My Wedding at the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites
Iâ€™ll start with the â€˜not so goodâ€™ and make my way up to the Excellent!
We flew direct from Ottawa to Montego Bay on a Sunwing Airlines flight where we had upgraded seats (yay- leg room!) and arrived in Jamaica at about 8:30 pm on the Friday night. By the time we got through customs and onto the Sunwing bus that took us to the resort it was closer to 10:30 pm. The drive to the resort was only about 15 minutes and we were checking in by about 11:00 pm. Now, maybe it is because we were so late checking in that all of the â€˜goodâ€™ rooms were already given out, but more than half of our 33 person group were assigned rooms that differed from their preferences: Couples who wanted King-sized beds got two double beds, â€˜singlesâ€™ sharing rooms that wanted two double beds got King-size rooms and my fiancÃ© (now husband) and I were given a Gardenview room next door to the Groomâ€™s motherâ€™s room when were had requested an Oceanfront room on the other side of the resort.
It seemed to us that there is a really big difference in the quality of staff who work the day shift vs. the evening shift at the front desk. No one working that evening could help us overcome our room assignment issues and we were told to come back to the front desk the next morning and that the day staff would be able to help us. So, not wanting to ruin our first night by focussing on our problems we sucked it up, went to the bar and dealt with it the next day.
The next day any of us who had an issue were re-assigned to better rooms. I got my oceanfront room away from my MIL, but it was still a hassle we didnâ€™t need to deal with.
Ã€ La Carte Restaurant Reservations System (non-wedding or rehearsal dinners): B-
When you arrive at the resort, the first thing you should do is go to Guest Services and make your restaurant reservations for the week or else youâ€™ll be stuck at the buffet every day for dinner. While the buffet is delicious, the restaurants are a little more interesting and offer wide range of options to suit anyoneâ€™s tastes from the Gourmet restaurant and itâ€™s rich elegant food to the huge tender grilled meats at the Steakhouse, to the fun of the Mexican or the sampling of fresh fish at the Mediterranean. Next door at the Beach resort, guests also have access to another Steakhouse, a Japanese restaurant and a Cajun Restaurant.
One thing to be wary of, and which was not communicated to us when were making reservations, is that if you are making group reservations, if one person in the group wants to change or cancel their reservation, it cancels the reservation for the entire group. This happened three times to us â€“ weâ€™d show up to our reservation and find out it had been cancelled because so and so wanted to eat at a different restaurant. They would always accommodate us eventually, but it would take half an hour of the restaurant staff acting all confused and calling guest services and getting a manager before weâ€™d be given a seat. So annoying â€“ luckily the food was worth the wait!
While all of the rooms are supposedly the same (just with different views) I found a real difference in the wear and tear of the room based on its classification as Gardenview, Oceanview and Oceanfront. If you had a Gardenview room, expect that your minibar wonâ€™t be re-stocked as regularly and your turndown service may not be done daily, be prepared for your clockradio to not hold time, that your room may have a musty smell and be prepared that there may or may not be a working telephone in your bathroom.
Those staying in an Oceanview and us in our Oceanfront rooms didnâ€™t seem to have the same issues. Everything was spotless and in working-order and the service we received in our rooms was prompt and perfect everyday. That being said, I seemed to be the only one to notice the difference between my friendsâ€™ rooms and my own and no one had any complaints about their room aside from the check-in mix-ups.
Resort Photographer: B+
In an effort to save money, we had one of our close friendâ€™s act as our official photographer (and another friend was our official videographer) so we only had the resort photographer during the actual wedding ceremony (couples receive 12 free prints from their wedding included as part of the wedding package). While he was only with us for about 30 minutes (including before and just after the ceremony) he took over 140 pictures and was never in the way of our real photographer.
The next day, when we went to look at the pictures to choose our 12 prints we were pleasantly surprised to see that a good number of the pictures were stunning and we ended up buying the CD with all of the pictures that he took.
