natura cabana cabarete wedding photographer {genevieve + tj}

March 1, 2016

I’m so excited to share this amazing wedding with you, for many reasons. First and foremost, because Genny & TJ are truly remarkable human beings and have quickly become dear friends. Secondly, because they chose to celebrate their love in our favourite Dominican town, Cabarete (we live here!) And lastly, because we got to work with our friends at Natura Cabana, the most magical boutique hotel on the North Coast. Every month I host a New Moon Women’s Gathering in their Yoga Temple, and it was really special to wear a different ‘hat’ and photograph a wedding there.

Special thanks to Franca at Natura Cabana, for being such a delight to work with, as well as Richard Weber of 4DW Wedding Planners. The. Best.

Gen & TJ worked together at a restaurant downtown San Diego. “That hot, blonde, surfer dude” was Genny’s new secret crush, and after a work Christmas celebration on a party bus they became inseparable. They were traveling abroad and living together within a year, and this was 7 years ago!

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Top three things Gen loves about TJ: ‘I love TJ’s constant silliness and twisted sarcasm, it’s impossible for him to be serious. I also love the fact that I am the most comfortable, in life, when I’m with him. We’ve basically grown into each other over the years. And of course, how genuine he is. This one definitely wears his heart on his sleeve.’

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Top three things TJ loves about Gen: ‘She is like a beacon of light for weary soul travelers. People just love her right from the moment they meet her. She just makes people feel better. She’s also very intelligent and I couldn’t be more proud to have seen her go through nursing school and now to do what she does. She’s the strongest person I know. She’s comfortable in her own skin and also has a feisty side (to say the least) and can hold her own, which I wouldn’t have any other way.’

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Ideal day together according to Gen: ‘road tripping in a foreign country. Once, we accidentally drove to the opposite coast in Costa Rica while trying to find a volcano located more towards the middle of the country! Whoops, haha. We’ve also had one of the most epic, gorgeous road trips ever in New Zealand. I love exploring with TJ. He sees things in such a ‘TJ’ way haha. So different from how I see things, and then we discuss. So fun, its like playtime all the time with him. We’ve traveled a lot together and those are my favourite memories. And we compliment each other well.’

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Ideal day together according to TJ: ‘My ideal day would start with an early morning surf session while Gen relaxes on the beach. Then we would likely go to a farmers market and spend way too much money on food stuff for cooking. Then spend the rest of the day watching movies or listening to music while we cook together and play with our dogs.’

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TJ on the Proposal:

‘Gen was not expecting anything, so I gently slipped the ring on her finger one morning while she was still sleeping. When she woke up and asked what I wanted to do today, I replied that I wanted to go on a hike and be engaged to her and pointed to her hand… then we hiked to one of our favourite local spots with our dogs and that’s where I did the whole down on one knee official proposal… tears ensued.’

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Most romantic memory together according to Gen: ‘When we were in the Philippines in 2013, we went to a small gorgeous island called Coron. This island is a little harder to get to, meaning there aren’t too many Western travelers there. A family friend arranged for us to have this pretty big boat for a couple of days, just the two of us, with only a captain and a local “tour guide,” who were the best ever. We would ride our motorbike to the local market each morning, where we hand picked freshly caught fish, crabs, and veggies that the captain grilled for us on the boat (while we snorkeled, hiked, and swam in lakes). We would have lunch in the most gorgeous spots with no one else but us. Seriously, heaven. We experienced some of the most gorgeous islands, fresh water lakes, and sea life EVER. It was lightly raining so we didn’t want to bust out our expensive camera. TJ looked at me and said “It’s ok, these memories are just ours.”

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Most romantic memory together according to TJ: ‘Our first trip out of the country together was in 2010 to Costa Rica. The whole trip was super romantic, really. One day we randomly met this awesome guy originally from San Diego (where we’re from) in a grocery store, who moved there 15 years prior. He asked us if we wanted to see turtles lay eggs because they breed on the beach behind the private community he lived in, where no outsiders were allowed. We got to wander the beach all by ourselves at 11 PM, except for two of the nicest security guards, that showed us some spots with their flash lights. We obviously didn’t touch or bother anything. It was very surreal.’

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Gen’s favourite guilty pleasures: ‘We definitely have our vices ;).. but one we have no self control over is delicious food. We definitely eat well and spend way too much money on food, whether it be eating out or for groceries. I will still cook a fancy dinner after a 13hr shift, just because having a delicious meal is that important to me!’

TJ’s favourite guilty pleasures: ‘Comic books.’

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TJ: ‘I have anxiety issues from time to time, and Gen will gently touch my wrist and face and help me see the problem from a different and manageable perspective. She has a way of explaining things. That calms me down almost instantly.’

