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Snswedding2016 Planning Thread - Jan 9 2016 (Azul Fives)

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With just under 300 days to go, I'm starting this thread VERY early. I'm a planner...I love planning almost as much as the event itself but this is also my slow season at work and I'm terrified that if I don't start now I will get swamped and fall very far behind schedule with wedding stuff. My peak season at work is summer-late fall (just before the holidays) hence why I'm thinking "It's pretty much spring - I should get started on this!".

 

How We Met

 

We met through work. I was working as an Agent's assistant at a talent agency and Sean was one of the actors. We met in 2010 and we were both in long term relationships, by the time the next holiday office party came around we were both single. That night Sean bee-lined towards me on the dance floor. We were both there with some friends who conveniently disappeared and left us alone to dance the night away (I should mention he had on hand in a cast and still managed to pick me up and spin me ;) ). A week later I asked him out and he said yes! Unfortunately the timing was off, as I mentioned this was right around the holidays. Sean went back to visit him family in PEI, then he got a call from him biological father who lives in Shanghai that he would pay for his trip out to visit him. Both trips were extended from their original return dates and then he had to help out a sick family member out of town. At this point I wasn't sure if we would ever go out on our first date but I felt a really strong connection with him from that night at the holiday party. So I reached out to see how he was doing with all his family stuff going on and asked him if we wanted to go see a show. On April 1, 2011 (4 months after I originally asked him out - LOL) we finally found ourselves on our first date! I now refer to this as the "courtship period" haha!

 

As I mentioned Sean is an actor but he is also a designer, contractor, builder or sorts. A couple months into dating Sean got this huge renovation to redesign a restaurant. He designed and built it while I helped him manage the books. This time was really special for us as it really solidified our relationship. We did a 46 day straight renovation where we often slept at the construction site in the dust and grime. Sean always says that's when he 'knew'.  :)

 

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This our very first picture together at the holiday party in 2010.

 

The Proposal

 

It was the week of my 30th birthday (this past October) so I really wasn't suspecting anything. He had been planning a party with some friends of mine so I thought that was what he was busy doing all those nights he said "I'm busy planning"...which is a huge thing as I'm the planner in the relationship. Let's put it this way, he would pack for a road trip in a laundry basket if I let him.  :blink: It was Tuesday afternoon and he was going to pick me up at the office for a pre-birthday lunch since he was around the corner at an audition earlier in the day. I thought we were going down the street so I thought it was a bit odd when he said we were driving. He said that he was taking a short cut and it would be easier to drive so I just went with it. It wasn't until we were on the highway and practically in Ajax coming from downtown (for those Toronto ladies who know where that is) that I started to question where we were really going. We had traveled 30 mins outside of the city and I hadn't even noticed - I think I was just excited about a special birthday lunch! Finally I asked where we were going and he wouldn't say and then I asked if I was going back to work and he said no. He had arranged for our office assistant (note: since 2010 I was promoted and I'm now a full agent running my own roster) and my colleague to cover for me. That's when I really started to ask questions. All he would say was that it was a surprise romantic getaway for my birthday! When I heard the words "romantic getaway" I just sat back and went with it. We drove...for a WHILE. He had me close my eyes as we got closer so I wouldn't try and guess where we were. Almost 4 hours later we reached our destination. Sean had rented a tree house for the night just outside of Perth, Ont. It was gorgeous and we've been talking about going to this place near Seattle called Treehouse Point for a vacation for a while and after some research he found this place. It was pretty amazing!

 

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We went out for a lovely meal and then came back to the treehouse. He said he had a couple more surprises for me and told me to sit by the fire and close my eyes. When I opened my eyes he had lit candles, poured champagne, had a dozen long stemmed red roses and a present waiting for me.

