A Vera Wang bride for a spectacular rustic-glam Jew-ish destination wedding at a private villa in Phuket, Thailand

From the introductory image above, it’s fair to say that Melissa and Ishay’s Jew-ish wedding is going to be seriously swoon-inducing… and it doesn’t stop with that extraordinary ceremony setting either. Their entire W Day is dazzling from start to finish with a beautiful back story of love crossing continents and eclipsing expectations.

Thai-American Melissa, and Israeli-born Ishay met in an Irish pub in Uganda (yes, really!) and everyone told them they were crazy to think their relationship could last.

As Melissa says, “After our time in Africa, and a year and a half of Skype video chats and international flights around the world, to and from Uganda, Israel, Thailand, and San Francisco, we embarked on a new adventure together – The East Coast. Then one evening when I was on call, Ishay decided to surprise me in my new apartment in New York City with over 400 candles. Who knew Ishay could be so romantic? Of course, I said yes.”

Oh I do love a good international love story (did you know that both my parents’ and my brother’s marriage are the culminations of long-distance relationships?) and the incredible story behind their relationship is told in their own words in one of the most moving wedding films I’ve ever watched – tears in my eyes. You absolutely have to see it – it’s just below.

Super stunning Melissa married the love of her life in a breathtaking Vera Wang gown, and if there is one word to describe this gorgeous couple’s big day then it’s WOW. From the show-stopping fireworks to those beautifully decorated long tables at dinner, to the exquisite displays of flowers and that chuppah on the infinity pool set against the backdrop of the Indian ocean, it all looks spectacular.

But that carefree shot at the end of both of them jumping into the swimming pool in their half-dressed wedding attire? That’s my favourite.

Enjoy this Tuesday treat of a wedding with words by the bride, images by Julian Abram Wainwright and the must-watch film below by David Pritchard from Imageforge Asia

Destination wedding Thailand
how we met

Melissa, the Bride: It started in an Irish pub in the middle of Uganda. I know, right? Ishay moved from Israel to Uganda to pursue a new life adventure. I took a year off from medical school to engage in medical research in Uganda. True to ex-pat living in East Africa, all good things came out of the regular go-to hang out place, the “local” Irish pub known as “Bubbles.”

It would be nice to say that it was love at first sight for both of us. If you asked Ishay, he would probably say that Melissa just never met anyone like him before. If you asked me, I would probably say that I initially was just not that impressed. Luckily, Ishay is persistent or, at the very least, stubborn. On the second meeting I became intrigued. By our first date, we were both hooked. We just couldn’t get enough of each other. Six months after spending time together in East Africa, what appeared to be the most unexpected love story was expected, by everyone, to end.

I moved back to San Francisco to finish medical school. Ishay stayed in Uganda to continue working. In less than a year, Ishay moved back to Israel to finish college. After a year and a half of Skype video chats and international flights around the world, to and from Uganda, Israel, Thailand, and San Francisco, we embarked on a new adventure together – The East Coast.  And then on one fall evening when I was on call (shocking for some but, dermatology residents do take call), Ishay decided to surprise me in my new apartment in New York City with over 400 candles. Who knew Ishay could be so romantic? Of course, I said yes.  Over the next two years, we had a civil ceremony in New York City at City Hall, had a traditional Buddhist ceremony in Bangkok, and finally, we had our wedding in Phuket. 

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Choosing to get married in a waterside villa in Phuket

We got married in a beautiful private villa in Phuket. Growing up in Thailand and California, I always pictured getting married on a cliff, overlooking the ocean.  Both my husband I grew up near the water so it’s always been something important to us as individuals and as a couple.  When I saw the villa, I knew this was a perfect place for us to say our vows in front of our family and closest friends.

Destination wedding Thailand
Our wonderful wedding planners

We had the best wedding planner! Jeanette and her team at Luxury Events Phuket were so easy and an absolute pleasure to work with.  I definitely had a vision of what I wanted our wedding to be!  Jeanette and her team literally took my dream and made it a reality!  We wanted the feel to be boho-chic with a touch of simple glamour and rustic garden comforts.  Our colours were white, blush, peach, with hints of green, grey, and silver.

Destination wedding Thailand
hair and make up

I worked with Lisa Allen for my hair and make up. She was hands down one of the highlights of the day!  She’s hilarious, calming, and a master as what she does.

Destination wedding Thailand
A Vera Wang dress

My dress was from Vera Wang. I loved the softness and comfort of the dress. I knew since I was getting married on a tropical island, comfort was so important. Vera just knows how to make absolutely beautiful dresses without compromising comfort and function.

