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2ndTimeMrs

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2ndTimeMrs last won the day on November 2 2016

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About 2ndTimeMrs

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  • Location
    Ottawa, Canada

Wedding Information

  • Wedding Date
    February 02, 2016
  • Wedding Location
    Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay

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  1. 2ndTimeMrs

    Jamaica Suggestions Please

    Hi @@smw39 - Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I was married at Secrets Wild Orchid in Montego Bay this past February and everything was absolutely perfect. I'm not sure if this resort will be something your interested in though as you said you want a nice beach and even though the SWO beach is nice it is man-made and on the small side. I would still check it out though as the wedding coordinators there do a great job and pretty much every SWO bride that has posted on here has been very pleased with their services. You mention you want to keep the costs down but at that time of year you may find that Jamaica is more pricey that other popular wedding locations (IE: Mexico). That being said it is a very beautiful country and the people are fantastic. If you've never been to Jamaica before you will fall in love with it. Like you I had a small wedding as it was the second time around for my husband and me too. Also like you I live in Ottawa. I have tons of leftover wedding "stuff" so if you are looking for anything for your wedding let me know and maybe I can help you out. You'll actually be helping me too as my husband wants me to clean out the spare room where I have everything stored One more quick suggestion to consider - since you are having a small wedding what about having it off the resort? Jamaica has so many beautiful public locations and it would mean you wouldn't have to worry about finding a resort that is cost effective for your guests and will give you the wedding of your dreams. An off-site wedding also means you won't be stuck using a specific vendor provided by the resort or paying inflated outside vendor fees. If you go this route I would hire an event coordinator in Jamaica so you have someone working for you that is "boots on the ground". Happy Planning!
  2. 2ndTimeMrs

