Hey all, just wanted to provide some input for potential brides on getting married at the Aruba Renaissance on Renaissance Island. We and around 50 of our closest friends and family traveled to Aruba for our wedding on Aug 5, 2011. It was absolutely fantastic, and I'm so thrilled that we decided to do our destination wedding in Aruba, and specifically at the Renaissance. Here are some of our thoughts on the entire experience.
First off, if you are a Type-A personality with a tendency to go Bridezilla on people if they don't get back to you in an hour, then you need to rethink the whole Destination Wedding thing in general (I imagine) and probably the Renaissance in particular. I can't speak to planning weddings at other resorts because I've only done this one, but while the folks at the Renaissance are meticulous when it comes to the details on the day of the wedding, getting feedback from them up until we got to Aruba was a bit of a chore at times. I started planning over a year in advance and ended up calling them initially to find out what dates were available because I couldn't get anyone to return my e-mail inquiries. SO, lesson #1: Be patient, but persistent. Your persistence will pay off in the end because they will eventually get back to you and answer your question appropriately, it just takes time. Plus, its island time folks, just relax and pretend you're in Aruba instead of NYC or Boston etc.
Now the main reason why it takes so much time, in my estimation, is that they have A LOT of weddings at the Renaissance. Juney Jones, the wedding coordinator is a busy, busy guy. Especially in the summer when they have weddings almost every night. Now while they are busy, they are also very organized and have done this A LOT, so that leads us to Lesson #2: Relax, they have everything under control. That was probably the most important lesson I learned from this whole venture. Just let them handle it. Be specific about what you want, but you can't possibly micro-manage them from abroad, so don't even try. Just have faith that things will turn out perfectly, and low and behold, they will! Now here are some specifics from our experience.
Renaissance Room Reservations - These ladies were really prompt in getting back to me on setting up our room block and super organized when it came to making the reservations. They sent me an excel spreadsheet with everyone's arrival dates so we could match that up with our list. Top notch service
Renaissance Wedding Coordinator - Juney Jones is the wedding coordinator. He's very laid back and can be a bit hard to get in touch with at times, but when it came down to going over the contract with us and explaining everything that would happen, he was very organized. The cost was right in line with the contract. The coordination on the day of the wedding was impeccable. You do need to be proactive before the big day because he wasn't really one to offer up suggestions unless directly asked. I think this is more in line with his title of "Wedding Coordinator" instead of "Wedding Planner" If you want someone to baby you around the day of the wedding, Juney is not that. If you want someone to make sure the boats are on time, the flowers are the right color, the DJ shows up etc, Juney is the man. We did have an issue with not enough chairs set out for the ceremony, but our ushers got with Juney and took care of it before.
Photographer - Juney works with a photographer from Momento Photography, Elnathan Hijmering. http://www.momentobyelnathan.com/ We contracted with him separately because we wanted a slightly bigger photo package than the standard Renaissance Island Wedding package. I can not say enough great things about Elnathan. He was prompt in answering questions about his services, and the day of the wedding he was fantastic. He was right on time and walked us through how the ceremony would work, brought the bouquets up to my room etc. He wasn't obtrusive during the ceremony, but managed to get really great pictures at the same time. He captured every group picture we wanted and got some freakin' hilarious pictures of the reception (drunken dancing and all). This guy is top notch. Our friends and family are raving about the pictures.
Hair and Make-up - I did some research on the web and found great reviews for Jennifer Croes-Veeris (JenniVe) http://jennive.webs.com/, so I booked her to do my hair and make-up and my maid of honor's hair and make-up. Her prices were a bit cheaper than the resorts and another place in town that I'd found, plus she would come directly to my room for the service. I didn't want to spend an hour during my vacation doing a hair practice session, so I did a practice session with my normal hair dresser in the US, took pictures and e-mailed to JenniVe beforehand. JenniVe was extremely prompt on the day of the wedding and finished exactly when she had planned to. This lady has mad skills for doing hair and make-up. She took the hair-do I had planned to go with and made it into a work of art. It even held up through several hours of Aruban trade winds and dancing without so much as a hair out of place. The make-up was great and didn't come off AT ALL the entire night. I highly recommend JenniVe for any perspective brides out there. She's a riot to talk to and a real professional.
Wedding Officiant - Mr. Geoffrey Banfield. The first time I met Mr. Banfield was on the boat ride over to the ceremony. That being said, with the ceremony he officiated, you'd think that he'd known us our entire life. This guy is good! He brought our guests into the ceremony, made us laugh and cry at times. He seamlessly dealt with the planes taking off from the airport (Just said, I'll wait!) during the ceremony. Just as a side note, we did not do the civil wedding in Aruba, just got married in the US at the courthouse before we left.
Food/Steel Pan/DJ - The food was absolutely outstanding during the reception. We hadn't tasted anything beforehand (see Rule #2 about Relax), but there was a huge spread of food and everything tasted great. The Steel Pan guys were good, but I honestly don't remember much of what they played, so its hard to say much about them. The DJ on the other hand was FANTASTIC and played such a great selection of songs that 95% of our guests were dancing by the end. High marks for the DJ (booked through the Renaissance, so I'm not sure of their names).
Overall thoughts/pros/cons on the Renaissance Wedding - People are still raving about what a great time they had in Aruba, so I'm really thrilled. Most importantly my husband and I had an awesome time. Some cons to consider: airplanes taking off during the ceremony was kind of a drag, but whatever (see Rule #1). The were a bit quick to clear the buffet food during the reception. One of our guests didn't get any food because she was dancing. Also, the receptions end at 10pm, which is early. Our guests could have easily danced another hour, but that's the way it goes. Overall, I give the Renaissance and their folks 98/100.
Other things we did:
We booked a private snorkel cruise the day before the wedding on the Mi Dushi out of De Palm Pier. http://www.midushi.com/ Our guests had an awesome time. We did the Taste of Aruba tour, which includes lunch and 3 stops to snorkel. This same company does the Kukoo Kunuku party bus, so we booked it to come pick us up and take us back to the Renaissance. I think our guests may have enjoyed this trip more than they liked the wedding. Lunch was really good, and the rope swing made for some top notch entertainment.
"Rehearsal Dinner" - We didn't have a rehearsal, but we did do a dinner the night before at El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse for our wedding party (all 2 of them) and our family. Really great good, reasonably priced group menu, super easy to deal with, and within walking distance to the Renaissance. The mariachi band plays Neil Diamond. Need I say more?
Wedding Favors - We worked with the Palmera Rum folks to go mini rum bottles as wedding favors. Great price, personalized bottles, delivery to the hotel. They were ridiculously easy to deal with, and our guests loved the rum.
Anyway, overall, we are so happy we did our wedding in Aruba. Enjoy!