Hi ladies! Just a warningâ€¦this is going to be a long (emphasis on long) overdue, really comprehensive planning and wedding review. Itâ€™s long overdue because post-wedding I was tired of thinking about details and I had a hard time dwelling on those aspects I unhappy about. So again, I procrastinated. I am so sorry! Itâ€™s always been my intention to do this review. And now, nearly a year later, I am finally get it all down. I posted a review of my July 2006 scouting trip, so I will try not to repeat myself. Itâ€™s probably way to much information for you all, but I hope you find something valuable here. I also attached it for an easier read.
First, I really want to emphasize how much we loved having our wedding in Cabo, at the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar in particular. Mexico was a relatively easy destination for our family and guests. The beaches are beautiful, the people are friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. The Sheraton is family-friendly, with many pools and a long beach. If you stayed long enough you take advantage of their daily activities/classes and Sheratoons programs for the kids.
Let me start by saying that I was the kind of bride that feels â€œitâ€™s all in the details.â€ I like detailsâ€¦a lot! However, having a wedding in Mexico made me relinquish some of what I had originally imagined doing because I didnâ€™t want to haul too much down or was afraid to ship anything. On the flip side, it forces you to simplify and prioritize. I am not a â€œfloweryâ€ person and prefer a more modern, streamlined look. And since I really have a thing for stripes we had a stripe theme. Our colors were brown with different shades of pink and also orange. To save money, and to keep with the vision, we did a lot ourselves. We designed and made the save the dates, invitations, welcome bags, all the tags, escort cards etc.
Itâ€™s not hard to do a lot by email and phone, but I did do a quick scouting trip in July 2006 which helped a lot. I emailed with vendors a lot. Most speak a little English and I speak a little Spanish. I personally got caught up with a lot of travel planning details. I didn't mean to, but I just ended up feeling so responsible for our guests. A lot of them are older family members and were probably slightly hesitant to travel there. So, we had a very detailed website with lots of good info on it (we think!). Most people appreciated it. Itâ€™s still up at www.kristinandsam.com, if you want to use any of it. Some of the info might be outdated now though. I will also send a link of basic pics here:
We had about 60 guests total â€“ mostly family.
November 9th, Thurs - Welcome Cocktails and Artwalk: La Panga Antigua â€“ San Jose del Cabo
November 10th, Fri - Rehearsal Dinner: Girasoles â€“ Sheraton Hacienda del Mar
November 11th, Sat, 5pm: Wedding Location â€“ Sheraton Hacienda del Mar, Pitahayas Beach (for Ceremony) and Restaurant for Cocktail Hour and Appetizers and Dinner.
Save the Dates/Invitations:
Since it was a destination wedding we used a postcard theme for the save-the-date, but slipped them into envelopes for mailing. I drew a cartoon/logo which appeared on our website, welcome bags, and all of our printed materials. We printed about 100 postcards for $20, but rushed the shipping (so I think the cost was about $40). I found most of my paper and envelopes at Paper Presentation in New York. They have a huge selection in the store, but also have a website with some stuff on it â€“ paperpresentation.com. The company we printed the postcards with is overnightprints.com. They donâ€™t print any company markers on your stuff, which is nice.
I bought some inexpensive natural cotton 15 x 15 in bags for about $1/each at ingreetings.com. I have a sewing machine that is also an embroidery machine, so I embroidered our logo on them. Since they were so thin, I lined them with striped fabric as well. We printed tags with a quick welcome message. Each bag contained Mexican chocolates and snack goodies; personalized water bottles (again with our logo) â€“ both from Costco; a â€œSpanish Travel Phraseâ€ book we made up; my mother made sarongs for the women; and I had beach toys for the families with kids. We printed up our logo/water labels at home onto white paper with an adhesive back and pre-cut them into strips. So all we had to do was peel off the old label and adhere the personalized one. I brought some empty cellophane bags and striped grosgrain ribbon to insert and tie the chocolates in. We put in maps of the area as well. We distributed the bags as we assembled to take the bus to San Jose del Cabo.