    Secrets Wild Orchid 2017 Wedding

    Hi @@BritML0121 ! Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I am a recent SWO bride (February of this year) and my advice would be to stay away from the resort videographer. I have just posted a very lengthy 3 part review of my wedding experience at SWO and outside vendors on here. Part 2 specifically covers the resort photographer/videographer (they are the same) so you can read that to see why I don't recommend them. I second @@KG1990 reply - you have definitely chosen the right resort to have your wedding in Jamaica. The wedding coordinators do a wonderful job and you will have a beautiful wedding day. It you have any questions about the resort or working with the wedding coordinators don't hesitate to ask. I'll be glad to answer any questions you have. Happy planning!
  3. This post is the final part of my 3 part review of SWO and my wedding in Jamaica. If you missed Part 1 & 2 go back and read them as there is valuable info about the resort, outside vendors, and SWO wedding coordinators. (Part 1 of 3 is here and part 2 of 3 is here) BRINGING DECORATIONS FROM HOME I brought 1 suitcase of various items from home with me for decorating the gazebo and took them to the meeting with the wedding coordinator 2 days before our wedding. I was a little worried before the meeting because during my emails with the wedding coordinators they said I would have to pay a minimum of $50 for setting up my decorations on the gazebo. This annoyed me because all the other SWO brides on here said the wedding coordinators set everything up for them for free and these brides had way more stuff than I did. Turns out I was worried for nothing though because once I got to the meeting the coordinators said they would take care of everything and there would be no extra charge. My room was overlooking the gazebo and on the day of the wedding I was able to watch them decorating the gazebo. It was very windy and they struggled quite a bit to get my drapery hung but they never gave up and in the end it looked beautiful. I will say I did bring a little treat of maple candies I picked up at the airport before leaving Canada for each of the wedding coordinators to our meeting so not sure if this helped them decide not to charge me but I’m pretty sure it didn’t hurt either  CEREMONY (MINISTER, CAKE, VIOLINST) There are several beautiful locations throughout the resort where you can have your ceremony but we chose to have our ceremony at the gazebo on the Wild Orchid side. I will break down each of the other location options in the next section. We really loved the Wild Orchid gazebo location since it out on a pier and you can only get to it by walking down a long boardwalk so it was more private than the other locations. If you have 12 guests or less then I highly recommend the Wild Orchid Gazebo location. We chose to have our wedding in the 4pm time slot so we could take some sunset pictures after the ceremony. Getting married at 4pm is a little risky since this is the time of day you are most likely to experience “liquid sunshine” in Jamaica but we were lucky and did not have a single drop of rain on our wedding day. As a side note: you can pay extra to have your wedding at 5PM which they call the sunset wedding option but before booking it check with dateandtime.com because depending on the time of year the sun might not be setting until later so you’ll pay extra for nothing. When we got married in February the sun was setting until 6:30PM. The ceremony is 20 minutes long and then you have another 30 minutes to do the post ceremony activities (IE: champagne, cake). the wedding coordinators run the whole thing with precision. They did do a beautiful job but I often felt like they were rushing us through the signing of the marriage certificate and cake cutting to stay within their allotted time. Even our photographer cracked a joke about being in the military at one point. Just before the ceremony was about to start one of the wedding coordinators came and picked me up with a golf cart from the lobby of my building. She escorted me to the start of the gazebo boardwalk and instructed me when to start walking so I would be in sync with the wedding music. She also reminded me to keep my head up and smile so Misha would capture good pictures which I appreciated because I probably would have looked down to avoid tripping had she not reminded me  Music - originally I was just going to bring some pre-recorded music on my iPod but in the end decided to splurge and hire the violinist provided by the resort. I’m so glad I made this change. He was so amazing and added an extra something to our ceremony. I provided a list of songs I wanted to the wedding coordinators during the planning stage and they confirmed with the violinist that he could play them. I originally asked the wedding coordinators for a list of what he could play but they said he didn’t have one and to just request what I wanted and they would check with him to see if he could play those songs. Not sure if they were just being lazy or if he really doesn’t have a play list but either way everything I asked for he was able to play. I had him play “All of me” by John Legend when I walked down the aisle and he did it flawlessly. His name is Jose Salgado and here is a link to a YouTube video of him playing a selection of songs: When you get the violinist you have him for 1 hour so I had him arrive 15 before the ceremony to play music for our guests before I arrived. He then stayed after the ceremony and played music while we were having our champagne toasts and cake. I highly recommend hiring him. Minister - Our minister’s name was Terrence and he was such a character. We met with him at the wedding coordinator meeting 2 days before our wedding and went over the details of the ceremony. He then told us we had two choices how to respond to his questions during the ceremony. We could either say “I do” or we could say “I will”. He suggested we go with “I will” as “I do” means you’ve already done it, “I will” means you will always do it. We chose to say “I will”  During the ceremony Terrence had us all laughing with little jokes and crying tears of joy during the tender moments. I’m not sure if the resort only uses him as their minister but if not request Terrence; he’s fantastic. Cake - Right after the ceremony and marriage certificate signing we moved on to the cake. Since we had the free package we had a 1 tier cake in either chocolate or vanilla. We chose vanilla and it was delicious. This cake feeds about 12 people so we had leftovers and asked the wedding coordinator’s box up a second slice for my grandparents to take back to their room, had a second slice boxed and sent to our room for later and then had the rest of the cake delivered to the Preferred Club concierge staff to share. They really appreciated this and it meant the cake didn’t go to waste. PS – I brought individual size cake boxes from home for this. You can buy them from Michaels. During the pre-wedding meeting with the coordinators I gave them a cake topper I had made to match my other flowers and some dark blue ribbon. They