The notion that love can find us in the most unexpected of places is certainly true for Shantoura and Nathan who met fatefully at their company’s gym. Upon first meeting, the pair kept things strictly professional. But from the outside looking in, there was no doubt that a spark — and plenty of good hearted banter — existed between the two.
According to Shantoura, “This guy would be hogging all the gym equipment! That’s how I met him. We would often talk in the gym, in that context, and then had a strictly professional friendship at work.”
Nathan remembers the same scene from his own point of view: “I was on the machine and she comes over, headphones blasting. So I asked her to take off her headset and made the introduction, and then she started asking questions about the machine. It was all very friendly and flirtatious, but not approaching the line.”
Despite their fast-growing friendship, romance wasn’t in the cards for Shantoura and Nathan just yet. Over the next decade, Shantoura would briefly relocate with the company from Atlanta to California and back again, although she didn’t decide to let Nathan in on her return right away.
“He said he noticed me in the hallway and thought ‘Huh, that’s weird, I know she left the state,’” recalls Shantoura. With Shantoura back in town, the two picked up right where they left off. But this time around, Nathan asked Shantoura on their first official date and, safe to say, the two haven’t looked back since. After a few more years of getting to know one another, Nathan finally popped the question in the comfort of their home and the wedding planning was officially set in motion!
First on the couple’s to-do list was to find a venue and destination. Shantoura and Nathan had never stayed at a Sandals Resort prior to their wedding weekend, so the two leaned into advice from friends who had. “All of our friends who were advocates of the Sandals brand always spoke so highly of their experiences. It was referred from people we trusted in our friend circle,” recalls Shantoura.
With their sights set on Sandals, Shantoura and Nathan had to further narrow down the decision to one of 17 Luxury Included® resorts.
“The harder decision was where do we go?” says Nathan. “Shantoura found two or three places. Barbados was one. Curaçao came up, and Saint Lucia. But she kept going back to Curaçao. When we looked up the island itself, we saw the beautiful architecture of the downtown and the bridge.”
Located in the Southern Caribbean, Curaçao is rich in natural beauty and features desert landscapes with rocky coastlines carved along azure waters. The vibrant-colored city of Willemstad, the island’s capital, serves as an epicenter for Dutch, English, Latin American, Asian, and Afro-Caribbean cultures. A testament to the profound melting pot that is Curaçao, “I love you” is often heard across the island in four languages, including Curaçao’s native language, Papiamento, making this the perfect locale for a destination wedding.
“For me, there was also curiosity in what they were developing through the Sandals brand,” says Shantoura. “Bringing development to that island is huge. I wanted to support that and I’m so glad we did.”
Sandals Royal Curaçao is one of the brand’s newest resorts, which brings the Sandals collection to a total of 17 Caribbean escapes. Featuring a variety of Sandals firsts, including a two-story infinity pool and eight brand-new restaurant concepts, Sandals Royal Curaçao offered Shantoura, Nathan, and their 12 wedding guests endless ways to revel in paradise.
“Without much information on the resort at the time, we were sold on the brand and then the island. When we finally did get to see the resort, it did not disappoint.” says Nathan.
With wedding planning top of mind, the couple wanted to ensure they had a trusted team that could bring their vision to life — even when they were thousands of miles away.
“We wanted a destination where there were people who were really well-versed at taking care of an event because when you’re at home, you can’t detach,” says Shantoura. “Sandals just naturally bubbled up to the top.”
From initial phone calls to the wedding weekend itself, the wedding team at Sandals Royal Curaçao was dedicated to exceeding the couple’s expectations. Upon arrival, Shantoura and Nathan quickly jumped into vacation mode with a detailed itinerary that was centered around exploring Curaçao. While the two adventured across the island — whether it was biking the Santa Barbara Estate, cruising around in a Mini Cooper, or taking a private e-bike tour through downtown Willemstad — the Sandals Weddings Team finalized all the details and began essential prep for the upcoming big day.
