This Travel-Inspired Wedding in San Juan Colorfully Melded Puerto Rican and African Traditions
Victoria Cruzado, a pediatric speech-language pathologist, met Takudzwa "Tk" Ncube, a reimbursement manager for a hospital group, at a barbecue at their mutual friend Breana's home. Breana joked that she was thrilled to have another girl (Victoria!) in the mix, so Tk—her boyfriend Antonio's best friend—would no longer be a third wheel during their brunches and nights out in uptown Dallas. The group spent a lot of time together over the next few months; somewhere along the line, Victoria and Tk developed their own connection. "We went on our first date in December 2016 and tried to keep it a secret from Antonio and Breana to avoid making things awkward in the group, but Bre figured it out the same night!" says the bride.
Tk was drawn to Victoria's beauty, but even more intrigued by her attitude ("I prefer the term 'sassiness,'" she says, to clarify); Victoria loved that Tk was thoughtful and a gentleman. "I knew he was special when I was on crutches and Tk came over to my apartment and washed all the dishes (cleaning is very hard when you're on crutches!)," she says. It didn't take long for the duo to realize that they would play a major part in each other's lives—especially considering their shared values of family and culture. "I am Puerto Rican and Tk is from Zimbabwe. Both cultures emphasize quality time with family and good food, so it wasn't hard for those cultures and families to come together with those things in common," explains Victoria. "We also shared a common faith in God that bonded us together, and dreams to have a family to raise with these same values and passions."
Just over a year after the couple became a couple, Tk got down on one knee in the would-be living room of the house they were building together, with a ring in hand; surrounded several of their closest family and friends (who'd promptly filed out of the bedroom to witness the moment), Victoria wholeheartedly agreed to be his wife.
The couple spent the following year planning their October 20, 2019, destination wedding in Puerto Rico, a locale near and dear to the bride. The decision to host a faraway celebration was a no-brainer for the couple; they liked the idea of a more curated guest list, which would afford them more quality time (in paradise!) with the people they love most. "Tk and I have been to a few large weddings with over 200 guests, and the evening goes by so quickly; sometimes, you're lucky enough to greet the bride and groom for a moment or two," she explains. "Tk and I loved the idea of spending more time with the people who are closest to us, and a destination wedding was the perfect way to do that."
As for the bride's best advice to couples currently preparing for their own big days? "Use your resources, delegate, and don't try to do it all yourself. Don't make your wedding about appearances or how things should be—make it about who you are as a couple and the rest will fall into place and be much more genuine," she says. "Oh, and get a wedding planner!"
The Easiest Choice
Victoria says that deciding on hosting a destination wedding was the easiest part of the planning process. "Tk and I both loved the idea," she says, especially after attending his sister's nuptials in the Dominican Republic a few years prior. "It was also very easy to pick our venue because we both fell in love with the absolute beauty of Salon Campeche."
When Victoria first saw an image of Hotel El Convento's ballroom, her "breath was immediately taken away by the black-and-white marble floors, and the stained glass window and gorgeous mural on the upper levels of the ballroom," she says. "Anyone who knows me knows I love all things vintage, so I was in love—it looked like something from a fairy tale." She did more research and unearthed the space's history; it formerly served as a convent that was converted to a hotel in the 1960s. "I loved the rich history of the building in Old San Juan, surrounded by original Spanish architecture and historic forts. Such beauty paired with Old-World charm made it an easy choice."
Welcome to Puerto Rico
The couple's two-sided invites ("We loved this—we could feature a photo of us on the back!" says the bride) from Shutterfly featured a burgundy-and-gold palette, colors that would later reappear at the celebration. The duo's antique-style postcard save-the-dates, on the other hand, spoke to the event's "travel and vintage themes," she notes.
