Lucky contest winners have their dream wedding in Costa Rica
To celebrate Costa Rica legalizing marriage equality, Equally Wed teamed up with W Costa Rica and Bill Kaelin Marketing for an exciting contest to win a dream wedding in the beautiful country. The contest was announced in May, and now, the winning couple can officially call themselves married!
The lucky winners were April and Erin, who tied the knot in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony on July 28.
“We wanted something that was unique to us and not just conforming to the traditional wedding,” said April, “and that’s when we saw the post announcing the contest! Who wouldn’t want to get married in Costa Rica!”
Winning, they say, felt surreal. They were filled with emotion and felt honored, overwhelmed, excited, and grateful.
Many vendors came together to make this wedding happen, including Javier Castaneda, a destination wedding photographer whose stunning photos exemplify the magic of the day. Castaneda said it was an honor to be part of April and Erin’s big day. “The love, the affection and the empathy was not only emanating from them but from all the people around them…They made me feel like part of their family.”
Lisseth Alvarado, of GO Transportation, was equally moved. “Our main goal was for April, Erin and their guests to start their journey in Costa Rica in a safe, comfortable and elegant way. And we hope that this new journey, called marriage, will bring them a lot of happiness and love.”
Tell Us About the Wedding Day!
Our wedding day was so perfect for us. We really wanted to feel connected to our family and friends that were able to join us in Costa Rica, so we started the day off with breakfast together and then headed to the resort pool. After lunch by the pool, Erin and I separated and the next time we would see each other would be for our first look.
We each got ready with our friends and met in a courtyard to see each other for the first time. As I waited for Erin in the courtyard, I was looking at the garden that had been prepared for our wedding. The floral arrangements were nothing short of spectacular; the garden was bursting with color and seemed to be alive. Hummingbirds were right in front of me drinking nectar and couldn’t have been more perfect as I waited for my bride.
Our first look was private and very special. After our first look, we were announced as we walked out to join our family and friends where we all would share a cocktail together before the ceremony started. This moment was so perfect for us, as it was relaxed, informal, and full of fun and celebration. Erin and I chose to say our vows privately with our family and friends looking on close by in the garden. We didn’t want the words we were saying to each other to get lost in any way. Our community shared with us later that moment was very special to watch even though they couldn’t hear what we were saying, they could see and feel the intimacy Erin and I were experiencing.
After we said our vows, our family and friends joined us as we finished the ceremony. After we shared a kiss, in which I almost botched as I stepped on Erin’s dress during the dip, we went to the beach to take photos with the photographer.
After photos, we came back to the garden to find a beautiful rainbow and our family and friends waiting to enjoy a spectacular meal together. The celebration continued with speeches, music, and laughter.
What were each of your favorite parts of the experience?
April: We were absolutely treated like royalty by the staff at W Costa Rica. We felt as if the entire resort was a part of our wedding celebration. We were constantly being called by name and asked if our visit was going well.
I loved that we had a small intimate group of family and friends that joined us. The intimacy felt with the people who are closest to us is something that I’ll always carry with me.
I am SO thankful Erin and I shared our vows privately. I was completely locked in on her and felt every word said between us. I was worried that it may make our guests feel distant and disconnected from our ceremony, but it had the opposite effect and I’m so thankful for that.
I loved that we were in Costa Rica. The country is breathtaking. The people in CR are incredibly kind and there are so many places to explore. There is a vibe in Costa Rica – they live by Pura Vida – and that is exactly the vibe I would say our wedding had. Pura Vida became a part of us during this trip and I believe will be a theme through our life together as wives.
Erin: It’s hard to just break down one favorite part, because all of it was so magical. The actual wedding day was breathtaking. Everything went so smoothly, and there was very little stress. Everybody was incredible, from the transportation, to the front desk, to the cooks and everyone in between. We were both treated like we were royalty and so special. The trip flew by, but we tried to really take it all in each day. I would definitely say my favorite part of the experience was the entire wedding day, and our first looks right before we got married. That was a special moment I won’t soon forget.
What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ couples planning weddings?
April: One thing that helped me was looking at other LGBTQ+ couples and accounts, like Equally Wed. It really helped me realize that there are ZERO boxes when it comes to planning the way you want to make your commitment together. Get to know yourself and your partner more than falling into any “traditions.” Follow your heart, speak up about what’s important to you, and listen (really listen) to what your partner wants. You can compromise with each other without forsaking the core components that mean the most to you.
Erin: I would say to follow your heart with the experience that you want. That day is about you and your partner, only. It’s hard not to get caught up in what everyone else thinks should happen, but try your best. When the day is over and it’s just the two of you at night, you want to feel the happiest you’ve ever felt, knowing that your day was exactly how YOU wanted it.
What advice would you give to vendors working with LGBTQ+ couples?
April: It is so helpful to know that a vendor WELCOMES and wants to support LGBTQ+ couples. I’m sure there are many ways to do this, but outwardly putting some type of statement or sign out is so helpful. It feels safe to research a vendor and see that. This may seem small, but it is very different for you to know that you support the LGBTQ+ community, but WE don’t know that unless you say it in some way.
Also, change rhetoric when speaking with a “bride.” It is still the assumption that every woman that walks into a wedding vendor is marrying a man, and that every woman wants to wear a dress. Stop assuming this is the norm.
Change the way spaces are set up. A perfect example is having a place set up for the “bride” to get ready and the “groom” to get ready. A lot of venues are set up this way which feels like there is no space for me to belong.
Erin: When a couple contacts you, don’t assume it’s a husband/wife partnership. When I was dress shopping, every place I went to asked “what the husband was wearing.” It doesn’t offend me, but it might bother others. It’s important not to assume and to ask questions in the beginning to determine what kind of couple you’re working with.
Anything else you want us to know?
As far as wedding planning goes, seek to understand what you and your partner want and shut out the outside noise. Whether you want to invite 100 guests, or 0, don’t base your decisions off of other people’s emotions. You only get this day once and it is supposed to be the most magical experience.
Search our directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive vendors.
Photographer: Weddings by Javier
Florist: Eventos Carlos Gil
Furniture Design and Decoration: Elegante Frenesí
Transportation: Go CR Vision
Tours: Swiss Travel Costa Rica
Hotel: W Costa Rica
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