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A Birthday to Remember: The FRWD Style Experience in St. Maarten

If you know me you know that I LOVE my birthday. I treat my birthday as my own personal holiday. For as long as I can remember I have always celebrated my birthday in some fashion. Whether it be dinner at my favorite restaurant (Pappadeaux!) or meeting friends for a night out around town,

I'm always going to celebrate my birthday.

And last year was a milestone birthday. The big 4-0. I was so ready to officially step into my guncle (gay uncle) era with the white socks and sandals and the sweat towel at the family function. But before I fully crossed over, I wanted to do something I did when I turned 30, which was to plan a group trip. The question was: to where?

I was trying to decide on an international destination where I could feel comfortable being my full self, while also being a new place to visit. St. Maarten came to mind, but I also wanted to make sure it was the right place for the perfect experience I wanted to have. Me and my friends in paradise enjoying the sun, the sand and the waters. 

I reached out to my favorite Travel Agent Tami Thomas over at TNT Travelers, and shared my ideas on location and the vibe that I was trying to curate. We shared various hotels, Airbnb’s and resorts. But I fell in love with the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort in St. Maarten. It was a contemporary aesthetic with beautiful ocean views.

One of the things that I wanted to experience was a swim-out suite, to have my friends chill poolside as we sip cocktails and enjoy the views. 

Once the place was set, it was time to start creating a special experience for all of my guests who would make the journey with me to St. Maarten. I created a flier to get the information out there, but I really wanted to do something different on this milestone birthday that I haven't done before. 

An epic photoshoot inspired by Solange. 

I also thought through some of the other experiences that I wanted to have, and one of the things that I always do on vacation is a cruise. So that had to be on my to do list. One of the other things I love to do on vacation is explore the city, so I wanted to make sure I got a chance to do that as well. To really create an experience for my guests, I wanted to frame out the trip with a theme: 

blue skies. blue waters. a vibe. 

I know people vacation differently. And my friends are no different. I have friends who are ready to turn up at every moment, and I have friends who want to lounge and relax on vacation. Each of them were also enjoying a much needed vacation, and I wanted them to enjoy it as well. So to account for the various types of vacationers, I restricted myself to one to two experiences per day, with the caveat that nothing was mandatory. Well… except the photoshoot. More on that in a second. 

One of the things I was adamant about doing was to create an itinerary for the trip. And not just a regular old toss-to-side document. This needed to be super special! And it needed to properly set the tone for the adventures that I was curating for this trip. Along with some other surprises that I had in mind. 

One of the big ideas that I had for this trip was a “dress code” for each specific event for each day.

Especially the photoshoot. My favorite color is blue, so I know I would be wearing that color on my actual birthday. But then I thought about incorporating some other styles for the rest of the days. Like tropical earthy vibes one day. Fun shades of pinks on another. Matching Tee Day! And of course all white is a must on any tropical vacation packing list. 

Before I put this together, another thought came to my mind: Since I am bringing the FRWD Style Experience for my friends, why not take it up a few notches? I decided to theme out each day based on my initials F-R-W-D. 

Wednesday would be FREEDOM.

Thursday is RENAISSANCE. 

Friday is WANDERLUST. 

And Saturday would be DISCOVER. 

Now it was time to put it all together for this four-day adventure in St. Maarten. My guests would arrive on Wednesday. I felt that a proper tropical introduction would be perfect for the day. We could just enjoy dinner at the resort and then chill out by the pool. Thursday would be my birthday and the photoshoot. So of course my favorite color for the shoot and the birthday dinner. Friday would be our day to explore the island, and then a fun night out, so of course pinks for then, and then Saturday would be our finale event, which would be a surprise for my friends! So the all white attire was a must! So now how do I present all this information in a fun, engaging yet informative way? To Canva I go!

Here is the final Style guide that I sent out to my guests! It included: 

  • Welcome Letter from me

  • Overall trip itinerary

  • Daily Breakdown

  • Style guide for each day

  • Inspo photos for the photo shoot

  • Links to Youtube videos for more information about the island and what to expect. 

Four of my closest friends were able to make the trip, and I wanted to do something really special for them. I love to give gifts, so it was important for me to thank them for taking this journey into 40 with me. I decided to get custom beach towels for everyone with their name in their favorite color. I also wanted to gift them t-shirts for our Friday excursion on the island. Different shades of blue with their nicknames on the back. Of course mine was white with all of the nicknames my friends call me. I also wanted my friends to relax and enjoy the vacation, so shower steamers were a must. I did add in a personalized journal, and of course, personal tumblers with lids. And to top it all off one of my favorite drinks, Prosecco! 

One final thing to do before the trip started was to really make this an immersive experience. Everyone knows I love a good playlist, so why not create a playlist for every day of this vacation? Freedom ushered in the feeling of vacation vibes and letting go of the things that bother us at home. Renaissance was a two-part vibe of course. Part one was the joy and exuberance oozing from Beyonce’s recently released album of the same name, with all of the sounds that made me feel authentically free to me my full self. The second part was all the R&B/Neo Soul vibes that would frame out the dinner and the rest of the day. Wanderlust would be the Hip-Hop vibe that makes you nod your head. And of course Discover would be my ethereal dreams come to life via sound. And it wouldn't be a playlist without a final farewell to paradise and the moments that we created over the past few days,

The time was finally here! My friends and I descended on one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

And we even lucked out that their Carnival was going on at the same time. When my friends arrived on Wednesday, they heard about a street festival that was on my actual birthday called Jouvert. This street festival started at 4am and lasted until around 10am! So of course this was the perfect impromptu start of my birthday! We walked through the streets of Philipsburg until the sun came up. It was a wonderful cultural experience that I will never forget. That morning definitely took the trip to another level!

The day of the photoshoot came and the amazing Cameron Hyman took my inspo photos and brought them to life! As the sun began to set I wanted him to capture the vibe of Sza’s newest Album cover, “SOS”, and he definitely delivered! 

Friday we got up and went on our excursion through both countries and visited some amazing spots for great photos, rum tastings and even a stop on the beach. That night we vibed in the swimout pool and just relaxed, drank and had a great time overall. 

Saturday we chilled for the most part during the day and explored around the resort at some local shops. The finale event was a sunset boat cruise that was the perfect end to a wonderful birthday trip. This trip was a true “Celebration with Story” and I’m so glad to have had my closest friends with me to charter in Chapter 40 in style. FRWD Style! 

When planning a trip, event, or anything major where you are gathering friends and family for a special occasion, always think of the experience you want to have, and then determine how to translate that experience for your guests as well. Are you ready for me to create an experience for you that you and your guests will remember for a lifetime? Then click the link here to schedule your free 30-min chat with me! 


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