Prewedding Festivities Part 2

On Friday before the wedding we spent the day hanging with friends and family by the beach and the pool. We had a quick run through of the ceremony before meeting all of our guests at a cocktail hour on the terrace. Again, Sean’s uncle took lots of pictures that I am very thankful for. After the cocktail hour everyone went their separate ways for dinner. We went with a group of our friends to the French restaurant. After dinner we met up in the lobby for all of the girls to have henna done. I spent my last night before the wedding having a slumber party with Kristin and Annie. It was only fitting that after 30+ years of sleepovers with Kristin we have one the night before my wedding.

For more from our wedding see here and here.

Prewedding Festivities

These are a few of my favorite picture from the wedding festivities on Thursday night before the wedding. Sean’s uncle took a lot of the photos, and we were really grateful that he was able to capture a lot of the weekend events. Unfortunately due to the way the images were shared with us the quality of the images is not the best. However, in the years to come I will be thankful to look back on the great time everyone had with these pictures. We held a welcome dinner on the terrace of the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall on Thursday September 19. Dinner was a buffet of traditional Jamaican food. Following dinner a group from the wedding gathered in the piano bar for some fun. I love the picture from the piano bar, because there was a cute couple who offered to take the group photo. We followed this up with the silent disco by the pool.

For more on our destination wedding at Hyatt Zilara Montego Bay see this post.

Our Destination Wedding at Hyatt Ziva-Zilara Rose Hall – A Complete Review

Since we just celebrated our one year anniversary, I thought it was finally time to get busy posting all the deets from our wedding last year. We were married on September 21st at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Overall I have to say it was an absolutely wonderful experience. We had 71 guests in attendance and from what we have heard since then everyone loved the resort.

A few notes on wedding planning, if you read this post, you know that wedding planning was not my jam. I honestly did not care about most of the details and was frankly kind of annoyed by all of it. I was knee deep in MBA school, working full time, and mostly just wanted to have a good time with my people in paradise. We selected the resort and began the planning process in the fall of the previous year.

Once we had finalized the decision on the location, we started to spread the word to friends and family by word of mouth. We sent out save the dates in early January. By the time everything was settled it was nearly Christmas, so we decided to hold off until the holiday rush was over. This allowed nine months for people to plan their trips. Keep in mind that the more notice that you give your guests the more likely they will be able to come. A last minute trip to Jamaica isn’t in many peoples budget or their work schedule.

As soon as we had locked in the dates at the resort and the rooms I began emailing with a wedding coordinator from the resort. We were initially assigned one coordinator, but through her correspondence she just seemed like a hot mess. For example, I had told her that we were going with a mostly white theme, and she sent back an email on purple and burgundy EVERYTHING. So I asked the resort for a new coordinator and they were happy to do so. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and also sent her some pictures I found on Pinterest and she worked really well from that. For the most part she was terrific!!

The only negative I encountered with her throughout the entire process was that she was constantly trying to upsell me on something. I had been pretty clear about our budget and also clear on what I was and wasn’t willing to pay extra for. But every. single. time. I talked to her she was wanting me to buy something else. The resort nickel and dimed us to death and it was frankly really annoying. My only true bridezilla moment was when I lost it on her one day telling her I was not buying another f***** thing because enough was enough. My guess is she works on some type of commission basis so I understand, but it still really got to me.

The way that the wedding works is that you book a package that includes a certain number of guests, hair and makeup for the bride, flowers for the bride and groom, the officiant, a small cake and a few other things that I don’t remember because they honestly weren’t important. Each additional guest over the number in the package is an additional cost per person. That I totally understand due to food, drinks, setup, and servers. There is no decor included, no DJ included, no photography included, just the basics. They are very clear about that up front. But y’all everything is so ridiculously overpriced after the initial package fee. They assume you will not lug suitcases worth of wedding decor to a foreign country so you will pay what they ask.

