Here is a list of things that are good know know during the whole booking/planning process
-Your first WC will be based out of Miami. You won't be working with the onsite coordinators until you arrive in Mexico.
-More than likely you will have your meeting with the on site coordinators the morning after you arrive. I tried to schedule this time in advance as we were trying to arrange an excursion, but was not able to.
-If you bring your own decorations there is a set up fee which is $5 pp. I have read most brides have been charged $250 regardless amount of ppl. I'm going to bring my contract from the resort that says $5 pp so I won't be over charged.
-You are not able to meet with the ministers ahead of time. We were not so keen on this. However, my WC provided me a few different packets of wording the minister could use and we picked our favorite and made a few adjustments.
-If you get the Always and Forever wedding package you will be provided 2 full menu options for your breakfast in bed and you pick one ahead of time. This will be added to your wedding detail page. They are very accommodating if you need to make changes with the menu.
-For the candlelit dinner in the Always and Forever package, you will be provided 2 separate set menus and you choose 1. I had a friend go to this resort and do the candlelit dinner and she said it was very romantic and enjoyed it very much.
-The cost for the 2 for 1 Sky Massage is $123. A bride highly recommended that we do this. She said it was absolutely amazing!
-We booked DJ All Music through the resort. We were provided a sheet to fill out which includes: bridal party introductions, bride and groom introduction, song for first dance, father and daughter, mother and son, cake cutting, garter toss, song choices during dinner, song choices for the reception, etc. This has to be sent back to your WC 45 days before wedding. You could also have the DJ choose all the music, but we liked being able to pick a lot of the songs.
-There is an $800 vendor fee for any vendors you use outside the approved ones by the resort. I tried getting the resort to work with us on this one and it was a no go. There are 2 approved photographers for Azul Sensatori. I fell in LOVE with Sarani (who is not one of the 2) and really wanted to use them, but the vendor fee was steep. Talk to your photographer and see if they'd be willing to work with you. Based off the package we chose Sarani was willing to adjust the price of our package to even things out better. She has been so unbelievably responsive to emails and so far we have been thrilled with her level of professionalism, ability to work with us on our requests, and most importantly how quickly she will get back to us.
-If you bring your photographer and they stay at the resort as a 'guest' you won't be required to pay vendor fee.
-You can request a rehearsal for your wedding once you have your meeting with the on site WC. I again tried to plan this in advance (bc I'm 'the planner' in the relationship) but was told we had to wait until we were there.
-I had friends who had been to resort tell me they stayed on the 'family friendly' side to make the trip more cost effective and she said it was wonderful and no issues being on 'family side' and not adult side.
-If you are trying to decide on a resort and looking into budgeting, the website for Azul Sensatori that has all their decorations, flowers, photographers, etc. is weddingsbylomastravel.com
-Have fun. Yes, there are lots of decisions to be made and even more questions to ask...but it's your wedding. Enjoy the experience
I'm sure I'm forgetting to add some good tidbits in here, so feel free to ask any questions you may have.
It's been awhile since I posted a blog so I thought I would give an update.
My fiancé and I decided that we were going to do the 'legal' wedding in Texas and have the symbolic wedding in Mexico. We found a gorgeous chapel in the Texas Hill Country to have our outdoor ceremony at. I wore a short white lace dress with blue Kendra Scott earrings and cowboy boots here is a link to the chapel we got married at http://chapeldulcinea.org
We got married on June 16, 2014 and it was perfect.
We have paid our final payment for our photographer and for the resort. As it got closer to our due date our WC was very responsive. I've still thought of questions and she will respond the same or next day. I truly think they are very overwhelmed and put the most focus on the brides' dates that are quickly approaching. Be patient as it will all come together.
We have finalized all our decorations and I'm so happy with every decision.
We bought maracas to put on each guests' table setting at the rehearsal dinner. We bought them at amols.com
We purchased pink, mint and white paper lanterns in different sizes to go in the gazeebo at the reception from http://paperlanternstore.com/
We found a variety of decorations for the reception tables at Michaels. I had a 50% off your entire purchase coupon and got everything for a great price.
