This post is the final part of my 3 part review of SWO and my wedding in Jamaica. If you missed Part 1 & 2 go back and read them as there is valuable info about the resort, outside vendors, and SWO wedding coordinators. (Part 1 of 3 is here and part 2 of 3 is here)
BRINGING DECORATIONS FROM HOME
I brought 1 suitcase of various items from home with me for decorating the gazebo and took them to the meeting with the wedding coordinator 2 days before our wedding.
I was a little worried before the meeting because during my emails with the wedding coordinators they said I would have to pay a minimum of $50 for setting up my decorations on the gazebo. This annoyed me because all the other SWO brides on here said the wedding coordinators set everything up for them for free and these brides had way more stuff than I did. Turns out I was worried for nothing though because once I got to the meeting the coordinators said they would take care of everything and there would be no extra charge.
My room was overlooking the gazebo and on the day of the wedding I was able to watch them decorating the gazebo. It was very windy and they struggled quite a bit to get my drapery hung but they never gave up and in the end it looked beautiful.
I will say I did bring a little treat of maple candies I picked up at the airport before leaving Canada for each of the wedding coordinators to our meeting so not sure if this helped them decide not to charge me but I’m pretty sure it didn’t hurt either
CEREMONY (MINISTER, CAKE, VIOLINST)
There are several beautiful locations throughout the resort where you can have your ceremony but we chose to have our ceremony at the gazebo on the Wild Orchid side. I will break down each of the other location options in the next section.
We really loved the Wild Orchid gazebo location since it out on a pier and you can only get to it by walking down a long boardwalk so it was more private than the other locations. If you have 12 guests or less then I highly recommend the Wild Orchid Gazebo location.
We chose to have our wedding in the 4pm time slot so we could take some sunset pictures after the ceremony. Getting married at 4pm is a little risky since this is the time of day you are most likely to experience “liquid sunshine” in Jamaica but we were lucky and did not have a single drop of rain on our wedding day. As a side note: you can pay extra to have your wedding at 5PM which they call the sunset wedding option but before booking it check with dateandtime.com because depending on the time of year the sun might not be setting until later so you’ll pay extra for nothing. When we got married in February the sun was setting until 6:30PM.
The ceremony is 20 minutes long and then you have another 30 minutes to do the post ceremony activities (IE: champagne, cake). the wedding coordinators run the whole thing with precision. They did do a beautiful job but I often felt like they were rushing us through the signing of the marriage certificate and cake cutting to stay within their allotted time. Even our photographer cracked a joke about being in the military at one point.
Just before the ceremony was about to start one of the wedding coordinators came and picked me up with a golf cart from the lobby of my building. She escorted me to the start of the gazebo boardwalk and instructed me when to start walking so I would be in sync with the wedding music. She also reminded me to keep my head up and smile so Misha would capture good pictures which I appreciated because I probably would have looked down to avoid tripping had she not reminded me
Music - originally I was just going to bring some pre-recorded music on my iPod but in the end decided to splurge and hire the violinist provided by the resort. I’m so glad I made this change. He was so amazing and added an extra something to our ceremony.
I provided a list of songs I wanted to the wedding coordinators during the planning stage and they confirmed with the violinist that he could play them. I originally asked the wedding coordinators for a list of what he could play but they said he didn’t have one and to just request what I wanted and they would check with him to see if he could play those songs. Not sure if they were just being lazy or if he really doesn’t have a play list but either way everything I asked for he was able to play. I had him play “All of me” by John Legend when I walked down the aisle and he did it flawlessly. His name is Jose Salgado and here is a link to a YouTube video of him playing a selection of songs:
When you get the violinist you have him for 1 hour so I had him arrive 15 before the ceremony to play music for our guests before I arrived. He then stayed after the ceremony and played music while we were having our champagne toasts and cake. I highly recommend hiring him.