I HATE negotiating prices with people, some people think it’s fun, I do not. When I told her that I simply would not pay what they were asking for the flowers they were suddenly 40% cheaper. They use an outside vendor which she was apparently able to negotiate with. Because I do not enjoy haggling I’m not sure what else could have been a negotiable price. Much of the decor the resort provides seemed to be non-negotiable prices. $500 dollars per strand to hang lights over the deck…the resort already owned the lights and there are hooks mounted already (the same strand of lights is $45 dollars on Amazon), $1000 dollars to lay a wooden dance floor out in the sand… I know all resorts can be this way, but this seemed really extreme. If I said I would pay for four strings of lights, she wanted me to know six would look better, I agreed to pay for the dance floor and she wanted me to consider the $3000 dollar light up option, I paid for a steel drum band and a DJ, she wanted me to hire an emcee as well. We decided to use a local photographer rather than the one from the resort; it was $1250 dollars for her to step foot onto the resort property (not including what we paid her, plus I still had to pay for her meal although the resort had done NOTHING to actually earn the money). The speakers were included for the wedding ceremony, but if you wanted to play music you had to bring your own auxiliary cable, why not offer the $10 cable too as this is something someone could easily forget (we did and wound up scrambling to find one and what do you know the resort was able to offer us one to use). All of our welcome bags were delivered directly to guests rooms, a nice touch but there’s a charge for that and the resort was “unable” to hand them out at the check in desk like you often see at hotels for weddings.

The upselling and nickel and diming was honestly the absolute worst part. Truly this was the only actual negative that we experienced through the entire process. This is the only wedding I have ever planned, but I hear that it is quite common so this may speak more to planning a wedding than to the actual resort. That aside, I did enjoy working with her, she was really good at her job, and kept everything well organized the day of the wedding.

We arrived on Wednesday, and the wedding was held on Saturday at sunset. It was such a whirlwind that I feel like we didn’t get to experience as much of the resort as we would have liked, but that its very typical with a wedding I guess.

Upon arrival to the airport in Montego Bay, we were actually able to check in to the resort at the airport after clearing through customs. This was a really great option as we didn’t have to do anything except pick up room keys when we got to the resort. (We were able to make a donation to a charity to receive a bracelet that worked as our room key, I would highly suggest this option if you are offered). We found out at check in that our room had been upgraded to a butler suite, which we were beyond pumped about. We took a bus that the travel agent had arranged from the airport to the resort, we waited about twenty minutes for the bus to partially fill up, and then it was about 15-20 minutes before we were dropped off. Also, as a result of the airport check in, our wedding coordinator was waiting to greet us at the front entrance when we arrived which was a nice touch.

After getting to our room we were blown away. We had a gorgeous view of the ocean and the resort. We were greeted by our private butler who provided us a cell phone to use to contact the butler service 24 hours a day. Our room was HUGE and it was so amazing to have the extra space to spread out since we had brought all. the. things. The service that we received from the butlers during our stay was amazing. They were willing to help with anything, and it was so convenient during the weekend events. They also got to know our taste and our routine QUICKLY and kept showing up at the perfect time with wine. What’s not to like about that?

Wednesday night we were supposed to have a private couples dinner on the beach that the wedding coordinator had arranged as part of our wedding package. After arriving and realizing that family and friends were ready to get the celebration started we canceled the private dinner. I’m glad we did as this ended up being our only free night at the resort outside of wedding events.

Thursday morning we had a couples massage in the resort spa that was also part of the wedding package. The spa was really nice, and it was nice to have the time to relax before the weekend got crazy. It was a great massage, but again with the upselling. It was so strange once the massage was over the masseuse walked me backed to the changing room and then she reappeared with a bunch of crap she wanted to sell me. The same thing happened to Sean in the men’s locker room. If anyone from Hyatt is reading this (I’m aware they probably are not)…it’s not a good look for you to have your employees pedaling trinkets in a high end resort atmosphere you worked hard to achieve.