Welcome: La Panga and Artwalk:
We chose to have a welcome on Thursday largely because of the Artwalk in San Jose del Cabo. Since most guests would probably be staying close to the resort or Cabo San Lucas I thought they might like to see San Jose â€“ the town I prefer. I didnâ€™t have an easy time finding information about the Artwalk online. But basically, every Thursday from about 5-9pm from October to June the galleries open their doors late and offer patrons wine and art. I read good things about La Panga and decided to just have appetizers and cocktails for about 2 hours before the Artwalk. Our coordinator arranged a tour bus (Trancabo) to bring our guests around 5:30 pm and back around 9:30pm. The driver was new and the streets get narrow, so he got lost down a dirt row for a little while, but eventually got us there. I had emailed with Jacobo, the owner, to arrange the menu and heâ€™s very responsive. It was sort of funny because since we were late the wait staff was super over eager to distribute the drinks and as soon as we descended the stairs people were being thrust water bottles, beers and drinks. We had a nice passed group appetizer menu. All in all, it was a nice space and good food. People enjoyed exploring the town.
Sheraton Hacienda del Mar:
Again, the Hacienda del Mar is awesome. We stayed in the timeshare section while most of our guests stayed in the hotel. The timeshare was a tremendous deal for us because we found them through an owner. I think we paid $750/week. The timeshare and hotel guests all use the same amenities and you can phone from room to room etc. The advantage to the timeshares is having the living space and kitchenette. We went to Costco, Mega (nearer to the airports and San Jose) and Soriana (like Walmart â€“ near Cabo) and stocked up on water and some food. The staff at the HDM is really nice and accommodating. The timeshare section has it's own lobby and reception desk. The manager, Rolando and Libertad (front desk associate) were super helpful and knew me by name by the end of our stay. I emailed with Rolando prior checking in and he was nice enough to put the 5 rooms we had booked (with an owner I found on Redweek.com) near each other. We stayed in the villas, rather than the large hotel building, which I liked for its quaintness. We were right across from Pitahayas (the restaurant where our wedding was held) so it was very convenient.
There are plenty of pools with nice lounge chairs. It was so fun to meet up with everyone by the pool every day. And though the surf was pretty scary some days, we did swim a bit on days it seemed calmer. We ate a lot of our meals at the resort. We held two "events" at two of their restaurants (see below). Their "authentic Mexican" restaurant is Girasoles. They serve an all you can eat $12 breakfast each day. The restaurant is on the 4th floor of one of the timeshare buildings and the outdoor terrace where the tables are has a great view of the ocean. We held our rehearsal dinner there. It was really nice because they had live music, they put us on a private floor with itâ€™s own bar. We paid $32 pp tax and service included which I thought was a pretty good deal. They will definitely try to work with your budget. Our group was not big drinkers, or so we thought (!) so we just did bar by consumption. At the rehearsal they could order what they wanted (at the wedding reception we passed mojitos and margaritas â€“ though they could still order what they wanted). I emailed with the manager Margarita and she provided me with a nice group menu. We had chips and guacamole on the tables. Guests could choose from a choice of Caesar, Roasted Tomato Salad, or Cactus Leaf Salad; Enchiladas or Quesadillas â€“ Chicken; and Flan with Kahlua or Almond Tartalette with carmelized bananas, vanilla ice cream and English cream.