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Minister - Our minister’s name was Terrence and he was such a character. We met with him at the wedding coordinator meeting 2 days before our wedding and went over the details of the ceremony. He then told us we had two choices how to respond to his questions during the ceremony. We could either say “I do” or we could say “I will”. He suggested we go with “I will” as “I do” means you’ve already done it, “I will” means you will always do it. We chose to say “I will” During the ceremony Terrence had us all laughing with little jokes and crying tears of joy during the tender moments. I’m not sure if the resort only uses him as their minister but if not request Terrence; he’s fantastic.
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Cake - Right after the ceremony and marriage certificate signing we moved on to the cake. Since we had the free package we had a 1 tier cake in either chocolate or vanilla. We chose vanilla and it was delicious.
This cake feeds about 12 people so we had leftovers and asked the wedding coordinator’s box up a second slice for my grandparents to take back to their room, had a second slice boxed and sent to our room for later and then had the rest of the cake delivered to the Preferred Club concierge staff to share. They really appreciated this and it meant the cake didn’t go to waste. PS – I brought individual size cake boxes from home for this. You can buy them from Michaels.
During the pre-wedding meeting with the coordinators I gave them a cake topper I had made to match my other flowers and some dark blue ribbon. They passed those onto the cake people and they decorated the cake with the items I provided. They did not charge extra to decorate the cake.
My husband is a firefighter so since we were getting married far from home and couldn’t have true firefighter wedding I special ordered a fire axe with our names and wedding date engraved to use for cutting our cake. We gave that to the wedding coordinators at the meeting too and they made sure it made it safely to the ceremony and then kept it safe after the ceremony until we picked it up at their office the next day. It was actually pretty funny when I first pulled the axe out of the suit case to show them at our meeting. Their eyes got so wide and they looked scared until we told them what it was for. Then they each took turns waving it around and telling my husband he better behave or else apparently we were the first people to bring a fire axe to cut our cake because they thought it was a great idea and said had never seen it before.
As a side note – We live in Ottawa Canada so once the weather got nicer at home we arrange to have a local photographer capture a post wedding photo shoot with my husband in his firefighter uniform and me in my wedding dress. Even though it was not our wedding day it was nice to be able to capture this very important aspect of our lives. I will make a separate post about this topic later.
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ALTERNATE LOCATIONS FOR CEREMONY
If the Wild Orchid gazebo is not suitable for you because your group is too large or you don’t like the location then you have a few other options around the resort.
The St.James side also has a gazebo on the water but in my opinion the Wild Orchid is in a better location and looks like it is better maintained. Just like Wild Orchid it is only suitable for groups of 12 or less.
For larger groups you have the option to get married in the beach front casita. This location is nice but is very close to the main Wild Orchid pool and right beside the main water front walking path of the resort. This means it is not private at all. You have about 25 feet of space between the walkway and where you will stand to get married. We witnessed several other weddings at this location while we were there and each time a big crowd of people in wet bathing suits were gathered watching the ceremony and taking pictures. I’m sure this crowd made the wedding photographer’s job harder….trying to capture the bride and groom’s special moments while trying to keep the fat middle aged man in a speedo out of the shot
The wedding coordinators do try to contain the crowd and keep them quiet but if you’ve ever been in a big group of drunk people then you know this is easier said than done. If having a bunch of “looky loos” watching your wedding doesn’t matter to you then go ahead and book this location as it is right on the water so you won’t need to decorate it much to have a pretty backdrop for your pictures. If you do have your ceremony in this location the wedding coordinators will set up your dinner reception on the small beach area right beside it so everything will be in the same location.
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small beach area beside casita where receptions are
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View from casita to main walkway
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View from main walkway to casita
The alternate location for larger groups is the on the beach right in front of the Barracuda beach bar on the Wild Orchid side. This location is more private than the Casita but there is no shade so if you are worried about your guests sitting in the hot sun rent a tent or maybe provide them with cute parasols in your wedding colours to shade themselves. Just like the Casita the wedding coordinators will set up your dinner reception on the beach right beside your ceremony. This beach area is bigger so if you have a really large group then I would recommend it as you will have more space for everyone once the party gets started. This is the location I had chosen when I thought we were going to have a large group as I was also going to have a steel drum band and bonfire party after dinner so I wanted enough room for everything.
