Well, Iâ€™m back and absolutely miserable at home having returned from the best weddingmoon EVER!
So here is my review: everything you've read is true â€“ Yamina is absolutely awesome and will make your wedding amazingly fantastic. I am very particular and had a lot of specific requests and she accommodated everything wonderfully. I read people saying the same thing before getting there but was still nervous â€“ NO NEED â€“ trust â€“ from a VERY specific bride!
The resort: absolutely stunning and spectacular. We were in the Excellence Club in room #8354 and I really canâ€™t imagine a better room/view/location. Looks over the lazy river, hammocks, Lobster House & The Grill, the swim up bar, I could see the wedding gazebo, etc. basically ALL of the action from bed â€“ and best of all â€“ 180 degree clear blue ocean view, including from the Jacuzzi tub!
There are bars around every corner â€“ we barely touched the liquor in our room (regular rooms come with beer and juice, Excellence Club rooms have full bottles of liquor too), so unless the view and the upgraded bath products are super important to you, being in a regular room would be just fine â€“ Iâ€™ll probably do that next time. That said, the Excellence Club was very nice (quick snacks, check email) and the private section of the beach was awesomeâ€¦ not because itâ€™s more private or has a different view, but because it has its own dedicated wait staff that learned our names and were just extra lovely.
The food: We ate at Agave (Mexican), Toscana (Italian) twice, the Grill House (steak house), and Chez Isabelle (French) twice. We were there for a full 7 nights and were so pleased with Chez Isabelle and Toscana that we had to go back! Agave was pretty disappointing â€“ our entire party agreed â€“ it was good but not phenomenal. I had better fajitas from room service. (Room service is fantastic â€“ you must get it at least once!), DELICOUS. PS, as everyone says, I consider myself a foodie, but everyoneâ€™s palette is varied. The food at the wedding was â€“ far and away â€“ the best meal, but overall Iâ€™d give the food a B++ for an all-inclusive. Really top notch. As for Spice, Barcelona & The Flavor Market â€“ I have such fantastic favorites at home in those genres, that the menus werenâ€™t that appealingâ€¦ but Iâ€™m sure they were delicious.
The wedding: amazing, perfect, amazing. We did the gold package and all of our guests had a ball. The cake was great â€“ I had three different layers: chocolate with raspberry filling, chocolate with vanilla filling, and strawberry with fresh strawberries â€“ the strawberry layer was the best. We used the beach location (I wanted a beach wedding, not a wedding with a beach view) and no one had a hard time hearing us over the waves whatsoever. The only reason we used the mics was for the video. We were married right at sunset â€“ 5pm â€“ and it was absolutely perfect. We had a guitarist play at the ceremony which was just beautiful - music before and after, totally worth the extra $$ - really heightened the atmosphere.
We did an early reveal which I loved and would absolutely recommend â€“ took photos around the resort and next door at the villa before we lost light, then held the ceremony at sunset. I asked my oldest friend to officiate (we did a legal ceremony in Houston â€“ the idea of giving blood at a resort just felt weird to me) and it was perfect. We completely wrote our own ceremony and each read our own vows. It was very intimate and personalâ€¦ tear fest!
We held the cocktail hour in the x-lounge, which was a bit dark (very dim and romantic lighting), but the food was fantastic and the location was ideal. For the passed hors d'oeuvres we did a mix of items from the gold and silver menus â€“ selected our favorites, and â€“ based on having seen the photos off of TripAdvisor â€“ I had requested Monkey Drinks for all of our guests! Everyone had a set of maracas tied with a ribbon with our name and wedding date) and everyone had a blast dancing to the mariachi band (they were AMAZING) and the cutest photos with the monkey drinks! My goal for the cocktail hour was fun! Everyone let loose â€“ lost their shoes and had a ball with the maracas.
