It is said that a happy marriage—indeed, a happy life—often requires a combination of both familiar comforts and exotic adventures. Chelsea Chau and Justin Kuok proved this true on May 4, 2017, when they wed in Marrakech, Morocco. First, the familiar: Chelsea and Justin had dated for more than seven years before he popped the question in February 2016 during a family ski trip. But their history dates way back to their teenage years in Hong Kong, when his cousin introduced them—so it was no surprise they married there in November 2016 at the famous Sevva restaurant, with a guest list close to 700.
Though, the couple also had plans to keep the celebration going in a decidedly more adventurous style. So some six months later, they invited 100 guests to travel 7,000 miles to the awe-inspiring Amanjena resort in Marrakech for a magical four-day encore.
When exploring the idea of a destination wedding, Chelsea admits they “looked everywhere on Google Earth!” But Justin ultimately chose Marrakech, a place they had never visited, for its “exotic feel.” And after scouting every possible venue in the area, they landed on Amanjena for the weekend-long event. "It was so magical and it had so many different spaces we could work with," explains the bride. "We loved having the whole place just for our family and friends, with no other outside guests. Everyone ended up in everyone else’s rooms and villas!"
Before the celebrations really began, Chelsea and Justin slipped away for portraits in the in the picturesque gardens at the nearby La Mamounia. The bride calls this bougainvillea-filled property one of the most "fascinating places in Marrakech."
Over four days, Chelsea had seven bridal looks. The first was a floral gown by Oscar de la Renta, which she paired with simple pearl earrings, for pre-wedding portraits.
Justin looked wore J. Crew pants and an Ascot Chang dress shirt for the photo op.
After pics around the various sights, Chelsea and Justin headed back to Amanjena to welcome their 100 guests with an Oriental-themed party. The event took place in the resort's gardens, which were lit up with thousands of candles after dark, and featured entertainment by a folkloric band and a Gnawa music group.
The next day’s outing took place at a traditional Berber camp in the Agafay Desert. For this occasion, the couple wore Moroccan jackets that Chelsea found on one of her planning trips.
Lunch was served inside a tent, at tables set with woven placemats and blue-and-white china. After toasting and celebrating over a Moroccan menu, Chelsea, Justin, and their guests spent the afternoon enjoying activities like camel rides, falconry exhibitions, and quad biking.
The couple gave their loved ones event-specific dress codes, such as “neutral hues" for the day in the desert.
That night, guests walked through the Jemaa el-Fna square, taking in the sights and sounds of the ancient medina, on their way to dinner at the historic Le Salama restaurant. For dinner, Chelsea borrowed her mother's Calvin Klein slip dress, her something borrowed, and paired it with Edmundo Castillo heels, Rebecca de Ravenel earrings, and an Aya jacket.
The main event happened on day three, with all the happenings—from getting ready through to the reception—taking place on the grounds of Amanjena.
“I’d envisioned my wedding since I was a little girl hiding bridal magazines under my bed,” admits Chelsea. “So I knew what I wanted for my dress!” She wore an embroidered Ashi Studio coat and gown (the same ones worn at her Hong Kong nuptials).
The bride is friends with shoe designer Edmundo Castillo so she tapped him to make several pairs of wedding-ready heels. "He made all my shoes throughout the festivities," she says. "Some were old shoes of his that I’ve had for years, and some were new just for the wedding."
Before the sunset ceremony, the couple took more portraits against the resort's grand architecture.
The bride walked down the aisle with her father to meet Justin at the altar. During the ceremony, Chelsea’s maid of honor, Fiona, sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird,” and Justin’s niece, Isabel, did a ballet performance. After, everyone showered the newlyweds with rose petals just before sunset.
Cocktail hour took place in gardens nearby, during which the couple posed for pics with their black-tie-clad guests.
Afterward, the bride changed into a custom Bonita Cheung dress for dinner. "I worked with my mom’s dear friend Bonita Cheung on my dream second dress," she explains. "We sourced the fabric in New York and the gown was made in Hong Kong."
Dinner took place in the hotel's transformed entrance corridor, where a long table was set and topped with tall taper candles and lush arrangements of pink florals.
There, craziness ensued when a duet by friends had everyone wildly cheering. Though, despite the noise, Chelsea says she was able to recognize the significance of their intimate gathering. “This wedding felt more heartwarming than ours in Hong Kong because everyone had traveled so far to be with us,” she recalls.
But the rambunctious revelry turned to quiet wonder toward the end of the night as everyone gathered outside in the darkness to see hundreds of paper lanterns float into the sky. “It was mesmerizing to see them released,” Chelsea says. “We all made wishes!”
The festivities ended with a poolside brunch as a way to thank everyone for making the trip to Morocco. During the farewells, Chelsea wore a final gown by Oscar de la Renta (paired with another pair of Rebecca de Ravenel earrings), and Justin took the plunge—quite literally in the pool!
Wedding Venue: Amanjena || Wedding Planner: Delight Event Management || Bride's Dresses: Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Ashi Studio, Bonita Cheung || Bride's Shoes: Edmundo Castillo || Groom's Wedding Attire: William Yu || Wedding Bands: Dehres, Erstwhile ||Entertainment: Inspiration || Photography: Giuseppe Marano and Monica Leggio || Videography: KC Chan
This story originally appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of Brides, on stands starting December 18.