When I got Virginia and Scott's inquiry about their wedding at El Cerro Vieques, my stomach fluttered. Yes, my emotions live in my gut.
"Destination wedding. Booking 2 large villas to host 26ish of our closest family and friends. The property we're booking will also likely be the venue, due to the incredible views. Looking to bounce some ideas off you as well. Impressed with your site. You seem warm and friendly and someone that will put Virginia at ease. Virginia and I are IT professionals in advertising, marketing/video production space. We found your shots to be exceptional."
I have done over 500 weddings, but receiving so many compliments before exchanging words is always flattering. I sent them my pricing and booking information, and we quickly set up a video call.
I remember that first virtual meeting vividly. A shy, smiley Virginia and a talkative, super-friendly Scott. Before we event went down to details, my first impressions were, in this order:
- He's 100% a hugger.
- She's going to be the sweetest bride to photograph.
- I want to work with them!
Then, we talked more about their wedding plans at El Cerro Vieques, a venue I've never worked at before, but based on a google search, I was SO in. It's a gorgeous venue with 360 degrees of jaw-dropping views!
Getting Married in Vieques, Puerto Rico
One thing that sets me apart from most wedding photographers in Puerto Rico is the amount of prep work I do before each wedding or photoshoot. I like to be the local guru to my destination wedding clients. In that first videocall, I also talked to Virginia and Scott about what to expect from a destination wedding in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and its challenges when bringing people over.
Vieques, and its sister island municipality, Culebra, are gorgeous, must-visit destinations in the Caribbean. However, the pandemic and natural, economic, and historic political conditions have created impoverishment and scarcity in Vieques and Culebra. As a result, travel and wedding planning in Vieques need time, flexibility, and a bigger budget than the same wedding happening in Isla Grande.
Tips for planning a wedding in Vieques
Although Vieques is technically a town in Puerto Rico, in my experience, it's an entirely different destination, with different rules and challenges to planning a wedding in Isla Grande.
- Send invites and close RSVPs early. Last-minute travel and accommodation options are minimal for Vieques. Extra points if you can host all your guests within one same property.
- Finalize all transportation reservations at least three months before the event. Rental cars run out all the time.
- Book flights to Vieques from San Juan (SIG) or Ceiba (RVR) instead of relying on ferry tickets. These take longer, are less reliable, and locals need the space for daily activities.
- Keep your vendor list small, local, and be clear about the location of your wedding event. Most vendors will travel from Isla Grande, and rates will change for events in Vieques. Make sure they've done a wedding in Vieques before and know how to get around.
- Use a full-service planning firm with ample experience in Vieques.
- Please keep it simple, be flexible, and forget about perfection. The Vieques supply chain is fragile, and maybe the flowers you want aren't available on your wedding day. It will still be a beautiful wedding day.
- Feed your wedding vendors. Dining options close early in Vieques; don't let them leave on an empty stomach.
- Locals go first. There is no hospital in Vieques. 99% of the food and commodities consumed in Vieques are imported from Isla Grande, Puerto Rico's main island. Please be mindful of the dire conditions locals struggle with: lack of resources, transportation, and especially health access amid a pandemic.
Virginia and Scott kept things simple, took this advice to heart, and had a perfect wedding day at El Cerro, Vieques.
Wedding Photography at El Cerro Estate, Vieques
My day with Virginia and Scott started driving up the hill of El Cerro and immediately swooning over the stunning views. I said hello to a friendly Virginia, who was almost done with her hair and makeup. Then I walked around the venue to get acquainted with the location and get ideas on where to take photos later. I met planner Jillian (aka Green Eyed Girl), who brought the gorgeous florals made primarily with local blooms and the season's favorite: the red Flamboyan.
I'll tell you a little secret: every wedding day, a minor detail gets overlooked or forgotten by someone. There's always something. This time, Scott forgot his cufflinks, and while he was sorting the situation out, I took Virginia's bridal photos around the property before he arrived for their first look. She was glowing with happiness, so beautiful, happy and sweet.
Scott eventually found some cool pins to put on his shirt, and everything was well in the world. We finally met; he gave me the biggest hug (I knew it!), and the show started.
We moved to a different estate building, which was empty then and had the best view of the three. Scott and Virginia met for the first time and had an intimate first look, after which we went down to the ceremony, where everyone was waiting for us.
They exchanged vows on the brightest wedding day ever. Scott's kids were part of the ceremony with a sand ritual where each kid had their vase. As sunset started, we did family and group portraits and then proceeded to newlywed photos around the estate.
As the night fell, guests shared their toasts over dinner, and the night transformed into a casual family gathering with laughter, great conversation, and impromptu dancing.
A perfect day!
Vieques Wedding Vendors
Wedding Venue: El Cerro Estate, Vieques
Wedding Photography: Camille Fontanez
Wedding Planning: Green Eyed Girl
Wedding Cupcakes: Cakes by Carla
Catering: Beverly Davenport
Officiant: Lance Curtis