I recently returned from my Aruba wedding and since I got so much advice from this forum I thought I would leave a post on my experience. I welcome any questions and would love to offer advice to those in the planning process so dont hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
My husband and I have been visiting Aruba for 8 years now so it was no surprise to our friends and family we chose aruba for our wedding location. We have a time share at the La Cabana. Once we officially decided on Aruba we had to chose a location. Our big decision was high rises or low rises. High rises have the nicer hotels with more to do for our guests but the low rises have a much better beach and are more private. In the end we chose the low rises so that we could spend more quality time with our guests and have a better beach without fighting for huts or space together. We were SO HAPPY with this decision as its really easy to take a bus to the high rises to go out at night and we had no issues getting 70 people (YES 70!) all huts together and pretty much took over the entire beach.
Once we decided low rises we needed a place and a planner. We researched Manchebo based off of prices and they directed us to wedding planner Lissy Lamp. I would highly recommend using Lissy! She can work with you anywhere on the island that you have your wedding and she is so easy to plan with. She gives you lots of options and is really patient to matter how often you want to add things to or take things off of your contract. Seriously... we probably did this to her 2-3 times a week for a year lol. Unlike many of the wedding planners we contacted on the island she is more on "US" time than "island time". I had most of my wedding planned before the planners at the Hyatt and Raddison even called me back!! She responds to your emails within a day or 2 and lets you know when she is going to have a busy day and it may take longer. Her prices are very good and a lot of the vendors give you a discount for being referred by her so it works out great.
The Manchebo was a nice hotel. Highlights were the beach, its amazing! We pretty much took the whole thing over for a week and us and all of our guests were very happy with the location we chose. The only issues we had were a few of our guests were told they could not get the wedding rate because those rooms were sold out. That was not true and once we called and complained they changed it back. We were also told that everyone in our party would have the updated rooms (wich were really nice!) and that also did not happen even though updated rooms were available. I had bought a few gift cards for family members for christmas that were suppose to be given to them upon arrival and no one seemed to know what I was talking about when I asked for them. I had to wait till the woman I ordered them from was working to get them. They are also not very fast at getting back to you when it comes to catering, etc. All in all we are very happy with where we chose to have the wedding, there just seems to be a "communication" issue of sorts at the resort. Luckily you do not spend much time working with them as Lissy pretty much does EVERYTHING for you.
Photographer - I can NOT say enough about the photographer we chose to work with, Victor Winklaar of Winklaar photography. He did our wedding shots as well as our "trash the dress" shots the day after the wedding. Rather than just "tell" you how nice they came out, I welcome you to see! Feel free to add me as a friend on face book Seana (Peterson) Meehan or go to the FB page for Winklaar photography and "like". He put together a short video of all of our photos. Regardless of where you have your wedding I think you are absolutely CRAZY if you dont use him.
We also had a videographer but I have not gotten the video back yet so I can not review him. I promise to update when I get it because if he is great (or bad) I want you all to know!
DJ was just ok.We were told we were getting Tino who has great reviews but it wasnt Tino. It was someone from Tinos "clan".. not sure what that means. Every one danced most of the night but he was not very interactive with the crowd or myself. Never once asked me what we wanted, just kind of played his own thing. We had given him a must play list and he did not play one song on there. He also never asked us about a bouquet toss or garter thing so that was left out. So all in all I had a dj that i never talked to... BUT.. his music selection was pretty good and no one stopped dancing so I cant complain.
Rehearsal dinner - Divi Phoeniz. Great prices, amazing atmoshpere, delicious food. DO your rehearsal dinner here
Welcome bags: We put in floats, personalized koozies, rum from palmera rum, snacks,
Estsy sellers: I ordered table numbers, welcome bags, flower girl basket, ring bearer shell, bare foot jewelry for brides maids, and a few other thigns. If you want contact info for anyone i used let me know.
Hair and make up: I used the ladies Lissy referred me to. I was so stressed out about this bc myself as well as my girls are very picky with how we look and we did not have a trial. They were AWESOME. Check out all the girls on my face book page for yourself! I was able to have curls that lasted the whole night in Aruba weather!
The only bumps we had that others should iron out are...
-wedding ceremony had a few bumps... it was very unrehearsed. Parents had no idea when to walk down, we had to stop at one point because we were in the wrong places, we had no idea what the vows were going to be before hand so we messed up a bit. Although they dont do actual rehersals, I would ask for one. The mistakes were all pretty humerous though and people laughed.
- I had asked about chosing a "walk in" song for the ceremony and was told i did not need one and our one man steel plan would play. As we were about to walk in I was asked for my ipod with our walk in song on it... i was pretty annoyed about that bc we then walked into silence. We had our friend announce us though so he kept it fun!
- Although we had given a list for first dance songs, when I went to dance with my dad the wrong song was played. They quickly fixed it.
The bumps were all small but I think its important to know the good and bad! If I had to go back I would not change a thing!
Im not sure if Im leaving anything out.... if so just ask!
So all in all my advice is...
Choose a low rise hotel if you have guests coming!
USE Lissy as your wedding planner.
USE Victor as your photographer.
Make sure you get contact info for your DJ so you can communicate yourself with them on what you want before that day.
* Ill update you on the videographer & find out my hair and make up ladies names so I can refer them to you too.
Seana (Peterson) Meehan