OK here we go...
Booking the trip
I signed up with destinationweddings.com and my agent was Lois- she did a great job in booking everyone but was a neurotic with the whole process. She sometimes did not understand what we were trying to do- for example my family is very conservative and traditional, and Jonny (the husband) and I wanted have separate rooms until the wedding night, and just stay with our bridal party the nights before. Lois did not get this entire concept, I have no idea why but we finally got through to her and everything was fine. She did not offer a lot of insight into the actual destination wedding process, just the bookings for the flights and hotel for our guests. We knew what hotel we wanted for our wedding prior to signing up for this service, so that made it easier. I would say a normal travel agent would be just as much help, it was $50 for signing up, so I wouldn't go with them if I could do it all over.
Choosing the hotel
We chose IRHS for several reasons- we of course wanted all-inclusive, something reasonably priced for our guests, and a hotel and setting that was beautiful. This hotel was absolutely PERFECT- I honestly am trying to think of something that I did not like, and I can't think of any! (except the resort photographer- we'll get to that later!)
The rooms were nice and big, clean, and every room had a view of the ocean. Some of our guests did have to call the front desk for minor things- like the air conditioner went out in one room, the shower didn't have hot water- but it was fixed right away. They have an entertainment staff at the resort and their sole job is to get people involved in activities on the beach, in the pool area, etc. We became friends with these people and had sooo much fun doing all the activities. The hotel was beautiful, the grounds were perfectly tended, and the beach was great. There were a few rocks that you had to step over once you got into the ocean, but it wasn't bad. The pool was wonderful, they have a swim-up bar was was quite popular... I thought they would have more staff than they actually did to serve drinks on the beach and poolside, we mostly had to go get our drinks from the bar, but we didn't mind.
The restaurants were great- we tried all but the gourmet. I loved Mare Nostrum- the Mediterranean restaurant- where we had our rehearsal dinner. They so many interesting things to try at the appetizer buffet- it was delicious. Aunt Ruby's is the Steakhouse- which has the only outdoor terrace, the steak is great. There is also a Mexican restaurant which was decent but not spectacular. There is a breakfast buffet which has a HUGE selection of food, and the lunch buffet also has so many options to choose from. And room service is available as well, but a limited menu. There is a midnight buffet from 11p-7 am but we never went...
No matter what kind of food you like or diet you are on- you most likely will be satisfied!
As far as night activities- there was a theater where the entertainment crew put on shows nightly, a different one each day of the week. The ones we went to was Battle of the Sexes- which myself and my 2 bridesmaids participated in!- that was SOOOO much fun. We laughed so incredibly hard, it was fun to play but all our family and friends said that it was great to watch too. Another night they had a comedy show- we only caught the last half of it, but it was also hysterical. Definitely catch the theater if you can!
There was the Disco that we went to pretty much every night, it was pretty fun. We danced and drank at the bar, but I was so wiped out every night I never stayed very long. But it was fun to party it up with cousins and family that I had met for the first time on his side! Everyone loved it.
I have no regrets about this hotel- everything was fabulous!!
I had bought one of Maggie Sottero's destination wedding collection dresses, and it had a semi-long silk chiffon train, so I was super worried about traveling and it getting ruined- and I knew that I was going to get it steamed but I was still worried about how it would come out. First of all, traveling with a wedding garment bag was so funny because EVERYONE was congratulating us and I think we got a lil bit of special treatment on the flight it was pretty fun... I told Jonny that I might travel with it all the time. JK
Anyways, on every flight I was able to hang it up in the front closet.
Once we got to the hotel, I called laundry service and they steamed my dress and the two bridesmaids dresses, and they came back so perfect and beautiful. We did a TTD session on Sunday morning, and left that afternoon for Negril to our honeymoon resort. I wore the same gown for the TTD, and it was so fun, but my dress was so wet and heavy! I did have to put my dress in several plastic garment bags and haul it with me on the bus. It was still wet but it was wrapped up tight. I let it air dry on our balcony @ Couples Swept Away.. laundry was going to have to send it out to get it cleaned, and I didn't want to risk them not getting it back to me on time before we came back to the states. I got it dry cleaned when we got home and it looks fine.
