On their very first date, Andrew Westmoreland took a wrong turn on a winding road away from the waterfall that he was supposed to visit with Valerie Norman. While Andrew was stressed, Valerie kept her cool until they found the right direction — and the pair has balanced one another out ever since. "We met, fell in love, and knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together after only six months of dating," Valerie says. "It just worked. We always have had an amazing connection and mutual adoration for each other."
For their May 23, 2015, wedding, the couple decided on a romantic-yet-modern bash. "I have always been a little more bohemian and love to travel, so I wanted a relaxed wedding on a beautiful beach," says the bride. "Andrew appreciates a really modern and polished atmosphere, so we combined those two visions and came up with an amazing concept." Their big day, held at the W Retreat & Spa in Vieques, Puerto Rico, was a vacation for the couple and their 35 guests. The resort would need little in the way of decoration to make the party stand out, which allowed Valerie and Andrew to focus on creating a relaxing experience for their loved ones. "It was important that everyone had a great time and treated it as a vacation, including us," Valerie explains. "We knew our guests were coming from all over the country so we wanted to pick a truly amazing destination spot with many activities that everyone would love. Our guests hit up the beach for swimming, paddle-boarding, snorkeling, and kayaking."
The wedding turned out better than the bride and groom ever dreamed. And with E.P. Anderson Photography's stunning shots, you'll soon see why.
Valerie admits she cried the very first time she slipped on her head-to-toe lace gown. "It was so beautiful," she says, "and the pictures just don't do it justice. It is extremely elegant and has almost a romantic, vintage feel to it." The illusion lace back only added to the gown's appeal.
Valerie's bouquet was a loose mixture of white roses and stock, accented with a touches of dusty miller and greenery. But in her hair, Valerie wore a white orchid. "I kept everything very simple," she says.
The bride also approved of her groom's navy and gray attire. "He looked amazing and really sexy!" Although Andrew steered clear of all accessories, he did decide to sport island-appropriate Tom Ford sunglasses throughout the day.
Personalized sandalwood fans, which doubled as favors, were displayed on white ceremony chairs for guests to use throughout the beachside ceremony. Valerie and Andrew exchanged vows on a grassy knoll nestled between two palm tress. "It was so beautiful that we didn't need a lot of decoration," Valerie says. "We had two floral arrangements on either side of us at the 'altar,' and a small bundle of flowers on the edge of each aisle chair. It was simple and beautiful."
The bride and groom worked hard to write their own vows. "We each took it very seriously that the commitment is forever and we are in it together through our whole lifetime," says Valerie. "Our vows were truly from the heart and we said some pretty powerful promises to each other. I will always remember what we said that day."
But despite having plenty of time to practice, Valerie says Andrew seemed nervous while reciting his heartfelt vows. "I grabbed his hand and felt such an overwhelming feeling of love for him," she says. "I was so excited and sure of being completely dedicated to him as his partner."
The reception was held in an open-air pavilion decked out in their chosen hues: white with a hint of blush. "We went a classic elegant route for our decorations," Valerie says. "We were looking for a very organic, natural feel for our décor, including floral arrangements that would complement the inherent beauty of the beach location."
Because both Valerie and Andrew maintain a Paleo diet, the couple offered guests an entirely gluten-free dinner menu. "The chef completely welcomed the challenge and they were incredibly accommodating," says Valerie, who recalls most in attendance selected the delicious surf-and-turf option.
Place cards were affixed to small vases filled with mini white blooms while each table was covered with small driftwood boxes, all brimming with white and blush roses and plenty of lush greenery. The couple chose white linens that were purposefully crinkled, giving each place setting a bit of added texture.
Even the couple's two-tier naked wedding cake was gluten free, made from chocolate cake with mocha frosting.
Valerie and Andrew shared their first dance to "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley, then opened up the dance floor to their guests.
The couple has yet to leave for their honeymoon, but they plan to visit England, Turkey, Brazil, and South Africa in the fall. When she looks back on their wedding day, Valerie offers up this advice: "Don't sweat the small stuff, things will not go as planned but it doesn't matter. What matters is you are marrying the love of your life, as long you guys are both there at the altar truly committed and in love, that's all that truly matters."
Venue, Wedding Planning, Catering, Cake & Accommodations: The W Retreat and Spa-Vieques Island || Bride's Wedding Dress: Rebecca Schoneveld Rosaline || Jewelry & Wedding Bands: Davidoff Diamond || Shoes: Badgley Mischka || Hair & Makeup: Kalea Renee Wright || Groom's Attire: Michael Kors || Florist: Pollen Floral Art || Invitations: Minted || Music: Media Entertainment || Videographer & Photography: E.P. Anderson Photography
Did you love this destination wedding? Then check out another couple's tropical celebration in the video below.