Andrew & Crestine Wedstival

Our  Four-Day Wedding Festival in Coron, Palawan, Philippines

It’s been two years now since the most memorable weekend of my life and I still watch our wedding video almost daily. I still smile and cry at the same time. Is there a syndrome called post wedding joy? Then I definitely have that.

Andrew proposed a year after we met in Auckland and we gave ourselves a year to plan what was always going to be a difficult wedding. You see we are a modern couple from different cultures and religious beliefs. We needed to mix Kiwi and Filipino wedding traditions and find a location our loved ones could afford to get to. Kiwis are famous for their ingenuity and self-sufficiency. It is said that Kiwis can create amazing things. I’ve lived here long enough to love that, but my family is used to weddings always being a certain way. And inside, they are my traditions too.

We tried to find a middle ground – literally, in Bali. We went to Bali for a holiday to check out some places but I realize it was too difficult expensive for my large Catholic family to travel too, and something didn’t feel right, the place, the vibes, the language barrier so changed our plans. 

So we settled on a beautiful and safe corner of the Philippines, and a format they call a Wedstival – something I saw in a NZ Herald magazine. Wedstival is a new idea back home - we think we had the first one ever in the Philippines. But after months of worrying about how to make everyone happy, including us, when we chose a Wedstival, things just started falling into place.

Organising a wedding in the Philippines was stressful, but there were a lot of advantages. We could have a dream location and some of the little touches we could never afford here. We could ask our guests to pay for their accommodation and major activities without worry because the price was so low. It was always going to be an event nobody could forget, but I had no real idea how well it would go down.

The resort staff had never heard of a Wedstival before, so I flooded them with emails and ideas beforehand. I was nervous as the aeroplane landed at the airport of Busuanga on the magical island of Palawan. But we’re greeted with a big canvas… “WELCOME TO ANDREW and CRESTINE WEDSTIVAL”. And in my heart I know we’re going to create memories that we will cherish forever.

It was beautiful scenic ride to Coron town and another half an hour boat ride to the island where we had booked the entire Balinsasayaw Resort. Boat by boat, we’re joined by 60 of our loved ones. It was stunningly beautiful, very hot and a bit primitive for the Kiwis. Let’s just say one way or the other, nobody was in their comfort zone!

We had four days and three nights ahead of us and felt so blessed that so many people would come to somewhere so remote to be with us. But everybody was in awe and we knew that after all the worry we had made the best decision we could have made.

Our ultimate goal was to make it intimate, romantic, super fun and memorable. We thought it’s not often that we get a chance to go for a holiday with friends and families; we’ve just made an occasion to do so. We are so busy in our professional lives, so going back to basics and relaxing with our guests was the right choice for us. A slow wedding.

Here on the island we can wake up in the morning and hear the chirping of the birds, smell the fresh air, hear the sound of the waves, walk around barefoot, let our hair down, and not even worry to put on makeup. Andrew and I fell in love with Palawan on our first Philippine visit as a couple. It's called an untouched paradise, but we came back because it touched us.

Earlier I mentioned the Kiwi DIY culture. We really wanted to put as much personal touch and Kiwi-ness into the wedding as we could - from the food menu, wedding decorations and concepts, and performances. Many of our Kiwi friends and family did so many things, like devising a cocktail, cooking my favourite dishes for the wedding feast and making all of the events look so beautiful they belonged in a magazine. That is the whole idea of a wedstival (wedding festival) . I even don’t have to hire a makeup artist and a hair stylist as I have all around talented families and friends to he help me out.

Despite it being so remote, prices are so good in the Philippines that we could easily afford a photography and video team to fly in from Cebu and film the entire wedding. The quality is stunning and they even had a same day- edit video ready to show at our reception. So we will never forget this time.

We will always owe so much to my four beautiful sisters, who live in the Philippines, for accepting this strange wedding concept and working so hard on my behalf to pull the event together. We are saving hard for our first house and want to start a family. We didn’t have a lot of money and I can’t believe that what we pulled off, with so much help, looked to come from a magazine, even though it cost a tiny portion of that. My wedding stylist  was my beautiful and talented friend Julia from Auckland, creative director of Hip Events Limited. She took my ideas and made them incredible. She's not just stunning but awesomely talented.

