Imagine Audrey Hepburn showing up to Roger Moore’s James Bond movie set in Havana.
That’s the vision Hilary Rushford had for her marriage to Jeremy Collyer in Cartagena, Colombia. “The large backyard, tropical foliage, hanging lights with a pool—it reminded me of parties like in ‘Sabrina’ with a sexy James Bond twist,” Hilary says of first seeing photos of their wedding venue, Casa Pestagua, online. “The vibe, with lots of joyful color and sunshine, felt perfectly us.”
On February 10, 2019, the New York-based couple decided to go for it, hosting a multi-day destination celebration in the South American city for 53 friends and family. The pair had never been to Cartagena, but after discovering Casa Pestagua, a boutique hotel, and the historic church where they would hold their ceremony, Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, they booked a flight. Turns out the real city blew away the photos online. “To picture my dad walking me down that long aisle gave me chills,” admits the bride.
For décor, the couple drew inspiration from Cartagena, including the colorful buildings in hues of marigold and pink, as well as tropical foliage like palm trees and bougainvillea. They worked with a mix of New York City wedding pros and Colombian locals to pull off a number of personalized details, including grand table runners, fashion illustrations that doubled as escort cards, and vocalists during the ceremony. They even adopted the South American tradition of la hora loca, or “crazy hour,” late into the night. It all ended with Hilary and Jeremy—and their guests!—hopping into the pool.
Sounds fun, right?! Keep reading to see every detail of the couple's wedding weekend in Cartagena, as captured by Erich McVey, below.
Everything from Cartagena’s cobblestone streets to the natural foliage and flowers inspired the details of Hilary and Jeremy’s wedding day. Their goal? Pay homage to the destination as well as their love story in New York City.
Hilary and Jeremy used Minted for their modern invitation suite but collaborated with CWS Designs on elaborate paper goods for the welcome bags. Those included an illustrated map of the city, along with a detailed program of the weekend events.
The couple gave their small guest list special attention, commissioning personalized fashion illustrations for each guest. (These were used later on as seat assignments.)
As a nod to the grand parties of novels and film that inspired the day, Jeremy donned a bespoke white dinner jacket and tuxedo pants made by Alton Lane.
The groom completed his look with a Nomos watch (a gift from Hilary), a black bowtie, and velvet loafers.
My dress felt timeless yet modern. The ball gown silhouette felt like something I could never wear again, while the neckline and back kept it feeling sexy and modern.
Hilary knew she wanted a ball gown when she landed on a hand-made lace, long-sleeve dress by Monique Lhuillier. “My dress felt timeless yet modern,” she says. “The ball gown silhouette felt like something I could never wear again, while the neckline and back kept it feeling sexy and modern.”
She paired her lace ball gown with red heels and her mother’s pearl earrings. Fittingly, Hilary’s sister had also worn the earrings for her wedding.
Hilary kept her hair in retro waves for a morning photo shoot with Jeremy before the church ceremony later in the day. During this time, Hilary says they relished in memories, including how they met—at church—and their elopement in France, the destination for their first trip together.
Hilary carried a bougainvillea bouquet for the morning photo session.
Before the ceremony at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Hilary added a cathedral-length veil to her look. She also swapped the hot pink bouquet for a more neutral bundle of white flowers and greenery. (Hello, Lauren Santo Domingo wedding vibes!)
Hilary says she didn’t want Jeremy to stick out in his white jacket, so she had all the groomsmen wear white dinner jackets from Men’s Wearhouse.
The five children who attended the wedding all had special jobs as flower girls and ring bearers. Hilary was excited to find all their adorable outfits on Amazon, then had her florist make the girls flower crowns that matched the bridal bouquet.
Hilary arrived at the church with her father, who walked her down the aisle.
The couple didn’t want to distract from the church’s inherent beauty, so they worked with local florists to add small arrangements of white flowers at the altar.
After walking down the aisle to a soprano singing “Ave Maria,” Hilary shared handwritten vows with Jeremy. The couple, excitedly, were married by their New York City priest.
