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@Andrea28 & Jdavidso, for our symbolic ceremony Ana gave me the website for the wedding officiant and I contacted them directly. 




Either Alina or Santiago will perform the ceremony.  In our case I had email contact with Alina, however our wedding officiant was Santiago.  Both of them were really nice and everyone loved Santiago's ceremony performance.  He's such a nice man.




Alina provide me with a questionnaire about us and our must haves for the ceremony.  We filled most of it out, gave them a copy of our vows, a reading we liked as well as a brief description on the type of ceremony we wanted (i.e. spiritual vs. religious).  Oh and we also gave them access to our wedding website so they could read how we met.  All in all we were really happy with the way it turned out.  Just let them know exactly what you want and it will turn out great!

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@Shanon09, youâ€re right my husband and I did a “first look†photo and met up before the ceremony.  Weâ€ve been together for 8 years, living together for 7 so the idea of not seeing each other before the ceremony didnâ€t even cross our minds.  We wanted to feel comfortable and have an easy-going atmosphere the whole day.  To us it didnâ€t take away from the “specialness†of the event.  Even with all the pre-ceremony contact, I still had butterflies when walking up the aisle and my husband was trying to hold back tears as I approached the alter….everything was just as special.


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Our day started early because we did the bulk of our photos before the ceremony.  Honestly it was great for us because: #1 we got to be there for our entire wedding and werenâ€t MIA rushing around to take pictures at Cocktail Hour and; #2 it allowed our Ceremony to flow seamlessly into Cocktail Hour and then Reception…so we avoided any 1 – 2 hour gaps in-between. 


My advice is to do what would work best for you.  If youâ€re a traditional couple then yes, wait until the ceremony before seeing each other.  If you canâ€t imagine spending the day without your soon-to-be husband then do a first look photo together.  If you choose to do the first look then let everyone including your photographer know you want it to be private so itâ€s your moment.  I was in a wedding once where the first look was done outside of the limo with the entire wedding party, parents and in-laws watching.  It was super awkward for the couple and the “viewing partyâ€â€¦.honestly avoid this at all cause.


Hereâ€s a copy of our Day Of schedule.


10:30 am – 1:00 pm

Hair & Make-Up for Bride & Bridesmaids. Meet at hotel spa (Despacio Spa Centre)


2:00 – 2:30 pm

Bride & Bridesmaids getting ready photos (parents welcome). Room #

Groom & Groomsmen getting ready photos (parents welcome). Room #


2:30 – 3:30 pm

Private bride & groom photos


3:30 – 4:30 pm

Wedding party pictures


4:30 – 5:00 pm

Parents & wedding party meet before ceremony.  room #


5:00 – 5:30 pm

Wedding ceremony


5:30 – 6:30 pm

Cocktail hour and Family Photos


7:o0 – 12:00 am


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@tropiclover- thank you sooooo much! Such great information! And ya know we are totally not a traditional couple. We have been together 5 years living together for all but the first 3 months and we have an amazing 13 month old son!! So traditional is not us :) your timeline was so helpful and honestly makes a lot of sense! I have a couple questions how did you get your ceremony to be 5 hours? Was it extra? Because the info I got said private dinner and 3 hour reception. Also how did you figure out the cocktail hour? I tried to ask Ana or Angelica but I don't think the understood me because they referred back to the champagne toast. I would love to just have a cocktail hour! And for your pictures before hand did you do any on the beach? Thank you for being so detailed! When I think I've got a pretty good hang on things, I read some thing on here and say ohhh I didn't think about that :)

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@Shanon09, I'm happy the timeline helped!  Instead of doing the Champagne Toast (we saved that for the start of the Reception) we paid a bit extra and did a Cocktail Hour on the Terrace.  We opted for a 1 hour open bar with a "signature cocktail" which meant we had servers greeting us with drinks as well as taking drink orders.  To save money you could probably go without the open bar, but then your Cocktail Hour may turn into "all-your-guests-standing-at-the-lobby-bar-hour" lol.  We also chose to have appetizers too...which again are extra, lol like everything wedding related ;-)  The hotel staff sets up a really nice food spread with carved watermelon and everything! 


These prices can be found the Extra Wedding Costs doc.

