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Jen's Totally Over-the-Top Wedding Review

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    Posted 25 January 2007 - 12:53 AM

    Ladies - It turns out that I am a total wedding review overachiever!!! I am sorry this is so long but I had a lot of thoughts about it so don't feel bad if you don't want to read it all :)

    For those of you just interested in pics - here are the links to my totally uncensored full set of pics from one of my two photographers. As you married women know, not 100% of them are flattering!!! The reception and family/bridal party pics were mostly taken by the other photographer but I will pass those along when I have them.

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    Here goes:

    We flew direct from Chicago on American and it really reduced our stress level. I would definitely recommend a direct flight even if it costs more. We had a couple guests (including my sister) who got stuck overnight due to failed connections and one guest who went 2 days without his luggage.

    National Car Rental – B -
    Our car was fine and it was very convenient and quick to pick-up and return the car. The only issue was that we had figured out all our insurance needs before we reserved and we still got basically forced into the extra coverage. They were pretty threatening about it and said they didn’t have any agreements with American credit card companies. It added a lot to the cost but we did it because we were going to drive a lot and were unsure of the road conditions. The bottom line is to get your credit card policy in writing and bring it with you to show them.

    Puerta Vieja Welcome Dinner – A+
    As I have mentioned before on the forum, I really think the view from the second floor here is about the best you can get in Los Cabos!!! We reserved the whole floor and it is like an open-air terrace with really dramatic lighting and very cool imported furniture. For $35 per person we ended up with a 5-course meal that was awesome. There was a vegetable appetizer, followed by HUGE coconut shrimp, tortilla soup or a salad, then lobster, filet or scampi fish and a dessert of flan. Our guests were totally impressed and so were we. I only wish we or our parents had arrived a bit earlier than everyone else to take care of the housekeeping beforehand. We decided last minute to buy one round of drinks and have the rest as a cash bar. That didn’t quite get communicated so we ended up buying an extra round but it wasn’t that big of a deal.

    We used Ixchel transportation for $8 per person roundtrip plus 10% tip. They were right on time, transported us comfortably, and were fabulous for waiting when our dinner went later than planned so we tipped extra. I am so glad we got the group transport rather than asking people to find their own way.

    Hotel Finisterra – A-
    This hotel is really beautiful and has a beautiful unique architecture as it is built into a cliff. One side of the resort overlooks the marina and the other side overlooks the Pacific Ocean. I have stayed at hotels/resorts all over the world from rock-bottom to the best of the best and really was very happy with this one...although I wouldn’t call it luxurious. The only two complaints I have are that the d©cor (bedspreads, curtains, couches) is kind-of tacky (but clean and in good condition) and the service in the bar/restaurant left a bit to be desired. The one mishap we had was that Aaron and one of the groomsmen got stuck in an elevator for over an hour at 4 in the morning 2 nights before the wedding until a maintenance man heard them and pried it open for them to climb out. Looking back it is pretty funny but they were a bit panicked at the time!!

    That said, the rooms (59 of us stayed in the new palapa section and the others stayed elsewhere) were very large and clean with nice tile floors and great ocean views. The price was excellent at $240 per night per room for 2 people with a small extra charge for a third person. For comparison, my quote at Dreams was $260 per night per person, so this was less than half. Our guests loved the hotel!!! The three pools were great and had a nice palapa bar and many hot tubs. The beach in front of the hotel is not swimmable, but honestly you don’t need it with the awesome pools. And it was nice to have a quiet private beach – unlike Medano. Many of our guests took walks on the beach or napped in the hammocks. We all liked that the hotel felt secluded but was walking distance from the nightlife. Our guests really appreciated the convenience to town. The hotel is pretty large, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it. We normally stay at boutique hotels and felt like this was small enough to still be personal and unique.

    The Whale Watcher Bar and Blue Marlin restaurant were really cool and we found that all our guests ended up naturally meeting there for breakfast every day. It had the most amazing view and since it is whale season, we got to see many of them. Once again, the architecture is SO cool here. The bar was directly across from the back side of our suite so we could open our windows and look out and see who was up there all the time.

