A Sophisticated, Beachy Wedding in the Dominican Republic

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic ceremony
Photo: KT Merry

This couple's destination wedding featured a waterfront ceremony and a reception that ended with an impromptu pool party.

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elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic couple kiss
KT Merry

"Just imagine, a whole resort with only your friends and family," says Sohale Vu. "Everybody you see is somebody you've known for most of your life." He and Elizabeth Howze don't have to simply imagine that joyful scene: It is exactly what they experienced for their wedding in the Dominican Republic at Tortuga Bay Puntacana Resort & Club, a small paradise where they booked every villa for their 80-plus guests. A group getaway was, you might say, just what the doctor ordered: "We love to travel so much," says Elizabeth, a busy resident physician in anesthesiology, "and we saw our wedding as an opportunity to really spend time with folks we don't see often enough."

Over the years, she and Sohale had become skilled at squeezing in moments together. They started dating in 2012 as graduate students in Greenville, North Carolina; Elizabeth was studying medicine, and Sohale, social work. (They now live in Rochester, Minnesota, where they both work for the Mayo Clinic.) With their intense schedules, "we caught moments when we could and used our weekends wisely," says Elizabeth. One of their first and most meaningful trips together was to the Outer Banks, where they pitched a tent and spent the night without seeing another soul. "It was amazing," says Sohale. "Just the two of us." They quickly became inseparable and went on to explore the area together, going to the beach, to Charlotte, and to Raleigh for concerts and shows.

Their adventurous spirits had taken them farther afield when Sohale proposed in 2016, on the last evening of a weeklong scuba-diving trip in Cozumel, Mexico. He had been waiting for the perfect moment all day, and had even taken a moped ride with one hand on the handlebars and the other in his pocket. ("He had the ring loose in his sandy pocket all day!" says Elizabeth.) It wasn't until they got back to their hotel and found a secluded spot on the beach that the time felt right. He asked her to marry him at sunset.

They knew right away that they wanted a destination wedding, and Elizabeth's mother helped them find their intimate venue. They loved its elegant, tropical style—and that they could have the place all to themselves. Their event designer and planner, Lynn Easton of Easton Events, built on the natural beauty that was already there with flowers and décor in a soft, beachy palette. A relaxed, fun vibe fueled by great music and food infused the weekend, from welcome party to morning-after brunch; the couple's vision of bringing people together for a mini vacation worked perfectly—"even better than we'd expected," says Elizabeth. "A lot of our friends made friends with each other." At the reception, the dancing began early, with a set even before everyone took their places for dinner. And it went late. "We were so hot by the time the night was over!" says Elizabeth. The logical thing, of course, was to jump into the pool around 2 a.m., which the newlyweds did, complete with their wedding finery—and about 30 of the people they loved the most.

Watch Elizabeth and Sohale's wedding film by East West.

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An Elegant Invitation Suite

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic invitation suite
KT Merry

The letterpressed invitation by Cheree Berry Paper was tucked into a vellum pocket on a watercolor backing. It was sent to guests—along with an accordion foldout insert with event information and a ribbon-wrapped buri fan—in a wooden box.

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A Tropical Welcome

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic beach welcome bag
KT Merry

Welcome totes included Turkish-towel wraps, local rum and passion-fruit juice to mix it with, a snack, and a "first aid" kit with sunscreen, bug spray, lip balm, and pain reliever.

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Getting the Party Started

elizabeth sohale rehearsal dinner dominican republic tables on beach
KT Merry

"We had the welcome party the night before the wedding, at a nearby beachfront restaurant called Playa Blanca," Elizabeth says. "Many events it hosts are inside the open-air restaurant, but while we were scouting party venues, I walked out to the beach to find an incredible grove of palm trees beside the restaurant that we were able to transform into the ultimate tropical reception locale. Sohale's parents gave a speech welcoming everyone who had traveled so far to be with us. After everyone had eaten and had a chance to mingle, it began to rain, but everyone was having so much fun that we moved the party inside the restaurant and danced the rest of the night to our local Dominican band."

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Letters in the Sand

elizabeth sohale dominican republic wedding
KT Merry

Large letters showcased the couple's initials.

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Dinner Among the Palm Trees

elizabeth sohale rehearsal dinner dominican republic tables
KT Merry

In addition to low tables on the sand, regular tables were set with hand-dyed linens and bamboo chairs. Guests helped themselves to dinner at four different food stations, where Mexican, Dominican, and Spanish fare were all on offer.