 

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I opened the box and there was a pendant that Sean had remade for me. Back story: Sean gave me this necklace and had it engraved two years ago and then about a year later it got caught in my scarf and I lost it somewhere. I was sooooo sad! It was such a sentimental thing to me. So he contacted the jeweler this year and had it remade. I was so surprised! He grabbed his phone and I thought why is he grabbing his phone right now, it's kinda ruining this really romantic moment! But before I could even say anything he started playing 'our song' - Forever by Ben Harper. He grabbed my hand and wanted to dance. As we were dancing he started to get really emotional, and looked up at me kinda misty (he'll hate that I'm telling you all this ;) ) and said there might be something else in the box. It was then that might heart started pounding...I looked in the box which I thought was empty now and underneath the tissue was a scarf and inside the scarf was a ring box hiding in it. I turned around to look at Sean and he was down on one knee.  :wub:

 

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Side note: Sean planned the entire proposal on his own and picked out the ring by himself too...I was very shocked and impressed. My girlfriends knew what I had wanted but he wanted to surprise them too. Amazingly he picked out the exact style I had wanted! 

 

Deciding on a DW

 

This one was an easy decision. Sean and I went to my cousin's DW a couple of years ago in Mexico (Barcelo Maya Colonial) and we fell in love with the whole DW concept. We loved that you have an entire week to celebrate your wedding with your loved ones, that we could have a smaller intimate wedding and our rooms would only be a stumble away. All those things combined with the fact that most of my family is in Toronto, with some scattered throughout Alberta and Montreal, Sean's family is mostly from PEI with some in the US and Western Canada...it was going to be a destination wedding regardless. The cost was also something for us to consider. While it can add up for a DW it is still a lot more affordable to have a DW than a local wedding especially with our guest list. 

 

For a couple of years we have been talking about the idea of doing a DW when we decided to get married, so after Sean proposed we pretty much knew that that was the plan. When we called all of our family and friends to share our news we let everyone know what our plans were. Based on my work season, we decided to have a January wedding. It is very slow at the start of the year and that way some of my co-workers would be able to go too (if they wanted to). The actual date itself we weren't too picky about but we knew January was ideal and Jan-Mar was our range of dates we were looking at. 

 

Choosing our TA & Location

 

My mom a couple of months before we got engaged won a travel voucher for $3000 but it had to be redeemed through a specific travel agency. It seemed like a no brainer at first, since we were paying for it ourselves, the $3000 would really help us out with our budget. I contacted the company and spoke with a TA who was very nice and knowledgeable and we were going to set up a meeting. We wanted to meet in person and go over all the fine print with the travel voucher. In the meantime my mom got sick and was in the hospital so we postponed our meeting twice. I then randomly saw a friend of mine 'like' a post on facebook for a destination wedding event happening that week. I looked into it and it was an event specifically with a travel agency who specializes in DWs and Barcelo & Transat Holidays. I thought that was pretty perfect since the Barcelo properties were high on our list. So I went to the event and took on of my maids of honour with me. The event itself was just ok, there was some good information but nothing I couldn't get from their websites. I ended up chatting with Karen from MyWeddingAway and it was the best thing that could have happened. I didn't intend to talk to any of the TAs (I was more there for Barcelo & Transat) as I had that $3000 with the other agency. I sat down with Karen and she asked me all sorts of questions about us as a couple, what our vision was, budget etc. I really felt like she took an interest in us and not just the potential business we would bring. She started throwing out ideas of how to work with our budget and how to think outside the box to make it all happen. I felt like she was on my side and wasn't there to 'up sell' me. It was a tough decision as my heart was really telling me to use Karen, I felt instantly comfortable with her, she really knew what she was talking about and was quick to follow up after the event - but then there was the $3000 hanging over me and the guilt of not using free money. Ultimately we felt confident with Karen that she would work hard for us and get us the best deal possible and maybe in the long run we would save $3000 depending on what quotes the other TA would be able to get us. My mom also has 3 years to use the voucher so it's not like it would go to waste. 

