Meet Sandy Malone
Meet Sandy Malone – she’s the political journalist turned successful destination wedding planner who owns and operates Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and Weddings in Vieques. She and her husband Bill, a former SWAT team commander area, split their time between their homes in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and DC. Sandy is very hands on and works with each and every traditional and DIY client personally.
After experiencing their own wedding planner- catastrophe while planning their wedding in Vieques, Sandy and Bill decided to leave their home in DC and move to the Puerto Rico. Following their relocation in 2007, Weddings in Vieques was born on what’s considered the “Jewel of the Spanish Virgin Islands.” Then Sandy expanded her island businesses to include wedding planning on other Caribbean islands.
DC-based Sandy Malone Weddings & Events is her latest creation and opens the windows wide on wedding planning services for DIY brides and grooms, in addition to wedding and event clients seeking traditional hometown and destination wedding planning services. For years it’s been considered taboo for wedding planners to give away their secrets, best vendors and tricks to planning flawless weddings, but Sandy’s decided to break that mold. You cannot stop the DIY-craze, so Sandy chose to embrace it and help other DIY brides and grooms make their own weddings more perfect than her own was.
Sandy debuted her television career in 2013 as the star of TLC’s reality show “Wedding Island.” The show was sold to FOX International and translated into countless languages and shown all over the world as “Bodas Increibles,” Casamientos Increibles,” and a variety of other titles. It continues to air in re-runs and is available for sale on Amazon. Sandy was the Winner of “Most Popular Wedding Reality Celebrity” and “Best Wedding Reality Show” for 2014 from Wedding Market, a popular wedding industry group.
Sandy is an internationally-syndicated wedding columnist with regular blogs in The Huffington Post, BRIDES, Monsters and Critics, Purple Unions and more. She also writes about business, education, and reality TV. She’s also been featured multiple times on HuffPostLive and television and radio news shows as an expert on wedding planning.
How did Sandy become a wedding planner?
Sandy grew up in Washington, DC, and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1996, taking with her two “Marks of Excellence” from the Society of Professional Journalists in Spot News Reporting and Investigative Journalism. She was a police beat reporter and a Campus Editor of “The Lantern,” Ohio State’s daily newspaper. Immediately after graduation, Sandy accepted a full scholarship to the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University through The Fund for American Studies. The program came with an internship at Campaigns & Elections Magazine, and Sandy became Associate Editor four weeks into her internship. She was promoted to Managing Editor of the magazine before the 1996 Presidential Election and served as a commentator on behalf of the magazine at the Chicago Democratic National Convention. She also appeared regularly on a variety of political cable news shows.
At 24, Sandy moved to Manhattan to accept a position with the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, where she wrote the Politics.Net column (back before the paper even had a technology page). Her stories were featured in both the online and print editions of the newspaper, usually on the front page of the Marketplace section. After a year at the most amazing newspaper in the world, Sandy turned to the dark side, accepting a job offer from a public relations firm back home in Washington, DC. She took her media savvy gained as a journalist and flipped it around to earn herself a reputation for being able to get hits for the most difficult of clients. And that’s when Sandy began representing the Government of Puerto Rico.
After working as part of the team pushing Puerto Rico’s statehood referendum from Washington (and losing horribly to “none of the above”), Sandy stepped in to take the lead when the governor of Puerto Rico asked his Washington consulting team to expose the Navy’s questionable bombing practices on the tiny island of Vieques, just off the coast of what was then the Roosevelt Roads Navy base. Sandy led the first groups of reporters to Vieques, introduced them to the population who was affected by the bombing, brought reporters to see where the civilian security guard had been killed by a pilot on his virgin bombing run, and co-opted groups of fishing boats to take the media out to the restricted live fire zone to meet the protesters (an act of civil disobedience, of course). The media campaign she helped design and lead resulted in the end to the bombing on Vieques Island and the eventual departure of the military from the island entirely in 2003.
