A Formal & Festive Destination Wedding in Riviera Maya, Mexico

Gaia Photo Studio

A love of travel is what brought Whitney Leipzig and Ross Spielfogel, both 29, together. They both studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, though even their network of mutual friends failed to connect them until they'd both returned to the States and got in touch on Facebook. More flight time ensued as their long distance relationship had the duo going back and forth between New York and Florida until Ross made the move and joined Whitney in the Big Apple.

In 2011, Ross planned a weekend trip to New Orleans, telling Whitney to dress nicely for their flight so they could go straight to dinner upon arrival. As they arrived at JFK's jetBlue terminal, Ross asked Whitney for his Blackberry, which he swore he'd given her to hold. As she dug around in her bag in the middle of the busy check-in area, Ross grabbed her hand and got down on one knee. "After all my suspicions about a proposal, he still managed to surprise me," Whitney says. The trip turned out to be a ruse, but the limo full of family members waiting outside the terminal carried the couple to a celebration worthy of Ross's scheme.

It's no wonder, then, that this jet-setting couple chose to host a destination wedding in Mexico on the weekend of December 8th, 2012. Read on to see how all the beachy, South of the Border details came together.

"We wanted all of our guests to stay at the resort with us so they could celebrate with us all weekend," says Whitney. They chose the Rosewood Mayakoba, with suites arranged along winding lagoons and a mile-long stretch of soft sand.

Guests joined the couple for three major events: the Friday night Fiesta, Saturday wedding, and Sunday brunch. Ross and Whitney's invitation suite, in ivory, silver, and turquoise, reflected the resort's color scheme and pristine waters.

Whitney doubled her dose of sparkle with two pairs of glittering shoes: Jimmy Choo sling-backs and silver Christian Louboutin pumps.

Whitney donned a lace Vera Wang gown, accented with a shimmering belt. Her white-and-pink bouquet of Calla lilies, roses, ranunculus, and parrot tulips was tied with a piece of lace from her grandmother's wedding dress, and studded with brooches. "I loaned the brooches to my Maid of Honor as the 'something borrowed' for her wedding," says Whitney. Ross wore a classic Hugo Boss tuxedo, which he paired with his great grandfather's watch and cufflinks.

As the sun set over Mexico, Ross and Whitney signed their hand-painted ketubah. "The artist incorporated birds, vines, and flowers into the design to match the resort," says the bride.

The ceremony took place overlooking the lagoon, under a natural wood chuppah draped in flowers. Crystal chandeliers cast a warm glow over the ceremony. "I'll always remember the expression on Ross's face as we locked eyes on my way down the aisle," Whitney says. Little did he know, she had a surprise in store for him during their first kiss!

"I still can't believe I was able to keep the fireworks a secret," says Whitney.

Instead of traditional place cards, guests names were carved into limestone rocks, matching the material used to construct the resort. "I wanted our guests to have something special to remember the wedding by instead of just another tchotchke," Whitney explains.

The couple skipped the guest book in favor of a beautiful globe. Guests were encouraged to leave them a message on the globe's surface.

The open-air reception allowed guests to enjoy Riviera Maya's warm ocean breeze all evening. Centerpieces overflowed with pink and purple roses, orchids, and greenery. "We kept the centerpieces either very high or very low so everyone could see across the table," says Whitney. Candles in mercury holders lit the room as night fell.

No Mexican wedding would be complete without tequila or a mariachi band! "We wanted guests to be able to sample different types, so we set up a tequila bar," says Whitney. "Not to mention our five specialty cocktails!"

The mariachi band played during cocktail hour, before a DJ and live musicians took over to get the party started.

Ross and Whitney surprised their guests with a choreographed first dance. "I changed into a shorter dress so I could do all the moves," she says. After starting off the dance to One Republic's "Good Life," the song changed to "You're the One that I Want" from Grease. "We were both so into it, lip-syncing the whole thing," Whitney remembers. "The crowd was roaring!"

The white floral wedding cake was dusted with pearl shimmer to make it glow. Inside, pink champagne cake was layered with chocolate buttercream and fresh strawberries.

At midnight, the reception ended and guests poured out onto the beach for the after-party. "It was supposed to end at 2 a.m., but everyone was having too much fun," remembers Whitney. "My father-in-law, who speaks fluent Spanish, convinced the beach officials, vendors and resort team to extend the music, food, and fun until 4!"

Guests were treated to hand-rolled cigars, s'mores, and a performance by fire dancers as they partied on the colored dance floor and nibbled on a bevy of sweet treats. "We had so much fun that Ross and I almost missed the Farewell Brunch on Sunday," says Whitney. "Thank goodness our parents stopped by to knock on the door!"

The couple spent another week at the resort after the wedding, enjoying newly-wedded bliss. For their first anniversary, they boarded yet another plane and took their official honeymoon to South Africa and Zanzibar. "I loved having something to look forward to and plan in the months after the wedding," Whitney says.

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Rosewood Mayakoba || Wedding Planner: Arianna Iturralde of Rosewood Mayakoba || Bride's Wedding Dress & Veil: Vera Wang || Shoes: Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin || Jewelry: Family heirlooms || Hair & Makeup: The Makeup Pros || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Amsale, from Bella Bridesmaids || Groom's Tuxedo: Hugo Boss || Groomsmen's Tuxedos: Black by Vera Wang || Mother of the Bride's Dress: Custom design by Runway Couture || Wedding Rings: Fountains Jewelers || Florist: Vanessa Jaimes Floral Design || Save the Dates: Serendipity Beyond Design || Invitations & Paper Goods: Zenadia Design || Place Cards/Favors: Engraved Stones Direct || Globe Calligraphy: Hil-ink || Music: Big Bang Productions || Catering: Rosewood Mayakoba || Cake: Zaida Marcos || Rentals: Furniture - Planner 1 Events, Linens - Table Wraps, || Aisle Runner: The Original Runner Company || Lighting: PSAV || Fireworks: Promedsa Cancun || Ketubah: Judaica Art by Bohne Leah || Welcome Bags: Wedding Chicks || Accommodations: Rosewood Mayakoba || Photography: Gaia Photo Studio

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