A few months after getting engaged in Paris, Asia and I started planning for what we thought would be a wedding in Houston. Plans quickly changed when we realized that weddings in the states run upwards of $15K. That was not at all in our budget. Like many we didn’t want to go into debt just for a wedding (student debt is quite enough). With all this in mind, we decided it was time to start planning a destination wedding. Our first choices were between Jamaica and Costa Rica. Costa Rica turned out to be a little out of price range for our guests so we had to throw it out. When we contacted the resort we wanted to stay at in Jamaica, we were really sad to find out they because the country does not support gay marriage, we could not legally get married there. So we landed on Mexico, while not our first choice, it worked for us because we could have the ceremony we wanted and worked for our guests because it was an affordable place to travel to and stay in.
HOW WE CHOSE THE HOTEL:
Once we settled on Cancun, we found the perfect resort to suit our needs. It can be really difficult to choose a hotel being that there are so many options out there so we tend to gravitate to certain websites for help. First, we love to use Cheap Caribbean to search for all inclusive resorts. It gives information on a huge selection of hotels, their room options, and their restaurant choice. After finding a few resorts we love, we turn to TripAdvisor, which gives honest customer reviews as well as customer photos. This is how we weed out certain resorts based on the particulars we are looking for. While planning our destination wedding, we were looking in depth at hotels that would provide credits or the ceremony/reception for free based on the number of guests you bring with your party. Which brings me to the point of this blog. How did we pull off a destination wedding and a two week trip in Europe. HOTEL CREDITS!! You see, most people see destination weddings as exotic, expensive or best as a small/quaint option. That is absolutely not the case. There are so many ways to customize your destination wedding based on your dreams.
RESORT CREDITS AND FREEBEES:
The hotel we chose gave credits for each room we booked through our wedding party (shhh don’t tell our family). Credits included a free ceremony with at least 10 rooms booked, plus additional credits towards our stay, reception, “anniversary” brunch in bed and decorations for the reception. We had a total of 50 guests book and pay in full for the wedding which meant that we ended up with 5 nights comped for an upgraded room, a free ceremony, and a bit of money to go towards the food, decorations, and music for the reception. Now, don’t think we are horrible people and took advantage of our guests… that wasn’t the case at all! Our guests had a minimum of 3 night stay at an all inclusive resort at a very discounted rate. But, we advise you don’t tell your guests what you are receiving in return for their stay… some may not take too kindly to the information.
We stayed at the Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun and it was everything we could have ever dreamed of. Family gifts made up the rest of the money needed for our wedding so we wanted for nothing (other than the flights and dresses). Not seeing the venue prior to 3 days before the wedding was a little scary, but when you are having a beach wedding what could possibly go wrong? We’ll get to that later.
FLIGHTS AND TRANSFERS:
Booking flights for everyone was a bit of a hassle. We had two separate groups of guests, one traveling from Houston and the other traveling from Detroit. What made the flights difficult to book is that everyone had different dates for the resort stay, and different budgets to keep in mind. We used a couple different sites to find the best deals for everyone. The main app we encouraged everyone to use was Hopper. If you’ve never heard of it before, check it out. It’s an app that if given a specific set of dates and destinations will tell you when the best time to book is based on the lowest possible airfare it can find. The only catch is that it does not include a couple of the airlines including Southwest and Delta so we had to search those sites separately. Our largest party ended up flying United (Houston is one of the hubs so the flight was quick and nonstop). Most others flew Spirit or Delta.
Our travel party with consisted of 14 members of my family (wayy too large of a group, I know) but they surprised us with these cute little pride shirts because we were traveling in June (Pride Month) after all. If you have flight anxiety, I wouldn’t recommend flying with this many people because there was a lot of anxiety and irritation amongst our ranks. As I mentioned, the flight was super quick and we took the very first flight out so the line at customs wasn’t horrible. Just an fyi, we flew in on a Wednesday which meant the airport wasn’t super busy. On Thursday and Friday that is a totally different story – especially if you fly in midday. That’s when literally everyone else in the world is arriving in Cancun as well so expect customs lines to be very backed up. We booked transfers to the hotel ahead of time which save a decent amount of confusion and time. As everyone collected their baggage, we found our ride and took the short 30min trip to the Cancun area.
SPECIAL TREATMENT AND MEETINGS:
When we reached the resort Asia and I were whisked off to a private check in process where we were given drinks and a cool towel to start, our schedule for the week, and met our wedding coordinator that we had been emailing for 9 months leading up to the big day! Every wedding is given a specific coordinator and wedding builder website to customize all of your perfect day needs. We were able to have a couple phone conversations with our coordinator prior to the trip albeit it was very hard to hold the conversation because the connection never seemed to be good. We weren’t too worried about this though, I must say it was really nice to leave the planning in someone else’s hands…not having to worry about linens and plate settings.
We were then escorted to our suite (ours was the first available out of the group since we were the star guests after all) along with our baggage and given some time to explore before meeting back up with the family for breakfast. We wanted our wedding to have a few traditional aspects (even though nothing about us screams traditional) so along with our DIY invitations we also created small itineraries for each of our guest over their three day stay with us. The itineraries included information about the ceremony, breakfasts, and rehearsal dinner. At our first breakfast, we gave everyone their trip itineraries before changing straight into our bathing suits and heading for the pool.
THE UNEXPECTED UPGRADE:
Most of our guests stayed in the base level room, but some upgraded because they made this a vacation and stayed for 7nights. With our room credits, we were also able to upgrade our room to have a swim out pool in the adult only section. We also had a cute little jacuzzi tub right inside the room with a view of the pool. Fortunately and unfortunately, we did not stay long in this room. In fact, we only stayed one night. Turns out, we had turned our air conditioning down a little two low and in the process created some condensation and a leak that could not be fixed. Luckily for us, the only other room available was the honeymoon suite. We were offered it either for the night (with the promise of returning to our original room) or for the remainder of our stay. Well, as you can imagine, we stayed for the remainder. The wrap around balcony with ocean view was enough to keep us there permanently. Moral of the story is, don’t hesitate to contact someone in charge if there is a problem with your room…they will do anything they can to make your stay the best possible.
THE PERFECT WEDDING DAY:
The two days leading up to the wedding felt like a blur because they were filled with meetings with our coordinators and wedding planners as well as greeting guests and dealing with a number of flight and airport transfer problems with arriving parties. We had to change our original venue for the ceremony and reception because unfortunately for the time of year we went the seaweed deposit was really high on the beach and made for a rather unpleasant smell. While it was all a bit stressful, we were in great hands regarding the entire staff at the resort as well as our travel agent handling the rest of the travel groups. Minus a maid of honor not making on time for the actually ceremony, there weren’t any huge hiccups. All we could do was smile through it, we were in paradise after all.
June 6, 2019 was the absolute perfect day. The resort staff handled the wedding without a single hitch and we couldn’t have been happier. What’s even better is we chose to go the nontraditional route for a wedding registry and picked a website to help with a “honeypot”. So rather than get gifts we really didn’t need (because we live in a 1bd apt) family and friends were able to buy us experiences that we had planned and chosen for our honeymoon. Traveler’s Joy made it super easy for anyone who wanted to give as much or as little money as they pleased to go directly to our honeymoon fund. The money was deposited directly into our account with a small fee paid by either the receiver or giver(your choice) and that helped fund the majority of the experiences we had on our honeymoon. We stayed at the resort for 5nights total and two days after the wedding left for our dream honeymoon through Amsterdam and Italy.
Comment with any questions you have regarding our planning, our choice in destination, and how we put it all together!! If you are needing help planning your destination wedding, head over to our Travel Inquiries page… we can help!