I had been on this forum for months before the wedding, so I was well aware of the reviews of Digipix (the resort photographers), and that it was not recommended to use them. I decided to fly in our own photographer that lives in my city (Tulsa Oklahoma), Tulsa Artworks Photography. Rebecca and Jimmy did our engagement photos, and they did such a spectacular job. I researched different photographers in Jamaica and I couldn't find the style of pics that I wanted, so in our contract with them we made a deal to pay their flight and 4 nights all-inclusive arrangements @ IRHS. They did 3 days worth of photography, and we got over 1200 photos! They were so beautiful, they took pics @ the rehearsal dinner, some fun pics of Jonny and I at the beach in casual clothing, then all day Saturday (wedding day), including bridal portraits before. Jonny and I decided that we wanted to do lots of pictures of us before the wedding since it was a 5:00 ceremony and it gets dark at 6! It was a really special moment the first time we saw each other, we had our own little private moment to talk and cry, and they captured the entire thing from a lil ways away. We then took pics all along the beach, then our bridal party photos. We did a TTD session on Sunday morning (my favorite!!) .. It was so worth flying in our own photographers! And of course the hotel didn't have a problem with it because they were our guests...
The wedding package that you get includes 12 photos from the resort photographer, but I knew I didn't want him at the actual ceremony since we had our own photographer and we also wanted a DVD of our ceremony. I told Nicole this, and she told me that she would tell him to come after the ceremony and take pictures of our family, and we would choose 12 of those. I don't know if she forgot to tell him or what, but he showed up and kept getting in my photographers way (I didn't notice but my mom was telling me after). So keep this in mind if you have your own photogapher! Granted, he did take SOME pretty pics, there were like 180 and we only liked maybe 30 of them....
The DVD was totally worth it as well, it was $350 and I'm glad we purchased it. They mailed us the DVD and our 12 pics to Couples Swept Away in Negril that next Wednesday.
Girls, you have to do a TTD, it was so incredible!! Check out our pictures:
collages.net and user name is Danaher, password is 22232. There are a lot! But there is a favorites folder under M&J's faves, it summarizes all the photos
My mom does floral arrangements and I decided to do real touch bouquets for my bridesmaids, and for the mother's corsages and the boutonniÃ¨res. They were large pink lilies, and they turned out so pretty and tropical. We just carried those on in a shopping bag, and they traveled well. They include the bridal bouquet and groom's boutonniÃ¨re with the wedding package, even though they weren't the same as the bridal party, I didn't care. That was one of those little details that I didn't care about. I ended up loving my bouquet though, it was pretty.
We choose the cheesecake and it was really good! They have other options- vanilla, chocolate, fruit cake.. but I'm glad we chose cheesecake, everyone loved it!
Was so incredible! I did get freaked out when the big clouds started coming our way around 4. I knew what I was getting into since it was October and rainy season. But we decided to take the chance anyways. It make the entire ceremony kind of fun and intriguing, b/c we still would have stayed out there and gotten married in the rain! It ended up sprinkling a lil bit on us, but it turned out fine!!
The decorations I brought were pink chair ties, and I made chuppah orchid bejeweled strings that were tied on the back of the chuppah and hung down behind it, I saw the idea on this forum and loved it. They were super easy to make. I also bought these fans to place on the chairs for the ladies... They set everything up for us. We did a sand ceremony also, with a 4 paned Umbra frame that we bought on Amazon, I got that idea from this forum as well!
My ceremony music turned out just the way we wanted, remember that you have to burn them onto a CD for them.
My brother (younger brother, he is 22 but looks 15!) is wanting to be a youth minister, and he did the first part of our ceremony- the vows, rings, I dos, etc. He did a really good job, and it was really special having him do party of the ceremony. The Jamaican minister did the last half, and he was great, he was incredibly nice. The signing of the marriage license is a part of the ceremony, so keep that in mind. I did not know this before we left, and I just had them play the song for our processional during the signing, and it turned out well.
Our original plan was to hold the reception poolside at Lazy River Island, but since we didn't know if it was going to rain any more, we switched to the Jazz Club inside the hotel. It was really nice, maybe not exactly what we wanted but a good alternative given the situation. We didn't pay for an open bar but paid to have champagne and then soft drinks, virgin drinks, etc (since my family is conservative and didn't want to pay for an open bar). It was $4 per person per hour, open bar was $8 per person per hour. We got lucky and had an open bar anyways! I don't know how that worked out, but it did.
I don't regret anything about our wedding weekend. We got there on a Wednesday and left on Sunday. We had 30 people including us, and every single one of them told us that this was the best wedding they had ever been to. It was so incredibly special. You will not regret choosing this resort, it was wonderful. I need to load all my pics on my computer and I will attach some of them, but you can visit the site to look at them as well. The following pics are what the resort photographer took (except for the TTD photo, my brother took that).. Any questions you have or anything I forgot, let me know! I would have been lost without this forum, and I'm glad to add to the IRHS reviews knowing there aren't a lot out there!
I hope this was helpful in any way!