How we planned our destination wedding without a wedding planner

August 16, 2021

Kristelle Boulos

Tips, Weddings

Married Couple Walking Away

My now-husband Adrián and I planned the wedding of our dreams together. From the initial planning stages to the day of, each detail was carried out with love and complete dedication. I want to take you on my journey of all the details of how to get your destination wedding planning done, and done right! I hope it fills you with inspiration if you’re in the early stages of planning yours!

WHY SEVILLA?

I’m from Lebanon and Adrián is from Venezuela. Both countries have tense political climates that made meeting and celebrating in either of our home countries a big challenge, and the other problem in Lebanon is that our guest list would have been over 500 people, and we didn’t want a big wedding. Option two was staying local. We both live in Miami, but getting American visas issued for all of our international families and friends would have generated an unnecessary burden for our guests.

We ended up choosing a location where everyone could celebrate love together easily! Adrián has a Spanish background, and so the south of Spain seemed perfect for our wedding destination choice because there is a beautiful blending of both of our cultures in Andalusia, where Spanish and Arab cultures are married together to create a space that just seemed perfect for us! The fact that it’s located halfway between our home countries, and in the heart of Europe made it even more enticing. I mean, who wouldn’t want an excuse to make a quick vacation out of it?

It was also important to choose a country in which we could both speak the language, so that we could allow ourselves to be fully immersed in the atmosphere and culture around us, not to mention communicate clearly with all the vendors.

Adrián and I are both organization freaks by nature – looking into every detail with excitement. For this reason, we actually chose to go without a wedding planner and do most of the planning on our own. As a wedding photographer now, I feel like this was a HUGE stepping stone for educating myself and diving deep into the wedding photography world!

WHERE WE BEGAN

Our engagement lasted two years, and having this extra time truly allowed us to invest in the wedding we dreamed of and find the perfect vendors to make that happen! We set our original budget at about $30,000 but we ended up at about $50,000. Ouch, I know, but we absolutely have no regrets. This was, after all, our dream wedding, and we had to do it right. So let’s get into the details of how we got everything done!

Before the wedding, we visited Sevilla two times in preparation. The first time was for location scouting and the second time for food tastings, makeup trials, and the finalization of the little details.

Step 1: The First Trip + Venue Scouting

As I mentioned before, our organizational intuitions were going full fledge during the planning stages. I used Google Maps to create an itinerary of venues and potential wedding locations to visit. In the end, we had seven venues on our list in three towns (Córdoba, Granada y Sevilla). Something that was helpful to visualize the venues was finding wedding photographers’ blogs with photos of real weddings taken at those venues.

The wedding venues we considered were the following:

Sevilla:

Cordoba:

Granada:

What we really learned while visiting the towns and venues is that having a ball-park estimate of your guest count means everything when negotiating with the venues. Our ballpark was 200 guests, and 160 ended up being present (66% of the guests we invited). In order for the venue to give you an accurate quote, having your details ready for them makes all the difference. This is a must-have for securing your dream venue ASAP! Remember, most venues are usually booked out at least a year out.

Step 2: Catering and Venue

During our travels, we stumbled upon a venue that included catering: Cortijo En Medio. We didn’t even try the food, but there was something so enticing that was just drawing us in! Their imagery, customization options for everything we wanted, and cultural fusion (Lebanese and Spanish!) really drew us in. We booked Alameda catering immediately on the spot in order to secure their catering services with all the additional services that they could provide to us (table decor, cutlery, bathroom cleaning service, day-of coordinator..) except we chose a different venue.

Table setting by Alameda Catering | Photo by Joy Zamora
Hacienda Los Angeles, Sevilla, Spain | Photos by Joy Zamora

We selected Hacienda Los Angeles in Sevilla, Spain, for a few reasons.

  1. It had all the charm we could dream of and is PACKED with history.
  2. Sevilla was the most accessible city from the other ones we considered.
  3. It had different interesting “zones” we could use for our wedding which include interior and outdoor spaces, two chapel-looking rooms with tall ceilings and beautiful chandeliers, so we had the option to do our cocktail and party indoors or outdoors depending on the weather (no need to rent backup tents!).
  4. We could rent rooms there to get ready + stay our wedding night there.
  5. We loved the owner!
My mother made my veil and head piece, and my grandmother gifted me my pearl/diamond earrings! | Photo by Joy Zamora

Step 3: Photo and Video

This one of course meant EVERYTHING to me. Other than being a photographer myself, I’m completely obsessed with documenting my life. I’m afraid to forget anything, so having the ideal photographer to capture each moment for me to cherish was on the top of my list. I began researching on all the wedding planning sites, Zola, The Knot, Bodas.Net (specifically for vendors in Spain), but in the end, I found my photographer (and really all my vendors!) on Instagram.

