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Debra's ROR & Off Site Wedding Review *updated with pics #17

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#1 ~Debra~

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    Posted 08 July 2009 - 05:15 PM

    Hey everyone. I am back from my wonderful wedding/vacation. I want to thank everyone on the forum for their inspirations. I got some wonderful ideas here so I am forever grateful to all you wonderful ladies. I had my wedding and reception offsite so I hope my review is helpful to those who decide to do this as well. I have my non pro pics online but I need to set up an account and figure out how to add them but I wanted to get my review up. Sorry. Pics coming soon I promise! I apologize it is VERY long. I just didn’t want to leave anything out. :)

    Continental Airlines A+
    We had a great flight. We departed at 9 in the morning out of Houston. Since I did not do a lot of DIY projects, we only had 3 bags. One with my stuff, one with his stuff, and one with all the wedding stuff. My Husband is in the Air Force so our bags could be up to 70lbs but none of them were and he told them he was on leave so they did not charge us for the third bag which was great! We had a nonstop flight there and back. Pretty uneventful. We always fly Continental so I didn’t expect anything less than great service and I wasn’t disappointed. They let me put my dress in the closet up front. There were 3 dresses in there. Mine was the biggest. Go figure. Getting through customs was a breeze. The line flew and we were out and getting our luggage in maybe 25 mins.

    I want to mention that I loved the company: Jamaica Tours that transferred us from the airport to the hotel because they were great. However, my travel agent assured me our transfer would be private and stop nowhere. She said that they would only take us to the RIU. If I had known that it was not a private transfer I would’ve used Lees Tours who I was originally booked with and then cancelled. I really wanted a private transfer because I knew we were going to want to get to the hotel ASAP and it took about 2 ½ hrs. Our driver stopped at about 4 other hotels. Great driver…gave us lots of info on each town. Just not what I was expecting.

    RIU A+
    What everyone says about this hotel is absolutely true. It is truly breathtaking. The grounds are kept up so well. They must work overtime to keep that place as beautiful as it is. Our room was available as soon as we got there so we didn’t have to wait. We stayed in a Junior Suite. The extra “living room” space was exactly what we needed since we wanted to spread everything out and not feel cramped. We stayed in room 1318 and had a great view of the pool. The only bad thing, which I was warned about, was the musty smell. It was very overwhelming. I brought plenty of travel candles to cover up the smell. The bed was also damp. I didn’t let it bother me too much but our room was the only room that had that smell and the damp sheets. None of our guests had that problem. I guess better us than them.

    Pools/Restaurants A-
    The pools were great. The water wasn’t too cold and we all loved the swim up bars and bartenders. I LOVED the beach. I could’ve stayed in that water all day. It just felt so good. On our side, the suites side there was a lot of seaweed but on the other side it was perfect. The sand was so soft. Whenever we wanted to relax we would go to the beach. There was always somewhere to sit. Never a shortage of lounge chairs. Our group was even able to all sit together one day and it was like 12 of us.

    Now the pool lounge chairs were definitely scarce. It was difficult every day to find at least one lounge chair. I guess you have to get up pretty early in the morning. We only used the activity pool, which was further from me and my Husband’s room but that pool was always more active and we liked that. I got up once and did the Cupid Shuffle with everyone. It was a lot of fun.

    The bartenders were great. We fell in love with them LOL.They would just make up drinks and they would be sooo good. One of the bartenders mixed like 11 different alcohols together (no lie) and actually came up with a great drink. It was SO strong. They were just pouring it into people’s mouths. One of the bartenders told us that we should ask for the Over proof rum whenever we get a drink that has rum in it. It’s the rum that they don’t have out. They keep it under the bar. Everyone started asking for it. Needless to say, we all felt very nice when drinking. We only needed maybe 2 or 3 drinks to be right where we needed to be and we are drinkers. We did have a favorite bartender who would hook up our drinks whenever we came around. It was at the bar across from the Bob Marley bar. Sorry I don’t remember the name.

