Alright, I have finally had some time to sit down and review the wedding. It was an absolutely amazing time even though there was a lot of initial planning and worrying involved. I think that definitely made us able to enjoy our guests once they arrived and not worry about loose ends. And, yes, the worrying was probably not all worth it â€“ it all works out in the end, seriously. You and your guests are in paradise and will have a great time no matter what. And that is a lot for me, a type-A planner, to admit. Another disclaimer: as you will read in my review, there were a lot of details that I was just never concerned with that it seems like other brides really care about. So for me, as long as our options were not completely crappy, I was fine with what we had.
The resort is great and I wonâ€™t bore you with details since this is my wedding review. Everyone is really friendly, even if they donâ€™t speak a lot of English. The buffet is so-so, but all of the a la carte restaurants are really good. Just make sure you make reservations as soon as you check in. Pools are great, there are usually chairs available in the morning. Chairs on the beach are always available. We were hoping to get upgraded to Club Premium but they kept saying there were no CP rooms available. Jeffâ€™s parents finally convinced them to just give us the bracelets with the non-room perks like free wireless and being able to use the CP desk, where they are much more helpful than the front desk.
Meeting with Marlene
We had our meeting with Marlene and Vanessa from Tropical Pictures on Tuesday afternoon. We basically went over the wedding questionnaire item by item and created the day-of schedule. It was really interesting because when we met with Marlene last September for the site visit, she was super friendly. Then, the email communication was frustrating, as you all know, and it was very difficult to get info out of her. THEN, she was all business during the meeting, and made sure to go over all of the details. While it wasnâ€™t like she completely forgot about any of the things we had already talked about, we had to go over a lot of the previously agreed-upon details with her again. I would suggest printing out all of your emails so you can reference things if needed. We didnâ€™t really have any discrepancies but I printed everything out just as a precaution.
One of Jeffâ€™s sisters got married at the Iberostar in Riviera Maya 3 years ago, which is Spanish-owned, and his mom says they were super rule-oriented about everything. I believe Barcelo is also Spanish-owned and they are definitely the same way. Itâ€™s like they are trained to say no to new ideas that are not what theyâ€™re used to doing. But you just have to keep harassing them or show them why itâ€™s a good idea. Or pay extra â€“ thatâ€™s usually how you get what you want, unfortunately. Just something to keep in mind as you continue to plan with them.
We paid to reserve the rooftop terrace on Wednesday night for welcome cocktails. We also paid $10/person for 1 hour of drink service. It wasnâ€™t absolutely necessary since the theater bar was a 30 second walk across the walkway, but we thought the service would make it easier for our guests to mix and mingle. One of the other WCâ€™s, Liani, manned the entrance to the roof terrace and turned people who werenâ€™t with our party away. It doesnâ€™t get super crowded on most nights on the terrace but it was nice to have it all to ourselves. I would say the only bummer about the welcome cocktails was that it was a little dark on the roof terrace at 8pm, and there are minimal lights around the perimeter.
The day before the wedding, I made mani/pedi appointments for myself and my MOH & 3 bmaids at the salon. Itâ€™s nice that itâ€™s set up so that you can all be in the same space during both the manicures and pedicures. The girls at the salon spoke very little English so if you donâ€™t know basic Spanish it can be frustrating to communicate with them but you can get by with gestures and pointing. Not the best French manicure Iâ€™ve ever gotten, but, no one was looking at my fingers and toes, right? J
The Tangerine Sunset package included a facial and couples massage. Those happened to be scheduled right after my manicure and pedicure so it was a nice spa day for me! The facial was pretty relaxing, no painful extractions or anything, just a smoothing treatment. The couples massage was soooo nice, and I think Jeff really enjoyed it as he had just gotten back from a deep sea fishing excursion with the boys. We were able to sit in the relaxation room after.
The same girl who did my facial and massage also did my hair and makeup so we had some rapport with each other already. Definitely bring pictures of what you want, they will be able to work off of them, which is what my girl did. The first attempt of my hair was NOT GOOD (I think I used the words â€œAmish helmetâ€) and at first I was gonna let it go but my bmaids convinced me that it was the one day that I was allowed to be difficult so I had her redo it more to my liking. Even though there is a language barrier, the girls in the salon are pretty willing to work with you and they ended up doing a great job on all 5 of us.
I had told Marlene I wanted a tropical flower bouquet for myself, yellow and white bouquets for the bmaids, and yellow boutonnieres for the groomsmen/corsages for the moms. Marlene had sent me pictures of bouquets they could do and there was one that I was fine with so we went with that. Apparently itâ€™s very difficult for them to get orchids in Punta Cana, so thatâ€™s something to also consider. The bmaidsâ€™ bouquets seemed fine too. The only slight issue I had with the flowers was that they gave Jeff a big sunflower for his boutonniere which seemed really awkward, especially when the other boutonnieres were yellow roses (I think), which looked much better.
