My college friends Ben and Becky decided to get married in Costa Rica, after visiting a few years ago. Originally planned for 2020, the wedding was postponed (twice!) for COVID, and they moved from the US to Dubai (where they are thriving). However, those small details were not going to stop them from having their dream wedding!
After 2 days exploring the area around Liberia, Costa Rica, it was time to start the wedding festivities.
July 6, 2022: Checking In
From Liberia, I drove 45 minutes to the town Playas del Coco (known locally as El Coco), the beach community where the first few festivities would occur. Ben, Becky and friends rented 3 Airbnb houses for the week.
By the time I arrived, everyone was hanging out by the pool at one of the houses. I was surprised to see so many college friends as well as a couple I previously met at Becky´s birthday party in Dubai!
I then got some work done before the night´s main event: the bachelor and bachelorette parties. While Becky´s bachelorette party took place mostly in town, the guys stayed back at the house for a BBQ and drinking games.
July 7, 2022: Welcome BBQ
Remember when I had a day free on meetings yesterday? Well, it caught up to me. I was so busy all day. Even though I was busy, it felt good to work paradise with views of the ocean.
Most of the guys went deep sea fishing, so I was mostly by myself. I walked into town to get lunch. While this touristy town does not have many authentic Costa Rican restaurant, I ended up eating at a taco shop that served Costa Rica´s national dish: casado. Spanish for “married”, a casado is a plate of rice, beans, plantains and some sort of meat.
I also got to take a nice stroll along the water. Between the houses and the beach is a dirt path. It felt very homey.
For dinner, Ben and Becky had everyone over to the main Airbnb house for a welcome party. After taking pictures on the beach at sunset, the couple hosted a catered BBQ set up by pool. After meeting all the friends last night, it was fun to meet the families.
July 8, 2022: Catamaran Fun
Another busy day at work. Thankfully the time change worked in my favor, and I was able to finish up around 2PM Eastern. This gave me just enough time to drive 20 minutes from El Coco to the resort where the wedding would take place. From this point on, most guests stayed at the resort.
Instead of a rehearsal dinner full of boring speeches, the couple instead opted to charter a catamaran cruise of the area. Far superior choice.
We gathered at the beach in front of the hotel and boarded small motorboats that took us to the catamaran parked in the bay.
As soon as we boarded the drinks started flowing. I downed two rum punches.
We then set sail! We sailed for 1 hour around the Papagayo Peninsula to a secluded bay. There we dropped anchor and were encouraged to swim.
The water was like a warm swimming pool. The one downside were microscopic jellyfish that stung. It felt like a strong pinch.
I swam over to a secluded white sand beach where I was the only human. Truly perfection.
After an hour or two in the cove, the staff brought out a food buffet.
Then we sailed back into a sublime pink sunset. Hard to imagine a more perfect afternoon.
I then drove back to Coco where I checked into a new hotel on the beach. It was only $30/night (one-tenth that of the main hotel) but did not have air conditioning.
I had a chat with a man who recently retired American man and decided to move to Costa Rica. He was exhausted by US politics and its anti-democratic streak and was happy to not have to deal with it for the foreseeable future.
For dinner, I visited a brewpub and then went to a club! The town has a fun combination of locals and tourists.
July 9, 2022: Wedding Day
Today´s the day!
The ceremony was called for the later afternoon, which left us a free day. So, I decided to go on a surfing excursion!
The most popular surf town (and gringo destination) in northwest Costa Rica, Tamarindo, is just 60 minutes away from Coco. A few weeks before the trip, I booked a surf lesson with the Iguana Surf School with my friend Maddie. During the wedding week, I also recruited friends Jacob and Ben to come with. Maddie was staying near Tamarindo, so Jacob and Ben met up and drove down together.
Once there, we met up with Maddie and checked in for our 2-hour lesson. The lesson was considered semi-private, meaning one instructor per two people. Maddie and I were paired up with Dale from Huntington Beach. Dale is the biggest surfer dude I have ever met. He has a deep voice with the surfer accent and called me “Brother Bryce”. Both Maddie and I had little surfing experience (the last time I had surfed was 8 years ago in Cape Town.
We first carried our boards from the surf school to the beach, which was crowded with beachgoers, surfers and even horses. There, we learned the basics before getting into the oh-so-warm water.
The waves were about 4 feet tall, perfect for beginners like us.
After swimming out to the waves, Dale would push us into the wave, and we would try to stand. It took some time, but by the end I was consistently standing up, a huge achievement!
By the end of the lesson, Dale was instructing me when to swim into the wave.
While I had a blast, two hours was enough, and we were all tired.
We walked around the town before eating lunch at upscale food hall. While Tamarindo has the surf, it is also noticeably more touristy and developed. There was a single high-rise in the middle of town, perhaps a harbinger of what is to come. We did not see many locals except those working in shops.
Back at El Mangroove, we changed and headed to the beach for the wedding. The wedding was to take place on the lawn right next to the beach. While located in front of the hotel, it was technically public property. Lots of families were picnicking on the beach and lawn, which made for a funny public audience for the wedding. My favorite onlooker was an overweight shirtless Costa Rican man sitting about 30 meters from the altar with his family. A few people walked by not knowing a wedding was about to start including a guy on a motorcycle and an ice cream pushcart man.
The ten-or-so COVID positive people also showed up. They sat far in the back separated by a row of plants. Most of them got dressed up, which was very sweet.
All the distractions quickly disappeared once the ceremony started. The powerful ceremony was crafted by the couple and included a few readings from religious and secular texts. Both sets of parents gave advice to their children. The wedding ended with vows that put me on the edge of tears. And I was not alone. Ben, the groom, cried a river.
As the ceremony ended, I looked around and realized that I now knew everybody at the ceremony and had made some real friends over the past few days. This made the wedding ceremony a celebration not only of their love but of the friendship and the community that they created. This is the magic of a destination wedding.
After a cocktail hour on the lawn, we headed to a dance floor on the hotel property for the party. Their first dance was A Whole New World which made sense since they live in Arabia.
We danced to mostly early 2000´s music until about 22:00. Then Ben yelled out “to the pool”! We all charged the pool and jumped in. Most people jumped in their suits and fancy dreses. The hotel staff was not expecting this but was nice enough to let this happen. A perfect ending to a perfect week.
I drove back to the El Coco which was HOPPING and went to sleep.
Next morning, I took a walk around town and then drove to the airport.
Destination weddings rule!