I canâ€™t believe the day has finally come for me to write this review! Our wedding was on August 10th, 2009, and we stayed in Punta Cana from August 4th to August 18th. We stayed at the Occidental Grand from August 4th to August 8th (as some guests were staying there) and then went on to Paradisus from August 8th to August 18th.
Most of our guests stayed about 10 days in total whereas the rest stayed for a week. The guests who stayed for a week felt that they needed a few days more! We had 19 guests altogether, half staying in Paradisus and about half in Occidental Grand.
Flights: We flew both US Airways and American Airlines and both accommodated my wedding dress. I was able to have my dress, one carry on and my â€œpurseâ€ aka rather large beach bag on the plane with me at no extra charge. We had two suitcases which surprisingly weighed under 50 lbs so I wasnâ€™t charged. On American Airlines I got to hang my dress in the closet, and on US Airways I placed it in the overhead compartment. My dress was so big that nothing else could fit in the overhead, so it wasnâ€™t squished by other bags. Paradisus has no steaming service available but luckily I didnâ€™t need it for my dress. I took it out of the bag the day before and hung it and all the wrinkles straightened outâ€¦
Occidental Grande Resort: C+
To be honest, we werenâ€™t planning to stay here, but decided to as half of our guests couldnâ€™t afford Paradisus and we wanted to spend some time with them since we would have to pay for a $75 day pass to see them if we stayed at Paradisus the entire time.
Occidental is definitely a party resort. Lots of rowdy teens and people in their early 20â€™s were staying here. Itâ€™s definitely fun as their night club is open til 6am but after a day or two of constant bass booming from the hotel at all hours of the DAY and night, it got tiring quickly. The guests that were staying here were my younger cousins and friends in their 20s so they really enjoyed the place as itâ€™s really cheap to stay there and itâ€™s still all inclusive. As well, there is free horseback riding at this resort, which we went on as a group and it was awesome. However, every single guest had something in their room that didnâ€™t work (A/C, electricity, leaking ceiling, phone broken, no room cleaning for days, no bedsheets, no pillows, etc) so I definitely would warn people not to get married at Occidental based on my experience and my guestsâ€™ experience. Itâ€™s a great place if youâ€™re looking to dance and drink all day everyday, but itâ€™s totally not appropriate for a wedding..
Occidental Spa: B+
Since the wedding party was at this hotel I paid for their mani/pedi combos at this spa. It was a really good deal! It was normally $45 USD for a mani/pedi but since I was paying for 7 of them, I got the mani/pedi for $28 USD a person, which was awesome for me as thatâ€™s what I pay for just a mani at home. The reason why I didnâ€™t give this place an A is because the Spa manager was a total b*tch to the people who came for their nails and the polish chipped off pretty quickly even though it was OPI. But at the same time, you get what you pay for so Iâ€™m not gonna complain.
Occidental Parasailing: A+
Totally worth doing, but keep in mind you have to haggle for pretty much every excursion you do (actually you have to haggle for everything in the DR). They started off charging $90 per person, but after bargaining with them we paid $22 per person. Lots of fun, especially with a big group, but if you tend to get sea sick take some gravol before you go, as the boat that starts the parasailing is super choppy!
Paradisus Punta Cana Resort: A+
The resort itself is absolutely beautiful and HUGE! We stayed there 10 days and I donâ€™t think we managed to see all of it!
Teresa (Paradisus Wedding coordinator): A+
Teresa is AMAZING. She is wonderful at wedding planning and gave me great advice the whole way through, as to what extras to pay for, what food to choose for the reception, etc. She really made sure that everything was how I wanted, and made sure to email Inoska immediately when there were wedding cost discrepancies between what I expected to pay and what I was charged (see below under Inoska).
Inoska (Paradisus Wedding planner): A
Inoska was very helpful during the wedding and took great care to make sure that everything was done how I wanted. She did all the ceremony and reception dÃ©cor for me and even decorated the carriage as well. She helped to direct the wedding party where to stand and when to walk during the ceremony as well. She is a very sweet person. The only reason I didnâ€™t give her an A+ is that she did try to overcharge me by about $350, and I needed Teresa to email her to request the charge to be dropped. As well, the staff who took care of the reception were pretty bad and I did not feel like Inoska advocated on our behalf during the reception to make sure the service was better (see below under reception staff).
Rehearsal/Welcome Dinner: A
We had the dinner at La Terra Steakhouse Restaurant, which is one of the reservation only ones. The food was great, and so was the service. The only reason why it didnâ€™t get an A+ was that everyone ended up with someone elseâ€™s steak (the person who asked for their steak well done was given a medium rare, someone who asked for a sirloin was given a medallion cut, etc) but after some major switching around, everything was alright
Wedding (Chill and Chic package) Ceremony : A+
I really could not have asked for a better day. The sun was shining, the beach looked beautiful and it wasnâ€™t crowded so it made for a perfect beach wedding ceremony. We had the ceremony at 3pm which is HOT but I donâ€™t really feel the heat that much (even in a 10 lb wedding dress) and the heat doesnâ€™t really bother my guests, so we kept it to that time, even though Inoska was very worried someone would get heatstroke! I chose 3pm because it had the least chance of rain at that time, and as we were getting married during the rainy season I didnâ€™t want to take any chances. I didnâ€™t want to come all the way to the DR just to get married in the lobby (as beautiful as the lobby location is)!
