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Inside Samantha Lim and Grant Achatz’s Destination Wedding in Mexico

a man and woman posing for a picture
Inside Samantha Lim and Grant Achatz’s WeddingVinuthna Garidipuri

When Samantha Lim and Grant Achatz began planning their November wedding, they knew they wanted something memorable. When it came to the execution, the couple succeeded on every level, from the food (from famed Mexican chef Jorge Vallejo) to the fashion (custom Danielle Frankel) to the music (Gavin Rossdale, in flesh and blood).

“One of our favorite things to do together is throw dinner parties and plan weekend trips with our friends, and so we’re really good at small, super curated experiences. A love-themed weekend was kind of our North Star, where everyone had a sense of connection and they really saw an expression of ourselves and our values, which are that love is healing and love really matters,” says Lim, who is a creative consultant and brand marketing strategist, while Achatz is a chef known as a pioneer of molecular gastronomy and the owner of restaurants that include Alinea, Next, and The Aviary.

When it came to selecting a location, Lim and Achatz focused on what they loved about their best vacations. “It’s sunshine, it’s spas, it’s nature, it’s a touch of spiritual. Neither of us drinks alcohol, and so we really lean into the spa and the food programs at hotels. And I have a whole other way to categorize and analyze hotels based on that experience,” Lim explains. They chose the resort Chablé Yucatán, a former sisal factory-turned-luxury hotel. “We bought out the whole property so it could feel like it was our village, and everyone could feel really comfortable and really safe like it was our sanctuary,” Lim shares.

Read on for all the details.

The Date

wedding invitation
Vinuthna Garidipuri

The couple had intended to have a June wedding, but when they spoke with Chablé Yucatán, they were told that the only available date was November 11. Lim was shocked. “Every single day at 11:11 we text each other ‘11/11,’” she says. “We were like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me that there’s an 11/11 on a Saturday.’ It was a new moon and we’re very into astrology, and it just seemed so kismet that all of these things happened.”

Getting Started

a table with candles and glasses on it
Abigail Lewis Photo

Guests began arriving the Thursday before the wedding. They planned a dinner at Ixi’im, a fine dining restaurant located on the hotel property. Achatz planned a five-course tasting menu at the restaurant, which has received several prestigious honors. “A lot of people who we thought would be stragglers on night one ended up being like, ‘We’re definitely coming. This restaurant’s been on our list.”

a group of people standing in a grassy area with a statue in the background
Abigail Lewis Photo

Lim wore a halter dress from Monica Byrne Maison made from deadstock Chanel wool and velcro sandals by the brand.

The Pool Party

a building surrounded by trees
Abigail Lewis Photo

“On Friday, we woke up and we had a pool party. The pool is the center of the property, and it’s designed to look like an oasis. It’s this very cool shaped pool. They have palm trees. I felt very on safari,” Lim says. “We transformed the pool with the party version of everything we love. So, we had a huge, freshly cooked taco stand. They were making live guacamole. We had ice cream and popsicle carts. We had a spicy margarita bar, we had custom cocktails, and then we had all of these masseuses lined up by the pool.”

a man and woman posing for a picture
Abigail Lewis Photo

Lim wore a bathing suit with a printed silk scarf featuring the pattern from the wedding invitation as a cover-up, as well as a custom pearl hairpiece. “As a nod to my Filipino culture, I wanted to do something with pearls, and in this case wanted to feel like a mermaid bride emerging from the water,” she says.

Starting the Fire

a group of women wearing clothing
Vinuthna Garidipuri

The couple’s welcome party was fire-themed, leading them to jokingly call it Fuego Fest. “I was like, ‘We need to stop calling it that because it’s going to turn into Fyre Fest,’” Lim recalls. “We really wanted Friday night to be a full celebration of Mayan culture and highlight all of the things that the Yucatan has to offer.” They set a tamarind garden in the hotel up with nearly a dozen food stations cooking Yucatan specialties over open fire. “I was in such a state of euphoric bliss. I just will chase the feeling for the rest of time,” Lim says.

a person in a red dress
Abigail Lewis Photo

Lim wanted to wear red to reflect her Chinese heritage, so she worked with Monica Byrne on another two-piece look. “It looked like a very modern column silhouette, but very elevated, and still useful because of the crop top,” she says. She wore Celine shoes and Schiaparelli jewelry.

The Gown

woman in wedding dress
Abigail Lewis Photo

Lim tried on around 150 wedding dresses across several cities, finding it a fun thing to do with her friends. She ended up at Danielle Frankel during Bridal Week and landed on a new strapless dress with a rounded back in a pleated fabric. “I kept saying I felt like a ghost. She was like, ‘What?’ And I was like, ‘I mean that in an incredible way. I mean, I feel like an angel floating around and it’s not fussy and I won’t worry about it getting wrinkled and I can dance in it, and it’s really, really cool.’” She had the idea to add a transparent lace layer on top to wear during the ceremony and remove before the reception.