We had the reception on Spice Terrace â€“ absolutely beautiful. Because I believe that dessert should be served first (in general), we did the cake right after the cocktail hour! People had already munched at the X-Lounge, and it was a fun way to start the reception â€“ champagne toasts, cake for all (on high cocktail rounds), then everyone sat down to dinner. The four course meal was insane (again, all of our favorites) and the staff took such good care of us â€“ Edgar headed the wait staff at the reception and he was amazing (we knew him from the Lobster House at lunch from a few days prior) and so helpful. You didnâ€™t even finish your glass before it was refilled, etc. We had a small party (14) so I requested that we were all at one table together which provided the really close and intimate feeling I wanted for the reception. We brought down our own iHome stereo and danced on the terrace for a bit until the parents went to bed, then went down to the beach to stare at the stars.
Overall, it was positively perfect. My goal going in was to be really present and enjoy every instant and miraculously I achieved just that! The ceremony was all white and very romantic, cocktail hour was super fun and a little crazy, and the dinner/reception was intimate and lovely.
We were married on 10/31/10 and started out envisioning a Halloween theme, which soon evolved into a Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead theme (such a beautiful holiday commemorating deceased loved one â€“ we made that a big part of our ceremony for our grandparents). We tied the theme throughout the trip â€“ from the OOT bags (everyone got a different Dia De Los Muertos flask and a personalized magnet among the other typical OOT items), to the place cards & holders, cake topper, invitation stamps, etc. Etsy is a gem! A few photos below of some of the goodies I used:
Other gold package items: we had a couples hydrotherapy treatment followed by a Swedish massageâ€¦ amazing! The spa is fabulous in general, and my hair and makeup were absolutely perfect. I brought down my own stuff, and she used a mix of both of our stuff. Bring a photo, the look was dead on. Four of us got mani/pedis together, and I thought they did a great job. Please keep in mind â€“ being in salt water and chlorine isnâ€™t ideal for nails, but even after a week (and 4 days after the wedding on the beach on the lazy river) my nails are just now starting to look worse for wear. We also did the â€œromantic cocktail cruiseâ€ which was so fabulous â€“ just you and your hubby on a boat around the ocean with a bottle of champagneâ€¦ we were back in time for dinner and it was such a lovely little treat. The special â€œbreakfast in bedâ€ was room service (the you pre-ordered) and mimosas â€“ you could totally have gotten that all from a call to room service, but it was very nice just the same. The romantic meal at a restaurant is pretty simple â€“ you get a special card and just go to the restaurant of your choice and they give you a full bottle of wine (you can order it by the glass, and anything else youâ€™d like to drink anyway) and your table was covered with rose petals and napkins in the shape of swans. I really enjoyed these little extras â€“ you will too â€“ but still would have had an amazing time without them.
So Iâ€™ve been ravingâ€¦ here are the things I didnâ€™t love love love:
My bouquet â€“ it was beautiful, but the resortâ€™s florist was unable to get the imported flowers I wanted (peonies, dahlias, etc) so that was a bit disappointing (Yamina had warned me about this in advance) but it still came out beautifully. As I mentioned before, Agave wasnâ€™t the greatest meal, but the dÃ©cor more than made up for the only good â€“ not great â€“ food. The Michael Jackson showâ€¦ I know Iâ€™m going to get slaughtered here for this, but it wasâ€¦ eh. So so. Itâ€™s a dead on impersonation and thatâ€™s amazing (ps, I am a HUGE MJ fan), but the backup dancers were sloppy and it just felt really contrived. Maybe our group just wasnâ€™t drunk enough yet? So that was the end of the shows for us â€“ after dinner and assorted bars, our group made a habit of heading down the beach for some night swimming and star gazing which I HIGHLY recommend.
Yamina was the standout â€“ she was really shocked by the amount of stuff we brought down for decoration (49.5 lbs in each suitcase!), and did the most amazing and creative job executing and adding to my dream. She is a rarity â€“ someone who is in exactly the right profession - she is a brideâ€™s DREAM and I couldnâ€™t possibly ever thank her enough for everything, or rave strongly enough to you all about her!
Our guests said it was the most fun they had ever had at a wedding â€“ I couldnâ€™t agree more (I hope all brides feel this way about their own wedding!) and canâ€™t wait to go back for our first anniversary (or sooner).
Please let me know if you have any specific questions â€“ I can email you individual pics of everything - and best wishes to all the to-be brides â€“ you wonâ€™t regret the EPM for an instant!