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About amberdgraham

  1. Quote: Originally Posted by adurrell Amber, You must be so excited to be married. I can't wait to get married at Excellence. I've been dreaming of the day ever since we met. Did you have to bring all the decorations down with you or did they provide some like the chair decorations, flowers for the ceremony, etc.? Congratulations! You were a beautiful bride! Adurrell! Thank you, getting into the carriage at the Excellence was a little surreal, because I'd been dreaming about it for so long, and the reality was just a amazing! We brought down the chair ribbons (on a spool) because we had a different color, but they do also have a few options available that you don't need to bring with you (I think there are blue and/or red chair tie options, but check with your WC). They provided very nice flowers on our gazebo, and our package included a centerpiece for the altar/table. Everything else we brought with us!
  2. Oh yeah, and in the slideshow, if you click on individual pictures or view one at a time you can see those that Francois took, he's credited in each. Most of the sepia tone/desaturated ones are his, as well as those with shading around the edges, ceremony only.
  3. Hello everyone! I'm so sorry this has taken me so long to post, I have my at home reception next weekend and then will finally be through the entire wedding process. I'm going to try and get what I can into my review here, but if you have ANY questions please feel free to message or email me at amberdgraham at yahoo.com Pictures are at the bottom, since we all know that's what you're really looking for. The review might be helpful too though! First of all - My wedding at the Excellence was the day of my dreams. I couldn't have asked for a better experience, even with some of the minor issues we had. I also fell in love with the staff, our wedding coordinator, and everyone at the resort, for they made both ours and our guests stays incredible. I'll try to be critical when I can, and offer tips, but the truth is that anyone getting married there really doesn't need to worry. SO STOP WORRYING (I totally worried until I got down there, and didn't need to) Preparations - I am that crazy bride who had a "look" planned for her wedding, and brought everything down. I had four candle centerpieces, two rolls of teal ribbon for chair bows, place cards, menu cards, table runners and fan programs. It all went in our suitcases and arrive safely. We also did Welcome Beach bags for our guests, and I have pictures if anyone's interested. They included things like lotion, sunblock, aloe (praised most highly), games, beach towels, etc. I'm happy to provide the whole list if anyone is looking for ideas. All of this was also schlepped down in suitcases. We didn't end up having to pay any extra fees for baggage because of when we booked out tickets, but it was a great way to get things there. PLANNING MEETING - We arrived on Sunday and Monday morning met with our coordinator. As some of you may know Ana was very ill in June and out of work. That said, I was freaking out a bit by having a stranger help with my wedding plans. Mercy did a 45 minute planning interview with us and then walked us around the resort to consider locations. She managed to get everything down in that 45 minutes and put together an amazing wedding. I do recommend if you have particular ideas about how you want things to look, cake, your flowers, etc, BRING COPIES WITH YOU to give to your coordinator, it makes their job a lot easier. Tuesday and Wednesday were family arrival days, and we created our own rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon. Basically everyone just showed up and we did a quick run through, and then Mercy managed to get us a reservation for 18 people at Spice for a rehearsal dinner. Mercy was available throughout the two days leading up to the wedding for questions, and also to make sure that she was getting everything she needed from us. SPA - Day of the ceremony I made appointments for several ladies in my wedding party and purchased hydrotherapy day-passes for the rest of the women with us. We pretty much had the hydrotherapy area to ourselves, and had a great time in the hot tub/cold plunge pools. I also had a french manicure and pedicure which came out amazing, and the woman who did my hair and makeup (I brought my own) was also fantastic. We got dressed at the spa and then did some pictures around the resort before hanging out in the wedding coordinator office until showtime. FLOWERS - I had brought down pictures of what I wanted my flowers to look like (Orange lillies and roses), and Mercy and the florist came through in spades. My bouquet was amazing, and those for the bridesmaids were great (just orange roses). It is a good idea to confirm flowers with your WC in advance, just because some things they can't get there. CARRIAGE - The carriage was so much fun, and picked