The only negative comment I have about the resort photographer is that he left before I could have him take a group shot. Oh well, luckily our photographer friend had a tripod and a remote so that he could get into some of the pictures as wellâ€¦
Wedding Coordinator: A
Nicole is the wedding coordinator at the IRHS and while it was difficult to get her to reply to your emails in a timely fashion before you arrived, in person she was extremely helpful, professional and organized. We had our meeting with her the day after we arrived and she went over all of our preferences for flowers, restaurant reservations for the rehearsal and wedding dinner and took us on a tour of the resort so that we could pick our ceremony venue.
When I told her I didnâ€™t want a beach wedding (which is the most common venue location) because I didnâ€™t want random strangers (many of whom seem to wear speedos and are less than attractive) walking through the background of my wedding pictures she happily accommodated and showed us the typical non-beach venues they use by the lazy river and the pool. When I pointed to the Grand Terrace off the Main Lobby as it had equally stunning views while offering privacy, she said she could make it happen and she did. Afterwards everyone commented on the beauty and serenity of the setting and we expect that this venue will become part of her tour for couples choosing their location in the future.
Salon / Spa: A
The IRHS has a fantastic spa. Our group regular took advantage of the free water therapy facilities from the giant co-ed whirlpool to the single-sex Nordic bath facilities (with all the different hot and cold pools, steambath, sauna and showers). It was heaven! On my wedding day, my husband surprised me with a one-hour massage which was amazing and relaxing.
The spa also boasts a fitness centre (which my husband used regularly), a fresh fruit juice bar (yummy) and a salon. I had the girls in the salon give me and my maid of honour a mani/pedi and do our hair for the wedding. While the salon itself is small and fairly low-tech, the girls working there are highly capable and our nails and hair turned out spectacularly well! Several other friends and family also had manicures and/or pedicures and each of theirs was equally as good. The only negative is, the massage and salon services were quite pricey ($100 US for my 50 minute massage, $102 for a French manicure and classic pedicure, and $80 for hair-styling per person plus tip).
The food at this resort was delicious. We enjoyed our meals at all of the a la carte restaurants and found the buffet and Beach BBQ amazing. Every single one of our guests loved the food. For our rehearsal dinner we chose Aunt Rubyâ€™s (the Steakhouse) and for our wedding dinner we chose Calabash (the Gourmet Restaurant). Each dinner service was 3 courses and every course was amazing! Even my wedding cake (I chose the vanilla cake) was to die for!
Before heading to Jamaica, one of our guests had been a raw vegan for over 3 years, but once he got down there and saw and smelled the food he quickly changed his diet and was eating Tenderloin be the time the rehearsal dinner came around. Thatâ€™s right â€“ it was so good it made a raw-vegan into a full-fledged carnivore! But, donâ€™t get me wrong, the fruits and vegetables were good too
Ceremony Location: A++
Like I said, we chose not to have a beach wedding and I have no regrets. While, in theory, a beach wedding sounds beautiful, in reality it can be anything but. While I was in Jamaica, I saw 4 other weddings and all of them were held on the beach. Hereâ€™s the problem:
1) The beach is NOT closed for the ceremony. People walk up and down the beach regardless of whether or not there is a ceremony happening. While some people realize what is going on and try to move out of the view of the cameras, others seem completely oblivious or indifferent and stand or walk right in front of the ceremony.
2) Jamaica is really windy in the afternoon (everyday). Couples getting married on the beach were bombarded with blowing sand and high winds and could barely hear each other or the bands they hired (which set up under a tree which happens to be down-wind from the ceremony)
So while I didnâ€™t like the beach location â€“ I loved the Grand Terrace. While people in the lobby and around the pool could technically see our wedding ceremony, they couldnâ€™t hear it and, more importantly, we couldnâ€™t see or hear them! Being on the second floor, we had a great view of the resort gardens and the ocean in the background. The lighting in the afternoon is soft and indirect since it faces North and the terrace is sheltered from any wind by the building. Our pictures were outstanding and neither of us needed to squint in the sunlight.
We did go down to the beach from some pictures after the ceremony but we found it much easier to time our pictures and shoo-away any wandering speedo-wearing riff-raff from the background for individual pictures than for a whole ceremony.
