My husband ( I have to get used to that) and I just recently got back to to NY from our wonderful Wedding/ Honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Our first vacation together was to Puerto Vallarta almost 6 years ago. It almost feels like our 2nd home. So it was a no brainer when we got engaged where we were going to be get married.
We had 20 guests, our parents, brothers, sister and best friends join us. We wanted to have a more intimate setting for all friends and family to really get to know each other so we wanted to stay in a villa as opposed to one of the many luxury resorts in PV and I'm so glad we made this decision! No you might be confused when I describe our villa as a resort but that's because the 3 villas we stayed in are part of a resort, the best of both worlds with out all the other people! Below is a start to finish review of all our wedding vendors as well as a day to day breakdown. We haven't received pictures and video yet but once we do I will be sure to share because like saying, "pictures are worth a thousand words".
11/8/11 (Day 1)
Us and 17 of our guests all flew together from JFK in NYC and arrived in PV at 3pm. The remaining 3 guests were arriving the following day. Our resort had booked for us 3 large vans which were waiting for us in the VIP section when we arrived, this came out to be about $15 per guest. From here we took the 1/2 hr drive to our Villa/ Resort, Vallarta Gardens Resort in La Cruz (about 10 mins north of Bucerias). All of our guests unpacked and relaxed while my fiance, dad and I took a cab to the Mega grocery store about 10 mins away. There we bought enough basics, like cereal, milk, bread and of course cerveza to stock all 3 villa kitchens with! A 6pk of Corona was about $4! **Tip: When taking cabs here, be sure to ask the price before you get in the car. That evening , from 7-9pm, my fiance and I hosted a Welcome cocktail party for all our guests poolside at our villa (Villa Palma Azul). We wanted everyone to get to know each other. I was so happy we did this. Everyone was pretty beat from traveling all day. They would have been too tired to go anywhere so having the party right at our villa kept it casual and set the tone for the rest of the vacation.
11/9/11 (Day 2)
This was a free day for our guests while the groom and I tended to wedding details. Some of our guests went zip lining and horse back riding in Sayulita. The Resort was really helpful in getting them a group discount. I think they did both for $65 a person. The groom and I met up with Eva our Wedding Coordinator (Vallarta Weddings) and our caterer Blair (Plush Catering). We all drove up to our wedding location in Punta Mita. This was our first time getting to see our location in person aside from all the pics we saw online. Let me just say the pictures were nothing in comparison to the real thing. Casa Canela is a beautiful villa set on top of a cliff with amazing views (perfect for great sunset pics). I was so excited for the big day after this walk threw. This was also when I passed off to Eva all the decorations I either bought or made. It was a whole suitcase full! When we returned to the resort we met our videographer and his assistant (Russell John Films). We had flown them in from San Diego and we saved a room for them in one of our villas. That evening we used a restaurant credit given to us by the resort to have a private dinner with just our parents and siblings so they 2 families could get to know each other better. The manager of the restaurant had preselected a menu for us, tortilla soup, salad, fillet Mignon and brownies. The food was amazing, the steaks were perfectly cooked! After dinner we got ready and the younger crowd boarded a bus we rented for the night (again something the resort booked for us, we paid for of course). We went to Mandala on the Malecon. I wanted to go here to have drinks at the Sky Lounge but that's only open on the weekends . The bar is flashy and new but be careful because I feel like they try to trick you with the price if your paying with US dollars. Luckily some of has had downloaded currency converter apps on our phones so we were able to show them when we were being over charged in dollars. Best to pay in pesos. Our bus was on time at 1am to drive us back to our resort. We were a good hour drive from the downtown area.