 

Once we decided to work with Karen, things started happening very quickly. We got quotes for Barcelo for Jan 2016 and we were happy with them but once we started looking at the wedding packages we started to get discouraged. We invited 150 people and were estimating about 60 would come. Our budget for the wedding itself (ceremony & reception not including travel-we're also paying for our parents trips) was $6000. We wanted a private reception, preferably on the beach but definitely not inside in a ballroom. We found that all the packages included around 20-25 people and the price per person was quite high (around $70, it was cheaper for the ballroom but that wasn't an option for us). Our TA started to rejig some things asked for substitutions for some of the packages like changing venues. Barcelo didn't go for it. We also looked into doing a semi-private reception at a restaurant but with our size of group it would have taken over the entire space and we would have to rent out the whole thing. I think they quoted us $10 000 for a private reception in a restaurant - we quickly nixed that idea. I was really trying to make it work with Barcelo because we've both been there before and had a great time. We weren't planning on doing any site visits so knowing what we were going to be getting was a huge plus. In the end we realized that the packages were just not suited our wedding needs and decided to start looking elsewhere. I really left this in the hands of our TA to suggest some properties she liked. She did so much work going back and forth with Barcelo and giving us other ideas to try that we completely trusted her. 

 

She suggested some of the Karisma hotels and the Grand Sirenis. She warned me that the Karisma website will try to woo you...she was totally right. The minute I looked up their properties, I was hooked! I specifically fell in love with Azul Fives. I loved the wedding options, the food, and the property itself. I loved that it was smaller property and that it really focused on their food quality (they are considered a gourmet inclusive experience). While we have a lot of drinkers we also have a bunch who don't really drink but are big foodies! My future brother in law is the head of the culinary institute in PEI and all inclusives aren't usually known for their food so this was important! I loved that I could build my wedding a la carte and I wasn't forced to pick a package that included things I wasn't going to use anyway. You have to be careful here because things can really add up quickly (especially with Lomas' prices) but if you're careful you can still have a wedding within your budget!

 

Initially I thought we would qualify for the unlimited events promotions and the free 'Always and Forever' basic wedding package but then we soon found out that those were only offered to the US brides. I was upset about that at first but now after having done more research and talking to the Toronto Karisma rep, I understand why it is that way. I was all set to book when I found out from my TA that Transat doesn't offer flights from the east coast at that time of year and more specifically Transat doesn't fly to Charlottetown at all!! Eek! We found this out late in the game because they had just switched to using Transat as their sole operator right when we were getting quotes. It was so frustrating because everything was starting to fall into place. We had the quote we wanted (from Toronto), the resort, the dates and it was looking like it would all work within our budget. We tried to move the dates around because we thought we could get the PEI folk to fly out of either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick but that meant moving the wedding into Feb and the quotes we got back were really high for Toronto. We considered a bunch of different options but in the end we decided to keep Azul Fives because this was the place we really wanted to get married, keep the dates as it was more affordable in general and then to just book land only rooms for our east coast guests. Since we were booking 14 months before our wedding it would everyone lots of time to search for cheap flights. Ironically most of our east coast guest are opting to fly out of Toronto anyway. 

 

Our quotes are as follows:

 

From Toronto $1630

From Calgary $1934

From Edmonton $1969

From Vancouver $1948

Land only $1252

 

With the months we were looking at the west coast and east coast were always more expensive and the first week in Jan was the cheapest for all. From the time of our engagement to the time we booked our wedding was almost exactly 1 month!

 

 

 

 

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Love having another planning thread read!! Love the treehouse! Such a sweet story!

 

 

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Thanks ladies!! The treehouse was pretty awesome, it's too bad we only had one night before we had to get back to work. We're definitely going to make another trip out there soon.

 

@ thanks for posting about the bridal robe at Target. I had forgotten about it - I saw it a couple of months ago and meant to go back to see if the discount was any better. I picked mine up over the weekend along with a bridal tank for $7.50 - with those prices, why not!

