Inside My Wedding: NI couple’s wedding abroad in St Lucia and Belfast reception

A Lisburn couple has shared an insight into their wedding in St Lucia alongside their NI blessing and reception to celebrate with family and friends.

Lauren Thomas (30) and husband Gavin (42) are both originally from Bangor, got engaged on October 1, 2020 in Lake Garda, Italy.

In Be ‘s weekly feature ‘ Inside My Wedding ‘, local couples are delving into their special day to give you some tips and ideas for your big day.

The pair got married in St Lucia on September 27, before having their blessing at their home on November 20, followed by a reception at The Treehouse at AMPM in Belfast.

Here’s all about their two special days.

Lauren’s stunning Nadine Merabi dress

Tell us about your abroad wedding and why you wanted to do this.

We knew from the start that we wanted a destination wedding and to go away just the two of us for an intimate ceremony and honeymoon, but knew this would be difficult due to Covid.

We then heard international travel was being reinstated in May 2021 and as we didn’t want a long engagement, we booked to go to St Lucia. Unfortunately, this got cancelled and rescheduled to September.

This time was extremely stressful due to the traffic light system and the updates. Covid rates were drastically increasing in St Lucia and we feared it was going to go on the red list… but thankfully it didn’t and we flew out on September 22.

Lauren and Gavin Thomas

How did you plan it?

We literally Googled Caribbean weddings and found a company online that specialised in them. We gave them our budget and then they gave us a few options. We picked a hotel called Serenity at Coconut Bay which was incredible.

The wedding planning could not have been any easier, the wedding planner from the resort gave us a brochure and we had a phone call consultation a few weeks before for picking our flowers and cake etc.

We then got married on a beachfront gazebo on September 27 with the wedding planner and photographer as witnesses. Thankfully we are both fairly laid back so this approach was OK for us. If you have to see everything and pick everything yourself, then this maybe isn’t the way to do it. To be honest, we didn’t really care about the details, we just wanted to get married and have an amazing trip.

Two hours after getting married, the pair were back at the pool sipping cocktails

Two hours after getting married, the pair were back at the pool sipping cocktails

How did the big day in St Lucia go?

The day was super chilled out which is what we wanted. We had a lovely breakfast together then I went off to the spa to get hair and makeup done.

Gavin left the hotel room, for me coming back to get my dress on so that he saw me all done up for the first time when I walked down the aisle. We got married, took some photos and then two hours later, we were lying back by the pool with a cocktail in hand!

The beach front gazebo

The beach front gazebo

What was your home party like?

We always knew that we would want to celebrate with family at home so we had a private blessing at our home on November 20.

This was so intimate and actually very moving and we feel we really got the best of both worlds – being able to say our vows privately just to each other in St Lucia and then also being able to share that with our families at home.

The home blessing

The home blessing

We then had an evening reception at The Treehouse at AMPM. I had dinner at The Treehouse once and thought it was stunning. The setting, decor and cocktails are just unreal.

It was originally booked for July when we could have had the roof open but due to the original date of the wedding being moved, we had to move that as well.

But none-the-less it was beautiful, The Treehouse creates such a lovely ambience with the lights and the cherry blossom tree in the middle… just beautiful!

Gavin and Lauren at their blessing at home

Gavin and Lauren at their blessing at home

What we enjoyed most about that day was being able to share it with family and friends and being actually able to celebrate our marriage. Everyone wanted to see my dress in person and it was great to be able to wear it twice.

Tell us about your wedding dress and Gavin’s suit.

The dress was from a designer called Nadine Merabi who I found on Instagram. It’s called the Stella gown. I emailed them asking questions about measurements etc, then I literally placed an online order and hoped for the best.

The newlywed's reception at home was held at The Treehouse at AMPM

The newlywed’s reception at home was held at The Treehouse at AMPM

I was very nervous as I am quite small and the dress did require alterations but I had ordered it the week after I got engaged so I had plenty of time to get the alterations done! My advice to brides is to get your dress super early to allow for alterations. Mine had to be altered three times over a period of a couple of months and it turned into a bit of a rush in the end.

Gavin also ordered all his stuff online. We never went into a bridal or a suit shop.

What was the best part in the build up to your day?

Obviously in the build up to the wedding, we were really looking forward to getting married, but mostly excited about getting away on holiday.

We worked in the hospital the whole way through the pandemic and were both really ready for a break. It was amazing to get away and get some sunshine! The day after the wedding, we lay on a private ocean cabana and went paddleboarding.

Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake

What were the other best bits of the whole process?

The wedding party was also very exciting and really important to us as Gavin has a daughter from a previous marriage and we also wanted to celebrate with her. It was a lovely experience as we got ready together and she was my ‘bridesmaid’. She took the role very seriously! She held my dress up for me while I was walking around and she made sure that I didn’t leave the dance floor at The Treehouse!

The pair with Gavin's daughter Alex

The pair with Gavin’s daughter Alex

What was the vibe of both days?

Our goal was to be really chilled and just concentrate on what was important which was to get married and have a good time. We loved having the aspect of St Lucia where it was just the two of us and also then the home party where we could celebrate with family and friends.

We had a buffet-style food menu and people sat where they wanted so it was really relaxed vibes and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

Would you change anything?

I wouldn’t change how we did it at all and actually would highly recommend it.

I think that people have had to be creative for weddings with Covid etc and when the stereotypical ‘hotel’ wedding was really difficult to organise, people turned to restaurants etc which is such a great idea. Belfast has some real beautiful restaurants and it’s half the price!

Reception decor

Reception decor

My advice would be to make sure that you actually enjoy your day. Don’t get caught up in the small details. Also savour each moment and don’t worry about the next part of the day as it does so quickly. I mingled at the start of the night and then once the DJ came on I was on the dance floor and wasn’t off it the whole night. If someone wanted to see me, they had to get up and dance!

Weddings are supposed to be fun, so make sure you have fun! Also take a few minutes just the two of you just to enjoy what you have created!

Do you want to tell us all about your wedding day? Email be@belfastlive.co.uk to be featured!

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