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Diadiamond's Planning Thread - Iberostar Varadero, Cuba - Sept.24.2015

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I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be sharing this with you!  I love reading planning threads and I’ve been looking forward to this moment since I found this website almost 2 years ago.  I wasn’t sure when to start my planning thread, but now that my planning has gained major momentum now seems as good a time as any.


Just a warning my planning thread will be long =p I have been engaged for a while and my wedding vision has changed during that time.  It’s been a bumpy ride getting to where I am in my planning today and I want to share it all with you.  I hope that you enjoy reading my planning thread as much as I enjoy reading yours.


I suppose I should start from the very beginning…


How We Met:

Dan and I met in September 2012 during a Networking event hosted by Mississauga Rotaract; this is not our typical scene at all.  During this time I was going through some major changes.  I had recently lost my grandmother whom I was very close to, I just graduated from York University, I left my dead-end receptionist job to go to back to College, and I was in the best shape I had ever been in, in my entire life.  I was happy being single and just enjoying life and trying to embrace all of my life changes.  My brother’s friend was always trying to make us go to his Rotaract events and my brother had asked me to go with him.  It was a Wednesday evening and I figured I had nothing to lose since I wasn’t doing anything anyways so I went and never regretted it.


Dan was going through a really rough patch in his life and his friends pretty much forced him to go out and be social even though he really didn’t want to.


I arrived late at the event because we couldn’t find parking and immediately noticed him when I walked into the building.  I was so attracted to him, he was very tall, blonde, and had the bluest eyes I had ever seen.  I knew that I had to talk to him (it’s in my nature to make the first move).  During the icebreaker I made it a point to approach him and the rest is history!  Instead of moving on to other people we talked the entire time and learned that we had so much in common.  At the beginning of the event we all received raffle tickets for a Starbucks gift card.  We got so lost in conversation that we forgot to check our numbers when it was announced.  At the end of the event we exchanged numbers not knowing where it was going to go.  During our relationship neither of us could remember the exact day we met or went on our first date so we arbitrarily picked October 4 as our anniversary date.


We both learned that life really begins when you leave your comfort zone.


The Defining Moment of Our Relationship


Early in 2013, Dan’s family organized a family vacation to Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba and invited me to come with them; even though Dan and I had only been dating for four months.  Dan really wanted me to come even though I was hesitant about it.  Neither Dan nor I had been on a vacation before, so again we decided to escape our comfort zone and go.  We went to the Melia Cayo Santa Maria in mid-April and it was heaven!  I would totally recommend it to anyone wanting to go to Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba.  I really felt that this is where our relationship really took off.  We spent the whole week together and had a great time!  We experienced so many firsts and learned so much about each other.  I also learned that I LOVE the beach and travelling! 

One day, while we were on the beach there was a wedding.  Being creepers we decided to watch.  It was so beautiful and the bride was simply stunning.  The whole moment was so perfect.  I always thought that I would have a traditional wedding as it is what I dreamed of since I was a little girl.  I didn’t understand the concept of a destination wedding or why a bride would even want one.  After watching that wedding something like a light switch went off in my mind and I knew that I wanted a beach wedding!  After we got back from our vacation Dan surprised me with a sparkling sapphire promise ring.




Our Engagement:


In August 2013, we began talking about our relationship which we considered very serious.  All of a sudden Dan asked me how I would feel if we were to get engaged sooner rather than later.  We had already discussed our future and had agreed that we would wait until I was finished school before we would take the next step.  I wasn’t expecting him to ask that, but I was thrilled to be engaged sooner than later.  We both knew from very early on in our relationship that we would be together.  We have the same goals in life and we complement each other well.


Personally, I hate surprises and Dan knows this lol.  We made a compromise that I can choose the ring as long as Dan gets to completely surprise me with the proposal.  I thought that it was fair since I feel I should love the ring that I get to wear for the rest of my life.  I e-mailed him a few different styles that I liked.  A few weeks later he took me to People’s so that I could try them on and what do you know I actually completely fell in love with the cheapest ring on my list.  I would never want to upgrade my ring I LOVE it! 


I knew that Dan had purchased the ring well before he proposed as I just had a feeling.  He really made me sweat it out though.  I believe that he bought the ring in August and he didn’t propose until November!  I thought he would have proposed on our first anniversary and got all prepared for it and everything.  I started to lose hope that it would happen and let my guard down.


In late November Dan took me to the Streetsville Santa Claus Parade in Mississauga.  I had never been to a Santa Claus Parade before as my family is Muslim.  We watched the parade then went to Second cup to get a coffee to warm up as it was a bone-chilling negative 15!  We walked to our usual spot overlooking the Credit River when all of a sudden he dropped onto one knee.  I can’t remember what exactly was said as I was in shock, but he was so cute even though he had dropped the ring.  All I remember was that I cried and could barely speak so I nodded, then a few seconds later said yes!


P.S. My display picture was taken right after I said yes.





