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7 reasons you should NOT hire Tropical Occasions (wedding planner for Costa Rica)


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#11 BeachBrideMarch

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 08:06 AM

 

7 reasons you should NOT hire Tropical Occasions (especially if your wedding is during the high season)

 

1)If you’re looking for attention from your wedding coordinator, Tropical Occasions will not have time for you, especially during high season

2)They will push the most expensive vendors

3)They will rip you off

4)On the day of your wedding they may show up late

5)On the day of your wedding, the “coordinating team” will not know your schedule

6)If something goes wrong, they will blame you and your guests

7)Even if they admit to their mistake and promise a refund, you will never see the money

 

 

1)If you’re looking for attention from your wedding coordinator, Tropical Occasions will not have time for you, especially during high season

Maybe these people used to be good, however, now your wedding will not get the attention it or you deserve unless you don’t care about how much it costs. The owner lives in Colorado and only visits Costa Rica for the over the top large weddings. For those of us, who were looking for an intimate small wedding (isn’t that what destination weddings are all about - mine was 30 people), the owner, Aimee Monihan will give you one phone call to “design” your wedding from afar and Karen Ogden, her coordinator in Manuel Antonio, on the ground in Costa Rica will “arrange” it.

 

When I was planning my wedding, I was in the middle of a big project at work as well as looking for a job, so that my then fiancé and I could eliminate the long distance between us after the wedding. So as I was interviewing wedding planners in Costa Rica, I was looking for someone professional to step in and take the lead. Aimee assured me that “they will be managing” the process. The promise was a lie.

 

If I didn’t hunt them down for every detail, my wedding would have been completely cookie cutter. For something like that, I could have gone to any large resort with those 3 option wedding menus, and paid a fraction of what I paid Tropical Occasions.

 

I had to keep emailing and calling, and was lucky if I was able to get the “coordinator” on the phone once every couple of weeks. They told me they did not have time for phone calls due to other weddings of the high season and to use email for any correspondence. However, even through email, any time anything was promised to me by “end of the week”, I would not receive until the following Tuesday. They would also routinely lose my emails. The following answers were given on multiple occasions: “sorry your email went to my spam box” or “my server crashed”. If I’m a client, why wouldn’t they put me on the list of trusted emails? And while the server excuse would have made sense for Costa Rica, given that this excuse was given by Aimee Monihan, the owner in Colorado, it is just unacceptable. But at the end of the day, this was my small wedding, so I hunted them down or patiently waited for their responses.

 

2)They will push the most expensive vendors

Tropical Occasions will push the most expensive vendors on you. Until about 3 weeks before the wedding they were pushing a caterer on me that would charge $1,700 fee just for catering outside of their own facility. That would have made a $107 per person plate cost. The excuse was there was nothing else local in Manuel Antonio. In Manuel Antonio? Really?

 

All I wanted was buffet style meal for 30 people that represented the local cuisine. No filet mignon, no shell fish, no special food to be imported, nothing extraordinary. Only after I started to finally yell and calling the owner, did miraculously three local caterers appear. One of whom we hired at $37 a plate and the food was absolutely fantastic!

 

After arriving to Manuel Antonio, it was obvious that the vendors they chose either gave Tropical Occasions the best kick back or they were friends with the planners.

 

3)They will rip you off

Tropical Occasions DO NOT have your best interest in mind.   After talking to people around town, one thing was clear, Tropical Occasions is very good at ripping people off.

 

I strongly believe that since you pay Tropical Occasions, not the vendor, they skim off the top to rip you off. One example I have, is that we hired two locals to help cut down bamboo for our Chuppah/Alter. Tropical Occasions found them for us (one of them was the coordinator’s brother-in-law) and I pre-paid $40 for their work for couple of hours. When we met these guys they were not paid, so we had to pay on the spot and they expected much less. While I understand that possibly they were supposed to get paid later, we did inform the “coordinator”, but the money was never returned to us. The problem here is not the $40. It’s not that much and the guys were great, so I would have paid them the $80, but I doubt they saw that $80 and I don’t know where else Tropical Occasion skimmed off the top some more.