 

@@Meandhim we have the same dating anniversary - yay April fools day!  ;)

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April Fools is a great day!

 

 

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Awe such a great story. That treehouse is the craziest thing - so romantic. I've never been to Ontario but could follow some :) glad you got the resort you loved in the end and your price from TO is awesome. Congrats

 

 

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Invitations

 

Once we were happy with our quotes and dates, my TA contacted Azul Fives to see what they had available for wedding dates. We're leaving on a Wednesday so my first choice was a Saturday (I didn't care about so much about the day of the week as I wanted a couple days to settle in first). The Saturday was available (Jan 9) so we put down a deposit and start contracts with both Transat and Azul Fives. During this week while we inquiring about dates I started getting my invitations ready so that I could just send them out as soon as we had to go ahead. We wanted to give our guests as much time as possible to save.

 

We decided to go paperless for our invites. I love paper invitations but we just felt like it wasn't necessary for us and we thought we would use that money that we would have spent on invitations on something else for the wedding. My company has used paperless post before and I really liked working with it, the features it offers and the designs as well. If feels like a nice compromise between sending a paper invitation and an attachment to an email as a pdf. 

 

The nice thing about this was I didn't have to wait for them to arrive. I basically adding in all my info and sent it off the day after we booked. The website creates a tracking spreadsheet of RSVPs, you can send messages to the entire guest list or specifically to the 'attending' or 'declined' etc. It made following up really easy! You do have to pay to send out your invites. The cost depends on what design you choose. We sent out our invites to just over 150 people but addressed them by family or couple. We spent $40 total!

 

So here's what it looks like…you get an email with your name on this envelope.

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Then you click on your name and it opens

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Then it moves you to the invite

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You can add additional pages if you like, so we included an info page for travel

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I also love that it will tell you if your guests have opened it or if it has bounced back. 

 

Website

 

I started creating a website through the one my TA gave me as part of our package but it just wasn't as custom as I would have liked it to be. I ended up using nearlyweds.com and love their options and the fact that you add pages with custom headings etc. Here is our wedding website http://seannsteph2016.nearlyweds.com 

 

Getting Everyone On Board

 

Everyone was really supportive right off the top. We knew we might get some backlash but since everyone knew that we were going to have a DW even before we were engaged we figured it would be fine. Well of course like most brides there are always some people that shock you with their reaction. I will preface this by saying that I really love PEI, the people, the food, the beaches but man is it hard to get people off of that island!! A lot of our PEI guests were just confused about why we wouldn't have our wedding on the island…they just couldn't understand. It didn't matter how much we talked about the cost of the wedding itself, cost of accommodations for all of our non island guests, only being able to get married during 'wedding season' which is crazy for me at work etc etc. It was always met with "you could always just get married on the island" or "an island wedding would be nice, I'm just saying". The most frustrating part was my future sister in law who has known about this for a couple of years (the idea of a DW for our wedding) and who has been wanting to travel to Mexico specifically, a week after the invitations came out basically said she wouldn't be able to afford to come. I wasn't upset that she felt like it was too expensive for her but I was upset that she didn't give it any time, she didn't wait to see if she could save up, she just decided it would be too difficult. Not to mention the fact that Sean and I were essentially her wedding coordinators for her wedding two year ago and spent an entire week on vacation putting everything together. I actually really loved doing it and felt honoured to be included but I just felt like I had put in so much effort that I just wanted her to at least consider coming to our wedding before deciding it was out of reach. Sean was really upset and had talk with her and things have since calmed down and we actually found out through our TA that she has been in contact with her in the last month to try and see if she can make it work. That really meant a lot to me. My family was all on board but I think that is largely to do with the fact that my cousin just had a DW recently and know how it all works. My family also really loves to travel - they were really hoping that we would have a DW.  :)

 

My Father

 