me up at the resort lobby before driving through the resort to the beach. We had a not-so-small issue of the power going out to at least half of the resort just before the ceremony started, so there was no music! However, as we got to the beach, they either got the power back on or ran an extension cord from somewhere so we had power. (This actually happened several times throughout our stay, our theory is because it was really hot and the air conditioners overloaded the power supply). CEREMONY - We did a symbolic ceremony with an attorney, but it was the same ceremony you would have for a legal proceeding. Most of our family was unaware that we took care of the legal paperwork in the States before traveling, and took our wedding in DR as our formal legal wedding (which is a personal choice myself and my husband made). The ceremony was read in Spanish by the attorney, and then translated by our wedding coordinator. I may be able to get it up online if anyone wants to see it, I have to learn to use youTube first. We included three readings, and our own vows, and everything came together just fine. Other than the issues with the power, the sound system for ceremony music was great, loud enough to be heard over the surf, and in general everything was perfect! PHOTOGRAPHY - We actually brought our own photographer down with us (friend from college), but as part of the Silver Package we also received 24 5x7 photographs. Francois was incredible, we checked with him in advance (he actually knew me from this forum!) to make sure there wouldn't be tension between two photographers, and he worked really well with our friend. They managed to get two different angles on the ceremony and he is such an artist. If you don't have the option of bringing someone with you, he's worth every penny, and you will have amazing memories of your day. COCKTAIL HOUR - Our ceremony was at 5pm, which gave us time immediately following for family pictures. We had the cocktail hour at 6pm right on the beach nearby, so our family and friends could snack while we took our couples photographs. While I didn't have the chance to sample the food, our guests were so impressed that they ate a ton at the cocktail hour and were full by dinner time. As part of the silver package we had the Chips and Salsa, Fried Cheese with chipotle and parsley oil, and the Beef Salad in Tomato cups, as well as Beef Flautas, Chicken Tamales, and Chalupitas Poblanas. The cocktail hour was set up right by the beach bar and our guests had full access to that (pretty much exclusively). RECEPTION - Then we all headed to the reception at the Cascade Pool (straight shot through two buildings to get there) at 7pm. We had asked for our wedding cake to be set up there (versus on the beach), and had provided ribbon for decorating it. The end result was a pretty plain looking wedding cake, so my sister actually went around the resort picking flowers from the trees like white hibiscius little orange flowers, and quickly dressed it up a little. It was at a table right near our head table and a beautiful centerpiece on it's own. I had given Mercy a basic floorplan for seating (written on the back of a confirmation page from my binder), and all of the items for the tables and everything was set up perfectly. They also moved the chair bows from the beach over to the reception area. Perfect! The cake also tasted GREAT, very fluffy with airy frosting. Final notes - Feel free to ask your coordinator questions in advance, and know what you want to control (like me and my centerpieces). Everything else, let it go until you get there, the entire staff bends over backwards to make your day special. Also check on the legal requirements, we actually didn't have to prove our US marriage in order to have our ceremony. The only thing we need our marriage license for was to get the honeymoon package through the resort (which had nothing to do with the wedding). Check on it for sure, but I was told by Ana back in May that we could be married there in the symbolic ceremony and then get married after returning to the States if we wanted to. OH YEAH - the part you've been waiting for. Here's the link to my photo slideshow!! http://amberandsethswedding.shutterfly.com/ (if anyone has problems with it let me know and I'll email you a link). We had selected the Third Silver Menu of: Mixed greens with oakleaf, carrot ribbons, hearts of palm, tomato, mandarin and grapefruit segments, served with a orange passion fruit dressing; (swapped in the) Cilantro avocado soup with panela cheese, (swapped in) Pineapple ginger sorbet, Grilled fillet of beef tenderloin glazed with roasted pumpkin seed sauce and Serrano cilantro butter on papaya mango relish served with horseradish infused mashed potato and fresh seasonal vegetables; Chocolate agavero cake on peach and cassis sauces. Let me tell you. This was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. I've eaten a lot of places, from high end to fast food, on