Jordana Abraham is the co-founder of Betches and co-host of its U Up? Podcast and Betches Brides podcast—so she knows a thing or two about dating. “As a dating and relationship podcast host and author, I’ve spent so many years trying to navigate and figure out what makes a healthy relationship,” she says. In 2017, her skills were put to the test when she met corporate accountant Michael Marinelli. It was a typical meet-cute, with a not-so-typical twist: “We met in June 2017—a friend of mine from college was dating a friend of his from high school and they set us up,” Jordana remembers. The twist? “We grew up in neighboring towns on Long Island but had never met before.”
Turns out the dating knowledge she’d been garnering all those years worked: A relationship blossomed and, three years later, in August 2020, Michael got down on one knee. “He asked me to go for a walk on the beach near his parents house in Long Beach, New York, and proposed at sunset,” Jordana says. “It was really romantic!”
The couple had always dreamed of a destination wedding—especially in Mexico, the first big trip they’d taken as a couple—but getting engaged at the height of a global pandemic made things difficult. “International travel was pretty much impossible, so visiting different venues and locations wasn’t really an option,” Jordana remembers. “Friends of Michael’s had gotten married at Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya three years before, and I had the best time even though I barely knew anyone since we hadn’t been dating very long. Since we didn’t have the opportunity to go and visit different venues in Mexico, we went with [a location] we at least knew we’d had a great experience at.”
It wasn’t until June, just a few short months before the big day, that they were finally able to do a site visit and meet their vendors in person. It was a planning situation that required help, so the couple enlisted Patty Gonzalez of Love on Top Weddings. “Having a planner who lived and worked in Mexico made the process a lot easier for us, since she had already worked with a lot of our vendors and could easily suggest who would be right for our vibe,” Jordana says. “I found Patty through Instagram and really loved her aesthetic.” And, while she is a relationship expert, Jordana also recognizes what she’s not. “I know what I’m good at and what I’m not good at,” she says with a laugh. “What I’m not good at is décor and bringing a lot of small details together to create a cohesive event. That’s where Patty really shined. I trusted her to make the whole event come together in a beautiful way that reflected our taste.”
It was more than just one party, however. The couple planned a weekend-long affair with three distinct events for their 87 guests to enjoy. “We wanted the weekend to be an experience to take the guests from a super casual welcome party, then elevating and making it more formal for each event,” the bride explains. “Patty worked very hard to make each event unique and special.”
She continues, “Michael and I aren’t super formal. We loved the idea of people being on the sand—shoes off—just dancing, having fun, and hanging out. We tried to create a few different events that would facilitate people from all different parts of our lives socializing and getting to know one another. The wedding was the perfect size for both hanging out with the people you know, but also getting to make a new friend.”
The result was a love fest for the ages, a vibe-y and high-energy bohemian dream. Read on to see how it all went down, as planned by Patty Gonzalez of Love on Top Weddings and photographed by Paulina Bichara of Pbichara Photo.
Guests arrived in Riviera Maya for the three-day affair and were greeted with customized welcome bags packed with goodies and essentials: Mexican candy, sunscreen, Advil, beer, and, naturally, a mini bottle of tequila.
“For the welcome party we went for a very coastal, cozy beach bonfire,” Jordana says of the first night of festivities. “Michael and I were staying in the stunning presidential suite with beachfront access. Guests were able to hang out by the house, garden, or beach area with s’mores and drinks.” Bliss and relaxation were the vibe, but there was one small source of anxiety: “The weather was very erratic the week of our wedding,” Jordana says. “Deciding whether to change to an indoor plan or keep everything outside as we originally intended was probably the most stressful part.” Luckily, the sky stayed clear on night one.
Jordana donned a dress by Bronx and Banco. “Although at first I thought this dress was a bit too formal for a beach bonfire, I decided to get it and dress it down by not wearing any shoes and getting my hair done in a playful ponytail,” she says. “I loved the bottom of the dress—it had a boho beachy vibe.”
The next night was the rehearsal dinner. The theme? Elevated Mexican fiesta. “It was a little bit more formal, but colorful and fun at the same time,” Jordana remembers. “We incorporated string lights with hanging colored pompoms to add movement and attention to the area.” Local blooms like roses and snapdragons popped in vibrant hues, and the menu was Mexican street fare: “Tacos, esquites, and churros, of course!”
Finally, the big day arrived. Jordana gifted her bridesmaids—all 14 of them!—monogramed pajama sets by Eberjey. “They were so great to get ready in as they were comfortable but also looked cohesive for photos,” she says. The bride tribe also received silk Slip sleep masks and scrunchies, and popped Champagne as they primped.