Thursday night we had welcome dinner for all of our guests on the terrace. The dinner was supposed to be in one of the outdoor venues but was moved to the terrace at the last minute due to the threat of rain. The resort was pretty good at making last minute adjustments for weather throughout the weekend. They have a policy that you need to make the call several hours ahead of time so that it allows them time to set up, which is completely understandable. For all of the outdoor events they plan, they keep an indoor location as a backup so you’re not totally screwed which I really appreciated. If you’re someone who would like an outdoor event, but doesn’t want the stress of dealing with the weather I would highly recommend the terrace. It is completely covered but still outdoors and still has beautiful views of the ocean. Following the dinner a big group of us made our way to the silent disco by the pool. It was so funny and so much fun! The resort had plenty of events like this planned, and I wish we had been able to take more advantage of them.

Both Thursday and Friday we spent the day hanging out by the pool and the beach with friends and family. To me this one honestly one of the best parts of having a destination wedding. We actually got to see people and spend time with them. Although at times it seemed like we were constantly being pulled in one direction or another to be with friends, family, the wedding coordinator etc. it was really great to have the time during the day just to spend time with everyone who had traveled to be there with us. As a random side note, the adult pool had events and loud music ALL DAY. Some of it was fun, some of it was over the top. The kids pool was actually much quieter if you’re looking to avoid the bubble party and the random dance offs, stick with the beach or the kids pool. (Same goes for the rooms, we faced out to the family pool and never heard anything.) We ate lunch at the Jerk Hut on the beach both days because it was just that good! As we sat by the beach drinking and eating, different groups of friends and family passed by giving us even more opportunity to catch up with loved ones. If you’re considering a destination wedding THIS would be the reason I say go for it. You’re in paradise, no one has to worry about the cooking or cleaning, and there is always someone there with a refill for your drink, leaving everyone in a much more relaxed state of mind to just enjoy the company of your favorite people.

Friday evening we did a quick run through of the ceremony with the coordinator. Our ceremony was held on the rooftop sky lounge. We chose this location because of its privacy. Most of the outdoor venues available at the resort will still have people passing by, or the be visible from the balconies of the guest rooms. The sky lounge is on the roof of the Ziva side of the resort and was only open to our wedding guest. The view was beautiful and the glass railing allows for an unobstructed view of the ocean. We opted not to have a wedding party so the rehearsal was super quick.

After the rehearsal we met up with all of our guests for a cocktail hour on the terrace. We opted for a cocktail hour only, instead of a dinner because there are so many restaurants at the resort we wanted everyone to have the chance to get out and try the places they wanted, rather than eating what we had chosen for them for diner. I think it worked out well. It gave us a chance to get everyone together and visit but still left our guests with a little free time to enjoy the resort to themselves. I mentioned earlier that we had 71 guests, with this many people it simply was not possible to get everyone together in any of the resort restaurants so it required a private event to gather the group. With a smaller group I think you could certainly choose a restaurant and have everyone meet for dinner. After the cocktail hour, the different family and friend groups went their separate ways each choosing a restaurant. We were able to go with a group of our friends to the French restaurant, which we enjoyed.

We closed out Friday evening with a henna celebration in the hotel lobby. All of the ladies in attendance were invited to have henna done on their hands. A few of the guys even joined in too.

I’m planning to do a separate post with the pictures from all of Thursday and Friday’s events as well as a full post on our wedding day, so stay tuned.

Planning a Destination Wedding

Time for a little wedding update. So remember when I told you that we were getting married I said that wedding planning was not my jam so we were having a destination wedding. With just under two months until the big day I can happily report that wedding planning is still not my thing.

wedding dress shopping

hyatt ziva zilara montego bay

We are getting marring at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We picked this resort for a few reasons: 1) I was in an absolute tizzy and the travel agent said it was a nice place, 2) my dad said he wouldn’t come if we got married in Mexico and I didn’t want to start a fight, and 3) his mom said anywhere was better than where I originally wanted it. [Wedding planning is so fun.]

