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Bride: Joy Gulledge, 36, Publicist
Groom: Michael Collazo, 39, Sports And Entertainment Ticket Sales Professional
The Big Day: 8/5/16
Location: Willemstad, Curacao
Theme: Caribbean Cool
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"Becoming a bride was everything I’d hoped it would be," shared Joy. "It was stress-free and an honest-to-goodness good time. I’m not one that enjoys the spotlight, but I spent a week in paradise with family and friends that wanted to do nothing but shower me in love and well-wishes. It doesn’t get much better than that."
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Joy and Michael's bridal party was filled with loved ones, including her adorable son, William!
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"Michael is not quick to judge," said Joy. "He always assumes the best in people." Sounds like a true keeper to us!
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"We were getting ready to go to my cousin’s wedding," said Joy of how Michael proposed. "I was doing my makeup when Michael said he had gotten me something. By the time I turned around to see what it was, he was on one knee. I love that he did it at home and made the moment just about us. He knows I’m not the 'get engaged at a basketball game' kind of girl. The cherry-on-top was Michael made sure to ask for my son’s blessing before he proposed. The two of them are very close and it meant a lot to William that Michael included him in the process. "
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"My mother passed away nearly four years ago," shared Joy. "She was my everything. I had the officiant pay tribute to her at the start of the ceremony and I carried a photo of her in a pendant on my bouquet. It was a quiet nod and my way of keeping her close."
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Joy found her bridesmaids dresses on popular shopping site ASOS and she and her girls opted not to go barefoot in the sand. Way to save and keep it carefree ladies!
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"Michael is Puerto Rican and it was important to him to have his culture reflected in some way," the bride recalls. "He immediately suggested that he and his groomsmen wear guayaberas, which are shirts traditionally worn by Caribbean men." Looking good fellas!
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Joy liked the idea of having printed bridesmaid dresses, and once she found this beauties, she knew it was the one!
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"Obviously Joy is a beautiful woman, but she’s also one of my best friends and that is extremely important to me," said Michael. "I’ve never felt like I had to 'play the part' with her or struggle to communicate my ideas. She gets me."
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Joy's bouquet was absolutely beautiful and she picked the perfect backdrop for all of her pretty details.
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Michael and Joy's wedding favors included fans to help their guests beat the heat. "Guests received customized ‘thank you’ bags upon arrival and Chinese fans during the reception," said Joy. "We filled the gift bags with tourism materials and hangover kit items. The fans were a no-brainer. They provided some relief from the heat, but not much."
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"My brother Chadd walked me down the aisle," shared the bride. "He was my first best friend and knows me better than most. Plus, he told on me one too many times as kids, so he owed me one."
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"Surprisingly, I only cried as we said our vows," shared the bride. "I, for sure, thought I’d weep through the entire thing. On the flip side, Michael did not shed a tear on our wedding day. But he did cry when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008!" Ha!
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Who doesn't want to be footloose and fancy free on the beach?!
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"I married Michael for several reasons, but chiefly because he has never tried to make me over," Joy shared. "He has never once asked me to be more or less of myself. I am enough for him and he has always told me so. I said ‘yes’ because he’s my teammate, my champion and one of my best friends; and my life is infinitely more full for loving him."
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One of Joy's bridemaids looks flawless!
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"It felt like the culmination of many years together," the groom shared. "Saying 'I do' was the ceremonial cherry-on-top."
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"I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there," said the bride of how it felt to be standing at the altar with her groom with the wind in their hair exchanging vows. "I felt safe and I felt loved."
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"There wasn’t one specific moment that did it for me," recalled Michael. "However, I knew fairly early in our relationship that Joy was the woman I wanted to marry. About six months into us dating, I took her to Philly so she could meet my family. By that point, I was already thinking about my future with her."
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Joy had a vision of tying the knot in a white bridal jumpsuit. After searching high and low, she found it in a shop in New Orleans while attending ESSENCE Fest 2016 with her good friend Kitab. Both she and Michael loved it on their wedding day!
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"Falling in love with Michael took me by surprise in the best possible way," shared Joy. "It’s a great feeling when you realize one of the coolest people you know is the man you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with."
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"Michael is a Philadelphian, through and though," says Joy. "He’s impassioned about sports, politics and his Puerto Rican roots. He’s always one of the smartest people in the room with a genuine compassion for people in need."
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"During the ceremony, Michael took a moment to say a few words to my son William," shared Joy. "Those two go together like peas and carrots. There wasn’t a dry eye on the beach when Michael’s speech was done."
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To save and cut costs, Joy asked the wedding planner to reuse her bridesmaids’ flowers as centerpieces at the reception. Smart move, bride!
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"I kind of always assumed I’d find love later in life," says Michael. "The 'how' was the big question."
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Michael and Joy's intimate guest list of 34 close friends and family had the best seat in the house to witness their love story begin a new chapter.
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"‘Mi Dushi’ in Curacao means ‘my sweetheart,’" shared the bride. "We used that phrase as the jumping off point for the wedding."
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The bride and her son William are very close. When Michael was ready to propose, he made sure to ask William for his blessing first. During the wedding ceremony, Michael made a vow to William and Joy, and of course, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
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"Michael and I are not huge fans of cake, so we opted not to have a formal wedding cake," said Joy. "Instead, the hotel provided us with an assorted dessert plate and we chose the desserts that we fed each other."
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"[On that day] I felt calm and at ease," shared the groom. "I wasn’t nervous about marrying Joy. There was nothing to be nervous about. I’ve known this was where I wanted to be with her for a very long time."
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Michael and Joy's venue, the Avila Beach Hotel, was gorgeous boutique hotel tucked away in the middle of paradise that became the perfect place to become husband and wife.
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During the reception, the bride and groom shared their first dance to a mashup of Donny Hathaway’s “I Know It’s You” and “Baila Que Baila” by Tipica 73.
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There's nothing like having a little fun all in the name of love!
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"If I’m being honest, I knew early. Michael was very clear about his intentions when we started dating," said the bride of knowing her groom was "the one." "He was purposeful and consistent. I took notice. He made such an impression on me and I recognized that he was all of the things I coveted in a husband."
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