passed those onto the cake people and they decorated the cake with the items I provided. They did not charge extra to decorate the cake. My husband is a firefighter so since we were getting married far from home and couldn’t have true firefighter wedding I special ordered a fire axe with our names and wedding date engraved to use for cutting our cake. We gave that to the wedding coordinators at the meeting too and they made sure it made it safely to the ceremony and then kept it safe after the ceremony until we picked it up at their office the next day. It was actually pretty funny when I first pulled the axe out of the suit case to show them at our meeting. Their eyes got so wide and they looked scared until we told them what it was for. Then they each took turns waving it around and telling my husband he better behave or else  apparently we were the first people to bring a fire axe to cut our cake because they thought it was a great idea and said had never seen it before. As a side note – We live in Ottawa Canada so once the weather got nicer at home we arrange to have a local photographer capture a post wedding photo shoot with my husband in his firefighter uniform and me in my wedding dress. Even though it was not our wedding day it was nice to be able to capture this very important aspect of our lives. I will make a separate post about this topic later. ALTERNATE LOCATIONS FOR CEREMONY If the Wild Orchid gazebo is not suitable for you because your group is too large or you don’t like the location then you have a few other options around the resort. The St.James side also has a gazebo on the water but in my opinion the Wild Orchid is in a better location and looks like it is better maintained. Just like Wild Orchid it is only suitable for groups of 12 or less. For larger groups you have the option to get married in the beach front casita. This location is nice but is very close to the main Wild Orchid pool and right beside the main water front walking path of the resort. This means it is not private at all. You have about 25 feet of space between the walkway and where you will stand to get married. We witnessed several other weddings at this location while we were there and each time a big crowd of people in wet bathing suits were gathered watching the ceremony and taking pictures. I’m sure this crowd made the wedding photographer’s job harder….trying to capture the bride and groom’s special moments while trying to keep the fat middle aged man in a speedo out of the shot  The wedding coordinators do try to contain the crowd and keep them quiet but if you’ve ever been in a big group of drunk people then you know this is easier said than done. If having a bunch of “looky loos” watching your wedding doesn’t matter to you then go ahead and book this location as it is right on the water so you won’t need to decorate it much to have a pretty backdrop for your pictures. If you do have your ceremony in this location the wedding coordinators will set up your dinner reception on the small beach area right beside it so everything will be in the same location. small beach area beside casita where receptions are View from casita to main walkway View from main walkway to casita The alternate location for larger groups is the on the beach right in front of the Barracuda beach bar on the Wild Orchid side. This location is more private than the Casita but there is no shade so if you are worried about your guests sitting in the hot sun rent a tent or maybe provide them with cute parasols in your wedding colours to shade themselves. Just like the Casita the wedding coordinators will set up your dinner reception on the beach right beside your ceremony. This beach area is bigger so if you have a really large group then I would recommend it as you will have more space for everyone once the party gets started. This is the location I had chosen when I thought we were going to have a large group as I was also going to have a steel drum band and bonfire party after dinner so I wanted enough room for everything. No matter which location you choose if it rains the wedding coordinators will move your ceremony to the covered patio beside the ball room and your reception will be in the ballroom. I never asked because I wanted to be married outside but I’m sure if you wanted to get married in the ballroom or its patio (rain or shine) that would probably be an option too. PRIVATE WEDDING DINNER IN GAZEBO If you book 7 nights or more at SWO for your wedding then you will qualify for the Honeymoon package. This is apparently a $995 value that they give you for free. Along with a couple massage (which we used 2 days before the wedding) the Honeymoon package included a candlelight dinner for two during our stay. Once we discovered that it was just going to be us and my grandparents at the wedding I went ahead and booked a special dinner for my grandparents at the French restaurant (reservations are required at this restaurant if you want to sit inside.) I then asked the wedding coordinators during our pre-wedding meeting about booking our candlelight dinner for the night of our wedding. They said they could not do that and we would have to eat in one of the restaurants with everyone else or pay for a special beach dinner on our wedding night. Preferred Club Concierge to the rescue again. After our meeting with the wedding coordinators I stopping in our lobby and asked the concierge if they could book our candlelight honeymoon dinner on our wedding night and they said “no problem, mon!” Normally when you have the candlelight dinner it is set up on the beach but our concierge arranged to have it in the Wild Orchid gazebo where we got married and went even further to make sure all our wedding ceremony decorations were left up so we could enjoy them. Needless to say I tipped them well  The concierge reviewed the menu options with us and we picked our selections ahead of time. For our main course we both had filet mignon and lobster and everything was delicious. Our dinner was booked for 7pm so once we were done with our photos we invited Misha and Kenmar to join us for a drink in our lobby, after our drinks we said our good-byes to them and heading off to our dinner. As we walked towards the gazebo we noticed that on top of our decorations our waiter had decorated the walkway to the gazebo and the gazebo itself with candles. During our dinner the waiter stayed at the far end of the gazebo boardwalk to give us our privacy. If we needed him we just waved and he would come. Everything was so romantic and beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and private location to enjoy our first meal as husband and wife. So this concludes my very looooooong review of SWO and Jamaica. I will leave you with the following tips and suggestions: •Stay strong and don’t get pushed around by the wedding coordinators. They will try to bully you into doing what is easiest for them but it is your wedding so fight for what is really important to you. •Get rsvps from your invited guests before the resort’s 2-month deadline. I was naïve and set my response deadline for the same day as the resort head