Well, we've just returned from the trip of a lifetime!!!! We were there from November 1st to the 8th (married on the 4th). The weather was absolutely beautiful all week... it rained the night before we left but we were okay with that... it made it a little easier to leave! We could not have had a more perfect experience with our wedding week! The flight down was great and we arrived at the airport early enough that everyone was able to sit with someone they knew (some of us flew out of Toronto, others were flying out of Montreal). We arrived in Punta Cana and made it to the resort without a problem. The Punta Cana airport is so easy and quick to get through (it looks like it has a straw roof - my 3 year old nephew thought we were visiting one of the three little pigs!)
We had 70 guests staying at the Palladium (we had a large group of Canadians, but also a group of friends coming from Central America and another couple from Chile... their teenaged children were meeting us there for the first weekend but had to get back to school before our wedding on Wednesday so we ended up being around 55 for the wedding part).
Originally, most of our party was booked into the Palace (a few others had booked through a different agent or had booked on points and were staying either at the Bavaro or at the Punta Cana)... Upon arrival, we were shocked and thrilled to find out that they upgraded ALL of those who booked through our agent (and through Transat holidays - so about 40 of us) to the Royal Suites Turquesa section!!!! It was AWESOME!!!! My fiance and I, along with about a dozen others had swim-up rooms. All of the suites are STUNNING!! Marble everything, showers with rain heads and jets, king-size poster beds with draped fabric, flat screen t.v.'s... 24-hour room service, butler at your door (you want a reservation? ask the butler! You want champagne? Ask the butler! You want flowers for your hair? Ask the butler!) There was even a pillow menu - in case you're not comfortable with the one you're sleeping on - just order up a different style of pillow!!! With the Turquesa, you also had access to a private beach with chair-side service (though you could just sit in the pool outside your room and the servers would come to you there as well). The 'silver bracelet' also got you free internet and computer access in the Turquesa lobby (free WIFI throughout the resort if you bring your laptop), upgraded wine at the a-la-cartes and access to at least one a-la-carte reserved solely for Turquesa guests... seriously the ROYAL treatment!!!
My sister and her family were the only ones not upgraded because they had the 3-year old and the Turquesa section is adults only, however, they were given a floor-level ocean view room in the Palace section and said that their room was still very nice. They were a little disappointed to have been left in the Palace section initially, mostly because they had hoped my parents could take my nephew a few nights so they could enjoy the nightlife. It ended up not being that big of a deal. The day of the wedding, my mom spoke with the butler who agreed to let my nephew in the Turquesa suites to get ready with the boys... a few other nights he came home with my parents and spent the night in their suite - he was really just there to sleep and they took him back to the Palace section first thing in the morning... nobody put up a fuss about it (I know it was breaking the rules, so we were pretty happy to have gotten away with it).
I had emailed all of our guests ahead of time and asked that we all meet in the Palace lobby the first night there (just so we could see each other once, introduce the group, etc). This lobby ended up being our meeting place for most of the week! Itâ€™s fairly large, has a bar and usually had live music at night. My fianceâ€™s aunt had flown up the day before and was sweet enough to bring all of our travel mugs with her and her group of friends. So, after checking in, everyone went back to their rooms to freshen up, then met in the Palace lobby where Aunt Joanne had set up all of the mugs (with thank you tags) on a table at the entranceâ€¦ My fianc© and I were quick to arrive and we were able to stand by the table (fighting off random people who kept trying to take them!) and hand them out to our guests as they got there. The mugs ended up being our main favour. We had such a big guest list that the idea of OOT bags (the cost and also trying to get them down there!) was too much for us. We got our mugs through 4imprint.ca and they were a HUGE hit! People recognized the mugs before they recognized each other! They worked great for both hot and cold drinks and theyâ€™ve since been through the dishwasher several times (probably not recommended by the company, but whatever) and the logo/design on them still looks great!
Upon arrival, there was also a letter waiting for us with instructions to meet with Carolina the next morning (Monday)... we also had a fruit basket and a bottle of rum waiting for us in our room. We met with Carolina for 20-30 minutes that morningâ€¦ she asked if we had seen pictures of the new gazebo (we had and it was absolutely where we wanted to be married). Check. She showed us our choice of flowers (daisies, carnations or red roses)â€¦ not what I had in mind for a tropical wedding â€“ flip the page to your $25 upgrades! I asked for part of one mixed with part of anotherâ€¦ done! Flowers for bridesmaids, corsages, boutonnieresâ€¦ how many? Check, check, check! Hereâ€™s your cake, would you like flowers on it? Yes? Done! (She asked if we wanted ribbon on it as wellâ€¦ I happened to have brought some leftover ribbon from favours so she had that put on the cake). She gave us a menu and asked us to choose an appetizer, main course and desert and we could either meet with her again that evening or give it to our butler (we chose to meet because we also had to give her copies of our witnessesâ€™ passports). Because we were such a big group, she didnâ€™t give an option of restaurant and just said we were going to the Arecife (which ended up being perfectly fineâ€¦ they had us in our own section and we couldnâ€™t even see any other guests from where we were sitting). .. honestly, for weddings the menu is the same from one restaurant to the next and we were there for such a short period of time that I really wish I hadnâ€™t stressed about which restaurant we would eat at during the planning process â€“ am also VERY glad we didnâ€™t pay the extra $1000 for exclusivity of the restaurant (we decided to spend $600 on the live band and $9/person on the private beach party instead and were THRILLED we made that choice). We also managed to see almost all of the restaurants while we were there and there isnâ€™t a single one that I would have NOT wanted to have our wedding dinner in.