Gen: ‘When i’m being a cranky pants, TJ’s instant reaction is to make jokes. It usually starts with lots of eye rolls but ALWAYS ends with me laughing. There will also be a glass of wine in my hand almost instantly, haha.’destination wedding photos

TJ: ‘Gen is a ridiculously amazing cook. I am seriously lucky. She will never follow a recipe, just maybe to get an idea, then she’ll “just know” how to do it. I’ve been trying to convince her quit her job, move to another country (with surf), and open a small restaurant for a few years now.’

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Gen: ‘TJ is an encyclopedia of random information which is super convenient. He loves playing guitar and he’s also really good at surfing and wake boarding, or basically anything having to do with the water.’

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‘We just really wanted our wedding to be “us.” Besides the fact that it had to be one of ‘our trips,’ and by the surf, we wanted the locale to be our theme. We knew we wanted it some place lush and green, and with delicious food from their own garden. We chose dusty rose and persimmon to be our colour themes to match the tropical destination.’

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First dance: “My Baby Just Cares for Me” by Nina Simone.

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A couple of days after the Wedding, we adventured together for a very unique Rock the Dress session.natura cabana wedding

Gen: ‘TJ and I have experienced SO much together, and have learned to be partners through it all. I cant even imagine being without him at this point. He is one of the most loyal people I have ever met, not to mention he stood by my side while I was a working, angry, nursing student. He basically got me through nursing school and made me suck it up every time I was about to quit and jump on a plane. I don’t do well with having literally every day planned out for me for a couple years, not my cup of tea. Not to say it wasn’t 100% worth it and how grateful and honoured I am to do what I do.’

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TJ: ‘My entire perspective on life is different for the better because of Gen. I have tendencies to overthink and overanalyze everything to the point of obsession, and sometimes I get down about stuff. But Gen is a glass-half-full sort of person and she always helps to put things in a positive perspective for me and build me up. She has a gift for helping people and I feel so much pride to be able to say she’s mine.’

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TJ’s favourite gift from Gen: ‘For my dirty 30, Gen surprised me with a surf trip to Nicaragua, to the most perfect spot. She always makes sure we go during a swell, knows I prefer lefts, and takes into account what kind of break each place has. We rented a truck and road-tripped down the country, getting lost along the way, just as we like it. The surf was amazing, perfect whether. I cant wait until we go back.’

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Gen’s favourite gift from TJ: ‘I have many, but probably the most sentimental is this old world map he had framed for me. He bought pins so I can pin everywhere I’ve been. It’s still up in our dining room now. I think it’s my favourite because it’s a gift that was a total a game changer, and had me take him seriously.’

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Gen appreciates most about TJ: ‘His patience with me.’

TJ appreciates most about Gen: ‘Her patience with me.’

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TJ: “We’ve seen and been through so much together, at our best and very worst, and couldn’t be stronger or more in love.”

katya nova intimate portraitsBRIDE & GROOM POST-WEDDING REFLECTIONS:

1. What did you love most about your Wedding?

Gen: ‘Looking back on our big day, I love that we somehow truly pulled off having our wedding really reflect “us,” from the location to the vibes. I LOVE how intimate and cozy our ceremony felt, and how everything turned out to be so gorgeous, and how ridiculously delicious the food and desserts were (big deal). Umm, I mean, who gets a passion fruit tiramisu wedding cake?! Ahhh..mazing. And being able to have a bonfire til 2 in the morning, on the beach, steps away from where we just said “I do.”’

TJ:No Shoes! Actually, the location, more than anything, made the whole wedding such a wonderful experience. The seclusion of the beach during the ceremony provided an intimate feel and seeing Gen with the ocean behind her really gave me a moment I’ll never forget. Then, walking mere steps to a stunning outdoor table where Nico and his team prepared the best 5 course meal I’ve had in my life. And of course, the reception, where spirits were consumed in volume and voluminous acts therefore where performed by stubborn intoxicated males who don’t understand the power of video once the confidence has worn off’…

2. Any regrets, what would you have done differently if you could?

Gen: ‘Nope, no regrets! It never fails to amaze me how everything comes together and always works out. Not having ever been to Natura Cabana, or Caberete for that matter, or ever actually meeting any of the people I chose to make our dream wedding a reality…I had to play off gut feelings and trust. Naaailed it!’ 😉

TJ: ‘The only regret is that I wish there was simply more time. It’s true that everything does go by in a blur. Perfect week.’

