A Sophisticated, Beachy Wedding in the Dominican Republic
"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.
An Elegant Invitation Suite
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.
A Tropical Welcome
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.
Getting the Party Started
"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."
Letters in the Sand
Large letters showcased the couple's initials.
Dinner Among the Palm Trees
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.
A Colorful Setting
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.
The Groom's Cake
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.
Beachy Chic Attire
Boutonnières by Beauty in the Making were made with hellebores.
Ushers handed out palm leaf fans to help guests keep cool in the May sun during the ceremony.
A Waterfront Ceremony
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.
The Bride and Her Mother
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.
The Escort Card Display
A single calligraphed monstera leaf topped a seagrass-covered wall displaying capiz-shell escort cards.
The resort's in-house furniture perfectly fit the aesthetic for the cocktail hour.
Before they found their seats for dinner, guests enjoyed mango rum punch by the water.
The Tented Reception
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.
The Table Numbers
Table numbers were calligraphed on opalescent glass.
The Table Décor
Rattan liners and a double napkin added texture and color to the tables. The long tables, like this one, featured linen-and-lace runners.
The Band's Backdrop
A painted mural created a tropical scene behind the stage.
The Dance Floor
A vinyl application of the couple's logo made the dance-floor one-of-a-kind.
A Simple Wedding Cake
A simple vanilla cake adorned with hellebores had alternating layers of guava and passion-fruit filling to emphasize the tropical theme.
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.
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
Hair and makeup, Carolyn Jones Makeup
Groom's suit and shirt, Tom James
Tent, Sperry Tents
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