I bought sheers for the ceremony gazebo at http://www.tableclothsfactory.com/ We purchased two 40 yard bolts of fabric for $63.
Finding icicle Christmas lights in the middle of the summer wasn't easy. We ended up ordering ours from http://www.christmaslightsetc.com
The best part was booking our honeymoon. We are going to be in Mexico from Thr-Wed (getting married on Sunday). We are only going to stay 2 extra days after our wedding as we booked a 2 week honeymoon to THAILAND!!! I'm a traveler at heart and so excited to honeymoon in such an exotic country.
I know I've said this in previous posts, but try and not let the small details stress you out. I had some personal things occur related to the wedding and I allowed it to stress me out.....AND....I got shingles 3 weeks before our wedding. I can laugh about it now, but it wasn't fun and Iooked horrible. This is brought on by stress. Not saying this would happen to you, but stressing is not worth it as everything will work out in the end. I can promise you that, as I'm 11 days out and counting, and it's all come together perfectly and I couldn't be happier.
Scott and I got engaged on January 11, 2014. He made my heart melt with what he wrote for our wedding website...
"Since the day I met Casey I just knew she was the one. You know how people say, “there is just something about her that I can’t explain”…well that was not the case. Being around her was so comfortable that we immediately became best friends. I was over the moon for this beautiful, sweet, kind, amazing woman. As we got to know each other I realized I found the person I was meant to be with, a partner for life, the mother of my children and my best friend.
When I am with Casey I feel there is nothing I cannot accomplish. We support each other in every way through trust and encouragement. As a couple we are adventurous, passionate and playful. We bring out the best in one another and I find myself laughing more since she has been a part of my life. We both strive to sustain a healthy, loving, emotional and physical relationship.
I loved this girl and I knew I was going to ask her to marry me. The only question was how.
I wanted to make the proposal romantic, creative and something that we would never forget. I confided in a few of her friends to help me pull everything off. Casey and I both enjoy drinking wine and had spent some time on wine tours and it was a very romantic setting. I decided that I was going to plan the proposal at one of our favorite vineyards. I called the vineyard ahead of time and let them know that I was going to propose. I contacted the band that was scheduled to play that day and they agreed to learn our song. I then called a company and had custom t-shirts made that spelled out “will you marry” and then one with just “me?” on it. Her friends then suggested a relaxing day at the vineyard for some wine tasting and the plan was in motion.
The day of the proposal we arrived at the vineyard and began to enjoy our day. We eventually made our way outside to listen to the band and enjoy the weather. We found a place by the band to sit and I nodded to the band as that was their queue to start playing our song. The people wearing the shirts started making their way out of the building. Casey was so into the song that she didn’t even notice them. As the song ended, I had her turn around to face me. Everyone in the shirts was lined up behind me. She saw the line of people that spelled out “WILL YOU MARRY” and then I ripped my shirt open and it said “ME?” I dropped to one knee and asked her to marry me. With tears in her eyes and her hands shaking, she said yes! "
I was fortunate enough to actually get a video of the engagement. Here is the link to the video.
We both knew that we wanted a destination wedding. We would be having family traveling from Dallas, Austin, Maryland, England, New Zealand and thought that bringing everyone together in Mexico to celebrate would be the perfect scenario. And so the planning began.....
This was by far the most stressful and confusing part for me. I had a ring on my finger and thought finding the perfect place to get married would be simple. WRONG. We wanted to get married this summer and with it already being January I feared that dates would be already booked or booking up fast. We also knew that we would be working with hurricane season and couldn't put the wedding off till Sept.
Initially we were trying to decide between Cabo and Riviera Maya. I quickly learned that there is not as many all inclusive resorts in Cabo (which was one of our 'musts') so we knew Riviera Maya would be our destination. I spent countless hours researching the different resorts. We had a budget and anticipated that 40 - 50 guests would be attending so that I could budget according to each resort. I made a binder and printed the wedding info, pricing, pics, etc from the resorts I liked. On the tab for each resort I then did a break down on cost. There were a few resorts that I was able to automatically nix due to cost. I was then looking at photos of a resort online that guests had posted and that's when I really started getting worried. Obviously the hotel websites post their most glamorous photos of the wedding and don't show you the not so glamorous parts. This was our wedding day and not only did I obsess at first how perfect I wanted it but I also wanted our guests to have an amazing time as they would be taking the long trek to Mexico to be with us. I started reading tons of reviews and was able to narrow things down to 4 resorts. I still was having trouble picking a place for our wedding that I had never seen before. That is the moment that I found DestinationWeddings.com. My fiancé could see how stressful this was for me and while we had discussed getting a travel agent, we didn't know there was wedding specific ones. Scott signed us up on the website and the next day I heard from Penny.
