I got married at the Paradisus last month and it was great!! Here are some tips and info about the planning process and what to expect (this is obnoxiously long):
First, I decided to do a destination wedding because I didn’t want to get too stressed out with planning. So I was admittedly pretty go with the flow and didn’t have too many strong opinions on wedding details with decorations, cake, etc. I just wanted the place to be nice, the food to be good, and for our guests to have a good time. I had never been to the Paradisus before so I planned everything online and based on pictures. The resort is beautiful in person though! I was very happy.
The worst part for me was working with the resort on getting a group room rate/contract for some of our guests. We were assigned a contact person after our wedding date was reserved, and it was just an awful process. We ended up being shuffled between multiple people to get a set rate and to reserve rooms, and really it was just terrible and no one responded for weeks on end and our families kept asking when they could book rooms. We complained and complained. That being said, it was eventually sorted out after several months and we got about 12 rooms booked through the group contract, but I would recommend that you either let a travel agent deal with that or just have people book through Expedia or other third party websites. The deals on those websites were about the same if not better than our group rate. We had almost 80 guests and most booked through other websites. It was just our immediate families that used the group contract and even that was super annoying. But maybe the resort has gotten their act together since then.
After your date is reserved you eventually get assigned a person in the resort’s corporate Miami office. We had Jessica and I had no issues with her. She answered all of my questions within a few days of the email. You set up almost everything with her – ceremony and reception locations, food selections, and any wedding extras (ex. Mariachi band, extra food options, cocktail hour, etc.).
The resort requires you to use their preferred vendors for DJ, photography, and flowers/décor otherwise you pay a $1,000 fee. I had no complaints with the DJ (JSAV) or photographer (Blue Lens, now Wedding Day Story). We got the most basic packages for each, but I was happy with how things turned out. We gave JSAV a long list of songs to play during our dance and they stuck to it exactly.
Planner 1 is the new flower/décor company. They took over in January 2015, so I had to start all over with that company just a month or so before my wedding. That was pretty stressful and it was hard to get a response from Planner 1, but some of that might be attributed to the fact they just started working with the Paradisus. I didn’t have everything finalized with them until about a week before our wedding, but everything turned out great and they set-up the flowers and other table/chairs as requested. I thought their prices were pretty expensive, but they still seemed pretty par for the course for wedding events no matter where you are.
We did the “Chill Out Chic” package and had our wedding ceremony on the Gabi Bridge at 5pm, then we added an extra cocktail hour a 6pm, and had the reception at the La Esmeralda Solarium from 7-10pm. I liked the Solarium, it was a neat space outside and doesn’t cost extra like the Gabi Club does. The cocktail hour was an additional cost but we opted to do it so that the reception wouldn’t start at 6pm and end at 9pm (all the events have to be continuous). We could have paid more to extend the reception until 11pm, but we didn’t do that and instead just had our guests go to the Red Lounge bar at the resort and it worked out great. The Red Lounge plays lots of dance/club music so we were able to keep the party going there without spending an arm and a leg for an extra hour of a private reception.
Separate from the room reservation process, the main other stressor for me in planning our wedding was the fact that you really don’t talk to anyone at the resort itself until about 3 weeks before the wedding. Geraldine was our eventual contact at the resort and she was great. However, we didn’t hear from her until a few weeks before our wedding, so I was a bit stressed out in that I didn’t really get how everything was going to work and come together. But in hindsight, I should have realized it wasn’t a big deal because this resort does weddings all the time and probably doesn’t care about your wedding until it is coming up soon and not months away. Geraldine was organized when we spoke and was really easy to communicate with once we got closer to the wedding. She was also able to make dinner reservations for us about a week in advance which was great! They have a family-style option for certain restaurants where you can reserve a huge table or several tables together in a semi-private area without any extra cost. We made a family-style reservation for 30 friends one night and then 30 family members the other night. It worked great because we were all able to have dinner together without worrying about renting out a restaurant privately for $$$$$.
Although I was a bit stressed out about the whole process, everything really seemed to fall into place a couple of weeks before the wedding. Once we got to the resort we met with Geraldine, JSAV, photographer, and Planner 1. I felt totally confident after talking with them and really had no worries about the wedding itself. We were able to enjoy a couple days with family and friends before the wedding. You can bring your own stuff down there too (table numbers, guest name cards (we brought maracas), centerpiece stuff, etc.) and just leave it with Geraldine with instructions on how to set it up. The wedding day itself went great. We opted to rent the bridal suite (which is an extra cost that you reserve through the spa ahead of time – ask the Miami office). My sisters and I got our hair done there and I got my makeup done as well. I was happy with both services (but beware of the humidity when deciding on your hair). Geraldine was with us the whole wedding day and there were several other people on walkie talkies making sure everything as going according to plan. It made me feel really at ease. We also got great service at the reception! The buffet dinner was great and the resort’s servers were really attentive to the bride and groom and made sure our drinks were never empty.
All in all, it was a little more stressful planning than I wanted due to the language barriers and the fact that the resort doesn’t respond too quickly to emails until your wedding is weeks away. That being said, once we were down there it was obvious that the Paradisus does weddings and other corporate events ALL THE TIME and that they know what they’re doing. We had an AWESOME trip and all of our guests loved it. Hope this helps!! Longest review ever.