20 for 20 My Bermuda Wedding Renewal

Adventure Girl Stefanie Michaels Renewal in a Bermuda cave

It was almost 2020. My husband Phil and I were talking about how we’d celebrate for our 20th wedding anniversary on New Year’s Eve.

Over the twenty years, we have been by each others sides through tragedy, loss, and life-threatening illnesses. Our love growing even stronger with each hurdle we encountered bringing us to where we are today with a bond that can never be broken.

Early on it started the loss of my parents followed by the untimely death of his eldest brother followed by the loss of his mom.

Then came my husband’s brain tumor diagnosis—an orange sized mass above his left ear, discovered after a series of seizures. The doctor nicked his brain, causing more seizures. He remains on anti-seizure meds for life.

Without skipping a beat we went right into my breast cancer diagnosis, which was so aggressive in type, had it not been discovered when it was, my doctors shared that I would have been dead within several months.

During this battle, which included months of chemo, a double mastectomy, rebuild, and a staph infection that kept me in isolation for 12 weeks, except for my daily nurse visit to infuse me with life saving drugs. In the end of my journey, 9 surgeries in 3 years, followed by 7 years of additional oral chemo, until I eventually would get a clean bill of health.

So, we planned it. Twenty years for 2020. I chose the beautiful island of Bermuda.

Of course, I was looking to renew my vows in an adventurous way to represent the depths of our love and commitment to one another. 

I had an idea…

“Really, in a cave?” he said .

“Why not?” I replied.

How did I plan a destination wedding renewal? Below I share my tips on how to begin, where to shop for your event and other ideas. 

  1. Pick Your Destination
Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda

I was looking for a unique place for my renewal, when my friend reminded me of Bermuda. Lavanya had just visited and loved it. I hadn’t been there in years, but I remembered vaguely that a cave was there, and she confirmed it.

I chose to work with the Fairmont Southampton, perched above the sea with its own private beach. Perfect! I had my destination and where all of us would stay. (Also, a perk booking the Fairmont was the option to utilise the hotel’s event team). 

2. Once You’ve Picked A Destination

Save The Date Bermuda via Paperlesspost.com

Save the Dates were emailed six months out. If you can, try for at least 10 months in advance for a destination wedding or renewal, it’s helpful for those who want to join in your celebration.

Bermuda Updates on PaperlessPost.com

I used Paperlesspost.com to send out my Save the Date notice. What I love about using their site is not only for the invites, but for the updates. 

3. Get Your Own Event Logo

P+S=2.0 Logo by
@GraphikMIRACLE from Freelancer.com

Freelancer.com is a site where designers bid for work. The designer I chose, @GraphikMIRACLE helped create a logo that could be added to invites, gifts, and more. For around $60.00 I got exactly what I was looking for.

P+S=2.0 logo Thank You tags for gifts

P+S=2.0 was a spin on “20” and also the next leg to our forever. Prior to this we were 1.0 and now we are 2.0– also it’s a nod to my technology nerd-ness. 

4. Not Enough Time? Design Your Dress

I didn’t want to wear white this time, and envisioned something earthy to work with the cave. 

From imagining on paper to creating my dress

Ordering a dress would not work due to my timing, so my designer stepped in. She had the lace created in Paris, which is trademarked so no one else can use the design, making it truly a one-of-a-kind. You can find more info and images on it for sale on StillWhite.com.

The Dress

More than 20 hours of handwork went into the bottom beading. I asked her to add two butterflies into the lace, which she cleverly concealed on the front panel. Can you spot them? (You can see more images on the StillWhite website).

5. Now For Your Shoes

Shoe shopping is a pain. If I could wear slippers all of the time, I would. I needed a specific taupy-gold-ish heel, which I found at Bloomindale’s. What’s great about Bloomies, if they don’t have something in your size, they will order it from where ever available and then ship it to you gratis.

Jimmy Choo heels from Bloomingdales.com

6. Save on Budget, Make Your Own Hair Accessories

There are certain things I will splurge on quite gleefully, and other items that I cringe spending for, such as accessories.

Handmade hair clips

I searched online for rhinestone starfish clips and they were expensive (to me). Downtown Los Angeles has a bead area where you can stroll through dozens of shops. Each piece I found cost between $.25 -$3.00. Any CVS store will have super glue and bobby pins. And, voilà! 

You can also check online for resources. Just don’t go retail on me, ok?

7. Repurpose Something Old For Something New

My husband had been asking me what I was going to do with the jewelry my Mom left me. “Maybe you could get something you would actually wear,” he said. 

4 carat oval cut diamond with pink sapphires

I brought everything to my wholesale jewelry designer in downtown LA, and Josie made my new twenty year “anniversary” ring happen– a 4 carat oval with pink sapphires encircling the main stone on a thin diamond band.

8. Thinking about Guest Gift Ideas?

It’s time to focus on your guests. They’re flying to be with you, booking their hotel rooms, and ready to celebrate. What I suggest, is focusing on your destination and what time of year it is to put something together for them. 