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A Colorful Setting

elizabeth sohale rehearsal dinner dominican republic place setting
KT Merry

Each of the 72 place settings boasted a round place mat, and the table's centerpieces of tropical foliage were arranged in blue and seafoam vessels.

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The Groom's Cake

elizabeth sohale rehearsal dinner dominican republic minivan cake topper
KT Merry

At the welcome party, there was a groom's cake that was a replica of Sohale's 1972 VW bus that he had in college in Hawaii.

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Beachy Chic Attire

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic couple beach
KT Merry

Elizabeth's Berta wedding dress had a subtle sparkle, thanks to clear sequins: "I loved the way it would shine in the Caribbean light," she says. Sohale wore a Tom James suit.

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Green Boutonnières

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic hellebore boutonnieres
KT Merry

Boutonnières by Beauty in the Making were made with hellebores.

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Keeping Cool

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic fans
KT Merry

Ushers handed out palm leaf fans to help guests keep cool in the May sun during the ceremony.

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A Waterfront Ceremony

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic ceremony
KT Merry

The water provided a serene and dramatic backdrop for the ceremony, for which Elizabeth and Sohale wrote their own vows. They opted not to have a bridal party. "Everyone at our wedding could have been in it—we have a lot of wonderful friends," says Elizabeth.

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The Bride and Her Mother

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic mother and bride
KT Merry

The bride and her mom, Barbara Crutchfield, were all smiles on the big day. "She was incredibly helpful," says Elizabeth. "She made several trips to the Dominican Republic when Sohale and I were unable to go due to work." Elizabeth's soft, loose bouquet included dahlias, ranunculus, and hellebores.

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The Escort Card Display

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic shell escort cards
KT Merry

A single calligraphed monstera leaf topped a seagrass-covered wall displaying capiz-shell escort cards.

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Lounging Around

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic lounge
KT Merry

The resort's in-house furniture perfectly fit the aesthetic for the cocktail hour.

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Festive Fun

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic guests ceremony
KT Merry

Before they found their seats for dinner, guests enjoyed mango rum punch by the water.

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The Tented Reception

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic tent tables
KT Merry

Clusters of handwoven lamps were suspended from the tent ceiling. Flowers and linens in beachy colors and touches of gold gave tables a dreamy, romantic look, thanks to Beauty in the Making.

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The Table Numbers

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic table number
KT Merry

Table numbers were calligraphed on opalescent glass.

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The Table Décor

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic place setting
KT Merry

Rattan liners and a double napkin added texture and color to the tables. The long tables, like this one, featured linen-and-lace runners.

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The Band's Backdrop

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic
KT Merry

A painted mural created a tropical scene behind the stage.

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The Dance Floor

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic dance floor decal
KT Merry

A vinyl application of the couple's logo made the dance-floor one-of-a-kind.

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A Simple Wedding Cake

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic cake
KT Merry

A simple vanilla cake adorned with hellebores had alternating layers of guava and passion-fruit filling to emphasize the tropical theme.

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Jumping In

elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic wedding party pool
KT Merry

For the after-party, a local jazz trio played by the pool—and a spontaneous jump in the water made an unforgettable end to the evening.

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elizabeth sohale wedding dominican republic couple beach
KT Merry

Location and catering, Tortuga Bay Puntacana Resort & Club

Event design, production, and planning, Easton Events

Flowers, linens, décor, and draping, Beauty in the Making

Photography, KT Merry

Videography, East West

Officiant, Weddings by Richard Burton

Stationery, Cheree Berry Paper

Calligraphy, Nicole Black of the Left Handed Calligrapher

Cake, Cake Studio Bávaro

Music, Élan Artists The Social

Rentals, Divano; Punta Cana Party Rental

Bride's gown, Berta from M. Elizabeth Bridal

Bride's accessories, Penny Larsen Studio earrings; Donald Haack Diamonds engagement ring and wedding band; Jimmy Choo shoes

Hair and makeup, Carolyn Jones Makeup

Groom's suit and shirt, Tom James

Groom's accessories, Michael Kors tie; Donald Haack Diamonds wedding band; Clarks shoes

Lighting, Technical Event Company; Vialx

Tent, Sperry Tents

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