A Vibrant Destination Wedding in Puerto Rico
The Happy Couple
In 1998, Chad Keller met Kelly Cozzens in a bar where she worked while attending the University of New Orleans. After a few years of dating, they began talking about getting married, and one evening Chad made Kelly a ring from a soda-can top and a twist tie. The official engagement a few months later, in June 2001, was just as spontaneous. The bride-to-be came across a sweepstakes entry form in an issue of Martha Stewart Weddings for a wedding in Puerto Rico planned by the editors. And, as luck would have it, they won.
Kelly chose an embroidered and beaded Reem Acra satin gown with sheer sleeves; Martha designed the bride's bouquet using white cattleya orchids, and affixed a four-leaf-clover charm to the chiffon ribbon for good luck.
The Ceremony Location
The aisle for the oceanside ceremony is outlined in blue-slate stones and punctuated with clusters of potted pink bougainvillea.
Father of the Bride
Proud dad Eugene Cozzens Jr. escorts Kelly, in a gown and cathedral-length veil by Reem Acra, down the aisle to her groom.
Instead of Rice
In lieu of rice, guests were given bougainvillea petals to toss; the little open-weave sacks holding them were hung from the chair backs at the ceremony.
Hues as refreshing as an island breeze -- pink, pear, and white -- make up the color scheme for the afternoon ceremony. The invitations were designed in those colors; the thick cotton paper has pink enamel edging, and the envelopes were hand-lined in green glassine. A graceful orchid design created by the calligrapher adorns the invitation and becomes a motif for the entire wedding. Pink and deep-brown letterpress printing adds richness to the invitations.
To honor Kelly's Irish heritage, a four-leaf clover (made by stitching together two small loops of green ribbon and cord for the stem) is sewn to one corner of the raffia-cloth ring pillow.
The bridesmaids' bouquets were created from a collection of lush leaves in varying shades of green and different textures, all grown in the Caribbean; the composition includes galax, papyrus, and areca palm leaves; the stems are tied with raffia.
The pages of the ceremony programs are fastened together with bamboo clips.
Instead of a guest book, three stacks of pink-edged cards await the couple's friends and family; guests will write wishes for Kelly and Chad to read soon after the wedding day, and separate notes to be read on their first and fifth anniversaries.
The wedding food incorporates flavors from Puerto Rico and Louisiana, with a few Asian accents as well. These hors d'oeuvres of steamed pumpkin and chickpeas in banana leaves are a take on "pasteles," a dish similar to tamales served at Christmastime in Puerto Rico.
Mirin-laced tuna is served in sake cups, while bamboo spoons hold spicy snapper with slices of fried sweet plantains.
These colorful drinks (clockwise from left: Soursop Cocktail, San Juan, Bananas Punch, Honey Bee, and Mango Tree) bring out the nuances in Puerto Rican rums, which can be light to full-bodied; whimsical garnishes make them even more festive.
The local dish "arroz pegao," or "stuck rice," uses the crispy layer that forms at the bottom of rice pots; here, it's topped with salmon and mango.
Three kioskos, modeled after the food stands that dot the island of Puerto Rico, were set up and labeled with what they offered -- "bebidas" (drinks), "bunuelos" (fried pastries), and "arroz pegao" (hors d'oeuvres made with crispy rice). Here, two of Chad's cousins stop by the pink-and-white drink kiosk.
Guests enjoy the view from the balcony of the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa, which rests atop cliffs on the northeastern edge of the island, in the city of Las Croabas.
Three different printed napkins have messages, in Spanish and English, urging everyone to celebrate ("celebremos"), toast together ("brindemos juntos"), and congratulate the bride and groom ("felicidades").
Here, Chad's parents, Roger and Brenda Keller, pose for a picture with the happy couple.
The Tables and Centerpieces
A palette of neutral colors and dark greens paints a sophisticated scene for the reception, held in one of the hotel's restaurants. As the centerpieces, long mahogany boxes have openings for floating candles, which are surrounded by soft moss and roasted coffee beans (the latter a major Puerto Rican crop). Orchids curve over the boxes, adding height to the display, and split coconuts act as vases for single blooms. A table runner woven from cane extends beneath the centerpiece, and linen covers the table and chairs.
Seating cards leading guests to their tables are tucked into tented holders made of woven-grass paper.
Escort Card Display
The cards are displayed alongside mokara orchids under a bird-of-paradise tree on a table edged in tropical leaves.
The Bridal Party
The newlyweds pose for a photograph beneath a palm tree with their bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl (in a Simple Silhouettes dress), and ring bearer (in a Brooks Brothers suit).
For dinner, a rice paper roll filled with salt cod and fresh cod is served before the main course of cumin-rubbed Australian rack of lamb.
Letterpress menus double as place cards, with each guest's name calligraphed at the top.
Kelly gets a hug from two of her bridesmaids. All five of her attendants wore pear-green silk shantung dresses from Simple Silhouettes, each in the knee-length style that suited her best.
Cakes for the Bridesmaids
It's a Southern tradition to bake ribbon-tied charms within the layers of the wedding cake for bridesmaids to pull out. In this variation, an assortment of sterling-silver charms was slipped beneath these miniature cakes; a ring charm means you'll be marrying soon.
Another sweet, "brazo gitano," or "gypsy's arm," is a traditional Puerto Rican sponge cake; the chef filled this one with dulce de leche -- caramelized condensed milk -- and sprinkled it with chopped pecans as a nod to the bride's and groom's Louisiana origins.
The newlyweds share a kiss while they take a turn on the dance floor.
Each guest is sent home with a card that reads "Dulces recuerdos de Puerto Rico" and the phrase's English translation, "Sweet memories from Puerto Rico."
The Reception Location
Stately metal doors framed with flickering votive candles open onto the reception dining room, where a server puts the finishing touches on a table; huge palm fronds throughout add drama. The 100 guests sit at rectangular tables beneath ornate chandeliers.
In the style of cigarette girls of the 1940s, servers carried trays from table to table -- but these were filled with Puerto Rican sweets; dividers were added to hardwood trays.
Hand-weaving furniture with cane is an art in Puerto Rico. Inspired by the interlaced loops, the baker pressed strips of caning into the fondant encircling the orchid-topped cake.