Now that I've had some time to re-acclimate to the bay area (and work, schedules, etc), I'm ready to write a full review of my experience at Las Caletas! Disclaimer: This review is very long and has a lot of photos! Summary: Having our wedding at Las Caletas was absolutely amazing. Our photographer, Cathy Breslow of Breslow Imaging has shared some photos and I just can't stop going through them! So many of them are postcard worthy, and that is a combination of Cathy's unbelievable talent and the natural beauty of Las Caletas. I have absolutely no regrets and wish we could continue reliving that day. I'm looking forward to getting our video! For anyone who wants to see all of our wedding photos, you can view them here: http://www.breslowimaging.com/Weddings-and-Engagements/Melissa-and-Jereme I think she is slowly adding to it at this point it is not everything. Planning Kelley was incredible right from the start. I emailed her via the generic web form, and right away I appreciated 1) her prompt response 2) her professionalism but also sweet nature 3) directness - she answered each and every one of my questions and gave the exact information I was looking for. This contrasted greatly with my experience trying to get information from vendors in Hawaii, which was our original choice of location for our wedding. She sent me detailed quotes with straightforward pricing that remained consistent throughout the planning process (no surprise fees), and she literally addressed each and every one of my questions. * fellow Las Caletas brides - if she doesn't respond right away don't worry...I know that can be hard to do especially with wedding related items, but she will definitely get back to you as needed and in time. About 5-6 months before the wedding she emailed a "things to consider" document which listed a lot of questions for our wedding. This actually became a great planning document and helped me think of things I would never think of otherwise but should. From there the planning process was a back and forth email of this document. We 'rainbow coded' our responses by using different colors each time which allowed us to easily find responses and trace the details down to the very first email/request. She would update the contract as needed based on what I was requesting, so it was always clear how much things would cost. In addition, I had to have had the most high maintenance and off the wall requests: - Potential important guest who is vegetarian AND doesn't eat onions and garlic - Other guests with allergies to all dairy, nuts, and shellfish - a mom who didn't eat red meat - Light white cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream (I am Chinese and LOVE cakes from the Asian bakeries which involve no sugary frosting) - Wedding flowers with NO WHITE (white flowers are used in funerals in the Chinese culture) - flowers for our hair & flowers for the mom guests (we got married on mother's day) She didn't question or resist any of these requests but actually exceeded our requests in every aspect. Can you believe that my niece and nephew, who have dairy, shellfish, and nut allergies, were able to eat EVERYTHING in the buffet except for the shrimp?! And Kelley made a point to separate the shrimp from the fish especially for this reason. The food was DELICIOUS (guests are still talking about it) and it met all the food requirements which was quite a tall order. Our wedding was on a Sunday, and we were able to do a site visit November 2010 (it was serendipitous that our family had planned a cruise to Mexico well before we found Las Caletas!). Kelley also met with us Friday before the wedding to talk through final details. She is a pro, and she thought of certain elements that never even crossed my mind. Planning tips: - remember to call your bank to let them know you will be traveling to Mexico. I forgot to do so so had to use international minutes just to use my CC - if you can, pay for the wedding before you leave. Kelley suggested this to me so I wouldn't have to worry about it once I arrived but I was so busy I forgot. She is right, it is much easier to just take care of payment from home. - remember to call you cell phone carrier to understand the international rates. I found myself texting a lot because well, you're coordinating a wedding and also a lot of guests that arrive at different times. You will probably need to be connected. - For the airport, ignore the 'gauntlet'. Just walk though and don't stop for any people at the counter telling you there is a free shuttle. The yellow shirt taxi drivers are legit so just walk to them and get out of there, it is a zoo! (which is fine as long as you know...i almost got sucked into a time share presentation thinking it was a free shuttle to the hotel!) - If you want to exchange for pesos, we found we got a better rate at the hotel. The airport gave us the worst rate of all locations. - If you stay in PV for your honeymoon, Vallarta Adventures offers GREAT excursions. For ziplining, they are the only company with double lines and are safety certified. We had a great time with Outdoor Adventures and Rhythms of the Night! Wedding Day The bridal party headed to Las Caletas early. We met at the Vallarta Adventures office in Nuevo Vallarta (we were staying in that