Our wedding in Oaxaca was a colorful celebration of love. Relive our favorite day through our photos.
This August, 105 of our family and friends traveled from all corners of the globe to celebrate our destination wedding in Oaxaca. From the Philippines and the USA, to Korea and Vietnam, we detailed the journey of our love right up to our magical nuptials in Mexico. The reasons why we chose to have a wedding in Oaxaca made itself obvious to our guests immediately: it’s a magical place filled with good food, kind people, and discoveries at every turn. The vibrant Oaxaca inspired our wedding theme, “love is better in color.” In living color, we made a bar our temple, stopped traffic with our parade of love, danced under a shower of rainbow blessings, drank one too many shots of mezcal, brought in a mariachi band to serenade us, partied like everyone was watching, and promised the world to one another until death do us part. WARNING: This post is photo heavy so get ready for a weekend full of events in Oaxaca!
The biggest thank you to the most incredible destination wedding photographer Peyton Rainey Byford for capturing every intimate moment of our fiesta of love!
My favorite photo of the entire wedding! I’ve been dreaming of a confetti toss ever since I began wedding planning and thanks to my awesome cousin, Val, my confetti dreams came true!
Pretty in Pink
The wedding invitation suite was designed by me at Prima Destinations, with illustrations by Simon Phan of OhQuao in Vietnam. The invitation mimicked a foldout travel map and had a decal sticker luggage tag as the save the date. Everything was deliberate, down to the Mexican food postage, cactus print envelope lining, and cactus charm.
When Tim and I did our initial venue scouting in Oaxaca, City Centro Oaxaca wasn’t even on our list (having been open for only four months at the time). But after a long day of looking at all the properties, we took a chance to drop by when it randomly appeared on our search engine results, and so happy we did. We actually were the first couple ever to get married at this hotel! It used to be a former tannery and the whole property is decked out in this vivid Oaxacan pink shade.
A Festive Parade
Another big reason we had our wedding in Oaxaca is because of their famous calendas, a festive parade announcing momentous occasions, that you can only find in Oaxaca. Fun fact: a calenda is the only time you can drink on the streets.
A calenda parade is made up of a marmota con letrero – a paper orb marquee with multicolored flags; monos, or larger-than-life puppets of the celebrants; Chinas Oaxaquenas, the brightly dressed dancers wearing special floral arragenments on their heads; and a brass band. You can even ask for a pyrotechnic upgrade!
Be Our Guest
✲ Biggest piece of advice when planning a destination wedding
Give your guests plenty of notice in advance. Weddings are a big financial ask as is, so we sent out our invitations a year before our big day, which helped our guests plan out their travel logistics. This is why over a hundred guests were able to come and their presence made the wedding so extremely special. This is everyone in attendance in one shot!
I booked myself a suite at the gorgeous Hotel Los Amantes and spent the evening before our wedding day apart from Tim. All of the bridesmaids got ready in my suite and as a special wedding gift, our friend Bianca did my wedding makeup.
I gave each of my bridesmaids wooden ‘alebrijes‘ earrings. Alebrijes are fantastical creatures from Mexican folklore. The bridesmaids were my real-life “spirit animals” and Oaxaca is known for as the birthplace of the alebrijes wood craft.
Finding my dress was one of the many serendipitous moments of wedding planning. As luck would have it, I randomly came across this princess cut, sweetheart neckline gown from Casablanca and wanted to try it on for fun. The minute I put it on, I knew it was the one. None of my bridesmaids or family members had seen this dress on me until my actual wedding day! It was romantic, ethereal, and complimented the colonial feel of Oaxaca. Also, the skirt had diamond tulle as the underlay, so every time I moved, it sparkled.
Something new: Child of Wild Earrings, gifted by my bridesmaid Kim
Something old and borrowed: A vintage locket for my bouquet, borrowed from one of my maid of honors, Chey
Something blue: My toe nail polish
The gentlemen wore custom-made barong tagalogs, a traditional Filipino garment made from pineapple leaf fibers, gifted by our sponsors (wedding godparents), Boycee and Elsa Ilagan. Tim gave his groomsman different colored socks as a tribute to our “love is better in color” theme.
