A Whimsical Destination Wedding at Beldi Country Club in Marrakech, Morocco

To say Lauren Bonds (29 and a marketing manager for Marriott International) and Jacques Plaa (34 and a director of investment banking at HSBC) had bee

To say Lauren Bonds (29 and a marketing manager for Marriott International) and Jacques Plaa (34 and a director of investment banking at HSBC) had been bitten by the travel bug would be an understatement. Since their first trip together to Marrakech, Morocco, in 2010, the pair have visited 37 countries. “When it came time to begin ‘plaanning’—see what I did there?—our wedding, we knew Marrakech would be the perfect place to begin the biggest and best adventure of our lives: marriage,” Lauren says. 

Beldi Country Club, a charming casbah-style hotel, provided an unforgettable backdrop for the affair with its acres of olive trees, lush rose gardens, traditional architecture and views of the Atlas Mountains. “ 'Beldi' is the Moroccan word for ‘traditional’ and is often used to describe authentic craftsmanship. This hotel was built with the most authentic of materials and methods,” Lauren says. “In addition to boasting its own hammam [a Turkish-style bath], two pools and mini souk, it also offers an open-air raid [an interior courtyard], a space that is perfect for events.” The wedding’s overall aesthetic was derived from the setting, with Lauren and Jacques establishing a whimsical Moroccan-chic vision with the help of their event design and floral team at Boutique Souk. This translated into a base of white, cream and metallic hues, interwoven with pops of olive green and Majorelle blue. As a tribute to the locale, the couple worked with Catherine Sullivan of Chicago’s Charm Studio to create stationery modeled after Moroccan tiles, and olive branches and white roses were incorporated throughout. 

After an intimate garden ceremony officiated by a close family friend, the newlyweds and their guests enjoyed a fun-filled fete in Beldi’s riad. A canopy of Moroccan boule lanterns twinkled overhead, while ivory votive candles cast a warm glow over the reception tables. “One of my early directions to Rosena of Boutique Souk was for there to be lanterns everywhere—and boy did she deliver,” Lauren says. “It was truly magical.” Natural white-linen tablecloths gave way to hurricane vases filled with clouds of baby’s breath and blue and white ceramic bowls overflowing with full white roses. To distinguish the head table apart from the rest, Boutique Souk built two small olive branch and rose arches, each bearing a gilded lantern, and ditched the tablecloths in favor of a mirrored tabletop, which brought a wow factor. After a three-course meal of rustic Moraccan fare, Lauren, Jacques and their guests headed to the inner courtyard for dancing, a fire show and dessert. “We also set up a hookah lounge next to the dance floor and served late-night shawarma wraps to keep the party going into the wee hours,” Lauren says. A tip from Lauren and Jacques: “Select a location that has meaning for both of you. It’s also important to keep an open mind, because the wedding day will never go completely smoothly.” —Libby MacCarthy

The chiavari chairs were decorated with olive branches and rose garlands, serving as a nod to the rose garden setting and the Beldi’s surrounding olive groves.
The garden area where Lauren and Jacques held their ceremony featured views of the nearby Atlas Mountains, the property's rose garden and the hotel's riad as the backdrop.
A floral archway and altar were constructed to add drama to the intimate space, and the aisle was lined with hedgerows of baby’s breath punctuated with silver lanterns.
After four years of dating, Jacques popped the question while the pair were visiting the Great Wall of China with their families. “After three hours of hiking up the Mutianyu portion of the wall, Jacques got down on one knee during a quiet moment in one of the many watchtowers,” Lauren says. “In my surprise, I squealed loudly with excitement and accepted amid tears and tourists running over to see what had happened.”
Where possible, Lauren and Jacques sourced decor and other items from Marrakech’s iconic souks. The pair purchased 150 blue and white zellige tiles to use as their save-the-dates and then worked with Catherine Sullivan of Chicago’s Charm Studio to incorporate their favorite tile design into a suite of custom stationery.
Wanting her bridesmaids to have the opportunity to show off their own styles, Lauren had each choose her own gown from Amsale’s bridesmaid collection. In alignment with the wedding’s palette, a dramatic shade of blue was a natural choice for the girls.
“For my bridal dress, it was important to me that the style fit with the overall wedding aesthetic,” Lauren says. Monique Lhuillier’s Marcella dress checked all the boxes, with its ethereal layers of tulle, silver and white sequin-studded under layer and off-the-shoulder silhouette. “I’m all about shoulders, so with the help of the alterations expert at Ultimate Bride, we amended the straps to be draped around my arms. Game changer—we also made them detachable, which allowed me to get down on the dance floor later that evening,” Lauren says.
Lauren and Jacques exchanged vows under a dramatic wedding arch draped in lush olive branches, baby’s breath, bougainvillea and white roses. To give the ceremony a more personalized feel, a close family friend officiated and the couple wrote their own vows. “We boogied back up the aisle to ‘Move on Up’ by Lettuce,” Lauren says. “It was such a happy, exuberant beat that mirrored our own emotions.”
Jacques was inspired by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca for his wedding day look, opting for a classic white tuxedo jacket, black trousers and a black bow tie for his walk down the aisle. “It was an added bonus that my dad wore a white tuxedo jacket in my parents’ wedding in 1984,” Lauren says. The groomsmen also sported white jackets.
Postceremony, the newlyweds took pictures on the property before moving to the ceremony in the riad.
Moroccan lanterns lined the aisle, which was covered in a white capret to match the linen chair cushions.
The Kasbah-style hotel features olive trees, two pools, a Hamman, open-air riad and mini souk.
Fresh bundles of baby’s breath piled high atop hurricane vases and full white roses displayed in blue and white ceramic bowls worked with the reception’s lantern canopy and votive candles to achieve a whimsical, midsummer night feel. “The venue was adjacent to a stunning rose garden, and we wanted to give guests the sense that the roses were freshly picked from the garden for our wedding,” Lauren says.
Inspired by the beauty and culture of their locale, Lauren and Jacques teamed up with Boutique Souk to pull off a whimsical alfresco fete with undeniable Moroccan flair. The reception took place in the outdoor courtyard. A canopy of lanterns and ivory votive candles set an intimate, romantic tone for the evening, while arrangements of baby’s breath, roses and olive branches lent a touch of rustic elegance to the space.
"One of my early directions to Rosena was 'lanterns everywhere,' and boy did she deliver," Lauren says of collaborating with her planner. Eighty Moroccan boule lanterns hung from the ceiling, while an additional 22 adorned the outer walls and archways of the riad. "It was truly magical," Lauren adds.
Place settings consisted of gold chargers, textured white china and blue fez-print starter plates and simple silverware. Gold-rimmed glassware gave the tablescapes an element of warmth, while the placement of a single white rose on each place setting infused the tablescapes with romance and charm.
"Select a location that has meaning for both of you," Jacques advices future to-be-weds. "Keep an open mind because the wedding day will never go completely smoothly."
While the couple’s three-course Moroccan feast was enough to send guests’ tongues wagging, Lauren and Jacques followed the meal with an inspiring spread of macarons, chocolate mousse, fruit salad, panna cotta and petits fours.
While Lauren and Jacques cut their five-tier, vanilla and praline cake, guests held hundreds of sparklers for an epic cake cutting moment.
After dinner and a lively fire show, Lauren and Jacques ushered guests into the inner courtyard for an unforgettable dance party. Hits from across the decades kept the newlyweds and their guests glued to the dance floor. “We also set up a hookah lounge next to the dance floor and served late-night shawarma wraps to keep the party going into the wee hours.”