"Before I knew anything else about weddings I knew I wanted a Mira Zwillinger dress,” Jordana says. “I had seen it on a bride years ago and fell in love with it.” She manifested her dream into reality, opting for a low-cut tulle gown with floral embroidery and sequin clusters by the Israeli design house. Jordana had help on the styling front from one of her besties, Liza Lieberman. “Liza does styling and interior design and was honestly my savior during the entire dress-shopping process,” Jordana says. “She came with me to every dress appointment and fitting, and I felt I could really trust her to make sure I looked amazing on the day of the wedding.”
As for beauty, “I wanted to look like myself, but elevated,” Jordana says. “Knowing makeup and hair are not my skills, I put my look entirely in the hands of the Zoë Elizabeth team." Daniel Perez-Astorga took charge on hair and Faral Evenemez on makeup. “I had my trial two days before the wedding at my welcome party and I was so relieved. Especially with the humidity of Mexico and rain, they managed to execute an amazing look that lasted all night.”
Canteiro Weddings crafted a beautiful organic bouquet of white dendrobium roses with a pop of magenta and greenery for the bride. "We didn’t do bridesmaids bouquets or boutonnieres,” Jordana says. “I felt like it didn’t add anything to the vibe and wanted to keep everything feeling less stuffy.”
“Some of my nieces and nephews were flower girls and ring bearers,” says Jordana, who did a fun reveal of her bridal look to her crew of female attendants. “The flower girls wore LaLa Mira A-line dresses in chiffon with sleeveless scoop necks and flowers. I have eight siblings, so we had quite a few nieces in the bridal party. It made the whole event so intimate and special.”
Jordana’s accessories were well-curated and meaningful. “I borrowed Liza’s veil for the ceremony, which was really sentimental since she had helped me through the whole dress shopping process,” she recalls. “The shoes were Stuart Weitzman, but they came off shortly after the first dance, as it quickly became a really fun barefoot event. I rented diamond earrings and a beautiful tennis bracelet from Verstolo. They made that whole process super easy, even when traveling with [the pieces] to Mexico!”
Liza—a bridesmaid herself—stepped in once again to help coordinate the bridal party looks. “She approved every dress within the color scheme, which was a mix of cream, champagne, blush, and nude,” Jordana says. “We asked bridesmaids to pick [fabrications] that would stand out in photos, like beads, silk, sequin embroidery, or a plain fabric with a sheen to it. We wanted a mix of dresses, calf- or floor-length. Liza knew this look would come together in the photos well and it was so nicely executed and looked so cohesive.”
Michael, meanwhile, put his own spin on beach attire. “He had a custom white suit made from Chookhare, who worked with him to give him the elevated beachy vibe we were going for,” Jordana says. He paired the suit with brown Ferragamo shoes, a brown belt, and an heirloom watch of his late uncle’s that had been passed down from his grandfather.
Groomsmen kept it simple and sophisticated in navy suits of their own choosing—many opted for styles from Generation Tux—that complemented the bridesmaids’ attire. “We wanted to keep it simple—white button-down shirts with no ties, brown belts and shoes, no boutonnieres. Socks and cufflinks were optional,” Jordana says. “This all played into the laid-back beachy look we wanted.”
Michael was so overwhelmed with emotion when he saw me. The moment was so beautiful.
They opted for a first look and pre-wedding portraits in order to maximize the time spent with guests at the reception. It didn’t disappoint. “The first look was amazing,” Jordana remembers. “Michael was so overwhelmed with emotion when he saw me. The moment was so beautiful.”
“Mayakoba has this amazing lagoon you can take a boat through,” Jordana says. “Our photographer, Paulina Bichara, has such a good eye for not only photo backdrops but an environment's energy. So, she made sure we had a boat by the lagoon reserved. It was so soothing to be somewhere quiet, surrounded by nature, for these photos right after our first look—it really let us relax and get into the pictures.”
We loved having such a big wedding party because getting ready with our friends and family on our wedding day made it so fun.
“I had 14 bridesmaids and Michael had 13 groomsmen,” Jordana says. “We loved having such a big wedding party because getting ready with our friends and family on our wedding day made it so fun. It was great to be able to spend time with them on the day of before things got really hectic.”
An unexpected moment of calm came right before the wedding. “The hour leading up to the ceremony was a bit chaotic with the rain, and I was definitely stressed," Jordana remembers. "Right before I walked down the aisle, I discovered a card Michael had written for me for our wedding day, just saying how excited he was. He knows how much I love and appreciate a thoughtful handwritten card. It calmed my nerves and reminded me that no matter the weather I was marrying an amazing, thoughtful guy who took the time to do something he knew I would love.”