All kidding aside, those are all real, but not why we actually went with the resort. For one thing the resort is kind of a two in one with a family friendly side and an adults only side. We thought this would be ideal for any of our family or friends who didn’t want to travel internationally and leave kiddos behind, but still give us the option to have the adults only feel. We have a lot of people with dietary restrictions who will be attending, and this resort unlike some others in the Caribbean (so we have been told, not speaking from actual experience) is able to accommodate them all very well. I have not been to that many all inclusive spots, but many of them cater specifically to people traveling as couples, we wanted to avoid that, as we wanted ALL of our guests to feel welcome. And finally the place seems like they know how to do a wedding. They are set up to be able to accommodate multiple weddings per day, and as someone who is not AT ALL into the details, they seem like they can handle it.

As of right now, we have 71 ticketed and confirmed guest, which I am blown away by! People are traveling from as far away as Nairobi, Kenya to be there and I am still in disbelief. My dress is ready to go, his suit is ready to go, all the big stuff is done! And I am ready to pull my hair out with the little details. How do people get so into this stuff?

I found these images to use as inspiration for our decor that I sent to our wedding coordinator and then kind of left it up to her. Have I mentioned that I am not into wedding planning?

tropical decor wedding inspiration

destination wedding decor inspiration

palm wedding decor

tropical palm wedding decor

palm wedding decor inspiration

monstera palm wedding decor

A few tips from my observations thus far:

  • We have never actually been to this resort (never even been to Jamaica for that matter) if this stresses you out leave yourself PLENTY of time to visit the resort, change your mind, and then visit another resort.
  • I will not have a “trial run” with my hair and make-up. I will have it done at the spa at the resort. I’m fine with this, as worst case scenario I will wash it off and do it myself. If you are not fine with this consider another plan.
  • I have seen two maybe three pictures of the different venues where we will host events. I assume they know what works best in terms of layout and design if you can’t trust that they know what to do – go visit so that you will know yourself.
  • Much of the coordination has been done by email. People are on island time. Your email is unlikely to be answered today, or maybe even tomorrow.
  • The wedding planner is more than happy to call you but you may have to ask them to do so. In my experience she has understood much more what I am asking for via phone, or things get overlooked in the email conversations.
  • The resort will literally try to sell you everything under the sun because you NEED this at your wedding. You do not NEED dancing elephants at your wedding. Stay strong. Although you may be upfront with the resort in telling them you do not want ALL THE THINGS, they will likely still try.
  • The prices for everything will be more than you are expecting. From planning other events I know resort fees can be steep, but these seem somewhat outrageous in comparison. While the resort will prepare a nice package for the wedding EVERYTHING else will have an additional fee. They know you cannot put a dance floor in your checked luggage therefore you will pay.
  • If you choose not to use the resorts vendors you will pay an additional fee to use someone else who is charging a more reasonable price, in most cases making it no longer cost effective to use the alternate vendor (you may still come out ahead using a local vendor since they are aware of these resort fees and charge competitive rates – we found this to be true with our photographer)
  • That being said the price of *almost* everything has been negotiable. Some people enjoy the thrill of haggling. I do not. I find it infuriating.
  • I found a Facebook group of brides who have or are planning to get married at this resort or its sister resort in Mexico. The group has been tremendously helpful!

Overall our experience with the resort so far has been positive and we cannot wait to be in Jamaica with our friends and family! In talking to friends who had traditional or similar nontraditional weddings everything that I have mentioned is sort of to be expected. And in general it seems that there is no “winning” with wedding planning. Someone will have something to say about whatever you choose to do, no matter what. So do you girl and keep it moving has been my motto. Happy weekend y’all!

For more on our destination wedding at Hyatt Ziva/Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica see this post.