The First Look
Have You Ever Seen a Cactus Wall?
You can find this one-of-a-kind cactus wall at Centro Cultural San Pablo, a 16th-century Dominican monastery converted into a multipurpose event space. We had wanted the Jardin Etnobotanico initially, but you have to reserve a spot for wedding photos in advance and pay a $120 fee. This location is free, provided you have written permission from the management team.
My bridesmaids reflected the various chapters of my life: family, college, work, and my time abroad in Vietnam and Korea. These beauties wore shades of sunset, comfortable espadrilles to make it through the long day, and colorful flower crowns à la Frida Kahlo. The bouquets were handmade with flowers sourced from the El Mercado de Benito Juarez.
The Boy Band
Before his bachelor party, Tim had 7 groomsmen. By the time of our wedding (four days later— Tim had amassed 2 more groomsmen. On the far left, Tyler (my little brother’s best friend) and on the far right, Patrick, our mutual friend from Korea, joined the troop. They were there for every rehearsal, being body fillers during rehearsal, ushers, and even went out of their way to run errands for us and get us food during pre-planning.
To the unsung heroes of this wedding, my ever supportive and patient family members. From left to right: My Lola Rose, my younger sister Mirabella, my brother and stand-in father figure Christian, my other younger sister Andrea, and my stunning mother Melrose.
♫ The Playlist
Procession: Known by Tauren Wells, sung by my sister’s best friend Juan Laverde
Ceremony: Still by Seinabo Sey
Recession: High Hopes by Panic at the Disco!
First Dance: Stand by Me by Kina Grannis and Imaginary Future, sung by my cousins Josh Unite and Ashley Suva
Money Song: Hey Ya by Outkast
Love is Better in Color
This wedding was 100% styled by me, featuring papel picado table numbers to match the white wedding papel picado hanging from the ceiling, airport luggage tag placecards, and an illustrated menu with illustrations created by Ayi Mondragon. We wrapped pashminis from Manila around the chairs as wedding favors.
A Tearful Ceremony Centered Around Togetherness
I was ugly crying the majority of this wedding. Everything tugged on my heartstrings–the minute I started walking down the aisle and saw all the people who traveled to Oaxaca to be with us, I just couldn’t keep it together. Per usual, my mom came to the rescue with a handkerchief she hand embroidered with my name and a reminder, “for happy tears.“
The officiant of the wedding was my Lola’s (grandmother) youngest brother, my Lolo Tante, who is an ordained Methodist pastor. The two siblings surprised us with a duet of one of their favorite hymns.
Filipino Wedding Traditions
This was a cross-cultural wedding ceremony, with elements of Filipino, American, and Mexican culture.
✲ The Meaning Behind The Traditions
Coins (Arras): The groom gives the bride 13 coins as a gesture he will provide for her in their marriage.
Veil: The cloaking of the couple in a veil reminds them that the Lord is always watching over them.
Cord: The cord is looped around the bride and groom in an infinity sign, indicating the everlasting bond between husband and wife.
Unity Candle: The lighting of the unity candle is symbolic of two lives becoming one.
The wedding was on the brink of being rained out but because of our incredible guests, everyone just shifted to the hotel bar and we finished the rest of the ceremony there. In Filipino culture, rain on your wedding day is considered a blessing from above!
Presenting… Mr. and Mrs. Stambaugh!
Our guests came from all over the world: The Philippines, New Zealand, Vietnam, France, Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Canada, Mexico City, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Portland, Nashville, and The Bay Area!
I was back and forth with having a mariachi band because I didn’t want to be disrespectful of Mexican culture, but after consulting a number of Mexican friends, they assured me that it wouldn’t be right to have a wedding in Mexico without a mariachi band present. I found this mariachi group playing in the zocalo during my last trip and asked them to play at our wedding, and they rolled through at the perfect time!
