Four days, 400 guests, a 12-hour dance party, and a parade through the streets in Colombia's Historic City made this wedding unforgettable.
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Some couples are simply meant to be—even if the couple themselves takes some time to get the hint. Cristina and André circled each other's lives for 15 years before finally meeting. They attended the same schools, lived in the same neighborhood, and their parents were friends. But It wasn't until a mutual connection invited them to the Miami Open that the two finally crossed paths, and the rest, of course, was history.
Cristina and André began dating right away. Three years later, they found themselves on a beach posing for a caricature artist. "The artist told us to just be natural and to ignore him, and that he'd let us know when he was finished," Cristina remembers. When he finally rotated the easel, he revealed an illustration of André on bended knee proposing. "Sure enough, when I looked back at André laughing, he was on one knee."
After seven months of planning (with help from RobbinsOtoya), a 400-guest, four-day celebration in Cartagena began—one full of color, music, and nonstop party vibes. The February 10, 2018, wedding paid tribute to local customs, incorporating a religious ceremony full of family, traditional Colombian folk dancers and drummers, and an adorable arsenal of little children. But to get the look they wanted, the couple merged the city's culture with Italian garden style. Then, Cristina and André worked on planning the "party" side of their day. "Each day was so magical and better than the last," says the bride. "By the fourth day (the wedding day), everyone had become friends. It became one big family soirée."
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Since Cartagena is Cristina's hometown, choosing it as the setting for their wedding was easy. Plus, in a city like that, it's not hard to plan an unforgettable event. "We wanted a dreamy, fun, unpretentious but elegant wedding where no matter their age or where they were from, guests would feel at home and have the best time," Cristina explains.
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A Warm Welcome
The couple thanked their guests joining them for the weekend-long wedding with a heartfelt note and goodies made by local artisans.
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Since they knew the 4:30 p.m. ceremony would take place beneath the blazing Colombian sun, the couple thought it made sense for André to don a dinner jacket instead of a more common tuxedo. He chose a bespoke ivory jacket paired and black pants from one of Miami's oldest tailors, Pepi Bertini.
For a brief moment, Cristina's search for the perfect wedding dress seemed hopeless—until a breakthrough came in the form of an old email. "My mother dug out an email I had sent her four years ago that read, 'If I ever get married, I hope it's in this dress.'" That dress was a floor-length number from Naeem Khan, so the bride-to-be immediately contacted the atelier. That's when she found out the dress in question never made it past fashion shows and into production. Luckily, they gave her the option of having it custom made. The final product was an intricate stunner with a simple A-line silhouette covered in hand-beaded pearl embellishments cascading from the bodice to the skirt. The elegant V-neck extended to a deeper point on her back, revealing a pop of skin for the couple's "tropical black-tie" dress code.
Her veil was also custom made, featuring the same linear beading of the gown all around the trim of the cathedral-length piece. Her bouquet incorporated peach and burgundy blooms like ranunculus, protea, and garden roses.
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An Army of Cute
The final piece of the fashion puzzle was dressing the pint-sized bridal party. Eschewing bridesmaids and groomsmen, Cristina and André stuck with Colombian tradition, enlisting the help of multiple flower girls and ring bearers known as damitas and pajecitos. Representing youth, optimism, and innocence, this adorable squadron wore outfits made by a local designer, Rosalena Nuñez.
The girls' outfits were inspired by the dress Cristina herself wore as a flower girl in her parents' religious wedding 26 years prior. The blush, tea-length dresses featured a charming bow on each shoulder, a belted waist, and beaded accents on the bodice. Ribbon-tied flats completed theit sweet looks and ensured everyone was comfortable enough to walk down the aisle. The boys also donned blush with charming cropped pants to go with their chic white button-down shirts.
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RobbinsOtoya infused the traditional church with an appropriate amount of festivity. Lush greenery sourced from different types of palms began at the exterior of the church and continued all the way down the aisle bringing color and life to the historic site. The final touch of candle votives added a warm, romantic glow at the altar, surrounding the bride and groom.
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The Bride's Debut
Cristina and her father walked down the aisle to Andre Riu's version of "Edelweiss." Beautifully captured in photographs, this sentimental moment is one that will stay with André forever. "My most memorable moment was when I first saw Cristina's silhouette faintly approaching the church doors. The sun rays were behind her and she looked like an angel. The feeling was surreal," he says.
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The ceremony was held at San Pedro Claver Church, a traditional 16th century building in the heart of Colombia's old city. Father Luis Rivero, a priest and friend of the couple, travelled from Miami to officiate, while friends and family participated in a variety of ways, from offering readings to lending sentimental objects like rosary beads to be used during the proceedings. Cristina loved sitting at the altar and holding André's hand, and looking back at all of their family and friends smiling at them.