Pitahayas Restaurant is where we held the wedding. They are considered a 5 star restaurant in Cabo and serve pan-asian cuisine. They have a very secluded, if not private beach area that I much preferred to the Sheratonâ€™s beach area and palapa - which is planted in the center of the resort. You can dramatically descend down the stairs to the beach, which was fun. They have these outdoor patios that are overlook the beach and water. Itâ€™s removed from the main restaurant a bit so it feels private. PSAV handles multimedia set ups at the property so I contacted them directly and ordered a speaker system, wireless mic, mic stand, and mixer for the wedding and reception ($474 including labor for the night). We held our cocktail hour on the lower level and 10 rectangular tables were set for us on the upper patio. Pitahayas has live music nightly so you cannot bring in a DJ and have loud dancing there. Our guests were mostly older and they werenâ€™t going to dance anyway. So with some coaxing we asked to set up our IPOD into the speakers system and had a first dance and dinner music for ourselves. We had very simple d©cor.
We sewed brown runners to run the length of the table. We also brought orange, pink and white candles from IKEA down. Each table had two large cylinders on top of the runners that were slightly filled with sand and a candle. The view and surroundings were so beautiful that it was really all we needed. I told the guest to take the candles when the reception ended so I did not have to cart the back. I emailed with Jose Rojas, the manager to arrange everything. The hardest thing to determine was that I wanted to use rectangular tables rather than circular ones. The guests agreed that the food was spectacular. Our passed appetizers were: won ton crisp with crab and mango; coconut shrimp with chipotle cream; hoisin pork ribs; crab and shrimp Sui Mail; chicken yakitori (like chicken skewers) and spicy tuna roll. For dinner: Appetizer - shrimp and crab cakes with spicy wasabi remoulade, fried leeks and avocado relish; Salad - green papaya salad with black bean shrimp and peanuts; and Main Course - Petite Filet Mignon and Half Lobster Tail with wasabi butter, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Yum! I think our entire cocktail, appetizer, dinner and drinks/alcohol bill was about $6700 for 57 people, including 6 children.
Jeremy Herman and Charlotte. They are really lovely to work with. They are French couple that have a studio space in Cabo where they sell their art and photography. They also do videography and editing. I didnâ€™t want or need prints to carry home or ask for a slide show. Iâ€™ve seen some spectacular ones though and somewhat regret that! They both shot, but Jeremy is the principal photographer. I asked him to shoot in raw and he gave me all the images by the time we left Cabo. $1800 for 6 or 7 hours, I think. But, he was unhappy that the sun set on us so he offered to come back the next night to do more pictures. Itâ€™s nice to have portraits of us on the beach. And it was extremely nice of him to offer to do that.
Officiant â€“ India Wood:
Another officiant recommended her because he was booked. She had a nice, relaxed presence. I think we made it pretty easy for her. We wrote the whole thing, including when music would happen, when readings would happen, so she mostly followed our script. One amusing thing was that I forgot to insert some sort of direction as to when people could sit down. So after an uncomfortably long time I whispered to her that they should sit. I met her during my scouting trip and really thought she had a nice spirit. We communicated a bit through email and we agreed on a price of $200, which included rehearsal the day before as well as the wedding. After I got down to Mexico she made mention that coming to the rehearsal would be a pain due to Friday traffic etc. I think I increased her fee to $225 and convinced her to come. I think she was sorry she mentioned it. It was a bit annoying because I really needed her at the rehearsal. Maybe I am unsympathetic because I live in New York City, so the traffic seemed a breeze to me.
After my make-up trial at the Sheraton Spa and at Senza I decided to have someone in the states (sheâ€™s great â€“ out of San Francisco if anyone want one) teach me to do my make-up myself. The Mexican trials looked to unnatural and caked on. However, I went to Senza Salon - www.senza.com.mx - for my hair. I loved the way it looked. Araceli was my stylist and she understood what I wanted through my pictures and translation from an English speaking stylist. The salon also gave me a pedicure. The whole thing probably cost me $60.
Dress, Veil, and Flower:
My dress is Paloma Blanca. My Aunt made my veil â€“ from lace she bought from Joann Fabrics no less! And the hair flower was vintage Parisian silk from Dulken & Derrick (www.flowersinthecity.com) in Manhattan.
