Why have just one wedding when you can have two? That's what Courtney and Peter asked themselves when they got engaged in March of 2013, nearly 10 years after meeting at boarding school (she was 14 and he was 17!). "We basically started dating immediately, and have been together ever since," Courtney reveals. Peter had tricked Courtney into coming home expecting a quiet night in after he feigned illness, but when she opened the door to their home, she found a candlelit apartment and a slideshow of their decade-long relationship. After calling their parents, he took her out for a fabulous dinner, then announced he had one more surprise: They were leaving the next day to go to Thailand for 10 days! "He'd coordinated with my boss and planned every detail of the most luxurious vacation," Courtney says.
The decision to have two weddings came down to the bride's desire to honor her late father, Barry Bowen, one of the founders of Belize's Belikin beer company. "I am originally from Belize, and my father was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to Belize's development and conservation efforts," says Courtney. That knighthood means that Courtney's father's children (namely, the bride) could get married in the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. "We decided to honor his memory by having a wedding in the chapel, and also celebrating in Belize," says the bride. So they kicked the celebration off with an elegant, comfortable celebration in London on April 5, 2014, then hopped the pond to Belize for a second, more casual fête on May 24, 2014. With Catherine Mead behind the camera, these two weddings on two different continents celebrate the same love and joy, and will fuel any wanderlust you might already be feeling!
A sleek, formal invitation suite was dressed up with bright floral stamps, which perfectly flattered the bride's rose gold engagement ring. Only 50 guests were invited to the intimate ceremony and luncheon in London as the couple chose to limit the more formal celebration to just their closest friends and family.
Glitter-covered Christian Louboutin pumps peeked out from beneath Courtney's geometric lace Christos wedding dress, which she paired with pearl and diamond studs and a vibrant bouquet of bright pink peonies and blush garden roses.
The bridesmaids' slate gray J.Crew gowns looked sleek and gorgeous in three different silhouettes, a fittingly formal choice for the ceremony venue.
The traditionally British Anglican ceremony took place at 11 a.m. "We didn't decorate the space, as it's filled with such beautiful history already," Courtney explains.
Guests boarded a vintage double-decker bus for a tour of the city while the couple took portraits around London, then met up with everyone at the Mandarin Oriental. "It has such history," the bride says of the storied hotel. "Queen Elizabeth II learned to dance in the ballroom and Prince William threw a pre-wedding bash there."
As they sipped champagne garnished with fresh raspberries, guests dined on international canapés including a millefeuille of Scottish salmon with cream cheese and caviar, Thai chicken soup, and French mini croque monsieurs.
Inside the ballroom, tables were topped with ivory linens and centerpieces of pink peonies, roses, and foliage. Oversized arrangements were placed in front of arched mirrors to anchor the room, with cherry blossoms adding architectural height.
For the formal luncheon, guests chose between rosemary lamb and roast chicken, served with dauphinoise potatoes. And if they couldn't wait for wedding cake and petit fours, female guests were given Ladurée macarons as favors while the men found caramel truffles waiting at their seats.
The two-tiered vanilla sponge cake, soaked with champagne and filled with raspberry preserves, was topped with fresh pink peonies.
"While we parted ways with our guests after lunch, we did meet up with a group for drinks at a pub later, then spent the night dancing at a private members club in London!" Courtney reveals.
Seven weeks later, 250 guests joined Peter and Courtney in San Pedro, Belize, for a ceremony on the dock of the Bowen family home. "I've thought it was the perfect setting since I was a child," she says. And since Peter has spent many years traveling to Belize with Courtney, he felt a strong pull to celebrate near the ocean, too.
For the waterfront ceremony, Courtney skipped bridesmaids in favor of four flower girls in guava-hued silk taffeta dresses and gold glitter flats. "Isabella, the youngest one, was scared to walk down the dock because she could see water through the cracks, so one of the older girls held her hand," says the bride.
"I loved that my dress was versatile enough to wear twice," Courtney says. "It only took a few styling tweaks and I was so happy to put it on again!"
Courtney's older brother officiated the barefoot ceremony, with an impromptu addition to the vows: "We added 'In sunshine and in rain' to our vows, as we were getting absolutely poured on!" Courtney laughs. "It was so meaningful to hand-pick every word of our ceremony."
Back on land, a white tent was draped with fabric and lit with paper lanterns. Local philodendron leaves and red ginger flowers brightened up the breezy space.
After noshing on tuna tartar and pigs in a blanket (served with a shot of the couple's signature wedding beer, brewed specifically by Belikin with a blend of hops Courtney's father had created shortly before his passing), guests sat down for coconut curry chicken with plantains and sautéed kale and skewers of grilled Gallon Jug beef with chimichurri sauce.
A pineapple motif tied the event together, with the festive fruits appearing everywhere from the invitations to the surfboard bar sign — and even in the décor! The two signature cocktails were a traditional Dark & Stormy and the bride's twist on a watermelon mojito, with tequila of course!
For the reception, Courtney changed into a second dress from BHLDN, with a sequin bodice and a chiffon skirt. "It was so sparkly, but airy enough to dance in!" she says.
A local steel drum band added an extra tropical feel to the evening.
Instead of a single cake, the couple displayed five smaller cakes, each decorated with different buttercream patterns. Flavors included banana cake with chocolate peanut butter ganache and coconut cake with mango filling.
"We had to put up seven tents, run water and electricity, and build a kitchen on site, not to mention importing chairs and linens!" says Courtney. "It was a huge, and sometimes stressful, endeavor, but it was definitely worth it."
At 2 a.m., any guests still standing headed to a local beach bar for an after party. "We handed out Mardi Gras beads and served Jamaican curry beef patties with mango sauce," says Courtney. "We danced until 4am!"
"It was challenging planning two destination weddings at once, especially because I didn't live in either country," the bride says. "Sticking to my timeline was hard. Every time I checked a task off my London to-do list, I had to do it all over again for Belize! We considered London our ceremony and Belize our reception. Both weddings were perfect. The only trouble is, now we can't decide which date is our anniversary!"
London Ceremony Venue: St. Paul's Cathedral || Reception Venue & Catering: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park || Bride's Wedding Dress: Christos || Jewelry: American Pearl || Shoes: Christian Louboutin || Hair & Makeup: Kate Hughes || Bridesmaids' Dresses: J.Crew || Groom's Attire: Ascot Chang || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Jean Dousset|| Floral Designer: NB Flowers || Invitations & Paper Goods: Paperless Post || Cake: Tempting Cake || Rentals: GreatHire || Favors: Ladurée || Transportation: Gold Chauffeur Services || Belize Ceremony & Reception Venue: Bride's Family Home || Wedding Coordinator: Penne Somers || Hair & Makeup: Ogy Del Rio || Groom's Attire: J.Crew || Floral Design: Juan Carlos and Eduardo, Chetumal, Mexico || Invitations & Paper Goods: Dancing Pen and Press || Ceremony Music: Pantempers Steel Orchestra || Reception Music: DJ Carlos Romero || Catering: Elvi's Kitchen || Cake: Wild Mango's || Rentals: Revelry || Favors: Belize Chocolate Company || Photography: Catherine Mead
Looking for more London wedding inspiration? Then check out another British couple's celebration in the video below.