Romantic old-world Spanish wedding is a 3-day family affair with Puerto Rican culture, Jewish ceremonial elements, and two fabulous gowns!
Mary and Brandon’s 3-day wedding was a non-stop party for their family and friends. Set in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the couple started their wedding celebrations with a welcome cocktail hour at the Bacardi Factory followed by a Salsa Dance class. The night before their wedding, guests gathered for a rehearsal dinner filled with back-to-back toasts and ended the night with a bar crawl.
Their wedding day itself was filled with so many highlights, including Mary’s dramatic walk to the aisle through the streets of Old San Juan and wearing her mother’s engagement ring during their ceremony. Afterward, Mary switched into a second dress for a reception filled with dancing and carnival-inspired entertainment! This included an hour-long live performance of pleneros (a live plena music band with sounds native to Puerto Rico), parading cabezudos (big head puppets), and carnival stilt walkers.
For more details on their romantic old-world Spanish wedding, keep reading below!
- Couple: Mary Robinson & Brandon Carter
- Occupations: Mary is a Financial Advisor and Brandon is a Cyber Security Analyst
- Wedding date: October 24, 2021
- Wedding location: Ceremony – La Plaza Rogativa; Reception: El Convento
- What gifts did y0u give to your bridesmaids and groomsmen: The bridesmaids received robes, earrings and bracelets, undereye masks, “diamond ring” pens, Louis Vuitton card holder wallets, rose quartz hearts, and custom local candles that had pyrite and rose quartz stones inside of them. The groomsmen received custom cufflinks, bottles of cologne, and each one received a book specifically picked out for them from the groom.
- Ceremony entrance song: Kissing you Instrumental by Des’ree
- First dance song: So Amazing by Luther Vandross
How they met…
Mary and Brandon’s first meeting was a fateful surprise!
The day Brandon first saw Mary was on a boys trip in Miami. He happened to text his friend who was celebrating his birthday in DC and asked about the ladies they were meeting up with that night. His friend replied with a picture of Mary. And Brandon was instantly intrigued!
“WHO IS THAT?” he texted.
Like out of a romantic comedy, his friend proclaimed Mary was actually his “homegirl” and he thought “they would be perfect for each other.”
At the time, Mary was in a rocky relationship. But Brandon followed his intuition and waited. Two months later, Mary was single, and their mutual friend organized a happy hour for all of their friends to meet.
The pair hit it off! They spent the entire evening together and their group of friends hung out until 5am. The next day, Mary and Brandon met for brunch and found themselves together until 2am. They’ve been inseparable ever since!
Brandon initially planned to pop the question on Mary’s birthday trip to Jamaica; however, COVID interrupted their plans. Like many couples, Mary’s birthday trip was canceled because of the pandemic and her being at high-risk of getting COVID. On top of that, the factory making Mary’s ring actually shut down temporarily because of the pandemic. Despite all of these setbacks, Brandon was determined to propose!
Once he finally got the ring, Brandon ended up proposing the day after Mary’s birthday during quarantine. He planned the entire day around Mary’s love for film.
Brandon recalls, “As a film student in college, Mary was actually recording and documenting everything through quarantine.” So, to surprise her and continue her quest for new shots, Brandon asked her to take a trip into the city to record at places significant in their love story.
Mary jumped at the opportunity! She took off work, set up her cameras, and Brandon took her on a ride down memory lane.
They stopped and recounted their love story at the place they first met and where they had their first date. For their last stop, Brandon took her to the spot of their first kiss. While Mary was doing test shots, he asked her to be his wife! Of course, she said yes!
Wedding style & shopping experience…
Mary’s vision of her wedding dress was very different from what she eventually picked!
She admits, “I went dress shopping with the idea of a long-sleeved lace gown inspired by Grace Kelly… [but] those dresses DID NOT WORK.”
While she loved the idea of that look, each gown in that style “either looked too similar to dresses [she] had already seen or they weren’t flattering.”
At the second shop she visited, the stylist pulled a dress that was completely opposite of what she was looking for. But in a surprise twist, she immediately fell in love with it!
This dress was “simple, timeless, and elegant.” She adds, “We made some minor changes to the straps on the dress so that it was more open…. I [also] really wanted a drop veil, so we found this dramatic manila style cathedral veil and they moved the comb so that it would be converted to a drop veil…and everything was perfect!”
In another surprise, Mary ended up choosing another dress for her reception. Her mother’s favorite, a gown “covered in lace and had more movement at the bottom” was perfect for dancing after saying I-do!
Theme & décor…
When creating their dream wedding, they had a very specific theme in mind.
Mary explains, “We wanted a very romantic Spanish old-world vibe.” And for their décor, Mary was adamant about wanting their centerpieces to “sit low on the table but not in the way….”. She also wanted to “play into the natural beauty of the surroundings for the ceremony and for it to look like a rose bush naturally grew there.”
With special attention to Mary’s vision, their floral designer, Jat Lozano, brought her dream centerpieces to life!
Mary adds, “He actually added in tulips without any additional input from us, which was the favorite flower of my aunt who had passed away from pancreatic cancer shortly before we go engaged.”
She admits her “…ability to let go of the control resulted in something better than [she] could have imagined.”
For Mary, it was important to recognize her Jewish heritage. Her great-great grandfather was a Mizrahi Jewish immigrant who left Jordan when all of the Jews were exiled from the country.
To honor her roots and not conflict with their own Christian beliefs as a couple, they included the Sheva Brachot, which is also known as the Seven Blessings.
In this ceremony, they “had [their] parents, best men, Maid and Matron of Honor bless and say prayers over [them] as [they] stepped into the next phase of [their] lives together.”
