Rachel Gannage realized her then-boyfriend Mike was “the one” when she saw him attempt to skate during a hockey game at her parents house one winter.
“We have a big pond in the backyard where we play hockey and I told Mike we would play a game with my family,” she recalls. “I shortly found out he had never played hockey in his whole life.
“He could barely skate, let alone stop, but he played,” Rachel goes on to say. “That’s when I knew he would do anything for me.”
By the time the couple got engaged over Halloween weekend in 2015, they had attended their fair share of weddings – nine last year alone – and had a good sense of what they didn’t want for their own big day.
“We’ve been to so many weddings and we have a lot of close groups of friends and a lot of family so if we were going to do it at home, we’d have to invite more than 300 people,” Rachel says, adding that the idea didn’t appeal to her at all.
“To spend a lot of money on one day and just knowing that the day goes by so fast, I knew I wouldn’t have a good time.”
Rachel and Mike had heard a lot of positive feedback from other couples who opted for destination weddings, and after seeing photos from friends who got married at a unique offsite beachside location in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, they were convinced Jellyfish Restaurant was the right fit for their celebration.
“We saw photos of their wedding and right off the bat, Mike and I were like ‘we’ve got to do it here, this place looks awesome,’” she says, adding that the idea of doing something a little different than a resort wedding really appealed.
Even though they had a venue in mind, it wasn’t until Rachel met Sarah Boville of Barefoot Travel at a women’s networking event that they started making concrete plans for a destination wedding on May 21, 2017. With a guest list of nearly 90 people staying at Riu Palace Punta Cana, she says working with a travel consultant for an offsite wedding made the process much easier to manage.
“A lot of people would come to me and ask questions and I just basically shoved it off to Sarah,” Rachel recalls. “It made things a lot less stressful on my end because I just would not be able to respond to the questions of 86 people.”
Having only given the onsite event planners at Jellyfish some screenshots of decor and floral ideas from Pinterest, the bride was amazed at how well the team executed her vision for a simple white and green theme, which she says reflected their laid back vibe, which featured an all-white bridal party and the song Stand By Me, by Florence + the Machine, as their first dance. .
“Their event planners were so amazing and so up to the latest trends,” Rachel says. “I was blown away – I can’t even describe how perfect the day was. The food was to die for!”
For Rachel, having an offsite location on a secluded stretch of beach made the wedding feel like a truly private event.
“I had my own personal bridal suite to get ready in with my bridal party on site,” she says.
Since the afterparty — which included a late-night buffet with sliders and a dessert table of cheesecakes and treats — was reserved for their guests only, the couple was able to focus on what really mattered to them: having a fun dance party.
“Jellyfish staff truly made us feel special,” Rachel says. “One of the main waiters, Sandy — I remember his name because I kept telling him that he was the best — would always make sure I had a drink in my hand… Even if I had half a drink left he would replace it with a brand new one. They just wanted you to have a good time and enjoy yourself.”
Reflecting back on their wedding day, the highlight for the now-newlyweds was the feeling of being surrounded by a close group of family and friends, and knowing they had travelled all the way to Punta Cana to take part in their day.
“It just felt so special knowing that 86 people came down just for us,” Rachel says. “It really gave us an idea of how people in our lives really appreciate us, and that was just so nice to see.”
To this day, she says friends and family will bring up how much they enjoyed Jellyfish — and the pair still field requests for a reunion gathering at the restaurant.
“Maybe for our 10 year anniversary,” Rachel smiles.