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ashley & susana// contadora island, panama wedding

2017-05-26_0029.jpgAvid travelers will tell you that you have to take at least four forms of transportation to get anywhere interesting.

Simply getting somewhere interesting is one thing, but getting 150 of your nearest and dearest to take the trek with you, now that’s outright audacious.

Audacious is a fitting word too, since Ashley and Susana’s former boss pretty much wrote the book on it. The two met on the campaign trail in 2012 and I like to think singlehandedly put POTUS 44 back in the White House. After putting Obama back where he belonged, Ashley turned her sights toward her next campaign — locking it down and getting a ring on Susana’s finger.

Fast forward a few years and they’re sipping champagne together at Susana’s great grandfather’s 100-year-old home carved out of a giant rock in Panama City. The eclectic house is the lone stronghold of a bygone era, surrounded by towering condo buildings hiding what once was an ocean view from their front porch. Two days before the wedding, they welcomed their guests to the country by opening the doors to the gorgeous estate.

The next morning, we’d be filing onto ferries, catching sunrise over lapping waves, and heading to sea for the two hour ride to Contadora island. “It’s a wet landing,” Susana told us. “There’s no docks large enough for the ferries so you’ll be knee deep or so in the ocean. We’ll make sure there’ll be some folks to help you unload your gear.” Sure enough, there we were, knee deep in crystal blue water, hoisting backpacks of cameras over our heads with the help of islanders all wearing branded Susana & Ashley t-shirts. Outside of getting a black guy into the White House, this wedding was the most impressive logistical feat I’ve ever seen.

Susana and Ashley left gender normative “Bridal Parties” behind and instead elected to have their dreamy “Nuptial Cabinets” by their sides. The appointees were a mix of old friends and new from all over the fine US of A, all coming together with three main goals: getting these two hitched, shower a whole lot of love on ‘em, and make sure the party is rocking.

The island of Contadora is a desktop picture perfect paradise. It has a small community, a handful of quant beachside eateries, and the preferred method of transportation is the humble golf cart. Not to mention, of course, the endless palm trees, hidden coves, and the kinds of beaches you dream about all February long.

The night before the wedding, folks couldn’t help but get the party started. A torchlit beach party lead to starlight dancing. As midnight passed, the dance floor slowly began to realize that these two love nuggets were getting married TODAY.

The wedding itself was held at Susana’s family home on the island, each bride getting ready separately with her own ocean view. The Nuptial Cabinets, alternating between cups of locally grown coffee and the ubiquitous cans of Panama Lager, made sure the stress of the day was held at bay by making frequent attempts to Ice Ashley (how you get Smirnoff to an Island with only one tiny general store is beyond me) and making sure Susana stayed hydrated enough to tear up the dance floor all night once more.

And I don’t think Susana ever did leave the dance floor once it started, only stopping to tell us, “Panamanian weddings go ALLLL NIGHT LONG.” The speeches and ceremony spoke to the fact that these two share is all inclusive. They want to spend their days together, yes, but also to affect to the most positive change they can in their communities and this world.

After the recovery brunch the next day, guests walked back into the ocean to climb aboard the ferries back to the mainland. We were all left marveling at everything their two families did to make the wedding possible. The countless planning hours, the huge number of vendors, the infrastructure that needed to be brought to the island to host this many people… It was friggin’ audacious. But I was left with this thought: what better thing to go to impossible lengths to celebrate than love? Susana and Ashley found each other and for one weekend, the only export from an entire landmass was love.

//day one// welcome party at the family home, holding it down for classic architecture in the middle of panama city.

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//day two// early morning boat ride to isla contadora and a leap into the ocean upon arrival// an impromptu dance party on the beach.

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//day three// a wedding at sunset on a sprawling beachfront property// nuptial cabinets that make the average bridal party seem sub-par// a reception fit for panamanian royalty (and party in huge thanks to the Becca Kaufman Orchestra).

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day four// hangover beach brunch… is the weekend really over?!

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Ashley and Susana, may your love last forever, may you always have the dance parties that people remember for years, and may you figure out a way to get Obama back in office for a third term. We love you.

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