So, now that our month-long Costa Rica wedding is over (yes we are very extra) I decided it would be best to do a wrap up for you all of what went well, what we wish we did differently, etc.
You’ve made it to the final article in our destination wedding series! If you haven’t read the other articles you can start back at the beginning here.
Costa Rica Wedding – The Month Long Schedule
It’s probably best to start off with a walkthrough of our schedule so you can all see what we were dealing with and how it all went down.
Our first guests arrived a little over one week before our symbolic Costa Rica wedding. This was great because we had our official wedding ceremony scheduled for then. It was really nice that two of Thomas’s friends from home and their girlfriends were able to be our witnesses for our official marriage.
In the week before our symbolic wedding, we had a total of twelve people staying at our house each for a night or two. We also had other people staying at nearby hotels. This was a bit stressful because we had a lot of last-minute plans to wrap up, but it was also so cool for us. See, living in Costa Rica is amazing, but it can be hard sometimes. We don’t have our best friends and family here. To have them in our house sharing our life with us was so surreal and rewarding.
Two days before our wedding we had a barbecue at our house in San Jose. In total, we had 17 people at our house for that. It was a bit much (I had spent most of the day before just cooking side dishes) but it was such a fun day!
The day before our wedding we picked up our flowers from our local florist, loaded up all the cars (we had six cars heading up to Tamarindo from San Jose) and hit the road. In the evening we had a nice dinner at Seasons by Shlomy (if you go there get the sashimi appetizer) with everyone who was staying with us in the villa we rented.
I’ll get into the day of the wedding in a bit, but for now, I’m going to skip to the day after the wedding (aka the day I should have been extremely hungover but somehow wasn’t).
The day after our wedding also happened to be the 4th of July. We had a nice barbecue and spent most of the day by the pool with everyone.
On the 5th of July we left Tamarindo and headed to Monteverde with 13 of our guests. We spent two nights in Monteverde zip-lining, rappelling down waterfalls, hiking the hanging bridges, and enjoying a wildlife night walk.
After Monteverde, we went with everyone to La Fortuna for three nights. In La Fortuna we visited Rio Celeste, chilled at our favorite hot springs, went river tubing (so fun), and just enjoyed each others company.
For our final destination, we headed down into Bocas del Toro, Panama with six of our guests. We went on a full day tour with snorkeling and visiting beautiful islands, chilled on the beach, drank way too much, and took a booze cruise.
We then returned to San Jose. Our first guests had arrived on June 22nd and our final guests left on July 20th, which put an end to our month-long wedding celebration. Crazy right?
Costa Rica Wedding – The day of
On the morning of our Costa Rica wedding, we hung out by the pool with our families. We eventually started to get things organized after breakfast. Things moved slowly in the morning.
The furniture rental company came to set up the tent and drop off our cocktail tables around 10 am. Some of Thomas’s friends came over and helped him hang up all our string lights for the wedding. I did a lot of little things such as organizing the table for our guest book idea, filling candle holders with sand for the tables etc. In all honesty, I feel like I ran around like crazy all day, but I have no idea what I was doing.
Around 2 pm my cousins came over and us girls started getting ready. This is when I started completely stressing because our caterer finally showed up. I feel like they had a million questions and we needed to set everything up at the tables, but I also wanted to just get ready and drink champagne with my cousins and sister.
We really cut it close. In fact, I lost my sandals around 4:15 pm and all the guests were there ready to get started. I had my cousins running around to find them while I (finally) put my dress on. It was non stop until I walked down the beach with my dad.
When I got to Thomas at the ceremony I felt like I finally had the chance to breathe. It was so nice to be up there with him, all of family and friends in front of us, and to have absolutely perfect weather.
Our ceremony was short (only like 15 minutes). We then went back to the house and had the cocktail hour next to the pool. During cocktail hour we went down to the beach for pictures with everyone.
Next came dinner. We had a plated salad course and then the rest of the food was a buffet. After dinner, we had speeches and then party time!
For the party, we had dancing next to the house, cornhole and chill out area set up down near the ocean, the pool for people to swim in etc.
A friend of ours put on a nice firework display for us around 10pm and then most of the party moved inside because we needed to be quiet.
Costa Rica Wedding – What worked great
In all honesty, things worked out wayyy better than I expected. This applies not just to the wedding, but also to the whole ordeal of having over 30 people travel to a foreign country. So, lets go through what worked out perfectly. We’ll start with the wedding day.
– Hiring a DJ was the best decision we made. We debated back and forth about it forever. I knew I could do the cocktail hour and dinner music on my own. Music is my thing and honestly one of the first things I did when we planned the wedding was to make playlists. Thomas gave me full control of that and I’m so thankful he did. I’m a music snob to the max and get really bitchy when people disagree with me about music related things.
Side note: My playlists are public on Spotify if you want to check them out and get some song inspo. Just search by my username mcarts05 There is a cocktail and dinner list on there. I kept the cocktail hour list more upbeat and chilled it out for dinner. I also tried to mix old and new music as well as male and female artists. I discovered I listen to way more male musicians than female so that was a bit difficult.
