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Akumal Bay and H2oh Sun Cruises Yacht wedding – Toni and Jason

Jason and I share a passion for the outdoors and for travel, and this is what we wanted to share with our families and friends when we chose to have a destination wedding.  We knew we wanted our ceremony to be beside the ocean but we were searching for ideas for our reception… while we both love beautiful, formal dinners, we wanted to celebrate in a different way than we would have at home.  We researched fire dancers and cigar making and a bunch of other possibilities. Then came the idea of a moonlight boat cruise, and that is how we found H2oh Sun Cruises.  From our first inquiry, Mike was incredibly informative, helpful and a pleasure to communicate with.   When we discovered they could also serve a casual dinner aboard, a new reception plan was born.  This is the kind of thing we really enjoy doing!  It felt more representative of us for our celebration and something we hoped our guests would enjoy sharing with us.   

The variety of spaces on the yacht allowed for an intimate and ever-changing party, ranging from sight seeing and sky gazing to karaoke singing and ocean swimming.  The calm evening was even punctuated by lovely fireworks that suddenly lit up the sky in front of us! And yes! We had a Piñata…the gorgeous yellow piñata that would not break no matter how many times the children hit it!  Haha!  

Jason and I even took turns with numerous hefty swings so the kids could get the candy… finally Jason cracked it open!  It was hilarious.  Still in a playful mode, we then joined in some funny contests orchestrated by the yacht staff.  Lots of laughter ensued!  

Gargling “la Cucaracha” with Tequila is a lot harder than it sounds.  The evening went by so quickly; I didn’t want it to end. 

Our experience with the yacht was fantastic!!  Mike made sure everything from allergies to transportation was taken care of and arranged our route so we could anchor in a calm area for those in our group who are prone to motion sickness. He also supplied extra details through his wife Katy’s wedding decor company Love and Lace.

We wanted a casual and playful celebration, and when we dropped all of our footwear into a bin before boarding, the tone for the evening was set.

Mack, the Captain and owner, was a gracious and accommodating host, and all of the staff did a wonderful job the entire evening.  The yacht is beautiful and was the perfect size for our group. Our dinner was like a delicious picnic, yummy and fresh from their kitchen.

We hoped our guests would be able to enjoy the unique experience of night swimming beside the yacht, and many did!  While Jason and some of our guests were prepared to jump off, my decision to join them in my dress was spontaneous.   I did not bring anything to change into, but could not pass up the opportunity to swim in that alluring ocean… on our wedding night … beside a yacht… in blessedly warm weather… with all of these people we love!

The dress would dry. This experience would never happen again!  It was amazing and I loved every minute of it.  

We originally wanted to rent a couple of guesthouses or a larger villa to share with our guests.  As our number of confirmed guests happily grew, we encountered complicated logistics with this plan.   We switched gears and began to search for an all-inclusive property to make it easier for everyone and better serve the various interests of those attending.  

We chose Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort because it is locally owned, welcomes children and is much smaller and more intimate than many of the resorts along the coast. Accommodations, restaurants and bars all run alongside the beach instead of back from it.  

Every part of the resort is literally steps from the water and each room has an ocean view.  This is our bliss! 

The beach is soft and beautiful; the bay is calm for swimming and infamous for turtles and reef life.  Accessibility to snorkeling from the shore was a priority in choosing a location.  At the time of our wedding, the resort had just completed a renovation, and the property is lovely. Every view and walk is a pleasure.   Situated halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, both are just a quick collectivo ride away.  We love the area and beautiful cenotes, ruins and other attractions are all easily accessible, so it is a great base for exploring. 

Nature takes center stage here, which is the way we like it. We loved the expanse of green behind our room and falling asleep to the sound of the waves every night. 

We wrote our own vows … it was amazing to sit in the ocean breeze the day before the wedding to finalize those words.  Then on our wedding day my daughter Hannah gave me one of her lovely blank journals to transcribe my vows, so that I would have it to hold.  I wrote in it while I was getting ready. 