Music: we had brought a CD with our ceremony music on it (one song as a prep song, then the song for the girls walking down the aisle, my song and one more song for exiting). We also confirmed that we wanted the live band at the beach party (which we had our travel agent/wedding coordinator here pre-arrange with her)â€¦ also gave her another CD with first songs on it. We had also brought all of our â€˜extrasâ€™ with us (frame, vases and sand for sand ceremony, sandalwood fans from Michaelâ€™s that I had tied ribbon to, tears of joy packets â€“ again from materials bought at Michaelâ€™s and my momâ€™s friends had brought maracas from Nicaragua â€“ all carved with our names and the dateâ€¦ they were beautiful!!!) Anything we asked, Carolina said â€œno problem, donâ€™t worry about it, youâ€™re on holidaysâ€! We also had (again from the Nicaraguans) little bottles of rum with stickers with our names and the date on them â€“ again, just left them with Carolina and she took care of getting them to the restaurant and having them on ice so we could greet our guests and give them a bottle.
Anyway, we met with her again for 10 minutes the Monday evening and confirmed the menu (we had two vegetarians and she gave us choices from a different menu for them when we asked). We gave her the rest of our documentation and she confirmed that she had arranged for day/guest passes to be left at the reception for our photographer, pastor and a couple of guests who were coming from a different resortâ€¦ she even offered to call Photosouvenir and Pastor York to confirm things with them â€“ she had their numbers on file.
The day of the wedding was perfect. The girls and I got ready in our room and Joe and the boys got ready in my brother's room directly above us. The girls had their hair done at the spa (note to other brides, EVERYTHING is negotiable down there! The hairdresser originally wanted $150 US for an updo... eventually, they agreed to between 70-80US depending on the length of hair - updo only, no wash/dry â€“itâ€™s important to tell them you donâ€™t want wash/dry as they try to build it into the price). The hair turned out really well for 2 out of the 3 girlsâ€¦ the other one ended up coming back to the room and having to re-do it (even though they had all brought picturesâ€¦ be prepared). I was fortunate enough that a friend of the familyâ€™s, whoâ€™s a hairdresser, was staying at a different resort that same weekâ€¦ she had offered to come and do my hair (and was also able to tweat my MOHâ€™s after the not so great job at the spa).
Severine from Photo Souvenir arrived around 1:30 (Carolina had arranged for day passes for her and other guests coming from off resort to be waiting at the front desk). She took photos of us getting ready, then followed us to the ceremony site. There was a slight hitch with transportation... the guy dropped my parents, my bridesmaids and I off at the wrong gazebo. When we tried to tell him it was the wrong spot, he backed up about 50 feet and told us to walk around the restaurant to the back then wheeled off, leaving us there. We did as he told us and didn't see our wedding site. Two of the girls ran up the beach in either direction and couldn't find the gazebo. My mom (whose first language is Spanish) was able to find someone with a radio and they called Carolina. I later spoke to my fianc© about it and he said he knew something was up when he saw Carolina on the phone... the look on her face said that she was not pleased! A new cart was there in seconds (we got the impression that when Carolina speaks, people listen!) and we got to the ceremony site only a few minutes after 3:00 (people didn't seem to care - they were serving drinks at the ceremony! Drinks!! Seriously, waiters with trays of drinks!! Alcohol makes everyone happy!!). I can honestly say that this was the ONLY hiccup of the whole week! Carolina later came to us completely embarrassed and apologetic and offered complimentary massages for Joe and I and free late check-out (but our flight ended up being early so we couldn't take advantage of it). It really wasn't that big of a deal to us but she was so apologetic... we tried to reassure her that it was okay but she was so embarrassed that it happened. She really is great.... everything else about the day was perfect because of her!
As for the ceremony, the new gazebo is breathtaking! There was an incredible breeze which helped keep everyone cool (they also placed fresh palms over the trellis of the gazebo that morning, providing some shade for most of our guests). They had the gazebo decorated perfectly and Carolina had set up everything we brought with us as we had asked (a basket for sandalwood fans, kleenex packets, wooden maracas from the group of Nicaraguans were left on all of the chairs... perfect! The best part was that we didn't have to worry about doing any of it!). They even had security surrounding the gazebo (which I didn't even know about because they were so good about being subtle) and were asking people to back away from the ceremony site - which was so nice. It was fun to see onlookers from a distance but they weren't standing right next to us in their Speedos! We brought a CD for the ceremony music which Carolina played for us. The judge performed a quick ceremony making it legal, then Pastor York performed a symbolic ceremony which lasted maybe an additional 25-30 minutes. We were really happy with the ceremony he performed and are so glad we added him and made an actual ceremony out of itâ€¦ I think I would have been really disappointed with a five minute ceremony. After the ceremony, we were all provided with champagne (a glass of juice in a champagne flute for my nephew), had a toast, cut the cake then we all met on the beach for photos. Did some group pics, then everyone disappeared for more drinks while Joe and I took more photos. Severine from Photo Souvenir was fantastic! She did an incredible job the day of the wedding. We met with her again early on Friday morning for the Trash the Dress shoot and she met us back at the resort Saturday afternoon and had copies of all of our proofs (about 600 4x6 from the wedding and almost 200 5x7 TTD pics) all retouched and beautiful! She also had all of our photos on a disk (provided us with written permission to print them off as we wished) and a separate disk with a slide show on it (she had emailed the day before for a list of songs). After photos, we met again to take the train to the Arecife restaurant for dinner.