area at Playa Royale) where Brad, our very very cool officiant, met us. We took a speedboat to Las Caletas which was so much fun! It was a beautiful day and we just relaxed and felt the wind in our hair as we enjoyed the Banderas Bay. Though it is a small, inflated hard bottom boat, the ride was really smooth. Don't worry, you will not get wet and neither will any of the items you bring with you! Once we arrived, Brad and his team helped us carry stuff up to the bridal casita. As I'm sure you've read, it is at the TOP of the hill so is a good trek. But still, nothing bad. We were a little winded but it is so worth the hike! The casita has so much character and rustic charm, but it also has everything you need to get ready (showers, towels, mirrors, lounge area, bed, hammock). Also, because it is at the top of the hill you have a constant breeze flowing through which kept it very comfortable. At the casita we were greeted with a chilled bottle of champagne and a nice platter of fresh fruit. First things first, so we decided to pop open the bottle and have a toast to start off the day. Because our wedding was on a Sunday, we had the entire place TO OURSELVES. This was such an amazing treat! Las Caletas is beautiful with plenty of activities, so it's great regardless (even if you have the day excursion groups with you). But it was so quiet I was able to shout out to my bridesmaids who were off yonder and we could easily communicate. We had a fun time exploring...there are so many nooks and crannies! We'd be walking and find a beautiful vantage point or another set of hammocks. We proceeded to sign up for massages, then I headed down to the beach with my flower girl to play. We had a great time running from waves, spotting little fish (the water is so clear!), lounging on the chairs Brad so kindly set up for us, and I enjoyed all of this while sipping a mimosa from the bar. I then headed up for my massage, and my only complaint is that it was too short (my choice though)! The best part about it was the ambiance - while getting your massage, you can feel this amazing breeze & hear the ocean waves. *fellow Las Caletas brides, just be ready with a lot of shampoo because they do use oil and will give you a scalp massage (which was soo nice!). You may need to shampoo your hair several times afterwards to get it all out, and if you have Fernando he requests specifically that the massage oil is washed out (he knows from experience). My sister washed her hair twice and Fernando had to ask her to shampoo it again because of the massage oil. We then were told lunch was ready and headed down. The food is a many buffet - so there is aplenty!! We ate leisurely, chatting and marveling about the fact that it was my wedding day...it was so calm and relaxed I didn't feel even slightly stressed or anxious! Here is our view from lunch: Fernando's team arrived around 2PM, and honestly I secretly wanted to send him away. We were having way too much fun and I kind of irrationally felt like he was ruining the fun! My friend Chat and I explored the John Houston museum that was adjacent to the lunch area before heading up the casita to get pretty. And in retrospect, I appreciate the Fernando wanted to start at 2 because with so many girls, we needed that time believe it or not. My bridesmaid Kaoru getting her hair and makeup done by Fernando's team: The casita also has some amazing textures and elements that can yield really cool detail shots (it helps to have an amazing photographer!) Okay, so in summary, here are my "Pre Wedding" tips: - Bring shampoo and be ready to shampoo it several times if you get a massage. No big deal here, just a heads up. - There are towels in the shower area adjacent to the casita, but it doesn't hurt to ask each girl to bring one of her own as well. We found we needed at least two per girl since we were playing at the beach, and though they have extra towels they can bring up it is just easier to have your own. - Bring a small, extra mirror or two for any girls not having their hair/makeup done by Fernando. His team uses the vanity area and there wasn't much mirror left for the remaining girls. There are extra bathrooms with mirrors in the spa, but they can get hot as there are few if any windows. - Fernando and his team are awesome and worth every penny. - Remember to bring cash for any massages, hair, and makeup - If you bring an extra power strip for curling irons, hair dryers etc then bring 2 prong ones! - My fiance Jereme rode over on the boat with the guests and changed into his wedding outfit when he arrived. He used the grooms lounge area above the reception - but said guests were walking up to use the restroom while he changed, lol. He was fine with it just be aware that that might happen. - ENJOY! The pre wedding day is a day of pure R&R. By this point you will be stressed, and the pampering they offer will be well deserved and needed! Wedding Ceremony & Reception Kelley came up to give us a status update and let us know the guests were all on the boat no problem & on time. She then checked in for all the important things - guests arrived, time to go down and start! At this point we were still at the top of the hill and having fun with our photographer, who was taking photos of us. I didn't really notice