When Olga and Enrico, from Toronto, got engaged, they wanted a meaningful and unique destination wedding. After much research they decided to have an intimate traditional Mayan ceremony along the lakeshore of the incredible Lake Atitlan in Guatemala- a lake sacred to the Mayan culture. The location was the gorgeous home of author Joyce Maynard, which Olga had serendipitously come across two years previously. Intimate, relaxed yet completely unique, this destination wedding captured by Daniel Lopez Perez really caught our eye.

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HOW THEY MET

“Enrico and I met through work- we are both high school teachers just north of Toronto. Enrico is a music teacher and I am a social sciences teacher. About 13 years ago we started up a film program at our high school where we taught students how to create music videos, documentaries and shorts. During that process we decided to create our own short film to better educate our students. That “short” film turn into a feature documentary film entitled The Matter of Everything about the connections between quantum physics and the universe- a four year endeavour. Enrico and I worked on every aspect of the film, a crew of two. We toured the film in indie cinemas in Canada and drove across the US through the spectacular southwest desert to sunny California in our VW bug… guitar, cello, video equipment, one duffle bag of clothing each… during our two month summer vacation. Enrico played cello live with the soundtrack for every screening. We gave birth to a film as well as our life long romance.

ENGAGEMENT

We were doing interviews for our next film (still in progress) in Amsterdam in March last year – the research there had to do with climate change, sea level rise, and storm surge barriers. We rented a boat for me to drive (yikes, I was so scared – I’ve never driven a boat before let alone along canals!) while Enrico filmed me so that we could include these shots in the doc over a narration. At one point Enrico came in front of the camera with me while it was rolling and proposed. A beautiful and memorable event!

CHOOSING THE DESTINATION

We got married a year later: we knew we wanted to have a destination wedding/honeymoon, that it would have to be a meaningful ceremony, with just the two of us, that was not going to be too difficult to plan. After that, we would plan to have a post-wedding celebration with family. We began with southern Italy or Rome, maybe Iceland but decided that being in a warm destination was key, within the same timezone would help too, and a place we hadn’t been to before. Every destination had so much paperwork and expense related to making a marriage legal and official that we decided to have the paperwork done here in Toronto at city hall. We are both of different religious backgrounds, Enrico is Catholic and I am Greek Orthodox, at this point neither of us was willing to convert in order to have a ceremony in a church and we are not so religious that it needed to be in a church. This gave us flexibility in the type of ceremony we wanted- again it had to be meaningful and unique.

There were two things that came together in choosing the destination of Lake Atitlan Guatemala and a Mayan ceremony. Firstly, I cut out an article two years prior in the travel section of the paper about Lake Atitlan and how some Americans were retiring there because the lake provided the peace they were looking for. It was so striking that I googled it right away – stunning! It is a sacred lake for the Mayans. In thinking of destinations, I came back to the idea of Lake Atitlan and googled weddings in Guatemala. The images were so beautiful and I also came across traditional Mayan ceremonies which focus on the elements of earth, water, air, and fire: I thought this was perhaps the unique and meaningful ceremony we were looking for. Plus, the time difference was only two hours. The main mode of travel around the lake is by boat, an adventure!  I started to look more seriously into planning the wedding myself.

PLANNING THE WEDDING

The first thing I did was to set the dates, flights, and places to stay, six months before the wedding in March. As teachers, we usually only get one week vacation time during March break- but that particular year was the first time we could take a maximum of five unpaid days to use however we wished. We made it a two week getaway. Because of a mix up with previous flights we ended up getting to travel first class to Guatemala- this was our first time to do this and it made all the difference for our special event. We began our journey with two nights in Antigua, a gorgeous city with Spanish colonial architecture dating back to the 1400s. Stayed at Posada Del Angel which we highly highly recommend- this is also where we first met Daniel and Melissa our photographers, to take some pre-wedding photos. I researched many places to stay on Lake Atitlan but decided to have the wedding on site which meant a house with a beautiful view- this seemed the most convenient and fit our budget best. Through VRBO I found Joyce Maynard’s home Casa Paloma in San Marcos La Laguna (Joyce is a well known American author). In viewing the photos of the house for the first time, they looked somewhat familiar to me – I pulled out the article of Lake Atitlan from two years prior and it was Joyce’s house that was featured in the article! Yes, we would have the wedding here and it would be the first wedding they would have at the property.

CHALLENGES

Challenges…. definitely. I found it very difficult to get people to respond to me about the wedding. The only thing that wasn’t hard was our photography. I found Daniel Lopez’ website and loved his creative work. He was extremely helpful and he and his partner Melissa Ballarin responded to my emails. It was Daniel who arranged for Tata Pedro, the shaman, to conduct our Mayan ceremony translated by Melissa. The most memorable thing about the day was the feeling: being surrounded by loving people from the community from morning to evening was so relaxing. The 90 minute ceremony was magical and a complete discovery full of meaning, creativity, and rituals to symbolize our union. The sacred fire took two hours to create and the location of the ceremony was carefully chosen to be as close as possible to the sacred Lake Atitlan. I chose to follow the tradition of bare feet to connect to the earth during the ceremony. Prayers were given in memory of our ancestors and our birthdays were analyzed according to the Mayan calendar for compatibility (we have a very long life together). The sacred fire was the focal point around which we danced and celebrated our life and love.”

Photography: Daniel Lopez Perez | Venue: Casa Paloma | Jewelry/Rings – Blue Nile | Shaman: Tata Pedro | Catering: Tim Shangrila Casa Paloma | Wedding Cake: Stephanie Alison | Hair & Makeup: Voska

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