multiple continents. The food in general at the Excellence was great, but our wedding meal was purely outstanding. We have several picky guests, who loved the meal so much they continued to ask which restaurant it came from so they could have it again. My only complaints were that the avocado soup was a cold soup (didn't know that), and that the sorbet was melty by the time it came out. The dessert was so amazing we barely had any wedding cake, so unless you want that tradition you do not NEED a wedding cake. I'm a big fan of chocolate anyway. Presentation of the entire meal was very high end, there are several pictures in the online slideshow, but I can also send if you're interested. Be aware that if you are having an evening wedding, your WC may get off her day schedule and leave you with a different staff member. We had a head waiter oversee our reception and Santo was so incredible we gave him a huge tip to spread among the other waiters. We had exclusive access to the bar by the Cascade Pool, and since the pools all close at 6pm there wasn't anyone else there. We did actually break all of the rules, as throughout the reception guests would sneak away to get their swim suits and we all ended up in the pool. The sound system at the pool was also great, and they had a light we could turn on for speeches and dances and such. All of the waiters/attendants were incredibly helpful, I think we probably had four people on staff for the 18 of us, plus the bartender. Reception ended up closing down around 10pm, which was a perfect amount of time. ONE NOTE: If you want fast dinner service, let your coordinator or head waiter know. We kept wondering why food wasn't being served and it was because we were up moving around instead of staying at our tables. Just let them know to bring it out as guests seems to be finishing up their courses, and not to wait for you to sit down IT WAS THE MOST AMAZING DAY OF MY LIFE. I"m sure I missed things here, so ask questions if you have them, and enjoy the pictures!
  4. As I started going through the 7 PAGES of this thread, I thought it would be good to have a list of who's going when, etc. There are a lot of July Brides!!! 2009 June 10 ecox125 (Erin) July 2 Amberdgraham (Amber) July 5 gracie1178 (Scarlett) July 12 Dolcenotte12 (Michelle) July 31 showe August Chulze September 9 BlakleyBrideToBe (Lori) November 27 Boston Bride 2009 (Debbie) 2010 April 23 nbulldog19 (Nicole) May 15 - BlushingBride 2011 April 23 adurrell (Alicia) Congratulations everyone!!! I've got 50 days to go!
  5. Quote: Originally Posted by Boudou33 Hi girls, I'm new here and I'm planning on getting married in february 2010 and I'm hesitating for the resort, but Excellence seems perfect. I sent email to them twice since a week but never got a response. You seem to work a lot with Ana, does anybody have her email address? I would like to get some informations about the packages for 2010. If they could take off 850$ from the package (because we think we will book at least 7 rooms for a week) it would be great! I was looking for Paradisus as well but I think it might be over price for my guests. I was looking for Dreams la Romana also. But Excellence looks fantastic! Thanks Boudou33, In order to get the discount (well the basic package free, or the cost of that taken off your higher level package) you need to have the reservations made and the reservation numbers. However, once that's done they seem pretty flexible. I was able to get the discount while I have four rooms for 8 nights, but then a lot of smaller stays that effectively add up to the same thing! I'm not sure that they have the rates for 2010 yet, as we are just starting the big wedding season for 2009, but they should be out soon.
  6. Quote: Originally Posted by BlakleyBrideToBe Thanks for the info. We are only have 8 people, but we both love the beach scene. So I should go with the beach ceremony. I have about 1000 more questions but I'll post them later. Thanks again Blakley, Also check out the Excellence Brides thread on the board, there are many of us on that list that will get email updates with your questions! http://bestdestinationwedding.com/forum/t39657 Amber
  7. Quote: Originally Posted by BlakleyBrideToBe Amber Would you mind emailing me your pictures. I'm not very creative and need LOTS of help with my wedding. Lori Hey Lori, I've gotten a lot of requests, so I think I may try to upload on here, if I can't figure it out I'll email you. There's also a GREAT thread on the forum if you do a search for "centerpiece." All sorts of brides have posted their ideas, everything from flower arrangements to candles etc. Also, from what I can see, the Excellence does a great job of doing decorating. If you feel you're not creative and don't want to worry about it, you can leave the decorating in their very capable hands, and rely on the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea to set a wonderful and beautiful scene for your wedding.
