Lisa Dittrich-Alescio and Josh Daitch planned the wedding of their dreams—twice. Three months before they were supposed to say "I do" in Cancun, Hurricane Wilma hit the coastal Mexican town. With the help of Detroit-based planner Gail Ball, the Chicago couple quickly regrouped and organized a breezy beach celebration on the other side of the country at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Resort & Spa in Los Cabos, where, coincidentally, they had first vacationed together. "We love Cabo because you can see the mountains along the coast and hear the waves crashing at the same time," says Lisa. In an effort to keep their weekend super-relaxed, the couple didn't plan group activities or day trips, but instead, gave their 120 guests all the information they needed to golf, snorkel, fish and visit the spa on their own.
At their January 2006 Jewish ceremony on the beach, a Mexican guitarist played as Lisa's parents escorted her down the aisle. Besides a white chuppah, underneath which Lisa and Josh exchanged vows, their decor was understated to emphasize the natural setting. In lieu of traditional floral arrangements, Lisa and Josh decorated their site with luminaries. Brass Mexican lanterns lined the aisle at the ceremony, while votives, twinkle lights and paper lanterns created the elegant, festive ambience they had envisioned for the reception at the resort's open-air restaurant on the beach.
The most spectacular light show of all, however, followed supper. After Josh's grandfather ceremoniously cut the challah (bread)—and the crowd feasted on crab cakes, black-pepper crème brûlée, tiramisu wedding cake and more—an enormous bonfire was lit. The evening was chilly, so guests wrapped themselves in the colorful Mexican shawls the couple had given as favors, and roasted marshmallows in the roaring fire. At midnight, they also cozied up in front of a movie screen on the dance floor for a surprise montage of pictures taken at the pre-wedding events and reception. "It was fun seeing photos even before the weekend had ended," says the bride. While Lisa and Josh didn't expect to marry in Cabo, their fiesta was perfect, Lisa says; most of their friends and family made it, despite the last-minute change of plans, and the celebration lasted until the early morning hours, in an authentically Mexican way.
Learn From Lisa and Josh
Keep guests in the know: Not only did Lisa and Josh's weekend itinerary provide a run-through of events, it included weather information and a list of useful Spanish words and phrases to help guests comfortably fit in.
Don't miss a moment: The couple had their two photographers follow them and their guests around on the three days before the wedding, so they'd have all their events (and even some excursions taken without the couple) on film.
Include fun activities: In addition to arranging a bonfire and photo montage, Lisa and Josh brought in a cigar roller for the reception.
Set the tone: Instead of hiring one band or DJ, the couple kept the music varied. They had it all: a Mexican guitarist, mariachi players and a Top 40 DJ.