    The restaurants that we tried were between good and great. We ate at the Plantation, Piccola, St. Anns, Mammee Bay, and Tushima. St. Anns dinner was great. Good selection and everyone in our group was always able to find something there. I only ate the made to order omelets at breakfast because I’m not a huge breakfast buffet person but I’d say about half of our group really liked the breakfast. My Husband included. I always tipped the cook who made my omelet because they always hooked me up. Mammee Bay’s food was great. A group of us ate there one night and I had the combination of shrimp, chicken, and something else I can’t remember. The shrimp was the best to me. The mashed potatoes and corn were excellent! Beware, the portions are small. That was kind of a shock to us. I got full but not everyone did. Those who didn’t just went to St. Anns afterward. We also ate at the Mammee Bay for our rehearsal dinner and that time I got the Chicken. It was good. Not great. It just wasn’t as tender as I would’ve liked for it to be. Piccola’s food I can’t comment on too much. I only had the Pizza and Fries but only right when they had just come out of the oven and the Lasagna. All was good.

    Me and my Husband ate at the Tushima restaurant our last night there and it was excellent. I got some shrimp and I don’t remember what my Husband had but we feel in love with that food. We didn’t stay for dessert because we were so tired. I’m still regretting that decision because I know it would’ve been so good. The other restaurants we were never able to get reservations for because you had to get up and get down there to stand in line at the latest, by 745am and we were only willing to get up that early 2 times. That’s why I gave the grade I did. We hated the reservation system. I wish they would come up with a different method. The other reason I gave that grade is because the only thing available to eat after midnight was the Sports Bar food and none of us really wanted that food. I would love it if they could have just a little more in food choice since it is all inclusive. The Jerk Hut was by far the BEST food at the resort! I recommend everyone eat it at least once. We made sure to eat there everyday LOL No one could get enough. Seriously there was always a long line.

    Disco A
    We went to the disco twice. The first time there wasn’t that many people in there but they were playing some really good Reggae music. The second time we went was after the wedding and they were jamming! It was packed and they were playing a lot of stuff we listen to here and of course, the drinks were great. 


    Florist A+
    I used Floral Fantasies out of Negril. Rosemarie was great to work with. I would highly recommend them. We never had a single telephone conversation, everything was via email. I felt so bad because I changed my order on her so many times, even so late as the day before the wedding and she was so patient. I really appreciated this because there were some vendors who were not so patient with me and it annoyed me. My MOH was unable to make it and I didn’t have a phone then so I emailed her the day before the wedding and I was pretty sure she would get the email because she was always so quick about replying and sure enough when my flowers arrived, I had 2 bridesmaid bouquets instead of 3. I didn’t get a chance to meet her because she dropped the flowers off at the front desk and headed over to the reception site to set up but that was ok. In the email, I also put that I wanted her to arrive around 11am. By 11am she was not there so I called just to make sure she was on the way and they said she was and would be there by 1230pm and she was. I ordered an all rose bouquet, 2 bridesmaids’ bouquets, hair flowers for myself, 5 Boutonnieres, a corsage for my mom, and 4 centerpieces with rose petals, seashells, and floating candles including the vase rentals for about 350.00 including the delivery fee. Everything looked just like I wanted it to. I was very satisfied. I wanted to pay Rosemarie before I left the states but she said we should wait so I did. She gave me the option to either pay cash or we could use the credit card I used when I paid the deposit. She was very easy to work with.