It’s The Little Things
Some of my favorite elements of the wedding included a polaroid escort card wall, with polaroids I photoshopped of Tim and I with each of our guests, and these two handpainted wooden figurines that were an unexpected wedding gift from my friend Jen who lives in Saigon. We didn’t have a cake topper and so this made the wedding all the more personal.
✲ Four-Course Meal catered by Restaurante Catedral on 105 Calle de Manuel García Vigil near Ruta Independencia
Appetizer: Trio of Istmeno Street Food
Soup: Caldo Xochitl, a traditional Mexican soup with avocado and chicken
Entree: Braised short rib in Chichilo mole, one of the seven legendary moles of Oaxaca
Dessert: Either coconut sorbet or chocolate tart
Stand By Me
Since our wedding hashtag was #stambaughme, it only made sense that our first dance would be “Stand By Me.” And to make the dance extra special, we had my talented cousin Josh perform the song with his equally gifted girlfriend Ashley.
A Dance with My Father Again
This was definitely the most difficult part of my evening, having to dance the father and daughter dance without my dad. My siblings helped set up an altar in honor of my absent parent (in the same fashion as the Day of the Dead ofrendas) and my brother Christian did me the honor of dancing in lieu of my dad to the tearjerking “Dance With My Father Again” by Luther Vandross.
Can’t Buy Me Love
The money dance is a Filipino wedding tradition where guests pin money onto the bride and groom for a turn with them on the dance floor. But we copied one of our friends Nara and Julien who did this at their wedding and turned the money dance into a contest to decide where we would go for our honeymoon. I picked South Africa and Tim picked Disneyland. Tim was winning but I ended up forging ahead when a $500 check was pinned to my boob! #luckymoney
A Special Thanks To Mezcal
Oaxaca is regarded as the capital of mezcal and I became a convert to the miracles of mezcal after it saved the wedding, acting as an anesthetic to the sinus infection I was fighting all week long.
BEST. GUESTS. EVER. We danced the night away until 2 AM and were greeted with midnight churros to mitigate anticipated hangovers.
Best Advice? Invest in the Memories
They aren’t lying when they tell you that your wedding will be over in a blink of an eye. If you’re second guessing the costs of photography and videography… don’t. Your photos are the only thing that you’ll have leftover from your wedding. Every moment captured on this blog post is all the brilliant work of Oklahoma-based destination wedding photographer, Peyton Byford, and her husband, Colton is a budding wedding videographer. Our wedding video will be out soon, so stay tuned!
¡Muchas Gracias Oaxaca!
There is no doubt in our minds that our wedding in Oaxaca exceeded every expectation. The actual wedding itself outweighed any of the stress and challenges that accompany planning a wedding overseas. But we wouldn’t have been able to have the wedding of our dreams without the help of our incredible family, bridal party, friends, and vendors, who were 100% committed to putting our needs first.
Venue: City Centro Oaxaca in Barrio Jatatlaco, Oaxaca de Juarez
Bridal Photos: Centro Cultural San Pablo
Event Design and Paper Goods: Prima Destinations — My destination wedding planning company! Website coming soon 🙂
Photography: Peyton Rainey Byford
Videography: Byford Films
Groomsmen Shoes: Jousen
Wedding Dress: Casablanca Bridal
Wedding Shoes: Ibizencas
Calenda Dress: ASOS, Yifcloset
Bridesmaid Dresses: Lulus, Revolve, and lilybridal
Catering: Restaurante Catedral
Florals and Decor: Ornato Eventos
Bride’s Makeup: Bianca Fortini
Wedding Hair & Bridal Party Makeup: Thera Alta Comestica
Alcohol: Prissa Oaxaca Gourmet
Photobooth: Selfiebooth Oaxaca
Desserts: Pinche Churro by Monse