My husband and I were married on a beautiful fall day in 2009. It was chilly, but the leaves were beautiful. I had H1N1 with a fever of 103.8 when I walked down the aisle. We didn’t realize of course just how sick I was then, but suffice it to say, I did not feel BRIDAL by any stretch of the imagination. Everything else went fairly well and we were MARRIED. It wasn’t until shortly after the wedding that I regretted not being able to feel like a bride and that my memories of the day were so foggy because I was so feverish. A vow renewal was something of course we were not considering then because we were newly weds and were just getting into the swing of things the first year, we didn’t even plan a Honeymoon right away because we knew we wanted to find the right place and save up for an amazing trip.
Then life happened, we bought a house, both changed jobs, and things just got BUSY. No honeymoon was ever taken.
Here’s where I get real with you, you ready for it? Good cause here we go…Marriage is not easy. Not even a little. You will fight. You will wonder why in the world you agreed to be with this human for FOREVER. You will say things you regret. You will send the other to sleep in the guest bedroom. You will need a night out with your pals. You will CHANGE. That’s the biggest one, you will change. You both will. You’ll be shaped by experiences and traumas and all of the things that life brings. I promise that even a few years after you get married you’ll look back at life when you were planning your wedding and getting married and you will be in awe of who you were then and who you are now and how your relationship has changed. It is one of my favorite parts about marriage and also the most challenging. It’s why many of you have received wedding cards from me with the saying “may today be the day you love each other the least”, because it is true.
Making your relationship last should be celebrated. Plain and simple. Because it’s hard.
When we finally got around to being able to plan our Honeymoon which was set to coincide with our 4 year anniversary we had narrowed our dream destination list down to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. While planning our wedding I had seen an ad online for a BEAUTIFUL resort in Jamaica and had it bookmarked on my computer for years, but I sure it was out of our budget, on a whim I asked our travel agent to send me the price for Secrets St. James in Montego Bay. When the price came back at just a few hundred more than the other two resorts we had been looking at, we went for it. You know how you’re just sure nothing is ever as good as it looks online and you kind of prepare yourself for some let downs? Like the water can not POSSIBLY be that blue, and there’s no way that’s what the food looks like, RIGHT?! That was not the case for this resort. It was paradise. Truly. Beyond all our expectations. The Secrets resorts are part of the AMResorts brand and are truly top notch. Secrets are Adults only and exude romance in a way that is refined and not cheesy like some other resorts. I am not kidding when I say that all the AMResorts that we have been too all over the world are the most incredibly maintained properties with the most wonderful staff members and managers. The landscaping alone is breathtaking. Secrets St James and Wild Orchid share the same property in Montego Bay and are a mere 15 minutes from the airport. Beautiful water, sweeping views of the sea and the mountains, thoughtful staff, comfy beds, delicious food, bottomless champagne, what could be better?!
After our second trip to the resort for our 6 year anniversary we knew we’d be celebrating our 10 year at Secrets St. James and renewing our vows there. It sounds like a decision one would make after a very mature conversation with one’s spouse, but in reality the decision was made after I bawled to my husband after a few (and by that I mean a few too many..if that’s a thing…) Island Paradise cocktails and told him I just wanted to “wear a pretty dress and tell him I love him with our friends and family in our favorite place and actually remember it”. Romantic. I know. I wanted the wedding day feels I never got because of H1N1.
We used our incredible travel agent Kate from Kate’s Travel to help plan our trip and make it easy for all of our invited guests to book their trip. She makes it so simple by providing you with a link that you can send to your guests so that they can see the resort information and get a quote for the types of rooms available as well as flights for the dates each guest would like to attend and allows for a payment plan. I truly cannot tell you how wonderful this was for our guests, some of which (including my husband’s parents) whom had never been out of the country and would not have been able to do so without the ease of using Kate’s Travel. She is helpful and knowledgable and is there for you every step of the way. We love Kate!
The wedding planning team at Secrets was kind and more than accommodating when I wanted my ceremony in a different location than usual, and my chairs arranged in a semi circle with the aisle down the middle, and didn’t seem at all annoyed that I sent them a diagram of the ceremony layout using an aerial image of the resort, and a few other particular requests that were a bit out of the ordinary, because of course when you plan weddings for a living and are familiar with the resort, you just plan things a little differently. However when I offered that my husband and I could just set things up before the ceremony they shot me down haha! I couldn’t even help myself I literally said “please let me know if we can help you, I don’t want to make your staff do all the work”. I’m sure they got quite a laugh and were wondering what kind of crazy person they were dealing with. I’m always so hands on on wedding days I didn’t expect that this would be different. The resort truly handled everything beautifully and made the process a breeze. We did things pretty plain and simple and selected the vow renewal package they offer through the resort which includes the Minister for the ceremony, two chairs (because I’m sure most people don’t bring a whole flock for a vow renewal but our circle loves to travel), a bouquet and bout (which I decided not to get because I just wasn’t sure I wanted a bouquet), and a few other details. I only had to pay for the additional chairs for our guests, the bottles of champagne, and the reservations and seating arrangements for dinner. I cannot tell you enough how flawlessly the staff at Secrets handled the planning and set up.