I've given this its own sub-category because well it's a big one for me. Without going into my entire life story…I will just say that my father and I don't have a great relationship. He left when I was 3 and we had zero contact while I was growing up (not for lack of trying though on my end). I did stay in touch with his side of the family while growing up, obviously I wasn't as close with them as I was with my mom's side but we did stay in contact. I decided to reconnect with him after University just to put it all to rest. Since then it has been up and down and all along I was worried what I would do if I ever decided to get married. An example is after we got engaged he called Sean to go for drinks with him where he basically told him how we should reconsider the DW and that he was expecting to walk me down the aisle. I was not invited to this 'meeting' and whole thing really made me angry. Sean's great though - he always has my back and especially when it comes to my father.  

 

Although I was concerned about being trapped with with him on a resort for an entire week (going out for dinner can be difficult), I felt like it was the right thing to do especially for my grandmother (my dad's mom). Well after sending out the invites his family starting declining one by one and I started to panic about the idea of no one from his side of the family going except for him. Who would hang out with him, what table to seat him at etc. When the final member of his family declined I decided to have a conversation with him about it. I was nervous - I didn't know how he would react and I didn't want to get into a big fight. The exact opposite happened, I said I didn't want him to feel out of place being the only one of his family at the wedding and he offered to host a small reception in Toronto for his family and some friends. This was the best compromise, he can play host in Toronto for his family and we can have our special wedding in Mexico stress free with the people closest to us. That was my biggest worry about having a lot of stress with him there and now I can just enjoy the wedding and not feel guilty about it.

 

 

Walking down the Aisle

 

Speaking of my father wanting to walk me down the aisle…well I've had many thoughts about this topic. I always thought I wanted my mom to walk me down the aisle but the more I researched alternatives I found that the bride and groom walking down the aisle together is actually a much older tradition. This tradition actually sits a lot better with Sean and I. I love the notion of walking down the aisle together symbolizing the start of our journey together as equals - rather than being given away. Not that I have anything against someone being walked down the aisle by their parent(s) but this option just suited us better. We were all excited about it when Sean realized he wouldn't get that moment where he sees me walking down the aisle for the first time in my dress. We decided that I would walk my self down the aisle half way with him at the alter and he would meet me halfway (love that symbolism too!) and we would continue the rest of the way together. I also thought since my mom was not walking me anymore that I would have my two male cousins (who are like brothers to me) walk her down the aisle and that way I could include them in my big day as well!

Edited by snswedding2016
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Awesome planning Thea's. And like the other girls, I love that treehouse. Hehe.

 

Keep up the great work and can't wait to see more

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I agree with everyone, I love your planning thread and the treehouse proposal! Your fiancé is so sweet to get your lost necklace remade. And if that wasn't sweet enough, he added a proposal. Sigh, so romantic

 

And what is this bridal robe from target? @, what does it look like, do I need to take a lunch break at target? Lol

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@@Wafflesmom Lol - I think a Target trip may be in your future. perianjay has a picture of it on her planning thread. I haven't taken one yet - sorry! It's a white robe with the "Bride" on the back and I also got the matching white tank top (it also has "Bride" on the front). I got both of them for $22.78!!

Edited by snswedding2016
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Sorry for all the back to back posts. Just trying to get caught up to date with all the planning decisions so far!

 

Guest Count

After 2 reminder messages through paperless post, most of our guests put down deposits one month prior to our deposit deadline. We were shocked…including our TA! As soon as our rooms started to go, our TA allowed us to hold rooms under certain names without a deposit if we knew they were coming for sure. She held them until a week before the deposit deadline but everyone paid prior to that. 

 

Initially we held 15 rooms/30 seats from Toronto only (to maximize our inventory) with a $300 deposit from the bride and groom + an extra 6 land only rooms (for our East coast guests) for an additional $300. Our TA suggested that since we only had a few coming from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver -that if they could commit right away and put down a deposit than we didn't need to hold inventory. I messaged my guests coming from those cities to see if that was possible as well as offering to put down their deposit for them if they could commit. 

