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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: The Final Countdown

With three weeks to go, our bride-to-be shares some last-minute words of wisdom.

By Marisa M. Kashino

Well, it’s February. That means my wedding is about three weeks away. And in case I somehow forget when it is, I have Nate to remind me. He’s started three separate countdowns: one for the number of days until our last day of work, another for the number of days until we leave, and a third for the number of days until the wedding. He was, until recently, updating me daily on all three. I finally explained to him that while I, too, am very excited, those dates represent critical deadlines to me, and thus it’s a little stressful to have someone constantly reminding me just how close they all are. I admit it’s my fault that he doesn’t fully appreciate how many details there are to think about before the big day. I’ve handled the planning almost entirely on my own for a number of reasons: I’m hopelessly Type A, so planning is usually fun for me; I’m the only one who cares about things like finding really cute table numbers; and finally, making unilateral decisions is just easier. So really, I can’t blame him for not feeling as much pressure as I do—but I don’t miss those countdowns.

I actually didn’t expect to feel stressed leading up to the wedding. Our wedding is relatively small, and given that it’s in Mexico, there’s only so much micromanaging that can be done. And it’s not that this wedding isn’t planned—trust me, it is. It’s just that there are so many last-minute logistical issues to consider: Who will meet the photographer in the lobby? Does the deejay really understand that under no circumstances is he allowed to play “YMCA” or the “Electric Slide”? What if our other guests sit down in the front row during the ceremony and our parents are relegated to the back? Who’s going to police that? And speaking of parents, mine don’t like each other, so that’s definitely going to be awkward. I should add that we’ll also be closing on a condo the day after we get back from Mexico, which means our apartment is currently in chaos.

I’m not sharing this to complain. I’m excited and very, very grateful for both the wedding and the new place. I just have a feeling that I’m not the only bride who feels—or will feel—a bit overwhelmed. Here are some things that I’ve realized can help.

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: Don’t Make Me Over

Makeup secrets from our bride-to-be.

By Marisa M. Kashino

Some of our bride-to-be's favorite products. Photographs courtesy of Philosophy, Smashbox, and Laura Mercier

I was in the eighth grade when I first had my makeup done professionally. It was an exciting day, since I had only recently been allowed to start wearing a little mascara to school. But now my mom was taking me to a makeup counter at the mall, where a whole new world of products would be available to me. I sat down and let the woman at the counter go to work. In about 20 minutes, she made me look like I had something to sell on a street corner, and I’m not talking about Girl Scout cookies. I was so embarrassed that I kept my head down the whole way back to the car.

That was the first time I realized that when it came to doing my makeup, I was probably the best person for the job. I had, after all, been looking at my own face multiple times a day for years. Plus I practically have lipgloss running in my veins: My mom and my aunt—who is like a second mom—are makeup queens. I’m convinced they were born with eyeliner on.

This is a very long way of telling you that I’m doing my own makeup on my wedding day. I mean, if she could do her own makeup for a wedding viewed by three billion people, then I definitely think I’m up to the task. However, getting married on a beach in Mexico does present some challenges. It could be windy or humid. If it’s really hot, I’m going to be sweaty. No matter what the weather is like, I need my makeup to survive the elements. So ever since I got engaged in the fall of 2010, I’ve been on a mission to find the very best products to use on the big day. That’s nearly a year and a half of research, which I will share with you here in the hopes of preventing you from spending a small fortune at Sephora. (Although I should say that Sephora is very generous about giving out free samples so you can test products before buying them.)

Here’s a rundown of products I think deserve a shout-out:

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: Airline Aggravation

Our bride-to-be encounters a New Year’s Eve wedding crisis.

By Marisa M. Kashino

Happy New Year, everyone! How did you all spend your New Year’s Eve? I spent part of mine on the phone with United Airlines, trying to understand how our flights to Mexico had been canceled without so much as an e-mail to notify us. Yes, this is the tale of how United Airlines could have ruined my wedding. There are many wonderful things about having a destination wedding. Having to depend on an airline is not one of them.

It all started over some yummy vodka-ginger martinis at our friends’ apartment. Spirits were high as we prepared for an evening out to celebrate the start of 2012. Then our friends mentioned that a week earlier, they happened to check on the flights they had booked to Cancun for our wedding, and they’d realized something was very wrong. Their connecting flight to Cancun had been canceled, as had their return flight to DC. Even though they had already paid for their flights, they no longer had a way to get to our wedding or return home. And it was lucky they had looked up their itinerary, since no one from United had bothered to tell them. They were able to arrange new flights to and from Mexico, but not without some considerable stress.

When Nate and I realized we were also flying United for our wedding, we immediately got online and checked our own itinerary. Our stomachs sank as we saw that the direct flights to and from Cancun we’d booked six months prior had been canceled. Instead, United had rerouted us through Chicago. Keep in mind that our wedding is in February—about the worst time to pick up connecting flights in the Windy City. Not to mention we had booked early and spent extra money on our tickets to make sure we’d have direct flights. We will be checking luggage that contains wedding supplies, and we can’t risk having our bags left behind during a layover. I instantly envisioned the worst-case scenarios: A blizzard hits Chicago the week of our wedding. We’re stranded in DC. Wedding canceled. Or we make it to Chicago, then the blizzard hits, then we’re stranded in Chicago. Wedding canceled. I couldn’t drink that ginger martini fast enough.