3. Most memorable moments from the Day / Wedding week:

Gen:Besides marrying TJ, barefoot, on a gorgeous beach (I get goosebumps just thinking about it), I would say…

1) Being able to spend a week in paradise with some of the most important people in our lives, some of whom live in different countries. Cabarete couldn’t have been more perfect. Our families felt safe, but it was still ‘rough around the edges,’ just the way we like it. From the dinners on the beach, jumping off cliffs during a crazy hike, boat rides to our remote rehearsal dinner, dancing the nights away next to the Caribbean ocean… it wouldn’t have been as special without the beautiful souls who were there celebrating with us. 

2) The Rock the Dress sesh, SO much fun! A MUST do. Exploring beautiful spots with your photographer’s beautiful family, driving and splashing around in your wedding gear… total WIN. 

3) Road tripping in the DR with my hunbun for our honeymoon after everyone had left. No better feeling than doing what you love most (traveling) after your dream wedding. We drove through gorgeous scenery, got lost in Santo Domingo, got to venture down random roads which led to random empty beaches on Samana peninsula, got a flat tire (never fails haha), and added to our collection of crazy stories.’

TJ: ‘Other than the obvious (marrying my beautiful wife) …

  1.  Surfing warm water waves with my brother. Living in California, you don’t get many opportunities to wear board shorts in the ocean. Needless to say, we relished the opportunity to play in the waves with no rubber on. It was a real special moment for the both of us, as he doesn’t have the same schedule that allows for much international travel. 
  2.  At the beginning of the week I was overcome with emotion: so many people came from afar to celebrate with us. I never really prepared myself for the feeling of having (almost) everyone you love in one spot. It is truly amazing.Then, to be able to get away with my new wife alone and go on a road adventure all around the Dominican Republic in a very unreliable, very uninsured and very rented 4 door coupe? Oh, you’re in for a good time my friend. If you come away with a good story and no money then you did something right, right?
  3.  Sitting on the beach the day we arrived. Gen and I brought some wine down to the beach with a blanket. We watched the sunset and took a moment to soak in where we were and what was about to happen. I remember Gen leaning over and whispering, “Lets run away before they get here.”’

Comments about vendors, resort etc

Katya, Rob, and ZION: Everything was seriously meant to be, and I mean that. As soon as I found Katya’s blog, it was a done deal. I had another one of “my feelings.” Haha. What inspiring and gorgeous people inside and out. I knew right away I wanted their auras extending into our wedding. I am so happy we were able to hang out before and after our wedding, and we definitely will again someday soon. They made us feel very comfortable taking pictures, especially TJ, who usually is anti-anything cheesy haha. They are so passionate about what they do, and it is so evident in their work and demeanour. LOVE you guys!

Richard Weber: THE BEST, coolest stud of a wedding planner ever. Pretty much a rock star. He even surprised us at the airport and put decals with our names on our rent-a-car haha. Everything was taken care of, and he made sure everything went smoothly. He also came to the rescue on more than one occasion. And when i was upset about some people not being able to make it, he said “whoever is supposed to be there, will be there.” That instantly made me feel better. Having a wedding planner who will be your advocate first, is huge, and he was that and more, throughout it all. We’ll see you again soon for sure Richard!

Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel: Couldn’t have picked a more beautiful, lush, more perfect hotel/venue. Small and secluded just how we like it, eco-friendly with an organic garden for their food, with a magical yoga temple. Everyone who works there is absolutely wonderful and accommodating. Franca worked her butt off and made all our little details possible, and gave us our dream wedding. Nico is an incredible chef who seriously takes going “above and beyond” to a whole other level. He is very talented and I feel lucky to have had him at our wedding. I just “knew” when I stumbled on their website. It was meant to be!

Any advice for future brides/grooms! 

Genny: ‘I know its easier said than done… but try to not let what other people say get in the way of YOUR wedding. This was my goal from the beginning, but I still had plenty moments of weakness. It’s hard to not give your family their traditional religious wedding, or give in and have a local wedding after hearing person after person say they can’t make it (even though they knew what having a Caribbean wedding in February meant many months in advance). Just take a step back, and remember it’s about you and your fiancé. Having a wedding to be like “one of our trips” meant so much more to us than just having a destination wedding “somewhere pretty,” and at the of the day that’s what took precedence over any other factor.’

TJ: Go the extra mile for yourselves even though it might cost a little extra or require a little more planning. So much effort went into the planning of our wedding, but when it came together we absolutely felt that all the stress was worth it. Also, don’t take yourselves too seriously. Plan for what you can, but remember to embrace the chaos! Roll with the punches, as they say. Sometimes the best stories are the ones where everything goes wrong (but hopefully not). Make sure your camera is working before you leave for your trip. Lastly, do whatever you can to keep her calm.’ 😉



  1. Josephine Janssen

    March 1st, 2016 at 14:53

    Very beautiful, the place and the people.

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