    Best of all was that we got upgraded to an enormous penthouse suite that was like 1500 sq ft and had a double terrace, full living room and kitchen. We went to the Mega and loaded up on wine/beer and margaritas and basically had a party waiting to happen – and since our friends are party animals we made good use of it. And we could totally shut off our bedroom if we needed to

    Our Coordinator, Iris Cota – A
    Iris did a wonderful job. She got thrown into it after her boss, Cecilia left in November. She followed up on everything we had arranged with Cecilia perfectly and was so helpful to us. Finisterra does not work with outside coordinators. I really, really liked having someone who knew all the hotel staff and was an insider there because she was able to pull some strings when we needed it. On short notice she set up yoga and salsa classes, restaurant reservations and a snorkeling trip the week before we arrived. The only very minor issues were that she tried unconvincingly to upsell us on our food when we first arrived and then she kindof hastily put together a rehearsal a few hours before the ceremony which I hadn’t planned for. We didn’t go for the extra food and didn’t need it. But she was right about having the rehearsal – we needed it and it was worthwhile. The fee for her coordination and wedding/reception set-up was $1000. It was worth every penny and we gave her a large tip too!

    Welcome Gift Bags - She was really nice to deliver our welcome gift bags to everyone’s rooms. Our bags turned out great but I am not sure I would go through the trouble again. We put sunscreen, Aleve, granola bars, bottle water, mini bottles of Patron tequila, two good cigars and chocolates in each bag along with a welcome letter/itinerary with a map of Cabo and the Travel Phrase sheet from Tammy. We used the canvas bags from cheaptotes.com and had them silkscreened with a pic of the arch formation. It was pretty cool but a huge hassle so I think I would just leave a bottle of tequila or champagne in each room with the letter if I did it again.

    Ceremony on Finisterra’s Upper Terrace – A+
    We switched our location from the beach to their gardens and finally when we got there we made a last minute decision to get married on top of the hotel on this beautiful terrace. I am so glad we decided to do it up there!! It was so pretty and the view was breathtaking. The hotel was a bit reluctant because it was quite a hike from there to the reception by the beach but it ended up being a fun procession with the mariachi band leading the way.

    We did a legal ceremony and it was really cool. If your religious beliefs are making you hesitate, remember that religion is so ingrained in the Mexican way of life that the vows are full of references to it. So much so that we had to remove some of it in the translation since it isn’t big for us. The thing that was super hilarious for our ceremony is that we decided to have my sister who is fluent act as our translator instead of hiring someone. They gave her the translation in English, and she basically read it after he spoke in Spanish. However, it was hilarious when my sister pronounced us man and wife!!! It was very lighthearted and different.

    Cocktail Hour on the Patio by the Beach
    We had the Mariachi band continue to play while we having pics taken and served drinks, chips guacamole and salsa for the guests through sunset. From what I hear it was really fun! I wish we would have heard more of the Mariachi band!! It is expensive but so worth it. At the end of the hour we did a champagne toast...mmmmmm!

    Reception in the Palapita Events Center
    Seriously this venue is so cool. It is a round, palapa space with a cool tile floor and glass walls that overlooks the beach. We arranged the tables in a circle with the dance floor in the middle. The food was out for a couple hours so people could graze as they felt like it.
    The food was awesome - here is our menu:
    Carving Station: Oven Roasted Leg of Pork - marinated in achiote paste and served with Mexican salsa and tortillas
    Mexican Appetizer Buffet: fish ceviche mini tostadas, chicken taquitos with cream and shredded cheese, mini tamales made with pork mole wrapped in banana leaf, corn and pineapple mini tamales, black bean mushroom and cheese mini sope, shredded beef burritos, oaxaca cheese quesadillas, mini seafood empanadas, squash blossom and cheese mini empanadas.
    Mexican Wine served:
    LA Cetto Nebbiolo Reserva, Monte Xanic Chenin Blanc (their Chardonnay is also excellent but spendy) and a Pettilant (the only one made in Mexico) were all very good. I did a ton of research on Mexican wine before we went and ordered based on that. We were super happy with it – especially the Nebbiolo. Ok I admit I had a bit to drink at the reception 