count deadline and ended up having to chase people to get their replies. I ended up being about two weeks late with my finally head count. •Be willing to accept that many (or all) your friends and family will not be able to attend your wedding. Some will not be able to afford it, some will not want to go to the resort you choose, and some will not have a valid reason they will just not come. Every destination bride out there will tell you this is just comes with the territory of having a destination wedding. •Hire a private driver to pick you up from the airport upon arrival. You will be bringing extra luggage and having private transportation means you can get to the resort quicker….we left the airport about 15 minutes after the bus had left and still beat the bus to the resort by a good ½ hour. We hired Jeffery Stephens from Reggae Tours and he was fantastic. •If you are flying into Montego Bay book with Club MoBay for arrival and departure services. On arrival they will greet you at your gate with a sign that has you name on it and personally escort you past all the security and straight to the exit. If you’ve ever been through security in the Mo Bay airport you know what a lifesaver this service is. They also have a private lounge on arrival and departure where you can have free drinks, snacks, and freshen up/change your clothes. This is great if you are coming from or going to a cold climate since you’re not stuck in your winter clothes while travelling to or from the resort. •During the planning process don’t panic; the coordinators know what they are doing. it will all come together and be beautiful. •Most importantly: BREATHE. You are marrying the love of your life in a beautiful tropical location….enjoy the moment!
  4. This post is part 2 of 3 for my review of SWO and my wedding in Jamaica. If you missed Part 1 go back and read it as I give a detail overview of the resort. (Part 1 of 3 is here and part 3 of 3 is here) WEDDING COORDINATORS The ladies in the wedding department at SWO are very knowledgeable and work really hard to help you have the perfect wedding day. Yes they are slow to respond when you are more than 2 months away from your wedding date but that is because they are busy helping other brides who are getting married before you. Once you get closer to your wedding date their response time does improve. If you are highly organized like I am then planning a destination wedding at any resort will truly test your patience but trust me when I say to remain calm…everything will come together in the end and the ladies at SWO will make sure you have a beautiful wedding day (rain or shine). The only real hiccups I had with dealing with the wedding coordinators were when I sent my paperwork for my marriage certificate. I sent it by courier as they requested and paid extra to have 24 hour delivery. I sent the coordinators a message letting them know I had sent it out and for them to let me know when they received my paperwork. After about I week I checked in with them and they said they hadn’t receive it. I asked the coordinator I was dealing with to double check with the other coordinators in the office and she insisted nobody in their office had received anything from me. I totally panicked as she also told me since they had not received my paperwork by the deadline I would not be able to get married on my scheduled date and would need to rebook everything for a different date. I ran a search through my courier and discovered the resort did indeed receive my package within the 24 hours after I sent it. My courier also gave me a pdf of the signature by the wedding coordinator who received the package and low and behold it was the same wedding coordinator that had insisted she had not received my paperwork and told me I had to reschedule my wedding. I sent her the pdf of the signature and suddenly she “remembered” that they had received it. I know they are busy and accidents happen but I have to say an apology would have been nice. Needless to say I was not too happy with her but was relieved I didn’t have to reschedule everything. The other frustration is that I didn’t seem to have a designated coordinator planning my wedding. It seemed that all three coordinators at SWO were working on my wedding, depending on who had time. This is a frustration because I often had to re explain my requests or preferences. It was almost like they didn’t talk to each other even though their office is small and they all basically work at the same long desk. Very frustrating but like I said in the end it all came together and my wedding day was more perfect and beautiful then I could have imagined so I guess that’s all that matters. To their credit – I had originally booked the Ultimate wedding package because we thought we were going to have a big group coming to our wedding. When we realized we would no longer be a big group the wedding coordinators let us switch to the basic (free) package without issue and did not try to change us a penalty for the last minute change. RESORT HAIR/MAKEUP Prior to my wedding I debated about hiring an outside vendor for hair and makeup. There really wasn’t much out there in reviews by past SWO brides about the hair and makeup services at the resort spa which made me a bit nervous but in the end the $600 outside vendor fee ($300 for each) made me decide to go with the hair and makeup provided by the resort spa. I contacted the spa about 2 months prior to our wedding to book my appointment for hair and makeup and asked what makeup they used. The lady at the spa said it was Mirabella which is apparently professional grade makeup so I decided to give them a chance. The final result of their services were just OK. At my appointment the same girl did my hair and makeup. When she first started to do my makeup she pulled out L’Oréal True Match foundation! I was a little shocked since I was told they only use professional grade makeup. She told me they do but she thinks L’Oréal would be better for my pictures, really? Better than professional grade make-up? Luckily I had brought all my own makeup with me so I told her to use my Laura Mercier Photo Finish Foundation instead. When she finished doing my makeup it was way too “drag queenish” and she filled in my eyebrows so thick I looked like I had a uni-brow. I made her fix my eyebrows and they were better after she fixed them but I still fixed the rest of the makeup myself once I got back to my room to tone down the drag queen factor. (yes, I know your makeup needs to be heavier than normal to show in pictures but this was beyond that). For my hair I wanted soft bouncy curls and although she did curl my hair she sprayed it with so much hair spray while she was curling it my curls were not soft or bouncy. It wasn’t what I had envisioned but looked OK. When I asked her why she was spraying so much hair spray she said it was because the only way the curl would hold is if she sprayed it with hair spray. The total cost for my hair and makeup through the resort was $150 USD. If I was to go back in time I would have spent the extra money and hired an outside vendor. I know not everyone can spend a small fortune on outside vendors (at $300 each vendor it adds up quickly) so if you can’t afford it go with the resort hair and makeup but go to your local Sephora and get some makeup lessons beforehand so you can do your own makeup if the resort screws it up. If you are a Sephora VIB Rouge member like I am the lessons are free. If you are a Beauty Insider then the lessons are free too but you have to buy $40 worth of makeup at the end of the lesson but really who can honestly go to Sephora and NOT spend $40?  