Hi ladies! ...and hubby
My husband said it right - it was amazing! Not so sound like a total cliche but they gave us the wedding of our dreams. It was perfect. I don't quite know how to recap the past two weeks of our lives in the Dominican Republic so I'll try to keep it to what I think you'll want to know - and if you have any questions, please PM me:
#1. Stop stressing out. As Americans we all think we need to plan our weddings 5 months in advance and obsess over every single detail. 3 months before our wedding I still had a LOT I thought I had to do and the response from the resort was lacking. But then a month before the wedding Scarlet and her team (Cristina, etc) started emailing me almost everyday. The are pros. They have good taste. They know how to make you happy. Respect them. Be good to them. Be clear with what you want and they will deliver on it. If you're a complete control freak and need to touch, feel, see, etc. every single detail then you shouldn't be having a destination wedding in the first place. But if you have good taste, show them what you want, then they will deliver on it. I remember showing Scarlet (and Lara Estaras of Caribbean Celebrations) our tables and centerpieces idea. I sent an email with a picture saying, can you do this? Exactly this? They said yes. I trusted them. And the night of our wedding the tables were perfection.
#2. Meet with wedding coordinators and vendors and stylists BEFORE the wedding!! My family and I arrived on the Tuesday before the wedding. On Tuesday afternoon my husband and I dragged ourselves out of the gorgeous pool, and drinks in hand, we met with Scarlet to create a timeline of events and go over details. On Wednesday my husband and I went from pool to meeting to pool to meeting all day. It was the best day of wedding planning ever! We met with DJ Mannia and gave them our lists of requests (what to play, not to play, CD of must have songs, etc etc). We met with Caribbean Celebrations to go over details (finalize look of arch, look of bouquets, etc) met with photographer Reno Cassius of Photo Souvenir (who we loved!!) to go over details and timeline. Each meeting only took about 45 minutes and it was time well spent. Then in the afternoon, I met with my bride stylist Yessenia (who made me look beautiful and she's a wonderful person!) to have a trial run with my hair and make up. Side note: go in with an idea of what you want or allow her to tell you what would work (I did the latter). Then let her do her thing because Dominican women know how to do hair! Trust me, you want to meet with these people because they are total professionals and will put you at ease. After it was done, I felt totally relaxed, I knew my hair and makeup would look good, music, decor, and photography was set, and could totally enjoy the next couple of days with family and friends - which is what it's all about in the first place!!!!
#3. The Resort is stunning!!! This is a 5 star resort, and it should be ranked the #1 hotel in Punta Cana area. I have no idea how any other hotel is ranked above it - and I imagine it's because most people that visit Punta Cana don't know it exists in Cap Cana and settle for a fist pumping/Spring Break place. This is not that!! And thank God it's not!! This resort is stunning, it's 5 star, it's classy. The lawns are immaculately groomed. The architecture is Spanish colonial with touches of southern Spain mudejar style. And the staff!! We were sad to leave them! Every single hotel staffer that we met is a good person, and the resort goes through a rigorous screening process to ensure that they have the best, most professional staff possible. And they do. We tipped when we could because a few dollars goes a long way down there. Just because you're at an all-inclusive doesn't mean you shouldn't tip for better service....and honestly any ignorant American or traveler that posts otherwise on TripAdvisor or anywhere is just a complete moron. They are a fantastic crew at Sanctuary and it made me so happy to see them treat our friends and family so well.
#4. Treat the staff well. This one is simple. What goes around comes around. Treat them well, with respect, tip where needed, and they will go above and beyond to make this the wedding of your dreams. When I say this was the wedding of my dreams, I mean it. I knew the wedding would go well but it wildly exceeded my expectations, and we are SO glad that we chose Sanctuary for our wedding.
#5. Be Organized and Get everything in writing! As amazing as the wedding coordinators and hotel staff are, I felt comfortable knowing that I had a huge folder that had everything we needed. From our DJ music requests to room reservation confirmations, I was on top of my wedding business. Though I never had to pull any documents out because Sanctuary was on top of it all, I felt better knowing that I had papers should I need to show them to anyone.
#6. If things don't go as planned, it will be ok! We had 100 guests join us for wedding (85 adults and 15 kids). We splurged and paid for wedding on the "Big Island" and the wedding reception at Seaside Terrace of the Castle. We had the most perfect ceremony outside, photos taken outside, cocktail hour outside, and then after our first dance and salads, it started to rain!! We were all guided to the Ocean Club where we had another cocktail hour for an hour. But instead of freaking out during that time we were totally relaxed as poor Scarlet and Cristina and the ENTIRE staff rushed to recreate the same scene in the giant ballroom. An hour later, we were brought into the ballroom and it was perfect. The centerpieces, tables, etc were all there. They even saved the cake! So many of my friends and family say they liked the impromptu cocktail hour because it got the group talking to people they normally wouldn't have known. Though things didn't go as planned it all turned out great. So remember to roll with the punches.
#7. Don't stress about things you can't control (like weather, etc) ...but be VERY organized with the things you can.
#8. Make time for fun! I knew I wanted to golf with my Dad, Brother, Godfather, and husbands Uncle before wedding, so I set us up a teetime on Thursday. My husband really wanted to take a group to the "Hoyo Azul" so we all went out on Sunday afternoon. Make sure to schedule time for fun otherwise the pool will suck you in (which isn't bad either!)
Other things to note:
ROOM DROPS FOR WELCOME BAGS:
I paid to use the room drop. Think it was $3/bag or something. Not sure I would do this again. I would say 90% of people got their bags - but some of our guests changed room upon check in (ie. their room wasn't ready but the hotel had another one available so some bags got lost. At every wedding I've ever been to the welcome bag process isn't perfect so this didn't bother me too much.
My husband and I did a couples massage at the Spa. I highly recommend it. I wish we had spent more time at spa, it's gorgeous.
Room Upgrades: The Sanctuary upgraded our parents rooms (and ours) and it was such a nice touch. Our parents were treated like royalty and they got a well deserved vacation.
Wedding Coordinators: Though we paid Sanctuary for our wedding we felt the need to tip Scarlet and Cristina because they went above and beyond to deliver on our wedding. If they do a good job for you, it would be right to tip them too. They do a lot behind the scenes.
Shipping Items: Traveling to Punta Cana, it would have been a lot easier for us if we had shipped all our wedding items ahead of time (welcome bag items, reception favors, shells for names, table numbers, tea lights, etc etc) but I didn't feel comfortable shipping to another country. So we checked in two additional huge bags. In hindsight, it probably would've been fine to do so.
Music: DJ Mannia
Decor: Caribbean Celebrations
Photography/Videography: Photo Souvenir
Amazing Golfcourse: Punta Espada (talk to them about giving your guests a preferred rate)
Fun Outing for Guests and Super Beautiful: Hoyo Aul. It's 10 minute shuttle ride from resort. A natural freshwater spring that you can swim in after a quarter mile hike down. It's well worth it.
Scuba Diving: If any of you are divers, check out Bayahibe - it's a small, local diving town 45 minutes from Sanctuary resort. Amazing diving! And use Scuba Fun!!! They are total pros and a lot of fun!!