Here's my after-the-fact planning journal. First off, I owe a HUGE thanks to this message board for giving me so much help with information and ideas. This board is how I found my venue and all my amazing vendors â€” I am so grateful it exists, and I hope my planning journal will be helpful to all you future brides and grooms.
VENUE: ANA Y JOSE HOTEL IN TULUM, M‰XICO
We decided right away to do a destination wedding, since my then-fianc© had been to one before and swore it was the best out of the dozens of weddings he's been to. I didn't really care where our wedding was, but I was determined to have a small one. We're Chinese, and in our culture weddings are usually huge with over 200 guests, and I really didn't want that. So a small destination wedding seemed perfect for us.
We looked for a venue that was 1) a short non-stop flight from NYC and DC, since most of our family and friends live in those two cities; 2) something â€œoff-the-beaten pathâ€, e.g. not a big all-inclusive resort.
The boutique hotels we researched included
We ended up choosing Ana y Jose Hotel because in my opinion, AyJ is the nicest hotel in Tulum: gorgeous beach, lush lawns, 23 spacious rooms with air conditioning (rare in Tulum!), a swimming pool, and a beautiful palapa restaurant where we had our reception. AyJ also stood out among the other hotels for its flexibility and affordability. There is no location fee and no required packages. You just pick the food and beverage you want off the menu (ours came to roughly $120 per person for hors dâ€™ouerves, dinner, cake, coffee, 4 hours of open bar, wine during dinner, soft drinks, and tax + tip). Same with flowers, rentals, music, etc. â€” everything is a la carte, you only pay for what you want. They do have recommended vendors, but you are not obligated to use them and there is no fee for bringing in an outside vendor.
Here are some photos from Ana y Jose Hotel:
You know how sometimes, you see amazing photos of a venue but when you get there it's not really that impressive, and you realize the photos were just cleverly taken to emphasize the good angles and hide the bad ones? Ana y Jose is the opposite of that. The photos look great, and then you go there and it's even better than you thought it would be. And the staff â€” wow. Jackie (manager) was super responsive to all my emails and very helpful. Ignacio (concierge) is one of the friendliest, happiest people Iâ€™ve ever met. Sandy and Claudia (event coordinators) made everything run smooth as silk, and we didn't have to worry about a thing during our wedding. I actually have very high standards for hospitality; I'm quick to notice when the service is slow at a restaurant or when a hotel's towels aren't the fluffiest. But I found absolutely NOTHING to complain about at Ana y Jose. PHOTOGRAPHER: CITLALLI RICO OF CLAUDIA PHOTO Right after we booked our venue, the next item on our list was the photographer! I inquired with a number of photographers in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico â€”
SAVE THE DATES: PAPERLESS POST
WEDDING WEBSITE: WEEBLY
I made a custom wedding website for us using weebly.com, and we did digital RSVPs through a form on our website. The wedding website and password were included on our save-the-dates so guests could start their travel planning (although no one actually planned their trip until about a month before the wedding, sigh).
Here's the information from the "Travel" pgae of our website, I hope it's helpful to someone!
We sent these out 4 months prior to our wedding, and we asked guests to RSVP two months in advance through our wedding website. I guess this is every couples' experience, but only about half of our guests had RSVP'ed by the deadline. The rest told us by phone or email whether or not they were coming, or RSVP'ed a few weeks later. Our venue was really relaxed about it (we didn't end up getting the final final headcount to them until the week before!), so I tried to be relaxed about it too.
We invited about 100 guests, and ended up with 54 adults + 4 kids at our wedding.
DRESS: NICOLE MILLER
I stressed out about this WAY more than I should have. Let's be honest here â€” at the end of the day, many wedding dresses look pretty similar, and I think I would've been happy with a lot of different dresses. I felt a lot of pressure to find a dress I absolutely loved, "the one perfect dress", a dress that would make me look like a supermodel, a goddess, and a bride all at once, and that would make my mom cry as soon as I put it on. It was totally unrealistic.
My advice for those of you shopping for a wedding dress: Do not spend hours looking at wedding dresses online. Don't shop at too many places. Just pick a dress you feel really pretty in, wait until the last possible day to buy it so you don't have time to change your mind, and invest in a great tailor.
Anyways, the dress I ended up with was the
I wore the
Here's a photo of me in the whole ensemble:
FLOWERS: MARVIN KUNIL (MAYA DISE‘O) I gave Marvin a budget of $1000 and told him to make a bouquet, 8 table centerpieces, and a chuppah for the ceremony. All I told him was that I wanted red flowers with a "wild", "natural" look to them, and he did a phenomenal job! I was really happy with the result. Here are the inspiration photos I sent him:
and here's what my bouquet looked like (taken with my phone):
The second photo was taken the day after the wedding, which is why there's a dropping flower. I don't have a photo of the table centerpieces, but just imagine the bouquet in a vase.
In addition to the flowers, I also brought papel picado to decorate the palapa restaurant. I take no credit for those cool-looking lights â€” those are just part of the everyday decor at Ana y Jose restaurant.
