My turn to contribute to this thread after reading the whole thing prior to my wedding! Got married in Antigua, March 30, 2013 to my soulmate! Best day of our lives. We made no compromises with anyone and did everything we wanted.
What I WOULD do again:
1. Have a destination wedding- Hands down best decision. We saved a ton of money and had so much fun with our family and friends. This was extra important as my husband did not know my friends that well so he got an opportunity to really get to know them. As well all my friends and family got to know each other and are all friends now.
2. Get the things I really wanted- Short engagement, 5 months and we still had 25 people come from overseas (we had a lot of local guests too as my husband is from Antigua)! My invitations were costly for our budget but I really wanted them and I'm glad my cousin convinced me to get them. Same thing with my dress, wish lanterns, engagement photos, videographer (leads me to my next point).
3. Get a professional videographer- We ended up liking our video WAY more than our pictures. The videographer paid such close attention to detail and filmed the entire ceremony, picture taking and reception. We saw a lot of candid footage and understand so much more that happened on our day that we weren't even aware of. The professional quality makes it such a precious keepsake and I can't wait until we have children and we all can watch it together knowing that the audio and images are clear and the video is not shaky or blurry. Cinematography style is the way to go. I suggest showing your videographer an example of what you are looking for.
4. Have a sweetheart table- I got wonderful private time with my new husband to just talk and reminisce on the day and our bridal party got to sit with their partners and friends. Have your maid of honour sitting close by so you can call her if needed.
5. See the decorated reception and ceremony space early- There were things that I did not like and needed to be fixed or changed and they would have bothered me so I'm glad I was able to see the spaces before so it could really be my vision.
6. Have a one tier wedding cake for cutting and pictures- We were not going to do a cake to save money plus we really don't care about it as our guests had a separate dessert but our wedding planner convinced us to at least have a small cake for pictures and symbolic reasons of having our first meal together. Same thing for the champagne toast, we only did it for ourselves and saved a lot of money.
7. Use artificial flowers for the bouquets- For $200 I got a bridal bouquet, 8 bridesmaids bouquets, 3 boutonnieres and 2 corsages. They looked really nice and everyone got to keep their bouquet, mine is on my living room table We used lanterns and candles for centrepieces which kept with our simplistic style and was budget friendly and beach appropriate.
8. Have my cousin do my makeup- I saved money and I felt more comfortable with her and she was able to look at a youtube video I liked beforehand and replicate the look.
9. Create a list of songs for the dj as a guideline- Also let him know what type of music to play and not play. Everyone had such a good time dancing at our wedding
10. Extend reception to 5 hours- We had so much fun dancing it would have been a crime to end earlier plus we had time to do our wish lanterns, trivia games etc
11. Afternoon ceremony at 4pm- It was cooler and I had the whole day to relax, get things done and eat. Our ceremony was at 4pm lasted for about 45 minutes and our reception was at 6.
12. Mandatory photo list- I learned this from this thread and it was so helpful. I wrote the group shots we wanted as well as shots of items such as diy projects, program,, invitation etc. Unfortunately our photographer forgot one of the things so it would be good to have someone double check what she has done.
13. Not have a cocktail hour- The cost wasn't justified and us nor our bridal party would have been able to enjoy it anyways. We did have a welcome drink that was included in our package that was served but there was no music or h'orderves. Everyone seemed to enjoy taking their own pictures on the beach or just talking to each other.
14. Have wedding the day before everyone leaves- Everyone had time to get to know each other leading up to the wedding. We got to have a nice group breakfast the morning after the wedding to say goodbye to everyone which they really appreciated. We *almost* had the resort to ourselves but 5 guests ended up staying later in to the week which was fine because....(next point)
14. Go to a different resort for our honeymoon- We actually spent two days at the resort after our wedding and we ended up hanging out with guests that were still there (though most people left the day after the wedding) which was fine for us though we would have preferred if everyone had left that day. We then went to a different resort which was good as we were rested and able private time together without running into our friends and then feeling obligated to hang out with them. We would have gone to the other resort right away but we waited to long to book and they were full at that time.
15. Have a back up plan for rain- It rained the day of our wedding and instead of on the beach, we had our wedding in the beach gazebo lounge. It was a great back up as we could see the beach in the background and was better than being completely indoors.
16. Bring my own decorations- I knew exactly what everything would look like and the colours were perfect. Unfortunately the resort's wedding decor is imo tacky and I didn't want that.