    Sheila’s Bakery A+
    They were also great to work with. Eva from Evitas got me in touch with them because the original prices I was receiving were just out of my budget. I asked about a deposit to secure my date but Eva said because she has such a good rep they would forgo it and they did. She’s a doll. I emailed her a pic of the cake I wanted and she gave me a price: 200.00 including all decorations which were great. She also said I could just pay her cash. This was my preferred method but if you would prefer to use a different method I’m sure that would be fine with them. I emailed the bakery before I left and asked if we needed to schedule a meeting. We decided we would just schedule it when I got there so I called her the day after we arrived and scheduled day/time to meet. When I arrived, she had a printout of the cake I sent her as well as the flavor written down: vanilla with Butter cream icing. We went over my colors so that she could match the shells that were going to be on the cake. I wasn’t able to taste the cake but I think if you request a tasting in advance I’m sure it would be fine. We decided on a time for her to be at the reception site and we were on our way. Another painless transaction. Definitely recommend them. Now the cake was good but I’ll be honest it wasn’t great to ME but my husband loved it so I think it is all a matter of personal opinion. Would I ever order another cake from them? Absolutely.

    Rehearsal/Rehearsal Dinner A+
    Since we were doing everything offsite, if we wanted a rehearsal we would’ve had to pay extra for it so we decided to just do it ourselves. Now we had a pretty small wedding party. 2 bridesmaids and 3 groomsmen. Our travel agent got us some good perks at the resort, considering we were not actually getting married there. A cocktail hour and rehearsal location in one of the ballrooms. The plan was to have the rehearsal on the beach at 4 but there was so much going on that we decided to meet in the lobby at 6. Well by 6 I was so tired I cancelled the rehearsal. I just wanted to chill. Long day. Our rehearsal dinner was scheduled for 7 and while we were all walking to dinner, one of the groomsmen asked me if I was sure that I didn’t want to at least do one walkthrough. Now everyone had already been in several weddings but it made me a little nervous so I decided we would do a quick run-through after the rehearsal dinner LOL It took maybe 15 mins. I also want to mention something else because it happened both times we ate at Mammee Bay. Our first reservation was for 10 and the second was for about 30 and both days some of our guests were late and the waiter informed me and my Husband that they would only give us 5 mins and then no one would be allowed in. I guess they have a very strict schedule they try to adhere to. The first night it didn’t bother me but for the rehearsal dinner EVERYONE knew it was at 7 and where yet over half of our guests were not there. Me and my husband had to get up about 715 and try to go find our guests. While we were walking we ran into them all slowly making their way to the restaurant like they had all the time in the world. I did go off. I’m not going to lie because they knew what time to be at the restaurant. Just a heads up to be on time if you make a reservation there because they don’t play. LOL

    Lees Tours A+
    We used Lees for our transportation on our wedding day and for our Catamaran cruise the day after (more on that later). Norma was an angel to work with. We booked 2 vans with them. One for our guests and one for me and the girls. They picked all our guests up in the lobby at 315 to take them to the ceremony and they picked us up at 340. My Husband and the groomsmen went along with the guests. Norma actually left a cell phone for me so I was able to remain in constant contact with them and also call around Jamaica for free. It was great. The only hiccup was after the ceremony when the guests were to be taken to the ceremony and me and my bridal party walked further down the beach to take pictures. When we were done taking pictures and we were walking back to board the bus, the other bus FULL of my guests was still sitting in the parking lot. Apparently the driver was told by several people that he was supposed to take the guests on to the reception but he stated he needed to hear that from me. Therefore, my guests ended up sitting on that bus for about 45 mins while we were taking pictures. I was pissed about that because I thought it was known that he was supposed to take the guests on. I never mentioned this to Norma because I never saw her again and she was so great I’m sure it was just miscommunication but I did apologize to my guests. The drivers came back to get us at 930. Norma went above and beyond to make everything smooth and effortless for me.

