I cannot believe that I’m just now starting this planning thread and that my wedding is almost here! My future hubby and I are headed to Mexico in 5 days for our wedding and I can’t wait. First, I want to thank all of the generous and lovely brides who have shared advice and provided support throughout my engagement. I am so grateful for BDW! I am also incredibly grateful to my family and friends, who have been an unending source of support and advice throughout this process. This thread is my way of organizing all of my thoughts and to help other brides, especially those who are thinking about having an off-resort wedding.
How we met:
Ours is definitely a 21st century relationship: we met online in early 2010. I was on my second round of Match.com and was close to cancelling my subscription again when I saw that someone had winked at me—LOL. We talked and found out that we had an amazing number of things in common, including similar religious upbringings, ethnic backgrounds (several of our parents hail from the Caribbean), hobbies, and a love of food. We traveled back and forth long-distance from Chicago, IL to Madison, WI for over a year until I got a job offer back east. As luck would have it, my fiancé ran into a coworker who told him about a job opportunity in the same city—and he moved before I did!
The engagement (you can get the long version from our website):
In spite of the fact that I’ve never been one of those girls to dream about the perfect proposal, I have watched enough proposal-related shows that I thought I could NEVER be surprised. My fiancé knew that the only was he could surprise me was to NOT do the typical thing (LOL). On January 31st, 2014, he called me and casually asked me if I wanted to go to dinner.
The staff at the restaurant was REALLY nice that night, which should have tipped me off! Now, I love this place, but I’d describe their service as polite(ish) but often brusque. It’s also a loud Italian restaurant—not exactly your romantic French establishment (said in my best Frasier Crane voice). After a yummy dinner, he asked me if I remembered what he gave me on our first date. I said: “Oh, flowers and candy..so cute but so cliché.” (You’re probably thinking right now that I’m the worst, and you’d be right!) He laughed and then the manager brought over flowers and candy. Those of you who know me know that my next move was to try to dig into the candy. He said: “Will you PLEASE stop for a second!” At that point, genius that I am, I started to realize what was going on. I’m pretty sure that he said a bunch of wonderful things and talked about how much he loved me, but I started hyperventilating and crying. Hilariously, there was this large group of people sitting next to us commenting the whole time. “Shh..I think he’s PROPAWSING!” “I think she’s gonna say yes!” It was like being on a sitcom!
Decision 2013: Where to have the wedding:
I went back and forth quite a bit on where to have the wedding. And by ‘where’, I just mean narrowing down the city/country! My fiancé just wanted to get married ASAP—LOL. I wasn’t happy with the choices where we live or in my hometown, given our budget. None of them called to me at all. Then I remembered that some of my high school friends had recently had destination weddings and reached out to them for advice. After talking to a few travel agents and a wedding planner, I had narrowed my choices to St. Lucia and Riviera Maya. (We were definitely not having this wedding in the Caribbean, as we knew there would be a few too many family members on the guest list!) Ultimately, Riviera Maya won out because it was a cost-effective option that was easy for family and friends to reach. FYI: I will be organizing my 5-year vow renewal in St. Lucia, so everybody get ready!!
Just a heads up for brides: the people that are supposed to be there will make it. Many of the friends (and family) that I was SURE would be at the wedding are not coming. It was upsetting at first, but I am thrilled about the 28+ guests that will be there celebrating with us. Their love and support for us makes this day all the sweeter.
The Wedding Location:
After FINALLY deciding to get married in Riviera Maya, I started looking around for resorts. I found some beautiful options, but quickly realized that good food, privacy and flexibility were both far more important to me than I had previously realized. My planner and I (Joyce Mnguni, of Dream Weddings) had decided on the Grand Coral Beach club for my wedding day. I was completely excited, until she called me and told me that they had instituted a new $2000 site fee!!! I’m sure it had absolutely NOTHING to do with their little feature in Destination Weddings Magazine, but I digress. Anyway, I had previously dismissed the Blue Venado Beach Club as too rustic for my tastes. However, seeing this wedding from Del Sol photographed in this location helped me to see Blue Venado with a new set of eyes. Blue Venado was cost-effective, private, had a reputation for great food, and would allow me to have the wedding that I wanted. So I ended up going with this location.
Source: Blue Venado Beach Club Website
Although we chose to have my wedding off-resort, we knew that many guests would want an all-inclusive experience so they wouldn’t have to travel to find food, etc. Our resort, the NOW Jade is a bit far from our wedding venue (about 45 minutes to 1 hour), but it was cost-effective for our guests, the food is supposed to be pretty good, and it has lots of child-friendly activities. (Note for future brides: the friends who are coming are leaving their children at home as far as I know! So pick the resort that YOU want for your wedding.)
Source: NOW Jade Riviera Cancun website
The Planner: Joyce Mnguni of Dream Weddings
I will have a lot more to say in my review, but I have to tell future brides here that they cannot go wrong with Joyce. I’ve raved about her elsewhere here on the boards, but she has been a lifesaver. She’s gone with the flow for some of my crazier ideas, provided me with information on lots of options, and reined me in on spending money where I didn’t need to. I also think she *gets* the Afro-Caribbean aesthetic/boho chic vibe of my wedding in a way that many other planners likely could not. I am very grateful for her!
