Planning a Destination Wedding in Five Months (I ❤ Weddings Series #5)

Planning a Destination Wedding in Five Months (I ❤ Weddings Series #5)

Apr 15, 2015

Doris Dumlao is one of the top business writers in the country with almost 12,000 twitter followers. If you’re one of them, you may have noticed that her tweets stopped after March 20 then resumed just with a couple of tweets to answer a question. She is still “tweetless” as of writing and this is for a good reason. She got married to her long-time boyfriend of 15 years and probably still in their honeymoon!

Robert Abadilla and Doris Dumlao got married in Tagaytay on March 27, 2015. They have been very generous to contribute the fifth installment of my I Weddings Series where they share with us how to plan a destination wedding in five months, quite a short period given the norm these days. Well, maybe that’s because they have waited long enough. Let’s hear it from Robert.

01 Doris & Robert


Planning a Destination Wedding in Five Months

by Robert Abadilla

 They say it normally takes at least one year to plan a wedding – unless there’s a baby on the way, there’s a family member who’s critically ill or if the couple is plainly crazy. I won’t admit we’re crazy but I and my fiancée took the challenge of organizing a wedding with only a five-month window. After being in a serious relationship for 15 years, we figured knew we had to start sooner rather than later.

We were initially considering to fly to some faraway scenic place – like Santorini, Greece  – to exchange vows.  We could bring our parents and closest friends who can afford to make the trip. We could have organized only a dozen of our friends under this scenario. In the end, we wanted to share the milestone with more family members and friends.

So we thought of choosing a place that’s more accessible. The Philippines it is, we decided, but it should be a more intimate gathering outside of Metro Manila. If it’s held in the city, we could not trim the guest list below 500 and since we’re not letting our parents spend for anything, having a big white wedding wouldn’t have been a good start to our marriage in terms of financial footing.  Why go elsewhere? We want to make sure that only those who truly love us and who are willing to make the effort to travel would be there.  We also want to create new memories in a lovely place and start the honeymoon right away.

We considered Boracay or El Nido, because both of us like the idea of having a beachfront dinner reception at sunset, but we thought it would be too financially imposing on guests. Also, we realized that for the same price of holding a wedding with only 100 guests in a five-star island-resort like Shangri-la Boracay, we can afford to invite twice as many at an exclusive venue in a closer location.  And given that we had only five months to arrange everything, the closer the venue, the less of a logistical nightmare it would be.

So Tagaytay Highlands was a mutual choice as the destination.  Being only two hours away from Manila, friends have the option to stay overnight or drive back to Metro Manila.  I insisted on doing it during the summer, knowing how erratic the weather is these days and how the wet season could be harsh. We fell in love right away with Madre de Dios chapel at The Midlands, a quaint Spanish-inspired little church with a panoramic view of Taal volcano. Right beside it is The Veranda, an events venue that’s perfect for intimate gatherings.


There are many reception options within the Highlands estate but for a Catholic wedding at Madre de Dios, The Veranda is the best choice due to the proximity to the church and the great view. Because we were planning to wed in five months, most weekends in our preferred venue were fully booked, so we had to settle on a weekday.  We decided to do it on a Friday, giving friends – especially those flying in from abroad and taking that day off from work – the option to enjoy the long weekend.

My bride, Doris who is a business journalist, did a lot of the logistics planning.  She started out by downloading a $4.99 app Wedding Planning that provided the checklist of everything we needed to do at specific timeframes e.g. nine months and earlier, four to six months before the wedding, down to the last week, rehearsal day and the big day itself.

After booking the church and reception venue, it’s definitely a go.

Choose reliable suppliers.

Unless you’re planning to buy an off-the-rack wedding dress and letting your entourage bring their own dress at risk of much deviation to the theme, it’s best to book a couturier at least six months in advance.  So after finalizing the date and making the church/venue receptions, the next thing we did was to contract a couturier.  In this aspect, it was entirely the bride’s call.

She chose a couturier, Edmund Galias, whose dresses she had previously worn as part of the wedding entourage three times in the past.  It’s the same couturier she hired a few times in the past when she needed customized clothing, such as a Filipiniana terno to receive the 2014 TOYM (Outstanding Young Men) award last January. We’ve heard about friends who had broken up with their couturier close to their wedding days and ended up getting their dresses off-the-rack.  So in this case, she considered the supplier’s track record of reliability and craftsmanship.  Edmund’s creation – a French vintage-looking fully beaded gown in dainty floral and paisley pattern with detachable modern panuela – as worn by my beloved, was breath-taking.  Edmund, who also did two sets of four-piece suits for the groom, parents and entourage ensemble, also brought onboard make-up artist Jackie Rivera and team.

Gown & Tux

In this day and age when due diligence has become easier with social media, it’s imperative to research on each of your suppliers.  It’s best to hire those who were referred by friends who have had good experience with them or at the very least, those who have a good reputation.

Thanks to the wedding solution app, we were able to identify key tasks ahead and contract most vendors early into the planning.  We closed the contract for attire, photography, music, transportation, rings and decorations at very reasonable costs.  Lifestyle photographer Chito Vecina and team did a great job documenting everything, from the pre-nuptial photoshoot to the big day.  We ended up with a collection of great photos and the same-day-edit video captured the most touching highlights of the church rites. Click this link:

Event stylist/florist Michael Ruiz wowed our guests by transforming The Veranda into an eleagant midsummer nights’ dream-themed banquet.


