A’ngelique and Michael’s multi-day destination wedding celebration in the Riviera Maya in Mexico incorporated Eritrean and American wedding customs and traditions! Their wedding is featured in MunaLuchi Bride Magazine, Issue No. 26!
The couple’s paths first crossed at an East African networking event in New York City. Although Michael’s first words to A’ngelique were a comment she’d often heard before, there was something different about Michael’s energy that made her want to chat longer.
After four amazing, travel-filled years of dating, Michael proposed on a trip to Aruba during a romantic 5-course private cabana dinner. A’ngelique was completely taken by surprise, sharing, “I left him on one knee in the sand for exactly 2 mins and 10 secs, repeatedly asking him “What Are You Doing?” until reality hit me and I finally said “YES!”.”
Villa La Joya in Playa Paraiso was the perfect destination for the couple to bring their family and friends together for their multi-day celebration. They wanted their guests to feel comfortable and have an amazing cultural experience so they incorporated a traditional Eritrean entrance, music, and attire, in addition to American wedding customs.
See the beautiful details from their destination wedding below!
- Couple: A’ngelique & Michael
- Occupations: A’ngelique is a Video Sales Consultant at Google; Michael is a Cybersecurity Engineer at Health-E Commerce
- Wedding date: November 8, 2021
- Wedding destination: Villa La Joya in Playa Paraiso, Mexico
- Gifts for their bridesmaids and groomsmen: We did not have traditional bridesmaids and groomsmen for our wedding but instead had “tribes” to assist in various duties throughout the day.
- Gifts for one another: Following the celebration, we gifted ourselves a honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
- Ceremony entrance song: processional song: Still by Mali Music – performed live by India Tyree
- Entrance of the bride song: Endless Love by Lionel Richie – performed live by Visuddha Entertainment Harpist
- Recessional song: Stand By Me by Ben E. King – performed live by Visuddha Entertainment Harpist
- First dance song: “Ordinary People” by Tems
How did you meet?
Michael is Eritrean but was born in NYC in the lower east side. I am an African American country girl from a small town in Southern Virginia. Our worlds collided on May 14, 2016, when we met at an East African networking event at Angel of Harlem restaurant located in Harlem, New York.
Michael’s opening words to me were “Do you know who you look like? Gina from ‘Martin'” (a character from a popular 90s sitcom). Although this was the thousandth time I’d received this “compliment,” there was something about Michael’s energy, smile, and presence that just captured my attention and I stayed around to entertain the moment.
That moment turned into 4 years of an adventurous, inspiring, educational, and travel-filled relationship that led to Michael proposing to me in Aruba on August 1, 2020.
Tell us all about the proposal
After enduring six long months of pandemic restrictions in NYC and in dire need of an escape, we decided to book a trip to Aruba with a couple of friends. One evening while in Aruba, Miki reserved an extremely nice, private cabana beach dinner with amazing views overlooking the water for just the two of us. Between the delicious 5-course meal and being serenaded by Michael throughout dinner, it already felt like a special night.
At the end of dinner, he asks our waitress to take a picture of us overlooking the beach. What I thought was a picture turned out to be a video capturing Miki proposing to me. In my shock and excitement, I left him on one knee in the sand for exactly 2 mins and 10 secs, repeatedly asking him “What Are You Doing?” until reality hit me and I finally said “YES!”
To my surprise, Miki had purchased the engagement ring that I randomly designed the year prior in February 2020, but the pandemic deterred his original plans. However, Aruba was the perfect location for our engagement since we are the ultimate wanderlust couple and continuously strengthen our relationship through travel experiences.
Describe your wedding attire
For our multi-day American-Eritrean wedding events, we wore two different looks. We began with the welcome event hosted at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. We joined Michael’s family in wearing traditional Eritrean wedding attire. For the wedding that followed at Villa La Joya on Monday, I opted for a relaxed A-line champagne silhouette dress with beaded details and white floral lace and I wore my hair down in loose curls. Michael donned a formal look consisting of a white tuxedo jacket with black lapels and trousers. My bride tribe complimented us in forest green dresses in varied styles.
