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A Beachside Micro-Wedding in the Bahamas on the Groom’s Birthday

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Allan Zepeda

|Planning by 

Candice Edinger Events + Design

Laura Kay Johnson and Luke Daniel Mahoney, co-founders of You & Yours Distilling Co., first met in San Diego over Labor Day weekend in 2010. “It was the same day that I had moved to San Diego, actually,” Laura confesses. Taking a break from moving into her freshman dorm, she was at a restaurant, when the waiter caught her eye. After an evening of subtle flirting, he asked for her number. While she had no intention of meeting her life partner the same day she went to freshman orientation, that’s exactly where Laura and Luke’s story begins.

Neither was looking for anything serious at the time but couldn’t deny how much they liked spending time together. “On that first date, I remember thinking to myself, ‘We’re going to be really, really good friends if nothing else,'” Laura recalls. The next summer, they started officially dating.

The couple would go on to form their own business, You & Yours Distillery Co. Once the company was on its feet, they indulged in a vacation to Staniel Cay, Laura’s family’s favorite Bahamas island, for Laura’s 26th birthday. Luke knew what a special place Staniel Cay was to Laura, so he took her to the Yacht Club boat dock to watch the sunset over the water. While Laura had her back turned, he got down on one knee. A group of locals—people who had known Laura since she first visited the island at six years old—suddenly appeared to celebrate with champagne and ring the old ship bell. “It was so special,” Laura remembers. “I couldn’t stop crying, obviously.”

The couple scheduled a wedding in the Bahamas for April 25th, 2020. Nearly every single person on the 85-people guest list had RSVP-ed and booked their flights by the time COVID-19 spread across the globe. “About a month out, we kind of knew things weren’t going to get better quickly, so we asked the venue what our options were,” Laura says. “They were incredibly accommodating and offered two alternative 2020 dates. Playing it safe but assuming we would be out of the woods in mere months, we chose the latter date of October 31st, 2020.”

As the new date inched closer, the 85-person wedding did not seem feasible. The guest list ended up being less than half this original number. But the couple was grateful to have this make-up date. “A fun silver lining was that Halloween happens to be Luke’s birthday,” Laura explains. “And since we were engaged on my birthday, it felt fitting to be married on his.” The date also achieved a secret dream of Laura’s, which was getting married underneath a full moon. To discover that their Halloween wedding date fell under this lunar phase was an unexpected comfort during such a turbulent period.

The re-planning process was chaotic, to say the least. “Planning during a pandemic is something I would never wish on any bride,” Laura confides. “But I have to say that our venue and planner made it as smooth and positive as humanly possible. Ben and Charlie of the Ocean View Club and the Other Side and our planner Candice Edinger guided us through the ups and downs rather flawlessly. We’re so grateful to have had such a warm, dedicated and optimistic team to work with.”

While looking for her dress, Laura only took one friend with her because, in all honesty, she wasn’t interested in other opinions. On her very first visit, she came across Amsale‘s Ryder dress. The gown featured thin straps, taffeta, and a subtle sweetheart neckline. Even though it wasn’t what she originally envisioned for herself, she realized it captured her style perfectly—timeless, elegant, feminine, and understated.

She paired the gown with a cathedral veil, her grandmother’s wedding ring on her right hand, and embellished lucite Schutz heels for a fresh contrast against her classic dress. Her groom surprised her with a sapphire necklace, a thoughtful “something blue.” Meg Workman flawlessly applied Laura’s glowing makeup.

For Luke’s birthday in 2019, the couple visited Hong Kong and bought a custom-made suit. The blue linen perfectly matched the glittering water. His groomsmen wore matching suits in sand-colored linen. As an homage to Luke’s love for fishing, he wore Stubbs & Wootton loafers with a marlin and fishing boat design. Laura even engraved the outline of a marlin on the inside of his wedding band.

For the ceremony, Laura and Luke wanted to keep the decorations to a minimum. Little Island Design added greenery along the seating area but otherwise allowed the view to stand on its own. They kept the specific location of the ceremony and reception a secret until guests first boarded the dock on the day of the wedding. Upon their arrival, guests were greeted with champagne and escorted to the pool deck that overlooked the ocean. Laura asserts, “It was pure magic.”

Guests spent so much time admiring the view that they milled about and took their time finding their seats. Laura was so excited to get the wedding going that she turned to her father and planner Candice to say, “Can they just sit down so we can get started already?”

While most of Luke’s family could not come to the wedding in person, one of Luke’s oldest friends and groomsmen handled the online streaming. Considering the wind and time difference, this was no easy task. “Never in a million years did I think I’d have my wedding ceremony streamed on a private Facebook Live,” Laura begins, “but looking back, I’m so grateful that our loved ones who weren’t able to be there in person were able to experience it alongside us.”

On October 31, 2020, Laura and Luke’s ceremony ended up being “the most lovely thing ever,” according to the couple. “We both nailed our vows. We had each other laughing and crying. Our officiant, our dear friend Becky who happens to be a professional comic, had everyone laughing one minute and then tearing up the next,” Laura says. “Then my oldest childhood friend, Tori, who I’ve known since we were in diapers, gave the most beautiful reading. It was utterly perfect, and I think back on it so fondly.”

Immediately after the ceremony, the newlyweds spent ten minutes together, just the two of them. “We hadn’t seen each other all day, and I didn’t want to do a first look,” Laura explains. “We scurried off to a private space together as soon as we were married, popped a bottle of champagne, and just basked in it all.”

They eventually joined their guests for an evening of dancing to DJ Elias Ghosn, Rocky and Ersley, and Furze Entertainment. They enjoyed dinner and cake catered by The Other Side. The night ended with espresso martini shots and quick dips in the ocean.

While looking back on her wedding, Laura remembers how “happy and content” she was. “My only wish,” she adds, “is that I’d gotten a few more photos with the veil before it went into the pool. The entire day and weekend was so special from start to finish. A huge part of that was the team we had…I feel like it was meant to be that we found the group of vendors we did, like Candice, Meg, Allan, Ben, and Charlie…They all made us feel so incredibly special moment after moment and we feel so lucky to be able to call them friends.”