MUSIC: THE SHINE BAND We booked the Shine Band on the recommendation of JessiTaylor on this board. They were PHENOMENAL. We got 6 musicians, two dancers, and props for $2300. The band played 3 sets of 45 minutes each, and then the DJ played in between sets. The props were so great â€” they brought hats, maracas, mickey mouse ears, balloons. Our guests packed the dance floor all night, jumping up and down in their mickey mouse ears and hitting each other with balloons. We had a crazy, non-stop dance party until the hotel had to shut us down, which is exactly what we wanted! WELCOME PARTY: CABA‘AS TULUM The day before the wedding, we held a welcome party for everyone at
TIMELINE We arrived in Mexico a week before our wedding and spent the whole week with our family and friends. As the week went on, more and more friends arrived. I cannot describe how phenomenal this was â€” we got to go snorkeling with our parents, explore cenotes with our friends, enjoy long leisurely lunches and dinners, and have impromptu dance parties on the beach. The wedding day itself, we wanted to keep as simple as possible so that we could enjoy ourselves instead of running around worrying about details. We purposefully cut out a lot of things: bridesmaids, groomsmen, music during the ceremony, a first dance, garter and bouquet toss, cake cutting, slideshow, etc. I kept saying that all we wanted for our guests was to eat, drink, and be merry. It made for a really relaxed atmosphere, and we loved it! Here's our wedding day timeline: 1:00PM: Banished my husband from our room and started getting ready with my girlfriends. 4:00PM: Everyone dressed, photographer arrived for family and couple portrait photos. Photo time. 5:00PM: Ceremony on the beach 5:30PM: Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres 6:30PM: We all moved into the palapa for dinner. Food served family-style. 6:45PM: As soon as everyone had food, my best friend and his best friend gave their toasts. 7:30PM: Cake and coffee served. We didn't have a special cake, just from Ana y Jose's normal dessert menu. 7:45PM: Band started playing and the crazy dance party got underway. 11:00PM: End. Our ceremony was officiated by a family friend, and we wrote our own vows. We kept them short so that we could memorize them, and it's been really sweet because since the wedding we keep quoting them to each other. Our guests stood in two lines to form an "aisle", and we were each walked down the aisle by both our parents. As we walked out, they shook maracas and cheered, and then they gathered in a semi-circle around us for the rest of the ceremony. We kept the ceremony quite short â€” I think it was only about 10 minutes â€” so we didn't bother with chairs and everyone just stood around us. It worked out great. I loved doing photos before the ceremony, because I was super nervous and seeing my husband really calmed me down. It also meant that we got to spend cocktail hour with our guests rather than off taking photos! On a last minute whim, Ana y Jose found us a pi±ata so that we could break it instead of doing a first dance. How awesome is that?
PLANNING NOTES + ADVICE If I could go back in time, this is what I would tell my newly engaged self:
- The first step is to figure out your guest list, and the second step is to pick a venue. After you've done those two things, honestly? None of the other decisions you make will really matter that much. Wedding guests only want 3 things: 1) to see you happy, 2) to catch up with some old friends they haven't seen in a while, and 3) to have plenty of food, alcohol, and music. That's it! When you're stressing about which dress or invitations to pick â€” just know that you really can't make a bad choice.
- Listen to your fianc©. When he says that all the invitations and all the dresses look pretty and it doesn't really matter which one you pick? He's right.
- Be kind to your parents and to his parents. This idea of a "destination wedding" is new and weird to them, and while their reluctance about the idea stresses you out, you'll be glad later that you were patient and answered all their endless questions about travel, safety, food, etc. In the end they will come, have an amazing time, and go back home raving to all their friends about how great Mexico is.
- Don't believe anything you see in wedding blogs or Pinterest. Photos on wedding blogs are all about pretty closeups of flowers, food, and creative details, but your wedding day will not feel anything like those photos. I experienced my wedding day as a blur of all my favorite smiling faces in the whole world and everyone I care about the most in one room, loving us so hard it hurt. It didn't feel pretty; it felt raw and overwhelming. Don't get me wrong â€” the pretty details are a really fun part of the planning and I definitely spent hours pinning pictures to my Pinterest board. Don't let anyone make you feel frivolous or silly for caring about the pretty details. I'm just saying that the blogs are not an accurate representation of what a wedding actually feels like, and also when your wedding day finally comes around you probably won't give a sh*t about the flowers.
- Read A Practical Wedding. Here are some of my favorites: Your wedding is not a show, Your wedding is not an imposition, What do you remember?, and A Practical Wedding.
- Don't buy your dress too early. You'll just second-guess yourself and change your mind a lot.
- Don't stress so much. None of the big things you worried about will happen â€” it doesn't rain, no one gets food poisoning, and none of your guests will be kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. Some small things will go wrong: some of the people you wish to be there won't be able to make it, and your mother will trip on the train of your dress while walking you down the aisle. But it's ok. The day will be so stuffed with love and joy that you will not notice or care about any of the small things. You will have a gigantic, ridiculous grin in all the photos, and nothing could've change that.
- HoyaBeth likes this
Posted 23 June 2013 - 09:20 PM
Posted 24 June 2013 - 03:56 AM
Beautiful wedding, and some wise words. This is an amazing post
Posted 24 June 2013 - 12:58 PM
What a wonderful message you posted; a good reminder for sure!
Posted 24 June 2013 - 04:24 PM
thank you for your tips and advice, it is inspiring and practical !!!! thanks
Posted 17 November 2013 - 02:11 PM
I love the stunning simplicity of your dress! Congratulations!