My photographer and videographer needed to meet a few main criteria for me :

  • They have a style that aligns with my aesthetics.
  • They have a unique voice to every story they document. No slapped pattern or “template” common to every wedding, making them all the work look the same.
  • Shows me complete access to past wedding galleries and films to see an example of a full day coverage.
  • Are willing to meet with us before the wedding – I HAD to feel a connection to those around me on my wedding day!

I found all of these things screaming at me in the best way in my photographer,  Joy Zamora and videographer, Tamara Gonzalez. Our wedding photos and film proved to be unique and timeless pieces that tell our story for an eternity. And Tamara took videos of us walking in the city the day before our wedding, which turned out to be such a great addition!!!

Photo by Joy Zamora

Step 4: Finding the DJ, Bands, and Makeup Artist

DJ: Xite & Co | Photo by Joy Zamora

We found our DJ Xite&co through Instagram hashtags and seeing their tags on different posts at multiple weddings. We were able to view their SoundCloud account to check out unique mixes and sets. On top of that, their website was SICK! So many add-ons, the whole experience looked like a club with the dancing and partying going all night long – which is exactly what we wanted. We added on disco lights, an upgraded sound system, and smoke guns to create our unforgettable atmosphere! I mean, we’re a Venezuelan and Lebanese blend, what would you expect?!

We also found two live bands (Grupo Musical Nubia & Acoustic Moments) open to letting us choose the repertoire. This ambiance was amazing for the ceremony and the start of our wedding reception during the cocktail hour, which put all the guests in a relaxing, fun mood for the night.

Makeup and Hair Stylist: Nuria Villa | Photo by Joy Zamora

My makeup artist Nuria Villa didn’t have a website, but I searched through her entire Instagram profile, and was extremely impressed. In her stories, she would show her equipment, give examples of how she cleaned her tools, and always showcased her brides in the most special light.

When I met her, she had crafted my own personal bridal guide – with a skincare routine I still use to this day! This routine was for me to implement before the wedding to get my skin ready for the big day. She educated me on how to take care of my skin with moisturizing techniques and other secrets specialized just for me. She was completely invested in taking care of me months before my wedding, not just showing up on the wedding day only. Her extra care and attention was a huge lesson for me in how I invest in clients and get the client experience started even way before services are rendered.

Step 5: The Officiant

Officiant: Kurt Kettner-Borough | Photo by Joy Zamora

If there’s one thing I can say about this part of the process it’s that this is when I truly learned the value of doing what you want for your wedding, rather than focusing on pleasing others. We originally started with a priest, but with the laws in Spain requiring the ceremony to be in a church, and logistics quickly getting complicated…we decided to take a route that just fit Adrian and me best.

Our officiant Kurt Kettner-Borough was able to officiate the wedding exactly where we wanted, he made things short and sweet and incorporated small spiritual moments that we loved without being overly religious.

Our favorite extra detail was when he asked Adrian and me to prepare five stories about each other that we wanted to share. At the ceremony, he read our stories to our guests. It was this extra personal touch that made our ceremony unforgettable. To this day those five stories hang framed in our foyer, as a welcome to all of our guests that enter our home. See below the short film trailer that showcases these five stories told by our officiant during the ceremony!

Film trailer by Tamara Gonzalez showcasing our officiant Kurt Kettner-Borough sharing the five stories about each other

Step 6: The Dress!

I considered looking for a dress in Spain but quickly realized that the logistics of that just wouldn’t be practical for alterations. Because let’s be honest, what wedding dress doesn’t have alterations?!

What really helped me though was doing research on Pinterest ahead of time for the exact style of dress I imagined. In the end, I found my dress in just ONE day after just trying on six dresses! Having that research done ahead of time helped me not to be totally overwhelmed on the day of.

I chose a dress that could be reused in the future made by Maggie Sottero that I bought at Coral Gables Bridals. In fact, after the wedding day, my mom repurposed it into a beautiful two-piece that could be worn over again.

Step 7: The Second Trip (Food Tasting, Make Up + Hair Trial, Flowers and Vendors Meet Up)

Two months before the wedding we took our second trip to Sevilla to get all the little details wrapped up to perfection.

One thing I did was have my makeup trial, which taught me SO much! I think it’s absolutely valuable to get a makeup/hair trial in before the wedding day because you can make any changes that just simply wouldn’t be possible if you waited until the day of. We ended up completely changing my hair to a new style for the wedding once I saw the initial style I wanted on me. Sometimes a photo looks great but when you see it on yourself you just want to make a change that feels better for you. My only regret was not having an engagement shoot planned afterward – I felt so gorgeous and having a photoshoot to prep me even more for the day would have been a great keepsake for us too.

Below are photos of my makeup and hair trial, a cool perk of my makeup artist because her partner is a photographer and she includes complementary photos of the trial – genius! You can see that I opted for a different hairstyle for my actual wedding – a more lifted + messier style updo, which matches more my style and personality.

Photo right after my makeup trial by Pablo Alma (my makeup artist’s patner!)

