Just 40 Guests Traveled to Cancún for This Couple's Intimate Wedding Weekend

vicky james mexico table waterfront
Photo: Jodi & Kurt Photography

This DC-based couple escaped to Mexico for a destination celebration that was packed with chic details.

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vicky james mexico wedding bride groom dock
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky and James were practically smitten from the moment they laid eyes on each other at a gym in Cincinnati. "I took one look at his pretty face and couldn't resist the opportunity to chat him up!" Vicky says. The only hitch? She was just in Ohio for a work trip. Although she returned to her home in D.C. soon after, the two grew closer in the following weeks, proving that the distance was no match for the instant chemistry they'd shared. Six months later, James gave his notice at work, packed his car, and drove to the nation's capital.

In the spring of 2017, Vicky, James, and their infant son, Maddox, embarked on their first vacation as a family. As they mapped out their trip to Seattle, James realized the time away from home would allow for a perfect surprise proposal. "I knew I couldn't do it in our home city without her catching on," he says. "She's too intuitive!" On the second-to-last day of their trip, James suggested a ride on the Great Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel overlooking Elliott Bay. When Vicky carried Maddox to the window of their gondola to get a view of the mountains in the distance, James got down on one knee behind her.

Once Vicky gave James an enthusiastic "Yes!", the couple launched into a seven-month planning whirlwind, which lead them to their beachside nuptials on October 28, 2017, at Cancún's Nizuc Resort & Spa. A veteran of the wedding industry (she owns Heirloom Catering & Event Design), Vicky put her years of event-planning experience to good work to develop each element of their day. A Carrara marble motif called to mind her former home in Italy, while rose-gold accents and bold color contrasts—think neutrals and sage green with a pop of black—showed off her totally mod style. Design aside, it was important to Vicky and James that they showed their loved ones an amazing time. And so, they turned their wedding into a full-fledged getaway, inviting 40 of their closest friends and family members to a night-before fiesta, a full day of wedding festivities, and a day-after Catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres—all of it fueled by customized margaritas and the best of the local Mexican fare.

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Pack Your Bags

vicky james mexico stationary suite
Jodi & Kurt Photography

As a reflection of Vicky's time spent working at a marble stonemasonry in Italy, the invitation suite featured a hybrid Carrara marble and brushstroke background. Designed by Lauren Noll, the marble motif reappeared throughout the wedding on the dance floor, tables, and more.

The main invite popped against a matte black pocket mount, which housed three inserts lined in rose-gold foil: an accommodations card, response card, and invite to the welcome party with the Spanish words, "Más Tequila Por Favor" (More Tequila, Please), on the top to prepare guests for the weekend's margarita-fueled festivities. Rounding out the invite suite was a black tag printed with "Pack Your Bags," driving home the wedding's light-hearted, adventurous vibe.

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The Location

vicky james mexico beach shore ocean
Jodi & Kurt Photography

An oceanside destination fit for a weekend-long bash, Nizuc Resort & Spa in Cancún, Mexico, easily checked off all the boxes for Vicky and James. "It was the perfect getaway from our everyday lives that seemed a million miles away—but was also close enough for easy access," Vicky says. The couple used the resort's multiple event spaces and private beach for their various festivities, and guests stayed on-site as well. "Nizuc had this incredible balance of calm and beauty that was the perfect lead-up to our wedding day," says James.

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A Caribbean Welcome

vicky james mexico welcome box
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Boxes created by Lux Bindery, which were printed with the same marble-watercolor pattern as the invites, greeted guests upon their arrival in Cancún. They were stocked with everything attendees would need to party all weekend long. Goodies included Caribbean snacks like Tortuga rum cake, Sun Bum sunscreen and lip balm, and a Turkish beach towel.

The true pièce de résistance of the box, though, had to be the totally on-brand margarita kit, complete with tequila, Bai pineapple drink, Himalayan sea salt, and agave (a nod to Vicky's time spent on agave farms), plus rose-gold pineapple shot glasses. Also included, for an easier morning-after: a "Detox to Retox" hangover kit.

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Soaking Up the Sun

woman wearing bride chilla straw hat on beach
Jodi & Kurt Photography

The day before they tied the knot, Vicky and James explored Nizuc's quiet beach. "We tried to relax as much as possible," James says, "and get our son ready for his big appearance." Vicky's hat reflected the total serenity of their day: "Bride-chilla," as in, the exact opposite of "Bridezilla."

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Family Time

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

Just before guests arrived, the couple savored the first few moments of sunset with their then 15-month-old son, Maddox. "We just hung out and played on the beach," Vicky says, "and we were present and enjoying one another in that moment in time."

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Welcome to Cancún

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

On Friday, October 27, 2017, Vicky and James welcomed their family and friends to Cancún with a beachside party (which doubled as a rehearsal dinner) that was equal parts tranquil and fun in a modern, Mayan aesthetic. Lights strung on bamboo posts lit up the shore, and an assortment of lounge seating and custom-wood tables invited guests to relax and mingle.