I went for 2 separate makeup lessons at Sephora a few months before my wedding so I could practice the techniques I learned and I’m so glad I did as it came in handy when I needed to fix my makeup on my wedding day. One final tip – if you do go with the resort hair and makeup leave yourself enough time before the ceremony/pictures in case you have to fix their mistakes. My appointment was at 10am and I was done hair and makeup appointment by noon. My photos were starting at 2pm so I had a 2-hour buffer which worked out perfectly. RESORT PHOTOGRAPHER/VIDEOGRAPHER Both the photographer and videographer provided by the resort are the same photographers that walk around the resort day and night taking pictures of you then try to sell you the pictures. When my husband and I were at SWO in 2014 we hired them to take some sunset photos of us to have as souvenirs. We didn’t know at the time that we would be getting married there (we weren’t even engaged yet) but having already seen the quality of their work when it came time to plan my wedding I knew no matter what I would be hiring an outside vendor for photos. Don’t get me wrong, the resort photographers are not the worst photographers in the world but they are also not the caliber I would expect from a wedding photographer. Most of their poses are cheesy and they don’t seem to pay attention to little details such as everyone having their legs crossed the same direction etc. I’m sure they have more than one photographer and some are better than others but having been unsatisfied with my past experience I didn’t want to take the chance. I ended up hiring Misha Earle and she was absolutely fantastic to work with. I will give more details about our experience with Misha in the next section. Even though we hired Misha for our photos the wedding coordinators still insisted I had to use their photographer too. I told them I didn’t not want their photographer at my wedding but they still insisted it was non-negotiable and I HAD to use their photographer as well as my own since it was part of the wedding package. This is when I politely reminded them that I had paid the $300 vendor fee for the “privilege“ to bring my own photographer onto the resort property and I did not want their photographer getting in the way of Misha capturing the photos of my wedding. With that they conceded and said they would not send their photographer. When I was arriving to the ceremony I did see their photographer lurking in the bushes near the gazebo where we were getting married. I shot him a dirty look as we drove past him on the golf cart and he disappeared and I never saw him again . Since they knew I would not be purchasing pictures from them I can only suspect their photographer came anyway to try and get pictures so they could add to their portfolio to sell packages to future brides. MISHA EARLE PHOTOGRAPY What can I say about Misha that hasn’t already been said by countless other brides on here? She is indeed fantastic to work with and the photos she produces are truly works of art. It’s been almost 8 months since my wedding and I still can’t stop looking at them. My husband and I are not very photogenic and she managed to make us feel at ease. We truly felt like we had an old friend at our wedding taking our pictures. She also brought along her assistant Kenmar and he was such a riot. We decided to do “first look” photos before the ceremony and shot a majority of the photos before the ceremony since we were getting married at 4pm and didn’t want to be rushed by the sunset to capture all our pictures. At one point Kenmar went off with my husband and shot some individual photos of him and Misha worked with me to capture my bridal photos. This was a big time saver and meant we weren’t standing around when the other was getting individual photos taken. We loved working with both of them. I did have to pay SWO $300 to allow Misha onto the property for our wedding day and on top of that the resort also made me pay an additional $80 for a day pass to allow Kenmar on the property but Misha covered the cost of the vendor fee by reducing her rate by $300 so we ended up just paying for Kenmar’s guest pass. Another thing I really liked about Misha is she Skyped with us about 2 months before our wedding. This gave us a chance to actually see her instead of just emailing back and forth. We were able to discuss all the pictures we would like to have captured on the day and get to know her a bit. Misha is also very spunky and will not let the wedding coordinators push you or her around on your wedding day. She will fight for you, her client. After our ceremony was done we were getting ready to take some pictures with the cake. The cake was on a table off to the side of the gazebo with a bunch people in bathing suits drinking and partying in the background. The wedding coordinators were trying to make us take the photos with the cake where it was but Misha wasn’t having it. She told them to move the cake table to where the ceremony was so we would have the ocean, flowers, and, drapery as a background. When they refused she and Kenmar picked up the cake table and moved it themselves. The coordinators did not look happy but they didn’t say anything. I couldn’t help but laugh:lol: 4 weeks after our wedding Misha sent us a link to a video slideshow displaying a selection of about 50 photos. It was set to our wedding song “All of me” by John Legend and when my husband watched it for the first time he cried because the photos were so beautiful (he is not a crier). About 4 weeks or so after the video slide show we received a flash drive with all the photos in the mail. This was the timeframe she had told us when we first hired her so she was true to her word. One final thing I really liked about Misha. I asked her to not “Kim Kardashian” (aka Photoshop) our photos as I wanted to capture our true selves and the real beauty of our wedding day and she said that’s the way she prefers to work anyway. Another example of her talent, she is able to capture the right angles to make you look your natural best. I don’t have a single complaint about Misha or the quality of her work. She was phenomenal to work with. You will not be disappointed if you hire Misha to photograph your wedding. Here are a few pics from our wedding taken by Misha: TIA FLORAL vs. FLORAL FANTASIES vs. REAL TOUCH The resort uses Tia Floral as their flower vendor. A quick search of the forums on here and you will find countless brides warning you to stay away from them. I am giving the same advice. I originally ignored their advice and asked Tia for a quote for a mixture of