“My Sandals wedding planner made sure to cross every T and dot every I. It was very reassuring and affirmative, so that smoothed it out for me,” recalls Shantoura.
For the second half of their stay, Shantoura and Nathan resided in a Swim-up Butler Suite. Designed for maximum privacy, this luxurious corner suite featured dining and living areas, two bathrooms, a Tranquility Soaking Tub™ for two, and 270-degree panoramic views of the ocean, palm garden, and entire resort. With sunlight coming in from every angle, it is the ultimate hideaway for the two lovebirds.
Prior to the ceremony, the Weddings Team helped the couple host a beautiful sunset welcome party, complete with conch fritters, Blue Curaçao cocktails, and a trio of singers who covered classic R&B and neo-soul artists. A nod to the island’s rich culture, the team also used traditional brightly-colored dolls, known as Chichi (meaning “big sister” in Papiamento) as unique decor elements and gifts.
When the guests finally settled into their seats overlooking the ocean, the cool coastal breeze and warm air set the scene perfectly. Surrounded by 12 of their closest friends, Shantoura and Nathan said “I do” beneath a grand white structure, draped in billowing chiffon and secured with blooming arrangements of dusty pink roses and white hydrangeas.
Among the most magical, heartfelt moments of the entire weekend was when the bride made her grand entrance. Unfortunately, Shantoura’s dad could not travel to join the couple, so Nathan decided to meet Shantoura half-way down the aisle to walk by her side. “I kept saying ‘Oh, my family isn’t going to be here,” reflects Shantoura. “But when Nathan came and got me in the center of the aisle, I was like ‘Wait, my family is here. You are my family.’”
Shantoura’s mother and best friend were also unable to attend, so the bride found a special way to carry them both with her. Keeping with the “something borrowed, something blue, and something old” traditions, Shantoura wore a brooch from her mom and a blue ankle bracelet from her best friend.
Once the two had officially tied the knot, the real celebrations began! Guests mingled over red and white wine, champagne and Mint to Be, and Berry Happy Together signature cocktails, before sitting down to an island-inspired dinner. Selecting from Sandals Splendid Wedding Menu, the newlyweds served a hearty Surf & Turf and snapper prepared by the resort’s world-class chefs.
“I don’t think anyone left food on their plate!” said Nathan. “Between the food, the drinks, the entertainment for the night — the reception was just awesome. You couldn’t ask for a better evening.”
To align with the couple’s ethereal, and dreamy vision, the group sat for dinner at a long Captain’s table decorated in beautiful hydrangeas, roses, and blush pampas.
Despite all the excitement, Nathan and Shantoura didn’t hesitate to reflect on the exceptional service and hard work of the Weddings Team. “They worked tirelessly,” remembered Nathan. “They made it feel like we were the only ones on the resort for the ceremony and the reception. I couldn’t thank them enough and to see how happy it made her. It was beautiful, it was perfect.”
The rest of the evening followed a toast-music-dancing-toast-music-dancing pattern. As for the dance floor, let’s just say it was anything but quiet. Sparklers and glowing bistro lights illuminated the space, while the entertainment crew kept everyone on their feet. Rather than having one musical act, the couple reserved a DJ and a saxophonist! One highlight for the couple was when their friends brought in a soul train line and everyone broke out their favorite junior high school dance moves. “I was laughing, busting my gut, dancing,” laughed Shantoura.
To say the weekend was one of magic, celebration, and so much love, only begins to scratch the surface. When asked what advice they would give couples planning a destination wedding at Sandals Royal Curaçao, the answer came naturally to Shantoura and Nathan: “Live in the moment. Don’t waste your time worrying about the little stuff. You have one moment with your bride or groom — enjoy that. Live it up. Be in the moment. Be with your friends. Because when it’s all over, you have pictures but it doesn’t compare. When you focus on the memories you make, it’s a different experience.”