When beauty brand founder Allison McNamara and hair colorist Cassondra (Cass) Kaeding got engaged along the coast of Positano, Italy in August 2019, they knew they would want to return to the beach when they finally tied the knot. However, they decided to make their nuptials a little more tropical.
“We always knew we wanted to have a destination beach wedding and Tulum was always our top choice! We have been going since we first met and it’s one of our favorite places,” share the brides. “Tulum is captivating in that you are literally in the jungle perched right along the beach, so we wanted to play off the built-in jungle scenery with decor that reflected the setting.”
The pair decided to keep the reception and ceremony all in one location at Akiin Tulum Beach. “We found Akiin walking on the beach during one of our visits and instantly knew it was the perfect spot,” recall Allison and Cass. “The venue is huge and has a gorgeous beach for the ceremony, as well as separate areas for both cocktail and the reception. Akiin has the most delicious food and wonderful staff, so picking them was a no brainer!”
To help craft their dreamy Tulum affair, Allison and Cass enlisted Akiin’s Dana Akhar to help plan the event. “We started the planning of this right as COVID began in 2020. We ending up moving our August 2021 wedding date to February 2022. So, the process was very lengthy,” shares Allison. “I did a majority of the planning. Since we through events all the time for my skincare line, I didn’t feel overwhelmed during the process. We locked in our top choice vendors early and did a site see in June 2021 to see layouts. Dana made the process so easy and un-stressful!”
While the date may have changed, it was well worth the wait. On February 19, 2022, Allison and Cass said “I do” on the beaches of Tulum with 64 guests in attendance. Ahead, take a look into the dreamy wedding planned by Dana Akhar and photographed by Moni & Adri Photography.
As the founder of skincare brand MARA, it’s no wonder that Allison wanted her “skin to be the statement” of her beauty look. “I just wanted to look like myself! Super simple and fresh makeup—clean glowing complexion and effortless hair with a light wave,” she explains. “I started really prepping about three months in advance when it came to my skincare.”
Along with a heavy rotation of MARA products like the brand’s Algae Retinol Face Oil—”truly the secret behind my clear skin”—and her holy grail product MARA’s Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil, Allison started getting more routine facials with Emma Goodman, took MARA’s calming supplements, had Dysport injections from Sari Hoban, and also received a Vivace micro-needling treatment in December before her nuptials.
She also grew out her nails with Gel X Nails so the real ones would be strong enough to stand on their own. “Having nice nails on my wedding day was a pipe dream for me,” she adds.
To accessorize her look, Allison made sure she would sparkle in new and vintage pieces. “I wore my Jean Dousset engagement ring, a large blue sapphire and diamond ring that was my mothers, as well as her 10-carat tennis bracelet and tennis necklace,” shares the bride. “We love diamonds!”
“Our bouquets embodied the same romantic jungle theme we did for our ceremony altar and our reception flowers,” explains Allison. “I didn’t want to go for a typical pampas grass and dried flower route, so we worked with our florist and rentals to create a sophisticated bohemian aesthetic using jungle greens balanced with soft babies breath and just hints of dried arrangements. I was in love with the result.”
The bride stunned in an ethically sourced silk dress by the designer Cortana. “I went four times to look! First in 2019 before I had my venue, and then in 2020 once we had locked in the space. I went alone the second time (the first time I really started looking),” notes Allison. “I think going solo is an amazing tip, because it allowed me to generate my own thoughts before listening to others opinions! I went a third time with a good friend of mine, and then finally, my mom flew in for the final time when I purchased the dress.”
“I fell in love with Cortana’s work,” continues the bride. “I actually had another dress originally in mind, but it was long sleeved. I am SO glad I went with my selection because I would have been sweating like crazy! The movement on my dress basically begs for a light breezy beach moment, and you can wear it so many ways!”
Cass was inspired by the red carpet for her wedding day look designed by Fear Of God. “Jerry Lorenzo was wearing this outfit for the Met Gala and I fell in love! The coat had these short split sleeves that hit the elbows just right,” Cass shares. “The color was perfect for a beach wedding and I was obsessed with the structured shoulders.”
“A long-time client is actually the wife to the designer. She was so kind to connect me with the Fear of God team,” she continues. “I told them that I loved the suit. All I had to do was give them my sizes and they shipped me the whole look—jacket, trousers, and shoes.”
For her beauty look, Cass wanted to look “as soft and natural as possible.” She went with a soft neutral eye shadow, blush, and lip for her makeup, flowy undone waves for her hair, and a spritz of Molecule 01 fragrance.
For her jewelry, the bride embraced gold. “I wore a gold link chain necklace from XIV Karats in Beverly Hills. I layered that with a gold necklace with a rectangular-shape diamond from Jean Dousset,” she shares.
It really was everything we had dreamed of!
Before heading to the ceremony, the brides decided to sneak a peek at their soon-to-be spouse. “We got ready in separate rooms at the hotel, and had the most magical first look spot picked out,” says Allison. “Cass was waiting in the jungle lined hallway of Be Tulum and I came from upstairs—it really was everything we had dreamed of!”