11/10/11 (Day 3)
Aside from the wedding day, this was the day I was most looking forward to. My fiance and I and all of our guests as well as our videographer chartered a boat. Not just any boat but the Chica Loca! We boarded the boat at about 9:30am where we met Gil (aka Captain G) and his crew. They immediately started serving breakfast which was fresh fruit and pastries. Then came the drinks! They didn't waste any time! We then plugged in our Ipod where we had already made a 6 hr play list to take us through the whole day. We sailed out to Marietas Islands. It took about 2 hrs to get there. Then we put on snorkel gear and Captain G showed us where to swim threw a cave and it takes you to a secluded beach. From there we swan threw more caves. And the best part was, we were able to take pics because Captain G gave us an underwater disposable camera to use. After we all got back on the boat lunch was served. But we didn't remain seated for long because we took advantage of the dance floor in the middle of the boat! So much fun, made for some great video I'm sure. When we got closer to shore Captain G managed to get a smaller fishing boat so our videographer Russell was able to take exterior shots of us on the boat. I can't wait to see this. When we arrived back at Vallarta Gardens we showered and got ready for our rehearsal dinner. But first Eva, our wedding coordinator met us at the resort to do a quick 15 min rehearsal for the wedding party. After this we took taxis back to the Marina Riviera Nayarit where the groom and I hosted everyone for our rehearsal dinner at Ikuai restaurant. They served up family style seafood platters and Chicken fajitas for anyone that didn't eat seafood. They also included open bar and dessert. Our videographer was also here to capture the impromptu and emotional speeches that were given by many guests.
11/11/11 (Day 4) WEDDING DAY!!!!
Unfortunately I hardly slept the night before so I was very tired but the excitement kept me going all day. My mom, bridesmaids, videographers and I all boarded a small bus at noon to take us to Casa Canela (about 10 mins away). The groom, groomsman and remaining guests were to arrive later at 4pm. Once at the villa we all did a quick walk through and I explained where everything was taking place. It looked like there was so much work to be completed in the next 5hrs and I was kind of nervous it wouldn't all get done. I met with Eva to see if she had any questions for me. Then it was off to our little bridal suite which was the bedroom the house manager Maria suggested we use. At first there was no AC so we got that turned on right away. Then Francisco, my hair and make up guru arrived and we began immediately. I had sent him pics of what I wanted to do originally but of course I changed my mind and he was totally fine with the new look.. My photographer Kiersten Rowland showed up right on time at 3pm and by 3:30 my hair and make up was done. I started to get dressed so Kiersten and Russell could both get shots of myself and my bridesmaids before the other guests and the groom arrived at 4. The ceremony was to start at 5pm. I was a little bummed because this was the only day since we had arrived that was over cast and I was afraid it was going to rain. Thankfully it did not. Slightly after 5pm I was walking nervously down the grass towards the alter which was set up on the deck over looking the ocean. The ceremony went smoothly and I only cried a little, Pastor Bryan kept the ceremony at about 25 mins which was about all my weak knees could take. He was funny at just right times and sentimental at just the right times. We opted for the spiritual ceremony and were legally married in city hall the week before we left for Mexico. The ceremony was followed by cocktail hour and family and bridal party portraits. We were lucky enough through the clouds to get a sunset! Perfect. During the ceremony and cocktail hour we had a live band, The Mango Trio who played groovy latin jazz in the background. They really are amazing. I wish we booked them for longer then 2 hrs. A 6 course tasting dinner was then served. I have to say, I was really excited about this because I've never seen this at a wedding. The crowd favorites seemed to be the mini duck quesadillas and Won Ton Shrimp purses. But really everything served was delicious! For the remainder of the evening we just hooked up our Ipod to a sound system. During dinner we also had a photo booth with a Polaroid camera and chalk boards for writing messages and I left my maid of honor in charge of making sure everyone participated. We looked through this book on our honeymoon is was so funny! After we cut the cake and had the first dance we brought everyone over to the pool where had cigar rollers set up from Vallarta Cigar Factory. This was great for pics and the guys that came were really knowledgeable about the cigars and explaining the process. I changed into my party dress and the rest of the evening was spent on the dance floor! When were were leaving Maria the house manager at Casa Canela gave us a hand painted (in our wedding colors) wooden box to store memories in. How cute is that! When we arrived back at Vallarta Gardens around 11:30 the resort's staff had decorated our room with rose petals in a heart shape on our bed, champagne in a bucket and the jacuzzi in our room was filled with bubbles and rose petals. I couldn't believe it! The next day I found out they did something similar in both of our parents bedrooms as well. Nice touch guys!
