Our wedding in Cartagena, Colombia

Date: September 22nd, 2012

Sandra and I got married in Cartagena, Colombia on September 22nd, 2012. We had so much fun. We chose this location since both of us really liked Cartagena during my first visit to Colombia in 2011. Part of the reason we chose a destination wedding was that it seemed like a much better bang for the buck. We ended up spending about the same amount as we would in the United States, but had a wedding in a beautiful hotel lasting until 4 am, including a live band, mojitos and rum, ceviche, "crazy hour" (hora loca) with a carnival troop, and even a delivery of late night empanadas. Plus, we got the chance to show our guests what a beautiful country Colombia truly is!

Getting Ready

We did all our wedding planning remotely from the United States with the help of a local wedding planner, Itala from Mi Boda En Cartagena. Itala was a great help, highly recommended! Our wedding was relatively small with only 54 guests. Everybody had to fly in. This included Sandra's friends and family, who came either from D.C. or from Bogota. My mom came with Anna from D.C., and my dad, sister Petra, and aunt Luba flew in from Slovakia. Petra brought her new boyfriend, some guy named Fero. Fero turned out to be a great guy, and is now when I am writing this in November of 2014 my newest brother in law. Welcome to the family, Fero. Fero managed to especially impress my dad. The Slovak entourage had a layover in Miami so I decided to meet them there (It's also more convenient to fly this way, by taking an internal flight to Miami and then the direct Avianca flight to Cartagana. Otherwise, you end up backtracking through a connection in Bogota.). Sandra was in Bogota organizing things with her parents. We took a cab to Hotel Chelsea in South Beach. Once the taxi left, my dad realized he left his shirt in the cab. No big deal, right? Well, except that his passport happened to be in the shirt. Great! Of course, none of us remembered the number of the taxi. I tried calling the various taxi companies operating from the Miami airport, while in the meantime Fero had the great idea to go back to the airport. There, him and Petra managed to find the parking lot where the taxis go to wait between trips and somehow among the hundreds of parked cars, managed to find the one we took. What happened was that the driver had to fold down the back seats in order to retrieve our bags. They found the cab with the seat still folded down and a bit of dad's shirt peaking through the fold. Disaster averted. Well, one of them. The other was that I made the hotel reservation for the following year! I am not even sure how this was possible, since I didn't think you can even make reservations over a year in advance. But at any rate, luckily there was a spare room available.

We got to Cartagena on Sunday, and stayed in Casa Gloria (the same place where Sandra and I stayed the year before). I very much love this cozy home-style hotel. On Monday, we took a tour to El Totumo mud volcano. We also went to a beach. The volcano was an amazing experience. The mud is basically the same density as the human body so you don't sink. Supposedly the well is thousand meters deep but I couldn't find any reference to confirm this claim. But at any rate, there is no bottom you can feel. You simply float in the mud. Trying to straighten up is quite challenging and hilarious to watch - when not involving you - since there is nothing to push against. Sandra flew in on Tuesday. We stayed for the next two nights in Hotel Almirante in Boca Grande (the modern part of Cartagena). That night we had dinner in El Carbon de Palo, where Fero got a chance to try the national dish of Colombia, bandeja paisa. The next day we went with Itala for food and drink tasting. It was pretty fun, especially tuning the mojitos. We also packed the welcome bags, which consisted of various assorted Slovak and Colombian snacks and juices, and embroidered beach towels.

Taking a stroll on the beach in Florida. Then hanging out in Cartagena, including on the roof of Casa Gloria.
Sandra came in on Tuesday and we set off on our adventure race of delivering bags. But not before a trip to El Totumo the day before.

Welcome Events

The Thursday before the big day we moved to El Marques, a boutique hotel in old town Cartagena. This was our wedding venue. This hotel is quite pretty and has a large open courtyard where the wedding was held. The only downside to this was that it's been raining in Cartagena a lot - basically every other day, and we didn't really have a plan B in case of rain. But we lucked out. It rained really hard the night before and we stayed dry for the wedding. We had to rent out the entire hotel for the weekend, and this allowed the two families to stay together. My friend and best man Mike G. and Allie, his wife, also stayed with us. I especially enjoyed relaxing by the pool or lounging in the hammock before the wedding. On Wednesday Sandra and I went out to deliver the goodie bags, which turned out to be bit of an Adventure Race event. We had a map with circles denoting the hotels where our guests were staying and did a lot of running around trying to find them. Some people also stayed outside the old town in Boca Grande. Then on Thursday the first guests starting trickling in. Our first social event was a happy hour Thursday night at Cafe Del Mar, an open air restaurant on the wall of the old city. It's an especially pretty place to watch the sunset. After drinks there a smaller group of us walked to a mexican restaurant, where we got a chance to see some older gentleman dance with various younger ladies who kept coming in from the outside. Hmm, perhaps shopping around?