but I think by now Jorge, the videographer, had walked up with his camera and was filming us. The walk down from the bridal casita was fine. I opted to wear flip flops and had no problem walking down. Just take your time and don't run down aimlessly and you'll be fine. She walked us down and then asked me to stay while the other girls continued all the way to the bottom. At this point my fiance, Jereme, was already at the base of the stairs and Kelley didn't want him to see me. I could hear over the speakers someone say something along the lines of "we are told that the bride is ready!!! Please take a seat..." I couldn't believe the moment was here!! I tried to take the advice of the forum and took a minute to just enjoy the moment. I could hear the processional music playing, the waves crashing...it was amazing. btw, I used Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Iz for the processional, and in lieu of the bridal march, I used Wish Upon My Star by Jake Shimabukuro. The two songs worked out just fine - though the aisle isn't long, they spaced things out so that just enough of each song played. Just let Kelley direct you at this point and it will be all good. The ceremony was set up exactly as I'd hoped, and Kelley did so based on just a few photos I sent her. Although I chose the colors, etc, nothing compares to seeing it in person. Photos are beautiful, but truly Las Caletas is even more beautiful in person! Here are some ceremony pics: Kelley is behind me holding my train: The sand ceremony: We basically stuck to the sample ceremony Brad and Kelley provided, and we added a reading (which funny enough, we found on a Hallmark card!). The standard ceremony they provide is perfect and was very meaningful to us. Some of my friends told me afterwards there wasn't a dry eye and that they could really feel the love and meaning. It ends up being about 15-20 minutes long I think? It's the perfect amount of time really. In summary, here are some tips from the ceremony: - I was wondering if the audio would be sufficient for an open, outdoor space (with sounds of the ocean too!), but the audio was perfect. It was loud enough for everyone without being ear splitting - Las Caletas will provide sand for the sand ceremony...in fact, we found a few days later when going through our wedding day stuff that they even bottled it for us! So we have it now as a keepsake. - The ceremony was HOT. It was kind of strange, because it was a beautifully mild day but somehow all the heat came out during the ceremony. I was sweating! Even so, I wouldn't change a thing. - I made program fans for the guests using 8.5x11 cardstock, craft sticks, and double sided tape (the kind for scrapbooking). Because of the heat and humidity, some of the fans starting to come apart. So just keep that in mind if you decide to make fans - use a stronger adhesive or use the pre-made bamboo or accordion style ones - If you hire the videographer, he is great! He blends right in and its easy to forget he is there. That is a very good thing but just don't forget completely! In retrospect I think our video will have a lot of me saying "I'm so hot" or "sorry I'm a little sweaty"! I guess I said that often because each guest would come up after the ceremony and try to give me a bear hug, and I found myself apologizing for being a little sticky. But again, I wouldn't change a thing and the heat was just fine. I just wish I didn't comment so much! - I completely forgot about time for photos. I had asked my photographer to get some quality shots with our family, and every combination of family. Once all of that was done there wasn't a lot of time for romance shots (which is fine because she got some very good ones anyway, plus a TTD session the next day). Just consider the time it will take to take photos and compare that to your 'shot list'. Reception Kelley approached us at the conclusion of our cocktail hour to let us know it was time to be introduced in the reception (we requested this specifically). Once we went in, Kelley brought over a plate of the appetizers that were being passed around during cocktail hour so we could enjoy them. It's this kind of thoughtfulness that I feel really shows how Kelley takes coordination to the next level. She really takes care of you! We also were asked to get our plates for dinner first so we wouldn't forget. There was already wine at our tables, and the staff there - WOW. They were always one step ahead of you and would get you anything you need and even sometimes things you didn't know you needed but realized was a great idea (ie - cold towels soaked in ice water to help cool off). Food was A+ delicious (even with my guests' dietary restrictions)!. As I mentioned earlier Kelley made sure there was no dairy, shellfish or nuts in ANY of the dishes except of course the shrimp which surpassed my expectations. I expected her to inform me of 1-3 dishes that were safe for the kids, which is usually what happens here in the bay area. I was floored - I think that is the first time they were able to eat pretty much everything. It was so considerate and definitely took extra thought and planning. AND, my weird cake request? Perfecto. It tasted exactly like a cake from an Asian bakery but was still as beautiful as any traditional