My husband and I were married at Secrets Wild Orchid on February 2, 2016. Needless to say this review is long overdue. Originally I had planned to come home from Jamaica and write my review right away but after a year of planning our wedding I really just needed a break from “wedding stuff”. I did keep notes though during the wedding planning and our time at SWO so I wouldn’t forget any details when it came time to write my review. Hopefully other brides planning a SWO or Jamaica wedding at another resort will find the info in this post helpful as they plan their perfect wedding in paradise. If there is anything I haven’t covered just ask….BDW was a great resource for me when I was planning my wedding so I have no problem paying it forward.
I will start by saying my wedding ending up being very different from where it started. When I look back the only two things that remained the same were the groom and the location
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When we first got engaged we knew we wanted to get married in the Caribbean and having already been to SWO in 2014 we knew it was the perfect location for us. This was a second marriage for us both and having both gone through planning a big wedding the first time around we wanted something simple and beautiful. Our original intent was to only bring one other couple with us to act a witnesses but as soon as we announced our engagement to family and friends they all instead they HAD to come. We ended up with 50 invited guests. For those of you out there who have already had your destination wedding or are close to your wedding date I’m sure you know what happened next…..as we got close to the resort’s head count deadline one by one the excuses started (can’t afford it, can’t get out of work, etc.) and to make a long story short – we ended up being just us and my grandparents as our witnesses.
Having just one other couple with us is what we wanted originally but not gunna lie….I was extremely upset with all our friends and family that bailed on us. By the time we needed to provide our final head count to the resort I had already planned a big wedding complete with bonfire beach party and a steel drum band for the reception, gift bags, custom invitations…the works. Lots of money and time spent for people that HAD to come but then suddenly couldn’t make it….grrrr! Enough time has passed that I’ve forgiven most of them but have never forgotten - especially the good friend of my husband that told us at the last minute he couldn’t afford to come but then 2 weeks later bought a cottage. That’s ok, he got engaged recently and I have a feeling I will be busy on the day of his wedding
I have to give a big shout out to @acw271011. You were a true life saver in the final weeks of my wedding planning. You talked me off the ledge several times and help me find clarity when I felt like pulling all my hair out. Thank you again for everything my friend.
Ok so onto the actual review. I really did love having my wedding at SWO and would highly recommend this resort to anyone for a wedding or even just a vacation. All in all they did a wonderful job and I would get married there again in a heartbeat. Throughout this review it may seem I was not happy with the resort but I just want to be honest about my experience to help other brides considering the resort. Every resort has good and bad points I wanted to be sure to cover both.
I would have posted this to the Resort Reviews section but since I am also covering other vendors and my overall all Jamaican wedding planning experience I decided to post here instead. Warning - it is a very long post but I wanted to make sure to cover all the details. This review is actually so long that I have decided to break it down into 3 parts. This post is part 1 of 3. To make it easier for those of you looking for a specific topic I have broken the review down into the following sections:
Tia Flora vs. Floral Fantasies vs. Real Touch
Bring Decorations from Home
Ceremony (Minister, Cake, Violinist)
Alternate Locations for Ceremony
Private Wedding Dinner in the Gazebo
SWO is a beautiful adult only upscale resort. This really appealed to us since we don’t have children and didn’t want to go on vacation with other people’s children. If you need a kid friendly resort, then this place is not for you. Even if your guests with children stay at a nearby family friendly resort their children will not be allowed to attend your wedding at SWO. They are very strict about this policy and will not make exceptions.
There are actually two sides to the Secrets resort in Montego Bay – Wild Orchid and St. James. They are the same resort. There is no difference other than the furniture style & decor and it doesn’t matter which side you stay on as all amenities are open to all guests (except for the preferred club which I will get into later). The Wild Orchid side is closer to all the restaurants and evening entertainment but even if you stay on the St. James side everything is still within close proximity. Both times we have stayed at the resort we stayed on the Wild Orchid side but would have been equally as happy on the St. James side.
It is truly a beautiful resort and the staff really do try to go above and beyond to make your vacation memorable. There were even a few staff members that remembered us from our trip to SWO 2 years earlier. When you arrive at the resort for the first time you are greeted with a “Welcome home” by staff. On our second visit to the resort we were greeting this way again and we truly did feel like we had come home.
The evening entertainment shows are probably some of the best I have seen at an all-inclusive resort. One show you really can’t miss is the Silver Birds steel drum orchestra. They are so amazingly talented! Their show is on Monday nights. The resort also has a Cirque du Soleil style show on Tuesday nights that is pretty good. Sunday night is their weekly “Ideal Couple” newlywed game which is hilarious. Since this is an adult only resort some of the questions are risqué and the answers given are hilarious. My husband and I were contestants the Sunday night before our Tuesday wedding. We didn’t win but had a lot of fun.
