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#RealWeddings: Forget Europe! Your Ideal Intimate Wedding Destination Is Closer Than You Think

Most couples will agree: home is where the heart is.

There’s something irresistibly romantic about destination weddings. Something unabashedly cinematic. Now showing: two lovers escape the humdrum of their everyday environs to meet in a secluded sunlit grove. Their crazy but lovable families show up at the appointed secret rendezvous to witness the sacred rite. Vows given. Kisses kissed. And they rewatched their SDE happily ever after. 


As air ticket prices go down, as standards of Instagram-worthiness go up, and as Tinder continues to make cross-cultural matchmaking smoother than ever, some lovers opt to have their trysts in picturesque Tuscany, faraway Barcelona, or “looks-so-much-like-the-Philippines-it-might-as-well-be” Bali. Most couples will agree though: home is where the heart is.


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For Max and Katrina, a classic, cozy Tagaytay reception was everything they wanted. A Frankfurt-based couple, they wanted a memorable wedding party. For Max’s family, a distinctly Filipino encounter. For Katrina’s family, a convenient and comfortable excursion. For everyone, a familiar yet delightfully fresh experience. Check out the photos and below for a rundown of the little things they did right.


If the weather agrees, start the program outside. Soak up the fresh air and lush tropical greenery. For Katrina and Max’s wedding, we didn’t even wait for cocktail hour to end. I just grabbed the mic at the opportune time and started a couple of small conversations until everyone was watching, then focused their attention on the larger narrative.


Encourage a festive mood!  Let your guests have a bit of childish fun with sparklers. An added benefit: they look great in photos. 


Choose the Barong Tagalog over suits for a timeless look. Your gentlemen guests from abroad will also enjoy the comfort and style of traditional Filipino dinner wear.



Hang out with your guests during cocktail hour, because who needs a grand entrance anyway? Then when the time comes to start the program, you can just stroll over to the center with your most unassuming “aww guys, you shouldn’t have!” smiles. 


Dancing in the moonlight surrounded by lovestruck tipsy cheering guests—yes please!


A receiving line is an old-school move that I personally endorse. It’s a fantastic way to have some face time with each of your guests. By simply standing at the entrance and greeting them as they come in, your message is clear: “Welcome to our party! We’re glad you came!” Once a requirement of proper decorum, receiving lines fell out of fashion as guest lists got longer and the appeal of posed, fashion editorial style shoots got stronger. Planning your wedding? Ask your coordinator and photographer about how you can make a receiving line part of your itinerary.


Large extended families and long hours away from home mean plenty of little feet pitter-pattering around the legs of adults preoccupied with booze and conversation. Keep the kids in their seats with toys and coloring books that also double as their souvenirs. 


Make the program light, spontaneous, and effortless. Leave out the carefully orchestrated production numbers. Make every moment feel organic—like it’s just a simple spilling over of their enthusiastic conversation onto a larger stage. Ask your emcee for help if you want this vibe. 


The money dance, another old-school Filipino wedding move, doesn’t have to be awkward! Some couples find it cringy but I actually like it. You should take every chance to have face time with your guests. Also, the dances should be between the newlyweds and their guests! Groom with the ladies, bride with the gents. The prosperity dance is like a plunging neckline (on either a man or a woman, mind you): it’s not modest, but it’s fun for everyone and it looks good if you’ve got the confidence to pull it off well. 



Lastly, choose a place that has undeniably charming Filipino interiors, serves excellent food, and let everything speak for itself. 


I will argue that a well-thought-out Filipino destination wedding can be just as romantic as any foreign chateau or vineyard. The case is strongest for weddings where many of the guests will be from another cultural background. Of course, if you’ve always wanted to get married under the Tuscan sun then please, you do you. But if you have the means to go out of town and are open to suggestions, then consider the following forks in the road.


Do you want more of your family present, or less? If you have a big, tightly-knit Filipino family then chances are only a select few could afford to fly out for you. Not just money-wise; time costs a lot too. 


Do you want to admire a foreign land together with your friends, or do you want your foreign friends to come to admire the land of your birth? 


Make a great first impression on your foreign guests and give your local family and friends a fresh take on what a modern Filipino wedding can be. Your wedding destination of choice need not be far from home.