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Something Green

vicky james mexico leaf table decor
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Centerpieces made with tropical leaves arranged in clear vases added a touch of color to the otherwise neutral beige-and-white color palette.

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Margaritas, Anyone?

vicky james tequila bar beach
Jodi & Kurt Photography

In keeping with the invite's promise, a custom-built tequila bar from Canteiro served up libations for the evening. Margaritas in five flavors—including a mango-and-mint version and one with a chili- and sugar-dusted rim—took center stage, and beer and wine were available, too.

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Mexican Feast

vicky james mexico tacos
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Guests built their own tacos using a selection of ingredients developed by Vicky's team at Heirloom Catering & Event Design and the catering crew at Nizuc. In addition to flour and corn tortillas and three proteins, the taco bar featured a wide array of toppings made with local produce, including pineapple-cilantro salsa, charred corn, and Mexican slaw.

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Dancing the Night Away

vicky james mexico mariachi band
Jodi & Kurt Photography

A traditional mariachi band played songs by the Gypsy Kings—a band Vicky used to listen to with her parents as a kid. "This was a fun treat for my midwestern family," James says. "I loved being able to give them such a unique life experience."

After an hour, a DJ took over, and everyone kicked off their shoes to dance barefoot in the sand. "A sprinkle of rain would occur every 30 or 40 minutes," Vicky says, "but it was honestly the perfect thing to give people another boost of the synergistic energy all around."

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Evening Sweets

vicky james mexico beach lounge pillows
Jodi & Kurt Photography

As the evening progressed and the weather cooled, guests cozied up on pillows and mats stationed near a fire pit. "Everyone gathered around and ate fresh churros with yummy toppings," Vicky says, "while sharing their personal memories of me and James. Then, we ended the night with a game of truth or dare!"

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Intricate Beauty

vicky james mexico wedding bride beach
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky was skeptical of brides-to-be who cry once they find the wedding dress of their dreams—until she did just that after slipping on this Berta Bridal gown at Carine's Bridal Atelier. She'd already looked for dresses at two other bridal boutiques, focusing on gowns with lace and intricate detailing, but she wasn't close to sold until she discovered this one. "I felt beautiful," Vicky says, "and I hadn't really felt pretty since having my son, who was about seven months old at the time."

It was the intricacy of the dress's top half that made Vicky swoon, with its hand-sewn details and plunging (yet modest) neckline, a delicate lace-and-pearl pattern throughout. She paired it with Jimmy Choo shoes, vintage earrings, and family baubles—her late maternal grandmother's rings (on her right hand) and her mother's diamond tennis bracelet.

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All Dressed Up

vicky james mexico wedding bride groom portrait
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Once Vicky found the dress of her dreams, it was time for James to pick out a complementary suit. "I've always loved blue," he says, "and when my fashion-forward wife-to-be gave me the go ahead, I knew I wanted something in between navy and cobalt—not so dark, not so vivid, and a good fit for the vibe we were going for." He found just that in a suit from Tom Ford and paired it with a tie from The Tie Bar and Allen Edmonds shoes.

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The Maid of Honor

vicky james mexico wedding bride maid of honor
Jodi & Kurt Photography

In keeping with the intimate celebration they'd envisioned, Vicky and James each chose one close friend to be in their wedding party. Vicky's maid of honor was her college best friend—whom she calls "my most loyal and true southern half." Her sand-colored dress by Nookie matched the beachside party vibes.

Both women's bouquets featured a variety of white blooms—David Austen garden roses, ranunculus, and anemones—accented by greenery.

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The Ceremony

vicky james mexico wedding bride groom ceremony stage
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky and James tied the knot at Nizuc's Akan Terrace, a reflecting pool dotted with trees in the background. Just behind them was a minimalist hanging floral arrangement that Vicky says she intended to be "wispy and breezy, to enhance but not take away from the natural beauty around us."

Vicky's father walked her down the aisle as a string quartet played Pachelbel's Canon in D Major—a melody both Vicky and James have loved for years. A close friend of the couple (who also served as James's best man) officiated the ceremony. "He crafted a beautiful presentation on how we met, what we love about each other, and how we both individually view marriage and the commitment we are making," Vicky says. "I think I had a smile plastered on my face the entire ceremony."

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The Ring Pass

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky had James's wedding band custom-made in a brushed rose gold with "Forever Past Time" inscribed on the inside—a phrase James often says after telling Vicky, "I love you." He had Vicky's band made to match her engagement ring, also in rose gold and encrusted with diamonds. Before exchanging traditional vows at their ceremony, the couple passed their rings around to each of their guests in a geometric box filled with sand taken from Nizuc Beach the night before.

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Ready to Party

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

The newlyweds recessed down the aisle to a string quartet rendition of "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga—"A fun, upbeat, and timeless song to kick off the party!" Vicky says.

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Coastal Kiss

vicky james mexico wedding bride groom beach kiss
Jodi & Kurt Photography

After tying the knot, Vicky and James escaped for a quick moment alone on the beach. They didn't stray too far from their guests, though, as Vicky says they wanted to be "in the mix of it all" and get a chance to enjoy their cocktail hour, too.