Wedding Cake â€“ Deena Abadiano, Sweet Dreams Desserts & Decorated Cakes:
Deena was by far the easiest vendor to work with in the entire process. Sheâ€™s so sweet and really talented. Nearly all the guests said that the cake was "the best wedding cake" they'd ever had! And these people have been to their share of weddings, let me tell you! On my site visit in July, I met with Deena and did a quick tasting. I told her about my striped theme, gave her a spool of ribbon and we decided on the design. I wanted a 3 tier â€œNeopolitanâ€ cake. The outer layer was dark chocolate ganache (iced smooth) with 3 flavors of cake â€“ chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, 3 flavors of frosting. The cost was $432 about $5.50/a serving. Sheâ€™s good friend with Tara so I think she uses her a lot. www.SweetDreamsCabo.com. Initially I was going to decorate with both the ribbon, home made cake toppers and flowers on top. But we had a flower mishap so we just used the cake toppers. It ended up looking great!
Coordinator: Maye Cortinas
I saved the coordinator for last because I have most to say about this experience. I went with Maye because besides being less expensive, I thought I would plan a lot myself, so I did not want to have to spend too much on a coordinator. I almost hired just a â€œday ofâ€ coordinator, but didnâ€™t even though I ended up feeling like that is what I got. Maye was very responsive back in February and April when I was first looking for a coordinator. That and the fact that she was native were attractive to me. I think as we got closer to the wedding she was busier.
(Legal or non-legal): Initially we were adamant that we wanted to be legally married in Mexico. We wanted it to feel like the real thing. So, Maye was attractive because her $800 rate included the legal ceremony with the judge. However, the judges speak in Spanish and Maye would translate. Supposedly you cannot deviate too much from the civil ceremonial text. Eventually our desire to personalize the ceremony won out. Legally you are required to do a blood test and I could never get a straight answer about whether we would need an apostille for the marriage to be recognized in the U.S. I know plenty of people had no problems, but I just didnâ€™t want to add another detail onto things. So, we went to Borough Hall in Brooklyn before we left. It was quick and painless, yet surprisingly emotional for me because I was so â€œin the momentâ€. That ceremony turned out to be a real highlight for me.
Let me start by saying that Maye is a very nice, classy woman. During my planning trip in July she graciously drove me to possible rehearsal dinner restaurants and she accompanied me on my appointments with the Sheraton. One thing I noticed is that she will attempt to do everything you ask, but in the end, I was a bit disappointed that Maye offered little in the way of ideas, inspiration or direction. Perhaps I watch too many of those wedding planning TV shows! But, perhaps she could tell I had some strong ideas. In any case, I sort of expected her to take the reins, ask me questions about my likes and dislikes and lead me through this process. And my take is that she was like, â€œtell me what you need me to do.â€ I found that odd because if youâ€™ve never planned a wedding before (and most of us probably have not), you donâ€™t really know what to do and where to start! So, I found that I had initiate discussions - to be the leader. I explained everything that I envisioned. Luckily for me, I have been privy to the planning of my sisterâ€™s and brotherâ€™s weddings so I had a good idea of what might be expected. I am not sure she would have made suggestions as all.
November is a popular month for weddings in Cabo. And apparently, though she never told me, she was had another wedding on the same day as mine. I totally understand her business decision to do that, but I would have appreciated it if she was more straight-forward with me and just told me she would not be present throughout my wedding. She introduced me to her associate, Khatya, only once I got down to Cabo. Khatya turned out to be my planner that day. This was disconcerting only because I would rather have dealt with the person who was going to be there from the get go.
The weddings held the same weekend as ours sounded amazing. I had a pang of regret that I did not go all out for Mariachi's or fire dancers. Our celebration was definitely simple, but nice and I am pretty sure we got to enjoy Natasha's fireworks as well! We got married Nov. 11th as well so I think Mayeâ€™s focus was not on my event. When I hired Maye, I believed she would be the coordinator. I thought that I would be led through the day. Maye assured me that she had a "staff" for the actual day, which turned out to be just Khatya. Maye never admitted that she was double booked and never told me that she would not be there the whole night. I think she left after I walked down the aisle. I am not sure because I never spoke to her before the ceremony or saw her after the beach ceremony.
