This Couple Invited Just 27 Guests to Join Them for a Destination Wedding in Costa Rica

Real Weddings

Jennifer Billups and Wesley Clements met for what seemed like just a moment at Marshall University before Wesley, a soon-to-be medical student, left for greener pastures — literally! He set off on trip to bike across the country with friends, then flew to Costa Rica, where he farmed country fields through the volunteer program World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wesley finally returned to the university to pursue his advanced degree and a relationship with Jen.

Three years later, Wesley asked Jen to be his wife. It took the couple little time to realize a celebration in Costa Rica, a country Wesley had learned to love, would be perfect for their May 15, 2015 nuptials. "We are both extremely passionate about outdoor adventure, so what better place to get married than Costa Rica?" Jennifer says. Mountain Paradise Hotel, near tourist destination Arenal Volcano, offered a breathtaking backdrop for the couple's intimate fete, captured by Wesley's cousin, photographer Lisa O'Quinn of Sweet Tea Photography.

The couple invited just 27 guests to join them in Costa Rica two days before their Friday wedding and planned several optional excursions for loved ones to enjoy with them in the days leading up to the ceremony. Guests joined the couple on adventures like exploring bridges that hung above the jungle, zip-lining through the rainforest, and white-water river rafting. "We have friends and family around the country," says Jennifer. "We liked the idea of giving people the opportunity to enjoy a vacation while being part of our big day."

"If a wedding dress could feel like yoga pants, this would be the one!" Jennifer says of her head-to-toe lace Olvi's gown. "It was perfect for Costa Rica because it's wasn't too poufy, but it was still elegant." She carried a bouquet of soft pink orchids, white calla lilies, and green hydrangea, but saved a white orchid blossom to tuck into her hair.

Wesley kept his look casual, donning a seersucker tuxedo from J. Crew that was perfect for their more laid-back celebration.

On the morning of their wedding, the skies opened up and the couple experienced the first rainforest storm of their trip. Jennifer and Wesley were forced to move their outdoor ceremony — complete with a curtained arbor dressed in pink and white roses — into the hotel's covered patio. "We reminded ourselves that we chose to have a wedding in the rainforest during the beginning of rainy season," Jennifer says. "Luckily, we had a break in the rain to do most of our portraits outdoors and take advantage of the beautiful scenery!"

The pair exchanged vows they wrote themselves, then invited guests to join them for cocktail hour, which featured local beer and wine plus hors d'oeuvres of local fish, cheeses, and vegetables.

The reception was held on the hotel's open-air patio and decorated in shades of white, blush, and green using blooms like roses, orchids, hydrangea, and eucalyptus. The couple's tables, topped with natural linen tablecloths and flanked by wooden chairs, were arranged in a U-shape to allow easy mingling amongst their 27 guests.

"Wesley became interested in wood crafting while he lived in Costa Rica because the country is known for its beautiful wood," says Jennifer. So as favors, Wesley made wooden wine racks for all their guests and sent them to their homes a week before the wedding.

The couple chose Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" for their first dance before opening up the floor for guests to join. Although Jennifer and Wesley enjoyed their stay at Mountain Paradise Hotel, they soon left for a honeymoon where they first did volunteer work before enjoying some pampering at an all-inclusive resort.

Venue & Catering: Mountain Paradise Hotel || Wedding Planner: Our Costa Rica Wedding || Bride's Dress: Olvi's || Groom's Attire: J. Crew || Florist: Art Flower || Invitations & Paper Goods: Paperless Post || Music: DJ Kika || Photography: Sweet Tea Photography

Find Local Vendors Wedding Wire

Did you love this intimate destination wedding? Then check out another couple's Costa Rican celebration in the video below!

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift

Get personalized planning advice, exclusive offers and must-read wedding news.

Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from