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2ndTimeMrs

My Secrets Wild Orchid Wedding Resort & Vendor Review - Part 2 Of 3

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This post is part 2 of 3 for my review of SWO and my wedding in Jamaica. If you missed Part 1 go back and read it as I give a detail overview of the resort. (Part 1 of 3 is here and part 3 of 3 is here)

WEDDING COORDINATORS
The ladies in the wedding department at SWO are very knowledgeable and work really hard to help you have the perfect wedding day.

Yes they are slow to respond when you are more than 2 months away from your wedding date but that is because they are busy helping other brides who are getting married before you. Once you get closer to your wedding date their response time does improve. If you are highly organized like I am then planning a destination wedding at any resort will truly test your patience but trust me when I say to remain calm…everything will come together in the end and the ladies at SWO will make sure you have a beautiful wedding day (rain or shine).

The only real hiccups I had with dealing with the wedding coordinators were when I sent my paperwork for my marriage certificate. I sent it by courier as they requested and paid extra to have 24 hour delivery. I sent the coordinators a message letting them know I had sent it out and for them to let me know when they received my paperwork. After about I week I checked in with them and they said they hadn’t receive it. I asked the coordinator I was dealing with to double check with the other coordinators in the office and she insisted nobody in their office had received anything from me. I totally panicked as she also told me since they had not received my paperwork by the deadline I would not be able to get married on my scheduled date and would need to rebook everything for a different date. I ran a search through my courier and discovered the resort did indeed receive my package within the 24 hours after I sent it. My courier also gave me a pdf of the signature by the wedding coordinator who received the package and low and behold it was the same wedding coordinator that had insisted she had not received my paperwork and told me I had to reschedule my wedding. I sent her the pdf of the signature and suddenly she “remembered” that they had received it. I know they are busy and accidents happen but I have to say an apology would have been nice. Needless to say I was not too happy with her but was relieved I didn’t have to reschedule everything.

The other frustration is that I didn’t seem to have a designated coordinator planning my wedding. It seemed that all three coordinators at SWO were working on my wedding, depending on who had time. This is a frustration because I often had to re explain my requests or preferences. It was almost like they didn’t talk to each other even though their office is small and they all basically work at the same long desk. Very frustrating but like I said in the end it all came together and my wedding day was more perfect and beautiful then I could have imagined so I guess that’s all that matters.

To their credit – I had originally booked the Ultimate wedding package because we thought we were going to have a big group coming to our wedding. When we realized we would no longer be a big group the wedding coordinators let us switch to the basic (free) package without issue and did not try to change us a penalty for the last minute change.


RESORT HAIR/MAKEUP
Prior to my wedding I debated about hiring an outside vendor for hair and makeup. There really wasn’t much out there in reviews by past SWO brides about the hair and makeup services at the resort spa which made me a bit nervous but in the end the $600 outside vendor fee ($300 for each) made me decide to go with the hair and makeup provided by the resort spa.

I contacted the spa about 2 months prior to our wedding to book my appointment for hair and makeup and asked what makeup they used. The lady at the spa said it was Mirabella which is apparently professional grade makeup so I decided to give them a chance. The final result of their services were just OK.

At my appointment the same girl did my hair and makeup. When she first started to do my makeup she pulled out L’Oréal True Match foundation! I was a little shocked since I was told they only use professional grade makeup. She told me they do but she thinks L’Oréal would be better for my pictures, really? Better than professional grade make-up?

Luckily I had brought all my own makeup with me so I told her to use my Laura Mercier Photo Finish Foundation instead. When she finished doing my makeup it was way too “drag queenish” and she filled in my eyebrows so thick I looked like I had a uni-brow. I made her fix my eyebrows and they were better after she fixed them but I still fixed the rest of the makeup myself once I got back to my room to tone down the drag queen factor. (yes, I know your makeup needs to be heavier than normal to show in pictures but this was beyond that).