On our final day there it was Super Bowl Sunday and the resort throws a huge party each year to celebrate it. They had a big parade throughout the whole resort with a big marching band and even setup a huge replica of the Golden Gate Bridge on the beach since the Super Bowl was in San Francisco this year. They also setup a massive movie screen with lounge seats on the beach for watching the game where they also served dinner and drinks right to your chair. My husband and I are huge football fans and even though our Packers were not in the Super Bowl this year it is still a memory we will never forget. How many people can say they experienced Super Bowl 50 on the beach of a luxury resort? Really cool ending to our honeymoon.
One small caveat about the resort - for those of you that want a long beach you will not find it at SWO. The beach is man-made and small. My husband and I love to walk the beach every morning when we are on vacation but honestly the resort is so beautiful we didn’t even miss it. We did our morning walk around the beautiful resort grounds instead.
Another warning for potential SWO brides - even though Secrets is supposed to cater to couples and romance it seems that in recent years they have been hosting more and more corporate retreats. When these companies come for retreats they are groups of several hundred people that travel the resort in big mobs and pretty much take over the resort. There were times when we couldn’t get into certain restaurants because of these large groups and the resort would even close some restaurants and parts of the beach for private corporate parties. This annoyed me because when we thought we were going to have a big group at our wedding we wanted to host private party at the restaurant by the pool the night before our wedding and were told the resort does not close restaurants for private parties no matter what as it is inconsiderate to the other guests. We were even asked to leave a restaurant one night shortly after receiving our dinner because a big corporate group wanted to eat there. When we complained the staff at the restaurant were very unapologetic. We found most of the bar and wait staff seemed to care more about the big groups then the other guests. I’m guessing they are just trying to protect their tips and they figure they will get more tips from a big group. If you are planning your wedding at SWO check with the resort to see if any corporate retreats will be there at the same time to avoid this annoyance.
If you have any other questions about the resort (restaurants, layout, amenities, rooms, etc.) just ask having been there a few times I know it very well.
All the rooms are great at SWO and SSJ but if you are looking for the next level of service then the Preferred Club, in my opinion, is worth it.
With the Preferred Club you get a special black room card that gives you access to stay in a special building. This building is the closest one to the restaurants and evening entertainment and has the best views of the ocean. This building also has its own private concierge service, private pool and beach not accessible to the “regular” guests. The pool is a quiet zone so if you are looking to get away from the noise at the main pool this is nice option. Of course if you are looking to party you can head over to the main pool where all the action is. We also found that most of the big corporate groups had rooms in the regular part of the resort so when we wanted to escape them we headed over to the Preferred Club.
In the Preferred Club lobby there are hot and cold hors d'oeuvres that is refreshed throughout the day and into the evening. In the mornings they serve a continental breakfast in the lobby which is nice option if you miss breakfast at the main buffet. In addition to the hors d'oeuvres and breakfast, the lobby also has a private bar where they have premium alcohol, bottomless bottles of prosecco and will make you any cocktail you ask for. Both times we stayed at SWO we stayed in the Preferred Club.
Many people on Trip Advisor have said it is not worth the extra price since all people from the resort can walk over and use the Preferred Club whenever they want but I witnessed firsthand in February the staff checking cards of people around the pool and you need to swipe your card to get into the building. Security wasn’t as tight on our first trip in 2014 so it seems they have listened to the reviews on Trip Advisor and started the crack down on the gate crashers.
The concierge staff in the Preferred Club really go out of their way to make you feel special. They always greeted us by name whenever we walked into the lobby and asked if there was anything they could do for us. They made sure I had a golf cart to drive me to and from my hair/makeup appointment on the day of our wedding which is something the wedding coordinators said they couldn’t do. This was very appreciated as the Spa is on the opposite end of the resort.
The day after our wedding they called us down to the lobby because they said they needed to talk to us about our room. When we got there they surprised us with an upgrade to the Master Suite for the last 5 days of our stay. The Master Suite is the top floor corner suite and is larger than most people’s apartments. It has a separate bedroom, huge walk in shower, large tub, living room, bar, and foyer. Of course we were thrilled but as repeat guests and DINKS (double income, no kids) we knew what they were doing – they were giving us a taste of the “good life” so when we come back again for a future trip we would book that suite. It was still appreciated nonetheless and made the honeymoon portion of our trip extra special.
This is it for Part 1 of my 3 part review. Be sure to check out my other 2 parts of this review for more details about SWO and my wedding experience in Jamaica.
Edited by TammyWright, 27 September 2016 - 06:44 PM.