Penny was a life saver. She was so knowledgeable about the Riviera Maya and had been to almost every hotel there. She even had her own personal photos that she shared with me. She gave me open and honest pros and cons with each resort. I finally felt like I had a way to figure this out without going crazy reading everything online for hours. Penny recommended a few resorts and they were actually some that were my top. Seeing her personal photos really helped. Both Scott and I are foodies and so we were able to narrow things down to a Karisma resort. I really loved the wedding set ups at the Azul Sensatori and the Plaza Zavas for the reception. The one downfall (or so I thought) was the beach. Penny explained to me while the resort and location is beautiful you can't necessarily jump in the water right infront of the hotel due to the coral. I am a HUGE beach person and while she explained that if you go to the left a little there is a gorgeous beach to go swimming at, I was still a little bummed. That is until I saw an old friend's wedding pics on fb. She had gotten married at a resort that we were considering which had a gorgeous beach. So gorgeous though that during her wedding ceremony everyone was in the beach and in her photos. Even during her vows you could see a man behind them in his speedo! Right then I realized while I love getting in the water I can walk down a little and for my wedding avoid all the bystanders in their itsy bitsy swimwear.
I then had a friend that had actually been to a wedding a few month earlier at the Azul Sendatori and I called her. She raved about the rooms, the service, the pools, and the food! She even took pics of her food bc she said it not only tasted amazing, but the presentation was beautiful. I asked her about the beach and she admitted that everyone was having such a blast at the pools that they never made it down to the beach. She explained that her and her husband would def be going back to a Karisma resort.
That's when we decided that Azul Sensatori was our location!
Working with Penny at Destination Weddings we learned that there are numerous advantages to booking. Not only would we be receiving perks through out TA, but the hotel as well. My advice to all brides is to research what perks are available to you! Some TA companies can offer more than others. The perks that we are getting have dramatically decreased the cost of our entire wedding. Here are aome examples of the perks that we are getting.
1. Our wedding package is called the Always and Forever and it's $950. If someone in our group stays 7 nights in a certain category room then that package is free. My parents are staying for 7 nights so $950 removed from our cost right away. This package includes our ceremony and set up, flowers and champagne in our room when we arrive, 2 for 1 sky massage, free candlelit dinner on the beach for the FI and I, breakfast in bed the morning after, and a few other things.
2. In our Always and Forever package it also includes a free group dinner for 40 ppl at the Spoon restaurant. It's $25 extra pp over 40. We are using this for our rehearsal dinner.
3. 20% of all food and beverage for private events. We decided on steak and lobster for our reception dinner. This is a 3 course meal with an open bar for 4 hours. Originally $26pp but with 20% off pp it comes to $20.8 pp. I could never have a wedding in Austin with steak and lobster for that cost!
4. For every 10 rooms booked we get the 11th 'free'. What I mean by free is after the wedding we receive a check for the cost of a room for 3 nights minus taxes.
5. Every room booked will receive a $250 resort credit. This is broken down into 5 $50 credits that can be used towards different things. Ex. Spa services or if the guest want to do a private candlelit dinner on the beach.
5. We did a webinar for Karisma resorts before officially booking our wedding and received a free room upgrade. Long story short we have since been upgraded to the honeymoon suite! Heck ya!!
6. Our most favorite perk.....a FREE catamaran rental for 4 hours for up to 40 people. I can not explain how happy I am about this one. To make it free we had to have so many rooms booked, but it wasn't many. The catamaran takes you snorkeling and provides the equipment. This perk also comes with a food and beverage credit. You can do just appetizers or have the boat take you to the beach for a full lunch. You can also use the credit for a bar on boat. Right now we are at an $800 food and bev credit but once we get one more room booked it will go up to $1200.