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: All for the Alterations

Our bride-to-be heads to Virginia for her gown alterations—and endures lots of bumps on the way.

By Marisa M. Kashino

All of you brave souls who commute from Virginia to the District are going to think I’m a total wuss. That’s fine. I happily admit I do not have the mental strength to do daily battle with the Beltway. My commute consists of a 15-minute walk from Logan Circle to downtown DC.

Since I rarely venture into the suburbs, it’s inevitably a big production when I do have to travel to Virginia. Yes, I love the state’s wineries and picturesque country roads, and it has the closest Nordstrom to my house. But I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost there. It’s like crossing the state line takes away my ability to read road signs. There was the time I accidentally wound up in the Pentagon parking lot. Another time, Nate and I exited in search of a Wendy’s—sometimes a girl just needs a spicy chicken sandwich—and we drove onto a military base. You get the idea. (For whatever reason, I’ve had much better luck driving in Maryland.)

Given my track record, you can understand why I would be nervous about having my wedding dress altered by a woman in Fairfax. But Angie Cavallaro, who runs a bridal alterations business out of her home there, came so highly recommended that I decided she was worth the trip. I scheduled an appointment for the morning of Thursday, September 8. Google Maps told me the drive would take 45 minutes. Ha! I’d heard that one before. I booked a Zipcar early enough to give myself two hours to get to Angie’s house. I was not going to let Virginia win this time.

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: The Search for Vendors

Selecting vendors in a foreign country isn’t easy, as our bride-to-be discovers.

By Marisa M. Kashino
Marisa and Nate's wedding invitation, courtesy of Piece Design and Events

First, let me say how much I appreciate the thoughtful discussion you all carried out in the comments section of my last post. You reminded me of a big reason I love living in Washington: This city is full of smart, independent-minded, and inspiring women. So, thanks. (By the way, Nate and I decided that we will walk down the aisle together.)

Now on to a more practical topic: finding and choosing wedding vendors in a foreign country. The obvious downside to putting together a wedding in a faraway place is that unless you have a crazy huge travel budget, it’s not possible to meet every florist, photographer, and deejay in person. The bright side, I’ve learned, is that taking away the ability to spend entire weekends interviewing vendors forces you to make decisions quickly and just move on. There are also plenty of online resources to help with research. I seriously have no idea how anyone planned a destination wedding before the advent of Google.

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: Name Game

Our bride-to-be is faced with some tough decisions.

By Marisa M. Kashino

So far, we’ve talked about beaches and dresses and DIY projects. It’s been fun, no? Well, things are about to get real. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but I just have to bring this up. And if anyone is reading (Hello? Is this thing on?), I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section.

Here goes: I don’t want to change my name, and I don’t want to be given away. Both traditions make me really uncomfortable.

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: Saving the Date

Our bride books a venue and starts a craft project—but ends up calling for reinforcements.

By Marisa M. Kashino
Marisa's actual save-the-date, courtesy of Serendipity Beyond Design

Last time, I left you hanging right at the point where Nate and I were about to fly to Mexico to find a venue. My last-minute, panicked research paid off. When Nate and I entered the grounds of Ceiba del Mar, we knew instantly that we had found the ideal resort for our wedding. It was everything we had hoped for: great spa, secluded beach, perfect outdoor locations for the ceremony and reception, and, at just 88 rooms, an intimate size. We took a tour of the place, tasted the food, negotiated room rates for our guests, and signed on the dotted line.

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Destination Bride

Destination Bride: Getting Started

Our resident bride-to-be shares her tips for finding a perfect Mexican beach wedding venue—sans random beachgoers in Speedos.

By Marisa M. Kashino

The first step of planning a destination wedding is by far the most important. Ready? Book a vacation.

That’s right. We lucky destination brides and grooms don’t have to spend hours visiting cake bakers, or entire weekends touring every possible venue within a 30 mile radius. Instead, we get to choose a fun location, schedule a long—or extra long—weekend at that locale, and, while we’re there, find the perfect spot to tie the knot. The trick is to get organized and do as much research as you can beforehand, so you’ll make the most of your time there, and hopefully have a couple days left to relax.

After getting engaged last September, Nate and I went to Mexico for five days in January. We were 99 percent sure we wanted to find a resort in Playa del Carmen to host our wedding. We had vacationed near Playa before, and loved the area’s shopping and restaurants. It also feels smaller and more charming than nearby Cancun. What we didn’t fully consider, however, is that the criteria for a great wedding venue can be somewhat different than the criteria for a fun vacation spot.

I spent the months leading up to our trip exclusively researching resorts in Playa del Carmen. I mostly relied on Web sites like TripAdvisor. It wasn’t a bad tactic, as I found a lot of reviews written by other destination brides. And even though it made me feel a bit like a creepster, I got in touch with some of them, (TripAdvisor allows you to message its reviewers). Thankfully, the recent brides I reached out to were more than happy to share their candid opinions.

Several weeks before our trip, I was feeling good. I had narrowed down the list of potential venues to five solid contenders, and set up tours with the on-site wedding coordinators at each one. I had booked the tours at the two that I was most confident about for the first couple days of our trip, in the hopes that we would find our venue right away and be able to cancel the remaining visits. There was one resort that I was particularly excited about. I had gotten in touch with a woman who had her wedding there, and she raved about it. And less than a month before our departure date, she sent me her wedding photos.

Cue the panic.

• • •

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