Maria and AJ, who met during graduate school, invited their 160 guests to Indura Resort, a beautiful oceanside resort in the bride’s native Honduras, for their destination wedding. The Washington, DC-based couple chose “Olive Branches” by Carolyn Nicks as their invitation and incorporated their Honduran and Arabic backgrounds to create a celebration that reflected their cultures, life together as a couple, and shared love of travel and good food.
Bride and groom: Maria & AJ
Occupations: Pediatrician (Maria); medical student with a PhD in Engineering (AJ)
Based in: Washington, DC
Wedding date: December 19, 2015
Venue: Indura Resort, Tela, Honduras
Number of guests: About 160
Minted wedding invitation: “Olive Branches” by Carolyn Nicks
Wedding planner: Gladys Reyna from Agendas y Eventos
Florist: Musa Flores y Eventos
Photographer: Lauren Fair Photography
How did you and AJ meet?
We met when AJ was getting his PhD and I was in medical school. We don’t actually remember meeting. We had chatted a few times here and there but things really took off after our friend invited a group of us over to her house to cook Arabic food together. We started talking more and shortly after that he asked me out.
Tell us about the proposal!
I did not see it coming that day. I was actually post-call from a long 30-hour shift and had napped for a few hours. AJ and I were supposed to go to dinner with my mom, who was in town helping me move to a new apartment. My mom left my apartment presumably to get coffee and AJ came up carrying a bouquet of flowers. He said a lot of wonderful things and got down on one knee in my kitchen, which is fitting since our favorite activity to do together is cook. We then ran downstairs to tell my mom and she pretended she had no idea.
Shortly after, a black car arrived and he said we were still going to dinner but to a different place. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going. We got in the car and drove until we pulled up to a small corner restaurant that I recognized as the place where we had had our first date. I got out of the car and to my surprise my dad was standing in front of the restaurant. He had flown up from Honduras for the occasion. I had called him right after the proposal and he pretended to be home while in reality he was only a few blocks away. I took a few steps and, to my even bigger surprise, AJ’s mom and sister were also there, who had flown in from the Middle East. We all then celebrated and spent the weekend together.
Click through for more from Maria and AJ’s destination wedding…
How did you decide to marry in Honduras?
I grew up in Honduras and most of my family, including my parents, still live there. We wanted to bring all of our friends and introduce them to this beautiful country that most people wouldn’t otherwise visit.
How did you find your ceremony and reception venue?
We knew we wanted to get married somewhere where our guests would feel like they were truly going on vacation, that was beautiful, and didn’t make them feel like they were traveling just for our wedding. Indura was a fairly new resort in Honduras that is one of the most beautiful in the area. We wanted the long trip to be worth it for all of our guests and we wanted a place that was big enough to host everyone but also small enough so it would feel like a big house. Our party ended up being the only guests there for a large part of the weekend which was amazing.
Tell us about your wedding stationery.
Our wedding invitations were “Olive Branches” by Carolyn Nicks, which were foil-pressed. And we made our own RSVP cards: We took an Arabic post card, scanned it, and printed the other side with RSVP details using VistaPrint.
How did the invitation tie in to the wedding’s overall look and feel?
We didn’t have a wedding theme or wedding colors per se—we were going for an Italian-1920s-Middle-Eastern-black tie-dinner-party-and-Latin-dance-party vibe. Somehow the gold leaves, black font, and modern-looking invite did just that for us!
Who made your wedding dress?
Where were all of the bridesmaids’ dresses from?
They each picked their own. I asked them to get a long gray gown of their choice, any hue of gray. I didn’t even see some of them until the wedding day but they looked great!
What were some of your favorite wedding-day details?
So many! We focused on the details a lot. We wanted people to leave and feel like they had gotten to know us better as a couple and to feel like it couldn’t have been anyone else’s wedding but ours. We love food and travel and frequently host dinner parties so that was a big theme the whole weekend. We picked Peruvian dishes and Pisco Sours for cocktail hour because our first trip abroad was to Peru, designed our whole dinner menu, named each table after our favorite restaurants with a story about each one, had an Italian opera singer during dinner as a nod to my Italian grandfather, our rehearsal dinner was all Arabic food and decor given AJ’s heritage… And the list goes on!
What was on the dinner menu?
We did not want a generic wedding menu. We picked each of the dishes together based on our favorite foods and also taking into consideration foods that would still be delicious if made in large quantities. My brother, who is a chef, helped out in planning the menu as well. We ended up serving a multi-course family-style meal: cheese plates, our favorite salads, handmade fresh pastas (one of which was made by my uncle’s restaurant), and a main course—roasted leg of lamb for each table served with duck fat potatoes. We had enough courses and dishes that everyone with different dietary restrictions could still eat enough.
What were some of your fondest memories from the day?
Seeing each other for the first time during our first look and spending time alone together before the ceremony started was amazing. Seeing our families and friends cry along with us during our vows, and just having the most fun, best day we have ever had.
Did you incorporate any family or cultural traditions into the wedding day?
Tons. Our rehearsal dinner was all Arabic food and Arabic decor and we even wore traditional Arabic clothing for AJ’s heritage. The Bible we had a reading from belonged to my great aunt who I was very close to and passed away. My grandfather who passed away was Italian so we had a lot of Italian foods and music. We had traditional Honduran dancers take everyone from the dining room to the room with dance floor. My family traditionally bakes 1,000+ cookies during Christmas time and gives cookie baskets as gifts. This year my mom baked hundreds of biscotti and we handed them out as wedding favors.
What was for dessert?
We picked our three favorite cake flavors, including banana-bread cake with peanut-butter frosting, chocolate ganache, and pumpkin-pie cheesecake which were made by Pan y Mas. We also had dates since AJ is Middle Eastern and my mom baked Italian wedding cookies.
Did you DIY any of the wedding decorations/elements?
My brother, his girlfriend and I designed and made the ceremony program fans, individual menus, seating chart, table name signs, and signs for each bar. My dad’s company made a giant marquee LOVE sign. My mom made all the ribbon wands and tons of cookies and biscotti. I made all the table runners. AJ made many batches of granola for our welcome bags.
Did you have any after-party?
Not exactly. Latin weddings are long and super fun. We had different areas and different rooms for different parts of the wedding. The cocktail hour was on the veranda, the dinner was in the resort’s restaurant, and the party was in the banquet hall that also overlooked a veranda. The band played til 3:30am. After that many of us jumped into the pool.
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
New Zealand. It was amazing.
Any advice for brides who are starting to plan their wedding?
Do as much or as little as you want. If you want to spend time making tons of little details go for it, they will make your wedding so special and unique. If what you want is for someone else to do all the planning and just relax, then do that. You will have a million people giving their opinions but in the end it is what you and your soon to be spouse want.