My parents and brothers were hiding in the bushes and my mom started screaming too. We must have looked crazy – I don’t think Henry expected the sheer amount of excitement. We went inside popped the champagne and called our close family and friends!
How did you choose your wedding venue?
My family has been vacationing in Cabo for the past 10 years, and a few years ago someone mentioned Flora Farms to my foodie parents. They were intrigued and went to check it out. They absolutely loved it and made a point to take us there the next time we were in town with them. Henry and I were only a year into dating, but after having dinner there we turned to each other and said “how incredible would it be to get married here?!?!” The food was amazing, the farm grounds are magical and we just felt like it was the place for us. The farm also features some awesome animals; ducks, turtles, farm kitties, and few well-fed farm dogs. Henry is a huge animal lover so that alone was almost enough for him!
Almost exactly a year later, we were engaged, and our first location visit was to Flora Farms. Because we had both gone to school in California and lived there for eight years, and Henry being from Montana, we have a lot of friends spread throughout the Midwest and west coast. We figured that a lot of people would have to travel to our wedding regardless, so why not bring them on a February vacation to Cabo? We wavered a bit – and my Mom just told me – if you want to have it there- do it! We booked the mango grove after our initial walkthrough and the rest, as they say, is history.
Did you incorporate any religious and/or cultural traditions into your ceremony?
Due to the international travel, our grandparents were not able to travel for the ceremony. They were, however, represented at the ceremony – three prayers which were hand-picked by our grandmothers were read at the altar! We spoke to the same vows that our grandparents swore to each other with hope that our marriage will stand the test of time just like theirs did.
Did you do a “first look” before the ceremony?
No! We did a few things very traditionally, including no first look. Henry and I did not see each other from Friday night until I came around the corner and headed toward the aisle at Flora Farms…it made for a very special moment.
Tell us About Your Reception: What color scheme did you choose and why?
The farm and venue had such natural beauty, so we chose our bridesmaid dresses and suits to compliment the scenery Pink and Navy Blue. For the décor we stayed with neutrals and mixed metallic. At work – our design rationale is timeless design – so we tried to stick to simple and classic. My mom and I worked with Lauren to make sure that everything fit with what we had imagined.
What did you use as your escort cards and/or place cards?
We attached our escort cards to our favor – the maracas
What were your wedding favors?
Maracas! My mom really wanted it as a Mexican Flavor! Our guests loved it and it was a perfect dance accessory.
What was your biggest splurge of the day?
When we decided we wanted to get married at Flora Farms- we knew that we wanted our family and friends to fall in love with it as much as we did. When planning the one thing we had debated on were the tables – there is cost savings round vs. farm tables. We went back and forth, crunched the numbers and at the end of the day we decided to go with what we wanted.
The donkey was a last minute add- Henry has a love for animals and thought it would be a great surprise for our guests. It was hard for me to keep it a secret from everyone so leading up to the wedding I would tell Lyft drivers and strangers that we were going to have a surprise donkey, so I could keep my promise to Henry.
How did you save on costs?
Vow to be Chic was a great option for our bridesmaids since they had to spend on travel and hotel. We used Black Tux for the grooms the grooms too which was affordable. I borrowed my veil and didn’t splurge on accessories for the day of.
We also debated doing a welcome party for our guests, but it was not in our budget. We were able to organize a champagne toast with our hotel and they were able to work with our budget.
What are some of the personal touches that you added to your celebration
Henry was really wanted to have some individually for each of his groomsmen. He found Argentine Luxury Leather Belts La Matera that had a pattern that matched with the suites and gave each groomsman their own pattern.
Lauren (our wedding planner) knew we wanted to have a sweetheart table since we wouldn’t have seen each other all day. She had a great idea to have a loveseat which made it great to be close to each other when we were seated!
We cut the cake with Henry’s Grandmother’s antique cake knives which made it all the more special since she couldn’t attend.
To memorialize the special day in our favorite place in the entire world – we engraved the latitude and longitude of Flora Farms in the inside of our bands.
Our nieces were Jr Bridesmaid. It was so special to have them there to get ready with us. My girlfriends (who always do my hair and makeup) did theirs. I loved sitting next to my nieces while my friend who did my make up in high school did my nieces.
What were your 4 favorite moments of your wedding celebration?
1. When my dad walked me down the aisle and gave Henry a hug – He whispered – She is all yours. The mic caught it and everyone laughed. That was the first time we met Rev. Diego at the altar. We were grinning ear to ear the entire ceremony.
2. Henry wanted to plan a surprise dance. We did not practice as much as we should have – Henry walked in knowing more of the moves than I did. When we started our routine – we just went. We thought we had got it down and all the sudden we were still dancing, and the music stopped. It wasn’t perfect, but it was us!
3. Henry’s brothers speech quoted a song from the Grateful Dead which has special meaning to his family because his father was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead - “The heart has its beaches, it's homeland and thoughts of its own.” It really captured who we are as a couple – we are home together but we each let each other keep our individuality.
4.The Dancing! Seeing all of our family and friends from all sides dancing together and tearing it up on the dance floor. At one point two groomsmen tied their ties together and used it for limbo.
What did you learn from the experience?
The best investment we made was getting a wedding planner. Lauren was an all-star. As someone who manages projects and clients it was nice to be the client for once!
Working for a family business- we usually make everything a project. Having Lauren helped us relax and enjoy the wedding and not have to worry about the details and that made it enjoyable for not only our families but Henry and I. The whole wedding weekend my friends and family commented how relaxed we both were – and it was because we had the best wedding planner!
Our vendors really were responsible for what a great weekend it was. They helped us throw the party for our loved ones where everyone could really let their hair down and really enjoy themselves! We had a great team.
If you know what you want – just do it! Henry and I will always look back at it as one of the greatest time of our life.
If you could sum up your wedding day in one sentence, how would you describe it?
Can we do it all over again?!
Joelle and Harry's Rockstar Vendors
Planner - Lauren Lemke with Amy Abbott- Amy Abbott Events
Photographer- Julia Franzosa
Venue- Flora Farms
Paper Goods - Papier Girl (invitations) / Bells & Whistles Cabo (wedding stationary)
Design and Decor- Let it Be Events
Makeup Artist- Neysa Berman- Blanc Bridal Salon
DJ- Alex DJ Cabo Events
Floral Designer- Lola at Florenta Flower Design
Bridesmaid Dresses- Jenny Yoo Collection
Dress Designer- Mignonette Bridal