Christy & Jared
November 7th, 2023
Christy reached out to me after trying to figure out all of the planning on her own – when she quickly realized a destination wedding is nothing like planning a regular vacation. I had a the pleasure of assisting this sweet couple and their families with many varying ages, and needs. I got to sit down and talk with Christy about how everything went!
Q & A WITH CHRISTY AND JARED
- What was your biggest fear when planning your destination wedding?
We had 2 primary fears when starting to plan our destination wedding. First, we were concerned that we were placing a huge burden on our loved ones and they would not be able to travel to our wedding. We knew it was a big ask for friends and family to travel to another country to be part of our day. Not just the cost, but also taking time off from work, leaving kids, health concerns, etc.
Our second concern was whether the weather be on our side when we picked a date still considered part of “hurricane season?” We fell in love with the idea of a beachfront wedding knew we’d be disappointed if we were moved inside to a ballroom. Also, what would our guests think if they traveled to Mexico and it was rainy the whole trip? Luckily, it only rained when everyone arrived and the rest of the time was beautiful!
- Why did you choose Dreams Natura? What were some of the deciding factors?
We made a list of parameters that were important to us…
- Cost of wedding packages and what they included.
- Costs for guests, We wanted to stay around $2000/person for flight, 5 day hotel stay, and transfers
- Location: we were looking for a location where there were non-stop flight options and close to the airport
- Size of resort: We didn’t want something too large
- Activities for kids: We had 5 kids attending (ages 7-14) and wanted them to have a fun trip.
- Quality of food and service
- Availability for week we selected and venues at the resort for wedding.
Once we had those, we looked online for some ideas. What really helped us was talking to Melissa. Melissa made a number of recommendations for destinations that fit all or most of our criteria and shared the names of resorts. Once she checked availability and shared details on the wedding packages, we narrowed it down to 3 Dreams brand resorts near Cancun Mexico. We ultimately picked Natura because they had great options for outdoor wedding locations, waterslides and activities for the kids, proximity to the airport, and a compact layout. We knew the beach wasn’t a great swimming beach, but they had so many other things that fit our list.
- Was there anything about having a destination wedding that you were surprised by?
I was surprised that all the planning is done in the last month before the wedding, including learning the cost of wedding. The brochures have all of the packages and inclusions, but they contract you sign with the resort doesn’t include available extras such as the DJ, flowers, décor, and more. I’m a planner by nature, so that was challenging for me. I used resources found on Facebook groups that had a budget planner for Dreams Natura. The document had all the upgrade options and associated costs. Unfortunately, Dreams changes prices from when that was shared to when I first met with my wedding coordinator. The upgrades I was planning to request were a few thousand more than what I anticipated so we needed to prioritize to stay within our planned budget.
- What was your experience with the on-site wedding coordinator?
Our on-site coordinator, Fernanda, was AMAZING! We had our first meeting 45 days before our wedding and it was a 30 minute video call. She walked me though the process, which centers around a 15-page form that lists all the details of our wedding and a budget spreadsheet. She walked us through how to complete it and timelines for completing it. During the calls, she offered us many different upgrades, but was never too pushy and never made us feel that if we declined something that our wedding would not be beautiful. She asked for inspiration photos/color palette which helped her make suggestions.
As many of the upgrades available would put us over our budget, we gave her a few that we wanted to but then gave her some discretion to pick items for us as long as she was respectful of our budget. It was difficult giving away control, but all of the photos from prior weddings looked beautiful so we trusted her. Because we trusted her and let her do her thing she even gave us a few extra décor items at no additional charge. She made every part of our wedding day look like a fairytale.
Once we got onsite at the resort, we had our final meeting, she explained how everything would go on the wedding day, and led a walking rehearsal. She was easy to reach by e-mail or What’s app if we had any questions. Two days before our wedding, our photographer suggested an earlier start time to get more daylight for photos. Fernanda made it all happen…contacting the officiant, musicians, servers, etc. to arrange the time change.
When there was a potential issue with our cocktail party location, she walked the resort and found my husband and I at the pool to go over her suggestions on a new location. Due to flight delays, a group was scheduled to be arriving and checking in at the resort at the same time and at an adjacent location to our welcome cocktail party. Fernanda proactively found an alternate option that would provide our group more privacy and gave us the options for us to decide.
- Was there anything you splurged on for this wedding? Would you do that again?
There is not anyone thing where we went significantly over budget. We splurged on lighting for our outdoor reception, flowers for the gazebo, and added an extra hour to the reception. They were all worth it!
- Any Vendors you loved and want to mention?
We loved working with Melissa from Vacations by Melissa! She was so helpful in suggesting locations, and reaching out to the locations for us when we were not getting timely responses. She was very responsive to our guests’ needs. When a relative inquired about wheel chair services, Melissa researched and provided vendor options for wheelchair rentals. We were able to secure a motorized scooter for the entire stay which was so helpful!
We chose an outside vendor for photography. If using the resort’s photography services, you did not get to select the photographer or see their portfolio in advance. Since photography was a big part of the budget and the tangible keepsakes of the day, I wanted to see my photographer’s style and portfolio. I chose Arakaki Photography based and was super happy working with Daniel. I loved the colors in his portfolio and he had experience working at our resort. We booked with him about 10 months before the wedding and had a video call a few weeks before our date. We received 60 sneak peek photos 1 week later and can’t wait to see the rest! I would highly recommend Arakaki Photography!
- What kind of feedback did you get from your guests?
Overall, our guests were very happy with the resort and their travel. Transportation was easy to find at the airport and on time for the return trip. The hotel check in process was relatively easy. Although they couldn’t accommodate all of our requests, most were very happy with their rooms. Service at the restaurants and poolside was great. Everyone enjoyed the evening entertainment at the resort. Most of all, everyone enjoyed everything about the wedding!
- If you could change anything about your wedding at all – what would it be?
The only thing I would change would be to consider using an outside vendor for hair and makeup. We were not happy with the services of the on-site salon. We chose to use them to avoid paying the outside vendor fee.
- In what ways did Vacations By Melissa make this less stressful for you?
On a number of occasions, Melissa reached out to the resort for me when I was having trouble getting responses to questions. She also kept me informed of our guests and booking information. She was always quick to respond to any questions. I also appreciated how she helped a relative secure a wheelchair for their stay so they could attend the wedding. She also suggested a second resort for a mini-honeymoon and we loved that location as well!
- What is your best piece of advice for couples entering the planning process?
A few things that helped our experience was to read reviews from prior brides on what they like best and least about their experience but stay open minded. Second, have a budget in mind and give the planner a little discretion to work within your budget. Third, no need to bring tons of décor with you if you like the location you selected. We traveled with 1 extra suitcase that contained contents for welcome bags and very minimal décor (cake topper, place cards, and table runners).