11/12/11 (Day 5)
At noon we had our guests meet us in the resorts restaurant where we hosted a brunch. I was so glad we did this because no one would have been in the mood to the cook the next day and it gave us all a chance to talk about the night. Again food was great. They had a buffet of fresh fruit, juice, yogurt and breads and then then took pancake and egg orders from everyone. After brunch the groom and I were treated to a complementary couples message at the resorts spa. This was amazing and oh so needed! That evening as a thank to our wedding party we sent them and their dates on the Rhythms of the Night tour where they boarded a boat in Nuevo Vallarta that took them to Las Caletas. There they all paired off with their significant others for a romantic candle lit dinner on the beach. They all said the food was so amazing. After dinner there was a show that included fire dancers and music and more.
11/13/11 (Day 6) Say good bye
This was the day all of our guests left. They all left at different times and the resort was great about setting up taxis for everyone. Many people were able to share taxis and split the cost. My new husband and I stayed on for our honeymoon. We took a taxi to our new villa, Villa Roca Loro in Mismaloya. Kiersten our photographer met us here to pick us up for our Trash the Dress shoot. We started at the Botanical Gardens. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G location for a photo shoot or to just visit. We walked down these steps to the river where I literally did trash the bottom of my dress. Oh well, that's what dry cleaning is for. Then we headed to the beach, Boca de Tomatlan (Kiersten's recommendation) for some beach shots. We bought a couple beers and hit the sand. There happened to be a capsized sail boat on the beach and that made for an amazing back drop (unfortunate for the owner of the boat though). On our way back to dropping us off at our villa, Kiersten happened to notice an amazing sunset and had the car pull over so we could get out and stood on the cliff and got a some amazing shots. I can't wait to see these! Once we returned to our villa, Ana and Miguel, the mother and son house mangers had the dinner we had selected off their menu all ready and waiting for us at the table over looking the pool and ocean. This villa is set in the hills and has amazing views!!!!
Highlights from the rest of the honeymoon
We also decided to do the Vallarta Adventures, Rhythms of the Night Tour. We loved the Boat Ride over to Las Caletas and agreed with our friends that the dinner buffet they serve is really great food! But unfortunately they lost power 15 minutes into the show so we had to leave early. I guess that's one of the downfalls of being so remote. We also did horseback riding for $30 per person at Rancho Manolo. They had the horses right at the bottom of the hill from our villa. We went up into the Sierra Madres, about an hour ride up. It was just the 2 of us and our guide who did not speak any english and we speak very little spanish but somehow you figure out how to communicate anyways. He took us to the set for the movie Predator which my husband loved, then we went to the old El Eden restaurant which is now shut down and kind of creepy looking but there is a little waterfall there so its worth it. There is also a rope swing you use but at your own risk. We didn't know you could swim so we didn't have swimsuits on, bummer! Also from 11/10-11/20, there was a gourmet food festival in town which is how I heard of Thierry Blouet Cocina de Autor restaurant. This was the one really nice dinner I wanted to have while on our honeymoon. I made reservations about a month in advance. They sat us upstairs which was totally open air and surrounded with bamboo and lights. At first we were the only ones there. We got there at 7. We did the 8 course tasting menu with wine pairings. It is about $120 a person. Which is expensive for me but it was such an experience and so worth every dollar. They select all your courses for you along with the wines. There were things I know I would have never selected had I picked each course and I was so pleased with each dish. They really know what their doing here. For our last course (dessert) they brought out a large mirror with our desserts on it and large sugar blown heart, and chocolate sauce spelling out "Happy Honey Moon". We also did another tour through Vallarta Adventures, Off Road Adventure. This is not my favorite tour I've done in PV. You take an off road vehicle into the mountains. Caution, its very bumpy and not good for anyone that gets sick easily. You also get out and do a nature walk where they explain the different, flowers, birds, insects and tress. Then you go to Sayulitia for lunch and after that we had about an hour to hang out there. I kind of wish we just went to Sayulita by ourselves for the day because this is a very cool little surf town and we could have taken surf lessons or something. But all in all the tour was fun and we met a lot of nice couples also on the tour.