    DJ Anteres – A+
    This DJ was super fun and did exactly what we requested. Aaron and I love music so Aaron put together a bunch of CDs with music for dinner, early dancing and later dancing and we let him pick the specific songs based on the feel of the crowd. We reserved him for 4 hours and ended up extending it an hour. We loved our music!! Our friends could not stop dancing. So much so that they headed downtown afterward! And we assigned our friend to be the MC and he worked with the DJ to make announcements and introduce those making toasts.

    Floral by Shadia Floreria – A
    I was so happy with my bouquet and the arch and everything else. I really wasn’t expecting it to look as good as it did but was SUPER excited when it showed up. Floral was not even a big thing for me but I loved the way it looked. The Acapulco lilies smelled scrumptious!! One thing I really wanted was the pink petals on the aisle and on the reception tables. It was one of the first things I ordered. The day before the wedding the florist called and said they didn’t come in!! The morning of the wedding, my mom laid down the law and they magically appeared! I don’t know what they did to get them but I was very happy about it.

    Photographer Daniel Meza from Manuel Burgoin’s Weddings in Los Cabos – B+
    I will preface my comments by saying that we love our photography and think we got a great value for what we paid ($700 for 2 hours). We think Daniel did a really good job but can’t give him an A for a couple reasons. First of all, we signed up for Manuel himself and didn’t find out until Daniel showed up that we weren’t getting him. We are not sure if we would have used him if we had known because we had another photographer (Aaron’s cousin) who took a ton of pictures as well. The other thing that was kindof annoying is that he took a zillion pictures of us kissing and I don’t really like my side profile so toward the end we had to ask for fewer of those. We should have asked sooner. If we had known we weren’t getting the top dog we would have been more specific about what we were looking for and that would have made the difference. We did pay a bit less for him than Manuel so that was not a problem. With any of these companies - make sure you know who you are getting and look at their work beforehand!

    Here are links to our totally unfiltered wedding pics:

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    Other things we did in Cabo/Baja:

    Girls/Guys Night Out – A++++
    Two nights before the wedding we had a girls/guys night out and it was so much fun!! About 40 of us met in the Finisterra’s Whale Watcher bar. Then we split up and twenty of us girls had dinner at the Blue Marlin, followed by a trip downtown to dance at Desperados where they had a live band. The guys had dinner at Solomon’s Landing which is a laid-back restaurant on the marina with good sushi. I suppose they went to some “gentlemen’s” clubs. Later on we all met up at Squid Roe (even the parents). Seriously it was so much fun we were all complaining that our cheeks hurt the next day from smiling so much!!

    ATV Trip with Baja ATVs – D
    Don’t do it!!! Although fun, it is really SO dangerous. Aaron and some guys went the day after the wedding and his cousin ended up flipping his ATV and running over his own legs. They were so far into the desert that he was taken in the back of a pickup to a highway. The medical care is okay there, but not up to American standards. He had to have it all recasted when he got home and now will have a rod in his one leg for the rest of his life. I was totally nervous about them going and now I know why!

    Bungalows Bed & Breakfast (in Cabo) – A+
    We stayed in the honeymoon suite this time. It had a beautiful view over town, a private terrace and this cool kitchen with a bar that opened to the terrace. We absolutely love this place! It is quiet, romantic and unique. If you are looking for a huge all-inclusive, this is not the place. And the owners are really helpful. One night they helped us make dinner with the Marlin the boys caught that morning. And they arranged for us to have a couples massage right on our terrace for only $90 for 75 minutes!!

    The Office – C
    We’ve been here before and in my opinion it is totally overrated but we thought we would give it a second chance. It was worse this time as they have become very lax about letting vendors into the dining area and it drove me crazy. The food/drinks were good but not great and very expensive. In general, I do not like Medano beach. Too crowded, too hard to get to and the vendors are a real pain.