Photographer: Chad Pennington of Sobitart Photography
I think that you realize very quickly what your deal breakers are. For me, excellent photography was one of them—to the point where I moved the videography budget into photography. I needed a photographer who was comfortable with photographing people of color on a regular basis and could capture moments, rather than just doing staged types of shots. I only seriously considered two photographers/companies. The first was Del Sol. They really do have great customer service and their work truly speaks for itself. The second was my photographer, Chad Pennington of Sobitart Photography. He was a second shooter for a childhood friend’s wedding, and I could NOT stop looking at the pictures. The primary photographer’s work was excellent as well, but Chad had some pictures in his portfolio that moved me and all of my friends beyond words (like this one). We were thrilled with our engagement shoot (check it out here!) and can’t wait to work with him on our wedding day.
Save the Dates:
One thing that is awesome and wonderful about weddings is that you will find that you have amazing wonderful people in your life that will rise to the occasion and help out wherever and whenever they can. One of my friends came with me to a bridal show (!) AND while we were there, told me that she would design my invitations/stationary. Here are our STD’s inspired by the beauty of the Riviera Maya:
The invites were also a labor of love. I used up about 90% of my DIY mojo assembling these invites, but we got SO many compliments! I had pinned an invite that I really liked on Pinterest, but they were insanely expensive and the materials were as well. On a trip to JoAnn’s our lives were changed by a sales associate that showed us my new favorite crafting material: burlap paper stacks. Ladies and gents, these really are fabulous! If you like the idea of using burlap but don’t want to deal with all of the fraying, these are the ticket! We also used twine from the dollar store to pull everything together. Here are my invites, and I will also post another easy DIY project or two using the burlap paper and twine.
invitations.jpg 144.85KB 5 downloads
As you might imagine, finding the dress was quite a process! I probably went to at least 8 stores, some with my mom and godmother, some with my good male friend, and several on my own. I swooned over Jenny Packham and Vera Wang dresses, but I knew they weren’t in the budget. I finally found an inexpensive J. Crew dress, the Arabelle, that I thought would fit the bill, but my godmother put her foot down and vetoed it! LOL The funny thing is, the dress that I ended up choosing at a shop all by myself was a perfect combination of the first dress that I ever tried on (San Patrick Eresma) and the J. Crew dress, the Arabelle. I just love it!
Here is the dress, the Pronovias Fabula. As my seamstress notes, it *looks* simple, but the design is absolutely not simple. She basically told me that she was used to seeing a lot of bling on dresses, and that mine was a refreshing change. My fashionista designer sister loves this dress as well:
fabula.jpg 17.09KB 5 downloads
Source: Preowned Wedding Dresses website
I bought this dress as a floor sample, and the saleslady and seamstress told me not to lose ANY weight. Well, I needed to and did lose quite a bit of weight and inches, so I had a great seamstress alter the dress for me. (Future bride tip: find a good seamstress outside of the bridal shop for your alterations. I used one recommended by a local bridal consignment shop.)
Bridal Hanger: I went back and forth with myself about getting one of the bridal hangers. At this point, I realized that I wasn’t willing to pay the high shipping, especially for a rush order. Plus, I wanted something a little different. I came across a tutorial for a sequined hanger, bought the materials, whipped this out really quickly using an old hanger (it really is easy to do and I will post the directions if someone wants them):
silver hanger.jpg 67.13KB 4 downloads
It’s not perfect, but I think it came out pretty well for my first time!
Thanks in part to this website, I started entering more and more bridal contests. One of the things that I won is a gorgeous handmade headpiece from UK designer Yelena Smirnova. She kindly offered to make up my choice, the Rosalie hair comb in all cream:
rosalie.jpg 45.58KB 4 downloads
Source: Yelena Accessories, Etsy
I also decided to whip up a small birdcage veil to use with this; I just have to attach the comb. (Note: this is SO easy and far cheaper than buying a simple birdcage veil. I will post a tutorial later.)
I originally got the J. Crew lattice necklace below to wear when I thought I would be going with the J. Crew Arabelle dress. I will have to post later on this, as my mom and sister have vetoed the necklace as inappropriate for this dress! And I got it on sale and everything! *sad face* Any suggestions from my fellow BDW brides would be great, because the clock is a tickin’!
jcrew lattice necklace.jpg 32.64KB 4 downloads
Source: J. Crew website
You would not believe how hard it is to find high metallic wedges for a wedding! I finally found my shoes on zappos.com, Badgley Mishka Kole in silver:
zappos.jpg 43.96KB 4 downloads
Source: Zappos website
Maid of Honor:
I only gave my MOH a general color scheme, and she ran with it (but gave me the final veto). I will have to post her actual dress later (from J. Crew), but here is the color, which I love!
color sample.jpg 15.11KB 4 downloads
The groom…refused to let me see what he’s wearing, so it’ll be quite a surprise for me! (Don’t worry, I made sure that a fashion-forward friend was with him to guide his selections.)
I have a general idea of what his suit looks like, but I’ll see the whole look at the wedding too! LOL (You can see how laid back I am about what other folks are wearing! As long as it looks good, I’m good!)