A Laid-Back Destination Wedding in Tropical Costa Rica

Sierra and Michael

Jen Huang

For an urban chef and his floral-designer fiancée, a glamorous city wedding is just another day at the office. So when it came time for their big event, they jetted off to Costa Rica's Pacific coast for a laid-back, loved-up week with their nearest and dearest.

The bride wore a custom Ellen's Couture gown. The groom sported J.Crew and a bow tie made by Boutaugh in Los Angeles using a pattern designed by Sierra's friend Stephanie Singer-Eventov.

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The Backstory

Jen Huang

They say you shouldn't mix business with pleasure. But sometimes, fate doesn't leave you any choice. Case in point: Sierra Yaun and Michael Steifman. Back in 2009, Sierra, a co-owner and designer at Poppies & Posies, a floral and event company in New York, brought her clients to a tasting at Michael Stuart New York, a catering firm specializing in farm-to-table food. Michael, the chef and owner, took one look at Sierra and fell—hard. "I'm a sucker for a girl in boots," he says. She tried to keep things professional, but over six months of planning meetings, she says, "It became obvious that we liked each other." The night after their clients' wedding, Michael invited her to dinner. "He cooked for me, and I decided I didn't care about being appropriate anymore," says Sierra. Three years and countless gourmet meals later, he dropped to one knee in their Brooklyn apartment and proposed.

The decision to host a far-flung wedding came just as easily as the Y-E-S. They chose to wed in the most relaxed place they've visited: Costa Rica.

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The Wedding Week

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The pair invited 37 guests to join them for an entire week because, she says, "We've seen how quickly weddings go by; we wanted to use our celebration to spend time with our families and friends." The stationery, by Bryn Chernoff of Paperfinger, were book jackets that held a compass, list of Spanish phrases, and packet of Stuart & Co. spice rub.

Eleven months after getting engaged, the couple and their entourage flew to a rented home in Dominical, Costa Rica. On February 11, 2013 (a Monday!), they tied the knot in an intimate outdoor ceremony at the house. Once married, they led guests out back to a palapa for cocktails, followed by ceviche, fish tacos, and shrimp cooked by the property's chef. "Our goal was to create the best dinner party we'd ever thrown," says Sierra. "And that's exactly what it was."

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A Bountiful Bouquet

Jen Huang

Juliet Totten, Sierra's business partner, used local blooms to create this spray of bougainvilleas, bee bush, hibiscus, and ferns.

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Wonderful Welcome Gifts

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Along with their invites, guests received muslin bags stocked with travel essentials.

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The Engagement Ring

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Michael surprised Sierra by proposing with her grandmother's engagement ring in their Brooklyn apartment. "He took all the traditional steps, which was really nice. He even called my dad," says Sierra.

The vintage velvet ring box, borrowed from her friend, was her "something borrowed."

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All in the Family

Jen Huang

Michael's niece provided ceremony music, surprising the pair with an original song.

"I'll never forget a line from Michael's vows: 'There is no doubt that the thought of spending the rest of my life with you fills me with happiness and optimism,'" said Sierra.

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Friends and Co-workers

Jen Huang

The couple's friends, including Poppies & Posies co-owner Juliet (center), enjoyed the party.

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All Together Now

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Michael and Sierra posed with their guests outside their rental home in Dominical, Costa Rica.

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The Reception Table

Jen Huang

The table was decked out in blue linen, mercury-glass votive holders, and vintage silverware. Sierra and Michael stuffed six suitcases to the brim with plates, flatware, linens, and décor, to bring down to Costa Rica.

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The Placesettings

Jen Huang

Each place was set with a paper cracker filled with jokes, a paper crown, and confetti.

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Fun and Games

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The ephemera tucked inside each handmade party cracker "were really great ice breakers," says Sierra.

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The Menu

Jen Huang

The mouthwatering meal consisted of mixed ceviche with coconut; fish tacos; guacamole with homemade tortilla chips; barbecue shrimp with rosemary biscuits; Creole meat pies; baked cheese grits; smothered green beans and potatoes; and a salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds. "My family is from Louisiana, so the chef of the house incorporated some Southern flavors," says Sierra.

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Carry-On Cocktails

Jen Huang

A decanter of Maker's Mark, Michael's drink of choice, was just one of the bourbons on offer at the cocktail hour.

Because of customs restrictions on importing alcohol, friends brought duty-free booze to the reception."We had 10 people buy a few bottles of wine, Champagne, and liquor, for about 30 bottles total," said Sierra. "In the end, we had a full bar."

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Festive Sparklers

couple watching fireworks
Jen Huang

In between cocktails and dinner, guests held sparklers as the pair danced to Michael's niece's rendition of "I Walk the Line."

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Dancing in the Moonlight

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The happy couple took their first spin around the dance floor as husband and wife.

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Sweet Treats

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In lieu of a cake, everyone helped themselves to strawberry, vanilla, and caramel ice cream and a smorgasbord of toppings.

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Jen Huang

Location and Catering: Mareas Villas
Floral and Event Design: Poppies & Posies
Photography and Videography: Jen Huang Photography
Stationery and Calligraphy: Paperfinger
Watercolor Menus: Jen Huang Art
Rentals: The Trove
Bride's Gown: Ellen's Couture
Bride's Accessories: J.Crew (shoes); Catbird (earrings)
Groom's Suit: J.Crew
Groom's Accessories: Sperry Top-Sider (shoes); James Christian (wedding band)
Men's Neckwear: Stephanie Singer-Eventov (design); Boutaugh (manufacture)
Hair Tutorial: Styles on B Hair
Make up Tutorial: Jessa Blades

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