The couple shared their first kiss before a surprise song for their recessional.
Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” blasted as the newlyweds walked up the aisle together. “We didn't technically ask the priest for permission to play the song,” Hilary admits with a laugh. “Jeremy says that surely we scared some sweet old parishioners who had never heard Whitney played in a cathedral.”
“The exit and parade will forever be some of the best minutes of my life, holding Jeremy’s hand and smiling wildly while we danced through town,” Hilary says of surprising the guests with drummers and dancers for a procession from the church to the reception venue.
The exit and parade will forever be some of the best minutes of my life.
Thanks to the narrowness of the street, passersby joined in on the celebration and tossed celebratory confetti at the happy couple. “It turned out to be the most joyful surprise for us to exit the church to a thong on all sides,” Hilary says.
Hilary’s bridesmaids wore designer gowns from Rent the Runway in vibrant hues inspired by the city. Hilary says it was a fun-filled process, not only to pick fun dresses but the try-on parties she hosted for the women at her home.
Playful illustrations customized to each guest served as escort cards for the reception.
Hilary and Jeremy rented the entire Casa Pestagua for the weekend, so they were able to take over the venue for dinner and dancing. Hilary worked with East Olivia, a floral design agency in New York City, to conceptualize the overflowing arrangements of bougainvillea flowers on each table. “I wish I could swim in them,” Hilary says with a laugh. “They will forever be one of my favorite parts of the day.”
While Hilary admits that flying a florist to South America and hiring a local one to collaborate may sound a bit extreme, she says her trust in the partnership was invaluable. “We had manpower and people who knew the local markets but it was being led by someone who got my vision,” Hilary says. “Both floral teams said they genuinely loved learning from one another.”
The pair chose “Paris in June” by Johnny Swim for their first dance. The song had plenty of meaning: not only did Hilary and Jeremy meet in June, but they took their first trip together to Paris—in June!
The newlyweds enjoyed a multi-course dinner from their sweetheart table as well as sips of their two signature cocktails, a blackberry bourbon concoction, and a watermelon margarita.
Hilary changed into a Michael Kors fringe dress for dancing.
There was a slight flavor mixup in the making of the couple's wedding cake. “We were supposed to have a white coconut cake and a chocolate caramel for guests to choose from,” Hilary explains. “But all the ingredients were put into one cake, so basically it was German chocolate. It was delicious!"
Around midnight, a cast of local musicians and dancers arrived for the "crazy hour," a South American tradition that involves lots of music, props, dancing, and fun. A DJ continued the party, which ultimately culminated in a pool party. “The words that sum us up the most are joy, style, and community,” Hilary says. “Those are the elements we Iooked for to make the day feel like us.”
Ceremony Venue: Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Alexandria || Reception Venue: Casa Pestagua || Bride's Dress: Monique Lhuillier || Bridal Salon & Veil: Mark Ingram Atelier || Bride's Headpiece: Neva Bridal || Bride's Jewelry: BHLDN || Bride's Shoes: Paul Andrew; Loeffler Randall || Reception Dress: Michael Kors || Hair & Makeup: Carlos Torres Salon || Bridesmaid Dresses: Rent the Runway || Groom’s Attire: Alton Lane || Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse || Flower Girl & Ring Bearer Attire: Amazon || Wedding Bands: Catbird || Floral Design: East Olivia || Local Florist: Viva Flor || Invitations: Minted || Paper Goods: CWS Designs; Deanna First || Music: 3Cuerdas; Nelson Gomes Servicios Musicales; DJ Camilo Hernandez || Performers: Afrobatata || Catering: Casa Pestagua || Cake: Ely Reposteria Bakery || Rentals: Alcira de Guevara Eventos || Lighting & Sound: IVC Producciones || Transportation: Wanderlust Colombia || Accommodations: Casa Pestagua; Hotel Ananda || Childcare: Cartagena Nanny || Videography: The Brothers Martens || Photography: Erich McVey