The Christmas Season has always been Emily Saunders’ favorite time of year.
“My husband jokes that we can’t get a tree until December 1, and I can’t start decorating until mid-November,” she laughs. “I’ve always thought, if my future fiancé knows me at all, he will probably propose at Christmas time.”
She didn’t expect it, though. There had been no dramatic gestures or undue nervousness on Rick’s part. After bringing home the Christmas tree that they’d cut down together at a farm, the couple settled in, popped some champagne, and began decorating.
“It was Sunday night, so it was unexpected,” Emily remembers, but there in front of the fireplace, in a simple but romantic fashion, Rick proposed. “It had been a nice kind of day. Being in our house during my favorite time of year – it was exactly for me.”
After celebrating the holidays and their recent engagement, it was clear what the Toronto-based couple wanted to do, but they weren’t sure how or if they could go about it. Rick and Emily had been visiting his aunt and uncle’s home in the Cayman Islands year after year, following the same traditions and visiting their beloved spots. They’d discuss getting married there but they hesitated about planning a pricey destination wedding.
“I was nervous; it feels a little selfish,” Emily says. “People are spending so much time and money.”
But as they talked to friends and family about their engagement, they got nothing but positive feedback on the idea of a destination wedding. The couple booked the first several research trips to Grand Cayman and after another fantastic week on their favorite beaches, they were sold; they decided they would have the wedding there in April of next year.n
The couple planned to spend two weeks in Cayman, and most of their guests would stay for five days. They contracted wedding planner Elina Zavala of Parfait Cayman to coordinate the effort.
One hundred and fifty guests flew in from all over the United States, Toronto, Vancouver, London, Ireland, and Luxembourg, to their final destination for the week: the beachfront Plantana Condominiums. Emily and Rick hosted a casual, Caribbean-style rehearsal dinner for 130 on the beach at the condos.
“The thing that was the most important to both of us was that we made all of our decisions with guests in mind,” Emily says.
To that end, the couple planned to hold the ceremony and reception at the same location, and instructed guests to wear summer dresses and shorts.
“We did a first look so guests didn’t have this massive gap between the wedding and reception, and we weren’t getting married at 2 p.m. in the blazing sun,” Emily says.
The bride, groom, family, and bridal party gathered to take photos with Rebecca Davidson of Rebecca Davidson Photography during the early afternoon.
“She was incredible,” says Emily. “You want to be her friend by the end of it. She’s so fun, did everything extremely quickly, and yet was able to get a ton of amazing photos.”
At 5 p.m., guests boarded chartered buses, while Emily hopped into a 1950s pink Chevy convertible to go to Tiki Beach, where the wedding was to be held. They didn’t want to detract too much from the natural setting, but rented some simple white chairs, tables, and an altar from Trisha’s Roses, which also provided floral arrangements for the event. After guests were seated in the beachside straw hut at Tiki Beach, Emily’s brother began to play the acoustic guitar as the bridal party walked down the aisle. The couple opted for a quick, 20-minute ceremony.
After the ceremony, Emily and Rick hosted a cocktail hour with appetizers, followed by the reception. The did their first dance immediately when the reception started to Bob Marley’s “Is This Love,” and as the night continued, they dined as guests gave speeches. The wedding guests also enjoyed two humorous emcees, friends of the couple who kept the evening’s program moving.
In keeping with the casual style of the event, the couple opted to host a reception that would include both a full bar, and a buffet style dinner.
“Tiki Beach recommended a buffet style – they really excel at that,” Emily says. “They served jerk chicken, a beef option, mahi mahi, and a ton of different sides, including Caribbean and more traditional selections.
After they had finished eating, the couple lead the charge out to the dance floor, which was not really a floor at all. “Tiki Beach said ‘we typically set up a dance floor’ and my husband said, ‘no we want to have people dancing directly on the beach,’” Emily recalls. “My uncle came up to me and said, ‘this is amazing, I’ve never danced in the sand before!’”
With their growing family in their hearts, and sand in their toes, the couple and their 130 guests danced to the tunes of DJ Craig from One World Entertainment Services as they celebrated the capstone event of the weeklong trip.
The next day, the couple allowed guests to catch up on rest, but on Sunday, they wanted guests to join them for one of their favorite traditions. They rented boats and took more than 100 guests to Stingray City and Rum Point. It was admittedly a “fairly touristy thing to do, but you just have to do it when you go to Cayman,” Emily says. “It has the most turquoise blue waters, and there’s huge stingrays all around you.”
They joined up with their aunt and uncle, as well as some of their friends, and marveled at their family and friends’ happiness as they were served Jamaican patties and sandwiches as they waded in the water. Upon observing the moment, they knew they had planned the right sort of wedding for themselves and the people they wanted to share it with.
“That was probably one of the best moments: watching our dream turn into a reality, and seeing everyone so happy,” Emily recalls. “It wasn’t about us; it was about everyone else.”
The risk paid off. A destination wedding brought the two, and their families, together. At the end of the week, on the last dinner before most family left, an uncle approached her and said the words that made it all worth it: “This wedding was so much more than a wedding. It was a family reunion.”
Rum Point Club
HAIR & MAKEUP
Jimmie DeLoach of DeLoach Enterprises
Elina Zavala of Parfrait
Red Sail Sports
Daria Keenan of Picture This Studios