In this edition of real weddings happening around the globe, we’re headed to the Maldives, where luxury travel journalist and entrepreneur Dylan Grace Essertier and Michael Roman tied the knot in an over-water chapel that will fuel your travel fantasies for years to come. During the six day trip, the couple stayed at two Four Seasons resorts and enjoyed spa treatments, scuba diving, and mesmerizing ocean views. For their ceremony, they chose to exchange vows in an over-water wedding chapel with a glass-bottom aisle located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. After the intimate ceremony, they celebrated with champagne and wedding cake during a private beach dinner prepared for them on the edge of a white sandbank bathed by a blue lagoon. We recently caught up with the bride and groom to get the whole story behind their choice to wed in the Maldives, their advice on planning a destination elopement, and how to artfully nail the elopement-meets-vacation vibe.
Photography by: Digital Studio
Why did you decide to elope?
I always envisioned traveling somewhere beautiful with our nearest and dearest for a destination wedding. When COVID made that tricky and stressful, we decided to do a legal ceremony in Connecticut with just our families at the beautiful Graybarns on the Silvermine River. But we still wanted the excitement and luxury of a destination wedding experience – that’s how we landed upon the idea of exchanging vows in the Maldives. And, we’re looking forward to planning something special with our friends when the time is right.
I was influenced by Priya Parker’s book The Art of Intentional Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, which helped us decide that each mini celebration would have its own intention. Connecticut was a time to honor our families, the Maldives was about the two of us, and our “happily ever after” party will be a time to celebrate the amazing community that surrounds us.
How did you choose the Maldives for your elopement?
Growing up, the Maldives was the default wallpaper on my middle school computer. Since then, I’ve always considered the Maldives to be the epitome of paradise. Thanks to my career as a travel journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Maldives several times and have continued to fall more deeply in love with it each trip. Given that my husband loves to scuba dive, it felt like such a remote, romantic, and adventurous place to make things official.
Tell us about your venue choice. What made it the perfect place for your celebration?
When we discovered that the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru had an over-water wedding chapel, we knew this was exactly the unique, intimate, and unforgettable venue we had always envisioned. We loved how the chapel blends so elegantly into its natural surroundings, including the glass-bottom aisle and the fact that it sits in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere reserve with a turtle sanctuary beneath it. The opportunity to say our vows while tropical fish, sting rays, and reef tip sharks glided beneath us felt truly surreal. Landaa Giraavaru does an incredible job with their conservation efforts and we decided to buy a coral frame to celebrate our nuptials. We’re excited to go back one day and see how it’s grown. Finally, I’ll never forget taking a speed boat to get to the chapel—it honestly felt like a scene straight out of a James Bond movie!
What was a moment you’ll never forget?
Each morning, we would wake up at sunrise and order coffee at our villa before taking a dip in the ocean. Getting to start my days with my new husband in this way was beyond special. I’ll also never forget our elopement celebration. Dinner was set up for us on a private sandbank and we toasted with champagne while watching the sun go down. After dinner, my husband surprised me with a beautiful lemon buttercream wedding cake. I’ll always remember watching him cut me a slice as the moon rose over the lagoon in the warm night air…there were even little hermit crabs scurrying across the silky white sand in front of our table!
What were some unique moments?
Keeping with our elopement theme of peace and relaxation, we were able to visit the spas at both Four Seasons properties we stayed at. The spa at Kuda Huraa is located on its own private island, which is only accessible by a traditional dhoni boat. At Landaa Giraaavru, the treatments are designed around the ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda. We had the chance to do a couples’ floral bath which was filled with frangipani flowers and bougainvillea from around the island. I loved the smell of the frangipani, one of my favorite flowers. Other little details that felt special to me were the emerald earrings I wore, which I bought during a travel assignment in Jaipur. Our bikes at Landaa Giraaavru had our initials on them, which added to the feeling that every detail had been customized especially for us. Finally, in our villa at Huda Kuraa you could roll out of bed, walk through a giant window, and dive straight into your own private plunge pool.
What are your top tips for planning a destination elopement?
Tip One: Figure out if you’re having a legal or symbolic ceremony. Make sure to read up on the legalities of where you’re getting married, including what paperwork is required. We decided to get legally married in Connecticut before having a symbolic ceremony in the Maldives.
Tip Two: Think about your dress! If you’re traveling far, think about opting for a fabric that’s lightweight, easy to travel with, and most importantly, comfortable to wear. I loved being able to roll my wedding dress up in my suitcase and move easily in it (as demonstrated by the twirls above).
Tip Three: Make your own rules! Typically, the order of events is to say “I do” and then go on your honeymoon. We did the opposite! We thought of this trip as our honeymoon and elopement rolled into one, and opted to actually say our vows towards the end of the trip—when we were feeling our most relaxed, had kicked jet lag, developed great tans, and could be most present with one another. If it takes you a few days to unwind after leaving the office or taking a long flight, I highly recommend reflecting on the timing of your ceremony, and figuring out what would make the experience the most enjoyable and special it can possibly be for you and your partner.