Rule of thumb: Research your perks and take advantage of them!
Date of engagement: 1/11/14
Date wedding confirmed: 2/14/14
Date of wedding: 7/27/14
Planning a wedding in less than 6 months! This is how I did it...
I am a planner by nature. I plan out my work week of appointments (I travel frequently for work). I plan out my meals the best I can. I plan. No, I'm not overly anal nor am I obsessively structured. I just like to feel as though I know what to expect.
Room block: We started with 15 rooms in our contract. I anticipated that at least 15 ppl would book within the 30 day timeframe we had. Initially, I stressed over whether we would get all 15 booked in time, who hadn't booked, etc. Big piece of advice to brides: DONT STRESS OVER THIS. NOT everyone will book in time, some people may say they are going to book and still have yet to book, and in some cases you might have quite a few rooms left to fill in your block. DO NOT let this ruin your excitement for a destination wedding and warp you into the dreadful bridezilla. It is not worth the anxiety or stress. It will all come together and work out. I finally got to a point where my mind frame was "My fiancé and I are booked. I know our friends and family love us and if they can make it great, but if they can't that's ok too and we will think of them". For us, it all came together....currently 19 rooms booked through our contract, 2 rooms booked outside of our contract (they are coming from Europe and cheaper through their agent), and a total of 44 people. We still have some friends/family saying they are going to come but haven't booked yet and that is ok. We aren't going to stress about it and you shouldn't either. Remember this is your wedding and it's about you and your FI.
The Dress: I learned rather fast that dresses take quite some time to come in. I was being quoted 3-6 months depending on store and designer. I began shopping for a dress the end of January and had bought my dress by the first week in Feb. I originally found my dress at a store in Dallas but called a store in Austin that I previously visited to see if they had the same dress and could offer me a better price. They carried the same designer/dress, priced it for almost $200 cheaper, and offered me tax free. DRESS BOUGHT! I lucked out that they actually had my dress in stock and it would arrive mid March.
Here is a link to my dress: http://www.allurebridals.com/products/2709
I was then looking for a beaded belt for my dress. I thought they were kinda pricey but it made my look for the dress. There are tons of these on Etsy.com that look beautiful. However, I'm a visual person and want to see it in person before I purchase it. I went to Terry Costa in Dallas and fell in love with a belt there. Lesson learned, if you want to purchase one of these most stores order them and it can take a few months to come in. Belle Saison in Austin told me 3 months for one of theirs I liked. I didn't have that kind of time. Terry Costa sold me the sample belt. It looked brand new except 2 beads were loose. They had someone fix it and had it ready within the hour and also gave us 25% off saving me $70.
Advice: If you're on a time crunch, don't stress about this. So many stores will let you buy the dress off the rack if you're in a time crunch...and for a discounted price. I understand some people may want a brand new dress and not the sample, so call around and see if anyone can get your dress in sooner.
Off Site WC: Until we arrive in Mexico we will be working with an off site wedding coordinator from Miami. First thought "Oh, Miami is in the US, this means communication should be much easier than going through ppl in Mexico" How silly of me. You will read post after post of brides frustrations with communicating with their WC. They aren't lying. I initially had a different WC but have since changed over to Christine who has been much more helpful. I found at times that I stressed that my WC was taking not a day or so to respond, but at times 2 weeks. Seemed a little excessive to me. This bothered me because I was trying to budget, but had so many questions about pricing certain things. Since my initial questions have been answered and I've been able to create my own budget, the time they take to get back to me doesn't bother me as much. Each time we make decisions or changes my WC adds them to our detail sheet and I'm able to confirm that everything we had requested is correct. I have made a few special request and Christine has been very accommodating with them. She is consistently polite and apologetic for the time it takes her to respond. What I like the most about Christine is that I will ask 1,001 questions in an email and she will respond to every question and not leave questions out. Advice: It will take time for your WC to respond to your questions, but it does all come together. If you have a question you need an immediate answer to, call them. They will answer