A Rustic, Intimate Wedding on a Private Beach on St. Thomas

Real Weddings

When Kerry and Brian first met, they were on a class trip we can really get behind: a University of Denver leadership retreat where they learned to sail in the British Virgin Islands! "We didn't talk much on the trip, but Brian asked me out as soon as we got back to Colorado," Kerry says. Almost four years later, when Kerry came home from a three-week work trip to Europe, Brian proposed in the middle of the Portland airport. "I am so hard to surprise, so he used my trip abroad as a chance to visit my parents in Chicago and ask for my hand in marriage. I had absolutely no idea!" she reveals.

The couple knew they wanted to return to the islands for their wedding, and sought out a property on St. Thomas that would be big enough to house all 40 of their guests. They found Sand Dollar Estate, and fell in love with the beautiful decks and private beach. They spent the next year planning a rustic, romantic beachfront celebration, creating a casual yet elegant vibe. With photographer Michelle March in tow, they left Portland behind and headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands for an intimate wedding on November 28, 2014. Be warned, you'll want a tropical vacation after this one!

Kerry fell for a two-piece Watters gown in a sandy blush hue, a combination of a lace corset and an English net skirt. "It was so comfortable and romantic, but with a bit of an edge," says the bride. She paired her gown with rose gold flat sandals, ideal for the ceremony in the sand.

Brian wore a gray J.Crew suit, which was customized by a tailor in Portland.

Brian's blush rose boutonniere was a gorgeous match to Kerry's hydrangea, rose, and garden rose bouquet. "I told the florist I wanted something ruffle-y, and they really made it happen," she says.

A nautical-inspired invitation suite (made from old boat sails!) invited guests to the islands. Sand Dollar Estate's waterfront location, sprawling decks, and intimate private beach were the epitome of an island wedding setting.

The ceremony took place at the water's edge, beneath an altar of bamboo draped with flowing white fabric, accented with a garland of felt balls made by the bride.

The simple ceremony was actually officiated by the wedding planner's husband!

Guests sipped Pain Killers and ate chicken skewers with Thai peanut sauce as the newlyweds took photos along the water.

"We'd had a few dinners at the house before the wedding, so I wanted the reception to feel more special," says Kerry. They served guests a plated dinner at a single long table set up on the deck. Centerpieces included small and large arrangements of hydrangeas and roses between white Moroccan lanterns. A teal burlap runner completed the look.

The dinner menu included macadamia nut-encrusted mahi mahi and coffee- and cumin-braised beef short ribs, followed by key lime pie and wedding cake.

The shadow box guest book had 3D paper hearts that guests could sign. "I wanted something we could display in our house," says Kerry of the design.

The buttercream-frosted wedding cake was filled with chocolate ganache and topped with fresh flowers.

A DJ played dance music until late in the evening, when most of the guests ended up in the ocean. "It had been so hot all day, without a breeze, so we couldn't think of a better idea than a midnight swim!" Kerry says.

She loved having family and friends staying together, and having the chance to see people get to know one another over the course of the week. "Everyone was dancing together like they were old friends!" says the bride.

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Sand Dollar Estate || Wedding Coordinator: Island Bliss Weddings || Bride's Wedding Dress: Watters || Shoes: Lola Cruz || Accessories: Jennifer Behr, Nadri || Hair & Makeup: Sugar and Spice Salon and Spa || Groom's Attire: J.Crew || Wedding Rings: Margulis Jewelers, Gilt Jewelry || Florist: Island Bliss Weddings || Invitations & Paper Goods: Puddle Jumpin' Cards || Music: DJ Snow || Catering: Passion Fruit Chefs || Favors: PulpArt || Photography: Michelle March

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Looking for more seaside wedding inspiration? Then check out another couple's destination wedding in Costa Rica in the video below.

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