The next day we took a day trip to Majagua, one of the many of Islas de Rosario. After lounging on the beach and a fairly mediocre dish of the typical fried fish and platanos maduros (we had much better on the trip to El Totumo at Playa Victoria) we came back, just in time to get changed. We met that evening for a chiva rumba bus. This old fashioned party bus took us on a night tour of the city, while a group of vallenato musicians played in the front row, and the tour guide kept passing back bottles of rum and cola for cuba libres. There was a bit of dancing on the bus, but to get more, we stopped first in a club outside the old town. Sandra's grandma was the life of the party. She was rocking out even at over 80 years of age! Later on, few of us went for more partying in Tu Candela.

Relaxing in El Marques.
Evening gathering at Cafe Del Mar
Trip to Islas de Roasario, including the typical meal of fried fish and green plantains.
Partying on the rumba chiva. Sandra's grandma was the life of the party!

The Wedding Day

Our wedding started at 6pm on Saturday. Our wedding photographer was Julian Castro. We didn't have any bridesmaids/groomsmen as is typical in the United States, instead we just had one best man (Mike) and bridesmaid (Ivonne). The ceremony was bit of an confusion for me, since my Spanish is not the best and was even worse back then, and the officiant was improvising as she went along. The ceremony concluded with our kiss under fireworks (something we probably couldn't do in the United States due to some obscure fire hazard regulation). We then went to the streets for pictures and happened to stumble upon a horse drawn carriage conveniently parked near by. The horse drawn carriage ride was definitely worth it. Then upon coming back, it was time for our first dance. We had a routine to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "Fly me to the moon", with mixes of swing, waltz, and foxtrot.

The boys getting ready
And it's go time!
Horse drawn carriage trhough the streets of Cartagena after the fireworks, and our first dance
Photos with our new families
Next it was time to socialize. We served various appetizers and cocktails, including mojitos
The dinner was buffet style, and consisted of different kinds of ceviches, fish, and the traditional Colombian black wine cake (torta negra)
After dinner we had a surprise for our guest - the hora loca. It consisted of a troop of about 6 girls and 6 guys dressed in carnival outfits (meaning not much except for bikinis for girls and pants for guys). They first performed a routine and then pulled everyone onto the dance floor. It was a great way to get the party started.

Getaway to Decameron Baru

The wedding went until about 4am. Probably due to the humidity and the fact everyone was dancing, nobody got really drunk despite quite a lot of alcohol getting consumed. The next morning we all got together for brunch at Crepes & Waffle where we said our good byes. Some people were leaving that day, while others were staying for another week. Justin and Nakles ended up going on a hike to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida), which is sort of like the Colombian version of Machu Picchu. For us, we spent the next few days with our families (except my mom who had to leave early) in Decameron Baru. This was my first time ever to an all-inclusive resort. I read on the website that it includes free alcohol, but I figured this included only some watered down local beer, with everything else extra. I was quite pleasantly surprised that in fact anything is totally complimentary.It was nice spending the next three days sipping on mojitos. The food was also not bad, with a buffet style restaurant along with 3 ala-carte restaurants that were also free, but required an advance (in the morning or night before) reservation. The last night, Sandra and I had a romantic dinner in one of them, where we got served a delicious lobster and a special cake. The resort had a beach but my, by far, favorite part were the pools. I have never in my life seen pools with crystal clear water like that.

Relaxing in the crystal-clear pool. Also a picture of the beach.
The resort also had free kayaks that could be taken to a nearby lagoon.
Our romantic dinner at the Il Forno ala carte restaurant.

For our honeymoon, we traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia. Don't miss that report, it was an amazing trip!

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