A Handsome Couple
Victoria knew her Martina Liana wedding dress was the one before she tried it on—but she wanted the validation of her mother, Tk's mother, and her sister to seal the deal. "As soon as I stepped out and saw the look on their faces and tears in their eyes, I got all the validation I needed," she recalls. "We all knew it was the one! The delicate lace on the bodice and lining, the sweetheart neckline, the flowing layers of the skirt, the scattered lace appliqués throughout—as well as the stunning crystal belt—all came together for the timeless, romantic, and vintage look I was going for. I also loved the contrast of the ivory lace against the moscato color of the skirt." On the big day, she polished off her look with a gold Giselle Bridal veil, Jewel by Badgley Mischka heels, and aquamarine earrings that once belonged to her to maternal great-grandmother.
Tk looked handsome in a black Kenneth Cole Awearness slim fit suit. His bride helped him accessorize: "Tk used to collect socks with quirky patterns on them and I bought him a pair of polka dot socks for the first Valentine's day we had together. He wore these on the wedding day!"
A Classic Bouquet
The bride's traditional round bouquet by Jat Lozano was comprised of ivory, blush, and burgundy garden roses, ranunculus, and scabiosa, and filled out with greenery.
Bridesmaids in Burgundy
Victoria kept Puerto Rico's balmy climate in mind when choosing her bridal party's ensembles—lightweight, flowing burgundy Dessy numbers, in a mix of necklines.
The First Touch
The couple shared a first touch—as opposed to a first look—ahead of the ceremony; they stood on either side of an archway and held hands, being very careful to keep their eyes closed. "Before, I felt really excited to get to hold his hand and talk to him," the bride reflects. "I get anxious a lot—and Tk has always been able to ground me, relax me, calm me down, and remind me of what is important. So, I was looking forward to that feeling! During that moment I got exactly what I was hoping for."
Tk, however, was more nervous that he'd accidentally get a peek of his bride-to-be before it was truly time: "He knew how important it was for me that he didn't see me before the ceremony! During, he says he was relaxed and calm because we were finally able to hold hands. After, he was ready to get married."
A Moment with Dad
Victoria shared a true first look with her bridesmaids and father—seeing her dad, in particular, she says, was incredibly emotional. "It was also a beautiful moment of prayer, as he covered me with his prayer shawl, prayed for me, and gave me his blessing," she says.
The bride's father also escorted her down the aisle, something he hadn't done before ("My two older sisters had less formal weddings, so this was his first time getting to do so," she explains). Victoria also cites another big-day highlight with her dad: "At the end of the night as the venue was being cleared out, I thanked my dad for making my dreams come true, and he responded by saying I was the one who made his dreams come true. It was one of my favorite moments of the day."
A Warm Welcome
A clear acrylic sign, which the bride's sister emblazoned with a calligraphed greeting, welcomed guests to the ceremony at Plaza La Rogativa.
Let's Get Married
During their non-denominational Christian ceremony, the couple exchanged hand-written vows. Tk's promises struck a chord with the bride and all guests in attendance; he opened up about a health scare he'd experienced earlier this year, during which Victoria stayed right by his side. "This was so emotional for me because I will never forget how scared I was to lose him—and how much closer and stronger that experience made us," she says.
A Cultural Recessional
Victor and Tk's recessional was rooted in tradition; African songs—a nod to the groom's culture—were played and sang as the newlyweds and their loved ones left the ceremony space.
The African music continued as the celebrants walked San Juan's brick roads, on route to the cocktail hour, where they enjoyed rum punch, red sangria, and a variety of canapés, including braised oxtail, potato foam, and chives (a staple food in African culture, notes the bride), beef empanadillas (a Puerto Rican classic!), and shrimp ceviche with plantain chips.
Tk and Victoria skipped the interlude to take portraits—a decision they don't regret after seeing the incredible images captured by their photographer, Enuel Viera. "We took the typical formal shots with family and the bridal party, and then as they enjoyed the cocktail hour, Enuel took his time and captured some breathtaking sunset shots of us," says the bride. "At one point, we were in the middle of the brick road and a car was coming, flashing its lights at us to get us out of the way. Enuel signaled for them to leave their brights on, to further illuminate the shot since the sunlight was quickly fading. Once he got the shot, we let the car pass and the couple in the car gave us their congratulations and blessings!"