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As a nod to their recessional song of "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles—and to keep their guests cool in the warm weather—fans were customized with the name of the song, the couple's name, and the wedding date.
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A Different Kind of Recessional
It's typical for the bride bride and groom to have a recessional, but the entire group took part in one at this wedding. After the ceremony, guests were led by traditional folk dancers and drummers through the streets to Baluarte San Ignacio de Loyola, a historic fort with plenty of outdoor space that set the stage for the couple's romantic Sicilian garden-meets-Colombian romance style reception.
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A Transformed Fort
Once they arrived at the fort, guests were greeted by a lush, fairy-tale garden with flora and fauna inspired by Cartagena's natural beauty. Large vases overflowing with bright pops of garden roses, ranunculus, snapdragons, thistle, and protea all in vibrant tropical colors marked the escort card tables and made appearances elsewhere in the décor, too. While the bride and groom took photos in an adjacent covenant, guests enjoyed delicious hors d'oeuvres and the sounds of classic Cuban music.
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The entrance to the fort was decorated with a variety of plants and palms to kick off the garden feel of the reception.
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A Picturesque Party
A combination of tropical greenery and Italian touches (like a pergola adorned with lemons) perfectly captured the couple's Sicilian-meets-Colombian vision. Inside, guests could almost forget where they were—but it only took a glimpse into the distance at the colonial city in the distance to remember just how magical the location truly was.
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Guests dined beneath the stars at round tables that were decorated with alternating floral centerpieces of tropical greenery or lemons. String lights were hung and illuminated as the sun set, casting a warm glow over the area and adding even more twinkle to the night sky. Natural linens and gold flatware complemented the vibrant color scheme and allowed some very special details to shine, like the hand-woven placemats made by local artisans. The table names were all named after cities in Brazil and Guatemala, honoring André's parents' hometowns.
The meal was prepared by Harry Sasson—one of Colombia's most celebrated chefs. His team prepared an appetizer of grilled asparagus with prosciutto, truffles, and sour cream to start. Then guests were invited to a buffet for the rest of dinner.
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From Near and Far
Most of the 400 guests came from abroad, but the one who traveled the furthest was the groom's 90-year-old-grandmother, who journeyed for 17 hours (with three flight connections!) to get there from a small town in Brazil.
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With a large group of non-stop dancers, it's no surprise music took center stage at the celebration. Four musical acts performed over the course of the ceremony and reception, each of which brought their own style and signature to the festivities. The stage itself got royal treatment, with blue and white delphinium lining its perimeter and offering a contrast to the warm-hued floral arrangements scattered elsewhere throughout the reception.
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The First Dance
It takes a special kind of dance floor to satisfy 400 energetic guests, and the custom-made number here did not disappoint. Created to look like green Mediterranean-style tiles and accented with a glimmering disco ball, it would have been difficult for anyone to resist busting a move. When it was time for the bride and groom to have their first dance, they wowed the crowd with a traditional Spanish-style dance known as a bolero and were shortly joined by both sets of parents.
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Loosely translating to the "crazy hour," the hora loca is a special time during the reception when the party kicks into overdrive—and that's really saying something for a celebration that was already going to last 12 hours. With a plethora of props like light-up microphones, flower crowns, and tambourines, the crowd was lured to the stage by electronic pop duo, The Faces. "This part was very important to André and me," Cristina asserts. "We both love to have a good time and to celebrate life surrounded by our friends so naturally the hora loca had to be extra special."
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The five-tiered cake boasted a simple design with fresh flowers and a chocolate fudge filling. But perhaps the true star of the table was the crocheted tablecloth beneath it. The heirloom made by Cristina's great-great-grandmother had been previously used in both Cristina's mother's and grandmother's weddings.
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A Sweet Ending
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The Next Chapter
With the big day behind them, Cristina and André are looking ahead to their honeymoon: a surprise trip André is planning. Though it's no doubt he'll use some of the lessons from planning their special day to make their honeymoon one for the books as well. "I learned to be present and supportive during the planning stage," he says. "As our priest Father Luis advised me, 'Happy wife, happy life.'"
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Photography, Dave Robbins Photography
Event direction and design and Flowers, RobbinsOtoya
Event logistics, Gema Tours
Floral production, Vivaflor
Catering, Harry Sasson
Stationery, Once 86
Cake, Ely Reposteria
Bride's gown and veil, Naeem Khan
Hair and Makeup, Portada Peluqueria
Groom's dinner jacket, shirt, and pants, Pepi Bertini
Wedding bands, Cartier
Lighting, Playa Producciones