Special Edition: Selecting a Venue

April 20, 2016

Boy did I hate this part of the wedding planning. Especially, since I had to-do it all by email since I’m planning a destination wedding. I was between Cancun and Punta Cana. My fiancé and I were devided on this one. I wanted Cancun and he wanted Punta Cana. Luckily, we agreed that price would be the deciding factor.

I started with the easy part, I did my research, read reviews and narrowed down the hotels I wanted to reach out to. A lot of places had pricing information online, but it wasn’t enough. I still had several questions. I sent out my long emails. I tried to be as clear, thorough, and direct as possible. Even so, most places never answered all my questions. When they did, it usually resulted in more questions. There was a lot of back and forth.

The hotels are smart. They catch you with words like “get married for free” or get married for something crazy like $1,500. What you don’t realize until you read the fine print and ask questions is that they’re probably only talking about a 30-minute symbolic ceremony for like 10 guests. I think it’s fair to say that the published pricing on their websites sometimes doubled or tripled with all the hidden fees like, cost per extra hour, cost per extra person(s), private versus semi private, fee for wanting a gazebo or certain locations, etc.

I’m sure I was everyone’s worst nightmare with my million questions and my long emails, but I don’t care. As a bride paying for her own wedding, I needed to know everything and avoid unexpected or hidden costs. In fact, if they would have been more straightforward, I probably wouldn’t have had so many questions. That technically makes them partially accountable for their own inconvenience. Surprise, surprise, I even had a fancy spreadsheet comparing all the packages. I dissected those wedding packages and made sure I understood them and got everything in writing.  It’s a good thing I did, because as a result, I learned that in Cancun you must both take a blood test to get legally married there. I wasn’t comfortable with that. I recommend sticking to a symbolic ceremony if you’re doing a destination wedding, so you can save on filing costs and avoid the hassle of dealing with their court systems. Also, don’t expect to negotiate much with any of these venues. They are pretty much set in their pricing.

If you take anything away from this blog post, it’s to be thorough, understand what you’re buying, and get everything in writing. Just because I looked at way too many hotels and will spare you ALL the details, here are my top 3 and worst 3.

Top 3 

  1. Breathless Punta Cana Resort and Spa. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s an adult’s only resort, we probably would have picked this one. It had nighttime pool parties, a DJ booth on the beach, and singles nights for the single guests. It was a party resort. For those of you that know us, you know this is right up our ally. Unfortunately, we have a few kids in the wedding party, so this wasn’t an option.
  1. Paradisus Cancun. The communication was great, the resort was nice, and they had the perfect little gazebo on the grass overlooking the beach, but it was too expensive. Otherwise, this would have been a viable option
  1. Majestic Elegance Punta Cana. Reviews were fantastic, resort was nice, rooms were clean and remodeled, and customer service and communication were good. Prices were fair and they offer incentives for the bride and groom if their guests book 15 rooms for 7 nights or 105 total room nights via the same booking source.

Worst 3 (Blacklisted) 

  1. Now Larimar Punta Cana. This place refused to give me a final estimate based on the information I gave her until I signed a contract. As if! Who in their right mind would blindly sign a contract committing to a wedding without reassurance that they have a correct estimate of the costs? Not this girl!
  1. Iberostar Cancun. This broke my heart because I felt like his was THE place as soon as I saw it online. I was certain this was where we would get married. However, the wedding coordinators communication was the absolute worst, she took weeks to reply to me. She never answered all my questions. She always replied with questions for me that I already answered, so she clearly wasn’t reading my emails. To make things worse, her quotes were always inconsistent and higher than the last. It wasn’t worth it to me. I know I would have spent the whole year stressed out chasing her down for confirmations and making sure she was booking the right things for my wedding. I would have been in a state of panic afraid my wedding would turn out disastrous.
  1. Melia Punta Cana. My only complaint here was that it was way too expensive. My quote reached about $23k. If I wanted to spend that much on a wedding, I would have chosen to get married in Miami.

My ultimate A-List? Drum role please…….

Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana! Now that I’ve picked a venue, I’ll let you know how everything else goes. Now its time to book all the vendors, so more to follow