This Couple Embraced All Things Tropical For Their Wedding Weekend in Cartagena
When Ian Ross spotted Virginia Ashe sitting outside on a spring day in Boston eating brunch with some friends, he could never have imagined that less than six years later, in beautiful Cartagena, Colombia, she would become his wife. All he cared about in that moment was talking to her-and he did just that. “He said something like, ‘You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” recalls Virginia, who at the time was a sophomore at Boston University. “We all started talking, and the whole time I was thinking he’d be perfect for one of my friends.”
Ian (accidentally) left his phone at the table, and when he came back for it, he asked Virginia for her number. “I wasn’t in the practice of giving it out to complete strangers, but he lived in New York. I was planning on interning in the city, so I thought, you never know,” she says.
In June, they went on one amazing date in downtown New York City at Bacaro, but nothing really came of it and Virginia returned to school. (Though they did discover they share the same birthday-and that she had lied about being 21 when they met.) A second date in Manhattan took place in October, and it went so well that Ian, who works in commercial real estate, convinced her to spend an extra day there. From then on, they were a couple; after three semesters of long distance, Virginia relocated to New York. The couple moved in together two years after that fateful brunch.
In October 2016, Ian popped the question-and somehow, he was able to keep it all a secret. “I’m super nosy, so I’m a tough person to surprise,” Virginia says. Ian pulled it off by pretending to go on a two-day work trip, and asking a friend to invite Virginia to a fake event at The Metrograph theater while he was gone. “When I got there, there was no sign of anything going on-and I still wasn’t suspicious,” says Virginia, a fashion and lifestyle publicist and the founder of ASHE Agency.
An usher led her into the theater, where Ian had arranged to play a video that chronicled their relationship, before getting down on one knee with an asscher-cut ring from Cory Friedman Fine Jewels in New York. But the surprises didn’t end there; Ian had planned an engagement party at Bacaro-and the next morning whisked Virginia off to Paris for four days. “She told me about six months ago that she had known about the trip all along,” Ian says.
Choosing the destination for the wedding was easy. Virginia’s parents are from Cali, Colombia, and she always envisioned herself getting married in Cartagena, a quintessential tropical escape. “Ian and I vacationed there a few years prior, when he came to meet my family, and we had this magical time,” she says. “Not only did we want a place with a personal connection, we wanted to bring our friends there to experience the vibrant culture.”
She turned to Instagram for inspiration, and happened upon a re-posted image of an outdoor dinner on the island of Baru, just off the coast of Cartagena. “I began stalking who originally posted the picture, and found that it was the New York-based wedding planner Matthew Robbins Design.” After discovering that one of the owners, Luis Otoya, is Colombian and that they have an office in Cartagena, RobbinsOtoya, Virginia knew she had found her dream team.
The festivities took place over a holiday weekend, beginning with Cuban-inspired welcome cocktails at the restaurant La Vitrola, complete with a cigar roller and a salsa band. For Saturday’s rehearsal dinner-which Victoria describes as “vibrant, tropical, and sexy”-the couple invited everyone to a beautifully rustic and bohemian home on Baru. “It was meant to be casual and relaxed,” says Ian. “The meal was actually on the beach, and people were even barefoot.” Tables were decorated with foliage and accented with exotic tropical fruits such as corozo, granadillas, watermelons, and pitayas. Evento & Cocina created a menu of Colombian dishes like avocado and green mango salad, plátanos en tentación (baked sweet plantains), and coconut rice. “I thought of this as a Colombian night under the stars,” says Virginia, who wore a jungle-inspired custom gown by the local designer Maria Elena Villamil and Oscar de la Renta gold floral drop earrings.
For her wedding gown, Virginia knew she wanted something by a Latin American designer-and also a style that embodied the wedding destination. The result? A timeless gown by the Dominican Republic-born Oscar de la Renta. “The front was simple, with a deep V, with a ruffle in the back that felt very fun and tropical, like Cartagena,” she says. She paired the look with funky, gold Saint Laurent heels (a gift from her grandmother), vintage diamond stud earrings from Ian’s mother, and a custom-made Sposabella Lace veil-which she didn’t wear for long. “I had to take it off mid-ceremony because of the wind, which made for a funny moment!” she says. The 10 bridesmaids wore dresses of their choice in shades of red, pink, and ivory, while the 10 groomsmen, like Ian, wore suits with white jackets.
After a weekend of events and activities in Cartagena, 160 guests gathered to watch Virginia and Ian exchange vows in the courtyard of the Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. “It has these terra cotta walls and it felt really intimate,” says Ian, who donned a custom suit with a white dinner jacket (a.k.a. “tropical black tie”). To honor Ian’s Jewish heritage, the couple flew over their rabbi from Brooklyn to officiate the ceremony, which took place under a chuppah decorated with bougainvillea. “When I was standing up there and Virginia was walking down the aisle, it was this really emotional, wild moment,” Ian says. “We’re both big planners, but I never really stopped to think about how much work we had put into the wedding until right then.”
After the ceremony, traditional merengue dancers led everyone on a walk around the block-like a second line in New Orleans-dropping them off back at the hotel for outdoor cocktails while Virginia and Ian stole some time away for themselves before entering the property’s ballroom, which used to be a cathedral. “When we were designing the look for the reception, I said to Matthew that I liked the idea of ‘tropical grunge,’” Virginia says. “We had a lot of burgundy and aubergine tones and deep tropical greens, which made it a little moody and really enhanced the space.”
Guests found their seats around teak wood tables, which were decorated with custom-made woven placemats from Usiacurí, Colombia, and centerpieces made of green foliage, protea, and orchids. But rather than linger over dinner and speeches, the meal-catered by the property’s chef, the celebrated Harry Sasson-was served relatively early on so that the salsa band could get down to business. So after enjoying pepper-crusted steak, grouper with roasted leeks, and grilled hearts of palm, “Everyone got really into the Latin dancing,” Ian says. “All these people who had never salsa danced were out there doing it.”
At around 11:30, they transitioned to a DJ-specifically DJ Chachi, who is a close friend of Ian’s. Around the same time, Virginia says, “I changed into a red, sequined Stella McCartney dress that made me feel totally glam and ready to party!” And just when everyone thought the evening was winding down, out came two trumpet players at 2 a.m. for what’s known as hora loca, or “crazy hour.” At 3 a.m., the party continued at one of the colonial homes the couple had rented, where many of their friends were staying.
On Monday, the newlyweds hosted a brunch at the house where they were staying. “I’ve never been a fan of formal brunches, and we wanted people to feel as comfortable as possible since they may have had a rough night,” Ian says. Guests came and went as they pleased to eat empanadas and arepas, sip on tropical juices, and relax by the pool or on the rooftop.
Virginia and Ross left right from Cartagena for a mini-moon in Belize, staying a few days on the private island resort of Cayo Espanto. “It’s really beautiful, and you do nothing except for relax,” she says. “We did take a helicopter ride, and I’m scared of flying so that was enough adventure for me.”
But the real honeymoon happened in the summer, when they had their own Under the Tuscan Sun experience-complete with a Fiat and a playlist loaded with Italian songs. “We drove through Tuscany, and stopped at these amazing towns, where we walked around and explored,” Ian says. They spent a few nights at the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, and the hotel prepared a private picnic in its vineyard, the most perfect setting for a toast to the future.
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