Mr. & Mrs. Johannsen
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino | Beach Wedding | Destination Wedding Photographer
Early 2017, Stephanie reached out because she and Brian were needing to get some photos taken in celebration and documentation of their 10-year dating anniversary that would also serve as their engagement photos. We had a gorgeous day and so much fun! When she mentioned that they were getting married in Aruba, I was so excited for them! After thinking about it and looking into it, I just HAD to ask if they’d want me to be their photographer. They were SO. EXCITED. I was SO. EXCITED!!!
They incurred a couple hundred dollar vendor fee for booking a photographer outside of their resort, but assuring me I was totally worth it (so darn sweet!), I started watching flights and looking for where we would stay.
Stephanie and Brian used a travel agent (Angie Aldrich with Destinations Unlimited)who set up EVERYTHING for them, and got me any information I would need to photograph their wedding as well. She was amazingly helpful and I would highly recommend a travel agent if you’re having a destination wedding somewhere you’re not familiar with out of the country.
September 2017 came and we booked our flights. I always use Google Flights and check on them a few times a week. i keep a log of what day it is, how much flights cost and how long the flight is so I can go back and compare. I start to see trends, like when prices tend to jump and drop so I know when to watch for them. I’ve used apps before and they don’t typically show me ALL the flight options, so I’ve stopped relying on them. We decided to book our stay through Airbnb because as much as I enjoy hotels, I LOVE having an entire space - especially since we were staying for 14 days! In my experience, they’re less expensive and less complicated. And having a full kitchen is necessary for longer trips because you can make your own breakfast/lunch/snacks when needed. And an almost private pool…. perfection.
We decided to invite another couple to travel with us! They were wanting to celebrate their 10-year anniversary somewhere tropical and had never been to Aruba. And to split the cost of the condo we rented would save us some money as well! (We also were offered a car rental through our condo and decided to take them up on it. We could’ve walked or taken public transport for cheaper but we really enjoyed having a vehicle ready at any moment for our use.)
We arrived in Aruba and were there for almost our 2 full weeks before Stephanie and Brian’s wedding date. I used that time to enjoy the island - the culture and the tourist-y parts, their foods and drinks and soak up the sun, all the while watching for amazing spots for their wedding photos. If you’re considering a trip to somewhere warm, I would definitely go back to Aruba and would recommend it , some of our favorite things to do, besides sit in the ocean or pool all day, were:
Food: Zeerovers (authentic food, unique experience), Casa Tua Pizzeria (pizza with a fun environment), Red Fish (authentic food, restaurant-style setting), Flying Fishbone (high-end, popular restaurant, eat at a table in the water) and Chicken and Lobster for breakfast (we stopped once because they were the closest to us and happened to be open and fell in love with their waffles!)
Experiences: Arubiana UTV rental (we rented the UTV for the day and used it to explore the whole island, including the natural pool. The internet-free app they have you download is super helpful and accurate. We had a great time!), Jolly Pirate - Sail, Snorkel, Swing (tourist-y but it was something we will likely never experience again and we had fun). But otherwise we just walked around, tried new restaurants, beaches, and relaxed!
Here are some shots from our stay:
The day came for Stephanie and Brian’s wedding and I was so excited, and nervous! I had never photographed a beach wedding before, in an unknown area. I had no idea what to expect. But let me tell you, if you aren’t IN LOVE with the idea of throwing a huge expensive, stressful wedding just because that’s what’s traditional, PLEASE consider a destination wedding! Typically I show up and the brides have been up since 6 a.m. getting ready and stressing out about decor setup, etc. I showed up to Stephanie’s beautiful room and she had spent the morning having drink with her best friend and just relaxing. Now THAT’S how you want your wedding day to start! (Although, just like every bride, she did start to get nervous about walking down the aisle, but who can blame her! It’s a public beach with LOTS of spectators.)
We spent the afternoon hanging out with Stephanie in her room, laughing while she looked like a celebrity getting her hair and makeup done simultaneously, and heading to Brian’s room once in a while to photograph the men as they prepared for the big day!
I scoped out the best place to do their note exchange and I photographed a tearful first look with Stephanie and her sweet dad.
Then we all prepared for the ceremony. Everything went great. The backdrop was gorgeous and the photos turned out better than I could’ve expected. Although, we did have a lot of audience members in the swimming suits video taping and photobombing in the background. Between the scorching heat making me sweat so I could only use one eye at a time (worth it), the wind (Aruba’s a bit windy!) and the people in the background being a little too eager to get a good video of a wedding they were not invited to (lol!!) - I admit I was a bit anxious about the photos I was taking. (Also a reason I always have a second photographer with me!) That’s totally not out of the norm for me. Now, those pesky spectators are part of their wedding day story, which makes it that much more fun to talk about!
What came next is what I was the most nervous about - the formal photos! Stephanie and Brian trusted my ideas and allowed me to bring them to a more quiet part of the beach up the road. I wanted a location that would show off the beauty of Aruba in their portraits as well as somewhere I could find some shade from the sun. A bride in full hair, makeup and gown and groom in a full suit and boots can only handle SO much sun and wind. After praying I got all the amazing shots I had planned for, we headed back the beach for their family photos as the sun set.
Their wedding reception on the beach is what dreams are made of. Seriously. I was so happy in that moment I never wanted it to end. The private bartender, waitresses, food, drinks, ambience; everything was amazing. We sat with Steph, Brian and their closest friends and family and enjoyed the sand in our toes and a great meal! (Also, a side note, I tried salad for the first time and didn’t hate it.) They played their music selection from their own iPod, had their first dances in the sand under the lights, and it was magical. When the waitstaff joined in the dance party, that was the perfect ending to the perfect day.
I would go back to Aruba in a heart beat. In fact, it didn’t take long for us to start talking about when we would go back. But there’s something about traveling, experiencing different cultures and their way of living, that my soul cannot get enough of. We have SOOO many places from all over the world on our “Dream Travel” list (Egypt, Malta, Disneyland, Hawaii, Alaska, New Zealand, Ireland, Greece, Finland, just to name a few) and if I can travel with a bride and groom to photograph their amazing destination wedding - I’m going to do it! We’re so excited to be going to Glacier National Park in Montana this summer to photograph and celebrate another couple who decided to listen to their hearts and do their wedding THEIR way.
If you are considering a destination wedding (or know someone who is - please send them my way), I’d love to meet you and talk about your plans and dreams!