Open Bar - $10/person/hour

Appetizers - $18/person*


* The menu we chose was $18/person, however I think there's a $16/person and even a higher priced option too.  In terms of the amount of food served the hotel calculates that each guest will have 6 pieces.  To be honest there was a lot left over so you could probably save money and cut 1/4 of your guests out of the calculation.  For example, if you have 20 guests instead of paying $360 (20 people) aim for $270 (15 people).


Our 5 hour Reception was also extra.  We had the 3 hours included in the Paradise Package plus 2 extra hours. 

Basically you're just paying for the bar: $10/person/hour


Here's a picture from my mom took of the Cocktail Hour food:


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@Shanon09 - Glad to hear your planning is going smooth!  I am actually pretty much all-consumed by the OOT bags...lol.  So far I've been REALLY lucky with Avon and Dollarama.  I found some fantastic aqua coloured woven beach bags that were regularly $20 each for $5 a piece, some sun block lip balm, soothing foot cream (all those long walks on the beach ;), right now they have an Aloe Vera Gel for $1.89 (150ml) which is cheaper than the Dollar stores!  I've also picked up some glasses cleaner pads (20 for $1), kleenex pkgs (10 for $1), wet wipes (20 for $1) cheap cheap nail files and dental floss picks.  The list of ideas is getting pretty long but unfortunately my bank account doesn't seem to be getting bigger!  T-shirts, Bubba mugs etc etc start to add up.  How many people are you expecting?  We are planning for 30 however our RSVP's are due back August 21st. so we may have to adjust some things.  We will be there April 6-13th but are undecided if we are going to head to another resort for a second week.  We love OCT and have been twice before which made the decision really easy but we would also like to try somewhere new for the Honeymoon portion of this adventure!  When are you there?  For how long?

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@tropiclover- Thank youuuuuu SO much for all this helpful information! That's a great idea for the cocktail hour AND appetizers! And really not that much more! How long did dinner take to serve do you remember? Also what did you tip everyone? Photographer, hair and make up, and anyone else? Also, did you use your own script for the ceremony? I love all your pictures they are so beautiful! Thank you again! @ajhutch- OOT bags are going to be fun to put together and I feel like it will be more useful for our guests! Great ideas you have!! Where are you from? We wil,just miss you, we are arriving on the 16th and our wedding is the19th and we are staying the whole week after. So til the 26th :) we are having around 20 people! But I think we might have an AHP when we get back! not too sure yet :)

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@Shanon09, you're welcome!  Dinner took about an hour to get though all the courses.  We had speeches set up for in-between each course which really moved things along.


Tipping was a tough one.  I did a lot of research on BDW to see what other brides were doing and found it was really more of a personal approach.  My rule of thumb was that if the individual providing you the service owned the company then they did not get a tip.  If they worked for someone else than a tip was provided.


We didn't provide an entire ceremony script, however we filled out Alina's & Santiago's questionaire and included our vows and this:


Affirmation of Parents & Friends

Marriage is the promise of hope between two people who love each other, who honor each other as individuals, and who wish to unite their lives and share the future together. In this ceremony, you dedicate yourselves to the happiness and well-being of each other, in a union of mutual caring and responsibility.


Would the parents and siblings of the bride and groom please stand? 
This occasion is a special celebration for you, the parents who have brought these children into the world, and the families who have nurtured them into adulthood. Today you are witnessing another stage in the lives of your loved one. Your continuing support and encouragement will be needed as (insert names) unite in marriage. As they join their lives in marriage, they also bring you together in a new relationship, creating new bonds of trust and ties of affection.

Will you who have loved and nurtured these two, with the greatest love and wisdom you have, support this new couple and help in every way? Answer: Yes!

The affirmation of family and friends:
Now, in the spirit of joy and affirmation, I want to ask your families and friends a question:

Do you the families and friends of (insert names) give them your blessing and support, wishing them a wonderful life together as they marry? If so, please show them your support by saying "we willâ€.


This really got everyone involved in the ceremony and it was cool to hear everyone cheer "we will" together.  We didn't tell our parents we were doing this and it totally caught them off-guard so the waterworks continued and they told us afterwards they really appreciated this part of the ceremony.

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