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Tana Wilson and Dustin Rawdon of Cedar Falls

“My legs are tired.”

Dustin Rawdon came up with that catchphrase as a signal to his sister to start snapping photos of his wedding proposal to Tana Wilson. It was a logical thing to say, after all, after a lengthy walking tour of lush Forest Park in St. Louis.

“He got down on one knee, and I told him to stop kidding around,” recalls Tana. “Then he hauled out a ring. Even then I thought it was a fake. He said, ‘I’m serious … will you marry me?’, and I saw his sister taking photos and realized the proposal was for real. I started crying and almost forgot to say ‘yes,’” she says, smiling.

The couple had been dating for 1 ½ years, although they’d known each other since their days as students at Dike-New Hartford Junior High School. They reconnected at a University of Iowa football game one fall in Iowa City, where Tana was going to school.

They wed Oct. 14, 2013 at Puerto Vallarta’s Now Amber Resort. Dustin and Tana had always dreamed about a destination wedding, but found themselves planning a traditional ceremony.

“We were going through lists of things and talking one night and decided this isn’t what we wanted,” Dustin says. “It wasn’t what we wanted to do,” agrees Tana.

To their families’ initial chagrin, they ditched those plans and reached out to a family friend at Lighthouse Travel in Cedar Falls, who prepared a list of wedding resorts and prices. They chose Now Amber in Mexico for their destination wedding.

Dustin and Tana were legally wed a week before their trip, with Dan Phillips, a professional wedding photographer and ordained minister from Cedar Falls, conducting the ceremony. This allowed grandparents and other family members unable to travel to share in their happiness, while eliminating some of the headaches of getting married abroad. A family dinner followed at the Brown Bottle Restaurant.

The resort wedding took place in a wedding gazebo on a beach overlooking the Banderas Bay. Dan Phillips once again officiated, and Dan and his wife/photographer Rachel Phillips captured memorable moments along the way.

Tana worked with an on-site wedding coordinator to make sure everything was perfect for their stay and ceremony.

“Cake, flowers … they took care of everything. We met to work out final details on the morning after we flew in, and we had three days to lounge at the pool before the wedding,” Tana says.

Forty-six family members and friends watched Tana walk down aisle in a Mikaella bridal gown from Elegant Affair in Cedar Falls, carrying a bouquet made by her great aunt. Bridesmaids wore short coral dresses and pretty flip-flops. Dustin and his groomsmen wore white shirts and khaki slacks.

The reception featured a sit-down dinner and an ice cream wedding cake. Dan Phillips captured memorable moments along the way.

“It ended up a family vacation. It was an expense for people, but it ended up being priceless for everyone,” Tana notes.

“We had some opposition at first to our destination wedding plans. But it turned out to be the best week of our lives. We were blessed that so many people could join us at the resort.”

Dustin’s advice? “Remember it’s your day. You’ve got to be yourselves and do what feels right to you.”

Returning home from their week-long wedding trip, the newlyweds hosted a reception at Fox Ridge Country Club in Dike, serving light hors d’oeuvres and Champagne cake, brownie bites and cookies.

Tana & Dustin

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