Vera Wang bride
family jewellery and accessories

My jewellery is a family heirloom from my mother.  My sister wore the same jewellery set.  My veil was from Vera Wang as well and was my “something borrowed” from one of my close friends.

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Jimmy Choo kitten heels

Shoes were from Jimmy Choo. I wanted my shoes to be my “something blue” and I’m obsessed with the delicate navy lace on the shoes.  I wanted kitten heels because I wanted to be able to be comfortable and dance in my shoes, which they were!

Jimmy Choo Bridal
The handsome groom

My husband’s suit was from Ben Sherman and his shoes were Salvatore Ferragamo.

Destination wedding Thailand

I initially wanted my bridesmaids to wear different dresses in a similar colour scheme of either blush, nude, or moss.  Two of the girls actually loved the same blush coloured dress from Mango.  My sister, the maid of honour, wore a blush coloured dress from Aidan Mattox.  I wanted her dress to have a “Thai” feel.

Private villa destination wedding photography in Phuket, Thailand

Since my husband is Israeli Jewish and I’m a Thai-American Buddhist, we wanted to incorporate both our cultures into the ceremony. We had a traditional Buddhist water ceremony in Bangkok with my family, then in Phuket, we got married under a chuppah. Ishay broke the glass, said a Jewish prayer in Hebrew, and both his father and mother walked him down the aisle,

I have two favorite parts of our ceremony. First, my brother married us which was memorable as he also married my sister.  Second was our personal vows – being able to share our story and emotions in front of family and closest friends was so special.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Private villa destination wedding photography in Phuket, Thailand

Destination wedding Thailand
a heavenly chuppah design

I wanted something simple but also felt organic. We used manzanita trees and hung phalaenopsis orchids to the branches to create a “garden” feelingas if they had just grown on the tree. Floating on top of an infinity pool and up against the backdrop of the sunset over the Indian ocean, there was something heavenly about the entire design.

Private villa destination wedding photography in Phuket, Thailand

Destination wedding Thailand
music for the ceremony

We wanted to do instrumental modern songs.. Ishay and his groomsmen came down to the instrumental version of Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks. My parents and bridal party came down to Somewhere Only we Know by Keane, and I came down to Someone like You by Adele. Our recessional was Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

Destination wedding Thailand
florals and reception decor

Flowers were by the amazing Iam Flower. The bridal bouquet  had a very unusual flower called Pink Celosia mixed with soft pink peony, peach David Austin roses, pink abtis and eucalyptus leaf.  We picked up the ivory rose and green leaf button hole for the groom.

The bridesmaids had ivory rose, white phalaenopsis with yellow centres and eucalyptus leaf, and the groomsmen had a white phlaenopsis and green leaf button hole.

The flower girls wore white orchid flower crowns.

We then used all those flowers in low arrangements for the reception.  On each long table were 12 different six mercury vases with a mix of all the flowers.

Across the table we hung crystals and long white orchid flower chains mixed with chandeliers.

Destination wedding Thailand
our fabulous photographer

Julian Abram Wainwright was our amazing photographer. We wanted someone who could capture natural shots rather than posed. He was able to give us photos that completely documented all the emotions throughout the entire night.

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Private villa destination wedding photography in Phuket, Thailand

Destination wedding Thailand
Advice to other brides and grooms

No one told me how incredibly special is would be to have your family and friends travel from afar and take time out of their busy lives to be there to celebrate you as a couple and your love. How amazing is that. It sounds like such an obvious thing. But I remember when I was walking down the aisle, I was overcome with a deep sense of gratitude, appreciation and love for all our guests. And several minutes later, you’re getting married. I never understood why people told me not to elope and I finally understood it in that moment.

To all the future brides – my best advice to you is to be in the moment. Let go of all the details, the schedule, the planning, the stress.

Private villa destination wedding photography in Phuket, Thailand

Phuket wedding photographer Destination wedding Thailand

Wedding Planner – Luxury Events Phuket
Photography – Julian Abram Wainwright
Videography – Imageforge Asia
Venue – Private Villa
Floral design – Iam Flower
Bride’s dress and veil – Vera Wang
Bride’s shoes – Jimmy Choo
Maid of Honour’s dress – Aidan Mattox
Bridesmaids’ dresses – Mango
Catering – Daniel Isberg
Groom’s attire – Ben Sherman
Groom’s shoes – Salvatore Ferragamo
Groomsmens’ suits – custom made by Jesse & Son Custom Tailors
Cake – Les Diables Phuket
Hair + Make Up – Lisa Allen
Stationery – Smitten on Paper