    Gordo Lele’s Tortas and Tacos – A+
    Tucked away on a side street in downtown Cabo, this is the best street vendor I have ever visited in Mexico. Javier is also called the fifth Beatle because he will belt out a Beatles tune for you as he cooks your food. There is always a crown waiting but it is worth it, especially for a Carne Asada Torta for 25 pesos!! We ate there 4 times on this trip and about the same on our last trip. Across the street and into the market alley, there is a hidden bar that serves 3 for 1 cocktails all day.

    Hacienda del Cuervo Restaurant – A+
    The night after our wedding, we still had so many guests who wanted to dine together that we ended up making a last minute reservation at this place through our concierge. It is in a courtyard along Marina Boulevard. It turned out to be delish and I have never seen a restaurant handle a surprise group of 22 so well. There was this one dish called something like Mulcahete that a few people ordered and said it was the best dish they had ever eaten in their lives! Their manager Alberto was so helpful and gave me a free dessert and the guys a bunch of top shelf tequila shots. We were all very impressed.

    Panchos – D
    We pre-arranged for a dinner followed by a group tequila tasting at Tabascos through their manager before we left. It was about $56 per person including tax and tip plus dinner. It was NOT worth it AT ALL. The tequila was totally run of the mill and the two guys who they advertise to do the tasting were not even there. On top of that, the food was way over the top expensive when we were told most entrees were under $15. I’m talking $21 burritos at this place. It is a total tourist trap. There are much better restaurants with great tequila selections who are just as knowledgeable (like the place above). The ONLY reason I do not give them an F- is that Aaron’s dad blew up and had the supervisor call the woman I arranged this through and demanded that we get better tequila and that she drop the price by $20 per person. She obliged and we were relieved because it really was not worth what they were charging. We would have just left but we had put down a $500 deposit and I didn’t want to lose it altogether.

    Art & Beer – A
    This is a side-of-the-road must stop on the way to Todos Santos at Km 69. We had wonderful Mojitos and the most amazing shrimp cocktail and a free scallop appetizer. The owners are old Mexican hippies who have a lot of their own artwork displayed. It is pretty expensive but worth the stop. However, don’t drink too much because the roads are a bit scary for the last few miles to Todos Santos.

    Todos Santos – A
    This is such a cute and beautiful city to visit. We stayed one night at the Hotel California in Suite #12, which had a huge terrace with a view of the ocean. The room was small but comfortable. On Saturday, they have a local band that plays in the courtyard. We had dinner there (not so good) and then went up to our terrace (which overlooked the courtyard) and laid under the stars and listed to music with a bottle of wine. It was SO romantic! I would recommend at least one night at Hotel California in Suites 12 or 14. The bar across the street Tequila Sunrise is known for its really strong drinks and let me tell you they are excellent!

    La Paz – B+
    The only reason I don’t give La Paz an A is that we went during off-season and during rainy weather. The city is breathtaking, and very European with a gorgeous walk along the bay they call the “malecon.” There are tons of little shops and cafes all around downtown. It has not been Americanized as this is where people from Baja go on vacation. If it had been sunny, there were several beaches right outside of town that we would have visited. As it was, the nightlife was pretty limited because there weren’t many tourists in town and the locals were hiding from the rain. Friday night was pretty fun. Las Varitas is the big weekend dance club and there are several other fun places on the same block.

    We stayed at Club El Moro (B). The hotel was really pretty and so were the grounds. The rooms were nice but not well suited for a honeymoon. We had a big suite with a full kitchen/living room. They had a nice pool area and small tiki bar. Once again, the weather kindof ruined the atmosphere for us. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again, but not for a honeymoon.

    Restaurants in La Paz
    La Pazta – A+ has a great atmosphere and excellent food and wine.
    Las Brisas – C is one of the more popular restaurants but we thought it was pretty old-school supperclub-ish.

