Vanessa and Michael had what a microwedding, not an elopement, but not a regular-sized wedding either, hosting less than 20 guests. Theirs was my last wedding in 2018, so I was pretty excited about working a destination microwedding at Cuartel de Ballajá with an amazing team for the first time ever and on a new venue.
That's definitely good luck stuff. Speaking of good luck stuff, having a rainy wedding day is considered a good luck charm in Puerto Rico, so you could say Vanessa and Michael couldn't have done better.
In my educational article "What if it Rains?", I walk you through my rainy-wedding day logic, and in Vanessa and Michael's microwedding at Cuartel de Ballajá, you'll see it in action.
Getting Ready at Old San Juan Airbnb for the Elopement
Our day started at an Airbnb on Calle San Sebastian, at the heart of Old San Juan, where Vanessa and Michael were getting ready at two different rooms of the property.
I cycled around the rooms, capturing details, moments and waiting for the bride and groom to be ready for their first look session. We were originally looking forward to capturing their first look in the cobblestone streets of the old town, but it was too stormy for that.
We opened up a room so the couple could have this moment together before moving to the ceremony location. It was a very emotional moment in which the couple exchanged gifts and encouraging words.
Rainy Day Elopement at Cuartel de Ballaja
It wasn't so much the rain, but the unexpected wind, the thing that threw the original plan to get married at El Morro Fortress out of whack. Vanessa and Michael would be hosting older guests, and it would've been cruel to have them stand under the rain and wind.
Luckily enough, their planner Merilyn had already set up a plan B at their reception venue, the late Cinema Bar 1950, which was an independent movie theater and restaurant. It was located inside Cuartel de Ballajá, built originally as a military barracks for the Spanish army on the 17th Century, but is currently known as a cultural landmark and event venue.
Cinema Bar 1950 is permanently closed, but you can still access Cuartel de Ballajá as a historical landmark.
When planning an outdoor wedding or elopement it is important to create a rainy day contingency plan you feel comfortable with. We can't control the weather, but we can control how we react to it, and choosing to enjoy the wedding day, no matter what.
As a photographer, I'm not just a mere observer as I'm not able to distance myself from emotionally-charged moments as their ceremony. It was one of the most emotional, beautiful, moving moments of my 2018 and my career. Only knowing them for about two hours, it was obvious that Vanessa and Michael are solid: their grace, happiness, and kind disposition didn't fail throughout the day.
Their vows were amazing, and soon enough, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. I was doing a fine job keeping myself together until both Vanessa and Michael took a turn to pronounce custom vows to their spouse's children, where they promised to uphold and protect the new family they were creating at that instant. After they were pronounced a married couple, their kids joined the stage for a big, emotional embrace before we headed out for the newlywed portraits around Ballajá.
There were only a few minutes of daylight left, so this session is mostly nocturnal, so different from what I'm used to, but the lovebirds rocked every minute of it. When finished, we moved back indoors for family portraits before I left them so they could have dinner with their loved ones.
For this event
Puerto Rico Microwedding Vendors
Wedding Photography Camille Fontanez
Ceremony and Reception Venue Cuartel de Ballajá
H&M Caridad Vidró
Planner Merylin Andino
Video Jovany Marrero
Officiant Gladys Fernández
Music Hector Vazquez