A Modern Beach Wedding in the Dominican Republic

Two West Coasters traveled to the Dominican Republic for a modern-meets-the-tropics celebration: Think hand-rolled cigars, mini bottles of rum, and lounge furniture on the beach!

Updated 05/30/13

This content originally appeared as "A Perfect Match" in Brides magazine.

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"I lost a bet and had to go out with 10 gues on Match.com. After my 10th bad date, I was about to cancel my membership. That's when I got a message from Alex," Natalia says.

The rest is history. On October 20, 2012, San Francisco couple Natalia Carvajal and Alex Villamil married at the Puntacana Resort in the Dominican Republic.

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"My Lela Rose gown was tissue-weight silk taffeta—delicate and airy and perfect for the tropics."

To honor her mom, who passed away 10 years ago, Natalia wore jewelry that once belonged to her.

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Welcome baskets filled with fedoras, sun hats, sunglasses, and snacks greeted guests in their hotel rooms.

To get everyone excited for the wedding, they sent each guest a canvas tote bag that read, "Save the date for sun, surf, and sangria!"

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The letterpressed invitations were designed by Aerialist Press.

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"I wore Oscar de la Renta wedge heels to keep from sinking into the sand," Natalia says.

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The bride's bouquet included air plants, dried saracena lilies, balsa-wood flowers, craspedia, orchids, and yellow roses.

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Alex wore a boutonniere of orchids and craspedia wrapped in twine.

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"My family is from Colombia, and Alex's is from the Dominican Republic," said Natalia. "We wanted to get married on the beach, and Punta Cana is one of our all-time-favorite spots."

The couple turned the wedding into a vacation by organizing group activities like a boat ride and a trip to the lagoons.

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Wedding planner Yelena Johnson sourced the custom wooden signs from Etsy seller Lovetheunique.

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"I walked down the aisle to 'Songbird,' by Fleetwood Mac," Natalia says. "It's always been a special song to me, and it was playing at the restaurant when Alex proposed."

Whitewashed wooden lanterns and succulents lined the ceremony aisle.

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Four-year-old flower girl Montserrat, the groom's niece, decided at the last minute to kick off her shoes and walk barefoot down the aisle.

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Natalia's sister Maria officiated the ceremony, and Maria's husband walked the bride down the aisle.

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Chrome vases filled with yellow and white blooms decorated the cocktail-hour tables.

"A lot of flowers we wanted weren't available locally, so our florist used a combination of dried, silk, and imported varieties," Natalia remembers. "The end result was fantastic."

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Modern lounge furniture was set up on the beach so guests could sip cocktails on the sand.

"A storm held off just long enough to have an outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour," according to Natalia. "It started pouring when we went in for dinner, but the weather cleared up in time for us to dance on the beach."

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Mini bottles of rum, with escort cards attached, directed guests to their seats.

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The reception was held at Playa Blanca, a seafood restaurant at the resort.

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Natalia loves clean and modern decor, while Alex prefers a rustic look. They blended their styles at the reception by using burlap table runners, antique-style urns from Anthropologie, and translucent ghost chairs.

"Our wedding planner brought three suitcases of candles and vases," says Natalia. "Four vases broke in transit, but luckily she brought extras!"

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Each place setting was decorated with a menu card and fresh fruit from a local market.

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Before the big day, their florist and planner visited a local market and bought fresh fruit to decorate the tables and cake.

Finding vendors you love in a faraway place can be tough. Natalia and and Alex flew in a florist and hair/makeup artist.

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The couple hired a cigar roller to teach guests about traditional Dominican cigars.

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Natalia and Alex weren't able to do a tasting before the wedding, so they chose a vanilla cake, a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The icing was fondant, which doesn't melt in the heat.

Later, on the dance floor, Natalia underwent an unplanned dress change. "I was sweating like crazy in the Caribbean heat, so on the dance floor I kept hiking up my skirt. Out of nowhere, my wedding planner appeared and started pinning it up with a million safety pins. Then about 20 guests joined in to help. In two minutes, I went from having a ball gown to a miniskirt!"

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