“It was a very beautiful and emotional moment.”
They also included a lot of Puerto Rican culture in their wedding.
Mary adds, “The plena singers/musicians along with the carnival stilt walkers and cabezudos kept everyone in the festive spirit and having a great time!”
A brief history of the Cabezudos…
“The tradition of the cabezudos began in Spain around the 12th century, specifically in festivities in northern Basque Country, and in the provinces (then kingdoms) of Aragon and Valencia, among others. According to Spanish historian Javier Aparicio, the tradition became widespread as the catholic kings conquered Spain again from Islamic rule in the late 15th century. The reason, according to Aparicio, was that Islamic law prohibited depictions of saints and even ordinary people so when the Catholics regained power these restrictions were eliminated and the use of cabezudos and giant puppets proliferated through most regions.”
“In Puerto Rico, it all started in the mid 1950’s when the parish priest in Old San Juan’s Church of San Jose organized a religious procession mixed with music and festivities to honor Saint Sebastian, the patron of the street where the temple was built and situated in 1511.”
A note on their fabulous wedding team…
For Mary and Brandon, it was very important to seek out minority business owners and to be conscious of their carbon footprint.
Mary explains, “All of our vendors were people of color. We also used biodegradable wedding invitations (unfortunately, the company is out of business now due to COVID) and we used carbonfund.org to calculate our carbon footprint for the event and pre-wedding activities.”
They also donated to carbon-offsetting projects to help “minimize the impact of [their] wedding on the environment.”
Their favorite wedding day memories…
“There are too many to count!” Mary exclaims.
One of her favorite memories was a moment shared with her mother. Before walking down the aisle, she gifted her mom with a custom made purse to match her dress. Hidden inside, Mary had her mother’s favorite picture of the two of them restored. “It was a very emotional moment that was full of pure joy and love.”
Another favorite moment for these two was their vows. “According to our planners, videographer, and photographer, [they were] the best vows they had ever heard.”
Mary adds, “We also probably received the most toasts during dinner that I’ve ever experienced. We had no less than 7 people come up to the mic and toast to us and our love. The room was filled with so much love for us from our family and friends that it was truly a gift to experience.”
And finally, the performers during their reception was another major highlight. “Yuvi Plena stole the show and got everyone out of their seats!”
Advice for other engaged couples…
Mary and Brandon have a LOT of great advice for couples planning a wedding! Some key takeaways include giving yourself time, not sweating the small stuff, and having fun!
“There’s no such thing as planning too early,” Mary says, “and even on the day of the wedding, add in some extra time.”
She adds: “Trust the team that you hired. There’s a lot of things about… planning that didn’t make sense to the type-A bride, but it all worked out smoothly in the end.”
Another bit of planning advice is to be fearless! An example of them thinking outside the box was with their guest book. Instead of a traditional one, they opted for an audio guest book where friends and family could leave voicemails.
Looking back, Mary laughs: “It’s great hearing our guests celebrating and toasting to us at different stages of inebriation throughout the night!”
Lastly, Mary advises couples to reflect on what’s important to them. For instance, they “prioritized working with black and women [vendors] even if that meant flying people in and paying more.” They also knew they wanted an open bar and lots of entertainment. So they spent extra on those elements and cut back a little on their décor.
This concept was also applied to how they allotted their time throughout the day.
Mary recalls, “When we were running short on time, I could have used the photographers for detail shots or spent more time getting pictures taken with my dad and doing my boudoir photos. I decided my dad and boudoir shots were more important and I’m happy with that decision.”
“Finally, have fun! It goes by quickly, so take it in!”
Looking for more romantic old world Spanish wedding inspiration?
- Ceremony wedding dress designer: Justin Alexander
- Ceremony wedding dress salon: Elegance By Roya Tysons
- Bridal Earrings: Elegance By Roya Tysons
- Bridal Dressing Robe: Wedding As An Art
- Personalized wedding glasses cake server sets by: WeddingAsAnArt
- Reception Wedding Dress Designer: Martin Thornburg Wedding Dresses – Mon Cheri
- Reception Wedding Dress Salon: Global Bridal Gallery
- Groom’s Custom Tux: Hickey Freeman Formal (purchased through Nordstrom Tysons Corner Trunk Show)
- Bridesmaids Dresses: Azazie Bridesmaid Dresses & Wedding Dresses
- Bridesmaids Robes: Amazon
- Groomsmen Tux: The Black Tux
- Bridal and Wedding Party Makeup: Christopher Feliciano
- Bridal Hair: Ashlee Stevens of Fifi Organics
- Groom and Groomsmen Barber: Lawrence Perry
- Shoes: Badgley Mischka Collection, Carlie (Nordstrom)
- Ceremony Location: La Plaza Rogativa, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Reception Location: Hotel El Convento – Luxury Hotels in Old San Juan Puerto Rico
- Hotel Wedding Coordinator: Fabiola Cruz
- Photography: VidalCruz Art
- Videography: Valley Park Media – Cinematographer, Director & Filmmaker
- Wedding Planner: Rosalina Torres Momentus
- Florals and Design: Jat Lozano Flowers & Event Design
- Entertainment: Yuvi Plena
- Cake: C+M Cake Designers
- Signage, Menus, Invitations: Paper Crafts
- Engagement Ring: Mark Broumand – Custom Made Diamond Engagement Rings and Fine Jewelry
- Bride’s Wedding Band: Eravos Fine Diamond Jewlery
- Groom’s Wedding Band: Tysons Corner Center – Jewelry Store – ELITE JEWELERS