Part 3 of my review - Here are some things that I wanted to add and a few more reviews
Travel Agent - Vanessa Martinez of Centre Holidays
Alright here is the big one. I wanted to wait until our trip was completely over before writing this because I didn't want my review of our TA to affect our wedding at all. This is probably one of our biggest regrets and we really wish we had done a bit more research before deciding to go with Vanessa.
We found Vanessa from this forum after having problems with our first TA (read about it in my very first post) and at first, Vanessa was wonderful. She was so quick to reply, answer all of our questions, and she did ultimately get us a good rate for BP. However, once we went with her and put down our deposits to hold our block of rooms, she seemed to disappear from the face of the earth and both we and our guests had difficulty getting her to reply. It was like we had a completely different travel agent. This made me so angry because here were our guests willing to book and put down deposits, and yet she was taking forever in returning their calls, emails, etc. We had a lot of guests approach us about it and I would then have to mediate and make sure she responded (she dealt best with me). It's actually a shock that no one just booked on their own - I wouldn't have blamed them at all. She also would give excuse after excuse of why this was.
We became so upset we actually sent her a very angry email telling her how unhappy we were with her performance and reminded her that Travel Agents are very much about referrals and word of mouth and that we would NOT recommend her at all based on her performance. The DW community is very driven by reviews. We also asked to be transferred to someone else in the company if she felt she could not meet our needs and expectations. She apologized after that and promised to change, and for a while she was slightly better, but overall we were never happy with her performance as a travel agent. She also went to South America for about 3 months - didn't tell us, took even longer to reply, and basically we had to deal with other people in the company which led to mix ups with payments, etc.
Our guests hated dealing with her and we got a lot of grief about her. We got asked multiple times why we chose her as a TA which was frankly pretty embarrassing. We explained what I've written here - that she was 100% fabulous until we decided to go with her, then she completely changed and did not follow through. For our flights, she did odd things like seat family members apart and far away from each other ?? and even split up husband and wives and seated them with other people in the group. We were able to manually change seats on the plane but it really made no sense why she would do that and it frustrated a lot of our guests.
Positives - When she does reply she is quick and clear. She ultimately got the job done and she got us a good price on the resort.
Negatives - Slow communication and responses. For a DW especially, this is so important. Messed up on some of the administrative things, seating, getting people refunds after double charging them (!). Gave so many excuses about her behaviour
Ultimately there are enough good travel agents out there that I would definitely say steer clear of her. I wanted to write this so this review pops up when people search for her name. I think it's important for brides to review their TAs after the wedding is over so people know who ultimately performed and who did not. Unfortunately Vanessa was probably the biggest negative aspect of our wedding and I would never use her again for any of my travels. My husband actually asked me 3x already if I had posted a review about Vanessa yet - even he wanted to make sure that we let people know to avoid using her.
I don't like to end on a negative note - we ultimately had an amazing time at our wedding and we loved the hotel, but wanted to help future Canadian brides out.
We had Abril Reyes and I have mixed feelings about her. She was always polite and her emails were in perfect English. Sometimes she would be quite good but other times it would take her weeks to reply and only after I sent her 1-2 follow up emails. I was fairly patient because I knew this was the process of planning. We did manage to get everything planned out.
What irritated me was when it came time to paying our service order. There were errors on it and we hadn't finalized with Zuniga yet, but she kept hounding us to pay. I also knew from this forum and on FB that a lot of other Palace ladies paid at the resort because of these reasons. We then got threatened by Abril and Zuniga that they wouldn't follow through w/ our service order if they weren't paid in full because it was near Christmas. I understood this but the way they approached it really irritated me because we had given no indication that we would not pay and we were only waiting for things to get corrected before we did. I had offered to pay everything BUT the decor because we wanted to make sure it was right, and they basically threatened to take away our wedding from the spot. I wrote a pretty angry email back and they were apologetic, but it left a sour taste. We also paid our order in full once the details were correct - what we had wanted in the first place.
I honestly hated dealing with Zuniga. We dealt with Cristina and she was so slow to reply at times, send me updated invoices, etc. Then the debacle that I outlined above. Their prices aren't even the cheapest and of course half the things we rented from them weren't even used because of the rain. I was getting a quote from Latin Asia too but Saku took too long at the end getting me the quote/invoice and Abril was demanding payment, so we had to go w/ Cristina. They did a fine job in terms of set up but I really hated the whole communication process.
I'm going to post our schedule here and I'll list what we would have ultimately changed in italiacs beside the event
10:00 - Styling Trio coming for makeup + hair (2 bridesmaids + bride) - As mentioned above, wish we had started 30-60 minutes earlier
12:45 - Bridesmaids to be completely finished and dressed by this time
1:00 - Photographer and Videographer come to take getting ready shots of us and Tony - Wish we had been firmer about this time
1:45 - Guests to be seated at this time
2:00-2:30 - Wedding Ceremony (Tony’s brother Ben will be officiating)
2:30 - Wedding champagne toast and big group picture - We really liked this. Thought it was a bit strange initially to do the toast here but it made for wonderful pics and it was just so nice to toast with everyone after the ceremony
2:45-3:15 - Group and Family pics - I gave my sister (our MC) a list of all the groups/families and this did help expedite things and ensured we got a picture with everyone. We forgot to take a pic w/ just my parents though - oops - and my mom is still reaming me out about it
3:30-5:00 - Guests break time while bridal party takes pics - The worst part of our day haha. We should have allotted more time here and maybe pushed our cocktail party back an hour. I wish we had given ourselves 30 minutes break to freshen up and just relax and enjoy being husband and wife. We were also dealing with all of the rain stress and decision making here so this was just awful for us.