Anyway, back on topic. We eventually decided to rent a speaker for the cocktail hour and dinner and hire a DJ for after dinner. I’m so happy we did this because the crowd that ended up doing all the dancing was not the crowd I expected to dance. Our DJ was easily able to modify the music selections based on who was dancing. He was also able to play every requested song.
One of the best moments for Thomas and I that night was when our DJ randomly put on Home by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes right after dinner. This song always reminds Thomas and me of when we met in Virginia. We ended up being the first two on the dance floor and we danced like crazy. It really got the dance party started and was a perfect moment for Thomas and me.
So, the lesson is, hire that DJ you are debating about at least for after dinner.
– Vows worked out perfectly. I, being a writer and all, had my vows written back in November. Thomas, on the other hand, was not into the whole doing your own vows thing. He claims that is not something you do in Germany. Anyway, he kept calling them “vowels” and I was a bit concerned he was going to get up there and say, “A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y.” He actually wrote his vows on the day of our wedding and they ended up being twenty times more beautiful than mine.
– The weather was amazing! There had been this insane storm the day before. When I say insane, I mean they closed Tamarindo beach for the first time ever because it was so scary. On the morning of our wedding, a friend said that the weathermen had predicted the same weather for that day. That was the last thing we wanted to hear! Around 2pm it got dark and looked like it was going to start pouring, but it never did. To whoever up in the sky gave us the most beautiful weather on our wedding day, we are infinitely grateful!
– We somehow pulled off the whole clothing thing. I have no idea how we did it, but we both looked great (in my opinion) on our wedding day. See, I didn’t even get to try on my wedding dress until it was in Costa Rica. Instead, I ordered a bunch of dresses and had them sent to my sister. She tried them all on and sent me pictures. I picked my favorite one and a friend brought it down to Costa Rica for me. I then had the dress shortened a lot (short people problems) and added a lace hem on the bottom.
Thomas had a friend bring him several pairs of pants that he ordered from Germany. Thomas was luckily able to find a really nice pair among the ones he ordered. We then spent a few days before the wedding finding a white shirt and matching bow tie for him.
– Our catering was excellent. We went with Catering Costa and I can not recommend them enough. The food was excellent. Their workers were attentive. And most importantly the bartender was great. Priorities, people!
I wrote a complete post on group travel recently. Check that out if you want all the details on how we pulled that off. For now, here’s a little overview of what worked great.
A few weeks before our Costa Rica wedding Thomas and I sat down and talked about how we could make the travel go as smoothly as possible. We knew that the people traveling with us all had different expectations, budgets, adventure levels etc. I then made a list of all the activities you can do in each of the locations we visited. It helped that I run a Costa Rica travel blog. I kind of know a lot about what you can do in this country. 😉
The day after our wedding Thomas and I sat down again to figure out the logistics of how we could make this travel work best. We decided it would be a good idea to have a little meeting with everyone at each new destination we visited.
So, for example, when we arrived in Monteverde we asked everyone to meet us at the common area of our hotel after we all checked in. Thomas and I then went through all the activity possibilities with everyone. We then gave everyone 15 minutes to discuss with each other what they wanted to do during their time in Monteverde. We then regrouped and went around the room to say which activities we planned to do. The owner of our hotel was then able to book all the activities for us. Best decision ever! It made the organization of everything painless and productive. Plus, I also felt like I got to live out my childhood dreams of being a camp counselor. I may have been super pumped about that.
Costa Rica Wedding – What we should have done differently
– I feel like I completely oversaw a lot of random little details. For example, we wanted to show a commercial that Skyscanner made of our love story at the very beginning of the wedding. We had a large TV in the villa we were staying in but despite a friend trying for several hours to connect the TV to the internet, we were never able to show the video. It was little things like that which I should have planned out more. If you are traveling from a different country for your destination wedding this becomes even more complicated.
– My biggest regret is starting the wedding as late as we did. We needed to be quiet by 10 pm. We started the ceremony at 4:30 pm because we thought that would give us about an hour for the cocktail hour and pictures after the ceremony. Instead, everybody ended up coming down to the beach with us for pictures. This was great because we got so many cool shots from our friends and family, but it meant that cocktail hour got cut really short. We had so many amazing appetizers that never got eaten. It also made the first half of the wedding feel really rushed (at least for me). I wish we started about thirty minutes earlier and drew out the cocktail hour a bit longer.
Honestly, I don’t think we could have done anything differently for the travels after. There were for sure some hiccups along the way like me accidentally directing my family on a two-hour detour, an allergic reaction to peanuts, people getting stuck in a crazy storm, someone having a boat captain spill fuel all over all of their luggage, a stolen or lost cell phone etc. Unfortunately, none of these were things we could control (well, except for the part in which I could learn how to read a map a bit better). In the end, I think everyone had a great time and we gave them all the best overview of the country that we could have in a limited time frame.
And with that, we are done with our series on planning your Costa Rica wedding! Definitely leave any questions you have in the comment section below. We are more than happy to help you out!