Jason & Kris | Magical Wedding in Costa Rica? YES PLEASE.

Not sure I’m ever that worried about rules.

Not legal rules, guys. I am still a law abiding citizen.

I’m talking not-supposed-to-make-blog-titles-THAT-long type of rules.

Oh well.

I’ll tell you exactly how this all went down in case you weren’t able to make it to this gem of a wedding, or you’re just curious as to how destination weddings work behind the scenes.

We’ll start with the most frequently asked question of my entire trip:

“How did Jay find you?”

I laughed every time I heard that over the course of my stay in Costa Rica, whether it was walking around the resort, floating the pool, or running frantically from those creepy iguana monsters they call cute native animals.

“I found Jay, over a decade ago.”

Dark and somewhat seedy karaoke bars might not be associated with the name Jason Bailey, but when someone talks about the crazy photographer girl named Amy, undoubtedly someone in the group will have sang on a stage with me at some point.

It’s necessary that y’all know all of that- because I am so happy Jay was introduced into my life, and O’Malley’s is where that happened.
The years following were a whirlwind of trips to Lake Lure and Key West.. and now a days seeing him more when I work in New York then when I fly into South Florida where they live (mostly).

When I met Kris, my insides started smiling. Anyone else have that happen when they met him? I bet so. I wanted so badly for someone to take care of my tall drink of water that is Jay, and Kristofer seemed to have the kind heart that could do it in leaps and bounds.

Taking care of each other in a relationship is so much more than what meets the eye. It is wanting quiet moments to understand the heart of the other person, and not just flaunting the outward excitement of a new or fun relationship around other people.        *(not saying that excitement is bad, guys… that’s a great part of it… there just needs to be more to make it last.)

When I got the word from them that the wedding was going to be happening in months, I laughed when they said it was in April.

“April is fully booked— I mean, unless you happen to be getting married on a week day.”

“It’s on a Tuesday.”

“I just booked my flight!”

Bam. Always ask.

And honestly I might have booked the flight before making sure I had enough babysitters for Connor, because… Conan is old enough to watch Connor now, right? Maybe? Dog years have gotta get you some tenure. *(Check out #ConnorandConan on instagram if you’d like to really weigh in on the subject. Just look how responsible Conan looks!)

Flying in to Costa Rica was my dream travel day, up until landing. I’m talking no turbulence on either flight, a funny couple to chat with during my layover, and a great book to read with my headphones jammed in my ears. Once I landed after the final leg, I was supposed to find my ride to take me over an hour to the resort.

Now, this man did have a sign that had a faint font of my hotel : Villa Caletas.

But his man also had the name of two other people that are not me.


I think my text to Steve *(who is amazing, booked my ride along with countless other people involved with the wedding) was this iPhone photo with words like the following:

“This is how Liam Neeson movies start, please verify that I should get in an unmarked van with this man.”

Now- once I made sure I would be safe, which was about two hours later, we left for the hotel. (I travel alone a lot and I am nothing if not extremely paranoid about staying safe.)

When I found out that the hotel didn’t have any food available… I may or may not have cried a little in the reception lobby. What happened next has never happened on my travels so far.

The guy who was working the front desk came back out and GAVE ME HIS PERSONAL CHICKEN SANDWICH. *(of course I refused at first, but if someone insists on feeding me more than once, this girl is gonna eat.)

He later called my room and asked if I wanted chocolate cake.

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Villa Caletas Costa Rican Resort Wedding-1827

The answer to that is ALWAYS yes. And this was my feeling about Costa Rica from then on.

And this view from my personal hot tub didn’t hurt either.

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Villa Caletas Costa Rican Resort Wedding-1817@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Villa Caletas Costa Rican Resort Wedding-1837

Now you can see why this isn’t a typical wedding blog, right?

Okay. So that was Sunday, this was Monday:

And Monday night? Well that was the “rehearsal dinner”.

Except that it was an incredible sunset pool party that included an epic infinity pool, a guest swag bag of everything I forgot to bring on the trip, (towel, sandals, sunglasses and more in the cutest tote that I’ve already used since being home), and a food and music combo that melted your mind right into the relaxed pace that truly is Costa Rica.

When DJ Sinister hopped on the mic, it gave us just a taste of what would be going down on the actual wedding day. That got everyone was so pumped- you could feel the excitement on every level of that crazy gorgeous Zephyr Palace.

After making sure everything was captured- you better believe I put my gear down and jumped right into the pool. *(after doing the wobble, of course.) 

Now for Tuesday, the wedding day!

Jay and Kris think of others first. It’s just how they work. So when Jay said they were having an evening wedding so all guests could enjoy the views and take pictures during the sunset while sipping on champagne and listening to live music? It made perfect sense.

