Chris, my husband and I were engaged in August 2016, not even a week after my 30th birthday. He had planned everything with my friends and family down to what to say to keep me guessing because I don’t like surprises. I’ll save the whole story for another day. As we were sitting around the table with our friends celebrating the questions began. Mind you this was only about 15-20 minutes after I said yes. The questions started with “When do you want to get married?” and “Do you know where you want to get married?“
We were like wait a minute we just got engaged and you were there, lol. We haven’t really thought about the details yet. We didn’t realize that is how it normally goes when a couple gets engaged. All I knew was that I wanted to be married on a beach with the waves calmly moving on our side. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re a woman and don’t all women dream about how they will get married as little girls. And the answer is no. I dreamt about my career as a child, so this world of wedding dresses, cakes and flowers was new to me. We decided to enjoy being together and engaged for a couple of months before we looked into planning our wedding.
We knew we wanted to get married in 2017 and that we wanted to have a destination wedding. My mom suggested that we get on it because people needed to request vacation days and save up for the wedding. As you can imagine the pressure was on at that point. We were no longer in our engaged bubble but thrown into reality. It was time to plan the biggest event of our lives thus far. As we began to look at venues we thought California would be a great choice because it was close to us and most of our guests. Cali would have been beautiful, but we were not willing to go into debt for it. After a couple of weeks of dealing with vendors in Silicon Valley, I just happened to see an advertisement for Sandals Resort Wedding Moons.
It just seemed perfect the idea of getting married in a country that I had visited before and adored. Chris had never been to another country, so I thought this would be a great way to get his feet wet. We went to the Sandals’ website and looked up planning a wedding at one of their resorts. Here is the gest of what is explained to you on the website:
- You get a free wedding planner.
- You can customize the wedding on their website to get a rough estimate on how much you would pay for the wedding.
- You can have your wedding and your honeymoon in the same location, hence the name Weddingmoon.
I showed Chris the site and we went through it together and he was game. He had been wanting to travel and wanted to give me what I wanted a beach wedding since he knew that was my only request. That was settled. We contacted Sandals to book our wedding. From this point on I will go through our entire process, so make sure to take notes.
Initially, we wanted to get married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica but picked Negril because it was closer to the airport, so people could get there easily.
“A note to keep in mind, even though the wedding is about the two of you, you will end up thinking about others needs as well. Just make sure you don’t compromise all your wishes to appease others because it is still your day and you don’t want regrets.”
Now back to the story. You are congratulated by a customer service representative over the phone and then advised that you will be assigned a wedding planner who will reach out to you. We paid our deposit of $400 and watched our email for a message from our wedding planner. She did reach out to us pretty quickly and to say the least we were not prepared. The call started with congratulations and asking us why we chose the location we did. Asking us about each other, you know the “getting to know you” stage. And then she started in asking us how many people, what do we want the ceremony to look like, etc. We felt like we had wasted our time on the first call because we had very little information to provide her. She said it was okay and that it happened all the time, but this is where the advice starts.
- Come to your first call prepared with details of what you want.
The reason I say this is because these wedding planners are busy and your next appointment may not be for 2 weeks. The planners are on Eastern Standard Time and if you are on the West Coast and work full time it can be difficult finding time to take a call. Our second call went a lot better. I sent her pictures of the arch we wanted and the chair set up. I even sent pictures of how we wanted the table to look. We gave her a head count of how many people would be at the wedding and she advised us of cost and sent us our first estimate. Here is my second piece of advice.
2. Keep all copies of invoices
The invoices provide a detail description of everything that you requested for your wedding. You will need to pay attention to this because your wedding planner may be so busy that she has old information on the new invoice that she sent you that should change the cost.
I was strict about sticking to our budget because I didn’t want us to be broke after we were married.I kept hearing my dad’s voice “You have to be able to live after the wedding”. He is right. You don’t want to have to deal with a pile of debt after you get married. Now back to the invoices. We communicated via email for everything because it became too difficult to call and to call when it was convenient for us to ask a quick question never worked out. She was always on the phone or away from her desk. We continued with emails. Oh, the many many emails that we sent. Leading to…
3. Create a folder in your inbox for your wedding planner’s emails
You will get so many emails if you don’t have a separate email account specifically for your wedding then creating a folder is the next best thing. We had to search our email many times to find the last thing she said to us to make sure our changes took place. Even though she is helping to organize everything, it helps if you are organized as well. There were a couple of times we had to quote previous emails. You don’t have control of a lot, so this small thing is something that you can control. You are trusting that this person will get it right for the resort to have everything set up when you get there. And now we go to
4. Follow up, follow up, follow up
As we got closer to the wedding we actually heard from our wedding planner less, which had us concerned because we didn’t know what was supposed to happen when we got to the resort. For example, we selected cupcakes, but we never selected flavors. Were we just getting vanilla cupcakes? Who do we talk to about where we will be standing the time of the wedding? These were just a few of the questions that we had. We had to track her down to get some answers because it had been an ENTIRE month since we heard from her and we were weeks away from getting married.
When we finally got ahold of her we went over some last minute changes and she advised us that we would meet a wedding coordinator when we got to the resort who will walk us through the venue and what we selected. She did start following up when it was time to pay the final bill. We found that convenient. We understood the final payment had to be made before we arrived, but we had changes that we couldn’t control and needed to get them the final headcount which kept changing. These changes affected how many tables we needed and chairs. These things changed our final cost. It was stressful because they kept changing almost up until we had to leave. Leading to
5. Be patient, calm and communicate with your guests
You may think this is easy, but the one thing that I remember my mother saying is that “People really show you who they are at weddings and funerals”. We had some falling outs with friends who we thought would be there for us and some unexpected surprises along the way that changed people’s plans and we had to roll with it. My advice is to let people know early that you are having a destination wedding and get the RSVPs out ASAP. AVOID sending pictured saved the dates magnets with your engagement photo on them. We thought people would be reminded of the event and our website (which we worked hard on) that had all the information about the wedding. We still had people ask, do you guys have a website? We just got used to saying it was on the “save the date”. You will have guests ask why you couldn’t have it where THEY would be able to make it. Just interpret that as follows, they want to be able to share your special day and hate that they can’t make it. There’s no need to get defensive and say that it’s your wedding and we’re having it where we want to have it. The people who were meant to be there will be there. People who really want to be there will find a way. My best friend and matron of honor was preggers and was advised that she couldn’t travel for the wedding because she would be due that month. You better believe she was still trying to find a way to come, lol. Things happen and for that reason, it’s important that you check in with your guest to see if they are for sure coming and makes sure it’s clear if plus ones are allowed. Otherwise, people will just assume they can invite someone else and not even consider that you have to pay for this additional person. Then, you’ll end up being the bad guy to them if you have to tell them you can’t accommodate. I know it seems weird that it’s your day, but like I said, in the beginning, you will think of others when planning. Stay tuned next week for the rest of my advice.