Until the day of the wedding I decided it might be better to say my vows first.  I thought I would be too teary to be able to speak clearly if I followed Jason. Then when I recited my vows that morning for a quick practice, I changed my mind…saying those words out loud made me cry!  Either way, I didn’t know how well I would be able to speak when the time came.  Jason went first and he began with an entire chorus of Rick Astley lyrics from 1987…

Never gonna give you up… Never gonna let you down… Never gonna run around and desert you…

As is so characteristic of him, he unexpectedly made me burst out laughing!  It was the perfect thing and then I was ok! We both laughed again when on our way to the airport we saw a big billboard announcement for a Rick Astley concert in Cancun. Serendipitous!

 A very moving part of the ceremony for me was when Jason addressed my children, Kiefer and Hannah.  

“I want you to know that I love your mother with all of my heart.  She is my best friend in the world, and we have grown together and will continue to do so.  As you have so graciously shared this wonderful woman with me, so will I share the love I feel for her with you.  Together, we will grow to better know each other.  I promise to continue to work hard to earn your love, respect and true friendship.  I am coming into your inner circle as a new addition but am looking forward to becoming a part of your cherished family.” 

The words he wrote were poignant.  My son and daughter were the center of my world for so many years.  Our wedding marks change and growth in all four of our lives, as individuals and as a family.  It was very meaningful to me that they stood with us and were included in our ceremony in that way.

Jason’s sister, Crispi, read “The Invitation”, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, during our ceremony.  We are both at a place in our lives where our values have evolved and clarified, and excerpts from this poem exemplify those beliefs.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living – I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are – I want to know if you will risk looking a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me who you know, or how you came here – I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or with whom you have studied – I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.”

My beautiful friend, Aukeera, contributed to the Handfasting ritual that we included in our ceremony.   She wrote the introduction to this part of our service:

“Toni and Jason have chosen to include a handfasting ritual in their ceremony today as a symbol of their love.  Handfasting has a long and wonderful story of tradition.  Ages ago, marriages were held in secret. Small tokens were given at the ceremony, then were held close by each person.  Later as marriage ceremonies could resurface, money and possessions were still scarce, and handfasting remained as the tradition to bind two people in love and confidence. 

You’ve lived lifetimes before you met one another.  Life has seemed to take a pause and sigh…releasing, so that the two of you might meet.  

You have agreed with the Universe’s suggestion, choosing to become life partners.  Within your love you have found a peace neither of you believed existed, but that you hoped for.  You both feel blessed.

 “Never say never!”  This phrase was included in my vows because before I met Jason I had reached a point in my life where I was really independently happy.  I expected to have relationships, but did not consider that marriage would ever again be a part of my life. I didn’t think I would ever choose it.  Fast-forward a few years later … and it was simply wonderful to say my vows to Jason with joy and conviction.  

Stay open to everything, even when you think you already know things about yourself or your life…especially then, because life will continue to surprise you.

Our flight to Mexico was early, so guests joining us out of Saskatoon had to be at the airport by 3:30 am.  Most of us had not slept at all.  Despite the early hour, Jason’s mom arrived with festivity!  She soon had me adorned with a bright tiara and heart scarf, a heart tie for Jason, and colorful bead necklaces for everyone! The playful surprises from her continued with a sparkly heart placed outside the door to our room, tiny heart gem stickers on faces and shoulders of guests at our ceremony, and glow sticks at the reception.  We loved that she brought those little touches of humour and whimsy to our celebration.  

Jason utterly surprised me when he proposed.  Ever the gentleman, he had called my father to speak with him first about his intentions.  He had also spoken with his mom. When he presented me with my engagement ring, he explained that it was the wedding ring his mother wore. Even though his parents are no longer married, they remain friends, and she saved the ring.  He said it was very meaningful to him, since it represented how his family came to be, and that he hoped I would wear it as we chose to become partners and a family. This ring is cherished by me and is so beautiful, not only for its unique band but also for the history, personal meaning and sentiment with which it was given.  