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Great start to your planning thread. I know by reading your other posts that there is much more to come! Looking forward to it  :)

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Early Planning Stages:


Early on in our planning (my planning) we looked into having a traditional ceremony at home, but after looking into what our vision would cost we realized that it just wouldn’t work financially.  We were aiming for a 2015 or 2016 wedding and didn’t want to wait any longer.  We didn’t want to go into debt over the wedding and the cost was astronomical for just one day!  I was a little upset at first because I really had my heart set on a traditional wedding at an historical mansion with Plum being my colour.

Dan actually came up with the idea of a Destination Wedding.  He brought up the memory of the Destination wedding we had seen in Cuba.  After doing some researched we felt that it was absolutely what we wanted and we knew that we just had to be married at the Melia Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba.    


At the beginning of 2014 we had a huge fight over our wedding.  I really wanted to go ahead with May, 2015, but Dan thought that we should postpone it until we know what’s going on with our current situation (we were both students at the time and in retrospect he was totally right).  I was crushed because I wanted to be married sooner rather than later (I’m impatient =p).  In 2014, Dan changed careers and is now in IT and I graduated from Humber and got my first full-time job as a Law Clerk. 


In July 2014, Dan’s sister’s friend was getting married at the same resort we were planning on getting married at.  She had been to the resort many times before, but never for a wedding.  Since she was in the wedding she told us that she would give us a review and we decided to wait until we heard her review before booking.  We had also been to the resort in April 2013.

Her review was not good!  And she’s not a picky person.  Aside from the sweltering July heat the resort had promised the newlyweds upgrades and perks that it never delivered on!  The overall resort had declined since we went a year ago and the staff was apparently not nearly as nice.  And all of the guests complained mercilessly to the bride leaving her stressed out the whole week!  This is NOT what a bride-to-be wants!


We were crushed upon hearing her review.  We really had our hearts set on Melia Cayo Santa Maria. 

Not only did we have to choose another date, we also had to choose another venue AND we didn’t have the budget or the time to do a site visit!


Show Me the Money:


Before we booked we wanted to know what our perfect day would cost.  I know that some people may not be comfortable disclosing that information, but I’m definitely the opposite!  Aside from marrying my best friend I also wanted to show people that you CAN have an amazing wedding on a budget.  I asked on this forum and social media for a guideline or example of how to put together a budget for your wedding, but I wasn’t able to find what I was looking for specifically, so I created one! 


I researched the approximate cost of what I wanted then totaled it up to get what my dream wedding would cost me.  I ended up slashing the approximate cost in some areas and being extra generous in others.  I’ve never planned a wedding or done a budget before so I hope that someone out there finds what I’ve done helpful.  I was pleasantly surprised to find what my dream day would cost me. 


In December 2014, I ended up leaving my job and since we had already booked our wedding and everyone’s deposit was already put down cancelling was not an option for us.  We had also worked and saved money for our wedding since we got engaged, so we should have enough.  I have also tried to cut costs where I can.  For example, having a semi-private dinner for free instead of a private dinner at 35CUC/pp.


I Hope my budget document is helpful, let me know if you have any questions. 

@@vancouverpetunia Thanks hun!  It's been a long journey.  I can't wait to start reading yours.


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Awe love your story! I got engaged in Cuba and loved Varadero so honestly I get excited each time you mention it :) your ring is gorgeous and just my taste as well!!! Can't wait for more.



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What a beautiful story. Isn't it funny when we look in hindsight, and realize how little things like reluctantly going to the networking event could change your life? And thank you for sharing your budget

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@@calgarybride2015 Aww thanks hun!  Great minds think alike ;)

@ Thanks hun!  It's taken me a long time to learn that sometimes I need to take risks in life.

@@Wafflesmom Thanks hun!  It is so funny that something that sounds so insignificant can change your life so much!  And you're welcome for the budget.  When I started planning I had a hard time finding something with a break down of costs.  My fiance said that if we can have a wedding for less than 15k then we can get married in 2015 if not we would have had to wait a lot longer.

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Loving your planning thread so far. I am glad you decided to start one sooner rather than later. Now you can put all your thoughts and ideas on your thread when you think if them.


I love your ring. It's gorgeous and totally my taste as well.


I can't wait to read more of your thread. Keep up the great work. And awesome to have that budget figures out. I didn't Hahaga I went a little over for sure. Wish I had soemthing like that when I started.

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I love your story of how you met, it is the cutest :). It's funny how sometimes we find the person of our dreams in the most unexpected moment and place


When you mentioned the whole fight about when to book your wedding I can totally relate! My fiance was a full time student until a week ago, and when we booked our wedding he still had a whole year of school to go through and he didn't have a job yet. I had applied to grad school and wasn't sure if I'd be getting in, if I did, that meant that we could only get married during the summer months (there was no way we'd be getting married in high season in December!). If we didn't book at that point and I got into school we'd have to wait until next summer, which I did't want to do. We'd been engaged a year and a half at this point and I did not want to be engaged for 3 years! hahah.


We still argue sometimes about the timing but I think since the wedding is so close now we're both over this disagreement and just happy to be getting married :). He wanted to be more financially secure before planning the whole thing but I kept thinking that if you wait, you will always have something to wait for so you just have to do it! 