The vow renewal day arrived and we spent most of the day hanging on the beach and in the pool with our friends and family that had made the journey to celebrate with us. In Jamaica in October it typically rains a bit and the day of our ceremony was no exception. It POURED while I was getting ready for the ceremony with my friends and fam and I am not kidding right up until the moment we had to leave the suite to go to the ceremony space it was pouring. My naturally curly hair made styling it into something presentable with the humidity a challenge but I managed ok, I did forget my lipstick in the US though so Kaylie (a former ATE bride) hooked me up with hers. I was SO NERVOUS the whole time I was preparing. I felt a million butterflies and was lightheaded, as cliche as it sounds I suspect I would have felt the same on my wedding day had I not been so sick. Once I was ready to go and had slipped on my gown, rose gold accessories and rose gold Havaianas it was TIME. The day I’d waited for for 10 years. The day I was going to stand on a beach next to the Caribbean and tell my husband how much I love him in front of our family and friends (and actually remember it) arrived. We did it.
As my girl squad and I were leaving the building the Secrets staff was full blown running to us with umbrellas and a golf cart, as a wedding planner I appreciated this effort big time, however we declined the lift as we wanted to take some photos along the way. Speaking of photos- shout out to my babe Shelby for picking up on my crash course in using my DSLR on manual and capturing most of the pics you see in this blog for us.
I arrived at the ceremony site and found it perfectly set up and our family and friends seated. We had chilled champagne and Red Stripe for our guests during the ceremony because it’s hot and humid even in October. The Secrets resort wedding coordinator helped me hide behind some large palms until the music for the processional started because my husband had not seen me or the dress yet. The music started and I had to fight back the tears. We used our Bose soundlink speaker we brought along and our friend Bob ran the Spotify playlist as the DJ. It was perfect. I walked down the aisle barefoot to A Million Dreams from the film The Greatest Showman performed by Pink. I chose to not carry a bouquet and carried my vow book instead, a wise choice since the rain had made the sand soft and I had to hold up my dress as my feet sunk into the damp, cool sand. All the while the rain clouds loomed but did not spill a drop somehow.
The ceremony was performed by a local Minister and was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I have ever been a part of. He had never even met us and spoke to us each separately before it began and yet it could not have been more perfect. He was kind and funny. He had even asked us each for our wedding rings prior to the ceremony. I don’t know what I was expecting from the ceremony but it was so much more meaningful than I anticipated. We said the traditional vows, exchanged rings, and read our vows which we had written to one another (I would like to point out that I held back the tears much longer than my husband for this part).
We shared our first kiss as RENEWLY WEDS and walked back down the aisle to Let’s Go Crazy by Prince (because we are from Minnesota after all so what else would we walk out to but Prince?!) and the cheering from people all around the resort and our friends and family.
We toasted with our friends and family and sipped champagne and took some photos while Ben’s sister and her husband signed as witnesses on our renewal of vows certificate. Then we headed to do some quick photos while our guests hung out on the beach.
When we returned from photos we did a casual first dance barefoot in the sand to Speechless by Dan+Shay. It was a dream. We snapped more pics and just enjoyed our time with friends near the ocean before heading to dinner, and one of the most incredible moments was when a huge stingray came super close to shore! We had seen them before out snorkeling of course but I had never seen one come so close to shore that you could see it from the beach in all the times we’ve been to this resort. It was a cool experience for our guests and something I’ll never forget. The clouds also cleared by the time the sun set and it was the most beautiful sunset ever (that I don’t have pics of except on my cell phone lol).
The resort wedding planner had helped us arrange dinner reservations at Oceana which is a mostly outdoor restaurant and features seafood and other fare (for people like me who are giant babies and don’t eat seafood). It was the perfect meal to share together and the setting could not have been more beautiful. We then headed to the Barracuda Bar on the resort which is a sports bar that broadcasts the NFL games and happens to be run in the evenings by one of our favorite Secrets staff members Everett whom we had met on our first trip (ask me sometime about how he made my husband cry the first time we came to Secrets, it’s a pretty hilarious story, and for context he was working at one of the swim up bars on our first few trips to Secrets) and was even able to attend our ceremony! After our delicious dinner, We spent the evening with our guests on the swings around the bar (because why have bar stools when you can have swings instead?!) watching the MN VIKINGS! It was perfect. We love the Vikings and often spend our anniversary at a game if we haven’t traveled (every other year we travel and usually to Secrets St James).
Ultimately this was exactly the trip we had dreamed of and renewing our vows was so special to us and that was only magnified by the surroundings and people we had with us. I truly believe that everyone should renew their vows at least once in the course of their marriage. It brought our relationship back into focus and was one of the most meaningful things we have ever done as a couple.
Here’s to the next 10 Benny Boo Boo.
And the usual overshare of photos:
Venue/Accommodations: Secrets St. James- Montego Bay, Jamaica
Travel Arrangements: Kate’s Travel
Planning: Amber Terese Events
Gown: David’s Bridal