Dinner was excellent! When we got to the restaurant, Carolina had a big bowl of ice and limes waiting for us as we had asked for the Nicaraguan rum. Fiance and I waited by the bowl of Mombacho rum and handed one out to everyone as they arrived. She had our guestbook/photobook waiting with pens so people could sign. The meal was great and we had a whole section of the restaurant to ourselves...we woudln't have know that there were other people there! After dinner, some people went back to their rooms to change for the beach party, others went straight to the beach. I don't know how she did it, but the leftover bottles of rum were still at the restaurant when we left dinner and by the time we got to the beach, they were already waiting for us there!
The beach was lit up with spot lights and set up with white tables and chairs and decorated with surf boards! The set-up, the band, the servers...all fantastic! We had brought a pile of glow necklaces and bracelets and handed them out as people got there (my new SIL laughed and called me the raver-bride!). Carolina had a sound system set up also so we were able to play a CD with our first songs and do our first dances before the band started up. Half-way through the night, they let us take over the microphone for speeches and we did the garter/bouquet toss. The music went on until about midnight but we headed back to our room around 11:45.
The next morning, breakfast and the wedding cake was delivered to our room and Carolina had her assistant track us down later that afternoon to ask about our preference for massage appointments (the massages ended up being awesome, by the way!).
There were several people who were interested in doing an excursion together so we spoke to the Transat Rep (Caroline) who organized a sunset cruise on the Tropical Storm for us. It was Thursday and I ended up missing her office hours that day, but spotted her at one of the restaurants. She was so great! I hated to bug her on her lunch but she was so nice and took the time right there to call the boat to try to organize it for us. When she wasn't able to reach them right away, she tracked us down by the pool later that day to let us know that they agreed to let us charter it as a private party as long as we had a minimum of 20 guests (which we did, easily) at the same price as an open/public boat. We did a sunset cruise on the Friday night and everyone had a fantastic time! David and his crew were awesome and did a great job of getting us all up dancing and having a great time. We went snorkeling, partied on the boat, anchored at this other spot where we hung out in the ocean with more drinks and watched the sun set in land, then returned to shore around 7pm. Everyone was pretty pumped when we first got back to the resort and all made plans to hit the disco later that night but once dinner happened and we had time to come down from our day everyone slowly snuck back to their rooms and were sleeping by 10:30!
I also need to mention the food on the resort... our guests were incredibly pleased with the variety and quality of everything! Everyone tried hard, and did a good job, of attempting to eat at different restaurants and trying new things... the Brazilian, Italian and Japanese were big hits! A group of grown-ups tried the Royal Gourmet on our last night (the one you got with the silver bracelet upgrade) and wished they had tried it earlier as they said they probably would have eaten there every night, it was so good! We managed to find the Hemmingway bar on the second night and the boys organized a quiet poker game there on Thursday night (this is the bar that serves premium alcoholâ€¦ champagne, baileyâ€™s, the higher end vodka, rye, etcâ€¦ there are also several board games on book shelves and itâ€™s really very quiet).
Everyone really made great use of their vacation and there wasn't a single complaint about anything from anyone! We were a huge group and this resort managed to make over 70 people incredibly happy with their stay. Everyone was thrilled with everything. A few people got sick but it was either head/chest cold that knocked them down for a day or two, or too much sun with a side order of too much rum!!
Needless to say, we were all very sad to leave when Sunday came around. The fact that it was raining did make it a little easier. Transportation to the airport was fine and when we got on our flight back to Toronto we were very excited to look around and see that our group was 3/4 of the plane! Apparently there were only 58 people on the plane so once it took off, we were invited to sit wherever we wanted. There were enough spots that we all had our choice of 3-seat sections where we could lay down and have a nap! One of the attendants even happened to be from our home town! Turned out, her older sister was a bridesmaid in my parents' wedding and she and my mom had a chance to catch up on family and friends from the past.
Honestly, our week could not have gone any better! I havenâ€™t had the chance to upload pictures to photobucket yet to share on this forum and have not yet created an album with party pictures on facebook, but here are the links to my facebook albums of our pro photosâ€¦ there isnâ€™t a single thing we would have done differently! Enjoy the photos and I hope to get others up soon. Tanya Paquette's Photos - Our Wedding - Pro pics | Facebook Tanya Paquette's Photos - Our Wedding - Pro pics part 2 | Facebook