 

Currently we have 45 adults 4 children and 4 babies! Our deposit deadline is over and our final payment is due at the end of October. I suspect we'll have a couple more bookings.

 

Venue choices at Azul Fives

 

Ceremony

 

Despite all of the comments we have still decided to go ahead with our vision for our beach ceremony. The beach location is quite close to the pool and does get quite busy but we're hoping with the time of day for our ceremony, that it might help (4:30pm). There is also going to be a new beach location option opening up at Azul Fives - so far there hasn't been a date set for its opening but rumour has it, it will be this summer! I'm really hoping for this option for our wedding!

 

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Reception

 

After seeing all of the venue options, we really loved the Garden area for the reception. It looks gorgeous especially with extra lighting set up. Plus we thought it would be nice to have a change of venue from the ceremony to reception. Of course the Sky Deck is pretty spectacular for either ceremony or reception but does cost extra. We decided to use that money somewhere else in our wedding budget (sky deck cost $1700). 

 

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Colour Palette

 

I started with wanting an ocean blue palette and then started narrowing down my range of blues from there. I ended up decided on the palette below with grey accents. 

 

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Food 

 

As I mentioned in my first post, the food is really important to us. We love good food and we have a bunch of foodies that will be coming to the wedding. From the beginning we were definitely leaning more towards a plated meal than a buffet. We actually found a menu option we really liked for a great price. Our reception menu is:

 

Appetizer: Beef Carpaccio 

Entree: Pork Rib Eye

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse & Passion Fruit Creme Brûlé with Mango Coulis

 

Note about dessert: This was not the option listed for this menu choice but we loved the app & entree option but the dessert was supposed to be Mexican Flan and neither of us are really a big fan of flan. I asked my WC if we could substitute it without an additional cost and she suggested these two options and we were so happy with both!

 

I'm probably one of the very few brides on here not doing a cake. Sean and I talked about it and we both agreed that wedding cake often goes to waste as people don't see it or they are too full from the meal that comes with dessert already. Also we prefer dessert (like the options we've picked) over traditional wedding cake. Again allocating the money we would have spent on a cake to a different area.  :)

 

I'm not worried about it being not enough food. We'll be stuffing our faces all week with good food plus there is always 24 hr room service and late night snacks at the lounge!

 

Our basic wedding package also comes with a semi-private dinner at one of the restaurants. We're using it as our rehearsal dinner. The menu for that is:

 

Appetizer: Smoked Salmon

Entree: Nut Crusted Chicken Breast

Dessert: Apple Crisp 

 

We're inviting our entire guest list but asking people to RSVP on our website. The semi-private dinner is complimentary up to 40 people (children eat for free if they order off of the children's menu). While we are more than happy to pay for any additional guests ($25 per person), we completely understand if some guests would prefer to have an evening alone..after all it is their vacation too! Hopefully with an RSVP list we won't be paying for guests who are not there (it has to be paid prior to arrival through the resort).

 

Music 

 

Most of Sean's family are string musicians (mom, step dad, sister, nieces) and I originally wanted them to play live but once I started looking into it, it became a logistical nightmare. Flying with violins and violas are one thing but trying to get a cello down there is pricey (it needs its own seat)! Plus I didn't want them to be worried about their instruments on vacation and the humidity etc. We decided having them record it and playing their version would be the best compromise.

 

So far we've decided on them playing the bridal party entrance (Wonderful Tonight - Vitamin String Quartet arrangement) and the processional (Hoppipolla - by Sigur Ros but the Erskine Quartet arrangement). My good friends will be singing and recording their versions of our recessional (Little Romance by Ingrid Michaelson) and our first dance (Forever by Ben Harper). We really wanted to include all of our artistic family and friends!

 
Edited by snswedding2016
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