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A Special Guest

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky and James's son, Maddox—who'd served as their super-cute ring bearer—joined the newlyweds for their first pictures as husband and wife. He wore a custom-made seersucker suit and a velvet navy bow tie.

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A Fresh Greeting

vicky james mexico wedding cactus hanging escort cards
Jodi & Kurt Photography

After enjoying a made-to-order guacamole station, margaritas, and the sounds of a guitarist at cocktail hour, guests rode in golf carts over to the reception. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a display of suspended cactus paddles calligraphed by Meant to Be Calligraphy with guests' names and table numbers. Fresh flowers surrounded the display, making for an impactful installation.

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The Reception

vicky james mexico table waterfront
Jodi & Kurt Photography

A king's table was framed by a mango-wood cabana adorned with silk draping, and the display stole the show at Vicky and James's reception. Marble tables—custom-made with marble imported from the Italian stonemasonry where Vicky once worked—were dressed up with a gold base. Black acrylic chairs added a pop of color contrast and contemporized the look.

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Florals Galore

vicky james mexico table sunset
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky and her team developed the design and picked out the florals and greens for the canopy arrangement above the dinner tables. The final picks included white wisteria, clustered baby silver dollar eucalyptus, lemon leaf, lamb's ear, and cavalinha horsetail.

More blooms and greens arranged in matte black, gold, and stone-gray geometric vases lined the center of each table, including the lemon leaf and silver dollar eucalyptus of the arrangement above, along with Silverstone and white garden roses, white dahlia and ranunculus, anemones, and dusty mauve pampas grass. In between vases were tall white candles in glass and acrylic candlesticks.

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All About the Details

vicky james mexico table placesetting
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Place settings were Vicky's own creation. Each included a black matte charger, a white dinner plate, matte gold flatware, and a silk gray napkin bundled with sprigs of baby eucalyptus. The final touches mirrored other wedding details: Mini cactus-paddle place cards matched the escort cards, and menus were printed with the same marbled watercolor design of the invites.

The four-course dinner began with a cream of watercress soup topped with wild-caught lobster and a savory ginger foam, followed by a roasted vegetable terrine with goat cheese, grissini, fresh sprouts, and saffron dressing. A duet entrée of Chilean sea bass in a lemon beurre blanc sauce with seasonal vegetables and beef tenderloin in a macerated fig reduction with truffle mashed potatoes finished off the meal.

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An Extra-Special Touch

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky and James's table settings, while similar to their guests', included additional details that pushed the lux factor up a notch. Beneath the matte black chargers were custom-made geometric floral baseplates created by Brightly Ever After with anemones, Silverstone and white David Austen roses, and silver dollar eucalyptus. The newlyweds' cactus-paddle name cards sat inside glass geometric rose-gold-lined boxes—matching the one used for their ring pass—which were filled with sand gathered from the beach the night before.

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Time to Party

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

Once dinner wrapped up, guests congregated on the dance floor, which boasted the same custom Carrara marble and watercolor design used for the invites and welcome boxes. Black- and stone-colored lounge furniture surrounding the floor offered a cozy alternative for those looking to kick back and relax. Though when the reception kicked into full party mode, people danced on the furniture until the very last song.

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The First Dance

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

Vicky and James swirled across the dance floor for their first dance to Adele's "Make You Feel My Love."

Later in the evening, when the DJ played Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," Vicky shared a special dance with Maddox. "I held him in my arms as I whisked him around," she says, "like I do nightly in our kitchen at home—our own very special moment."

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The Cake

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Jodi & Kurt Photography

A three-tiered coconut cake reflected many of the reception's design elements: The pattern on the bottom layer matched the geometric vases, the marbling mirrored the dance floor and stationery, and the flowers were sugar replicas of the blooms in the reception arrangements. Made by Vicky's close friend, Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream Bakeshop, the cake was filled with passionfruit curd and layered with coconut-milk buttercream to fit the tropical setting.

In lieu of favors, Vicky and James treated guests to a Catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres the next day. They anchored in the ocean half-way there to spend time swimming and relaxing, before lunching on the island—a sun-soaked kickoff to the newlyweds' beachy Mexican honeymoon to follow.

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vicky james mexico wedding bride groom back dress
Jodi & Kurt Photography

Photography, Jodi & Kurt Photography

Location, Catering, and Hair and Makeup, Nizuc Resort & Spa

Event planning, Heirloom Catering & Event Design

Flowers/rentals, Canteiro Weddings

Videography, Wedding Short Films

Stationery, Lauren Noll Design

Calligraphy, Meant to Be Calligraphy

Cake, Buttercream Bakeshop

Music, JSAV Mexico (DJ); Visuddha Entertainment (mariachi band and string quartet)

Bride's gown, Berta Bridal from Carine's Bridal Atelier

Bride's shoes, Jimmy Choo

Maid of honor's dress, Nookie

Groom's suit, Tom Ford

Groom's accessories, The Tie Bar tie; Allen Edmonds shoes

Lighting, JSAV Mexico

Welcome Boxes, Lux Bindery

Floral Baseplates, Brightly Ever After

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