When Gaby Arriaga was introduced to Jake Smith at her 18th birthday party through mutual friends, she barely spoke to him all night. But a few months later, the two became friends and stayed in touch throughout their next few years at Texas A&M University. Once they left college in 2017, their friendship blossomed into something more.
Gaby planned an elaborate birthday party for Jake at his friend’s farm in Tyler, Texas with 50 of their closest friends in April 2021. “I even made t-shirts and koozies for this thing,” Gaby remembers. Tyler took advantage of having everyone together and planned an elaborate proposal at the party for Gaby. “It was a good plan because it was the only way to keep me busy and not guess what he was up to,” Gaby says. “Our families surprised us that day and we had a crawfish boil and barbecue to celebrate. It was awesome.”
Gaby and Jake vacation in Mexico often, so they knew they wanted to immerse their guests in Mexican culture and share their love of the country with them at a destination wedding. “We had a really big turn out because I think people have been antsy to travel and see new things after a couple of years of lockdown,” Ganu says, “So we wanted to give them the full experience with the décor, art, Mexican traditions, colors, music, and food.”
The couple trusted Val Valez of Penzi Weddings to help them accommodate 140 guests in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and plan a colorful wedding at Instituto Allende, the art institute in San Miguel. Read ahead to see the breathtaking highlights, as photographed by Sarah Slover Photography.
Gaby and Jake worked with Perfect Press to create an invitation suite that featured custom illustrations of their venue, the traditional Mexican street parade, and a map of San Miguel. Gaby and Jake chose bright yellow and red envelopes to incorporate the vibrancy of Mexico and finished the suite with Mexican themed stamps. The couple made sure their wedding website had all the information their guests needed to know. “San Miguel is in a remote location and it took a lot of coordination to make our guests feel comfortable,” the bride says, “We had eight room blocks because the hotels are small there, a list of golf courses, spas, restaurants, and bars.”
I wanted to leave Jake speechless.
Gaby says her wedding dress was one of the biggest priorities in her wedding day planning. “I wanted to leave Jake speechless,” she says. After trying on countless beautiful gowns, her dress consultant disappeared to the back and pulled out a crepe mermaid cut Pronovias gown with a chapel train and silver branch beading with white leaves tracing the neckline and bust. “It was a no brainer,” she says, “Between the silk silhouette, open back and the dramatic train, I think I accomplished my goal because Jake loved it!” She went with some sensible block heels to tackle the cobblestones and hills of San Miguel and changed into glittery Betsey Johnson sneakers to dance into for the reception.
Gaby accessorized her bridal look with a diamond tennis bracelet she borrowed from Jake’s grandmother that all her granddaughter’s wear to their weddings. “It was such a sweet moment when she came to our house before the wedding and surprised me with it,” Gaby says. She decided to wear her hair up to showcase the back of her gown and finished with a classic pink manicure and Le Labo Santal 33 fragrance. For a fun start to the day, the bride did a first look with her bridesmaids.
Jake went simple and classic in a Calvin Klein black tuxedo. He wore his wedding band, which was his dad’s first wedding ring that he had resized. “ It was very sweet and special of his dad to pass it down to him,” Gaby says. When asked how Jake prepped the day of the wedding, Gaby says, “Cerveza and a shower!”
Gaby and Jake shared a first look before the ceremony began. “I knew I would be too excited after the ceremony to stand around and take pictures with everyone so we did a first look and took the majority of wedding pictures before the ceremony,” Gaby says.
The couple also used this time to read personal vows to each other and keep that moment special between the two of them. “It was so sweet,” Gaby says.
Gaby had 11 bridesmaids, including her sister as her Matron of Honor and her best friend as her Maid of Honor. She asked the girls to choose between four Jenny Yoo dresses in the color rust. “I wanted them to feel comfortable in a style that fit their bodies best,” she says. While Gaby held a hanging white orchid bouquet, her wedding party held colorful bouquets that matched the flowers used in the ceremony and reception decor. Jake had six groomsmen, including his best man, Colin. The guys matched him in classic Calvin Klein tuxedos with boutonnieres that included a peach rose accented with some greenery.
The couple’s ceremony took place in the venue’s courtyard, where the fountain was covered in petals and decorated with roses in shades of orange, pink, red, and rust. Gaby’s parents surprised them on the wedding day with an enormous flower arch as the ceremony focal point. The florals included roses, bougainvillea, scabiosas, eucalyptus, lisianthus, and hibiscus.
The couple hired a string trio for the ceremony and Gaby’s parents surprised them by adding a singer. Jake and the wedding party walked down the aisle to Canon in D, and Gaby made her way down the aisle accompanied by her father to “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Gaby’s family has a tradition where they pray as a family during the ceremony to “Ava Maria,” so they made sure the string trio incorporated that into their ceremony as well.
I loved how it was unique and customized to us.
Jake’s dad took on the special role of officiant. “He gathered quotes from our closest friends and families and shared them with us and our guests at the ceremony,” Gaby says. “I loved how it was unique and customized to us.” Gaby and Jake exchanged traditional vows in front of their guests and were pronounced husband and wife. The musicians played Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” for the recessional.
The couple embraced the Mexican tradition of La Callejoneada, or a parade led by a mariachi band after the wedding ceremony. Gaby, Jake, and their guests, were led through the streets of San Miguel by a mariachi band, donkeys decorated in vibrant florals, special signs, and people in oversized bride and groom costumes.
At the cocktail hour, guests were served ceviche tostadas, mini tamales, and tacos. Gaby and Jake also served signature tamarind mezcal cocktails called “The Winston” as a nod to their chocolate lab.
The reception space was filled with hanging flower installations and illuminated morovian stars. Dark round and long tables were set up for dinner. Gold-rimmed chargers were paired with pale rust linen napkins, gold silverware, and a small morovian star that was at each place setting. The bride’s friend hand-painted menus for each guest as the finishing touch.
Gaby and Jake wanted to highlight the rarity of their venue as much as possible. “The artwork added so much history and character to the venue—we decided to highlight it with lighting and candles,” the bride says. They made sure to grab portraits in picturesque areas throughout the reception space.
The couple danced the night away to a variety of American classics and Latin music to appeal to all of their guests. “The venue literally kicked us out at the end of the night and no one wanted to leave,” Gaby says. “That’s the sign of a good party!” At the end of the night, Gaby and Jake had a sparkler sendoff with their guests before going off on their honeymoon in Tulum, Mexico.
To couples planning their wedding, Gaby and Jake recommend disregarding other opinions. “If you want a destination wedding, do it!” Gaby says. “Your friends and family will make an effort to come and if they can’t be there—don’t sweat it. Be understanding and gracious but do it how you want to! It’s your day!”
Venue Instituto Allende
Planning, Catering, and Flowers Penzi Weddings
Bride’s Gown Pronovias
Bride’s Shoes Betsey Johnson
Bride’s Fragrance Le Labo
Groom’s and Groomsmen’s Attire Calvin Klein
Bridesmaids Dresses Jenny Yoo
Invitations Perfect Press
Paper Goods Alex Micah Art
Videographer Pepperming Wedding Films
Photographer Sarah Slover Photography