Time to Party
Hotel El Convento's expansive ballroom, complete with a dramatic black-and-white floor and draped ceiling-high windows, provided the perfect canvas for the couple's vintage décor concept.
On the Tables
A mix of round and square tables punctuated the space; tall, dramatic gold candelabras, filled with lush florals, lit several of the stations, casting a warm glow on the place settings, atop ivory linens, below.
Other tables—with mirrored tops—were left bare and set with gold-rimmed chargers for another touch of reflective shine. A burgundy scabiosa bloom was placed on each plate, as was the menu, which told of the meal (from the Puerto Rican cobb salad to the slow-roasted pork) to come.
During the meal, the best man, Tk's brother Simba, gave one of the most memorable speeches of the night. "He gifted us items of the Zimbabwe culture for our home. He presented a 'mutsvairo,' a straw broom to keep our house physically and spiritually clean; a 'zambia,' a sarong to cover and protect us; a 'hari,' a clay pot often used for drinking; and a 'tsvimbo,' a walking stick for Tk to use to guide and protect our path," shares Victoria. "This was so thoughtful and each item held such significance. It was truly one of the most memorable moments for us and we'll cherish these items forever."
Sign the Globe
The duo conveyed the travel aspect of their big-day theme through several reception details, from their table names (each station was named after a city Victoria and Tk have explored together) to the globe guest book.
The First Spin
Daniel Caeser's "Best Part" played in the background as the bride and groom shared their first dance. "The lyrics of this song are such an accurate description of how we feel about each other—Tk is truly the best part of my day," says Victoria. "But more than that, I discovered the album Freudian by Daniel Caesar because Tk sent me the song 'Blessed' the day after one of our biggest fights early in our relationship, during which we almost broke up. It was so touching and his way of telling me everything was going to be okay. Ever since, that album has kind of been the soundtrack of our relationship."
After, the duo and their guests grooved to a mix of cultural hits, courtesy of their DJ, Jose Concepcion. "There was plenty of variety to reflect the diversity of our guests: popular hits and hip-hop; salsa, merengue, bachata, and reggaeton; and popular Shona music from Zimbabwe," notes the bride. "Everyone felt represented and danced the night away!"
For dessert, the group indulged in an almond amaretto and rum guava cake iced in buttercream, featuring a hand-piped lace design (inspired by Victoria's wedding dress!) courtesy of C+M Cake Designers.
"I chose to wear a dress with colorful vibrant African fabric during the party, to represent Tk's heritage and celebrate the culture I am joining," shares Victoria. "The dress was designed by the Nigerian seamstress Glory Ojei of Bespoke By Glory. I came across the design on Etsy and loved it. When I reached out to her and told her I was marrying a man from Zimbabwe, she replied that I was marrying her brother. This was such a reflection of the welcoming African culture I am so proud to represent!"
Photography, Enuel Viera
Ceremony Venue, Plaza La Rogativa
Reception Venue and Catering, Hotel El Convento
Event Planning, Rosalina Torres from Momentus Special Events
Videography, Michael Gonzales of Visual Voice Media
Event Design and Flowers, Jat Lozano
Invitations, Sarah Hawkins for Wedding Paper Divas at Shutterfly
Day-of Paper, Creating Stardust
Seating Chart, Paper Crafts
Officiant, Marilyn of Ministros de Bodas Puerto Rico
Bride's attire, Martina Liana
African dress, Glory Ojei of Bespoke By Glory
Hair and Makeup, Christopher Feliciano
Bridesmaids' dresses, Dessy
Groom and Groomsmen's attire, Awearness Kenneth Cole
Bride's wedding band, Jared The Galleria of Jewelry
Groom's wedding band, Larson Jewelers
Guest book, The Lettering Studio
DJ and Lighting, Jose Concepcion
Cake, C+M Cake Designers