Big wedding or small wedding? Like many modern couples, Valerie and Michael paid for their wedding themselves. Valerie toyed with the idea of a big, country-style wedding, rocking cowboy boots and carrying sunflowers. However, after an extensive venue search, they agreed to make the big day solely about them and wed in sunny Jamaica.
The couple met in early 2008 during March Madness through a mutual friend. The two N.C. State fans bonded immediately over their feelings about the Tar Heels and enjoyed rooting against them all evening. Later that night, Valerie messaged Michael on Facebook and the two began exchanging emails. “We started messaging each other two, sometimes three times a day,” Valerie says. “I was so girlie about it too. I checked my messages like five times a day.” Later, Valerie compiled all the messages into a scrapbook for Michael as a gift. She admits it ended up being close to 50 pages long. Once they officially started dating, Valerie says it was as if they had known each other forever. ¬“When I would look at him he would know what I was going to say, without me saying anything,” she says.
On Christmas day, after dating 10 months, Michael asked Valerie to marry him. “I kind of knew he was going to propose – we had been ring shopping and all that – but on the day of he was so nervous, running up and down the stairs,” she says. “He was so cute.”
Over the course of a long engagement, Valerie was able to plan everything for their destination wedding from home. They selected the Sandals Negril Beach & Resort Spa with the help of Debbie Kaiser from Magic Happens Travel. “We saw that if we stayed at the resort for more than five days, we got a free wedding,” Valerie says. “Debbie was a huge help and the wedding coordinator at Sandals sent me a booklet so practically everything was decided before we got there.”
Valerie found Christi Falls Photography through an online search for wedding photographers. “She was working on her international portfolio, so we paid for her room and flight and she came with us,” Valerie says. “She is absolutely amazing and totally worth it. She focused on every detail and captured candid moments, too.” The pair also took engagement photos with Christi and her assistant Stephanie in uptown Charlotte.
The bride and groom arrived eight days before the wedding and enjoyed a relaxing honeymoon before saying, ‘I do’ on the white sands of Negril, Jamaica. Michael’s mother and father and Valerie’s sister and brother-in-law were in attendance. During the intimate reception dinner, one of the servers serenaded the happy couple with Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.”
“He told us he didn’t do that for everybody,” she says. “It was probably the most memorable part of the day, besides getting married.”
Now, Valerie and Mike are enjoying the married life and are busy planning their next travel adventure. California and Europe are definitely on the list.
Continue reading real wedding stories! Up next: ’Beach Bliss’