cake. Again, Kelley is world class. Appetizers: Getting our food: View of our reception area (I chose large centerpieces which you can see in this photo) Another view of the table setup:(our table assignments were all of Jereme's fave cars, in case you're wondering why it says "Porsche" Cake: Favors which Kelley set at each place setting: In summary, here are some tips for the reception: - Food is muy delicioso. Try to remember to eat and enjoy. That's it! Cake Cutting & Dancing As Kelley had done throughout the night, she came up to let us know it was cake time. We never had to worry about schedule or time because she did it for us. If you hire the DJ, they will announce the cake time which they did for us. Las Caletas only gets more beautiful at night. The torches and candles are all lit, and between the breathtaking sunset views and this very romantic ambiance - it just feels magical. And not just to us - our guests are STILL talking about it! Sunset View: Dance area: We had our first dance, which was sung by our good friend Joe, and then Father Daughter dance followed. Then the party really got started! We danced the night away, and when I got really warm I just ran and dipped my feet into the ocean. The fire dancers came and gave a great show, and I think people were both in awe of the performance and a little nervous of the fire. Fire Dancers: In summary, here are tips for the reception: - the fire dancers were a great surprise for our guests! The fire is HOT, and in May I was already feeling pretty hot lol. But I don't care, it was worth it! - We made a few CDs with songs for the reception - in retrospect only burn the few must have songs. The DJ is great and will read the crowd and play accordingly and has a good song collection. - If you want to bring your cake home, make sure to bring a box or boxes for it. You can then pack some for home! - if you are bringing a photographer that has not photographed there before, warn them that it will be very dark so they can come prepared with the right equipment. It's very romantic but may not be so conducive to photography without the right equip. Boat Ride Back As every bride will tell you, the day FLIES by. Before we knew it, it was time to leave! Somehow, everything we left in the casita made it to the reception area and was piled neatly in a corner. We all just grabbed something and took it with us to the boat. We had a chance to chat with Brad and Kelley on the way back to the boat. They are just really, really cool peeps. By the time we reached the boat, Jereme and Brad agreed to take a group shot of tequila, the proper way (which Brad would show us). I expected a small group of maybe 5-10 to join for the tequila shot, but surprisingly almost EVERYONE was down! I think me and my friend Jenny, ironically, were the only two to join the festivities but with pina coladas in tow instead of tequila. LOL! This was PERFECT and really got the boat party started. We all gathered to the front of the boat where Brad instructed everyone on the proper way to take a shot (which makes it go down smoothly and won't require a chaser). Honestly I wasn't paying attn because I had a pina colada, but it was something about breathing and not breathing, and smelling it or not or something? hee. Anyways, it was a GOOD time and from that point on it was just dancing and drinking. At some point the entire boat joined in for a conga line that just circled around the boat over and over lol. Group tequila shot: fun on the boat: Tips for the boat ride: - I heard the boat ride out was choppy for our guests, and one or two of them felt a little motion sick but were okay. The top deck is better for motion sickness because of the wind. - I don't think you have to worry about motion sickness for the boat ride BACK. I was a little nervous myself because I had been feeling light headed all day (I think from the excitement) and I am very sensitive and get motion sick in cars. But once the dancing started I was fine! - If Brad offers to lead the group in a tequila shot, take it! It really helped keep the party going and even family members I never guessed would go for it were up there (my Uncle Cho!) - I was very happy to hear that my parents remembered to tip the boat staff (I had every intention of doing so but forgot with all the hustle and bustle). They really do go the extra mile to give great service! My dad also gave Kelley a 'lucky money' envelope. I am not in any way suggesting you have to tip, but I do want to share that I am glad my parents remembered for me because well, they truly deserve it. They, especially Kelley, are pivotal in making your wedding day amazing and memorable. In summary, if anyone actually was able to last through this VERY wordy review, I would say trust Kelley, she is amazing. Let the little things go; in the grand scheme of things no one will even really notice or remember. All they remember is how beautiful Las Caletas was and how fun the wedding was. A few things are likely to go wrong, because when does everything go 100% smoothly? But by having your wedding at Las Caletas, you up your chances of having a near perfect wedding day. Remember to enjoy, bask in the moment and remember the love you have for your special someone (the whole reason everyone is there!).