5:00/5:15 - Cocktail hour starts - Again, wish we had started it at 6 and pushed everything back an hour so we weren't rushed
5:30 - Bride and Groom entrance w/ Mariachi band to Cocktail hour - They came late so we didn't enter with them. We kind of were already there while guests arrived but it was fine. The mariachi band was really fun and added a nice touch
6:15 - Mariachi band finishes
6:20 - Head over to reception side (Our MC will make announcement)
6:30 - Introductions of bridal party and bride and groom by MC - My sister was a great MC and I'm glad we had one. It helped with the flow of everything and made it seem like a proper wedding still
6:40 - Bride and groom speech - We decided to go first to get the pressure over but it was almost TOO quick. I was a bit flustered because I hadn't had the chance to really look over my speech since writing it (on the plane haha) but it was also nice to get it out of the way right away.
6:50 - Dinner served
7:10 - MOH speech + Parents of the bride speech - I liked having all of these in our wedding. We just kind of played with the timing and had my sister announce the speeches whenever people were eating. The speeches were all great and because it was such a small group, people were actually listening and paying attention - very different from what we've seen at big weddings at home
7:35 - Shoe game - Really fun and we got some good pics out of it. My sister did a great job coming up with questions
7:45 - Best Man speech + parents of the groom speech
*One thing we added here is we went around w/ our bridal party to each table toasting the table. This is something that's usually done at Chinese weddings when the bride is in the Chinese dress. I wasn't wearing that, but I always liked the tradition because it's a chance to go over to each table and thank them for coming. It was really easy to do with just 4 tables, and I think people appreciated us walking around
8:00 - Cake cutting - We kind of just played this by ear. It was fine
8:10 - Eat cake and watch slideshow (MC introduce) - As said above, this was such a hit and people really enjoyed watching it. We made sure when making it to include almost everyone that was at the wedding in at least one pic so it was fun for everyone. We paid our DJ extra to have the screen + projector but it was worth it to us
8:30 - First dance followed by party - Our plan for this worked really well. We had a full dance floor from the very beginning, and we didn't have to have the complete awkward first dance
8:40 - Party starts
12:00 - Party ends. Move to Sports bar - We paid to extend our reception by 4 hours and this was great for us because we had a lot of time to dance. I wish we had shifted everything back an hour though and had our cocktail from 6-7 and then our reception from 7-1 but it was fine. After we headed up to the rooftop sky terrace
Extending our Reception
Beach Palace gives you a 3 hour cocktail + reception - this was way too short for us. So we paid extra to extend our reception by 4 hours. They quoted us at $60/table per hour to extend and we paid an extra $960 total which in our books was well worth it. I think they messed up a bit because originally it's supposed to be 8 people per table but we had 10 at each + our head table. This was lower than what I had estimated - we had calculated one more table and thought we'd be paying for 5 tables (40 adults). Obviously I didn't question this . We are really glad we extended our reception because it gave made our reception feel like the wedding receptions we were used to going to at home. I know we could have moved over to the public sports bar, but we liked having the privacy, DJ and open bar and lighting, etc. One important thing for my husband and I is that we still wanted to maintain certain traditions and have our wedding feel like a wedding even though it was destination. That's why we decided to keep things like entrances, speeches, seating plans, the first dance, etc. It also really distinguished our wedding from our other private events. I know the privacy/length factor isn't important to a lot of people but for us it was worth the extra 1k overall
I know there are a few threads about tipping but wanted to mention who we tipped. We tipped our regular servers, waiters, etc. after getting drinks and meals as did all of our family and friends. The service at BP is excellent and we were happy to tip them. Likewise the maids, bellhops, etc.
For our private events, had the same servers/staff each time. Our friends chipped in some money after the first event because we got pretty rowdy and the servers went above and beyond bringing us drinks, cups, etc. My husband and I threw in a lot extra on top of what people contributed - we wanted to make sure we'd get good service for our other 2 events. We tipped solely for our White Party and our wedding, but i think our friends were also tipping the waiters during the wedding when they were brought drinks. The serving staff was excellent - the bar at our wedding was in another room but no one was even close to going to the bar because the waiters were constantly bringing and refilling our drinks.
I tipped Suzie and Esperanta of Styling Trio because they are employees and because they did such a fantastic job.
We tipped the photographer's assistant during our TTD shoot because he did quite a lot of work - getting into the water, holding lights, etc.
We tipped our onsite wedding coordinator Marco at the end when we went back to get all of our things. He really helped us out and we were very appreciative.
We personally chose to not tip the photographer or videographer - We were already paying them a sum and it was going directly to them so didn't think it was necessary.
So overall we didn't tip for the sake of tipping or according to a list, we tipped who we thought performed well and to ensure continued good service.
Edited by tygrrlily, 05 January 2015 - 11:16 AM.