A Publication of WTVP

A look at one couple’s wedding getaway…

Two of your closest friends are racing to the top of a palm tree. It’s a competition to select and bring back a coconut the fastest. What sounds like fun worthy of spring break was just one of the memories of Courtney and Ryan Dean’s destination wedding last November.

Courtney Dean is a local Realtor who spends her days helping Peoria residents make the important life decision of purchasing a home. Though a traditional career woman, Courtney was not a traditional bride. So when it came to one of life’s other milestones—planning a wedding—she knew she wanted anything but ordinary. “I was not one of those girls who sat around and dreamed of her wedding day,” Dean admits. “I had not put much thought into what I wanted to do when I did get married one day.”

After talking to her now-husband, Ryan, the couple realized they were attending about 10 traditional church weddings each year. While they both enjoyed traditional weddings, they knew they wanted something different… and the plans for a destination wedding were set into motion. “We talked about all the money that went into that one day,” Courtney explains, “and this was a way to make that day last and make the planning process stress-free—it was just a perfect fit for us.”

The Deans chose the Barcelo Maya Palace in Riviera Maya, Mexico, located south of Cancun and known for more than 100 miles of all-white sand beach, dazzling blue waters, ancient Mayan ruins and tropical jungles. It’s an all-inclusive resort, which bundles up all the lodging, meals, beverages and activities into one flat price. It was also easy for their guests to access—an important detail with a guest list of 50 close family and friends.

The newlyweds did much of the planning over email with their coordinator, who sent options for flowers, cakes and other décor. They were able to meet with the planner in person and get all the details finalized upon arriving. “Coordinating the wedding was easy,” Courtney says. “Once we booked our resort package with our travel agent, Ryan and I were connected with a wedding coordinator at the property who was fabulous. Everything turned out perfectly!”

The couple had plenty of time to enjoy the resort’s activities and all-inclusive features, as they were required by law to arrive and be in the country at least three working days before the ceremony. In addition, they had to arrange for blood tests and complete paperwork. The Deans and their witnesses signed their marriage license at the ceremony, which arrived by mail six weeks later. The process was simple and left plenty of time to focus on enjoying the amenities of the resort.

“We had a fun group who hung out together by the pool and on the beach playing volleyball or water polo during the day,” Courtney recalls. “At night, we made reservations at one of the many restaurants, and visited bars and the nightclub on-site. There was so much to do that we never had a reason to leave the resort!” The Deans’ relaxing trip lasted 10 days, full of palm tree-climbing, coconut-picking fun, and so many other silly, hilarious moments that the couple had a hard time picking their favorite. But when it came to their most romantic memory of the trip, their answer was easy—the ceremony.

“It was set on a small, private cliff overlooking the ocean, and had a very intimate atmosphere,” says Courtney. “It’s a moment we’ll never forget.” a&s

Teri Cook is owner of Cook Travel and Cruise in East Peoria. For more information, visit