This Couple Returned to Mexico—Where Their Relationship Began—for Their Intimate, Bohemian Wedding Weekend by the Water
When Kevin McGaughey saw Haylie Ahart in his sophomore communications class at James Madison University, it wasn't the first time he'd spotted the beauty on campus. "I knew exactly who she was as I had been referring to her to all my friends as 'the hot girl on the quad' since freshman year," he says. Haylie, for her part, quickly developed a crush on her classmate, and introduced herself at a rooftop party during summer semester. "We were friends for two years after that, and in 2014, we officially began dating," shares Kevin.
The couple got engaged in 2019 during their four-year anniversary trip in Belize. "After dinner in town, Kevin suggested we go to the end of the pier at our resort to drink, chat, and take in the view," says Haylie. Once there, he got down on one knee and proposed. "Neither one of us can tell you what he said," Haylie admits, "but it was super romantic being just us two, and exactly what I wanted."
As Haylie is the owner of Wander + Whimsy Floral and Event Styling, wedding planning for the bride was a labor of love from both a personal and professional standpoint. The first order of business was to find an event planner, and choosing Claire Duran Weddings & Events was an easy decision. "I have known her for years and knew immediately she was going to be the perfect fit," Haylie shares. Next, the pair settled on an international locale—Mexico. Although they began their search for a venue with a guest list that topped 150 people, the pair quickly realized that an intimate wedding was more their style.
"We realized that having a traditional-sized wedding wasn't us, and trying to force it was causing us a lot of stress and anxiety because we weren't being ourselves," says Haylie. "We changed everything to an intimate wedding where we only invited our immediate family and the friends who were in our bridal parties, and the end result was better than we could have even hoped for!"
As an event designer, Haylie knew exactly how she wanted things to look and feel from day one, and Kevin was onboard with all her decisions. Neutral tones such as ivory, white, taupe, and chocolate brown with pops of rust, terra-cotta, and mauve formed the color scheme for the affair, with the breathtaking Mexican backdrop infusing the event with natural beauty.
In the end, the event was thoroughly reflective of the couple. "Our wedding was exactly our style," says Haylie. "Our home is decorated much the same: a little boho, androgynous, with an overall neutral palette and a lot of attention to texture. I also think our event's design spoke to how we are as people: It was stylish and sophisticated, but didn't take itself too seriously. We're both relatively laid-back and genuinely want to have the best time, and I think our wedding day reflected that."
Welcome to Mexico
"We picked Mexico because we actually officially started dating after Kevin professed his love for me in Mexico way back in 2014," says Haylie. "It just felt like the perfect place to exchange our vows. Once we saw photos of Cabo and the landscape, we were sold."
Guests were given sleeves containing cards designated with details for each day of the wedding weekend.
Chic Welcome Bags
Attendees were welcomed to the event with custom canvas bags.
A Strong Start
The celebration kicked off with a welcome party on the beach; guests got comfortable in the sand thanks to cozy lounge vignettes.
The duo was thrilled with the tropical prenuptial celebration—something their faces prove here, as they got their first look at the space.
A geometric bar coverlet coated the wooden station, which was backed by shelves lined in libations.
The celebration carried into the evening; strung bistro lights cast a warm glow on the merriment below, turning off only when the group finally parted for the evening.
A Whole Lotta Love
On the morning of the wedding, Kevin delivered a moving morning message for his bride that brought Haylie to happy tears.
Haylie's flowing trumpet wedding dress by Sarah Seven, featuring a deep V-neck and spaghetti straps, was actually the second dress she purchased. "I saw it online two months after I bought my first dress and knew I had to have it!" she says.
A Curated Bouquet
Being a floral and event designer herself, Haylie made her own bridal bouquet; it was oblong in shape with all neutral tones and pops of mauve. "It was a mix of dried florals and grasses with hellebores, garden roses, sweet peas, and ranunculus, which are some of my favorite blooms," she says.
First Look with Dad
After a special first look, Haylie's dad proudly walked her down the aisle to an instrumental version of "Beyond" by Leon Bridges.
A Smartly Dressed Groom
Kevin wore a custom suit from Alton Lane in a shade of dark chocolate brown. As a special touch, his mother's wedding ring was tucked into his boutonnière, composed of dried grasses, and ranunculus blossoms.
Minimalist Ceremony Décor
The couple wanted the striking view to be the highlight of their ceremony, so they worked with VVR Production to create a custom stage over the property's infinity pool. "Our villa was located on a cliff, so we were completely backdropped by nothing but sea and sky," says Haylie. Neutral rugs lined the aisle, a grounded arch of flowers and grasses marked the altar, and clear acrylic chairs ensured that nothing was competing with the view.
Sealed with a Kiss
After they were pronounced husband and wife, Haylie and Kevin sealed the deal with a kiss.
Romance on the Sand
The couple headed to the white-sand beach for post-ceremony portraits and private time together.
Drinks with a View
A mezcal-tasting bar and spicy hibiscus margaritas were the highlights of the cocktail hour, which took place in the villa while the ceremony site was transformed into the reception area below. "We knew that the main attraction would again be the view, so we opened up the balcony for guests to mill about and watch the sunset," says Haylie.
Unique Seating Cards
Following the cocktail hour, guests grabbed custom Patrón bottles assigned with their table numbers.
Attendees' names were etched into the glass bottles.
Eclectic Reception Details
"Our reception décor was my favorite part of the entire design," says Haylie. "We rented exposed-wood farm tables to keep with the organic, natural feel. On the tables, we opted for an eclectic set of floral arrangements with tons and tons of candlelight." Bistro lights strung overhead made the vibe even more romantic and intimate.
At the Helm
Backed with a dramatic palm-leaf installation, the couple's reception table for two was covered with candles and flowers.
Custom table runners were topped with pops of rust and terra-cotta, while petite floral arrangements featured roses and ranunculus blossoms accented with baby's breath.
Pretty Place Settings
Layered leather-and-acrylic place cards and menu cards that matched the welcome bag itineraries finished off the table décor.
Much to the delight of their guests, Haylie and Kevin made their grand entrance into the party down the villa's elongated staircase.
A Memorable First Dance
Haylie and Kevin swayed to the strains of "Say You Won't Let Go" by James Arthur. "Kevin said he'd never heard a song that sounded more like us when it came out," says the bride.
Inside the couple's watercolor cake with terra-cotta tones were chocolate layers with buttercream frosting.
Love in Mexico
The fun didn't stop after the wedding ended: "We did a mini-moon and stayed in Cabo for five extra days after our guests left," says the couple.
Photography, Lauren Louise Collective
Venue, Villa La Roca
Event Planning, Claire Duran Weddings & Events
Floral and Event Design, Wander + Whimsy Floral and Event Styling
Videography, CinemaMegan Rae Films
Flowers, Lola del Campo for Florenta
Invitations and Stationery, Coco & Bailey DC
Bride's Gown, Sarah Seven via Lovely Bride DC
Shoes, Revolve Clothing
Engagement Ring, JJ Brown Jewelers
Wedding Bands, Holden Rings
Hair and Makeup, Blanc Bridal
Groom's Attire, Alton Lane DC
Music, Lucky Devils
Catering, Salt and Sugar
Cake, Cabo Cakes
Rentals, BBJ Linen; Let it Be Events; Main Event Cabo; Warehouse Rentals
Acrylic Signs, Bells & Whistle