This Lush Outdoor Wedding in Playa Grande Was Lit Entirely by Candlelight
Jessica Marie and Ryan Ryskamp, co-owners of Washington, D.C., event design company Social Supply, had known each other since high school—but only fell in love after reconnecting on social media years later. When Ryan felt ready to pop the question, he had big goals: "Ryan tried to plan the perfect proposal four times, and each time it didn't work out," says Jessica. "He decided to do what was in his heart—a simple approach." When Jessica woke up one morning, Ryan—who had already asked Jessica's father and her son for their blessing—was next to her holding a ring. "It was honestly perfect," she says, "and I wouldn't have had it any other way."
The same held true for their 42-guest destination wedding on February 25, 2018, in Playa Grande, Dominican Republic, where they booked the Balaji Palace private villa for a trip full of memorable moments. "We wanted to treat our guests to a weekend of the endless options: a private chef, local excursions—like cliff jumping into the blue lagoon—massages, local rum, and cigars." The couple started with a neutral palette inspired by the villa, allowing the natural surroundings to provide accent tones and set the mood. "We wanted the focus to be solely on the Old-World architecture and plantain trees during our ceremony, the lush, overgrown jungle during cocktail hour, and the rose gold sunset over the stone terrace along the rugged cliffs for dinner," says Jessica.
The result? A perfectly curated event—one that came together despite multiple no-show vendors (their rental company and cake baker, included!).
The couple "had a heavy hand in the design of the invitations," says Jessica. "We wanted something simple, yet beautiful—and it had to be boxed." They combined a hand-drawn peony element—which Ryan had sketched for an engraved jewelry box he made for Jessica when they started dating—with patterns that mimicked Jessica's wedding dress, and had their company create acrylic trays that held the invitation. Custom lettering and design from The Letterist and printing from The Dandelion Patch brought the rest of the suite together.
Fit for Royalty
Jessica and Ryan booked The Balaji Palace for their wedding festivities—and it also inspired their mood and décor. "We wanted the architecture of our private villa—cobblestone, wrought iron gates, stone cliffside terrace—to be evident, but freshen it up with a simple design with lush, overgrown local greenery and florals," says Jessica. "We didn't want to compromise the beauty of our surroundings."
A Warm Welcome
Instead of wedding favors, the couple treated each of their guests to a massage at the nearby spa, and stocked the rooms with weekend essentials: "We made sure each guest had a pair of hand-selected sunglasses, Turkish towels, Dominican cacao, and any necessities upon arrival," says Jessica.
Jessica had a clear vision for her wedding dress: "I really wanted to feel like I was on the red carpet," she says, "and not feel like I was in a bridal gown." But after trying on gowns in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, and Michigan, she still hadn't found a gown that fit the requirements. "Finally I tried on this Galia Lahav and it took me by surprise," she says. "I loved the plunging neckline, but the pattern play in the lace was my favorite detail."
Put a Ring on It
Ryan put as much effort into designing Jessica's engagement ring as he did into planning the proposal, scouring multiple stores for a gem that met his exacting standards. "Ryan spent months learning about selecting the perfect diamond—so much so that even managers of the high-end jewelry stores he visited could not answer his specific questions," says Jessica. Eventually he found the perfect oval stone in San Francisco and had it mailed to New York, where he worked with a custom designer to create a one-of-a-kind setting. "He was very specific about the thin basket profile of the band, carat of gold—to get the perfect gold hue—and the four claw prongs to bring in a bit of an edgier look," says Jessica.
Jessica's bouquet of white blooms and local foliage—by Washington, D.C., florist Philippa Tarrant—coordinated with the other lush arrangements throughout the space. "Our florist was incredible and spent most of the afternoons leading up to the wedding foraging for local greenery to include in our florals since many of our imported flowers showed up dead," says Jessica. "She truly used her talent and the lush jungle surrounding us to create a new design for us."
Head to Toe
Together at Last
After getting ready in separate suites, Jessica and Ryan shared their first look on an outdoor staircase lined with candles and foliage. Post-portrait session, which also included shots on the beach and in a nearby field, the couple had a private prayer with their pastor before separating for their ceremony entrances.
