A Modern Beach Wedding in Tulum, Mexico

It’s common for kids to tease one another that they’ll end up marrying their elementary school crush, but for Katy Guo and Dustin Cox, it's exactly what happened. The Chicago-based couple met in 1999 as fifth-graders on the playground and were engaged 18 years later when Dustin proposed on the beach in Santa Monica.

The beach also served as the backdrop for their October destination wedding in Tulum, Mexico. “We’d always wanted an intimate, eclectic event, and Tulum was the perfect setting,” Katy says. “We’re big foodies, too, and the cuisine there is some of the best we’ve ever experienced.”

Keeping reading for all the details of Katy and Dustin’s stylish destination wedding, as planned by Diana Romo Weddings and captured by Melissa Marshall. It's full of ideas for couples who want a beach wedding without a beach "theme"

Invitation suites sourced from Etsy hinted at the natural, outdoorsy celebration with modern, minimalist touches to come. 

Enjoying expertly prepared meals with their guests was a priority for the couple throughout the wedding weekend. One of the highlights was, “having all of our friends and family gathered for our welcome party at Kitchen Table,” remembers Katy. Tucked away within the jungle at Tulum National Park, the eco-friendly restaurant specializes in fresh, locally sourced fare that the food-loving pair loved.

“Tulum has a boho-style to it,” says Katy, who wanted her wedding-day look to match the location’s chic-yet-natural vibe. The bride turned to Playa del Carmen-based makeup artist Zoë Elizabeth to create her romantic, wavy do. 

Katy chose an embroidered gown and veil by Rue de Seine, purchased from Kaylee Archer's Alice in Ivory bridal boutique in Chicago. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience! Kaylee was involved with the entire process and made sure I left with the perfect dress," she says.

Bridesmaids wore matching light-tan gowns from Show Me Your Mumu. “I wanted to capture the natural look of Tulum and have the dresses stand out against the blues and greens of the beach,” says Katy. Bouquets by María Límon included red anthurium and eucalyptus. 

The groom donned a light ensemble from Suit Supply, while his J.Crew tie was held in place with a clip engraved with his initials (a gift from his parents). The couple posed for photos before heading to Ak’iin Beach Tulum, which hosted the ceremony and reception. The vibe of the day was relaxed, festive, and fun. For example, "with about two minutes left to get to the venue to start the ceremony, Katy, myself and all of our friends took a shot of tequila at our hotel bar!" Dustin remembers.

“We have a close knit group of friends and family, which made for a more intimate invite list,” says Katy. A “Shoes Optional” sign greeted the couple’s 60 guests as they arrived at the beach for the 5 p.m. ceremony set against the ocean backdrop.

During the ceremony, an acoustic guitarist performed songs including Michael Bublé’s “Everything,” Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida,” and “Here Comes the Sun,” by The Beatles.

One of Dustin’s favorite memories from the day? “Seeing Katy walk down the aisle with her dad,' he says. Once at the altar, the couple hugged their parents before the ceremony began.

Dustin and Katy wrote their own vows. "We both included references to our bulldog, Mika,” says the bride. “We each wrote from the heart about what life had been like the last 13 years of dating, and how excited we were to spend our lives together in the future.” 

The newlyweds recessed to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours)” as guests cheered them on.

After the ceremony, Katy and Dustin took a moment to soak in the emotions and excitement of the occasion. “Everything goes by so quickly,” recalls the bride. “At the end of the day, everyone will have a good time and is there to celebrate you, so take time to relax and enjoy the process.”  

During cocktail hour, guests sipped the signature passionfruit Mezcal drink and nibbled on passed hors d’oeuvres. “Our menu included lots of seafood dishes like ceviche, fresh fish, and shrimp and lobster tostadas,” Katy says. “The venue did a great job of scoping out some restaurants we’d really enjoyed during previous trips to Tulum and brought a little of each to our menu.” 

“We're pretty minimalistic, so everything was very clean and natural-looking,” says Katy of the reception décor. The couple worked with Diana Romo Weddings to bring their vision to life through unique details, such as this acrylic seating chart

Arrangements of greenery hung above long wood reception tables decorated with flowers and string lights, while chandeliers added an unexpected, elegant touch to the thatch-roofed space above.

Place settings highlighted the couple’s carefully chosen, six-course menu that included chocolate mousse as well as a red velvet, coconut crème, and Dulce de Leche wedding cake. 

The couple performed their first dance to Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” and danced with their parents to “All of Me,” by John Legend for the father-daughter dance and “I Won’t Let You Go” by James Morrison for the mother-son dance. The couple’s fathers also provided one of their favorite moments from the reception. “My dad and Katy’s father were lifted up on the dance floor by our friends and paraded around while the music played,” says Dustin. A DJ kept everyone dancing until the evening ended, the sound of guests’ cheers and laughter mixing with the crash of waves from the sea. 

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