Resort: Vallarta Gardens Resort and Spa
This is not the kind of resort your used to. They only have 4 villas for rentals, the rest of the property is either home owners or timeshare owners so its really pretty private and feels like its just your group there. For this reason the staff is always available and there to help. We had rented 3 villas all next door to each other. Villa Palma Azul (this is where they put us, its the biggest villa), Villa Jazmin and Villa Cebia del Mar, for a total of 13 bedrooms. I had been working with Miriam in their reservations department for months. She was so helpful the whole way and we really became friends. The fact that is off the beaten track is nice because the beach is really private, your dint have people left and right trying to sell you stuff. This resort created an atmosphere for us all to get know each other and relax. I could see myself coming back here when we have kids someday. AMAZING!!
Wedding Coordinators- Vallarta Weddings, Michael and Eva
I liked working with Michael and Eva because they got our vision right from the beginning and got really excited about it which got me even more excited. They were also ok with me making a lot of stuff. It didn't offend them in the least. I work in design and I love to create so to have the freedom to do this, it was a match made in heaven! They do get busy during peak wedding season but they do always get back to you and they never missed a detail. I wish I could upload their emails to me. So detailed! I loved it. I felt like we were in great hands! We worked with Eva on the day of the wedding because Michael was preparing for another wedding they had for the following day. They are busy! Everything went so smooth and perfect and when they did make suggestions they were perfect. They have been doing this a long time and they know the area really well.
Wedding Location- Casa Canela- House manager Maria
We were planning on having our wedding right at Vallarta Gardens but about 6 weeks before the big day we had to change the venue. There was a change in management at the resort and not all of our original details would remain so instead of missing out on what we really wanted we decided to move venues. A very stressful decision so close to the wedding but one I will never regret ! Michael and Eva had done a wedding or 2 here before and swore by this location. It was perfect for our wedding size and we were able to come up with a layout that utilized all the same furniture and lighting rentals we had already selected. Believe me when I say, its even better in person. And Maria is such a delightful person.
Caterer- Plush Catering
The caterer was also something had to now worry about 6 weeks before the wedding. Luckily Plush was still available for our date. I worked with Blair and in about 1 1/2 weeks we had nailed down an impressive menu from agua fresca to be served to the guests prior to the ceremony, Our signature drink (Lime Basil Margartias, Yum!), the 6 course tasting menu, Cake and dessert table! They pulled it off and then some. Food and drinks are a huge part of any great celebration and they did not disappoint!
Photographer- Elizabeth Lloyd/ Kiersten Rowland
We booked Elizabeth's associate photographer, Kiersten. Since they both live in NYC during the off wedding season we were able to meet face to face and I loved them both immediately. You can tell they both love what they do and they love Puerto Vallarta. Kiersten was great the day of the wedding, making sure we stayed on track timing wise so we got all of our shots. And she was warm and easy to be around which helped me feel more relaxed in front of the camera. I can't wait to see the final results and I will be sure to share a few samples!