Gifts for Guests

My theme was travel and adventure (of course). Each person got a beach bag slippers and a compass. My girlfriends got pearl earring posts in a sparkle pouch, and a pashmina. Guys received a mini-globe and a bottle of local rum from a downtown Bermuda store. 

Striped mesh beach bag-target.com/slippers-Old Navy/14k+natural Pearl Earrings-Off5th/Girl’s compass-Amazon.com/Men’s compass-StanleyLondon.com/Globe-Zgallerie.com/Pashmina-Etsy.com/MiaKraftsJewelry

I purchased a large suitcase to bring the items I needed– big enough when emptied, I could place my carryon inside for the return home. However, I learned that a few friends had trouble packing the small globe, so opting for something space saving or collapsable would have been a better idea. 

9. It’s that time…The Big Day

The day started early with breakfast, joined by my friends– make-up artist, Steve, who I brought in from Los Angeles, and my photographer, Alison, who I flew in from NYC. (I call these two my dream team).

My Dream Team @steveoraha @alisonwrightphoto

I went into hair and makeup by 1:00 p.m., while my friends took the time to explore Bermuda, hit the beach or lounge by the Fairmont’s pool.

Makeup artist Steve Oraha @steveoraha

Always give your invitees the chance to explore the destination. Ask the hotel for activity flyers to leave in guest rooms or add to gift bags.

10. Getting To The Event Location For Photos

Any photographer will tell you that lighting is everything. Make sure to allow additional time for outdoor photos before the ceremony. You don’t want to feel stressed for running out of sunlight. 

Fairmont Southampton golf cart @alisonwrightphoto

We had two locales, the Fairmont Southampton for a golf cart shot and then the cave at Grotto Bay Hotel. The custom made license plate was made by @PhotoShopGa. My paper map floral bouquet was made by @TreeTownPaper.

Grotto Bay Hotel Cave @alisonwrightphoto Cave Candles by Donna Lindo classactdesigns@logic.bm

Sometimes no matter how much time planned out, things take longer than expected. Alison, had to work her magic lighting the dark cave, so the extra time worked out perfectly.

Grotto Bay Hotel Cave @alisonwrightphoto

Always. Allow. Extra. Time.

11. The Event

There’s not much to say, except this is you and your “other’s” moment. It happens fast. It goes by all too soon. Lap up each second. 

Bermuda, Phil Stef Michaels renewal vows

We started at 6:30 p.m. and ended at 6:45 p.m.– short sweet and to the point. Our bff, Rona did the ceremony for us.

A champagne toast

And, then we toasted with Veuve-bubbly afterward in the cave’s lounge area.

12. The Reception 

What kind of theme are you going with? What colors work? Adding floral arrangements? What kind of stemware? So. Many. Details.

Huckleberry Restaurant in downtown Bermuda Flowers by Gimi

The Huckleberry in downtown Bermuda is a Michelin Star restaurant. My friends are foodies, so I knew this was the place for our reception-New Year’s Eve dinner. Aside from small floral arrangements by Gimi and glass world globes with tea lights that I brought with me, I wanted the beautiful room to speak for itself. 

13. The Details For The Theme

As they say, it’s all in the details. Since the theme was travel, guests received a “passport” invite telling them where the ceremony would be. 

Guest’s Passport Invite printed zazzle.com

Zazzle.com was affordable for all of my printing needs. 

“Check-in” Boarding passes from Etsy

Once at the Huckleberry Restaurant, friends grabbed their “boarding pass” to enter for dinner. I purchased the check-in, passport photos and baggage claim signs from @SeaCoveStudio and the tickets from @AnkDesignShop on Etsy–each designer sent me downloadable files to print out.

“Baggage Claim” gifts for guests

I love Etsy for everything and found these adorable suitcase gift boxes, (they add your logo onto the tag)  from @WeaversFavors. Handmade party favors for candy, these can also be used as gift boxes. 

14. Conversation Pieces

When I throw anything– an event, a dinner party or a pool barbQ, there’s nothing like keeping conversations going. 

Guest’s Passport holders printed Zazzle.com for Polaroid photos

I asked friends to to grab their own “passports”, complete with a map of Bermuda on the inside, and pass around the Polaroid camera. Everyone was snapping photos of each other. They were able to add insta-pics into their passports, by adhering them with heart and star stickers.

15. The Cake

Don’t be afraid to step out of the box for your cake. Some people opt for the traditional, others want a quirky style (like me).

Pink Velvet Cake by Chef Alyssa Hendrix
Vera Wang Wedgewood Knife Set from Bloomingdales

My passionfruit Pink Velvet cake, created by Chef Alyssa Hendrix, was set next to a Bermuda map by @ShapeOfLove for guests to leave their musings on.

16. Happy New Year

As this story closes, I hope I’ve helped share ideas and tips for your next event. 

“Happy New Year” by Alison Wright Photography

Don’t wait until “when”, just do it!

Happy New Year!



Special Thanks to my team at Fairmont Southampton, especially my planner, Jasmon, Laura Sanderson and Frederik Eatherley. Huckleberry’s Emily Sheere for helping plan the best New Year’s dinner.