When Gabriella Rodriguez and Russell Valdivia set out to plan their destination nuptials in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they held fast to the notion that “making it about you [as a couple]” is of the upmost importance, as noted by the bride. Though the couple hired a planner based near their venue, they found themselves feeling the stress of the coming event during their 14-month engagement. “[What surprised us most was] the task of cutting down the guest list,” Gabriella reveals. In an effort to keep their wedding intimate – and adhere with the rustic, oceanside concept – the pair eventually scaled down their number of guests to 84. 

Instead of playing a prerecorded track, Gabriella looked to her close friend and sorority sister to sing a rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” as she made her way down the aisle. The couple's alfresco beach ceremony utilized the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and distant bluffs as décor focal points, in addition to white lanterns in varying sizes supporting clusters of red, pink, and orange perennials with cascading greenery. “Both [Russell’s grandparents] and my own grandparents have passed on, so it was important for us to have pictures of them at the altar,” the bride explains. “[During the ceremony, we had my nephews present us with] a love letter that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother in the 1930s and a bible to symbolize family and faith.”

Guests were treated to finger foods and an array of signature drinks during cocktail hour while the happy couple snapped a few romantic shots around the venue with their photographer. A classical guitarist serenaded revelers into their delicious dinners. The reception space featured simplistic, yet elegant, tablescapes free of linens, but marked with “centerpieces made up of red roses and other exotic flowers – [we included] some orange tones [along with] lots of pinks and corals. There were also a lot of gold votive candles [as well as] macramé runners and dollies instead of tablecloths,” reveals Gabriella.

There was no shortage of sweets throughout the celebration, as the newlyweds provided their friends and family with a scrumptious dessert bar complete with Mexican cookies, popsicles, and an eight-inch wedding cake bedecked with an icing pattern and a topper that read, “The Best is Yet to Come.” To accentuate the party atmosphere, guests were given glow sticks and other fun accoutrements to bring with them onto the lively dance floor. The reception came to an end at midnight, so a welcome bag of “Do Not Disturb” door tags and a miniature “hangover kit” – which were given out by Gabriella and Russell prior to their nuptials – came in quite handy the next day.

When it comes to advice for future brides, Gabriella implores you make your own decisions. “Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to people… it was hard, but I followed this advice [myself]!”