My father and stepmom were not able to attend, so the little sign we made was our way of acknowledging that we knew they were there with us in their hearts, as much as they were in ours.  Their love and support travelled with us across the distance, and I thought of them often throughout the day.

Jason and I both wanted to incorporate hand-made items from Mexico into our day.  We wanted to bring home tangible pieces from our wedding that held meaning for us. We purchased all of the maracas in Playa del Carmen.   We found our ring box, handfasting sash, cake platter and cake topper (that’s us, cruising on a road trip!) in various shops in the Akumal area.  I was disappointed when I dropped and broke our lovely platter later that evening. The pieces of it came home in family suitcases, and Jason’s mom glued it back together before we returned from our honeymoon. It is treasured and resides happily in our kitchen, awaiting more happy celebrations!  

In the weeks before our departure, some of the planned details went awry. So…we improvised!  Decorating was minimal, with the sand, sea and sky setting the stage. 

My mom created our bouquets in our room, from a selection of cut flowers that our new wedding planner delivered the morning before the wedding. Until that moment we were not certain what we would have to work with or even what colors the flowers would be. I have a sweet memory of my mom and I the tying the ribbons that I brought from home.  The bouquets we carried were more beautiful to me because of her personal touch in creating them.

The morning of the wedding, I was gifted and surrounded by love and talent. My mom brought the bouquets to life. My dear friends, Gillian and Colleen, created our beautifully tousled hair that loved the wind.  And fetched champagne!  My sisters, Lori and Cyndi, patiently worked their magic on our smiling faces. My daughter, Hannah, rocked as my sidekick and assistant in everything.  My sister, Sherri, provided a shoulder of support and was the primary kid organizer.  This crew of amazing women gave me so much, and it was woven into that entire day.     

There was a distinct moment when all of the pre-wedding stress fell away completely.  My children had just walked together to join Jason on the beach, when I heard the first chords of the song chosen for my procession.  Immediately, I was buoyant, and I felt elated with every step I took. 

Everlong, by the Foo Fighters, was the first song on my playlist when I learned to run.  It always got me off the step.  Now, it was accompanying me to something greater. It is true that the only thing that matters in that moment is standing with your best friend and declaring that choice together.  I am so grateful for every person who shared that with us, whether they were physically present with us that day or not.

Right before we cut the cake, I discovered it was missing the flowers that were to decorate it. By the light of our photographer’s flash, again my mom and I improvised and hastily added some leftover blossoms to accompany our cake topper. I just kept adding more! The images of our funny little cake make me grin.  It’s kind of like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, so misshapen it’s cute! 

We are so happy with our decision to hire del Sol Photography to document our wedding!  Choosing an excellent photographer was a top priority.  We wanted a photojournalistic style, with a focus on capturing fleeting, genuine expressions. Every person we communicated with at del Sol provided outstanding service that was warm and professional, right from our first email.  What an amazing team! 

Debora’s work is stunning so we were excited that she would be our principal photographer.  She and Arube were a joy to have at our wedding, and we totally enjoyed the brief interludes we had to speak with them when they weren’t completely blending into the scene like ninjas!  They both went “over and above” for all of the hours that they shared with us. We are grateful for the opportunity to have them photograph and share in our wedding celebration.  

They captured that amazing, pivotal moment for each of us, when I caught Jason’s gaze for the first time as I was walking toward him on the beach.  Facing him on the sand, with turquoise waves on one side and so many people we loved on the other… it was breathtaking. Every time I see those images, I feel it again. Their creativity and passion for their art is inspirational. They both went above and beyond anything I imagined. I have never enjoyed being photographed, but their infectious energy made the experience of being photographed so much FUN! :)

We absolutely love our images!  Beautiful, humorous, moving and surprising…they are everything we hoped for, and will always be cherished for the happiness they elicit.  

Principal Photographer: Debora

Wedding Location: Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort

Coordinator: Shy Kotkas and Alejandra Castro

Reception Location: H2Oh Sun Cruises private charter

Gown Boutique: Mon Cheri Paris 

Boat Decor: Love and Lace

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