hydrangeas, roses, and orchids to decorate the entrance to the gazebo. These flowers were only going to span the 7 foot opening along the top of the gazebo and they came back with a quote of $2600 USD!!!! Crazy! I knew the price would be high but that is highway robbery in my opinion. It was also like pulling teeth trying to get the quote from them. I had to nag them for several weeks before they got back to me. I spoke to a few locals and they said the reason Tia Floral is so expensive and hard to work with is because a majority of the resorts use them as their preferred vendor so they kind of have brides over a barrel. After the outrageous quote I asked Misha for her advice on a floral vendor to deal with. She recommended Floral Fantasies. They were fantastic to deal with and came back with a quote of $600 USD for the same thing Tia wanted $2600 USD for. Even with paying the outside vendor fee their price was way lower and I had more confidence in them since they were always quick to get back to me, made recommendations to reduce the price and overall seemed way more professional. Just before our wedding we ended up having an emergency furnace replacement at home so I had to divert funds from our wedding budget for that which meant I had to drop the real flower decorations for gazebo I ordered from Floral Fantasies. They were very understanding and refunded almost all my money (think they kept about $100 for a cancellation fee). I had already made my own bouquet, my husband’s boutonniere and my grandmother’s corsage with real touch flowers so I decided to just create my own decorations with real touch flowers for the gazebo and bring them with me. I have another post on here from earlier this year covering my bouquet and other flowers with pictures for those of you that are interested. In the end my gazebo decorations ended up costing me about $200 including the drapery I also brought from home (a $30 last minute find at a local thrift shop) and although was not what I originally wanted still made for a pretty backdrop for our ceremony. Here’s a picture of the decorated gazebo:
  5. My husband and I were married at Secrets Wild Orchid on February 2, 2016. Needless to say this review is long overdue. Originally I had planned to come home from Jamaica and write my review right away but after a year of planning our wedding I really just needed a break from “wedding stuff”. I did keep notes though during the wedding planning and our time at SWO so I wouldn’t forget any details when it came time to write my review. Hopefully other brides planning a SWO or Jamaica wedding at another resort will find the info in this post helpful as they plan their perfect wedding in paradise. If there is anything I haven’t covered just ask….BDW was a great resource for me when I was planning my wedding so I have no problem paying it forward. I will start by saying my wedding ending up being very different from where it started. When I look back the only two things that remained the same were the groom and the location When we first got engaged we knew we wanted to get married in the Caribbean and having already been to SWO in 2014 we knew it was the perfect location for us. This was a second marriage for us both and having both gone through planning a big wedding the first time around we wanted something simple and beautiful. Our original intent was to only bring one other couple with us to act a witnesses but as soon as we announced our engagement to family and friends they all instead they HAD to come. We ended up with 50 invited guests. For those of you out there who have already had your destination wedding or are close to your wedding date I’m sure you know what happened next…..as we got close to the resort’s head count deadline one by one the excuses started (can’t afford it, can’t get out of work, etc.) and to make a long story short – we ended up being just us and my grandparents as our witnesses. Having just one other couple with us is what we wanted originally but not gunna lie….I was extremely upset with all our friends and family that bailed on us. By the time we needed to provide our final head count to the resort I had already planned a big wedding complete with bonfire beach party and a steel drum band for the reception, gift bags, custom invitations…the works. Lots of money and time spent for people that HAD to come but then suddenly couldn’t make it….grrrr! Enough time has passed that I’ve forgiven most of them but have never forgotten - especially the good friend of my husband that told us at the last minute he couldn’t afford to come but then 2 weeks later bought a cottage. That’s ok, he got engaged recently and I have a feeling I will be busy on the day of his wedding I have to give a big shout out to @@acw271011. You were a true life saver in the final weeks of my wedding planning. You talked me off the ledge several times and help me find clarity when I felt like pulling all my hair out. Thank you again for everything my friend. Ok so onto the actual review. I really did love having my wedding at SWO and would highly recommend this resort to anyone for a wedding or even just a vacation. All in all they did a wonderful job and I would get married there again in a heartbeat. Throughout this review it may seem I was not happy with the resort but I just want to be honest about my experience to help other brides considering the resort. Every resort has good and bad points I wanted to be sure to cover both. I would have posted this to the Resort Reviews section but since I am also covering other vendors and my overall all Jamaican wedding planning experience I decided to post here instead. Warning - it is a very long post but I wanted to make sure to cover all the details. This review is actually so long that I have decided to break it down into 3 parts. This post is part 1 of 3. To make it easier for those of you looking for a specific topic I have broken the review down into the following sections: Part 1 Resort Overview Preferred Club Part 2 Wedding Coordinators Resort Hair/Makeup Resort Photographer/Videographer Misha Earle Tia Flora vs. Floral Fantasies vs. Real Touch Part 3 Bring Decorations from Home Ceremony (Minister, Cake, Violinist) Alternate Locations for Ceremony Private Wedding Dinner in the Gazebo General Suggestions/Tips RESORT OVERVIEW SWO is a beautiful adult only upscale resort. This really appealed to us since we don’t have children and didn’t want to go on vacation with other people’s children. If you need a kid friendly resort, then this place is not for you. Even if your guests with children stay at a nearby family friendly resort their children will not be allowed to attend your wedding at SWO. They are very strict about this policy and will not make exceptions. There are actually two sides to the Secrets resort in Montego Bay – Wild Orchid and St. James. They are the same resort. There is no difference other than the furniture style & decor and it doesn’t matter which side you stay on as all amenities are open to all guests (except for the preferred club which I will get into later). The Wild Orchid side is closer to all the restaurants and