 

Tropical Occasions is very good at finding a way to charge you extra.  For our wedding, we rented a beautiful large villa/house for the week and wedding festivities. 22 of my 30 guest were staying there with us. The celebration was on the roof top and I wanted a few paper lantern lights hung up for the dancing at night. The coordinator told us exactly what kind to buy and where. I brought them with me from US, since these were hard to find in Costa Rica. However, the coordinator refused to let us hang this up ourselves and charged us $150 for the convenience and to guarantee that it’s “done right”. Let me just mention that half of my guests were various types of engineers. So hanging up a few battery-powered lights should not have been a problem. Regardless, I went along with this. Still before we turned over the lights to the coordinator to be hung up, they were all checked for proper working and battery life by my farther, the electrical engineer, and best man, the physicist. However, on the wedding day, as we entered as the new husband and wife, we realized that half the lights were turned off and my new husband and family had to try to get them turned back on. What did we pay the $150 for?

 

Evidence of where they ripped us off, is that the budget of details would never add up.  It was difficult to get them on the phone for explanations. There were multiple unclear charges and multiple “math” mistakes which seem to always work in their favor. Even if those were honest mistakes, they definitely showed lack of attention to detail. In the end I even received a final invoice with my numbers, but another client’s name at the top.  

 

At every chance they get, Tropical Occasions will find a way to make more money from you without actually doing any work – on top of a lavish planning fee.  

 

4)On the day of your wedding they may show up late

On the day of my wedding I was promised a team: the main coordinator, Karen Ogden, and two others to assist. True they all showed up, but the assistance was completely useless. The main coordinator was late (although for a valid reason of a sick child), but that set the whole day behind. 

 

Given my ceremony was planned on the beach right before sunset; the delay meant no daylight for half of my wedding. After my ceremony, according to a Jewish tradition we were supposed to have a moment alone, I’m not very religious, so the “moment” was set up in the garden where we could still see all our guests. The coordinators were supposed to get us after a few minutes for pictures on the beach. However, they completely forgot about us. We were kept too long in the garden and by the time we got to the beach, the sun was gone. So much for my childhood dream of wedding pictures on the beach – the whole reason I wanted a destination wedding in the first place. I’m now an owner of wedding family pictures with a black background instead of the beach, which I could have gotten done in my living room.

 

5)On the day of your wedding, the “coordinating team” will not know about your wedding schedule.

It was obvious that the coordinating assistants had no clue of what was going on.  It was as if they had never done a wedding before.

 

For example, on the day before the wedding, during the rehearsal, I asked one of them where I was to go and they spent a few minutes looking for me in their binder. In addition, the day before the wedding, I was contacted by my photographer, requesting the schedule for the big day. According to the coordinators they were taking care of all that, yet, at 7am on the day of my wedding I was emailing the schedule to the photographer because he didn’t know where to show up.

 

This is not as bad, as the fact that the main coordinator actually left my wedding without telling anyone. She had a sick child, so I completely understand – I would have done the same (with a warning to someone).

 

The assistant team was clueless. After the ceremony, the schedule completely fell apart. We had arranged a slide show of our pictures to be shown in one of the rooms of the house. Yet, it took a ridiculous amount of time to get 30 guests there because they were not told where to go. After the slide show, my guests stood around near the dining table, because they weren’t sure if it was ok to seat.

 

Given the delay in schedule and all the confusion, the “coordinating team” told the caterers to stop grilling, so even after everyone was finally seated, we were informed that the food was not ready. Once finally served, some of my guests were asking me if the meal was vegetarian b/c they weren’t served the fish/meat. It turns out, since the caterer was told to stop grilling, half of the people didn’t get served the main course.

 

Finally once the dinner and toasts were done, we sat there looking at my so called “coordinator team” to figure out how and when we can cut the wedding cake. The coordinators were actually asking me, the bride, on what I would like to do next.

 

After the ceremony, my husband and I had to step-in and run our own wedding.  The people that we paid ridiculous amounts of money to organize our wedding were completely useless.  The wedding was a disaster from a coordination point of view.