  8. Quote: Originally Posted by gracie1178 Amber, Michael and I are having a small wedding there....just he and I and a few friends. We will be getting legally married in the US before we leave. We were going to get legally married there, but after sifting through all the paper work and fees, we decided to forgoe the hassle and get hitched here, first. I'd love to see pics of your centerpieces. I doubt we will need them, since we are going to be a small group. Thanks so much for offering...that was really sweet of you. Don't forget, I still want to see the pics. Also, are you guys doing any of the excursions outside of the resort. I think we are going to go ziplining one day and on a safari one day. I've heard from a friend (she goes every year) that you must do the one day safari. I think it is through Bravorunners. Thanks for all of your help!! Scarlett Scarlett, PM me your email addy and I'll send the picture. We're staying through the 8th, so you'd be welcome to use if you want. We only have 18 people coming, so I'm only bringing 4 centerpieces, but I'm happy to share. I'm definitely planning on the catamaran trip out to Sanoa Island, and have thought about taking my girlfriends to the ziplining thing, but I'm not sure how far away it is. Is there a company in particular that you were looking at? Amber
  9. Quote: Originally Posted by gracie1178 Hi Amberdgraham!! I guess I will see you at Excellence!! We are getting married on July 5th. I have also had a hard time getting in contact with Lisbeth. I've emailed her 3 times in the last week, with no response. What is Ana's email address? I'd like to email her and make sure everything is "a go." We were going to do a legal ceremony, but decided to get legally married in the states before we leave....less hassle and less money. Thanks for all of the info. and thanks for starting this thread!! Scarlett Scarlett!! We we definitely see you then, we'll be at the resort from June 28th-July 6th. I know another bride on the site, Nadia and Julian are getting married there on the 3rd as well, but I haven't connected with her in a while. How many people are you having? I'm taking 4 centerpieces for the tables down with me, and would be happy to loan them if you don't have plans for that already. I can send pictures if you're interested. Amber
  10. I've let all of my guests know about the advice of the CDC, and from this point it's up to them. I believe my FH and I will get the medications, because once you get malaria you can have symptoms for life, and to me personally it's just not worth the risk. One bad mosquito bite and you're infected. It absolutely is a decision between a patient and their doctor.
  11. Quote: Originally Posted by haskinl If you have a non-legal ceremony is it not recognized? What's the best way to go? It's entirely up to you. The difference is: 1.) Symbolic Ceremony (non-legal): You get "married" in the US prior to going to the DR, such as at a courthouse, etc. - Pluses: No translation fees, no waiting for your marriage license to come in and then get translated and processed (can take up to 6 months, which can complicate taxes with second half of the year weddings), the ceremony can be in English (performed by a minister). - Minuses: If you tell them, some guests may feel that the wedding in the DR is not your "Real" wedding. Many brides on the forum emphasize that getting the marriage certificate in the US is just paperwork, and they don't do the "You may kiss the bride," dress, party or other frills. 2.) Legal Ceremony: In the DR you have two options, a religiously recognized Catholic Ceremony (by a priest), or a non-denominational legal ceremony (by a judge). The ceremony is performed in Spanish, which may be a plus or minus depending on your guests. - Pluses: The day of your vows in the DR is the official and legal start of your marriage. Your guests witness your legal marriage, and your attendants sign your real marriage license. - Minuses: Cost - Translation fees through WEDO can run between $250-$500. Timing - You need to get your documents to WEDO within a certain timeframe for them to be translated (passport, birth certificates, single status affidavits, divorce decrees if applicable), and then get them back in time to take with you. You also will then have your marriage license issued in the DR in Spanish, and will need to wait up to 6 months to receive it in the mail, then send it to WEDO to have it translated back to English and registered with the US government. It all comes down to what you want. If you're set on having your "I do" moment be "real" then you may want to go the legal route. There are a lot of threads on the message board about "Symbolic or legal?" decisions, and lots of really valid viewpoints.