For the after-party, Lim wore a Miu Miu look she’d found on The RealReal. She had the midi skirt cut down to a mini and created a cropped tank out of the excess fabric.

A Deer Friend

a man and woman in wedding attire
Vinuthna Garidipuri

When Lim and Achatz were preparing to do their first look, they noticed a surprise visitor. “Like a freaking Disney movie, a deer pops its head out of the grass and starts walking towards us. And we were like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Lim was struck by the fact that she had shown a deer on the wedding’s save the dates. “For this deer to come and walk over to us at our first look at the wedding, it was just so magical. We both burst into tears, and then we took photos.”

Rain Check

a wedding ceremony
Abigail Lewis Photo

The ceremony was pushed back by one hour because of rain, and it ended up taking place after the sun had set. “But we ended up having this pitch-black night ceremony. We had a string quartet, and as the strings started playing and it was really dark, thousands of fireflies just start to light up the grass. Everyone thought that we had bought fireflies and put them in the grass for this moment, [but] apparently, they come out after the rain. They’re really prevalent in Yucatan,” Lim says.

The couple’s favorite movies helped inspire the music selection for the ceremony. Lim entered to “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was officiated by the couple’s friend Shane Fonner and included a traditional Filipino cord and veil ceremony. The two both wrote their vows the day-of and were surprised by how alike they were. “They were very similar in length, in cadence, in cosmic love story,” Lim says.

Change of Plans

a set table with white cloths and white tables
Abigail Lewis Photo

The rain also threw a wrench in the plans for the reception, which was meant to take place outside. The team from wedding planning firm The Lynden Lane Co. did some very quick thinking and were able to find the last tent in the area that hadn’t been rented for one of the many weddings taking place. They were also able to hire last-minute staff to help assemble it.

On the Menu

a table with plates and glasses of wine on it
Abigail Lewis Photo

Since chef Jorge Vallejo of the acclaimed Mexico City restaurant Quintonil is a personal friend of Achatz’s, he kindly offered to provided a Quintonil dinner for the wedding, which thrilled the couple. “They brought some of the greatest dishes from Quintonil and we had this gorgeous dinner,” Lim says.

“I wanted to give the best experience to [Achatz] and his wife and friends, so that’s why I decided to cook some of the classics of my restaurant. They represent the way I see and feel about my culture, and I wanted to share this with them,” Vallejo says. “Of course, we had a few talks with Grant and Samantha, to see if they felt comfortable with this idea. Not only for the wedding dinner, but every aspect of it: the cocktails, rehearsal, and some special activities for the guests to make this wedding unique.”

The Rock Star

gavin rossdale performing
Abigail Lewis Photo

Rossdale reached out to Achatz a few years ago, and a bond over their shared love of food turned into a true friendship. Lim wanted to incorporate friends into the wedding and asked him if he might want to sing at the reception. “I agreed immediately and offered to sing ‘Glycerine,’” Rossdale tells ELLE. ALR Music provided and coordinated musicians, including the band Brooklyn Soul. “I was asked to do a soundcheck with the band, expecting just a quick moment to check my levels. But when I got there, the string section of the band had learned the song. It took me performing the song at their wedding to have live strings. It’s not how I perform the song live or have ever done it. That’s four Michelin stars for you!” He loved the arrangement so much that when he performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in January, he tapped the same musicians for the set. Lim and Achatz were at the taping as well.

The Grand Finale

a wedding reception
Abigail Lewis Photo

When the clock struck 11:11 P.M. at the after-party, “a full-blown rave” began, according to the bride. Guests were led through a path to a psychedelic set up that included laser lights, aerialists, stilt walkers, fog bubbles, and hula hoopers. “We get there and we were like, ‘Oh my God, this is a music festival,’” she recalls. Churros, taquitos, and grilled cheese were served. “We just danced all night. A lot of people, because we were so close, had outfit changes and we just danced the night away till 4 A.M.”

The Happy Couple

Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo
Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Family Time

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Sweet Treats

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Under the Palm Trees

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Floating On

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Fireside

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

The Morning Of

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Mother and Daughter

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

First Look

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Tucked Away

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

In the Wild

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Hot Wheels

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Scenes From Above

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

The Calm Before the Storm

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Walking Down the Aisle

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Tears of Joy

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Number-One Fan

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

In Full Bloom

Photo credit: Vinuthna Garidipuri
Photo credit: Vinuthna Garidipuri

Flickering Lights

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

The Tablescape

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Cheers!

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Hitting the Dance Floor

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

The New Look

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

At the Gates

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Neon Glow

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Taking a Dip

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

All a Blur

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Among the Bubbles

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Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

Cake Cutting

Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo
Photo credit: Abigail Lewis Photo

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