 

6)If something goes wrong, they will blame you and your guests

After the wedding, I felt that I should discuss all this with the owner and the coordinator. Aimee Honihan, the owner, admitted that some things went wrong. However, she stated (from Colorado) that the reason for coordination issues for my wedding (in Costa Rica) is mainly due to my guests being “difficult to deal with”. Again, I had 30 guests. If Tropical Occasions can’t manage to inform 30 people of where they should be, or when it’s ok to be seated for dinner, how do they manage larger weddings?

 

7)Even if they admit to their mistake and promise a refund, you will never see the money

Even after insulting my close family and friends group of 30, Aimee admitted that I deserved a better team to coordinate the big day. She also admitted that I deserved to get a refund of the wedding fee. It has now been a few months, and I have not seen a penny. She does not return my emails.

 

Finally…

We made the best of that day and given my persistence and my loving family it was still a special and beautiful day. As we all hear, there are always things that could go wrong during the wedding day, but if you want to minimize those things and avoid getting ripped off, DO NOT HIRE Aimee Monihan and Tropical Occasions.



#12 tropicalchick

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 06:53 PM

WOW!!!  I'm so sorry that you had such a bad experience with Tropical Occasions.  I'm so happy I am not working with, but it still makes me worry that my coordinator will do the same.  I work in the wedding industry in Ontario and it's people like this that make it so hard for the true professionals....

I'm happy that you were able to make the best of it!  I'm sure your day was amazing despite them!

 

 



#13 beach

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Posted 02 January 2012 - 11:54 AM

Well, I am truly sorry that the above bride still has such anger towards her experience with Tropical Occasions.
We were married April of 2011 in Tamarindo and I can say without Tropical Occasions, Aimee Monihan and Anahi her assistant, a rehearsal dinner and wedding in Costa Rica NEVER would have happened. Especially for 76 people.
I started working with Aimee about 7 months prior to our wedding. Not only was she on top of everything (to the point that I had a detailed spread sheet sent and updated every couple of weeks, as to every penny that was being spent, who needed to be where when, what vendors were suggested to use and exactly what they the vendors charged, recommendations on accommodations for our guests, transportation for our guests, down to details I never would have thought of). Aimee and her team were fantastic and extremely caring. To them the wedding was personal, not just a job to be done. So much so the night of our wedding my mom (who is one tough cookie) hugged her and said she could not in her wildest dreams have imagined such a special and amazing wedding and could not thank Aimee and her team of employees enough for their efforts.
Aimee even went out of her way to contact my mother in law who was planning the rehearsal dinner (very much out of her comfort zone) and had a two hour meeting with over the phone to make sure she was comfortable and had the contacts she needed so that evening went smoothly.
The hotel where we stayed and had the rehearsal dinner on the beach was Capitan Suizo. Our photographer was Katie Stinnet with Comfort Studios. Our wedding took place about 20 min. outside of Tamarindo at Rerserva Conchal. I had the contacts to every vendor and know for a fact that Tropical Occasions did not take a single cent. Being a bride can be very stressful as any bride knows. Because of Aimee and the entire staff at Tropical Occasions my stress level went down about 100%, well maybe 85% all brides are going to stress:)
Also, in regards to the angry bride post. Do your own homework. One bad apple has a tendency to spoil the bunch and I can honestly say that should not apply to Tropical Occasions.



#14 athaciendapini

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 08:26 AM

I agree completely. I am sorry that my daughter hired Tropical Occasions and I would NEVER recommend them to anyone. They misled her (everything is within walking distance - there is a difference between a walk and a hike!). They lied to her. They overcharged her, but the worst thing of all is that they failed to send the bus to pick up my family, the bride's aunts, uncles and cousins,  for the wedding ceremony! Alessandra Silveira, Tropical Occasions Guanacaste Regional Manager, who was supposed to be running the wedding and making sure that all of the guests were picked up from their lodgings (she had a detailed list) and brought to the ceremony was oblivious of the fact that there was a block of ten empty chairs (mind you each chair was paid for individually - there were no extras) in spite of the fact that all of the same people had been at the rehearsal dinner the night before (and she had run that one too)! To top it off Alessandra turned OFF her phone during the ceremony so that my family could not reach her to find out were there bus was! The bride and I walked down the aisle and took our places under the Chuppa unaware that my family wasn't there. By the time I realized that they were missing there was little that I could do (I tried to get Alessandra's attention but she was oblivious). I was so distraught by their absence that I still cry every time I think of my daughter's beautiful wedding ceremony by the beach at sunset.