My experience in finding a wedding dress was surprisingly stress-free. I planned my shopping experience at Kleinfeld on the first day Kleinfeld opened in 2021. Prior to my appointment I set a loose budget and curated an inspiration board of different wedding dress styles. After curating my top styles with my two younger sisters the night before my appointment, I was very excited to find my dream dress at one of the most famous bridal salons in the world. On the day of my appointment, I had one of my close friends and one of my sisters join me for my Kleinfeld dress shopping experience. With the help of my bridal consultant, bride tribe, and inspiration board, I fell in love with the very first dress that I tried on–and even slightly increased my budget because it was the perfect dress!
Michael’s shopping experience was pretty seamless as well. After initially searching for a custom green suit on a Sunday afternoon with his dad, he decided to opt for a white tuxedo with black lapels under the suggestion of his bride.
Did you incorporate any culture into your wedding?
Hosting our destination wedding in Mexico was the perfect place for blending our two sets of families and friends, with two different cultures, together. It was also important that all of our guests were comfortable and had an amazing experience throughout our wedding, so we decided to incorporate a few Eritrean customs and traditions in our American ceremony and welcome events.
For instance, following our first dance, we incorporated a traditional Eritrean wedding entrance robed in traditional kabas. This amazing grand wedding entrance was filled with energetic habesha music, swords, palm leaves, and guests shouting “Elelele” as a sound of celebration. Throughout the reception, our DJ vacillated between traditional habesha and American music. During our exit for the night, we recognized our elder family members and parents and were sent off with their blessings.
Watching family and friends of different ethnic backgrounds come together for this unique tradition was extremely heartwarming and demonstrated a love and acceptance of both our family and friends’ backgrounds.
What is your best memory from your destination wedding?
We really wanted our day to feel like an elegant, unique event with endless entertainment. We included everything from guests being greeted with a champagne wall prior to the ceremony to a floral swing set at cocktail hour to a 360-degree photo booth and live DJ during the reception and cold fireworks during our first dance – the entire day was a dream.
The moments that stuck out the most were seeing the culmination of all of our wedding designs and planning to come to fruition, experiencing our families and friends coming together for the first time, and having my 86-year-old grandmother travel outside of the country for the first time.
Wedding advice for engaged couples planning a destination wedding?
We have three pieces of advice for engaged couples planning a wedding, especially a destination wedding.
Our first piece of advice is don’t forget to cherish the moment.
Your wedding day will be intense — with a timeline to follow, guests to greet, family and friends to please, and ensuring the day runs smoothly. In the midst of the chaos, take at least five minutes to step to the side with your partner and soak it all in. Right before our first entrance as a couple, we took 10 minutes to ourselves on the front stairs of Villa La Joya to reflect on officially being married and reflect on the culmination of our efforts, planning, and coordination on our wedding day.
This leads us to our second piece of advice: Go with the flow.
It does not matter how many months of planning go into a wedding, not everything will go according to plan. For instance, for our first dance, our DJ played the right song but the wrong version. It was supposed to be “Ordinary People” by Tems, but they played the John Legend version. We did not realize it until halfway into our dance. Although we were a little disappointed that the wrong version was being played, we still moved forward with an impromptu dance, laughed about Michael having two left feet, and ended the dance surrounded by a beautiful cold fireworks display! The key is not to allow the minor details to distract you from enjoying your day—trust me, your guests won’t even notice.
Our last piece of advice is to budget for a wedding planner and/or day-of coordinator!
It is imperative to take the stress of coordinating a wedding off of yourself and your guests in order for you to enjoy your day. There is no way our destination wedding would have been as successful without the help of our amazing wedding team – led by Lucy Gallagher Boutique Weddings! They provided us with a wedding planning portal to update your wedding requests, decor & layouts, and guest lists, amongst other items leading up to the wedding which kept us extremely organized.
- Wedding Dress Designer: Martina Liana
- Wedding Dress Salon: Kleinfeld Bridal
- Bride Hair/Makeup: Styling Trio
- Bride Shoes: Badgley Mischka
- Groom’s Attire: Abe’s Formal Wear
- Groom’s Shoes: Bruno Magli
- Ceremony / Reception Location: Villa La Joya
- Photography: Luxart Wedding Studio
- Videography: One Cameraman
- Planning: Lucy Gallagher Boutique Weddings with the help of Arlenis Ruiz Weddings
- Florals: Cherry Blossom
- Rentals: EW Cancun
- DJ: Plug In Audiovisual
- Catering: Tomas Soberanis from Gourmet Soberanis
Looking for more destination wedding inspiration?