How in the world Jay still managed to surprise his fiancé Kris even up until moments before the ceremony? That’s beyond me. But I love that I was there when he broke the news to Kris that Stephanie Herrera would be painting their ceremony in real time for them to be able to take home.

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Best Destination Venue Costa Rica Photos Villa Caletas-96

Kris tugged at the heart too with his gift to Jay. (You should also note that getting a gift for someone who has everything is no small feat).  It was a carefully crafted pocket watch personally inscribed by him and the kids with “I love you’s” and their wedding date.

Personalized Pocket Watch with wedding date

The girls prep including all the pampering, and the teal boxes that most girls can spot anywhere: a box that means jewels from Tiffany & Co. As far as the grooms? Tom Ford all the way. Head to toe.

Typically I bounce back and forth between hotel rooms for prep, and this Tuesday wedding kept things a little different. I bounced back and forth between a resort and a palace on a golf cart. Boo hoo, right? 

Setting up the first look was fun, seeing as we had to walk down the nearly straight down giant stairs of the amphitheater and still have them not see each other. The rain threatened over head, and even let a few drops on to our heads, but you guys know by now how I feel about reacting to rain. So I said “let it rain now and let it pass” as I carried around my gear alongside a clear umbrella and rain covers for my gear.

First look with two grooms- twice the Tom Ford fashion.

First look at the Amphitheater, rain headed in.

We continued with outdoor portraits, and to not ruin his Tom Ford tux with wrinkles, Jay hung off the back of the golf cart while we raced back up the hills to Zephyr Palace. #Typical.

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Best Destination Venue Costa Rica Photos Villa Caletas-57

We managed to get all of the outdoor portraits done without any big rain, and then moved inside the Palace to wait for the ceremony. We could see the guests from the balcony and we watched as they signed the “guest book” which was a oversized bottle of Veuve Clicquot. I loved seeing everyone take in the sunset, it seemed like having the guests gather beforehand for a sunset reception might be the only way to make sure everyone is really on time for the ceremony. I’m noting that for upcoming weddings.

It also helped everyone get in the mindset to enjoy the wedding.

Guests had already been listening to a lovely guitar duo serenading them during the sunset before making their way up the stairs. Imagine walking up stairs not knowing what you’re about to see… and a ten piece Chamber Orchestra starts flooding the entire level with music before you make it to the top to see the sea of candles surrounding the infinity pool. Yep. Chills everywhere. The ambience they created is a once in a lifetime feeling for most people, and hopefully through the photos we can all travel back to these moments whenever reality is getting just a little too tough.

They made sure to lighten the mood at times throughout the ceremony which is such a good combination to include everyone in on the wedding. “Love me like you do” played as the wedding party made their way down the staircase, then the orchestra switched to “Yellow” for Kris to make his way down with the kids on his arms. One of my favorite photos of their ceremony is this one. You can see the silhouette of Jay’s mom, Anne wiping away a tear as she sees her Grand-babies walking Kris down the aisle. 

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Best Destination Venue Costa Rica Photos Villa Caletas-152

Now, when asked who would give Jason away? Anne proudly asked his best friend Loren to stand beside her so they could give him away together. The crowd loved it, since they all knew none of this would be happening if Loren didn’t approve!

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Best Destination Venue Costa Rica Photos Villa Caletas-156

They involved so much of the family, from Jay’s Uncle performing the ceremony, to his brother-in-law bringing in the rings with a Ring Security jacket on and handing over the rings from a security briefcase.

When I would go to the top of the staircase for a shot, I would glance over to see the progress of the painter who was capturing the ceremony. I could not believe how quick she was working and how incredible it was to see everything I was looking at in real life be translated to canvas so effortlessly.

@PhotographerAmy Elizabeth Birdsong Photography Best Destination Venue Costa Rica Photos Villa Caletas-164

If you zoom in to almost any part of the vows, you can see everyone wiping away tears. I was doing the same, I’m not heartless. To hear Jay use the lyrics of Rascal Flats “God Bless the Broken Road” in such a way that everyone felt it, personally, was a good change.

“I got lost a time… or two” 

How many of us can relate? There are typically a few bad relationships in life that help you realize what person you are becoming and what person could really go along side you the rest of the way.

In any wedding, saying “I do” and seeing the couple pronounced as officially married is always the climax of a ceremony. When the couple has their own fireworks show start during the end of the vows?? You could literally hear the “wows” go over the crowd. Especially once they heard Katy Perry’s Firework start playing from the orchestra.

The rest of the night was insane. It’s like people got so pumped from being a part of something this special and the excitement just kept coming. Also, this was me capturing the cocktail hour: 

@PhotographerAmy at work

*(Thankful a guest captured it for me, I love being a creepy stalker and this highlights it oh so well)

Something that can get a crowd going at the right time? Having John Taylor announce the wedding party and the newly weds. The starting courses of food started pouring in, and hearing speeches from the best friends let you in on each of their first experiences meeting the grooms. You can even catch Jay’s true feelings towards Loren’s song reference if you look hard enough. *(hint, the only thumbs down in the set.)  