The Ceremony Itself: A++
While the resort employs its own marriage officer to conduct legal or religious wedding ceremonies, we wanted to have a close family friend conduct our ceremony under his guidance. He graciously accepted our request and supervised our ceremony from the sidelines while still doing all of the paperwork and signing our marriage certificate to make it legal. Even though we were far away from home, in place we had never been before, having our ceremony conducted by someone who knew us so well was a true blessing and meant so much to my husband, our family and friends and I. I am truly grateful to the resort for letting us do our ceremony our way.
We also chose to not bother with hiring a live band for the ceremony and just used the free â€˜DJâ€™ that came included in our wedding package. We made a CD and wrote him instructions on what songs to play and when and had no issues. To be a little bit different (and also to break remove the possibility of any anxiety), my husband and I decided to surprise our guests by having our â€˜first danceâ€™ before the ceremony. When I arrived on the terrace (to song #3 on my CD as instructed), my groom met me at the back of the aisle, I handed off my bouquet and we danced. It was a complete surprise to our guests and went off without a hitch
For the ceremony, the resort set up a big arch decorated with white fabric and white orchids (that were fake but no one could tell) at the front of the huge marble terrace overlooking the resort grounds and the ocean. The guestsâ€™ chairs were covered in white fabric and I chose a simple golden-yellow bow to adorn the chairs that picked up the warm colours of the exterior walls of the resort. The aisle was marked by a simple white fabric runner held in place by large conch shells. It was like a dream â€“ everything I could have ever imagined.
After pictures, our guests made there way to the Gourmet Restaurant (â€˜Calabashâ€™) for our wedding dinner. I wanted as â€˜stress-freeâ€™ a wedding as possible so I didnâ€™t bother bringing down extra stuff to decorate the tables. Instead, each table had the restaurantâ€™s standard white linens and simple vases holding a tropical flower. The head table had a tropical floral centrepiece that matched my bouquet of tropical flowers. There was also a white wedding cake decorated with matching flowers to the side of the room.
We chose not to rent the restaurant for a private reception. It turns out that at this resort, all dinner reservations at the a la carte restaurants are staggered so that the restaurants always appear mostly empty. For the first hour of the reception, due to the large number of people in our group (33 total), we were the only patrons in the restaurant. Even when other people did arrive, we barely noticed their presence as they were seated far away. After dinner, our families surprised us with a personalized sock-puppet performance to the music of Grease (I kid you not) and then it was time to cut the cake. I can only imagine what the other people in the restaurant thought of us, but we didnâ€™t care and forgot that they were there.
For the speeches we decided to move on from the restaurant and enjoy the beautiful Jamaican evening â€“ while it is always windy during the day, the evenings are always calm and still and bug-free! We posed for some night-time pictures by the pool and moved the whole group into the light of the club house to do our speeches. The pools close at 7:00 pm and from then on, the outside portions of the resort are a ghost town. We had complete privacy for our speeches and it was beautiful (and free).
Afterwards, we wandered on mass up to the lobby bar and then to the disco. It wasnâ€™t â€˜privateâ€™ but it wasnâ€™t public either. We stuck together as a group and a great time was had by all!
Like I said, I just went with the basic flowers that were included in the wedding package. The description simply said â€˜Tropical flowersâ€™ so I had no idea what I was going to get. It turns out I got a more beautiful bouquet of flowers than I ever could have picked out on my own. It comprised of bright pink wild ginger, pink anthurium and delicate purple dendrobium orchids and green foliage. My maid of honour had a similar (although very slightly smaller) bouquet and the groom and best man had boutineer with the ginger and orchids. There was also a small centre piece on the table were we signed the registry which was later placed on the head table in the restaurant. Finally the cake was topped with a matching arrangement.
4 days later (and 4 days out of water I might add), the bouquets were equally as beautiful and I wanted to cry a little that we couldnâ€™t bring them home with us on the plane.
Overall Experience: A+++
Despite our set-back at the beginning of our trip, we had the time of our lives. Every single person travelling with us had equally-rave reviews. It was the most beautiful wedding, the most relaxing and fun vacation. The concensus was that weâ€™re going to need to come back to the IRHS every year to mark the anniversary!