We had some huge issues with the decorations before leaving for Punta Cana. Apparently the decorations that were included in the package were these pinecone-looking candleholders with greenery around it â€“ they literally looked like Christmas decorations. Not cool. So of course we knew weâ€™d have to pay extra for something else. I sent Marlene a pic of a basic vase filled with water and a flower submerged â€“ she said it would be $20 per table and that they were only â€œfor rent, not to takeâ€. Then, at our meeting, they had a centerpiece set up in the office that we liked and actually went along pretty well with our loose theme of deck chairs. It was weird because Marlene didnâ€™t know if they had enough of all of the pieces from their suppliers for that table set up and didnâ€™t know how much it would cost off the top of her head. Why would they set up an example table in their wedding office and not know what it would cost and if they could do it?? Anyway, we paid an extra $50 per table for it, and they ended up looking fine. Again, I wasnâ€™t too concerned about table d©cor since no one ever remembers what they look like, but I felt that there is a bottom threshold for how crappy the centerpieces could be for people to start negatively remembering them. And those pinecone shaped candle holders were below that threshold fo sho.
The garden location where they usually do ceremonies was toward the back of the convention center and next to the parking lot. When we brought Jeffâ€™s parents to scope out the area, his mom suggested doing the ceremony next to the gazebo, with this hill and cool tree stump as the background. It sounds pretty boring but it was actually really nice, and in the shade at 5pm. We were able to have the chairs set up in a semi circle around us instead of multiple rows too. Not sure why they have never done ceremonies there, it seems like a much better location than what they currently offer.
We werenâ€™t sure what to expect from the music trio â€“ all Marlene told us was that they play â€œromantic music, merengue, and bachataâ€. I forgot to tell Marlene to tell them not to play Here Comes The Bride or Canon in D (Iâ€™m sorta anti both for wedding ceremonies) but they did a good job, and the guests thought they were a nice, appropriate touch.
We had the buffet and champagne station set up in the garden gazebo. I think they also passed around some cocktails but we were busy getting more pictures taken so I didnâ€™t really try the apps â€“ I think there were some beef and chicken skewers and some fried little dumpling things. Marlene said she wasnâ€™t able to give us a list of the apps ahead of time, they were just â€œup to the chefâ€™s selectionâ€. I think they turned out fine, and they had these nice fruit sculptures set up at the table.
Bar Higuey was great â€“ they put candles along the walkway in, the draping was nicely done, there are additional chairs and tables set along the perimeter. We opted to not go with candles in the water and it still looked great. It was sorta windy and during dinner, one of the fans came slightly unhinged and seemed like it was going to fall on our table! So we turned the fans off since they were rocking back and forth â€“ it was a little warm all night but better that none of our guests were decapitated!
I know we are all a little underwhelmed by the dinner options but it was actually pretty decent. We had the caprese salad, the beef tenderloin/pesto chicken, and the cream brulee. All were tasty. We had stickers on the escort cards to denote the main course choices and everyone got what they wanted.
We got the Star video package and our videographer was Oliver from Tropical Pictures. He seemed to be pretty present throughout the night, he even had a second camera set up at our ceremony so he could move around for different angles from his own camera.
We decided the day we left that we wanted to get the raw footage from the entire wedding, in addition to just the 40-60 minute edited version. We stopped in the Trop Pictures studio at the resort, they tracked him down for us and he agreed to give us all of the movie files for an extra $100. We thought he was just going to email it to us but he came to the resort with the SD disks and we started copying all of the movie files onto Jeffâ€™s laptop. The first of the three disks took thirty minutes and we had to catch our shuttle to the airport. Oliverâ€™s home/office was 2 minutes from PUJ so he agreed to meet us at the airport to finish the transfers. So while we waited in line to check-in, he sat on a nearby bench with our laptop and waited for the files to finish transferring. Weâ€™ve only had time to watch a handful of the files, which are in 30 second to 10 minute clips, but they look good so far. And even though we were already paying him extra, it was nice of him to meet up with us again and come to the airport.
We got the DJ basically just to play our iPod. We had him play our dinner music playlist on shuffle and at one point, I felt like there were songs being played that were not on our list. I went over to talk to him and for some reason he had started playing music from his own laptop. It was very obvious when our iPod said Mumford and Sons, but Bob Marley was playing that something was wrong. We switched it back over, but Iâ€™m still not sure why he just switched over in the middle of our playlist. During the dancing, the speakers started getting staticky and went in and out a few times but otherwise, the music all worked out.
We got the cigar roller and he was a big hit! We were 4 songs into our dance playlist and Marlene came up to Jeff & I and said to stop the music so the cigar roller to give a 15 minute intro. We were like, uhâ€¦.thatâ€™s not necessary, weâ€™ll just let people go up to him on their own. That worked out muuuuch better. Again, one of those rules they think they have to follow until you show them a different way. He had a pretty sizeable crowd all night and everyone had great things to say about his spiel. There were 20 cigars included in our package and he gave us the 5 extra at the end of the night.
We chose the vanilla cake with strawberry filling. I brought pictures of what I liked to Marlene and they did a decent job of replicating the picture. I wasnâ€™t too concerned with the cake â€“ it looked fine and tasted fine. Again, another detail I wasnâ€™t concerned about.
Not sure if any brides are considering the beach gazebo for the ceremony, but I will be honest with you, we saw 2 weddings there during our stay and it is literally a show. While they do a good job of keeping people back, there are people in their thongs and speedos taking tons of pictures of you nearby. The beach gazebo is an absolutely beautiful location but just be aware that it is not private or intimate.
Sorry for the lengthy and probably a little disjointed post! I will try to get some pictures together of our wedding that friends have shared. I have probably forgotten a lot of details but let me know if there are any other questions I can answer. In the end, Marlene runs a tight ship and she will get it done for you. I am jealous of all of you still planning and anticipating! It will all be worth it in the end and you will all have amazing weddings, I promise!