Tap your BFFs

Many of my friends have arranged their own weddings before and they were kind enough to help us plan this one.  The bride’s sorority sister, hotelier Claire Bernabe, volunteered to be the overall coordinator, helping out with the minutest details such as screening the day coordinator, working with the event stylist, looking for new concepts and even cake designs.  She’s addicted to Pinterest and had come up with a lot of great ideas for the wedding.  Another friend, Noah Manarang, gave a priceless gift by decorating the church, which was a bit challenging because the date fell during the Lenten season – that period when the church prohibits the use of flowers in the church.  Noah’s Vetiver Farms collaborated with Flor’s Garden (where we also sourced the herbs distributed as wedding favors) to put up a stunning arc of flowers at the entrance of the church and to transform the aisle into a mini-garden with lighted mini-balls sourced from Bangkok’s Chatuchak weekend market.  Needless to say, our friend Noah extracted all her creative juices to complete her mission.

Several BFFs did the RSVPs.  The bride’s long-time BFF Ruth Santos created the R&D monogram and the childhood/growing up years AVR for the wedding reception.  Matrons of honor Jay Anne Dancel and Jove Goodman helped a lot with wedding details under time pressure.  Pearl Bantillo sang Lea Salonga’s “Two Words” during the bridal march. Sister-in-law Nichelle Dumlao and a few of her colleagues at the Catholic Youth Movement Choir travelled from Malabon City to sing at the church.

Bridesmaids and groom’s men also contributed in one way or another. For instance, fund manager Astro del Castillo and Digs Ramos helped out in distributing the wedding invites. Another friend, Ditas Lopez, assisted us in completing the requirements for a Catholic church wedding.  Nice-in-law and officemate Tina Dumlao brought in award-winning singer-composer Noel Cabangon and keyboardist Nikki Cabardo to serenade the guests. Friends Claire Bernabe, Pearl Bantillo, Ruth Santos, Honey Reyes and Tina Dumlao jammed with Noel during the reception. Concertino’s musical quartet and vocalists also entertained the guests.

To officiate the wedding, we flew in Rev. Msgr. Ronald Bonayon from my hometown of Banna, Ilocos Norte to Tagaytay.

We were not in this alone.

Save the date 

Especially for friends and relatives who are residing overseas, we knew we had to notify them ahead of time so they can file for a leave of absence at the soonest time possible.  Many among our principal sponsors and friends in the entourage are either based overseas or out of town, so we asked them to save the date as soon as the date and venue were finalized.  Sending early notices also allows you to gauge the final count of guests.

Set a budget but brace for unexpected cost  

These days, couples tend to split costs and that’s exactly what we did.  We had set a budget but based on our experience, there were a lot of unexpected additional costs.  For instance, the wedding package at the reception venue had to be “upgraded” because the basic package provided for only 100 guests.  Hiring a stylist is advisable to make the reception venue not just elegant but unique – one that reflects the personalities of the couple.  Otherwise, it’s just the same as any other wedding reception.

I always had to step in to fiscalize the cost as haggling isn’t among the bride’s skills.  We had to make compromises.  Bride had to give up fireworks in exchange for a LED wall.

In our case, we overshoot the original budget by 30-40 percent. We just told ourselves that we’re doing this only once and so we must make it as perfect as it can be.

Bridal Registry

Although the trend right now is for couples to prefer cash gifts, getting a bridal registry from major retailers is advisable. With the help of the bridal registry at Rustan’s and SM, for instance, you’ll save guests the hassle of bringing bulky gifts to an out-of-town destination as these retailers will deliver the gifts to your home. That works well for the couple as well, as it eliminates the need to hire a big truck to haul off all the wedding gifts. These days, only a few guests bring big boxes to the reception venue.

Involve the groom

Although brides tend to do bulk of the job during wedding preparations, at the end of the day, it’s a shared experience. While the bride chose most of the suppliers, I was a very much involved groom in this case, participating in key decisions in planning from choosing the color motif, reception theme, designing the invitation, meeting with the day planner Events Republic,  down to choosing the musical score.  I was happy to share the legwork burden with the bride. It’s fun to do together and is a litmus test on how you two will work in running the household in the future.

I’m happy to report that we never had any major disagreement during the wedding preparations. We were a team and had pretty much the same vision-mission in life.  I guess that bodes well for our shared future.


Come to the Family FQ Workshop by the Faustos on May 9, 2015 Saturday 1-5:30 pm at the SMX Convention of SM Aura, Taguig City. It will be a fun afternoon of bonding and learning about money aligned with your values as a family. The Fausto family will show you how to put Fun in Finance!

Early Bird Promo: Buy your tickets on or before April 17, 2015 and get a FREE GIFT. You’d be among the first to own the Pinoy version of my last bestseller, this time entitled Ang Muling Pagsasalaysay ng Ang Pinakamayamang Tao sa Babilonya. Click this link: I want FREE BOOK!.

Attribution: Thanks to Robert & Doris for providing the story and photos for this article.