You’d never guess that today’s featured couple hit some major roadblocks during their planning process because every photo captured by Magi at Magdalena Photography is simply perfection. Unfortunately, their journey to “I do,” was filled with major tests of this couple’s strength – but they prevailed, and their story of perseverance and resilience gives me goosebumps. The bride suffered the unimaginable sudden loss of her father just months before their planned wedding–and just three weeks later, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, where Erica and Clayton originally planned to wed.
I’ll tell you what though – plan B looked good on these two. The calm waters and white sand of Key Largo served as the loveliest canvas for a gorgeous destination wedding. I absolutely adore the simplicity of their décor: the white linens blowing in the breeze, the palm frond lined aisle sprinkled with white flowers, twinkling string lights, and the little bits of peach in the flowers and décor that pop against the aqua of the bridal party’s attire.
Erica and Clayton just have one of those “feel good” stories you see in the movies that has you rooting for them. They met as kids, grew up as friends, and finally decided to spend forever together. They’re each so thoughtful, and it’s apparent in every detail of this wedding. The proposal story alone had me convinced these two knew how to plan an exciting party, and this lovely beachside wedding proved me right!
Q&A with the Bride
How Did you Meet?
We met as freshmen [in High School]. We were always in the same group of friends, hanging out when we were home for summers and breaks from school. Senior year of college we decided to take the leap from friendship to something more and it was the best decision we ever made. We got engaged 4 and a half years later!
Tell us About Your Proposal
Clayton, my friends and family were all in on the surprise! Clayton knew how important pictures were to me and knew I would want the moment captured. He worked with Sam, my best friend to formulate a plan. I had been wanting to get family photos done for my mom and Sam knew this so it was the perfect cover-up! Magi posted a “give-away” for family photos and I was the lucky winner!
We planned a weekend in November with Magi to get photos done on the beach. Halfway through the pictures, Magi suggested Clayton and I get some solo pictures done and that’s when he walked me down to the water to pop the question! My mom, brother, and dad, as well as Clayton’s mom, were all there to witness the proposal! Minutes later I saw a group of people running on the beach wearing matching shirts! It was all our best friends and our closest family! I could not have been more caught off guard in the best possible way! After the proposal, we went back to Clayton’s mom’s house where an engagement party was set up and more family and friends joined! BEST PROPOSAL EVER—but hey I’m biased! haha
Tell us About Your Destination Wedding in Key Largo
Our wedding in Key Largo was actually the second wedding we planned within the same year. We planned a destination wedding inPuerto Rico (one of our favorite vacation spots) in January 2018. In August 2017 our lives were turned upside down when my father suddenly passed away. Three weeks following his passing Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. To say we had a lot on our plate is an understatement. Plans were up in the air for the next several weeks as we were grieving my loss and trying to decipher whether we should hold out hope for our Puerto Rican wedding or come up with “plan B”.
Throughout all these trials we had an unwavering support system. My mom and best friend, Sam continually did research on other wedding venues and locations (including multiple states and countries!) and found Key Largo Lighthouse Beach in Key Largo, Fl. The venue provided us with the same “vibe” as our wedding in Puerto Rico. It had beautiful weather with a property to host our family and friends for multiple days of relaxing and celebrating together!
We wanted a venue where we could maximize our time with our guests and that’s what this venue allowed! We were able to have a rehearsal dinner and “welcome party” Friday night, the wedding Saturday, and have all our guests back to the property on Sunday for a relaxing day followed by a SuperBowl party! Our wedding had an added “cherry on top” moment when the Eagles won their first SuperBowl! My dad was a HUGE Eagles fan so we like to look at it as an extra little sign he gave us that weekend.
Why did you choose your photographer/videographer to capture your day? How did they enhance your day?
Even before we were engaged we knew we wanted Magi as our wedding photographer! Her work speaks for itself! Her pictures are light and bright and evoke a feeling of warmth and happiness. We were always drawn to her pictures and knew she did a fantastic job. But then you meet Magi and it’s like “okay, she’s the sweetest person ever now we NEED her to do our wedding” haha.
Taking great pictures is one thing but we knew we also wanted to pick someone we truly enjoyed hangout out with. Your photographer is with you on one of the most important days of your life during your most intimate moments…getting dressed with your mom, reading letters from loved ones and first looks….just to name a few. The hard part was making sure she would not mind traveling because we knew we wanted a destination wedding. Lucky for us she not only agreed to travel with us for our wedding in Puerto Rico but when that was canceled after Hurricane Maria, she was ALSO available for our new wedding date in Key Largo! We lucked out big time!
My mother hired the videographer as a wedding gift for us! She knew it was not in our budget but that we really wanted one and surprised us a few weeks before the wedding calling us one night to tell us it was all booked!
What was your favorite moment of the day?
We had the hardest time deciding on our first dance song because we were between two options. We finally decided we didn’t have to pick just one song! Our friend made a mashup of the two songs we loved and for fun added another one of our favorite more upbeat songs at the end! We surprised our guests by having them join us on the dance floor for the third portion of our first dance song!
I had a special moment with my brother. Since our dad had passed he was walking me down the aisle and we both knew it would be incredibly emotional. We did a first look before the ceremony and were able to share that special moment together!
Tips and Advice for Other Couples Planning a Destination Wedding
I think our biggest word of advice is if you are thinking of doing a destination wedding it is 110% worth it! The best part of a destination wedding is the amount of quality time you get to spend with your guests. After talking with many brides and grooms I know many say the day feels like a blur.
There are so many structured parts of the wedding on top of wanting to talk to and thank everyone that came to support and celebrate with you. We did not feel that same pressure to “make rounds” after dinner since we saw many of our guests Friday night and knew we would also see them on Sunday after the wedding! It was a giant vacation with all of our family and friends and we had so much time to make memories with everyone!
Enjoy the whole process! It’s not always easy but when it’s all said and done you will miss it! Let’s face it—we all only want to get married once so go into it with a once-in-a-lifetime perspective!
Did You Take Another Trip for Your Honeymoon After the Destination Wedding?
We traveled down to Key West for 5 days after the wedding. If you’ve never been Key West is a BLAST! I would definitely recommend some type of trip after your wedding even if it is just for a long weekend or a few days. After the stresses you may encounter throughout your wedding process it is nice to have a few days alone taking in the wedding happiness’s together. We reflected on the wedding whirlwind and it was so nice to get to sit and relax without having something wedding related on our to-do list other than getting another drink at the bar!
Photographer: Magdalena Studios
Venue: Key Largo Lighthouse Beach
Bridal Gown: Hayley Paige
Dress Store: Jennifers Bridal in Hockessin Delaware
Shoes: Betsey Johnson
Hair Accessories: Fresh flowers to match bouquet
Jewelry: I wore a bracelet my mother gave me for my 28th birthday. It has gold and my birthstone which is blue, for my something blue.
Makeup: Elaine Hampson
Groom’s Attire: Pants from Brooks Brothers and shirt from Alfani
Bridesmaid’s Attire: Dessy Group
Wedding Planner/Stylist: Cate Tenopir Events
Flowers & Rentals: Linens & More Florida Keys
Cake: We didn’t have cake—we did donuts (a mini-wall to be exact!) from Publix which were delicious
Paper Goods: All save the dates, invitations, and thank-yous from Minted!
DJ: MBC Entertainment