Videographer- Russell John
I first came across Russell's work by accident. At the time I wasn't really aware of HD wedding cinematography. But after looking at their blog I was obsessed and I had to have him at my wedding. I spoke to his assistant Brandon (also his brother law) over the phone. We had an hour phone consultation so they could get a feel for our style and what types of films we liked, which I thought was an interesting question. They said from the beginning you will hardly notice we're there and they were right, I did forget they were there so I didn't feel like I was acting in front of a camera. They caught my friends and family as we are and I can't wait to see the trailer. The full video we will be debuting at our March wedding reception back here in NY for the rest of our family and friends. Russell is based in San Diego so we did have to pay for his and his assistants air fare but they were cool with staying with us at the resort so they could film in their off time so that saved us money. He told me before we left that "This is going to be Epic" So I'm holding him to it!
Officiant- Pastor Bryan
I actually heard great reviews about Pastor Bryan on one of the forums in this site so thank you to whoever posted great feedback. I also was very happy with our choice. He kept it light enough but also made you feel the seriousness of what you were deciding to do. My parents were sorry he left so quick. They wanted to thank him after the ceremony. Here is his email address if you want to contact him
Band- Mango Trio
I happened to come across this band on youtube of all places. I was looking on there at other PV entertainers and I came across a 3 minute clip of playing at a local restaurant. Once i heard their sound I knew I found the right band. They really were great to walk down the aisle to and like I said I wish we booked them longer then the 2 hrs because they were done after cocktail hour. I got to speak to them a little after and they are just very nice genuine people. I hope this brings them more of the wedding business. They are great!
Favors- Mishka Designs
Mishka was great to work with. As she mentions in her blog I sent her a very detailed computer sketched file of the artwork I wanted on our maracas. Our maracas our the second ones listed! They had to tweak the artwork a bit because they are hand painted and she wanted to be sure the end result was something we would both be happy with. And we were more then happy. Everyone loved them. They used them all night to keep signaling us to kiss instead of the traditional tapping your glass. We also used them in our conga line! They are the perfect favor!
Cigars- Vallarta Cigar Factory
I am so happy we had the cigar rollers at our wedding. The team was great to work with right from the start. I sent them artwork for our custom cigar wraps and we were good to go. Even guests that don't smoke were intrigued enough to at least listen to how they are made and watch them roll if not take a puff too.
Rehearsal Dinner- Ikuai restaurant at the Marina Riviera Nayarit at La Cruz
I worked with the restaurants manager a few months in advance. First I gave them a budget and they pretty much worked within this and offered my a menu with open bar to fit our budget. It really was money well spent. The quality of food is amazing because your eating at a restaurant that is part of the Marina where there is a fish market on site. Can you say fresh seafood!!! After dinner they offered to move us up to the sky bar but we had a big day the next day so we all just went home. But great service and great food!!!
Boat- Chica Locca
Just sit back and relax because Captian G won't allow anything else! This is a pretty new boat and its kept in great condition. The lounge area surrounding the boat creates a comfortable space for everyone to relax, the nets in the front are great to lay in and get splashed, and the dance floor speaks for its self. The sounds system on board great. The crew is always making sure your have a fresh drink. You can snorkel, fish and more. I just wish were did more then 6 hours because it goes by so fast. This was the high light of our trip (aside from the wedding of course)!
Honeymoon Villa- Villa Roca Loro
Beautiful 3 bedroom villa but we had it all to our selves. This is way better then a huge resort, in my opinion. You have a whole house to yourself with an amazing view, your own pool, your own jacuzzi and then Ana and Miguel to help with whatever you need. We selected from a menu of what meals for breakfast and dinner and Ana went grocery shopping and cooked, Miguel pretty much makes sure everything else runs smooth from fixing things to calling cabs. Some days we were busy and didn't need anything cooked but it was hard to go out to eat when you have that kind of cooking right there. Like moms home cooking. They are amazingly sweet people! They leave if you don't need them so you do have privacy but they live right on the property if there was an emergency they aren't far away.
I promise to follow up with pictures and our video trailer as soon as we get them!!!