Horse and Carriage: A+
I opted to have a horse and carriage pick me up and take me to the ceremony, and Iâ€™m so glad I did! It was a total fairytale experience, and it was a wonderful way to start the ceremony. The guests loved it too, as everyone had a mini photoshoot with sitting in the carriage after the ceremony!
Dominican Trio: A+
Even in the crazy heat, this band was decked out in dress pants and ties. Their music was absolutely beautiful and they played well past the 1 hour I paid for. I think they played for 2.5 hours and I never got charged for overtime so that was great! I never heard any of their music before the ceremony so I was a bit nervous, but the music was lovely and all the guests thought they played amazingly well.
Beach/Wedding Gazebo Cocktail Hour: A+
The cocktail furniture and food/bar setup was really nicely done. The tapas were soo tasty! I picked the mini tacos, quesadillas, and something else.. But I think whatever you choose will taste super yummy either way! We didnâ€™t get to stick around for much of the cocktail as we had to take our photos on the beach, but all the guests were pleased with the choice of drinks and snacks, and all of them stayed until the end despite the intense heat.
Wedding Reception at Convention Terrace: B
The area was beautiful however there is absolutely NO breeze or A/C so even at 8pm the guests had a hard time eating in the heat. I wish Inoska would have warned me about this as I did ask her opinion on whether it would be too hot at night, because I would have moved my reception to either the beach (strong breeze) or a ballroom so my guests could have been more comfortable.
Wedding Reception Staff: D
This was really the only but major sour point of the evening. The staff that happened to work during our reception dinner were pretty awful. The waiters pour everyone one glass of wine and one glass of water and then disappeared into a back room for the majority of the night. For most of the dinner, my guests had to go searching for a waiter to have some more water to drink (as the reception area was so hot) and even when they asked for a glass it never came. As well, we were told that even though we were having a buffet dinner, we were still going to have staff cut up the meat and serve it on our plates as we walked down the buffet line. There were staff present, however none of the meat was cut (there was an entire cooked pig as one of the dishes and none of the guests knew how to cut it up) but when someone asked for help to cut up the meat, the staff refused! They said no and walked away! In the end, no one ate the pork (whole pig) meal since no one knew how to cut the meat up.. What a waste. As well, no one was there to serve the wedding cake. After we cut the cake, my husband and I had to serve the cake ourselves like staff members instead of enjoying the evening, until one guest complained and then finally a staff member stepped in. I also asked the staff if we could have the dancing portion of the evening in the air conditioned room that was next door to the terrace. The roomâ€™s door was open and no one was in it, so I didnâ€™t see the big deal. However, when Inoska called her manager to make sure it was okay, it took them TWO HOURS to decide whether or not we could use the spare room. By the time they told Inoska we could use it, there was only 25 minutes of dancing left.. As well, I was told that we could have a dancing reception until 11:30 pm but the music had to be cut off around 10:30 (at first Inoska told me 10pm but finally let it go an extra half hour after a lot of back and forth between us). In the end, I was pretty upset because my husband and I spent the majority of our reception running around after staff members to get them to do their job that we paid them to do, or we were standing around waiting for managers to get back to us to see if we could dance in a tiny little spare roomâ€¦
Ipod Stereo rental: A+
I was worried that the stereo equipment may not have been loud enough for dancing, but it was just like the quality that you would have in a nightclub. It was also pretty easy to use, and there was a guy to help us in case we needed help with the equipment, which was a pleasant surprise!
Photographer: Huellas Del Caribe (HDC) by Arnaud Brichet: A++++++++
Arnaud was an absolutely wonderful photographer! He showed up early and his friendly personality and professionalism really put me at ease. Not to mention, all the female guests at the wedding were totally swooning over him (tall, dark and handsome! ). I can be a bit camera shy but Arnaud really helped us with all the beach shots and I felt really comfortable. As for the photos, I am ABSOLUTELY THRILLED with the results! I couldnâ€™t have dreamed of better pictures, especially at such a reasonable price. I TOTALLY RECOMMEND HIM!!!
Some beach shots:
Florist Bittersweet Wedding Designs (Crystal): Rating pending
I havenâ€™t yet completed my dealings with this florist, as you may know what had happened in my previous threads (see â€œvery upset with Bittersweet wedding designsâ€ thread for details), but I will post a review as soon as everything has been resolved.
All in all, I had a wonderful wedding, despite the little problems along the way.. Iâ€™m very happy I chose Paradisus Punta Cana for my wedding, and all my guests had a total blast in the DR. Canâ€™t really ask for more than that!
P.S. Sorry if there are major spelling/grammar mistakes in this review! It was so long that I didnâ€™t have time to proofread.. Hope the pics show up!