An Ethereal Island Destination Wedding in Belize

Modern fairy tales don’t need knights in shining armor or damsels in distress — they just need two swipes right!

Newlyweds Ashleigh Penrod and Joe Rippke met the old-fashioned way: Tinder.

“On the app, I saw that we had a mutual friend – a guy named Grant who I worked closely with at my job,” Ashleigh recalled. “It turns out Joe and Grant have been best friends since they were 8 or 9 years old, so Grant vouched for the fact that Joe is a kind, funny, stand-up dude. So we went on a date, and then another and another. ”

After a year of dating, the couple decided to get married. This wasn’t your average down-on-one-knee proposal: the bride and groom wanted it to be a mutual discussion.

“We both felt strongly that it’s a joint decision, so the idea of Joe proposing to me didn’t sit very well with either of us,” the bride explained. “Our ‘story’ is that we had a conversation about getting married, decided to do it, and then called our families and told them the news. We each have a token of the engagement – my mom passed down my great-great grandmother’s gold and garnet ring to me, and we had meteorite cufflinks custom-made for Joe.”

The two certainly didn’t skimp out on the romance, though!

Getting Ready

The Dress

“It was incredibly light and comfortable,” Ashleigh said of her Modern Trousseau gown. “I loved the detail of the lace and the simplicity of the form. Although I hadn’t considered this when I chose it, it was very easy to pack. I just rolled it up in my carry-on and it looked great when we arrived.”

An Island Wedding

When looking for inspiration for the wedding, Ashleigh didn’t need to look far: the island served as the perfect starting point!

“I created a mood board with different natural textures — such as the sand, burlap and trees — and colors — different shades of blue, pink and yellow — and worked from there.”

An Intimate Morning Ceremony

The ceremony was perfectly tight-knit, just like the couple imagined. There were a total of 18 people including the couple. The group comprised of family and four close friends. Katy, a friend of the bride, officiated.

“For the ceremony, we asked the entire group to stand in a circle together,” Ashleigh explained. “Katy and my dad welcomed us by reinforcing the symbolism of the circle – every part of a circle is crucial to the integrity of its shape, and everyone there would play a role in supporting and enriching our marriage. Joe’s sister Em read an excerpt from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and his other sister, Ally, read The Square Root of Three by David Feinberg. We’d written our own vows, so we sniffled our way through those, and Katy lead us through an exchange of rings. To close, we asked everyone to participate in creating a symbol of the agreement we’d made – a braid, where one strand represented Joe, one represented me, and one represented everyone present. To us, it symbolized that while each strand is strong and beautiful on its own, we’re stronger together.”

The Reception

The daytime reception was perfect for the fun-loving, non-traditional couple.

“We were honored by poignant and hilarious toasts from my dad, Joe’s mom, my sisters, and Joe’s best friend Grant, so we spent most of the reception in a state somewhere between laughter and tears,” Ashleigh fondly recalled. “Before changing into our swimsuits and grabbing snorkel gear, we took our best shots at mastering the slack-line!”

The Details

Venue: Thatch Caye, Belize | Planner: Garnet Lee and Sarah Dowling of Thatch Caye and Amy Vecchione | Travel Planner: Amy Vecchione | Photographer: Bjorn Bolinder | Flowers: DIY by mother of the bride and Thatch Caye | Catering: Thatch Caye | Grooms Attire: Men’s Wearhouse | Wedding Dress: Modern Trousseau | Hair: DIY by sister of bride | Music: DIY by couple

About the Author

Amy Vecchione combines her passion for travel and weddings into her role as the founder, owner, and Chief Romance Officer of Aventina Romance Travel and Events. An award-winning wedding and event planner, she specializes in destination weddings, helping couples with wedding planning as well as venue selection. An extra bonus for her couples is that she also takes care of the guests’ lodging and travel arrangements, which is a bonus for Amy, too, because then she gets to know everyone who will be at the wedding!


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