The couple's vision was “modern and organic meets bohemian,” Jordana says—and the ceremony décor delivered. Natural wood, ivory, and sage tones were accented with a pop of romantic peach. She adds, “We had white wooden cross back chairs for guests, and a floral chuppah.” A custom wooden aisle runner was created so the bridal party's heels didn’t sink into the sand.
The vows were the easiest part for me as I had been thinking about them for years.
“The ceremony was one of the most amazing, personal, intimate parts of the wedding,” Jordana remembers. “My older brothers, who are twins, officiated. They are some of the funniest and sweetest people we know, so I knew immediately when we got engaged that I wanted them to officiate.” She goes on: “They are so creative and made an improvised U Up? Podcast recording to officiate, reading emails as if we had written them to each other. The vows were the easiest part for me as I had been thinking about them for years. Michael’s vows were so funny and personal, and the fact that we had such an intimate guest list meant that everyone was in on all the references. It was the perfect mix of funny and sentimental.”
“It wound up raining during the ceremony, but all the guests were so positive and excited for us, and the temperature was so warm, that what could have been a huge source of anxiety for us turned into no big deal,” Jordana says. “Plus, a rainbow came out in between showers and it really felt like a great sign for not only the rest of the night, but our marriage.” After “I do,” the newlyweds recessed out to “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne.
Like the ceremony, the reception took place in the sand. “We wanted to keep the decor minimal and elegant to keep with that modern boho style—and we really felt the ocean was such a huge presence that we didn’t need to do anything very crazy,” Jordana says. “The expansive beach area was our perfect backdrop for a celebration under the stars.”
Modern touches came through in the tablescape: crystal chargers with gold trim and golden flatware, ivory linen napkins, and green crystal goblets. Floral arrangements featured ivory and white blooms accented with greenery, and were set aglow by flickering pillar candles and votives. “We had hanging lights at different heights to create a starry sky effect covering the reception area and bar,” Jordana adds.
A dance floor was erected overtop the sand, creating the perfect stage for the couple’s first dance to “When I Get My Hands on You” by The New Basement Tapes (they took lessons from pro dancer Maya Sank of Maya Moves to perfect their choreography). After, parents joined on the dance floor. Jordana shares, “We did mother-son and father-daughter dances at the same time, to Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’”
A DJ kept the dance floor packed all night. “The great energy of the wedding guests really exemplified itself in the hora and all the dancing that came during the reception,” Jordana remembers. “Everyone was having a blast and Michael and I got thrown in the air several times—the energy level was just incredible.”
Guests feasted on a family-style dinner—served alongside spicy margaritas and finished with red velvet cake—while loved ones delivered speeches. “The speeches were by far my favorite part,” Jordana recalls. “We have such close friends and family who are also so creative, fun, and kind, that every speech felt like such a special gift.”
After dinner, it was time for a wardrobe change: Jordana slipped into custom design by Karen Sabag. “[Karen] was so amazing putting together a really cool, different after-party look that helped me change the vibe,” Jordana says. “It was a shorter, more danceable look.”
“We surprised guests with fire dancers right before we moved to the after-party; they put on such a great show,” Jordana says. “Also, in a fortuitous twist of events, there were fireworks for both our rehearsal dinner and wedding, making everything even that much more special and exciting.”
As their epic, three-day celebration came to a close, the couple looked back in reflection. “If you have wedding guests who are close to you, supportive, and happy to be there, then it doesn’t matter what goes wrong on your wedding day—and something always will,” Jordana advises other brides. “Just remind yourself of all the love and positive energy and it will help you stay in the moment and focus on the celebration of love and life in front of you.” Next up: Jordana and Michael will head to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in March for their honeymoon—and we can only hope for a marriage-themed podcast on the horizon.
Planner Love on Top Weddings
Bridal Salon Mark Ingram Atelier
Bridal Styling Liza Lieberman
Bride’s Shoes Stuart Weitzman
Hair & Makeup Zoë Elizabeth
Rehearsal Dinner Dress Reformation
Groom’s Attire Chookhare & Sons
Groomsmen’s Attire Generation Tux
Ring Bearer’s Attire Generation Tux
Flower Girl’s Attire LaLa Mira
Engagement Ring Doppelt Diamonds
Wedding Bands Verstolo
Floral Design Canteiro Weddings
Signage La Crafteria
Ketubah Artist The Delicate Brush
Rentals Canteiro Weddings
Music Big Bang Productions
Catering Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya
Videography Frame Wedding Film
Photography Pbichara Photo