We got engaged early in the summer, and started thinking about a destination wedding right away. We had a few criteria, so it made it easier to know where to start: we wanted a small boutique hotel, all-inclusive and it didn't matter to us if it was adults-only or not. We also knew we wanted as luxurious as we could find, and hopefully no buffets or the large resort atmosphere with tons of tourists around. Authentic, but absolutely gorgeous, world's most beautiful beaches, clean and top-notch world-class service.
As far as locations went, we knew we'd have guests from all over the world (US, Canada, Europe, Middle East), so it had to be easy to get to (no obscure Caribbean islands). Finally we zeroed in on the Mayan Riviera, and hired a TA.
That's when our progress stopped. There are so so many options in Mexico! We first looked at Azul Beach, but then we found out how the most beautiful beach in Mexico is Maroma, and started looking at properties there. The first guess was El Dorado Maroma, which seemed to satisfy all of the above criteria. But when I got the price list of EDM, I was so surprised! $1500 for a DJ? My entire budget for the reception/ceremony/rehearsal is $10,000. There was no way I could have the experience of a lifetime with that budget being at EDM. Then I called up the main Sandals number, did a big phone consultation, and realized that for 50 guests (that's how many guests we expect), we could have a free private rehearsal dinner followed by two hours of open bar, an hour long cocktail session the next day, a two hour long reception dinner and then four hours of DJ and open bar, all for about $10,000.
I know most brides here don't seem to talk about budgets too much, but the budgeting aspect really really matters to me. We just bought a house and fully furnished it, and it really doesn't make sense to us to spend too much money on the wedding. My total budget is $20,000 and half of that goes towards bridal/groom wear, our flights and hotel fees and our photographer (another aspect of the wedding that REALLY matters to us).
I know I'm on a budget, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect an absolutely amazing destination wedding experience for $10,000. When I saw the Sandals prices, I started reconsidering our most important criteria (small boutique hotel, most beautiful beaches in the world, etc.) Our TA suggested Negril and Whitehouse if I do decide to go the Sandals route (which aren't even in Mexico... so there goes the location decision too!)
I'm so lost, and our wedding month is November 2011. The clock's ticking and people need to be sent STDs so they can start planning/budgeting. Help, please??!!