@TaraMarie33 - Great story!! Here are my thoughts...
- I don't see a problem with bringing a photographer. Lots of people do it. We ended up not going with our resort's photog and booked a different (local) one, and we are so glad we did. My only piece of advice would be to make sure you really like your friend's work. I know it's a friend, but this is one of the most important days of your life. I personally think photos are one of the most important elements of the day. You want to make sure it's done right.
- We only had a maid of honor (my sister) and best man (his brother), but we paid for MOH, MOB and my SIL's hair and make-up. (MIL declined the offer since she has short hair and doesn't wear much make-up anyways.) It was a drop in the bucket considering how much help everyone had been, on top of paying good money for their trips to the wedding. I wanted the ladies closest to us to look and feel their best, so I knew from the start we'd be treating them. I kind of think it's just part of planning a wedding/budget, especially if you want a more polished look for everyone. It's kind of hard to have a couple girls do their own and then a couple get theirs professionally done. It might be a little obvious, but that's your call.
- Groom and BM ordered their linen blend suits online a few months in advance to leave room for exchanges for different sizes, so I can't speak to going to fittings.
- We brought two extra suitcases of décor and gift bag items. We brought a number of things including chair sashes, cake toppers, table runners, seashells, starfish, menus, colored straws, custom drink coasters, tote bags, mini aloe and sunscreen, etc. What helped was that we ordered custom maracas, fans and papel picado from Puerto Vallarta, which shipped straight to the resort, so that saved a lot of packing room.
Where'd your groomsmen order there linen suit?
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