I met up with a talented local florist at her flower shop, Nubes de Azahar, (that I found through Bodas.Net). She was so cute and I am in love with the flower bouquets she put together.

Photo by Joy Zamora

We also finally got to do our food tasting and met all of our vendors at the venue to see each other in person and make a connection so that we could be even more comfortable on the day of with each other. I’m so grateful for this opportunity with each other because it helped us get a feel for the day in the venue before the wedding day.

Step 8: DIY + Wedding Favors

We decided to have practical wedding favors for our guests such as flip flops for dancing and fans for the heat.

I also loved getting to create some DIY favors to incorporate in the day. I created feather crowns and headbands for the “Hora Loca” with my mother (a latin tradition where the party goes totally wild and crazy late into the night). My mother made my wedding veil and hairpiece, and my bridesmaids made cones for guests to throw flower petals. All of these little touches are memories I cherish when thinking and looking back on my day. Handmade touches just add an extra effect that pulls on your heartstrings for years to come.

Photo by Joy Zamora

Step 9: The Night Before the Wedding

The night before the wedding, we made a last-minute booking at Ena, a bar at the Hotel Alfonso XIII. This happy hour moment allowed for most of our friends and family to get together, hang out and just put us in that mode of celebration. This is a great idea to incorporate if it’s possible to come together before the day of – it just puts everyone in the happiest mood and breaks the ice!

Photo courtesy of Marriott

Step 10: THE WEDDING

Here’s our wedding film below in case you’re curious to see 🙂
Password: boda

Wedding Film by Tamara Gonzalez

FINAL THOUGHTS AND BUDGETING CHOICES

Our wedding day is something I’ll cherish for eternity. While there are no major regrets, we did learn some lessons (next blog post!) and made some budgeting choices along the way that helped:

  • No cake – for budgeting purposes we didn’t have a cake and honestly we were happy with this decision.
  • No physical cards or invites – Some people love tangible invitations and if you love it then go for it. But for us, it was better for our budget (and the environment) to let this go and just invite our guests virtually. We used Paperless Post for our e-invites and had people RSVP through our Squarespace website, which automatically logged entries into a Google Excel sheet – so practical.
  • No Separate Bachelorette Trip – In Sevilla, my best friends and I enjoyed a lovely day spa at Aire Ancient Baths and a dinner, then the guys and girls met up and did a little bar hopping. This was much more practical than a totally separate trip outside of Spain.
  • No matching bridesmaid dresses – I let them make their own style and budgeting choices for their dresses. It was just all around easier!
  • No extravagant flower arrangements – We found so much natural charm and beauty in our venue that we just didn’t think we needed too many extra flowers. We chose some natural green-focused bouquets and boutonnieres and added some candles last minute for our ambience to stay romantic throughout the whole night.
  • Paying in cash – go ahead and avoid lots of transfer fees and more by just offering to pay in cash!
  • Spacing out our honeymoon months apart – while nontraditional, it allowed us time to enjoy quiet space with each other right after the wedding and just be happy enjoying each other. It also gave us something else to look forward to, and time to save up after so many expenses.

So there you have it! My whole, beautiful wedding planning story wrapped up in a detailed blog for you to enjoy! If you’re in the planning stages of your wedding day, don’t hesitate to reach out to me to be on your team and dedicate myself to capturing your day just the way you want. As you can tell, I’m detail-oriented, passionate, and I love weddings! Let’s get in touch and create something unforgettable!

Photo by Joy Zamora

Full Vendor List:

Wedding Venue: Hacienda Los Angeles

Catering + Day-Of Wedding Coordination: Alameda 

Photographer: Joy Zamora

Videographer: At Last! Bodas De Cine

Officiant: Kurt Kettner-Borough

DJ: Xite & co

Classical Music: Grupo Musical Nubia

Cocktail Music: Acoustic Moments

Make Up / Hair: Nuria Villa Make Up Studio

Flowers: Nubes de Azahar

Chill Out Zone: Alquiler De Chillout

Bus: Rosabus

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  1. Hola Kristelle!

    Qué alegría ver este post tan bonito (lo he descubierto revisando los links hacia mi web, jeje)

    Muchas gracias por la mención, me ha hecho mucha ilusión ver mis fotos de tu prueba en tu web.

    Fue un placer conocerte y te deseo lo mejor como compañera en el mundo de la fotografía.

    Me encanta tu web y tus fotos. Si vuelves por Sevilla nos toca a Nuria y a mí ser fotografíados, jeje.

    Un fuerte abrazo!

  2. Nuria Villa says:

    ¡Qué sorpresa tan bonita encontrar este post Kristelle! Gracias por la mención y por tus bonitas palabras 🙂

    Muchas gracias por haber confiado en mi trabajo. Me encantó formar parte de un día tan especial y siempre lo recuerdo con mucho cariño.

    Espero verte de nuevo si alguna vez vuelves por Sevilla 🙂

    Un abrazo!