evening entertainment but even if you stay on the St. James side everything is still within close proximity. Both times we have stayed at the resort we stayed on the Wild Orchid side but would have been equally as happy on the St. James side. It is truly a beautiful resort and the staff really do try to go above and beyond to make your vacation memorable. There were even a few staff members that remembered us from our trip to SWO 2 years earlier. When you arrive at the resort for the first time you are greeted with a “Welcome home” by staff. On our second visit to the resort we were greeting this way again and we truly did feel like we had come home. The evening entertainment shows are probably some of the best I have seen at an all-inclusive resort. One show you really can’t miss is the Silver Birds steel drum orchestra. They are so amazingly talented! Their show is on Monday nights. The resort also has a Cirque du Soleil style show on Tuesday nights that is pretty good. Sunday night is their weekly “Ideal Couple” newlywed game which is hilarious. Since this is an adult only resort some of the questions are risqué and the answers given are hilarious. My husband and I were contestants the Sunday night before our Tuesday wedding. We didn’t win but had a lot of fun. On our final day there it was Super Bowl Sunday and the resort throws a huge party each year to celebrate it. They had a big parade throughout the whole resort with a big marching band and even setup a huge replica of the Golden Gate Bridge on the beach since the Super Bowl was in San Francisco this year. They also setup a massive movie screen with lounge seats on the beach for watching the game where they also served dinner and drinks right to your chair. My husband and I are huge football fans and even though our Packers were not in the Super Bowl this year it is still a memory we will never forget. How many people can say they experienced Super Bowl 50 on the beach of a luxury resort? Really cool ending to our honeymoon. One small caveat about the resort - for those of you that want a long beach you will not find it at SWO. The beach is man-made and small. My husband and I love to walk the beach every morning when we are on vacation but honestly the resort is so beautiful we didn’t even miss it. We did our morning walk around the beautiful resort grounds instead. Another warning for potential SWO brides - even though Secrets is supposed to cater to couples and romance it seems that in recent years they have been hosting more and more corporate retreats. When these companies come for retreats they are groups of several hundred people that travel the resort in big mobs and pretty much take over the resort. There were times when we couldn’t get into certain restaurants because of these large groups and the resort would even close some restaurants and parts of the beach for private corporate parties. This annoyed me because when we thought we were going to have a big group at our wedding we wanted to host private party at the restaurant by the pool the night before our wedding and were told the resort does not close restaurants for private parties no matter what as it is inconsiderate to the other guests. We were even asked to leave a restaurant one night shortly after receiving our dinner because a big corporate group wanted to eat there. When we complained the staff at the restaurant were very unapologetic. We found most of the bar and wait staff seemed to care more about the big groups then the other guests. I’m guessing they are just trying to protect their tips and they figure they will get more tips from a big group. If you are planning your wedding at SWO check with the resort to see if any corporate retreats will be there at the same time to avoid this annoyance. If you have any other questions about the resort (restaurants, layout, amenities, rooms, etc.) just ask having been there a few times I know it very well. PREFERRED CLUB All the rooms are great at SWO and SSJ but if you are looking for the next level of service then the Preferred Club, in my opinion, is worth it. With the Preferred Club you get a special black room card that gives you access to stay in a special building. This building is the closest one to the restaurants and evening entertainment and has the best views of the ocean. This building also has its own private concierge service, private pool and beach not accessible to the “regular” guests. The pool is a quiet zone so if you are looking to get away from the noise at the main pool this is nice option. Of course if you are looking to party you can head over to the main pool where all the action is. We also found that most of the big corporate groups had rooms in the regular part of the resort so when we wanted to escape them we headed over to the Preferred Club. In the Preferred Club lobby there are hot and cold hors d'oeuvres that is refreshed throughout the day and into the evening. In the mornings they serve a continental breakfast in the lobby which is nice option if you miss breakfast at the main buffet. In addition to the hors d'oeuvres and breakfast, the lobby also has a private bar where they have premium alcohol, bottomless bottles of prosecco and will make you any cocktail you ask for. Both times we stayed at SWO we stayed in the Preferred Club. Many people on Trip Advisor have said it is not worth the extra price since all people from the resort can walk over and use the Preferred Club whenever they want but I witnessed firsthand in February the staff checking cards of people around the pool and you need to swipe your card to get into the building. Security wasn’t as tight on our first trip in 2014 so it seems they have listened to the reviews on Trip Advisor and started the crack down on the gate crashers. The concierge staff in the Preferred Club really go out of their way to make you feel special. They always greeted us by name whenever we walked into the lobby and asked if there was anything they could do for us. They made sure I had a golf cart to drive me to and from my hair/makeup appointment on the day of our wedding which is something the wedding coordinators said they couldn’t do. This was very appreciated as the Spa is on the opposite end of the resort. The day after our wedding they called us down to the lobby because they said they needed to talk to us about our room. When we got there they surprised us with an upgrade to the Master Suite for the last 5 days of our stay. The Master Suite is the top floor corner suite and is larger than most people’s apartments. It has a separate bedroom, huge walk in shower, large tub, living room, bar, and foyer. Of course we were thrilled but as repeat guests and DINKS (double income, no kids) we knew what they were doing – they were giving us a taste of the “good life” so when we come back again for a future trip we would book that suite. It was still appreciated nonetheless and made the honeymoon portion of our trip extra special. This is it for Part 1 of my 3 part review. Be sure to check out my other 2 parts of this review for more details about SWO and my wedding experience in Jamaica.
  6. 2ndTimeMrs

