B-Metro’s A-List Weddings

A Wedding in Paradise

By Lesley DeCastro Vedel

Greg and I knew we wanted to have a private destination wedding (meaning only Greg and I made the trip) from the beginning of our engagement; luckily he let me pick the location. I have been in love with Turtle Island, Fiji from the moment I saw it featured on The Travel Channel 10 years ago. Turtle Island is a private island that only accommodates 14 couples at a time. This exotic island is most famously known for being the location of the 1980 movie “Blue Lagoon.” The island is almost completely self-sustaining with fresh seafood from the local waters and all fruits and vegetables grown on the island.

I was most drawn to Turtle Island because of their commitment to preserving a true Fijian culture. From the moment we stepped off the seaplane Greg and I were embraced by the Turtle family. The staff is made up of members from surrounding villages and many of them are related. They see our stay as a visit to their home, and they welcomed us with open arms. Greg and I bonded instantly with the staff, and this is honestly what made our Turtle Island vacation so special. Each couple is exclusively assigned a “Bure Mama” to be our personal liaison to the island life. As one could imagine it was very hard for me to leave my mother in Birmingham and get married half way around the world. This anxiety was eased when I met Mama Taru. Greg and I bonded with her instantly. Mama’s “job” was to make sure we had anything and everything we desired while on Turtle Island. But to her this is not a job, it is a way of life and it is a life that she is very proud of.
Wednesday, April 25th, the day of our private beach wedding, was the most relaxing carefree day that I have ever experienced. We woke up around 6:30 a.m. and I went for a long run and Greg went fly fishing. Mama brought us a gourmet breakfast in bed—she was a little upset when she found out we had been up hours and we had tricked her by getting back into bed. The only stressful part of the morning was doing my own hair and makeup. There was no way to keep my makeup from melting and my hair curled—such is the island life.
I was honored when Mama Taru presented me with a flower headpiece and lei that she had spent hours gathering and constructing.  Then in my gorgeous Monique Lhuillier gown I stepped onto Blue Lagoon Beach to unite with my future husband. After the island photographer took his pictures we were ready for the quick boat trip to our private beach—Shell Beach.
Our beach ceremony was simple, traditional and perfect. Another reason Greg and I choose Turtle Island is because they practice Christian–based wedding ceremonies. Greg and I stood in front of the Fijian Minister and members of the Turtle Island family sat behind us forming a small choir. The Minister’s voice was calm and soothing and he spoke like we had been friends for years.  As Greg and I recited the vows that we had written to each other earlier that morning, I was at total peace with my decision to be married privately. It was just me, Greg and God on that beach in Fiji. And that is all I needed.
The rest of our trip was filled with exploring the island, scuba diving, fishing, picnicking on private beaches, and snorkeling Blue Lagoon. At night we socialized with couples from around the world and participated in traditional Fijian ceremonies such as the Kava Ceremony.
There is no way this could have been a true “Vedel” adventure without something going awry. For our return trip home we took a seaplane from Turtle Island to the main island of Fiji. We stretched our stay as long as possible and took the last flight available. As we stepped off the seaplane a man ran up screaming that my wedding dresses had been left on the Turtle Island dock.
I will spare you the details of my reaction to learning that I would be forced to fly back to the United States without my dresses in hand. After a stressful flight to LAX (and multiple calls to Turtle Island, FedEx, UPS etc) we learned that it was not possible to ship my dresses and have them arrive in time for my wedding reception the following weekend. My wonderful husband saved the day with his idea of asking the Chicago couple scheduled to return the following day  to carry the dresses back to the States and then overnight them to us. Luckily there are nice strangers out there and my dresses arrived home safely a few days later.

It’s All About the Details…
Event and Floral Design- Christopher Confero Design
Photography- Armosa Studios
Venue- Rancho de las Aguilas Estate
Dresses- Ivory and White Bridal Boutique
Hair- Tonya Jones from Tonya Jones Salon and Spa
Makeup- Angela King Layman from Tonya Jones Salon and Spa
Food- Alex Castro
from Sol y Luna and
Fruit/Cheese Display
and Wedding Cake- Olexa’s
Band- Goodfellas Jazz
PhotoBooth- The Foto Atelier
Cigar Bar- Magic City Cigar
Lighting- A.G. Lighting & Production

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