Anyways I can't wait to read more! 

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@@kcole123 Thanks so much hun!  I loved reading your thread!  I went over on some things as well lol.  I just couldn't help myself, there are some really great find out there.

@@TinkerSofi Thanks hun!  I'm happy that someone could relate to my situation!  During my early planning stages I read a lot of experiences of planning going smoothly and everyone being happy and started to wonder why mine wasn't like that.  We're still super happy about getting married it's just that like any journey there are some bumps in the road. I do agree with you though that now that our wedding is so close we don't argue anymore since it's so close. 


My fiance was the same way!  He wanted to make sure that we had stable employment too (which is a good point), but I didn't want to wait forever to get married.  I figured that even if we went into a bit of debt it wouldn't be as much debt as a traditional wedding would have put us in.  


We would be engaged for about 22 months by the time our wedding rolls around.  

Now we’re Getting Somewhere!


After about a month straight of blood, sweat, and tears I had a major breakthrough with planning.  I felt that I had chosen the perfect dates that would suit most of our potential guests and two venues that I equally loved.  It was relieving to me to be torn between two or three things rather than having every option available to me.  I get overwhelmed by choice which is why I avoid going to Starbucks lol!


After calling a wedding meeting with Dan we decided that having a September wedding would be best (we really wanted an October wedding, but the Thanksgiving long weekend kind of messed things up).  Being that it's hurricane season we figured rates would be cheaper, it's in the beginning of the school year (so people in school wouldn't be missing that much if they wanted to come), it’s not in the winter (my step-dad can’t get time off in the winter), and it’s not in the summer (Dan’s mom can’t get time off during summer).  We picked the week of September 19th – September 26th.


In terms of venue we were torn between the Iberostar Laguna Azul and the Iberostar Varadero.  We loved the Spa Terrace for our ceremony and the overall layout for the Iberostar Laguna Azul, but the reviews were hit and miss.  The Iberostar Varadero had consistently good reviews and was more intimate, but didn’t have anything like the spa terrace.  It was important to us that our guests be comfortable and happy at our venue especially since they are paying quite a bit to come.  It was a tough decision, but Dan convinced me that we should go with Iberostar Varadero.


Picking the date and resort in my opinion has been the most stressful part of the whole planning process.  I literally cried and stressed over this decision. 


At the end of August we decided that we needed to get quotes and book our wedding soon.  I really wanted to book with a TA that I met on this forum, but Dan wanted to book with a local agent from a large company because he felt more comfortable going in to see that person and knowing they were from a corporation.  They also had the best quote for Air Transat (we’re not Sunwing fans).  We booked with Marlin Travel inside Wal-Mart in Mississauga.  We were quoted $1,375.00, and were told that we had a one time price drop.  All of our guests are leaving from Toronto.  


As a side note, a lot of people complained about our quote being $1,375.00, but I feel that's a pretty good price.  I have heard that the quotes in Eastern Canada are much higher.  I'm not sure about Western Canada though.  


Our trip ended up going down to $1,145.00, which is AMAZING and makes me so happy!  Since we've used our price drop this is now the final price.  

Our Vision:

Even though the logistics of our wedding has changed quite a few time, one thing stayed constant.  We both wanted a simple wedding in Cuba with our closest family and friends.  We’re very low-key people so we didn’t want anything huge or fancy.  We’re having a symbolic ceremony on the beach and a simple dinner shortly after.  We’re not party people so we’re not having an after party or anything.  We also can’t wait to spend time in paradise with our family and friends!


I also didn’t want a lot of the traditions that come along with a wedding.  I didn’t want a bridal shower because I didn’t have the money or time to plan one.  I also didn’t want to burden anyone with that responsibility.  I didn’t want to have a registry because Dan and I already live together and don’t need anything.  Also, our friends and family are paying a lot of money to come to our wedding, so we didn’t want anything else from them. 


The one tradition that I do want is a Bachelorette party ;)  I’m hoping the do it the weekend before we leave, but I’m not sure if that’s too close to us leaving.  I just want to go to the club with the girls and dance our little hearts out. 

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I think $1375 for the Iberostar Varadero is awesome!  $1145 is SMOKING!!!  awesome!!

I have only been to Cuba once and went at the end of March and it cost us $1700 for the upgraded room, so I think you did well.   


We are pretty laid back too and didn't want a lot of fuss.  All we did was the bachelorette/bachelor parties.

Since we married in January we decided to do them before Christmas, so I was Nov 15 and Shawn Nov 29.   Not that I suggest you do them that far in advance, BUT I think you should do them more than a week before.  Your last weekend before you fly out is going to be SUPER busy getting last minute stuff in order and trying to do it with a hangover will not be fun.

Heck, I was fed SO much booze I didn't even make it to the bar. I was a hurting unit.   Just my two cents hehehe!!!


September really isn't that far away now!  


Like I have said before, Cuba has a special place in my heart and I love you are marrying here.

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