After finishing her consulting work for Puerto Rico, Sandy continued to vacation in Vieques with her friends and family, and she brought Bill to “her island” when they were dating. Bill now knows that if he hadn’t loved Vieques as much as Sandy did, their relationship would have been doomed. Fortunately, Bill was as much at home on the relatively deserted white sand beaches as his girlfriend. And when he finally popped the question, there was no doubt where the two would get married in September of 2004.
One might think that planning a wedding someplace you’ve lived before and have been visiting frequently for five years wouldn’t be that difficult, but that would be a bad assumption when dealing with the Caribbean. When Sandy and Bill got married, there was no wedding planner on Vieques. Sandy hired a wedding planner from the big island who turned out to be a disaster (she hadn’t actually planned a wedding on Vieques before), and when the vendors started calling Sandy three months before her wedding to make sure it hadn’t been cancelled, the bride fired the wedding planner and took all matters back into her own hands. Less than two months before her wedding, one of her caterers died in a car accident. Then a hotel she’d completely booked was bought and converted into a private home without telling her (she learned through the grapevine a month prior to her wedding date) and she had to move her guests and initiate chargebacks to get her guests’ deposits returned. It was almost a DIY wedding disaster.
Sandy finished triaging her own destination wedding planning from DC and went down to the island a week early with Bill to finish the detail work. The end result was beautiful. All of her guests had a fabulous time. Everyone loved every minute of the activities she’d planned for the weekend and relaxed completely. Everyone except Sandy. On her wedding day, when normal brides are concentrating on getting beautiful, Sandy was asking “where are the chairs,” “why are there no wine glasses on the tables,” and worst of all “why don’t these even resemble the bouquets that I wanted?” Even though everybody else thought it all looked perfect, Sandy never got a break or a chance to enjoy her own wedding. As a result, the idea for Weddings in Vieques was born.
One year after they said “I do” on the island, Sandy and Bill began house hunting for a vacation home on Vieques. They used the traditional method – Tom the Florist called and said that Colleen the Baker (she’s married to Rafi the dentist who is also a lawyer) had a house for sale – and they bought it directly from Colleen the Baker. They used it as a rental property when they weren’t there until 2007 when, in a huge leap of faith, Bill retired from the Metro Transit Police as a captain and Sandy gave up politics to become a wedding planner full time. They sold their home in the Nation’s Capital and moved to Vieques to start the ultimate Caribbean destination wedding planning business using their own experience as their first base of knowledge.
Weddings in Vieques was a raging success in its first 12 months, and in year two, Sandy launched Weddings in Culebra in response to their sister island’s popularity. Six months into business, Sandy began doing all of the wedding flowers herself because there wasn’t anybody on the island who could give the clients exactly what they wanted. In response to demand from other brides who weren’t clients but wanted Sandy’s flowers, Flowers in Vieques was launched in December of 2011 and began serving the needs of the entire island for weddings, events, holidays and arrangements.
As a tribute to the internship program that gave Sandy her start, she has been teaching interns how to plan weddings on a consistent basis for the past three years. Weddings in Vieques interns leave the island able to plan a wedding anywhere if they can successfully execute events on complicated little Vieques. Hundreds of college students apply for the few coveted positions every year. All of Sandy’s intern alumni get jobs quickly in their chosen fields.
Sandy Malone Weddings & Events was created stateside is in response to the growing demand from potential wedding planners and DIY brides and grooms who want to learn how to do things the way Sandy plans them for their own weddings. Sandy is launching a seminar series in 2016 to give the tricks of the trade to other planners who want to branch into destination weddings and for DIY couples who just need a little extra help from an experience professional to make sure their big day runs smoothly. She’ll continue planning destination wedding in Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean, but also offer services in the United States as well, for brides and grooms who wish to put it all into an experienced wedding planner’s hands.
Sandy’s book “How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional” will be released in March 2016 and is already available for pre-order wherever books are sold.