    Tropical Wedding Jamaica A++

    Almarie was the best to work with. This company exceeded my expectations. I am so glad I decided to use them. I would highly recommend them to anyone. I only used them for the ceremony but the price I paid included the entire setup meaning the location, the flowers and shells at the location, a bamboo arch, water for my guests since we got married on the beach, chair covers and sashes, and a DVD of the wedding. I was very happy with the price because we really wanted a private ceremony and our location was breathtaking. I have been working with Almarie for about a year and she was always quick to respond and work within my budget. I also changed things on her a lot and she was extremely patient. I definitely received one on one attention and I loved it so much. I called Almarie when I arrived to schedule an appt and she was so kind to come to me. I LOVED this because our meeting was at 9 and I didn’t want to get up any earlier than 8. LOL We met in the lobby and I was shocked because Almarie looks like she’s 17 LOL I don’t know exactly how old she is. I didn’t ask, but I was impressed because she seems to handle everything so well. She’s extremely organized which I loved because that’s how I am.

    At our meeting I gave her my ceremony programs, my vases and sand for the sand ceremony and the CD with our ceremony music on it. My Husband wrote the order the songs should be played on a piece of paper for her. She also brought me swatches of fabric so I could decide what shades of my colors I wanted to use for the sashes for the chair covers. One thing I want to mention when using them is that you pay the final bill 60 days before the ceremony and you cannot get any money back if there is a change in guest number. The package I had included 10 guests for free and each additional guest was 25.00 after that. Actually I think the majority of the packages include 10 people. Anyway, there were some issues and 3 guests were unable to make it at the last minute so basically we lost 75.00. Now I wasn’t too bothered by it. I mean, what can you do at that point? However, I would just suggest if you use them try to get as accurate a number as possible so you don’t end up losing money on guests. I stressed to my guests and my Husband how important it was early on that we have an accurate head count by April 1 and still…things happened.

    We initially wanted a sunset ceremony but after talking with my photographer, we decided on 4pm. She told me that the Officiant had his own ceremony but I had some stuff I wanted to include so she said I could email her my ceremony, incorporate what I wanted the Officiant to use, and email it back to her so she could forward it on to the Officiant. It worked out great. A combination of both made our ceremony so special. Everyone loved the Officiant’s words. Me and my Husband both cried when we read our vows. Our ceremony was about 30 minutes and to be honest, I preferred this. I just don’t think I could have stomached paying a lot of money and only having a five minute ceremony. It actually worked out because the day was sooo nice. It wasn’t as hot as it had been in previous days and there was a nice wind blowing so no one was sweating at all. The only thing Almarie messed up, and I didn’t even notice this until we were watching our DVD, the music that’s playing when we are walking down the aisle right after we got married is actually what was supposed to be playing when we were doing the sand ceremony and nothing is playing when we were doing the sand ceremony. I was so ridiculously happy though, I didn’t even notice nor do I care.

    Evitas A++
    We had our reception at Evitas and she was AMAZING. If it wasn’t for Eva I wouldn’t have had a cake or a DJ. I can’t even imagine how my wedding would’ve turned out if I had never found her. I have been working with Eva for a while also. The reception was scheduled from 6-10. She emailed me her menu and we customized one to fit my budget. We chose 1 salad, 2 appetizers, and 3 entrees. The appetizers were Mozzarella sticks & Conch. I got the Conch and my husband got the Mozzarella sticks. The Conch was great but spicy and I don’t like spicy food. I had never had Conch before. The entrees were Chicken Parmesan (sp?) jerk Spaghetti, and Fettuccine Alfredo w/ seafood. Everything was great! We opted for a cash bar but there are many ways to do it. So, everyone who ordered alcohol just got a bill for their stuff at the end of the night. Initially we were going to close the restaurant and Eva required a 500.00 to do this. We sent it to her but later Eva mentioned she didn’t really think it was necessary since we were only having 30 guests and I agreed. She simply applied the 500.00 to our food bill. It worked out great because she saved me 500.00. Our group was set up on one side of the restaurant near the verandah and we still had our privacy even though there were other patrons there. One woman even came up and congratulated me who happened to be there with her husband. It was their one year anniversary. There was an area set up for our signature frames and a table for our favors. I had met with Eva the day before the wedding to give her our signature frames, table runners, and favors and she had everything set up just the way I wanted.