The four days on the island was full of fun. We had island tours, hours of snorkelling, a traditional Filipino boodle fight lunch at a private beach (a long table that everybody eats at using hands only) and many fun games, such as the Kiwi favourite tug of war. We had themed dinners back at Balinsasayaw – a traditional Filipino fairy evening and a white night. Both with long tables outdoors, lights in the trees and lots of performances from anybody with any talents.


At white night we incorporated the Kiwi and Filipino ways of BBQ, so it was probably a unique meal! We also sent ahead lots of New Zealand products, such as Whittakers Chocolate and special cheeses like brie, blue cheese,camembert to share with our guests. Because of the much lower costs in Coron, we could afford luxuries which made our budget wedding special – like a massage for every guest!

The only covered communal space at Balinsasayaw actually has no walls, so all the decorating was on the tables and ceiling, where the resort staff spent all day in the rafters stringing our lanterns.

The wedding by the water’s edge, on the last day, was put off until 5pm because of the extreme heat. I was the hottest in my full-length wedding dress. Although I felt sorry for the boys in their suits, I wouldn’t let them take off their jackets! Because we got the wedding outfits made in the Philippines, I could afford two lovely dresses on my small budget. In fact the reception dress had a removable skirt, so I really had three!

The most memorable moment was when I arrived at the end of our aisle – a lovely jetty - on a speed boat from the other side of the island. I just couldn’t stop crying at that time because everything was so beautiful. Then I walked down the jetty with my parents as my cousin played the violin. It felt so romantic.

Our Dream Wedding

The ceremony made lots of people cry. It was the end of a long journey and very emotional for everybody.

We then had a wonderful reception – quite Kiwi style but with mainly Filipino delicacies, in the open-walled dining pavilion. We drank a signature cocktail featuring Kiwifruit vodka and local mango liqueur – Balinsasayaw Bliss. We laughed until crying at the best man’s power point with all of my husband’s most embarrassing photos. People wrote wedding advice on the blackboard and took photos of it for us to keep. But the best moment of the reception was our surprise first wedding dance.

It was a mix of 20 songs and we practiced for months to make it perfect. Nobody thought Andrew was a dancer and I used to tell him off for not performing very well in our practice but on the night, he got competitive. He did the performance of his life and I almost forgot all the moves because I just couldn’t stop laughing. It must the cocktail that made him do that but again everybody had tears down their faces he was so funny.

We ended the evening letting Chinese candle lanterns go at the water’s edge – a final Filipino touch before dancing the night away.

Now for my secret. I didn’t have a folder of wedding ideas. I had one dog-eared magazine with photos of Holly Branson’s wedding on Necker Island. That was my dream. But I am not a billionaire or a billionaire’s daughter like Holly. 

We started by trying to find a compromise to suit everyone and ended up with the best of everything. I did not have to wear the most expensive designer's wedding gown or hire the most famous make- up artist or photographer.  My uncle even commented that everything was just simple and inexpensive but it was so amazing when it was all put together. I truly believe in spending more money on experiences rather than materials things.

It was our version of a Wedstival and will probably never be done again, but it was so special. The planning and execution was not easy and we had to overcome strong ideas of wedding tradition. I feel so lucky to have a very supporting sisters and friends who made everything come into reality.

Our wedding looked so beautiful and that is always a bride’s dream. But there was something more important happening as well. This might be the only time both our families are together like this. My family lives in an unstable part of the Philippines and family reunions will not be possible. To see everybody so happy, and getting on so well, is the treasure for us.

 My 82 year old lolo  and my dad dance with Andrew's sister until dawn , my best friend's mom - Mommy Nilda caught the bouquet and met her Jai Ho. We felt so special to celebrate this special moments with our family and friends from different part of the world as far as USA, Australia, New Zealand, Doha, Japan and those who travelled locally from Pagadian, Zamboanga, Siocon, Dumaguete, Cebu, and Manila . We're  altogether in one beautiful exotic paradise, dancing all  night and laughing out loud. It's just priceless.

It might be said that we had our honeymoon during our wedding. But not really, because even afterwards, we never had any time alone as we became tour guides for the overseas visitors. And if you know Filipinos, you will know that when you go back to your room there is likely to be 25 people in it!!!

It was a wonderful family time we would not swap for anything, but secretly it would be wonderful to get back to the tropics again and have a Moonstival for two - not having to worry or think about anyone else.