Spanish and Sangria: My Mom’s Costa Rican Wedding

Primera parte: la boda

After more than four years of dating and two years of being engaged, my mom and Libier tied the knot. The man I’ve been calling “stepdad” for the last few years is now, officially, my stepdad.

Coincidentally, my mom was invited on a girls’ trip ten years ago by a coworker who was also native to Costa Rica. She took me and my twin sister and, while we were there, we met Libier and his older son, Junior. Libier knew my mom and her coworkers from the school system and we spent time sight-seeing with them right after my 12th birthday. This made it extra special to be back for my 22nd birthday.

The wedding was perfect in the most imperfect ways you can imagine. My (new) tía Lucrecia did a fantastic job coordinating most of the details, including creating gorgeous flower centerpieces for the reception, finding beauticians for hair and makeup, and planning our post-wedding hotels and travels. She also walked us through the Spanish Catholic ceremony, cuing us at all the right times.

Kayla Pettigrew (Mom) and Libier Bermudez were married in San Rafael de Heredia on June 30, 2018, surrounded by friends and family.


We celebrated until nearly midnight with dancing, drinking, visiting, eating cake and more dancing. People I’d met once, or never before, became my family in a matter of hours, and I truly hope I don’t have to wait another 10 years to reunite with them.


Segunda parte: el viaje  

After the wedding, we had the opportunity to travel around Costa Rica and visit new places.

  • Quepos & Manuel Antonio National Park

Quepos is a town on the Pacific coast, known as the gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park. The park contains different lagoons and mangroves and is home to animals like monkeys, iguanas, caimans and sloths. Here we soaked up the saltwater and sun and drank straight from a coconut we cracked open on the beach.

Fun fact: more than 25% of Costa Rica is national parks, and 51% of Costa Rica is rainforest.

  • Los Sueños & Jacó

Jacó is also a beachside town full of shops and restaurants down the long main road. We learned to surf on the beaches here and visited the restaurants and shops while we stayed at Los Sueños.

Los Sueños is a Marriott resort right outside Jacó, on the beach of an alcove. The resort is large and contains a golf course, winding pool with swim-up bars, golf-cart tours, restaurants and spas. We enjoyed a golf-cart tour, laying by the pool, collecting shells on the beach, and taking in the saltwater breeze.

  • Baldí Hot Springs & Volcán Arenal

After spending a few days on the beach, we said farewell to the ocean and drove up into the mountains to visit Baldí Hot Springs Resort, a resort built around natural hot springs of varying temperatures. If you just pictured a trickle of water coming out of the dirt in puddle-size amounts, so did I until I saw this place. It’s more like a string of connected hot tubs that are natural spring water heated by the earth- they’re tiled, and many have built-in features like bars and benches.

Baldí was built at the base of Volcán Arenal, a volcano we saw on our first visit in 2008. Unfortunately, the clouds were too dense for us to see the volcano this year.

  • Ezcazú

We spent the last couple days of our trip in Escazú- a town in San José, where Libier’s brother and sister-in-law live (Tío Jonathan & Tía Lucrecia). We enjoyed grilling, visiting the local farmer’s market and just spending time together.


Final Thoughts

Our trip in 2008 inspired me to study Spanish for the following 10 years, graduating from Simpson College with a Spanish minor. Costa Rica holds a special place in my heart and I am grateful to the teachers in the Des Moines Public Schools and at Simpson College who fueled my passion for this beautiful language by sharing theirs.

Desde lo más profundal de mi corazón, muchas gracias.

  • Carole George
  • Kim Kuzmic
  • Mindy Euken- Cadenillas
  • Lindsay Fredregill
  • Sue Davis
  • Camille Sutton
  • Mark Bates
  • Tracy Dinesen


 Pura Vida!


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