During receptions, nothing makes me angrier then when adults won’t hush up when they are supposed to. Not the case with this group. But they were so quiet during speeches, there’s no way they could hold tight during a piano performance over dinner. Or at least that was going on in my cynical brain. Troy Bailey sat down and played a full two songs and you could hear a pin drop during both of them. He got a standing ovation that was very well deserved.

John Taylor hopped back on the mic and let us know there was about to be another surprise during dinner.

He announced Kobalt recording artist Betty Who. The curtain dramatically opened, smoke poured out and everyone rushed to the front of the room with their cell phones out. She started singing Somebody Loves You and everyone sang along which made it seem like I was in a music video. Things got even crazier when she performed Mama Say– listen and I dare you not to dance around the room… even if you’re at work.

You’d think it’d be hard to match that hype, right? Enter DJ Sinister. His Country Fried Mixes are known in the country world and beyond, and getting to work next to Big & Rich? Not. a. bad. gig. I’ll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves. Just know that I set my camera down about three different times at maybe midnight then had to run get it again because something crazy was happening. Like drums in the middle of the dance floor or what I can only assume are professional limbo dancers posing as wedding guests.

I finally put down my camera, though. After one last photo. It was a long exposure of the lightning that was going on over the water. I wrote so much for this one, I know.

I never want to forget the experience. I’m so incredibly thankful.

Oh, and I think this might have been how Wednesday went, after shooting and eating their delicious brunch and drinking all the coffee:

*(photo cred Sean Grubba)

Costa Rica


See you guys next trip!

Venue: Villa Caletas, Zephyr Palace, Jaco, Costa Rica.

Dj: DJ Sinister of Big & Rich, Country Fried Mix & more

Special Musical Performance by: Australian recording artist Betty Who

Planners- Emily Reifel, Kristina Camia, Stephen McGee

Groom- Jason Bailey CEO of Sun Broadcast Group, Inc.

Wedding Press Release: Ramp 247 &   Sun Broadcast

Real Time Ceremony Painter: Stephanie Herrera Art 

Photography: @PhotographerAmy (me!) of Elizabeth Birdsong Photography

Gear and Lighting: Canon and Magnet Mod

For more travel weddings? Check out my travel section. If you’re planning a wedding and losing your ever lovin’ mind? Grab a drink and read my advice section. Then repost it for your crazy friends and family to see and take note.

You’re welcome. 

Special NOTE to photographers: I included the NOT good firework shot in there just for you. I was so set on where I wanted my tripod and what lens I wanted to use to capture everything. But a guest had another idea. Note the guest in the middle of the aisle, phone up, blocking the couple. It’s also blurred because I was already shutter open when I saw the blocked view. Thankfully I knew I had time for another angle. I went and parked it on the stairs and made my presence known, lol. Gotta do what you gotta do! Next? I made sure to get a photo with my Magnet Mod sphere on top of a flash in front of them *(was NOT there during the entire ceremony, definitely don’t want to blind the officiant!) so that I could be sure to have clear focus on their face. I’m happy for the crazy unexpected things during the fireworks, because it stretched my ability to push through under a limited time crunch. I’ll be posting more on my motto for weddings that I gladly share with Big Brother:

Expect the Unexpected. 




13 thoughts on “Jason & Kris | Magical Wedding in Costa Rica? YES PLEASE.

  1. Shut up I’m so jealous! I honestly had to stop reading your blog post and just look at the photos (not that it helped) because I was getting too wedding-travel-lusty. But seriously – this is how you do a destination wedding in Costa Rica. And I’m all about seeing more LGBTQ+ weddings! Beautiful wedding photography, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all the specific and personal details you shared of knowing this couple. What a wonderful story and a beautiful wedding In Costa Rica.
    Having fireworks at a wedding Is so cool. And capturing it all with MagMod was perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This destination wedding had it all!! Fireworks at a wedding?! How cool! You captured it all beautifully at this fun-filled packed wedding. I’m so glad you took it easy on Wednesday, this looked like a wonderful wedding but defiantly not the easiest so good thing they had a seasoned pro like yourself that was able to think quick on her feet when things don’t always go as you planned.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t even, Costa Rica is magical & the perfect country for a destination wedding for the grooms!! You look like a girl who loves to travel but still take amazing wedding photos! The magmods helped so much with the portraits!! This LGBTQ+ wedding is one for the books!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Magical, wondrous, epic, I mean pick a superlative and this wedding encompasses it. The colors from beginning to end are vibrant and a wonderful representation of the obvious joy throughout this wedding adventure. Costa Rica is now calling me, guess I have to add it to my list!

    Liked by 1 person

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