 

I must add that in spite of Tropical Occasions, my daughter's destination wedding weekend was a huge success.



#15 jaimelyn122

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 07:14 PM

THANK YOU TROPICAL OCCASIONS!!!! Words cannot begin to express the thanks we have for Aimee & Karen. They both did such an AMAZING job with our wedding. It exceeded our wildest dreams. For all the work they put into our wedding, I am surprised they didn't charge more than they did. They are very reasonably priced and worth every single penny. Our dream wedding was a reality because of the positive vibes in the air, the people who were there but most importantly because of all the hard work and gorgeous design expertise from Tropical Occasions. I still have guests telling me how gorgeous everything was, all the details were just perfect! It was the nicest wedding all of our guests had ever been to (huge statement, but very true) We had SOOOO much fun! We cannot stop thinking about that day and how perfect everything was. We are 100% satisfied and so are our parents. They kept telling us how wonderful Karen & Aimee were that day and how happy they are that we chose them as our wedding planners. We cannot get over the vibes in the air that day! Nobody argued, instead everyone just had tons of fun and showed so much love and I truly believe it's because such a gorgeous, fun and happy day was planned. Karen and Aimee put so much effort into every single detail from day one and their hard work and dedication truly showed and we are FOREVER grateful!

As a nervous bride and I am a picky bride, I can promise all you brides out there that there is no more worrying if you choose Tropical Occasions. Every single email, concern, question, comment etc was answered in a timely manner. I didn't have to worry at all. Now that the wedding is over, I actually miss the day to day chats. My husband and I feel as if Karen and Aimee became our friends over the year of planning. We felt at ease at all times and there was always a solution to everything. Even 2 months AFTER the wedding, they continue to help us! We were having problems receiving our wedding video on time and so we reached out to Karen and Aimee and they completely handled everything themselves and our wedding video arrived on time :-)

I wish I could go back in time to re-live our magical day but we have ever lasting memories, pictures and videos. We are just SO happy we chose Tropical Occasions because we have the most perfect memories to live with thanks to them.

We strongly recommend you choose them to also have your dreams come true :)



#16 fatherofbride

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 03:44 PM

I normally do not write comments like this in websites, but feel this is one time where a positive experience warranted documenting. Tropical Occassions handled all aspects of my daughter's recent wedding at Los Suenos in Costa Rica. My daughter is a person that knows what she wants. She had many visions for this dream wedding, and there were a lot of demands placed on Tropical Occassions before and during the wedding. Karen and Aimee were there when we arrived 5 days before the wedding, during the rehearsal dinner, and throughout the wedding day. Their level of oversight was amazing. During this entire experience, there was not one minor detail that they overlooked. From having someone ready to carry the wedding trane, to standing by with umbrellas when needed, to the table settings, to the lights in the tent.They coordinated such a wonderful event, and I was very pleased at the costs. Every person in our group of 58 came up and had nothing but compliments for our wedding planners. I can't speak to the bad experience noted by another in this website, but we are still talking about the greatest wedding we have ever been to. And we owe a great part of it to Tropical Occassions and their staff! Thanks guys, you made a dream come true.



#17 katienicole

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 04:37 PM

As a professional in the wedding industry here in Costa Rica for the past three years I can confidently say that your attack on Tropical Occasions is completely inaccurate. I have personally worked 50+ weddings with Tropical Occasions (including Aimee, Karen, Anahi, and Alessandra) and this team of coordinators has always been incredibly professional, accommodating, punctual, and helpful. They do not ask for "kick backs" or commissions for vendors. They offer the best of the best in this country, and all of these women together have many years of experience. Wedding coordinators can plan, design, and coordinate weddings but they should not be held responsible for personal issues or family disputes happening during the wedding weekend. Yes, Costa Rica is vastly different from North America, and if you do not have a "pura vida" vision in life maybe you should have considered getting married in a different destination. My advice to you is to enjoy your life as a newly wed and to focus on what you did enjoy about your wedding.