I pretty much planned my own wedding and was increasingly frustrated with Maye. She often misunderstood my emails and sent me incorrect invoices, which were a running tab of what she was taking care of for me. It started driving me mad towards the end because the inaccuracies and lack of attention to detail was an added stress I did not need. I would send her specific documents that were very clear about what I wanted. I created a PDF document that included all the details, including color swatch information about flowers and who gets them, a spreadsheet with my vendors and their contact information etc. But then she would send me an incorrect invoice. For example, I told her I wanted nosegays for the mothers and then the invoice would say â€œcorsagesâ€. I happen to hate corsages. I had indicated I wanted pink or shades of pink, but absolutely â€œno peach or purpleâ€ and in some cases it would say â€œyellowâ€. Obviously it was a typo or left over from a different bride or discussion and I knew we had time to work all that out. But, I found it annoying because it was an indication to me that she was not paying as close attention to the details as I would like. I finally had to tell her that she needed to double-check what she sent me because the mistakes were making me crazy.
Prior to hiring Maye, I had already contacted many of my vendors myself and formed relationships (cake, photographer, venue) with them. I am not sure if that saved me money or not. So, in the end she (or really Khatya) just handled the day-of coordination. Maye did book some airport transfers and the bus for our welcome cocktails, our guitarist for the wedding, and the flowers. And both she and Khatya were on met our Transcabo bus (Welcome Cocktails) from our departure points to ensure things went smoothly. She also communicated with our rehearsal dinner place a bit because we were having email receipt and language difficulties. Maye would attempt to help me every time I asked, but in many casesâ€¦for whatever reasonâ€¦they would not answer her so I ended up being the one to contact them and find out the answers by emailing people myself. Again, I think she is a very nice, well-intentioned coordinator. I appreciated her words or reassurance leading up to the wedding. But, I would have liked more direction.
Coordinator Services on Wedding Day:
A few days prior to the wedding, I gave her documents detailing the wedding timeline, the set up requirements, photographers list. The timeline included things like when the photographer arrives, how long pictures before would take, when we would leave for the site, in what order we would line up and procession etc. The troubling thing was that I seemed to be wholly responsible for following the timeline and getting myself to the wedding site, which can be tough when your mind is on a million things. I would ask your coordinator what her role is exactly on the day of the wedding. Make sure you have that spelled out for you. Because if I did not keep asking people what time it was I would have missed going down to the site. Also, I asked them if they thought I should move up the wedding start time because I noticed that the sunlight really disappeared quickly. But, they seemed to think 5pm was okay. Looking back, we should have started at least 30 minutes earlier because we lost the light and didnâ€™t get to take many pictures after the wedding.
Khatya first arrived for the wedding at 3pm to start setting up for a 5pm start. I had a small â€œmomentâ€ when she brought in our flowers. I had emailed Maye a swatch with the colors I wanted â€“ shades of pink. I also stated absolutely no peach or purple. We asked that she just pick up throw petals from Costco â€“ which were cheaper. I requested simple rose bouquets â€“ different shades of pink for me and for my maid-of-honor; fuschia nosegays for the mothers; and extras of all for the top of the cake. My bouquet started out looking like a large purple, peach and fuschia mess. I think was very angry. I did not yell, but I sternly said, â€œThis is horrible. This is not what I asked for or wanted â€“ at all.â€ I had floral tape and ribbon with me, so I told me mom, sister and friend, â€œRip it out and go monochromeâ€. Fuschia for my sister and I and the mothers get whatâ€™s left, nothing for the cake. It worked out better, but was disappointing and stressful. Another detail not followed. Khatya was trying to point to the peach and say, â€œThis is a shade of pink.â€ But, I did not want to discuss it and moved on.