    DJ -- C
    Eva found the DJ for me because I just happened to ask her if she knew anyone. She found us a DJ for 100.00 for the whole 4 hours. Who can complain about that?? The reason why I gave the grade I did is because I asked Eva if the DJ had American music as well as Jamaican music BEFORE I booked him because I knew we would want to listen to this type of music in addition to Jamaican music. Well, when got there we noticed the DJ only played Jamaican music. My husband asked him if he had any American music and he said no then about 30 minutes later he played Beyonce….and only Beyonce. I just felt like we were a little misled because if we had known that he didn’t have American music my Husband would’ve brought his Ipod or some CDs. We did have a CD of the song for our first dance so that was good. I’d definitely make sure you have your own backup music if there are things you definitely want to hear so you’re not disappointed. We made the best of what he did play but the majority of our guests only got up when he played Beyonce.

    Hair & Makeup B
    I used Chic-Events for hair and makeup for me and my 2 bridesmaids. I have to admit, they were VERY expensive. More expensive than I wanted to pay and the price I was quoted for Hair and Makeup was, I believe, different than what I was charged. I’d have to double check to be 100 percent sure but the woman who did our hair and makeup was great! Her name was Fiona and she was definitely good at her job. We didn’t do any hair trials. You can but I opted not to because I didn’t want to pay an additional day pass fee. Turns out it wasn’t necessary. I gave her a picture of what I wanted my hair to look like and I was very pleased. None of us are big makeup people and I did specifically tell her I wanted as natural a look as possible. She, however, used a lot of makeup on all of us. She said she wanted my eyes to really pop so she used a lot of eye shadow. I let it ride though since everyone said how beautiful I was  We met in the lobby at 11 so we got started early for my 4 o’clock wedding but we needed the time because she had to curl my hair and one of my bridesmaids hair. Oh and she also plucked my eyebrows. Overall, I was in love with my final look. That makeup stayed on all damn day and Fiona was a sweetheart.

    Photography A+
    We brought our wedding photographer. Her name is Tara Miller and she is an assistant to a photographer that I was going to use. She takes great pictures and I’m sure she will have her own studio soon. We paid for her room and flights for her and her husband. She shot our wedding pictures and a TTD session the next morning at 8am. We did our TTD at Dunn’s River Falls. I can’t wait to see those pictures. I’m sure they will be great.


    Excursion A+
    We set up a Catamaran cruise through Lees and it was so much fun. We even got a cheaper rate. The original price was 62.00 but one of my guests got something in writing from a different company for 59.00 and Norma honored it. It took us to climb the falls and then snorkeling. I would suggest if you can afford it to definitely do this. It was about 15 of us. About 5 of us bought the video of us climbing the falls. The snorkeling was fun too. Not too many of us had done that before. They definitely keep the alcohol flowing on the Catamaran. It really was just a great experience. The only bad thing that happened was about 2 minutes into the climb by water shoes basically disintegrated. Completely fell apart so we had to have someone go and get me some more while we were climbing.

    Shopping/Club A+

    Everyone went shopping at different times because everyone had different arrival dates. We went the second day with the best man and his wife and all I can say is NEGOTIATE NEGOIATE!! They are definitely pushy because they are trying to make money but really with a firm no they leave you alone. My mother, who hates to be bombarded, hated shopping. She said she just got irritated with everyone hounding her. She said if she bought one thing, then 5 other people came wanting her to buy stuff and she just got tired of saying no LOL. Everyone’s different.

