This Couple Spent Just Four Months Planning Their Destination Wedding in Mexico
Lisa Diederich met Sam Stephenson while studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, at a university lecture hall on the first day of the semester. When class let out, he tracked her down to introduce himself. The rest was history. After living together for five years in Sydney, the pair decided to make a permanent move to the States, which meant nine months apart before Sam got his visa. Once they were able to reunite, Sam set up a wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa Valley to celebrate, and it was there that popped the question overlooking the valley and vines.
Their engagement spanned three years, during which time they conquered major milestones including moving countries, starting a business (Lisa's a photographer and Sam is a songwriter/musician but together they run a creative company that encompasses photography, videography, and design), and buying a house in Nashville. After considering getting hitched in several destinations around the globe or eloping in France, Lisa and Sam decided to make it official in Mexico and found the perfect venue in Baja California Sur. "Anyone who knows us knows how much we love tacos and margaritas, and we couldn't imagine anything better than having those on the beach at our wedding," Lisa says.
They hosted 42 guests at Hotel San Cristóbal for a weeklong wedding in paradise, introducing friends and family from around the world over cocktails and s'mores at the hotel's pool before saying "I do" at the on-site chapel on April 18, 2018.
Click to Save-the-date
Lisa and Sam only had four months to plan their wedding, and a number of their guests live in Australia, so they sent out a digital save-the-date that directed everyone to RSVP on their wedding website. As a keepsake, they printed a hard copy of the design for themselves.
"Two months before the wedding, we sent everyone a custom PDF with all of the information they could possibly need—flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, phone/internet advice, currency, and even our first-hand account of traveling to the venue," Lisa says. "Some of our guests had never flown overseas, so this was a big deal for them and we wanted everyone to feel confident and safe."
A Week at Hotel San Cristobal
Having seen dozens of weddings first-hand through their photography business, Lisa and Sam knew what they wanted for their big day—a stress-free, intimate celebration in a beautiful beach setting that would be attended by their closest family and friends. They skipped some of the usual traditions like formal invitations, wedding favors, and wedding cake and trusted Hotel San Cristóbal's on-staff coordinator to help organize the big day.
Her Dream Wedding Dress
With such a short timeline, Lisa planned on buying a wedding dress off the rack at The Dress Theory in Nashville, but she fell in love with two options from Rue de Seine. She trusted her gut and went with a trumpet gown with a halter neckline, intricate flower embellishments, a full skirt and train, and keyhole detailing. "I initially imagined a very modern, minimalistic dress with an architectural feel, but as everyone always says, that's nothing like what I ended up with," she explains. "I never imagined feeling more beautiful or comfortable on my wedding day, but this gown was absolute perfection to me. It's the most beautiful dress I've ever seen."
Two friends in Nashville prepped Lisa on how to do her own hair and makeup ahead of the wedding. On the big day, she put on a bold red lip and pulled her hair into a low updo with a pearl headpiece.
Lisa let local floral designer Pina Cate work her magic on the bouquet without much guidance. "Pina knew what my dress looked like, so I think she shaped my bouquet to highlight the deep center 'V' and frame my figure. I mean, she's brilliant!" Pina used roses, bougainvillea, ranunculus, and assorted foliage in the bouquet, which was tied off with dark ribbon.
The Groom's Look
Sam wore a gray J. Lindeberg suit with a custom-made white shirt from Knot Standard. "I was originally thinking of linen to suit the location but decided wool was a wiser choice," Sam says. "A tie was never an option either: it seemed wrong to be too formal in such a location." He completed his outfit with penny loafers.
By Her Side
While Lisa and Sam didn't have a traditional bridal party, Lisa's closest childhood friend, Laura, served as her maid of honor by helping her get ready for her big day. She wore a dusty blue floral dress with a halter neckline that mimicked the bride's. Similarly, Sam's brother, Joe, served as his best man.
The chapel at Hotel San Cristóbal is, as Lisa says, "definitely not your ordinary chapel!" With a stunning rounded brick ceiling, the bride and groom knew a ceremony there wouldn't need much décor.
The Bride's Entrance
"My favorite part of the day was just before Lisa walked into the chapel," Sam recalls. "I was standing up front waiting for the processional music to start and I remember just feeling so insanely happy. It was perfect: I was surrounded by all my best friends and my family, everyone looked so happy and amazing in their wedding outfits, and I was just about to see my bride enter the chapel in her mystery wedding dress. I wasn't nervous at all, just so happy and centered. Lisa said that it was like time stood still and I think that's true. We'd done it! We'd planned this occasion and asked everyone to travel to Mexico and here they were! All just as excited for our wedding as we were."
Lisa was accompanied by her father as she made her way down the aisle. "He was so happy and misty-eyed. I barely held it together," Lisa shared. When she saw her soon-to-be-husband she quickly became all smiles though. As an unofficial Aussie tradition, she surprised her groom with the song selection for the processional, choosing James Vincent McMorrow's version of "Higher Love."
The Custom Ceremony
The 30-minute spiritual ceremony was planned by Sam and the couple's officiant, Amy. They worked together to incorporate stories and memories of the pair's relationship journey. Since the service was so personalized, the bride and groom decided to exchange traditional vows.
The Recessional Surprise
The moment the newlyweds shared their first kiss, a mariachi trio snuck into the chapel and surprised guests with a song to kick off the celebration.
The Cocktail Hour
The mariachi band led guests to the chapel's courtyard, where they listened to a playlist that Sam crafted while enjoying cocktails and hors d'oeuvres like a red snapper tiradito and beef crostini. Margaritas were served along with a custom cocktail featuring Corona beer and sparkling wine they called the "Cristóbal Collins."
Guests were given fashion inspiration in the form of a Pinterest board, but there was no strict dress code. Suggestions included light, coastal colors and semi-formal wear. Most of the ladies wore flowy dresses or jumpsuits and the men wore tailored jackets, chinos, and even a few floral shirts.
Extra Portrait Time
Lisa and Sam set aside some private portrait time between the cocktail hour and the reception.
The Reception Dinner
Wedding guests enjoyed a four-course meal at long, family-style tables set up on the terrace. They feasted on dishes including an heirloom tomato salad, sea bass with cilantro pesto, and a strip steak with a spicy chili sauce. "We were passing around dishes of the most amazing food, laughing at speeches and stories of the week, and watching the sunset over the ocean," Lisa says. "It doesn't get much better than that!"
The Natural Backdrop
Décor was kept to a minimum for the reception, as guests had a gorgeous sunset view of the beach. "I always envisioned a wedding that 'did the work for us.'" Lisa says. "Aside from the flowers and our reception tablescape, we didn't add anything to the already perfect venue."
The Fruity Centerpieces
The vibrant centerpieces featured pink, white, and orange flowers along with candles and various fruits, including bananas, papayas, and assorted citrus. Pina was told she could do whatever she wanted and the end result was stunning.
The First Dance
Two years before their wedding day, Sam and Lisa decided that "More of You" by Chris Stapleton would be their first dance song, as it represents their home in Nashville. A few minutes into the song, Lisa's dad and Sam's mom stepped in, and then Sam's dad pulled Lisa's mom onto the dance floor. "It was really special to share that moment with our parents," Lisa says.
Dancing All Night
A friend put together a playlist that included a few American favorites and an Aussie line dance, which successfully got everyone out on the dance floor. Lisa and Sam ended their wedding day on the with their closest friends and family, but the fun wasn't over. They extended their stay at the hotel well after the wedding. "When the last of our guests went home, we just couldn't bring ourselves to leave," Lisa shares. "So we made ourselves at home and enjoyed the margaritas and sunsets for a few more days."