This mountain couple chose Lake Atitlan for their mountain-sea destination wedding after a year of traveling throughout Central America. It was their favorite place and they wanted their closest friends and family to experience its beauty. Jose, Shaelyn and their families are from the mountains and feel most at home in mountains. Jose is from Montana and Shaelyn is from Lake Tahoe. They incorporated the natural beauty of the land and sea into their Guatemalan wedding and added personal touches that meant the most to them.
Shaelyn + Jose
Isla Verde Hotel at Santa Cruz la Laguna, Lake Atitlan
Wedding day weather: Sunshine during the day and overcast for the ceremony
Number of guests: 40
Your budget: $10,000
Biggest splurge: The wedding dress
Biggest savings: Decorations… they weren’t needed… the environment was already beautiful
Why did you choose the Mountains for your wedding?
Jose and I both grew up in the mountains (he in Montana and me in Lake Tahoe). We spent a year traveling and quickly learned that mountains still make us feel most at home. We chose Lake Atitlan because, after a year of travel through Central and South America, it was our favorite spot. We wanted our friends and family to experience the peace and magic we found there.
Wedding day theme:
With its soft blues and bright flowers, Lake Atitlan brought its own theme and gorgeous color palette. That said, we added burgundy and rose gold to compliment it.
Where did you find your inspiration?
I used Pinterest for ideas; however, Jose and I also incorporated some of our favorite brands.
The bridesmaids and I used Silver & Sage’s beautiful malas and jewelry to incorporate my love for yoga. Jose had the groomsmen wear Western Range’s deer antler bow-ties to represent growing up in Montana with a family of passionate hunting enthusiasts.
Our wedding venue, Isla Verde, also blew us away with all the creative ways they brought the Mayan culture into our ceremony, like the flower mandala we lit at the end of the ceremony and all the gorgeous, traditional Mayan ropa the staff wore at the reception. Our photographers, Dani and Mishka, did such a beautiful job capturing all of this in our photos.
How did you choose to personalize your wedding?
We just thought of all the things that make us feel happy and connected and tried to bring these to our guests. Some examples include yoga before the wedding, an outdoor ceremony on the lake, breakfast for dinner served at the reception (we LOVE pancakes), and writing our own vows.
What was your favorite part of the reception?
The speeches from our friends and family. The reception truly was a celebration of our relationship and all the people who have loved and supported us along the way.
What are three things you’re super glad you did?
- Bring family and friends all the way to Guatemala… it was a logistic challenge, but they are still talking about how incredible the journey was.
- Write our own vows. Taking the time write and share them reminded us what the wedding was truly about.
- Incorporated local vendors. Lake Atitlan has SO many amazing local people and expats who share wonderful products and services on the lake. At every turn possible, we tried to use local vendors versus bringing things from home. This made the wedding more authentic and also gave back to the people who made our experience in Guatemala so memorable.
Anything you wished you hadn’t worried about?
- Arranging guests’ travel. This was probably the most stressful piece of the wedding. If we could do it again, we would have just referred all guests to one travel planner versus arranging all planes, taxis, boats, etc on our own (and in Spanish!)
- Flower crowns. I had these shipped from Europe and my poor maid of honor was responsible for getting them all to the lake intact (I’ll blame it on all the time I spent on Pinterest :)). What was I thinking… the lake has an abundance of beautiful flowers (such as the gorgeous bouquet that Mishka put together for me)
- I’m not sure I can think of a 3rd… we truly tried our best to make the wedding more about the people and environment than the ‘things’
What was the biggest challenge in planning your mountain wedding and how did you overcome it?
Getting everyone safely to Lake Atitlan. This involved planes, shuttles, taxis and boats, and most of our guests arrived during a five-day period. I think we only overcame it because my husband is incredibly patient!
How did you find and choose your vendors?
Our wedding vendors were a collection of all the people we got to know (and love) during our two-month stay in Lake Atitlan (10 months before our wedding). For instance, we met Dani and Mishka (our incredible photographers) one day at lunch and knew they’d be instant friends. Isla Verde became our favorite spot to have an afternoon drink. Our rehearsal dinner was held at CECAP, an incredible nonprofit that trains local teenagers to become culinary chefs. I think all the guests really felt like they got to know the village throughout our wedding week.
What is your best piece of advice to other mountain brides who are planning their weddings?
Try not to get caught up in all the ‘things’ you need at your wedding. Find an environment (or a mountain) that brings you and your spouse together and share it with your guests. People remember feelings more than things :)
Guatemala Wedding Vendors
Photographer: Dani and Mishka | Florist: Isla Verde bought our flowers at a local market | Coordinator: IIsla Verde arranged the food and decorations | Baker: Cafe Sabor Cruceno (CECAP) | Officiant: Father of the Groom | Venue: Isla Verde | Musicians: Yan the violinist (no website) | Catering: Isla Verde | Jewelry: Silver & Sage Jewelry | Attire: Western Range Clothing Co | Wedding Gown: Daughters Of Simone