    They had a free shuttle to the club the night before the wedding and about 7 of us went. It left at 11 and picked us back up at 130am. This was also very very fun. We had a blast. We went to Amnesia which is the main club in Ocho Rios. The drinks are very expensive. If you go, don’t be alarmed but the security guards walk around with AKs on their hips. My sister and friends were taking picture. They were kind of concerned but It actually made me feel safer. LOL

    Margaritaville A+
    Ok, so I wasn’t going to include anything about margaritaville but I figured what the heck. We went on our last night so when we got there the outside was closed and the pool was being maintenanced. We got there about 1130 and it was fun. The DJ was playing good music. I didn’t buy anything to drink so I don’t know about quality/price.
    They have tables around the chairs and me and one of my friends were saying how hilarious it would be if someone fell in the pool. You know, with drinking anything can happen. SO, me and Husband got up to walk to the dance floor and I turned around to hold his hand as we were coming up on a curve and I FELL IN THE POOL! I didn’t even realize I was in water. I mean it was like a completely unbelievable situation. I was soaked from head to toe. But the surprising thing is I wasn’t embarrassed. I was just in shock because we had JUST been talking about that! I had to laugh about it. So I told my Husband to tell everyone I was leaving because I refused to walk through the crowd soaking wet. It was very funny. And due to whatever they were using to maintenance the pool, my dress and my hair smelled funny so I had to take a shower immediately when I got back to the hotel.

    I know we hear a lot of stories about how you shouldn’t leave the hotel but our experiences with the town and the people were very good. They are so friendly and helpful. I would definitely suggest exploring if you feel comfortable.

    Overall, we and all our guests had a FABULOUS week. I’m not even the type of woman that was like “my day has to be perfect, nothing can go wrong” but everything was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding day. Our friends and family are already talking about how we should all go back and how we should plan a trip to a different place every 2 years. It was truly wonderful. No regrets about having a destination wedding at ALL!!

    If I left anything out or if anyone has any questions, I’ll be glad to answer them! 

    #2 scrouse

    • Jr. Member
    • 185 posts

      Posted 08 July 2009 - 08:05 PM

      Awesome review! Sounds like everything was amazing. And I'm so glad to hear your positive remarks about Tropical Weddings Jamaica and Almarie because we are also using them for our wedding in November.


      #3 jawedding

      • Jr. Member
      • 197 posts

        Posted 08 July 2009 - 08:17 PM

        thank you so much for posting!! Congratulations it sounded totally awesome!!
        33 People Booked!!

        #4 Scott-Pierre

        • Jr. Member
        • 456 posts

          Posted 08 July 2009 - 09:38 PM

          Congrats Debra! What a great review, you were very thorough! I am glad everything worked out with the cake! That makes me feel better since I am using Sheila's as well. Can't wait to see your pics!

          #5 ~*petals*~

          • Sr. Member
          • 1,572 posts

            Posted 08 July 2009 - 09:45 PM

            Congratulations Debra-- can't wait for your pictures!!!!

            #6 BlakleyBrideToBe

            • Sr. Member
            • 2,115 posts

              Posted 09 July 2009 - 12:23 PM

              Great Review!! Congrats!

              #7 Erika J

              Erika J

                VIP Member

              • VIP Member
              • 8,569 posts

                Posted 09 July 2009 - 01:32 PM

                Congrat!!! Sounded like most everything worked out great! Congrats Mrs!

                #8 nikkigard

                • Jr. Member
                • 200 posts

                  Posted 09 July 2009 - 03:10 PM

                  Sounds like things went about perfectly!!! Congratulations!!!

                  #9 Preciousmi811

                  • Jr. Member
                  • 342 posts

                    Posted 09 July 2009 - 03:41 PM

                    Great review can't wait for pictures!
                    One Love

                    ClubHotel Riu Negril May 14 2010 wedding date. Anyone want to share a photographer? I am flying my photographer out regardless, if you want to split travel cost let me know!!!!

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                    #10 sunstarsmoon

                    • Sr. Member
                    • 2,233 posts

                      Posted 09 July 2009 - 04:02 PM

                      Great review,
                      July 8, 2011, Couples Sans Souci Ocho Rios, Jamaica

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