How to Plan a Ceremony and Reception That's Reflective of Your Wedding Destination
There's nothing quite like getting married in paradise. You're surrounded by friends, family, and best of all, your fiancé, in a place that demonstrates the very best of what Mother Nature has to offer. These earthy elements are what drew you to your destination wedding location in the first place—the sun, the sand, the verdant vegetation. So why not make them the focal point of your celebration? We're not saying don't decorate. Instead, allow the natural landscape to dictate the majority of your décor decisions, from your wedding's textiles to the color palette.
That's exactly how event designer Chris Hessney of Hessney & Co. and planners Rachel Birthistle and Taimar Cook of The Lake Como Wedding Planner approached cultivating the following styled shoot, which put the incredible sights of Turks and Caicos on display. With the bluest-possible water and a luxury resort as the backdrop, curating a ceremony site and reception tablescape came out of the environment—the team's vision literally sprung from the earth. "We really wanted to embrace the beautiful, natural elements of the beachscape, from the sand to the ocean," explains Hessney.
The result? A romantic celebration that feels organic to the locale, sans any of the clichés (you won't find a single shell, seahorse, or fish motif here!). With unexpected pops of color and unique tropical accents (think jelly fish, wild birds, and plenty of rattan), Hessney and Birthistle's minimal vignettes emphasize Turks and Caicos' uninterrupted splendor. As you click through, notice how each design detail ties back to the location in a small, subtle way. It's a good trick to pack along with you as you approach planning your own destination wedding.
Choose the Right Venue
After determining which tropical island your destination wedding will call home, it's important to find a venue that boasts everything you'll need to bring the landscape to the forefront. Hessney, Birthistle, and their teams found all that and more at Amanyara, a five-star luxury resort on the west coast of Turks and Caicos' Providenciales island. "It was so wonderful to have this amazing venue as a starting point for the creative process," says Hessney, of the resort's beachy teakwood pavilions situated in private reflective pools.
Let Your Landscape Do the Talking
When it's time to scout a private ceremony site, try to envision exchanging vows on a barely-decorated beach—it's waterfront location and natural beauty will make bigger statements than a storm of fresh florals ever could. "Typically, people choose a destination wedding location because they connect with the place and love the scenery and surroundings," explains Birthistle. "For me, it makes sense to capture that and enhance it rather than try to change it." Being sympathetic to the environment will also help you avoid an overall design aesthetic that feels "too heavily produced," adds Hessney.
Add in Pops of (Local) Color
A tropical destination wedding is often considered synonymous with bold, splashy hues. But you can choose your moments of color sparingly, especially if softer shades are typically your thing. Hessney and Birthistle added in punchy brights strategically. Here, they came in the form of Italian silk scarves from Mantero that marked every other chair.
Stick with Accents You'd See on a Beach
Keep in mind the structures and textiles you'd typically see in a sandy setting, says Birthistle. It was this organic mode of thinking that led to the addition of the scarf chairs accents ("A great gift for guests!") and the woven fans, which were as décor-oriented as they were functional.
Incorporate Water Long After You Leave the Beach
You've tied the knot with the ocean at your backs, but you don't have to put the water behind you when it's time to dine. While Hessney and Birthistle positioned this tabletop in the middle of Amanyaras' pond courtyard, it's probably impractical for an actual event (unless you and your guests want to feast toes-in!). Take it for the inspiration it is, though, by dining on a platform with water underneath or next to a flowing fountain—better yet, take advantage of proximity and set up a tent to celebrate oceanside.
Don't Be Afraid to Keep Florals to a Minimum
Especially since lush, fresh blooms aren't typically native to beaches, adds Birthistle. The shoot's simple, single-bloom centerpieces and cloches were soft and on-palette, but impactful—without feeling forced or unnatural.
Opt for Unexpected, Thematic Objects
Forgoing a massive floral centerpiece doesn't mean that you have to turn to typical beach accents (like shells and starfish!), explains Hessney. Gold candlesticks, rattan lanterns, a gauzy runner, and woven placemats all helped solidify this tablescape's ethereal-meets-beachy aesthetic.
But Choose One Major Beachy Accent Piece
"The jelly fish cloches are from our dear friends at Creel & Gow here in NYC. When we saw them, we knew we had to add them to our table!" says Hessney, of the quirky objects that were "the perfect homage to the beautiful Caribbean surroundings."
Don't Get Caught Up on a Color Palette
While some couples prefer designating a few go-to hues before choosing décor, Birthistle says that this tablescape's palette took shape as she and Hessney sourced its minutiae—all of which were "considerate of the wonderful surroundings." In choosing pieces that speak to your location, a color palette will come together all on its own.
Acknowledge Your Locale's Fauna
You've got the (minimal) flora under control, but why not incorporate your destination's indigenous wildlife into the mix? These statement, vintage-inspired plates from Laboratorio Paravicini featured tropical birds—a nod to the majestic creatures found all over Turks and Caicos.
Photography, Erich McVey
Event planning and design, Rachel Birthistle and Taimar Cooke, The Lake Como Wedding Planner
Florals and design, Hessney & Co.
Linens, Silk and Willow
Plates, Laboratorio Paravicini
Flatware, Borrowed Blu