When Bly’s son, Rasean, sees her in the gown for the first time, he is stunned. “Mom, you look so beautiful,” he says, prompting Bly’s tears. “It triggered my emotions,” she says. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, this is about to happen.’”
Bly, 40, and her husband, Ramel, 42, had been planning their vow renewal for two years. For the event, they returned to the country they honeymooned in back in 2004, this time surrounded by daughter Laylah, 10, son Rasean, 12, plus a select group of 25 friends and family members in the hills of Montego Bay.
The original plan had been to invite hundreds to a vow renewal near home. But after connecting with MKE-based wedding planner Cheri Davis, Bly realized some – thing typical didn’t fit what her family calls the #BlyLife.
“It’s become this lifestyle term for us and our family. We use it as hashtags,” Danielle Bly explains. “My husband and I came up with different terms to define what #BlyLife is. It’s God-centered. It’s about love. It’s laughter, family and friends.”
When the couple first tied the knot, it wasn’t an extravagant affair.
“It was stressful,” Bly remembers. “I didn’t have real flowers the first time around … I didn’t have some of the details I wanted. For one, I couldn’t afford it.”
This time, she worked with Davis to create the lavish, “glitz and glam” wedding she always envisioned.
The entire wedding party spent five August days together at Silent Waters – an 18-acre, five-suite facility, complete with a dedicated chef and butler, a private infinity pool underneath shady palm trees, and private spaces for every guest. When Danielle sent her wedding planner pictures of the villa two years ago, Davis replied: “Oh yeah, that’s it.”
They arrived on a Wednesday and spent the day exploring Silent Waters. They enjoyed open-air massages and a beach bonfire on Thursday, renewed vows (and shared happy tears) before dancing into the wee hours of the night Friday, took an ocean cruise Saturday, enjoyed a genuine Caribbean jerk chicken feast on Sunday, and flew home Monday.
“This was about celebrating love,” Bly says. “It was a blessed experience.”
For the vow renewal, they congregated on a grass-covered helipad that overlooks the Cayman Trench between Jamaica and Cuba. Danielle’s brother led the group in prayer. Then Ramel and Danielle professed their love through original vows. Laylah and Rasean shared their thoughts about #BlyLife. Then, the ceremony was over and the dancing began.
“The renewal brought them closer as a family and a unit,” Davis says.
An event this perfect doesn’t happen by accident; rather, it’s the result of an extensive planning process, according to Davis. By shrinking the guest list, Bly was able to devote more resources to getting the details just right; for instance, the wavy design on the renewal invitations, from Illinois-based IJORERE was echoed in the frosting on the cake, from Cake Couture. Invitees covered some of their own travel costs for the vacation, helping to keep the event within budget.
“Losing that responsibility to invite 150-200 people – and making it a more intimate experience – was very attractive,” Bly says. “With the amount of money I was going to spend here in Milwaukee, I created a different experience for my friends and family – one that none of them will soon forget.”
Why the Blys spent big on photography
“That was important for us. If we’re going to do something of this scale, to be able to have quality memories to look back on is huge,” Danielle Bly says of hiring New York-based wedding photographer Joshua Dwain. “Those will be incorporated in my home and we’ll have them forever.”
Finding the right threads
Danielle and Ramel Bly wore white for their vow renewal ceremony in Jamaica. Danielle found her gown at Brooklyn’s Pantora Bridal, a boutique that specializes in gowns that accentuate the beauty of black brides. Their children Rasean and Laylah were among friends and family who joined them.