For my hair I wanted soft bouncy curls and although she did curl my hair she sprayed it with so much hair spray while she was curling it my curls were not soft or bouncy. It wasn’t what I had envisioned but looked OK. When I asked her why she was spraying so much hair spray she said it was because the only way the curl would hold is if she sprayed it with hair spray. The total cost for my hair and makeup through the resort was $150 USD. If I was to go back in time I would have spent the extra money and hired an outside vendor.

I know not everyone can spend a small fortune on outside vendors (at $300 each vendor it adds up quickly) so if you can’t afford it go with the resort hair and makeup but go to your local Sephora and get some makeup lessons beforehand so you can do your own makeup if the resort screws it up. If you are a Sephora VIB Rouge member like I am the lessons are free. If you are a Beauty Insider then the lessons are free too but you have to buy $40 worth of makeup at the end of the lesson but really who can honestly go to Sephora and NOT spend $40? 

I went for 2 separate makeup lessons at Sephora a few months before my wedding so I could practice the techniques I learned and I’m so glad I did as it came in handy when I needed to fix my makeup on my wedding day.

One final tip – if you do go with the resort hair and makeup leave yourself enough time before the ceremony/pictures in case you have to fix their mistakes. My appointment was at 10am and I was done hair and makeup appointment by noon. My photos were starting at 2pm so I had a 2-hour buffer which worked out perfectly.


RESORT PHOTOGRAPHER/VIDEOGRAPHER
Both the photographer and videographer provided by the resort are the same photographers that walk around the resort day and night taking pictures of you then try to sell you the pictures.

When my husband and I were at SWO in 2014 we hired them to take some sunset photos of us to have as souvenirs. We didn’t know at the time that we would be getting married there (we weren’t even engaged yet) but having already seen the quality of their work when it came time to plan my wedding I knew no matter what I would be hiring an outside vendor for photos.

Don’t get me wrong, the resort photographers are not the worst photographers in the world but they are also not the caliber I would expect from a wedding photographer. Most of their poses are cheesy and they don’t seem to pay attention to little details such as everyone having their legs crossed the same direction etc. I’m sure they have more than one photographer and some are better than others but having been unsatisfied with my past experience I didn’t want to take the chance.

I ended up hiring Misha Earle and she was absolutely fantastic to work with. I will give more details about our experience with Misha in the next section.

Even though we hired Misha for our photos the wedding coordinators still insisted I had to use their photographer too. I told them I didn’t not want their photographer at my wedding but they still insisted it was non-negotiable and I HAD to use their photographer as well as my own since it was part of the wedding package. This is when I politely reminded them that I had paid the $300 vendor fee for the “privilege“ to bring my own photographer onto the resort property and I did not want their photographer getting in the way of Misha capturing the photos of my wedding. With that they conceded and said they would not send their photographer.

When I was arriving to the ceremony I did see their photographer lurking in the bushes near the gazebo where we were getting married. I shot him a dirty look as we drove past him on the golf cart and he disappeared and I never saw him again :D. Since they knew I would not be purchasing pictures from them I can only suspect their photographer came anyway to try and get pictures so they could add to their portfolio to sell packages to future brides.


MISHA EARLE PHOTOGRAPY
What can I say about Misha that hasn’t already been said by countless other brides on here? She is indeed fantastic to work with and the photos she produces are truly works of art. It’s been almost 8 months since my wedding and I still can’t stop looking at them.

My husband and I are not very photogenic and she managed to make us feel at ease. We truly felt like we had an old friend at our wedding taking our pictures.

She also brought along her assistant Kenmar and he was such a riot. We decided to do “first look” photos before the ceremony and shot a majority of the photos before the ceremony since we were getting married at 4pm and didn’t want to be rushed by the sunset to capture all our pictures. At one point Kenmar went off with my husband and shot some individual photos of him and Misha worked with me to capture my bridal photos. This was a big time saver and meant we weren’t standing around when the other was getting individual photos taken. We loved working with both of them.

