I’m Married! Our Wedding, Part 1

I’M NOW OFFICIALLY CRYSTAL NERI, married to Jovi after many years of being together. This is inside story of how we planned our wedding and the people and choices that guided our decisions. Here’s Part 1 of this two-part series, starting with the planning stages.

 “Your wedding should reflect who you are as everyday people.”

For the first time in weeks that we could finally rest, my husband and I are brainstorming honeymoon ideas.
“Our Schengen visa expires next month, but the touring prices in Italy is jacked up.”

“We can go to Japan instead.”

“What about a local tour…. Ilocos, Batanes & Palawan?”

In that moment, I’m enveloped by the love I have for this man, who is calmly and rationally discussing with me what to do next in our lives. We are still on a high from throwing the biggest party ever – our wedding day. People flew in from many parts of the United States (San Francisco, Arizona, New Jersey, San Diego, Fremont, etc); countries like Singapore, Thailand and Hongkong; and local friends from Davao and Manila. But it’s not easy for Cebuano guests to come either – our reception was at Chateau De Busay, which I describe as “up in the mountains.” In short, we dragged our 300-person guest list from a church in the city to halfway up the mountains for the rest of the five-hour party.

Wedding Planning – Staying True To Our Everyday Selves


When Jovi and I got engaged, I left right away for San Diego to work. That one year of a buffer gave me time to reflect on my engagement, learn how to cook, drive, be employed and immerse myself in reading and nature. In a wonderful book, “A Practical Wedding” one thing stood out for me: your wedding should reflect who you are as everyday people. When I moved to Cebu to start the preparations, this is what Jovi and I kept in mind. We know for sure that we won’t spend for caviar or ice castles. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of The Wedding Industry, but we didn’t. We wanted to focus on the essentials.

What is essential for us? Each other, an officiant, accepting marriage as a sacrament, a beautiful venue & the comfort of our guests. It was going to be big in number (guests) but small in budget. We settled on May 29th as a date because in the summertime, the kids are off school and people are willing to take a leave.

No Giveaways, No Decor, No Games


I’m a big fan of minimalist living, so I hate clutter. This is why Jovi and I let go any wedding favors. I see them left in venues or get thrown-away or hid in boxes. Why bother spending for that? In lieu of favors, Jovi and I are donating to three sets of charities under our sponsors’ names.

Outdoor garden with mountain views. No need for fancy decor.


In the early days of wedding planning, we went to a florist/decorator that quoted us an amount that made me palpitate. I could not believe it – six figures for a basic arrangement! Since that become a sore problem, we let it go. No more decor for us except the basic centerpieces that came with the venue. Last minute additions were homemade: my husband’s drawings and a DIY arch from somebody we knew. The cost? 1/20th of the original quotation. And none of our guests missed it.

We also let go of games because Jovi and I feel uncomfortable about them. It was simple – if we didn’t like it, we nixed it. Instead, Jovi raffled off charcoal portrait commissions. It’s a gift of time, it’s valuable, and folks frame that stuff. Again, no clutter.

Wedding Week itinerary posted on every hotel room

We also decided early on that we are going to treat my friends and family. All of them flew so far for my wedding. As a gift, I planned a week-long itinerary including a road trip to Oslob to see the whale sharks, an overnight stay at a handsome beach house and a boating day to island-hop. I was an overly committed bride/driver/tour guide on my wedding week. The sacrifice was worth it because Jovi and I believe that experiences matter more than material things.

Big Decisions – Venue, Reception & Dress


Our ceremony was held in Sacred Heart Church Parish – where Jovi was baptized and where his parents got married. We booked it right away after seeing how cold the air-conditioning was. The Parish required us to attend a very worthy 16-hour marriage seminar that taught us: (1) couples are usually opposites, and (2) ‘I love you’ cannot be assumed, it needs to be said.

Father Manny gave an excellent homily, even showing Jovi’s hand-made invites to the crowd.


Father Manny Uy officiated our wedding. He is the President of Jovi’s alma mater, Sacred Heart Jesuit – Ateneo De Cebu. In our first visit with him, he told us, “wedding planning is also part of the celebration.” It was a sweet reminder to revel in the planning stage stress and remember that small wins mattered.

Sweetheart table
Cocktails hours
With my bridal entourage before the reception

Our reception was in Chateau De Busay. I made this call because I believed that the least we can give our guests who traveled far is a gorgeous venue that showcased Cebu. I’m not keen to book a ballroom or hotel – I just spent a year hiking all over San Diego – and I wanted to honor my past life in my new one. Turns out, Chateau was affordable and owned by a friend of my mother-in-law, Tita Nonie Uy.

Here’s what I read about wedding gowns: “It should not break you, but you should fight for the gown you want.” Right now there’s a trend of very fancy, big, expensive gowns, but I really just wanted something light and clean on my wedding day. I’m minimalist in nature, so I never felt the need for anything grand. The month before, my designer showed me this.

I told Jovi, “Hey I have a secret… I don’t like my wedding gown.”

My designer, Jojo Romoff immediately took out all the embellishments and turned it around to the original look I was going for. I am a happy bride for not carrying 15-lbs of white fabric and able to move around.

My final wedding gown – Clean, light, minimalist.


My husband made 200+ personalized invitations. First, he drew a caricature of us. Second, he laid out the design in Photoshop. Third, he went to Tito Dale’s Mandaue Print Shop to have the invites printed. Fourth, he brought them home to color them one by one before finally laminating the cards back in the print shop. Frankly, I don’t like how much time it took, but people loved them. As Jovi said, “People ask for my drawings but I don’t have time for all those requests. This way, I get to give them all a piece of my art.” Well said, my love.
Jovi has an anti-boredom kit: pens & wedding invites to color.
The final result: unique wedding invitations
(To Be Continued…)
Part 2 will be about our suppliers and what the wedding day felt like.
Crystal Neri (formerly Crystal Superal) handles JFDI Asia’s social media and makes sure they awesome content. She’s a reader and writer on startups, life hacks and travel. Say Hi to her on Twitter @nericrystal.