Khatya had to oversee the ceremony set-up, fill and set up the hurricanes with candles, the guest book and escort cards needed to be tented on the table, and placing the name cards/candy favors at the seats, according to the seating arrangement. It was not enough time for one person. I told her that my cousin and aunt would look over the name cards to make sure they were okay and she took that to mean (I found out later) that they would be handling that aspect. We wrote our own ceremony and hired our own officiant (India Wood) so during the ceremony Maye was barely present. I think I saw her just as I descended the stairs. It's possible she was doing something that I was not aware of. Because of the miscommunication Khatya did not place the seating cards, so my cousin, friend and aunt were scrambling to do it - which I noticed as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle! I certainly did not want my family to have to work during the wedding! And was slightly preoccupied with that during the ceremony.
I also found out that that when the wedding party gathered to process my father-in-law said, "Shouldn't we line up?" And Maye said, "I don't know anyone's nameâ€ and didnâ€™t do it. I was furious when I heard this because Khatya was up above still setting up, so it was up to Maye to handle the procession. I had given her a VERY detailed spreadsheet with everyone's name and who they were ( i.e. 1st down - Rick and Linda, father & stepmother of the groom; 2nd â€“ Lydia and Reeka) so she all she had to do was call their names and line them up. I am not sure why she could not just read off of her paper. Perhaps she did not have it with her?
My groom was getting pretty upset and frazzled at the disorganization so he asked my aunt, who was up frantically placing seating cards, to come down, line everyone up and tell them when to process. My aunt never really discussed this with me, I think because she knew I would get upset, and I never really got an explanation from Maye about it. Maye ended up coming up to tell me when to process because Khatya was up getting the reception set up. Again, this was literally the first time I saw her. She never checked in with me before this. Unfortunately, Maye had me start before the flower girl had finished and because of this no one saw me until I hit the beach! Sigh. Note to brides: Let the flower girls finish so you can have your moment!
Basically, without my friends and family's assistance the set up would not have been done. They took care of all the details that I expected my coordinators to do. I did not feel "coordinated" at all. I was completely responsible for keeping the schedule I made. No one came to check in with me at any time prior to the wedding. I think that Khatya made sure that the musicians came up for the cocktails and that dinner started on time etc. She seemed very nice and left after dinner was served. Because of this we were not sure what to do during the cake cutting. At that point it didnâ€™t really matter.
Please don't get me wrong. Maye is very pleasant and professional. And Khatya is very nice and seemed to handle all that she was asked to. She just had too much to do. Maye is accommodating and does seem to work with you on price, but I would have preferred someone that paid attention to detail and was there the entire ceremony, if not the entire time! Others have had great experiences with her so I would just work out what your expectations are before you begin your relationship â€“ with any coordinator.
Things I Would Having Changed:
Once we got to Mexico we noticed how early the sun set. We should have moved the wedding up a half hour to 4:30pm. The coordinators are used to super short ceremonies. We wrote our own and had a lot of personal touches â€“ readings, sand ceremony etc. I am not sure what time it ended, but the sun set on us while taking our portraits together. So, we did not have time to take some decent portraits together in our wedding attire. Our photographer was nice enough to come back the next day and we took some in our more casual clothes. I ended up wearing a dress that looks like a nightgown (!) and don't like the way I look, but it's nice to have some nice non-wedding pics. I am not definitely sure if I would change this but I kind of wish I had my hair redone and I took those pics in my wedding dress. How often do you get to wear it anyway!?
The biggest thing I would have done differently isâ€¦I would have hired a videographer. I am actually a videographer and editor, so I donâ€™t know why I didnâ€™t insist! It would have been really nice to see everything from another perspective â€“ like a year removed!
All in all we had a great vacation with our families. Our wedding was really special and all these complaints of mine are of very little consequence. I just want to inform those of you who are planning now. Good luck and let me know if I can answer any questions for you.