17. Choose the bridesmaids dresses myself- They were what I wanted, they flattered everybody and they were cheap (less than $30 on ebay) and I didn't have any drama. I let them wear there own silver jewelry (bracelet and earrings) and their own silver sandals. Worked out well and no stress for me!
18. No oot bags- Everyone brought everything they needed and brought what I would have put in the bags anyways so I saved a ton of money and time. I really wanted to do custom cups or travel mugs for everyone but ran out of money. If I had the money I would have done the cups though just as a nice gesture and because the resort cusp are teeny.
19. Arrange a a taxi transfer from airport- We arranged it but they paid for it. They appreciated all being able to travel to the resort together.
What I WOULDN'T have done:
1. Allowed people to stay off the resort- I tried not for this to happen but eight guests did not stay at the resort (two of them stayed outside for two days and then came to the resort) and it was definitely inconvenient and stressful for me. With that said, they probably would not have been able to come if they stayed at the resort due to finances so in the end I was okay with it because I was glad they came but it was just not ideal.
2. Trust coordinator so much- There were a few small things that weren't done that I was hoping would have been done. I should have designated someone to keep an eye on things throughout the day and explained my vision to both the coordinator and that person. I was supposed to do a balloon release but the balloons weren't brought outside. We forgot the boutonnieres and corsages and my bouquet charm. I really needed a day of coordinator to be by my side with me from the time I started getting ready so she could help me remember everything. With that said our coordinator was still great, I think I was just unclear of what her services would be on the day of which was my fault.
3. Greet people at the airport- I should have greeted people at the resort only instead as it was extra stress for me but they did appreciate the greeting. The ones I did greet at the resort (people came on different days), it worked out a lot better.
4. Worry about people's travel arrangements- This was really stressful because my guests took long to book, didn't use the travel agent but rather used their own or booked on their own, and asked me a million questions even though I had a website which laid out everything clearly. My guests took too long to book so the package prices went up so they booked their airfare and hotel separately which was cheaper but stressful. Try to insist your guests book a package so their airport transfer is included and everything is paid upfront and not at the hotel (check in had a few problems because of this). The travel agency we worked with wasn't getting us a great deal and they wouldn't allow deposits which definitely did not help.
What I WISH I had done:
1. Have someone be an assistant to the photographer
- To ensure that the photographer took all the mandatory photos (I wrote her a list which she did follow but forgot one important item), gather everyone for group pictures, fix things such as crooked jewelry, straighten clothing etc. We were disappointed with our photographer as she should have been able to do these things or at least point them out.
2. Gotten a few more pictures of myself alone from different angles
- I did not have a picture of the back of my dress nor do I have a single shot by myself in full length where you can see my whole dress. I should have written these on the photo list because though I thought it would've been common sense for these shots, it was not and on the day of in all the hustle and bustle I did not remember. My pictures are almost all with somebody else in them. 3. Taken pictures of myself and the bridal party outside the room before the wedding
- The room was a bit messy as we were all getting ready in there and it did not have the nicest colours so our getting ready pictures were not as nice as they could have been plus we were really cramped. There was also nowhere nice in the room to hand my dress so I did not get a good picture of it on the camera. 4. Waited until the last minute to move our wedding due to rain
- We decided at 12pm to move our ceremony to the gazebo but our ceremony was at 4pm and the rain did stop, but by then but it was too much of a hassle to move all the chairs and decorations at that point. In hindsight we should have made the decision around 3:30pm. 5. Insisted on a bamboo arch-
Because the wedding was moved we were told we could not have the bamboo arch as there was no sand to anchor it. I suggested they use buckets of sand but the coordinator said they had no buckets. I wish I had been more firm about them finding buckets (this was 4 hours before the ceremony) or that I had sent someone to buy buckets as the arch was a huge part of my dream that I did not get. 6. Remembered to write down the partners for the bridal party
- Our program did not have the bridesmaids and groomsmen listed in order or partners so when it was time to announce them at the reception the emcee was not able to as we were already running a bit late and did not want to take the time to write down 16 names! 7. Had a checklist for day of coordinator
- We wouldn't have forgotten somethings if I had this. 8. Room list for guests-
This was a biggie and I had read about it before but just didn't get a chance to do it. Having a list with all the guests room numbers/phone extensions and giving this to all the guests upon check in wouldve been really helpful as many times I didn't know what room someone was in and couldn't always get in touch with the front desk and this was the same experience for everyone else so we spent a lot of time walking around looking for people.