When planning their Bocas Del Toro wedding, Deniz and Andy had two things in mind; to surround themselves with those they hold dearest, and to make this occasion a sharable experience. But I don’t think they realized the magnitude of the experience they had given all of us. It’s not unusual for me to become friends with a couple after their wedding day. They invite me to witness an incredibly intimate event; it’s hard for me not to form a bond with them at that point. But man… the bond I share with these two is something else. My husband and I left Panama with two people we’d consider family from the moment we left that island. So I’mma get teary eyed while I tell this story… Bear with me. This is an obnoxiously long post.
We arrived in Panama early afternoon after a 2am wake up call to catch our flight out of O’Hare. Panama City is in some ways comparable to a city like Manhattan. It’s insanely busy. And the traffic is terrible. Like drive-your-car-off-a-bridge terrible. We were told that over half of Panama’s country lives and works in the city, and if you commute… Best wishes. The drive in and out of the city can often take three to four hours each way. Can you imagine leaving home at 3am so you can get to work by 7? That’s dedication. The city scape is made up of bold colored buildings that interrupt the lush hillsides. One stacked on top of another, filled to the brim with loud advertisements. The drive is noisy; it’s clear the country’s population is growing faster than they can keep up with. As street vendors battle the deafening construction, they hustle between traffic selling fruits and bottled water. There’s irony to be found within this city. It’s pace is overwhelming and chaotic, but the people of Panama appear to be so happy and laid back despite daily challenges that would definitely test my patience… They have a refreshing perception of life. We sat back and enjoyed a break from America for the time being. Soon enough, afternoon became evening, and evening became… well… late. Our little yellow bus was sounding tired as it hesitated taking us further into the mountains. Maybe our airbnb didn’t actually exist? Either way, after hours of searching, it was clear we weren’t going to find it. You take cell service for granted when you’re in a predicament like this. We turned around and headed back into the city hoping to catch a much needed night’s rest before our flight left for Bocas the following day. Shout out to my husband who quit smoking only two weeks prior to this. This bus ride was his test, and he passed. Without grace… he passed.
From the time we arrived in Bocas, boating became our only source of transportation. Bocas is made up of a chain of islands, but the one that was home to our airbnb was Isla Carenero. This place was huge, and it was all ours. MTV, you missed out on this… it would have been the perfect place for the Real World. We laid out on our private beach during the day and swam underneath the stars at night. We’d move to the porch afterwards where we could listen to Tom play guitar while Andy and Ben sang loudly to Jack Black. I don’t remember exactly what they were reenacting, but it was great entertainment to say the least. On slower nights, we’d gather around the massive dining table; a beautiful, exotic centerpiece to this home. Here we exchanged stories about life, fell victim to pranks and cheers’d over drinks. When we felt like exploring, we’d venture out into the backyard that quickly transformed into dense rainforest. Or walk the beach where we’d come to find this quaint waterfront restaurant, Bibi’s, that served the best dang seafood any of us ever had. We’d sit under string lights and watch the stingray circle beneath us as they waited for food to drop between the cracks of the Pier. And we’d talk about nothing and everything at the same time. We ate dinner each night as one big family; I imagine it was exactly what Deniz and Andy pictured when searching for an experience they could share.
On the morning of the day these two married, Deniz and the ladies foraged floral bouquets from the rainforest while Andy and the guys cleaned up the beach where the ceremony would take place. The skies were overcast but peaceful – setting the mood for an intimate and relaxed wedding day. And that is exactly how it unfolded. Family and friends water taxi’d over just in time to see Deniz walk the beach in her beautiful bohemian dress. When the time came for her and Andy to exchange vows, the rest of us looked on with love and admiration, and maybe even a renewed sense of hope. Because let’s face it, this world hasn’t exactly been easy to live in. As the ceremony came to an end, everyone circled around and placed their hands upon them. Together they stood there now as one unit, lifted in prayer and covered with well wishes. The most beautiful bond between all these people could be felt through just fingertips. Love is truly wild… From there, we took a boat to Basitmentos where Deniz and Andy were greeted by the locals in celebration. We walked through town to this rad little restaurant and resort called The Firefly. It was hip and trendy, easy going with bohemian flair… and the food was to freakin’ die for. Deniz and Andy brought their own music, and with that, the party started. As we left The Firefly that night, it rained. No, it torrentially down poured. We hopped into what was basically a large fishing boat and held on to dear life. I hovered over my case of gear while Justin held onto to me as the boat violently surfed over waves. I still wonder how the man driving was able to navigate in weather with little to no visibility – all without crashing into the random rocks that stuck out – but he took good care of us and gave us something to remember!
We celebrated big time that night… For Deniz and Andy’s new life together, and for making it back in one piece.
Personal story about you as a couple:
We met five years ago while working together. I think we clicked once we both realized we had similar backgrounds. I was born in Turkey with my father’s family living there, and Andy’s father is from Panama with the majority of his father’s side living there. Both of our moms are from Wisconsin. Our multicultural backgrounds and mutual desire to see other parts of the country and world led to interesting daily conversations. Those conversations developed into a strong friendship which eventually led to an adventurous and exciting relationship.
Inspiration behind the day:
The reason we chose Bocas Del Toro, Panama was because Andy and I wanted a beach wedding and thought this was the only opportunity we would have to bring all of our friends to Panama at once. Bocas Del Toro is full of culture and is not as commercialized like most of the Carribean islands that people are familiar with, which was something very appealing to us. We wanted raw, authentic, island living. Sand flies and all 😉
I wanted the focus of our wedding to be about the love that we share for each other (because I do think it’s pretty dang special) and I wanted to keep it as simple and as intimate as possible. This meant inviting only our closest friends and family. The owner of the house we were renting allowed us to hold the ceremony right there on the beach.
Since we were traveling and had restrictions on the amount of luggage we could carry, I was limited on decorations for the ceremony. The morning of our wedding, Cecilia, Ann and I went foraging for flowers on the island, and Ann made Jade and I beautiful bouquets.
The meaning behind the wedding vase we used during the ceremony symbolizes two individuals becoming one unit. We purchased it on our trip in Colorado a few days after we got engaged.
Since I was not able to decorate for the ceremony, I wanted to find a restaurant that really reflected mine and Andy’s style. I spent a lot of time researching and reaching out to different restaurants. Once I found The Firefly, I knew it would be perfect! The vibe and decor of Lauren’s restaurant was exactly what I was looking for.