    I would definitely recommend visiting La Paz for a day or two, but would 1) do it on a Friday or Saturday 2) make sure there is good weather forecasted and 3) go during their tourist season. Lastly, be CAREFUL driving there and keep it to about 80km/hr. For some reason they have a problem with COWS on the highways. We even had surprise encounters with a herd of huge pigs and with some goats and horses.

    •Do have a personal attendant and use her!!
    •Do assign a good friend (we used an usher) to be an MC who will take control of the microphone for the night. They can make announcements and introduce people who are making toasts, etc...
    •Do hire a mariachi band for at least the ceremony. It is so fun and festive and really gives a Mexican touch.
    •Do have a rehearsal and do it the day before.
    •Do arrive at least one day before any of your guests get there. I really wish we had gotten there a day earlier to unwind.
    •Do fly nonstop.
    •Do try the Mexican cuisine and wine and take their recommendations
    •Do what YOU and YOUR honey want, not what anyone else wants. You will not have fun if it is not your own!!
    Jen & Aaron
    January 13, 2007

    #2 JENGONDA9

    • Jr. Member
    • 163 posts

      Posted 25 January 2007 - 12:55 AM

      I just realized that I meant Panchos NOT Tabascos for the tequila tasting. Sorry about that!
      Jen & Aaron
      January 13, 2007

      #3 jpkw

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        Posted 25 January 2007 - 01:05 AM

        I read the entire review and it was great!!! Thanks for taking the time to write this up Jen! I'm SO glad everything turned out so well. It sounds amazing! Now I'm going to look at your pictures - I can't wait to see your flowers and all the details!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!

        #4 Nrvsbride

        • Sr. Member
        • 5,248 posts

          Posted 25 January 2007 - 01:12 AM

          Wow Jen this review is so extensive, thank you so much! I am so glad that with a few exceptions everything went well on your wedding day. Reading your review you painted such a nice picture and I can totally imagine what the day was like. Congratulations again!


          #5 DreaW

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            Posted 25 January 2007 - 04:53 AM

            Jen...Congrats. Thank you for the review it was very informative...especially about Manuel Burgoin....I'll make sure I talk to him in person and find out and make sure he will be the photographer....Did your WC hire him or did you hire him on your own?

            #6 KristinaM

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            • Wedding Date:April 18, 2013
            • Wedding Location:Ocean Blue & Sand, Punta Cana
            • LocationNew Jersey

            Posted 25 January 2007 - 10:18 AM

            Great review Jen!!! I'm so glad to hear things went well and can't thank you enough for being so detailed and thorough!!!

            #7 TammyB

            • Sr. Member
            • 10,630 posts

              Posted 25 January 2007 - 11:21 AM

              Ok I just read your review and looked at all your pictures.. Wow, everything turned out really nice, I love your dress. The resort is really pretty. Great review. I just have so many good things to say that I'm actually lost for words.. Me lost for words, who would have guessed.. lol...

              BTW I Love these candlesticks, did you get them or are they from the resort?

              Click the image to open in full size.

              #8 mexico15

              • Jr. Member
              • 250 posts

                Posted 25 January 2007 - 11:55 AM

                Amazing photos! thanks for sharing! Looks like a fantastic time!

                #9 Sarah


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                  Posted 25 January 2007 - 12:04 PM

                  Thanks so much for the very thorough review Jen! I read the whole thing and appreciate your attention to detail. It was great to hear your opinion of LaPaz and Todos Santos as those are places we considered visiting.
                  It sounds like overall a wonderful time, despite a few mishaps- omg the ATV tour must have been scary for all involved! My FI and I own ATV's and know how dangerous they can be- definitely not for the inexperienced!
                  Now I'm off to go look at your pics...thanks again and most of all, congratulations!

                  #10 anaderoux

                  • Sr. Member
                  • 3,220 posts

                    Posted 25 January 2007 - 01:08 PM

                    OMG JEN!!! your wedding was amazing!! I haven't finished seeing all your pictures but I love every detail!!!


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