  12. Quote: Originally Posted by haskinl Hey...i'm continueing my search for the perfact Destination and I've come across Excellence. I see that it both meets the requirments set by my fience and myself. Just tying to get the most for our money...in these time. The resort is beautifull and accomidating. I love the privacy it offers and with no kids. I do have questions though... Do you get o pick your own color? Can an outside photographer be used? Does the resort give discounts to parties of 7rms or more? (Don't have enough pnts to open attachments yet) Thank you - Lonna Lonna, 1. Yes, you can pick your own color, I know Jaslyn had Tiffany Blue and Tangerine, I'm doing Teal and Orange, other brides have had red, blue, whatever. For your tables and such you may want to bring your own table runners, or you can get flowers and such in your colors to set the theme (They're a bit expensive). If you bring favors and other things in your colors, there's a lot of ways to incorporate them. Check out the thread on centerpieces (you can search for it) to see interesting ways people have tied their colors in. 2. We are using an outside photographer that we're flying in from the states (a family friend). 3. Discounts - Unless they've changed it, yes. If you have five rooms for 7 days or more (or a combination similar, we have 9 rooms for anywhere from 3-8 days), you can get the basic wedding package free ($850), or if going with a higher package you can discount the $850 off of it. For room booking, I believe if you have 10 or more rooms your tour operator may offer a discount, as well as the airlines. I recommend working with a travel agent on this, we have ours through AAA and she's been great!! Let me know and I can send the attachments to you, just PM me your email. Amber
  13. Quote: Originally Posted by chulzle anyone had a non-legal ceremony at excellence? do they still say i now pronounce u husband and wife? is this going to be not any different from the real thing bc our guests dont need to know this is just a formality... Chulzle, I have a copy of the non-legal ceremony in English, I'll send it to you. They do end it with "in front of your witnesses, declare you husband and wife. Congratulations!!!!!You may kiss the bride."
  14. Quote: Originally Posted by showe Thanks for the great posts! My FI and I are going to be married there on July 31, 2009!!! I can NOT wait! I have been talking with Massiel. I don't plan on an elaborate party, my main focus is the photographer....I've emailed the one recommended by the resort but haven't heard from them. Does anyone have other suggestions? Thanks! showe! Congratulations! There are so many of us in July! I can't wait until we can all post our pictures! Amber
  15. Quote: Originally Posted by Dolcenotte12 I would definitely go with Photosouvenir (on the resort). They take fab pictures. I had a beach photo shoot done with them last year. Great prices, beautiful results. They are also in very high demand and we are lucky to have them on site with slots available for us. They are booked up for a very long time otherwise. Unless you have a photographer you are bringing from home, I would stick with them. Ask your wedding coordinator to forward your email to the photographers. That usually gets a response. Wow, I didn't realize how many WC's there were at Excellence!! I guess they are really busy!! Well Ana did tell me there is a wedding pretty much every day in July! I dont know how they handle it...but they do!! Amber, I'm doing the beach bbq buffet for the reception, but for my welcome/rehearsal dinner, I need to pick a menu. Did you have to pick one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert? Or did you have a selection of 2 or 3 choices? It's going to be at Toscana. Michelle - I'm actually not doing a rehearsal dinner, just hoping I can ask Ana to do a reservation for 18 at one of the restaurants the evening before (I know they typically don't do that). The night everyone arrives is the resort beach party, so I'm using that as a welcome dinner. Since I'm a silver package, I don't know that I had the beach BBQ as an option, I had three different set menus I could select from, though Ana did let me switch out a soup due to allergies. Hope things are going well, we're getting really close!!!!
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