In september '17 Puerto Rico was hit by hurricane Maria. It's heartbreaking to see the devastation and damage Maria caused on this beautiful island. Despite this tragedy, the Puerto Rico people are full of hope and joy. This is so inspiring to me. The infinite love those people have for their country is very similar to the love Charina and Paco have for each other. What an extraodrinary love story! Their wedding was simply a dream.


A destination wedding often means multiple days of shooting on the most beautiful places. With this awesome couple, Ralf (Eppel photopgraphy) and I went to the best spots on the island. It was so breathtaking to see the rough nature of the island in Rio Grande and El Yunque national forest. I still can't believe we had the chance to shoot in that area. But also the rough Caribbean sea at Luquillo Beach was a real pleasure. Especially when we decided to do a trash the dress shoot on the post wedding day!! 

Days before the wedding we also went to the capital of the island: San Juan. Ohhh, how I love those colorfull tiny streets and alleys. San Juan is a vibrant city with lovely music everywhere on the streets. The wedding itself took place in Hacienda Siesta Alegre. I think I never saw a more romantic venue in my life. Located in the rainforest, on the one hand you could see the ocean, on the other hand the rough forest and its mountains. Quite surreal. I simply love it!    


I (Charina) feel like I need to give you a bit of my personal background story in order to make our love story more complete. In a nut Shell: I was Born in Chicago and moved to Puerto Rico when I was 5 with my parents and little brother we lived in three different cities on the island; Culebra, Fajardo and Orocovis. At the age of 18 I moved back to the US to attend the University of North Carolina. I did a summer abroad in Marseille France and it was in this experience that I fell in love with Europe and decided I needed to study International business so that I can travel around. I ended up getting accepted into a Dual Masters international program that took me for one year in Bremen Germany and a second year to Valencia Spain. I ended up loving Valencia and stayed for an additional year. While in Valencia as I knew my student Visa was about to expire I had an opportunity to interview with an export import company in the Netherlands which I jumped at the opportunity. So, I came to NL got an apartment in Den Haag in 2013 and have been here ever since. I was in a relationship at the time which was wasn't great he was never around and we ended up growing apart. So, what makes this story very interesting is that I’ve always lived one street over from Paco.  Since 2013 we always shopped at the same Albert Heijn we went to the same bars we bought tickets to the same concerts and never met until two years later in 2015 when I decided for the fun to get Tinder. I was literally overwhelmed by the app and got rid of it after a week. Paco claims he saw me and liked me but I swear I had never seen it. One evening I logged in to facebook and I had a message from Paco. I thought maybe he was writing me for something work related as I worked in Film & TV at the time and saw he was a photographer but then shortly into the conversation I noticed this was not business related. We talked for what seems a long time and we really had a nice connection! So finally, we ended up going on our first date which was at a pub in the city center. I got there first and he followed shortly after and that’s when I saw those dimples and smile. J he ordered a rum and I knew from that moment that this was going to be the start of something special! BUT after that date he didn’t call me for two days which I totally didn’t like but at the same time worked out because he played it cool. We started to date regularly and have just been together ever since. Paco made me feel for the first time in my life that I want to settle down with someone. He made living in this country so much better. He opened his arms and heart and let me in to him and Casper’s life and it just fit. After living in 7 countries I was ready for something more permanent. For the first time in my life the definition of the word home has changed from a place to a person.


Puerto Rico la Isla del encanto! Which translates to Puerto Rico the island of enchantment. Puerto Rico is my heart and my soul. It is where my ancestors have lived for many years and I have very deep roots there as my ancestors were the first people to settle on Culebra Island. Our family’s name is on the main road that connects you from the airport to the beach and my grandmother’s sewing machine has been placed in their museum. I grew up swimming between the Atlantic and Caribbean played in the rainforest and its rivers. Swam with the turtles and in the bioluminescent waters. Puerto Rico is truly a special place and will always remain my true love and heart’s desire and what better way to share this beautiful Island then with those who are closest and dearest to us. This last year was one of the most difficult nightmares that we all had to face. Maria completely destroyed everything in her path. She took my childhood home in Orocovis and roofs of my family members living in Vega Baja. Thankfully my family was safe but many of them struggled with no water and electricity for months. Still 4 months later only 65% of the Island has electricity. This has been the largest exodus of our people from the Island where roughly 300 immigrating to America each day leaving the elderly, sick and poor behind. It saddens me to see the business and tourism go down which is why I flew there in November to access the situation. I traveled 9,000 kilometers and landed to see a hurt island but her spirit was ALIVE! You saw the new green budding of the baby plants emerging from the rainforest. The community was in good spirits cleaning the streets and rebuilding their homes and in the evening would gather around the kiosko’s playing and dancing to Salsa with the extra beat of the generators rumbling in the background singing “Puerto Rico se levantara” which means “Puerto Rico will RISE”  and like a phoenix from its ashes we surely will! So, I decided that I would find a venue that had its own generator and water which I did and decided that we will continue onward and bring back at least some tourism to the Island. I wanted to hire locals only in order to give them my business and to give them some  hope that they still have business and that they will prevail. Yes the Puerto Rico Im sharing with my friends and family is not what it was but its strength and drive for survival is beautiful and that I believe will resonate in all those who are coming hearts and this is what makes me proud to be a Boriqua de las Isla!


Omg! Words can not express how much I love your videos and your edits! You are extremely talented Jan I hope you know how good you are! Don’t forget us little people when you take off like a rocket!