Weddings That Inspire

Coco and Steph - 3-Day Wedding Staycation

'We felt that God gave us wedding that was really "us"'

Manuel Valero and Stephanny Angeles share an 18-year partnership before making it official on July 26, 2021. The couple met as college freshman students in UST and together they conquered life milestones, from passing the board exams (they’re both architects), working in Singapore, and starting their own design and construction company.

Their journey to ‘I do’ was quite the adventure too. Coco and Steph were originally going to wed in March 2020 at Sofitel but had to cancel. They put their plan on hold for 10 months before trying again: a March 2021 wedding but in Shangri-la at The Fort because the previous venue could not accommodate key members of their family. A similar problem arose for their second try, plus contracting Covid-19. “So another set of plans just got cancelled and the planning was getting exhausting already. I even told Coco that it’s okay with me if we just got married at the City Hall and that we book a hotel’s private dining hall to celebrate. But he said to try one more time, this time, to focus our planning outside of Metro Manila as they seem to have less restrictions,” says Steph.

Below, Steph talks more about the three-day wedding festivities she and Coco had:

Did you have a theme for your wedding?

Even before the pandemic, we’ve always wanted an intimate wedding. Every time we would attend grand weddings, Coco and I would always tell ourselves: “we won’t do ours this way.” Or “this is not us”. Not that there’s anything wrong with grand weddings, but we know early on that it is not the wedding we wanted for ourselves.

We both aren’t too keen on spending so much on a single day, as we both don’t buy that: “minsan lang mangyayari sa buhay niyo ito” mindset most Filipinos have. While we both know that it’s of course a very special day in our lives, we also know that our marriage, which are all the days after the wedding is way more important than our wedding day. So we both agreed to keep everything simple, laid back, fun and heartwarming. I guess, that’s where the rustic and minimalist garden wedding stemmed from.

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Church weddings seem to have so much more restrictions and that doesn’t really appeal to us so much. Our non-negotiable was really just to have a fun wedding, with a good photographer to capture those moments. Really grateful for Michelle of Circuit Studios for giving us all these memories we’d keep forever, and to our best friend, Shaan for making our wedding video.

What were your wedding plans?

After cancelling our wedding twice, we decided to get an entire Airbnb instead so there’s more flexibility and lesser restrictions. What a blessing to have found Mertola’s Farm in Airbnb. It was a simple, quaint, resort just 1.5 hrs from Manila, located at the edge of a ridge with an unobstructed view of Taal. We visited it right away, spoke to the owner, Vic Mertola, and booked it immediately. We had the whole place to ourselves for 3 days and got the staycation-wedding we have always wanted.

How did you handle the challenges you encountered?

Coco and I had this inside joke of making our wedding hashtag #forcemajeurpamore. Imagine having all these days before your third wedding attempt: a worsening pandemic, strong rains and winds from a typhoon that just won’t stop because of habagat, a looming volcanic eruption and an earthquake just a day before the wedding. It was crazy! But grateful for our friends for telling us that we should still push through and for giving us the “walang makakapigil satin” mindset.

The earlier cancellations of course, were a big challenge as refunds usually take 4-8 weeks. We opted for the two hotels as they had everything we need, and we thought everything would be simpler if we’ll just do everything in one place: the overnight stay the day before, pre-wedding preps, ceremony, reception and our stay the night after the wedding. No fuss wedding is all we wanted. Unfortunately, being in Manila, everything was unpredictable as restrictions change every two weeks. We tried to cope by managing our expectations: we simplified so much of the wedding, so much so that we even removed unnecessary traditions so we won’t need to stress ourselves over it.

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Another big challenge is also how to oversimplify our guest list. We had to be very thorough and almost discreet about this as realistically, we really cannot invite everyone.

How did you feel during your wedding?

Although it was still very much flawed and a lot of things went wrong during the 3 days we were there: just like how the wind was going crazy during the actual ceremony and the curtain decors were flying to our faces, but all in all since we had so much fun along with 18 of our guests, looking back, those flaws actually added character and fun to the story of our wedding day. We felt that God gave us wedding that was really us. It was simple, unpretentious, laid back and fun. We were also glad that we were able to give our families and friends a break from the pandemic. Everyone was itching to go on a vacation after being on lockdown for more than a year. We’re glad to be able to give them a break from the pandemic even just for 3 days.

What were your most memorable moments from your wedding?

Funny things like dropping the wedding ring during the ceremony right before I could even give it to Coco. But it’s really mostly being able to spend a good three days with our closest families and friends, being able to bond just like how we do it pre-pandemic.

First night before the wedding, we finished drinking at 2AM, so everyone was really sleepy and tired during the actual wedding. Haha! We were able to have our siesta after our wedding reception, and continued the celebration on our second night where the drinking, singing and kwentuhan lasted until 5AM the next day! It was fun and exhausting, something all of us missed and haven’t done since the start of the pandemic.

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Since there were only 20 of us, and most of the adults were already vaccinated, we were able to really celebrate anxiety-free. Thankfully, no one contracted Covid from our wedding. Looking back, we now know the reason why all those cancellations happened, it’s so that we could have this simple 3-day garden wedding we have always wanted, for the fraction of the cost of how it would have in those fancy hotels in Manila we previously booked for 1 day. Even turned out way better than the original wedding plan. The wedding very much reflected who we were as a couple, simple and laid back, true to self, which was why we were very satisfied with the outcome.

Do you have advice for couples planning their wedding?

Start first with knowing what you really want. Maybe it also comes with our age, being in our mid-30s already, we weren’t much into the big wedding trends nowadays. It’s really easy to get caught into the numerous wedding ads online, but if you know what you really want to happen during your wedding, you can really simplify it and still make it work. With us, we started with a small guest list and waited until most of the adults were fully vaccinated so we can do the celebration we want without so much anxiety. We also DIY-ed a lot of the things in the wedding, like the digital invitation, the decors for two nights we’ll be celebrating, and our best friends made the wedding video and hosted our reception.

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DIY-ing your wedding is very doable for us given the nature of our work, but really not recommendable. Also, instead of getting a couturier, we opted to just rent out the gowns for the female guests and the suit for Coco. Had I found a wedding dress from a rental shop, I would have also rented out, but instead found a very good minimalist designer and only paid P7,000 for my wedding dress.

Also, since we’re small business owners ourselves, we also made sure to get small businesses as our suppliers to help them even in a small way this pandemic. Maybe this is something future couples could also consider doing.

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The Dream Team

Venue: Mertola’s Farm | Catering and venue styling by MEER Catering | Desserts by Carabuns PH | Cake by Whimsy MNL | Hair and makeup by Yvonne Ragasa Make Up Artistry | Photography by Circuit Studios | Gown/suit rental by Gowns for Rent Manila by Damsel