A Regggae-Infused Destination Wedding in Jamaica | Gia & Tino
Bride and Groom: Gia and Michael (Tino)
Destination: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Ceremony and Reception Venue: Laughing Waters
When Gia Cleare and Michael ‘Tino’ Sands got engaged and began wedding planning, they knew exactly where they wanted to be married: Jamaica. Gia had fond childhood memories of Jamaica, as her mother’s family is Jamaican, and Tino had lived in Jamaica for a period in his twenties; needless to say, it was another locale that solidified their union and was their top destination choice. With the appropriate wedding hashtag, #SandsOneLove, Gia and Tino planned and executed the destination wedding of our dreams. Read all about Gia and Tino, and their fairytale wedding in Jamaica.
“I want to love you, and treat you right. I want to love you, every day and every night.”
What is special about the destination that you chose? Everything! My mother’s family is Jamaican, so I have very fond memories of Jamaica. I spent summers there as a child and it is one of my favorite places. Also, Tino lived in Jamaica for three years in his twenties while training for track and field.
What did you love most about the destination you chose? Getting married in one of my favorite places, that holds so many special memories, was magical. Jamaica is even more special to us now and hopefully in the near future we will take our daughter there. Jamaica, particularly Ocho Rios, was perfect for us and our guests. We arranged for our guests to stay at Old Fort Bay, a private compound in Ocho Rios. It was truly a weekend of celebration and spending time with our loved ones.
Why did you choose your venue? Choosing this venue was a no brainer; famous for the combinations of water falls and ocean – this venue is absolutely beautiful. When the tide is just right you can stand on the beach where the water falls meet the ocean. Perfection! This beach was featured in 007 “Dr. No”, the famous scene where Honey Ryder emerges from the ocean in that iconic bikini. I visited the venue with my mom and Anne-Marie (the event designer) and fell in love instantly. We’d been there before but never with a wedding in mind, so seeing the venue in a new light was special. Tino and I weren’t strict about being married in a church and with so much to offer, we decided to use the venue for the entire day. The ceremony overlooked the ocean and the reception overlooked both the waterfalls and the ocean.
What was your wedding color palette and style? My favorite color is yellow and I have known from I was a little girl that I wanted lots of bright yellow and sunflowers. Tino and I both wanted a ‘rustic chic’ styled wedding which included lots of sunflowers, wood, mason jars, burlap and lace. My dress was made of lace and Anne-Marie incorporated lace into the wedding – my bouquet was wrapped in burlap and lace, the aisle runner was made of burlap, the picnic tables were decorated with burlap and lace. We had lots of sunflowers throughout in mason jars. Wood had a central theme,as Jamaica is the land of wood and water: the cake stand was made of beautiful wood, tables were decorated with cut tree trunks, and we had gorgeous wooden picnic tables as well as lots of wooden signs.
Tell us about your wedding dress. Truth: I wish I could wear it at least once a month. Instantly, I knew it was the one. I never discussed dresses with Tino, but he pinned a dress to our joint Pinterest board exactly like the dress I chose. I wondered if somehow he saw a picture, but it was what he wanted to see me in and he knew my style. My dress was from the Love Marley Collection by Watters. I didn’t know the name of the dress until we were buying it and when the lady told us my Mom and I just chuckled because I have always loved Bob Marley.
What unique elements did you include in your event? One of our favourite Bahamian artists, close family friend and wedding guest, Antonius Roberts, handcrafted our ring ‘cushion’ out of wood, which is currently on display in our home. One of my best friends, Amina Doherty, made two of the signs; one that said ‘best day ever’ and the sign that one of our ring bearers held as he came down the aisle. I ordered personalized tissue holders with our names and starfish on them. Without planning to, starfish became a theme in our wedding, I also wore jeweled starfish in my hair. My very creative cousin Danielle connected me with Lise-Anne Harris from Tagit Jamaica to design fans, which doubled as the wedding programs. Our bridal party was gifted with (among other things) personalized wooden hangers with the date of our wedding. We also got wooden hangers that said ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’. There were a variety of mini chalkboards set up around the reception that had lyrics from our favorite song, our wedding hashtag or cute sayings on them. Two big mason jars were filled with blank wooden Popsicle sticks for guests to write ‘date night’ ideas on. We also ordered a puzzle from Bella Puzzles of one of our engagement photos that our guests were able to sign, that we plan to have framed. We used another one of our engagement photos on magnums of champagne for a personal touch. Our immediate family kept empty bottles and we have one as well to commemorate the day. I ordered a hand carved cake topper from an artist in Turkey a few weeks before the wedding; the style of the tree for the cake topper was almost exactly what Ann-Marie had painted for our reception backdrop – a beautiful tree painted on a large piece of burlap.
What cultural aspect(s) (if any) of the destination did you incorporate in your wedding? There were many details specific to Jamaica, incorporated in our events. Our cake was a traditional Jamaican wedding cake – an alcohol and fruit filled cake! Also, the wooden cake stand, which was handmade by a local artist from mahogany. Our string quartet also played Bob Marley’s ‘Stir it Up’, for the bridal procession, and ‘Is this Love’ to conclude the ceremony. The food – more so at the welcome dinner and the brunch; curry goat, curry chicken, plantain, oxtail, rice and peas, fried fish, breadfruit, rum and fresh coconut water, to name a few.
What were your favorite moments from your wedding day? Other than walking down the aisle in my dress (which I still adore!) while holding my Daddy’s hand and towards my handsome hubby, I absolutely adored our string quartet! Also, holding hands during the ceremony and sneaking away after our first dance to just take it all in and watch our loved ones celebrating our marriage.
What was your favorite memory from your wedding or wedding planning? We met so many wonderful people during the planning of our wedding! Dwayne Watkins, our wedding photographer, is a magician! We just wanted amazing pictures, and after booking him, everything fell into place. Our wedding planner, Ann-Marie Wyss from Everyblooming Thing, has become a part of the family. She is at the top of her game and many in Jamaica refer to her as “the transformer”. She made our vision a reality and executed a wedding beyond our dreams; I couldn’t have imagined that our wedding would have been so beautiful! Suzanne Couch, our amazing caterer, is one of the funniest people and she is a phenomenal Chef. Diana Marley seamlessly coordinated roundtrip transportation for all of our guests from Kingston to Ocho Rios and for all of guests to and from the wedding venue. Working with her was such a delight – she is efficient, funny and such a joy!
What advice would you give to other brides or engaged couples planning a destination wedding? Do your research! Luckily for me, having family and friends in Jamaica made planning easy and seamless! If feasible, choose somewhere near home so you can visit at least once. Also, find a wedding planner that makes you feel as though you are their top priority. Determine the size of the wedding you want and start planning from there. Stick to what you and your partner want and don’t compromise on what you both want (unless you have a budget).
Dress Designer: Watters – Love Marley Collection
Hair: Natalia Golding
Makeup: Sue Gregg
Photography: Dwayne Watkins
Wedding Planner: Ann-Marie Wyss
Florist: Ann-Marie Wyss (Every Blooming Thing)
Event Designer: Ann-Marie Wyss
Ground transportation Co-ordinator: Diana Marley
Wedding fans: Lise-Anne Harris from Tagit Jamaica
Bridesmaids earrings and bracelet: Ella Davis