“Since our hotel where we got ready was not at the same place as the ceremony and reception, logistically it just made more sense to do our first look at our hotel Be Tulum where we could ensure we got some time to ourselves and get some great photos! It was really nice to have that time just the two of us prior to the wedding,” share the brides. “And, we traveled to the wedding together which I think made us both a little more calm and less nervous.”
“Honestly spending some quiet quality time together during the first look was one of our favorite parts of the day! It was so nice to have quiet and not a ton of people around, so we really got to enjoy our moments before the ceremony,” share the couple.
Before walking down the aisle, Allison and Cass got comfortable by taking off their shoes (and shots of tequila). “My shoes didn’t get much airtime because I was barefoot the whole time,” adds Allison.
The rest of the day was spent at the beautiful beachside venue Akiin. “I loved our ceremony decor so much! I collect rugs, so we knew we wanted rich but muted rugs to line the aisle. We used simple wood benches since the ceremony was in the sand, and we had the gorgeous Caribbean as our backdrop,” explains Allison. “I created a Pinterest board with the shape of the backdrop I wanted for the ceremony, and then gathered a mix of references for the color scheme.”
“[Floral designer] Vanessa also created the most stunning circular altar piece,” explains the bride. “I wanted to make sure you could still see the ocean, so we did florals on two sides of it with jungle leaves, babies breath, and dried elements.”
Each bride had their fathers walk them down the aisle. Cass processed to Fleetwood Mac while Allison chose “La Vie En Rose.”
There were funny and sweet moments woven in that made the ceremony feel extra special.
“We wanted the day to be as low stress as possible, so we decided to work with our officiant—one of our best friends, Michael Calabro who we first traveled to Tulum with back in 2015—to weave in our vows into the ceremony,” share the brides. “There were funny and sweet moments woven in that made the ceremony feel extra special, like our love for Lana Del Rey.”
After saying “I do,” the newlyweds recessed to the instrumental version of “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift. “I am a huge Taylor Swift fan so I had to weave in something somehow,” says Allison. “‘Wildest Dreams’ was the perfect song to be just married to!”
Some advice for fellow couples planning a wedding? “Don’t stress and have fun! Perhaps it’s because I throw events all the time for my brand MARA—but I really didn’t think planning our wedding was stressful or hard,” shares Allison. “It’s supposed to be fun! You’re bringing all your favorite people together to celebrate your love, and everyone is hopefully there to have fun and be happy for you.”
“The most important thing is to have a clear vision of what you want to create for your big day. Really think about how you want it to look and how you want to feel—I know I wanted it to feel warm, casual, and effortless,” reflects the bride.
As the lights dimmed outside, guests moved indoors for a glowing reception dinner. “There is nothing more that I love than a candlelit meal, so we had a mix of taper candles in staggering heights with gold bases and candles in hurricanes for added light. We added additional rattan lighting above tables for a gorgeous glow inside the palapa, too,” shares Allison.
“All of our flowers echoed our ceremony altar, however I wanted the reception to feel a little more whimsical,” Allison explains. “So, we went a little heavier on the babies breath mixed in with green and dried elements.”
“For the place settings, we chose cream plates on top of beige fringed charges,” the bride shares. “We used crochet napkins to make the setting look sophisticated yet homey.”
On the menu? “We wanted to embrace the culture of Tulum with traditional foods inspired by the Yucatan,” explain the brides. “We had delicious ceviches, an incredibly fresh salad (topped with grasshoppers), and then delicious beef, pork, and vegetarian dishes.” Instead of cake, the couple opted to serve coconut flan as dessert.
The couple chose three signature cocktails for the evening— a spicy skinny margarita, a mezcalita, and a paloma vodka. “Cass loves vodka and I am much more of a tequila and mezcal drinker, so we had a signature cocktail for each spirit,” says Allison.
While the drinks were delicious, getting the alcohol to the wedding was not so appetizing. “Securing our top choices for alcohol was probably the hardest pain point, but we were able to get Casamigos and Moët, which were the items we were having a harder time sourcing,” the bride shares. “Planning an event in a foreign country has its own built-in set of challenges, which is why having Dana help us was crucial.”
Allison and Cass agree that the toasts at the reception were a highlight. “We loved hearing our parents and sisters’ speeches—definitely one of our favorite parts of the entire day,” they share.
One fun DIY for the reception? “For our seating chart, we did mini bottles of tequila with everyone’s name and table number written on each,” says Allison. “My mom has great handwriting so she wrote the names!”
As the party got started, Allison swapped her gown for a sheer top and skirt from BHLDN to easily move about the dance floor. “We did end up doing a bun midway through the party because Tulum humidity does not play around,” she adds.
“We wanted our reception to feel like the best jungle dance party ever. Some of our favorite memories are the full moon parties in Tulum. And, our wedding was two days after the full moon on Feb 17th, 2022,” the brides share. “We had a mix of more current dance songs, tropical house, and a few traditional and fun wedding songs for the parents.”
“At the end of the night, we had a lot of left over alcohol which we had to purchase separately from the venue,” remember Cass and Allison. “Since we were unable to return the Moët, a bunch of our friends just grabbed bottles and started shaking and spraying them everywhere which was so extra and fun—the perfect end to our amazing evening.”