Jordan and Aaron knew they wanted their wedding to be set in a location that was near and dear to their hearts. Though they had known each other in college, it wasn’t until Jordan was spending a year after graduation with her father’s side of the family in Montenegro, that they started talking online and fell in love… So, where would be a better place to celebrate their union than the countryside in Montenegro?! They sent out invites to a select few close friends and family in the States, and surrounded by these dear ones, and Jordan’s Montenegrin side of the family, they wed in a traditional Serbian Orthodox ceremony, while her father, who had immigrated to the US as a child, beamed and later said it felt like his life had come full circle, watching his daughter get married in his childhood church.
Intimate and Chic Destination Wedding in the Montenegrin Countryside
Tell us how you met?
Aaron and I met in college at Northwest Nazarene University, but were more like ships passing in the night and never overlapped much. After college we reconnected online and dated for several years.
Tell us about the proposal?
We went for an afternoon kayak paddle down the Snake river with plans to go to one of the wineries of the region after. Aaron went to great lengths to ensure that this trip seemed casual and last-minute, working in cahoots with my father and best friend to make sure I would not suspect. We stopped on a little island with a picnic, and Aaron proposed then with a vintage 1920s topaz ring. We collected a few shells from the island to commemorate and then paddled down to meet my father to celebrate at the winery.
Why did you choose your wedding location?
We decided to have a destination wedding to be able to share our wedding with my family in Montenegro and to alleviate the pressure of going overboard on wedding planning. As an interior designer, I get obsessive over details, and I didn’t want to go bananas with the planning and not be able to enjoy the event! We chose our family’s hometown of Niksic, Montenegro and were married in the Russian Orthodox cathedral of the town (Saborna crkva Sv. Vasilija Ostroškog). The location was so special as it was a merging of my family’s stories of Montenegro and America.
I planned the trip for our American friends and family who were making the long journey with events before and after the wedding day. Before the wedding we took them to a few key sites of Montenegro and then after the wedding, we all went to the seaside town of Kotor for a few days to share some of our honeymoon with them in the most beautiful old city.
How did you find your vendors?
With a destination wedding we decided the most important thing was our photographer. Heather photographing the wedding was the single most important thing for us in the planning! Everything else could be worked with.
Heather also added: “Each detail was considered with intention and love. Jordan’s dress was custom made and she embroidered on the blue flowers herself. The cake was made by a family friend. The bouquet was sourced from flowers picked up from a roadside seller. Jordan’s veil was her own design. The guests danced to traditional musicians. The bride and groom stopped on the way to the reception to pick out the traditional Montenegrin stringed instrument. Each aspect was beautiful and held a significance and beauty!”
What was the inspiration behind your wedding day?
I wanted a blend of sentimentality, ease, and authenticity of location. Knowing that many things would be out of my hands, we approached it with flexibility. I pulled some inspiration from the Mama Mia movie as there are some very strong similarities, except no donkey!
Any family or religious traditions incorporated into your day?
The wedding ceremony was a traditional orthodox, which meant Aaron had to be baptized. We arrived a couple days before the wedding and he was baptized in the church. I love sentimental remembrances so after our ceremony and on the way to our reception we stopped and bought a traditional Gusle (one stringed instrument) for our home together.
Any funny stories from the day and/or the planning process?
We were prepared to go with the flow on everything. The funniest bit was during the wedding. We were in the middle of this magical ceremony: chanting in Serbo-Croatian, incense floating around us, candles flickering and then priest’s assistant/alterboy came to help him with ceremony and we noticed that he was wearing this t-shirt with a giant Daffy-Duck graphic on it. Poor Heather had to do all sorts of acrobatics to capture the ceremony without getting Daffy Duck in the frame. It was absolutely hilarious and we loved it. Its the kind of thing that would never happen in the states, but here it made sense.
What was your favorite moment of the day?
Impossible to choose, it was pure perfection. The merging of our small group of Americans that came with us and my Montenegrin family (that speaks no English) was probably the best. The reception was extra special. We feasted on traditional foods, danced to our folk band, and toasted with moonshine brought from more uncle’s village: perfection!
Anything you are really glad you did? Or wish you didn’t do?
I could not be happier for how we did it. It was the kind of pure experience that we will remember for the rest of our lives. I was able to detach from obsessive details and focus on what really mattered. There was stress to be sure, but not the kind that I would have created for myself if I was trying to create the perfect wedding stateside.
Any words of wisdom for other couples?
It was a great exercise for us as we looked at the wedding and said: what are the only essential factors and people that need to be present to make this a success. We did this out of necessity knowing that we had little control, and most of our friends and American family would not be able to make it, but it allowed us to step back. I would also suggest evaluating anything you are doing because “that’s how it works”, there are some things that make sense, and some that just don’t.
Photography – Heather K. Purdy