    Air Transat Refund Amount - Help!

    @@krystalball have you taken a look at the Consumer Protection Act for Ontario? here's the page where it talks about contract and additional fees: https://www.ontario.ca/page/your-rights-when-signing-or-cancelling-contract Not sure if this will help you but I know when ever I mention the Consumer Protection Act to companies that are giving me the run around they suddenly become more accommodating Good luck!
  7. 2ndTimeMrs

    Seawind Beach Club Questions

    For those of you that are interested in dinner at the Seawind Club the best way is contact the restaurant manager, Elvis, directly. (yes his name really is Elvis ) The restaurant at the club is called Calypso and their phone number is 876-940-9660. I was not able to arrange a dinner there before I left for my wedding in Jamaica but the club was located next door to our resort (Secrets Wild Orchid) so once we got settled in we walked over the restaurant and spoke to Elvis. He was absolutely fantastic. He reviewed the menu with us, made recommendations, and, showed us the wine list so we could pick a bottle in advance and he would make sure he had it ready for our dinner. We decided to not have dinner there on our wedding night but instead to have a special dinner there to kick off our honeymoon phase of the trip. When we originally made the plans with Elvis we were expecting to have a candlelight dinner in the restaurant at one of the more private tables near the pool but when we arrived for dinner Elvis personally escorted us to the beach where his staff had set up a beautiful candlelight dinner for two on the beach. The food and service were both fantastic and I would highly recommend this restaurant for dinner. According to a few locals this restaurant also has the best Sunday brunch on the island. As a side note - I tried making arrangements through our resort before I departed for Jamaica but they told me they don't do that. When we arrived at the resort we noticed that all the concierge desks have advertisements for Calypso restaurant saying they could arrange dinner for you. This annoyed me enough that I didn't even enquire about it (I'm assuming they would get a commission for booking you) and I'm glad I went directly to the restaurant as I'm sure if I had made arrangements through the resort we would have got a generic package deal instead of the beautiful personalized dinner Elvis arranged for us.
  8. I second @@ashhtayy 's comment about the spray tan. Yes spray tan has come along way since the days of Jessica Simpson's famous orange skin tan but the spray tan does still come off in the water; especially salt water. Everybody's skin reacts differently to spray tan but I know for me it always wore off unevenly so I ended up with a blotchy look after a few days. Not sure I would take the chance on that for my wedding I'd be afraid of the tan rubbing off on my dress. I did the tanning beds but I already had a good base (I spend the entire summer in the sun on my boat) so I only needed a few sessions. As for lash extensions - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! I got them this past Saturday and so far I love them. I feels great to roll out of bed in the morning and already look like you've got makeup on. One thing I would recommend is to get them about a week before your wedding. They only last for about 4 to 6 weeks and some people have reactions to the glue used to bond the falsies to your natural lash so a week will give you time to adjust to having them without having to worry about them starting to fall out.
  9. Thanks for the feedback ladies! One of the pitfalls to being a bride is in the 11th hour you start to second guess all your decisions Great info on bring home bouquets to Canada Ann! I was always under the impression from CBSA that you couldn't bring home anything that was living. I probably still would have made my own bouquet anyways just due to the price Tia Flora wanted to charge but still great info for all the other Canadian brides on here.
  10. I'm leaving for my wedding at Secrets Wild Orchid in MoBay in 2 days and have finally finished my bouquet, my FH's boutonniere and my grandmothers corsage. I would have loved to have real flowers but I wanted peonies in different shades of coral for my bouquet and as many of you know the prices are crazy expensive (quotes I received were in the $600 range just for my bouquet!) to me that is just too expensive for flowers I can't bring home through customs to have as a keepsake so I ended up making my own using a mx of real touch and silks. I did have some dusty miller in my bouquet to match the boutonniere and corsage but ended up taking it out at the last minute as the bouquet was starting to look too busy. I purchased the flowers from Michaels and various sellers on Etsy. If anyone is interested in specific flowers from my bouquet send me a message and I'll tell you where I bought them. All though my bouquet didn't turn out how I originally envisioned overall I'm pleased with the final result but worried that they might look fake in the pictures. Would love to get some feedback from you ladies. Do they look too fake? Is there anything you would do differently?
  11. 2ndTimeMrs

    Seawind Beach Club Questions

    Thanks for the links @acw271011 I reached out to a tour operator that booked our golf excursion and the manager of the Seawind Club is off until Wednesday so hopefully once he is back to work we will be able to arrange something. We leave on Friday morning so worst case we will go there our selves (it's next door to our resort) and talk to the manager directly. Once I figure out how to book I will post for other brides that are interested.
  12. I am staying at Secrets Wild Orchid and having my wedding there on Feb 2nd and since it suddenly just became only the two of us I would like to arrange a special candlelight dinner on the beach after our ceremony. I've heard that the Seawinds Beach Club and Calypso Restaurant next door to the resort does this but I can't find a website with any details. Have any Jamaica brides on here had experience with this? I have also reached out to SWO about having a candlelight dinner at the resort on the beach or one of the gazebos but they still haven't replied to me with pricing or menus to chose from and I don't want to leave it to chance until we get there since we want to have the dinner on a specific day.
  13. 2ndTimeMrs

    Wedding Band

    Not sure where you are getting married but if you are getting married in Jamaica then check out the Bung Guh Lhung band : https://www.reverbnation.com/bungguhlhung I know Secrets Wild Orchid uses them as their Reggae band for weddings and a few SWO brides on here that had a reggae band said they were very good. They play a mix of contemporary/popular songs as well as traditional reggae. Also check out youtube as there a lots of videos of Bung Guh Lhung singing and performing so it will give you a good idea if they are right for your group. Good Luck!
  14. It is going by fast acw271011. It seemed like time was going so slowly for the longest time then suddenly I woke up and was 29 days out with still so much to do
  15. To be honest I really didn't keep track of the cost as I was going along but I estimate it was probably somewhere in the ballpark of $7.00 per invite plus postage. I only needed 25 invites but ended up making 30 just in case I needed extras plus I wanted to have one for myself as a keepsake.
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