I did have to pay SWO $300 to allow Misha onto the property for our wedding day and on top of that the resort also made me pay an additional $80 for a day pass to allow Kenmar on the property but Misha covered the cost of the vendor fee by reducing her rate by $300 so we ended up just paying for Kenmar’s guest pass.

Another thing I really liked about Misha is she Skyped with us about 2 months before our wedding. This gave us a chance to actually see her instead of just emailing back and forth. We were able to discuss all the pictures we would like to have captured on the day and get to know her a bit.

Misha is also very spunky and will not let the wedding coordinators push you or her around on your wedding day. She will fight for you, her client. After our ceremony was done we were getting ready to take some pictures with the cake. The cake was on a table off to the side of the gazebo with a bunch people in bathing suits drinking and partying in the background. The wedding coordinators were trying to make us take the photos with the cake where it was but Misha wasn’t having it. She told them to move the cake table to where the ceremony was so we would have the ocean, flowers, and, drapery as a background. When they refused she and Kenmar picked up the cake table and moved it themselves. The coordinators did not look happy but they didn’t say anything. I couldn’t help but laugh:lol:

4 weeks after our wedding Misha sent us a link to a video slideshow displaying a selection of about 50 photos. It was set to our wedding song “All of me” by John Legend and when my husband watched it for the first time he cried because the photos were so beautiful (he is not a crier). About 4 weeks or so after the video slide show we received a flash drive with all the photos in the mail. This was the timeframe she had told us when we first hired her so she was true to her word.

One final thing I really liked about Misha. I asked her to not “Kim Kardashian” (aka Photoshop) our photos as I wanted to capture our true selves and the real beauty of our wedding day and she said that’s the way she prefers to work anyway. Another example of her talent, she is able to capture the right angles to make you look your natural best.

I don’t have a single complaint about Misha or the quality of her work. She was phenomenal to work with. You will not be disappointed if you hire Misha to photograph your wedding.

Here are a few pics from our wedding taken by Misha:

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TIA FLORAL vs. FLORAL FANTASIES vs. REAL TOUCH
The resort uses Tia Floral as their flower vendor. A quick search of the forums on here and you will find countless brides warning you to stay away from them. I am giving the same advice.

I originally ignored their advice and asked Tia for a quote for a mixture of hydrangeas, roses, and orchids to decorate the entrance to the gazebo. These flowers were only going to span the 7 foot opening along the top of the gazebo and they came back with a quote of $2600 USD!!!! Crazy! I knew the price would be high but that is highway robbery in my opinion.

It was also like pulling teeth trying to get the quote from them. I had to nag them for several weeks before they got back to me. I spoke to a few locals and they said the reason Tia Floral is so expensive and hard to work with is because a majority of the resorts use them as their preferred vendor so they kind of have brides over a barrel.

After the outrageous quote I asked Misha for her advice on a floral vendor to deal with. She recommended Floral Fantasies. They were fantastic to deal with and came back with a quote of $600 USD for the same thing Tia wanted $2600 USD for. Even with paying the outside vendor fee their price was way lower and I had more confidence in them since they were always quick to get back to me, made recommendations to reduce the price and overall seemed way more professional.

Just before our wedding we ended up having an emergency furnace replacement at home so I had to divert funds from our wedding budget for that which meant I had to drop the real flower decorations for gazebo I ordered from Floral Fantasies. They were very understanding and refunded almost all my money (think they kept about $100 for a cancellation fee).

I had already made my own bouquet, my husband’s boutonniere and my grandmother’s corsage with real touch flowers so I decided to just create my own decorations with real touch flowers for the gazebo and bring them with me. I have another post on here from earlier this year covering my bouquet and other flowers with pictures for those of you that are interested.

In the end my gazebo decorations ended up costing me about $200 including the drapery I also brought from home (a $30 last minute find at a local thrift shop) and although was not what I originally wanted still made for a pretty backdrop for our ceremony.

Here’s a picture of the decorated gazebo:

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