#18 katienicole

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 09:08 AM

I have been working in the wedding industry in Costa Rica now for three years and have worked personally with Tropical Occasions in 50+ events. All the ladies of Tropical Occasions have always been professional, accommodating, punctual, and respectful. I would hire them for my own wedding. I have never been asked to pay a commission as a vendor. They offer their brides the best of the best and have many years of experience. Yes, Costa Rica is very different than North America. Maybe if you do not have a "pura vida" attitude in life you should have researched other destinations for your wedding. Wedding planners are just that - there to plan, design, and coordinate your wedding. They are not there to be involved with your family problems or help you with your emotional issues. My advice is to focus on being a newly wed and remember the aspects of your wedding that you did enjoy.



#19 tlk54321

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 10:10 AM

I was recently married in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, and had the good fortune to hire Tropical Occasions as my wedding planner.  I am the kind of girl who definitely did not want to have to spend part of my wedding budget on a planner…I would have preferred to do it all myself.  However, in order to plan a wedding in Costa Rica from Canada, I knew it was a necessity.  And what an absolute boon this decision turned out to be.  Aimee and her staff, Jaime and Anahi, were INCREDIBLE.  The organization process was virtually seamless; so much so that it seemed like nothing had to be done!  It just all managed to get taken care of, and I wasn’t required to do much at all beyond the big decisions.  And I truly think their fees were extremely reasonable given the amount of work they put in on the actual day.  Wow.  They didn’t stop until the last guest left.  Aimee, Jaime, Anahi… you turned my wedding vision into a reality, and I can’t thank you enough!  I had planned on having a simple wedding, but what I ended up with just blew me away.  I couldn't have chosen better.  Thanks again, ladies – you outdid yourselves and we noticed!

 

On a final note, I would just like to say that when Googling reviews on Tropical Occasions, the first website to come was this article.  I personally freaked out a little when I read it, as I happened to find it after I made the decision to hire them.  Eek!  As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about (phew!).  I’d actually like to address of few of the points mentioned:

 

1) I was married at the very end of the high season, and Tropical Occasions still had plenty of time for me.  Keep in mind that they likely have a lot of clients.  We had our scheduled calls (3 in all, I think) and that got the bulk of the planning done.  When I had a question, I would shoot them an email.  They certainly didn’t call me right back in an hour (usually not the same day), but they always emailed a response.  Be patient; trust that things are getting done.

 

2) They certainly did not push the most expensive vendors.  In fact, I had a really small budget, and not only did they recommend a reasonably priced photographer (who was FANTASTIC, FYI – Mike Blum based in San José ), but they went out of their way to come with ways to stretch my budget (e.g. take the flowers from my bouquets and use those in my table arrangements once I’m done with the ceremony!).  I will say this; if you are trying to do a cheap destination wedding, Costa Rica is not the location for you...and this has nothing to do with Tropical Occasions.  It’s pretty much like having your wedding in Canada – there are no deals, and rates are inflated because they know you’ll pay.  If you want cheap, do an all-inclusive resort in Mexico (where you’ll get a free room, and a wedding for $1500 all in!).  But if you want to have a wedding your way on a beach somewhere, then Costa Rica is a great choice.

 

3) I thought Tropical Occasion’s fees were pretty reasonable.  At first I had my doubts, because everything is done by phone, and you know that they already have these contacts so it doesn’t feel like they have much to do.  That being said, when it comes to the actual day, both Anahi and Jaime were on-site first thing in the morning (right on time) and they didn’t stop until 12AM that night.  They certainly earned their fees for my wedding.

 

4) They provided me with a schedule before I even got to Costa Rica and they followed it to the letter. We didn’t have to think about a thing – they thought of all of it for us, and then just pointed us in the right direction when the time came.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

 

Hopefully, this review will help you make your decision to go ahead and hire Tropical Occasions and have a wedding you’ll never forget in beautiful Costa Rica.  Pura vida!



#20 caywedding

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Posted 16 November 2013 - 10:31 AM

Hi,

 

I'm getting married in MA in March at Punto de Vista. I'm not using TO (thank you!) but I was wondering...

 

Who did you use for catering for $37? 

 

Did you have a hair/makeup stylist?

 

Thank you!

Christine






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