Danielle reached out to Dulce Belize Weddings months before her big day. She asked me for help with flowers and to be her day-of coordinator. She was a very organized bride and had her wedding completely planned out (spreadsheets and all). Her fiance Brian visits Belize often as his brother David co-owns a Beach Hostel called Sandbar Beachfront Hostel & Restaurant. With all their Belize friends and connections, everything for the wedding fell into place. Danielle’s step mom was handling smaller details, decor and special touches. This was going to be a very easy wedding.
- Officiant: Brittney O’Daniel
- Music: D.J Thomas Gongora
- Catering: Island Catering
- Flowers: Dulce Belize Weddings
- Photographer: Jose Luis Zapata
- Stylist: Jessica R
- Day-of Coordinator: Melody Sanchez Wolfe/Dulce Belize Weddings
- Venue: La Gran Casa Azul
Danielle had handled every last detail. My role was to make sure everyone else was setting up according to Danielle’s timeline. We had done a walkthrough of the venue and had already gone over the layout of the wedding on her previous trip to Belize. Danielle had even handled all her own rentals and planned on putting the groomsmen to work setting up the lights and tiki torches. Easy-peasy, hand me a blindfold — I got this!
WRONG…….. Hurricane Earl has this!
The storm (named Hurricane Earl) moved westward through the Caribbean Sea, brushing the north coast of Honduras. Earl strengthened into an 85 mph (140 km/h) hurricane before making landfall on Belize on August 4th. Yup, Hurricane Earl paid us a visit one day before the wedding, completely destroying most of the docks and palapas on Ambergris Caye! By daylight, on August 4th, the hurricane had already passed over us. I quickly got on my golf cart with my two kids and drove to Caye Casa where Danielle and Bryan had taken shelter overnight. I look up and she is on the veranda looking out onto the beach. I could imagine what was going through her mind. I found myself thinking: we cannot have this wedding at La Gran Casa Azul — it’s too far South, the roads are a mess, the beaches are covered in debris!
Hurricanes are extremely rare on Ambergris Caye, Belize. The last time we had a hurricane was 10 years ago. My thoughts on this are: if people say that it’s good luck for it to rain on your wedding day, then I wonder what they say about a hurricane?
I went upstairs and can tell that Danielle has been crying, her dream wedding is ruined all her hard work seems hopeless. I tell her that her photographer is awesome and will make the best of backgrounds and the pictures are going to be very artistic with the aftermath of the hurricane as the background. I’m not sure if I’m helping any — my bride still looks very sad. In my mind I know we can do this, luckily I had run to the gardens before the storm to cut fresh flowers and stored them in my bathtub. BUT there are still a lot of missing factors, and I am worried how are we going to get ahold of all the wedding vendors and let them know that the wedding is still on. Some places still didn’t have electricity and most of them were not answering my calls. Internet was even more terrible than usual.
Danielle, Bryan and I start driving South to go check the wedding venue and there starts to be a glimmer of hope: as we drive down Middle Street I spot the Jose Luis Zapata, their official photographer. He assures us that we can count on him and he will be ready as soon as we tell him where the wedding will be held. We then literally managed to bump into every vendor on our drive to La Gran Casa Azul. Thank goodness for the small island of Ambergris Caye. Hope is growing!
We arrive and it’s a complete wreck: half the dock is in pieces on the beach, along with a TON of other debris. There is no electricity at the house, and I even get a message from the DJ letting me know that he is unsure if he can make it due to flooding in Belize City. I don’t doubt that our team will be able to handle setting up a wedding, but time is of the essence!
By late afternoon all of the couple’s family, friends and the great staff at LGCA are hard at work cleaning the huge mess…. and by huge I mean MASSIVE MESS! But I still don’t have a 100 percent go-ahead to send the team to set up the arbor, chairs and other directions because they still don’t have any electricity. No electricity means no lights, no music, no cooking. NO Wedding at least not at LGCA.
Finally, it’s wedding day and the sun is shining on Ambergris Caye, Belize. Still no electricity, but I know people who know people. So, I pull some strings and beg them to make that area of town a priority to save someone’s wedding day. The electricity is finally turned on around 11a.m!!
I start heading to LGCA and run into Danielle, who is heading into town to get her nails done and is smiling and in great spirits. I get there around midday and am amazed at how clean the beach is and how much work they got done. Everyone is buzzing around, the caterers arrive and head to the kitchen. David (best man) and his team are almost finished setting up the lights. Chairs and tables have been delivered. Brittney O’Daniel, the officiant and close friend of the couple, shows up with the cake. Everything starts falling into place even the D.J from the city shows up and we can scratch plan-B off the list (wedding guest who is a DJ). There’s even some upside to the storm — instead of docks and boats that would usually be parked in the background, they will have just the Caribbean sea and sky!
It’s almost ceremony time. I go check on Danielle and she is in the master bedroom getting ready and seems completely calm and is looking absolutely stunning. The photographer Jose Luis Zapata is there capturing special moments, and Danielle is with Bailey her new daughter and her close family exchanging special gifts. Everyone is ready and everything is set up. It’s go time!
The weather could not have been more perfect. The new couple embraced Hurricane Earl and got beautiful, dramatic pictures. They played “Earl Had to Die” by the Dixie Chicks at the wedding for a good laugh. I introduced them to “El Circulo” a Belizean tradition where the single ladies dance around in a circle and take shots from the bride and the single men do the same with the groom. We decided it would be fun for everyone to join so it didn’t matter if you were single or not: everyone got shots! (After all that work it was well deserved.)
The ceremony turned out absolutely beautiful. The reception was so much fun. Thanks to our team, the staff of LGCA, and huge thanks to the couple’s friends and family Danielle got the dream wedding she planned for. Belize Wedding at La Gran Casa Azul: success!
I hope that Bryan and Danielle are always surrounded by wonderful loving people who help them get through life’s hurricanes. Despite all the obstacles putting this Belize wedding planner to the test, it really proved to me that where there is a will there is a way, and where there is love there is always HOPE.