No matter which location you choose if it rains the wedding coordinators will move your ceremony to the covered patio beside the ball room and your reception will be in the ballroom. I never asked because I wanted to be married outside but I’m sure if you wanted to get married in the ballroom or its patio (rain or shine) that would probably be an option too.
PRIVATE WEDDING DINNER IN GAZEBO
If you book 7 nights or more at SWO for your wedding then you will qualify for the Honeymoon package. This is apparently a $995 value that they give you for free. Along with a couple massage (which we used 2 days before the wedding) the Honeymoon package included a candlelight dinner for two during our stay. Once we discovered that it was just going to be us and my grandparents at the wedding I went ahead and booked a special dinner for my grandparents at the French restaurant (reservations are required at this restaurant if you want to sit inside.) I then asked the wedding coordinators during our pre-wedding meeting about booking our candlelight dinner for the night of our wedding. They said they could not do that and we would have to eat in one of the restaurants with everyone else or pay for a special beach dinner on our wedding night. Preferred Club Concierge to the rescue again.
After our meeting with the wedding coordinators I stopping in our lobby and asked the concierge if they could book our candlelight honeymoon dinner on our wedding night and they said “no problem, mon!” Normally when you have the candlelight dinner it is set up on the beach but our concierge arranged to have it in the Wild Orchid gazebo where we got married and went even further to make sure all our wedding ceremony decorations were left up so we could enjoy them. Needless to say I tipped them well
The concierge reviewed the menu options with us and we picked our selections ahead of time. For our main course we both had filet mignon and lobster and everything was delicious. Our dinner was booked for 7pm so once we were done with our photos we invited Misha and Kenmar to join us for a drink in our lobby, after our drinks we said our good-byes to them and heading off to our dinner. As we walked towards the gazebo we noticed that on top of our decorations our waiter had decorated the walkway to the gazebo and the gazebo itself with candles. During our dinner the waiter stayed at the far end of the gazebo boardwalk to give us our privacy. If we needed him we just waved and he would come. Everything was so romantic and beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and private location to enjoy our first meal as husband and wife.
So this concludes my very looooooong review of SWO and Jamaica. I will leave you with the following tips and suggestions:
•Stay strong and don’t get pushed around by the wedding coordinators. They will try to bully you into doing what is easiest for them but it is your wedding so fight for what is really important to you.
•Get rsvps from your invited guests before the resort’s 2-month deadline. I was naïve and set my response deadline for the same day as the resort head count deadline and ended up having to chase people to get their replies. I ended up being about two weeks late with my finally head count.
•Be willing to accept that many (or all) your friends and family will not be able to attend your wedding. Some will not be able to afford it, some will not want to go to the resort you choose, and some will not have a valid reason they will just not come. Every destination bride out there will tell you this is just comes with the territory of having a destination wedding.
•Hire a private driver to pick you up from the airport upon arrival. You will be bringing extra luggage and having private transportation means you can get to the resort quicker….we left the airport about 15 minutes after the bus had left and still beat the bus to the resort by a good ½ hour. We hired Jeffery Stephens from Reggae Tours and he was fantastic.
•If you are flying into Montego Bay book with Club MoBay for arrival and departure services. On arrival they will greet you at your gate with a sign that has you name on it and personally escort you past all the security and straight to the exit. If you’ve ever been through security in the Mo Bay airport you know what a lifesaver this service is. They also have a private lounge on arrival and departure where you can have free drinks, snacks, and freshen up/change your clothes. This is great if you are coming from or going to a cold climate since you’re not stuck in your winter clothes while travelling to or from the resort.
•During the planning process don’t panic; the coordinators know what they are doing. it will all come together and be beautiful.
•Most importantly: BREATHE. You are marrying the love of your life in a beautiful tropical location….enjoy the moment!
Edited by TammyWright, 27 September 2016 - 06:47 PM.