Mother and Son
Musical duo Adriel Genet and Tuomas Easton played Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" during the bridal party processional. Then Jessica's son, Benjamin, escorted his mother down the aisle (her favorite moment of the day) as the musicians played Twenty One Pilots' "Before Your Start Your Day."
Guests watched the ceremony from white chairs set up under dramatic, sprawling tree branches by the entrance to the villa. "We had our ceremony in the middle of the road at the villa's incredible entry archway," says Jessica. "The gate was covered with soft sheer fabric and lush florals to block the view of any traffic."
Husband and Wife
The simple ceremony, officiated by Ryan's best friend, included several personal touches, says Jessica: "He prayed over our new marriage and shared with everyone our family mission statement." After they were pronounced husband and wife, the newlyweds left the ceremony space to "Hallelujah."
Shake for the Newlyweds
Guests were encouraged to pick up festive maracas at the start of the ceremony; at the close, they shook the sound-makers as the couple recessed back up the aisle.
Jessica's son, Benjamin, provided the day with one of its most emotional moments. "Ben secretly prepared a speech and surprised us and everyone with his words of his life being genuinely better with the three of us together," says Jessica. "He explained how we serve as his inspiration and how we've made him who he is today. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house!"
A Tropical Cocktail
During the outdoor cocktail hour, guests sipped pineapple mojitos under lights suspended from the cliffside jungle foliage.
Jessica and Ryan each chose a gold wedding ring with plenty of symbolism—his a textured matte gold, and hers a ring of stars. "We wanted his ring to have character and embrace life's hard moments and 'fractures' in the past and up ahead," says Jessica, "but while the gold is strong, it would be malleable and take shape to the new without breaking or cracking. My ring was designed as if stars misaligned. The stars don't always line up with what we want. We will fail each other in our marriage more than once, but we will hold strong."
Four rectangular tables were set up along the stone terrace to create one long line of seating. Though the couple had visited the villa earlier in the year to plan the setup, they hit a day-of snag: "Our pastor custom-made our rectangular tables on the day of our wedding when our rentals did not show up!" says Jessica. "Our villa manager tracked down the owner of the local hardware store, where we purchased plywood and tools." They covered the tables with custom runners and tablecloths made from hand-torn chiffon, and selected complementary ghost chairs in two different styles.
The tabletop design mixed shimmering glass chargers and candlesticks with overflowing centerpieces. "The chargers and flatware had a capiz shell detail, and we accented the tables with a mix of glass and marble candleholders and candlabras," says Jessica. "We brought in oversized urns to match the lush, organic greenery and floral elements on the tables."
For the couple, the last-minute challenges of building tables and foraging for new flowers were worth the stunning end result. "I loved watching our guests ascend up the staircase, where an impressive rose gold sunset awaited," says Jessica, "welcoming guests to the long candlelit dinner tables." Below, ocean waves crashed dramatically against the cliffs, providing a stunning natural soundtrack.
Though they had ordered a cake in advance from a local baker, Jessica and Ryan faced yet another day-of drama (this one had a sweet finish): "Another vendor that did not show!" says Jessica. "Our cake vendor cancelled on us at the last minute—she decided she wanted the day off. So our amazing villa manager had a friend bake a dulce de leche cake for us."
The Show Must Go On
After their first dance, to the Twenty One Pilots version of "Fools Rush In," the rest of the evening's entertainment began. The couple scheduled a variety of performers and events, including fire dancers, local musicians, and fireworks. "I loved watching our guests' faces when each one of our booked peformances surprised them every hour after dinner," says the bride.
Photography, Laura Gordon Photography
Location and Catering, The Balaji Palace
Event planning, Strawberry Milk Events
Event décor and Welcome boxes, Social Supply
Flowers, Philippa Tarrant Floral Design
Stationery Design and Calligraphy, The Letterist
Officiant, Matthew Borges
Music, Adriel Genet
Bride's shoes, Aquazzura
Hair, Remona Soleimani
Makeup, Nour Kazoun
Bridesmaids' dresses, Express
Groom's suit and menswear, Suit Supply