Planning a Destination Wedding
When my fiancé and I decided to have our Wedding in Mexico, he immediately thought it would cost more and be more stressful. We quickly discovered that neither of those were the case.
I compared my end price with one of my co-workers who had just gotten married two years prior. Her wedding was a church wedding in our hometown with about 100 guests. Her total cost (without her honeymoon) was $6,000 more than my wedding including our room for 10 nights.
There are many aspects to planning a destination wedding. You've got everything a wedding at home has, as well as the fact that you and your guests will need to travel to get to your wedding. This doesn't have to be an overwhelming task. And, though the wedding coordinators do the majority of the work, there are still many decisions to be made to make your wedding personal to you.
When a destination wedding is in the works, many times clients book their wedding sight unseen and only see pictures of the venue. We started researching different resorts, but we already had one particular resort in mind since we knew someone that had just gotten married there.
When looking for resorts, there are some things to look for with the wedding packages. The first question is, who is coming to the wedding? Are kids going to come? For me, this answer was yes since our son would be 2. I figured anyone that would be willing to babysit would be coming to the wedding, so leaving him at home wasn't an option. So, I knew I had to choose a resort that allowed children.
I then broke it down to 3 main questions.
What all does the package include?
How much is it going to cost?
How much are the rooms for the guests?
Sandals was one of my top choices, specifically because...
Who wouldn't say yes to this?
This over the water chapel is located at: Sandals South Coast, Sandals Ochi, Sandals Grande St. Lucian, and Sandals Montego Bay.
My top choice here was Montego Bay specifically for the swim out rooms. While I know this isn't in Mexico, I knew that it was a popular option for couples, so I decided to look into it.
With a little more research, I discovered that children were not allowed at this resort and there was not a Beaches resort nearby for guests with kids to stay at. Beaches is family friendly, but they did not have the venue I was looking for.
I also thought that the price for the rooms was a bit steep. After knowing what I know now as a travel agent though, it's worth the price. But, I didn't know at the time, and ultimately I'm happy with the decision that I made.
What does a Sandals Wedding Include?
If you book for 3 nights or more, your wedding is free.
But what does that really mean?
Bouquet (fuchsia dendrobium orchids)
Preparation of marriage documents (I'll get into this in a sec)
15% off at the spa for the bride and groom
5x7 wedding photo
Pre-recorded musical accompaniment of your choice
White cushioned chairs for guests
Centerpiece for head table
Table setting at reception
Bride and Groom signature cocktail
Breakfast in bed with mimosa on any morning of your choice
Romantic Turndown service with flower petals on first evening of honeymoon
Honeymoon dinner with white-glove service in a specialty restaurant
This is the basic package. If you stay longer, you get more and also if you book 5 rooms or more, you get more stuff as well. You've also got the option to pay for extra perks like different chairs, different place settings, draping, more flowers. All the things.
What does the Sandals resort have to offer?
Let's go over what the resort has on its own.
This is an all-inclusive resort, but it's really ALL INCLUSIVE! All drinks, food, taxes, gratuities, airport transfers are included. Sandals also offers premium liquors, stocked bar in the room, scuba diving and equipment, paddleboards, kayaks, green fees at select resorts, and much more.
Test Drive Your Wedding
Sandals has something called Test Drive Your Wedding. Basically, you get to go to your destination of choice for up to three nights at a very discounted rate. You get to meet with the wedding coordinators, look at venues, menus, cake options, and wedding linens. You can also receive up to $1050 in credits when you book your wedding group of 5 rooms or more.
Preparation of Marriage Documents
If you are getting married in another country, there are things that you need to do in order to be legally married at this ceremony.
Jamaica: You'll need to obtain a marriage license from Jamaica. You also need to be in the country for 24 hours before the ceremony is performed. You'll need to contact the Registrar General's Department about two weeks before the wedding with:
Both parties’ birth certificates which must include the father’s name or information substantiating same
Official photo identification such as a passport or driver’s license
Occupations of bride and groom
If either party was married before, certified final divorce papers or death certificate of deceased spouse
The relevant fees
Once the ceremony is performed, the marriage officer will present the bride with the signed marriage license. With that document, an official marriage certificate can be obtained through the Registrar General’s Department online service at the Registrar General’s Office in Jamaica.
Mexico: (hold on for this one) --This is for Cancun-Riviera Maya, Mexico, as different Mexican states have different requirements.
Prenuptial blood tests must be done locally in Mexico. Results of the tests should be in Spanish and done within a certain time frame of the marriage application.
4 witnesses, 2 for each applicant
Have your birth certificates legally translated into Spanish on a certified copy and notarized with the Apostille Seal
Medical Certificate for the couple
This is why, many clients choose to do what is called a Symbolic Ceremony. This is a ceremony, like any other wedding ceremony. Exchanging of vows, rings, everything. You just won't sign your actual marriage license here.
What most people do is sign the marriage license at home with someone who is ordained, or even hold another small ceremony with family who can't make your wedding.
So, What Did I Go With?
While Sandals was definitely an appealing option, I went with TRS Yucatan Hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico. One of my dad's friends got married here, so it intrigued me to look into it. In 2019 we went to TRS Coral Hotel for a week-long vacation and fell in love with the brand. This is also where we got our first taste of a swim out room. We decided we needed to try out all of the TRS Hotels.
TRS Yucatan is adults only, however, it sits directly next to, and is connected to, three Grand Palladium Resorts: White Sand, Colonial, and Kantenah Resort and Spa. This means, four resorts in one! The Grand Palladium resorts cannot access the TRS side of the resort unless they purchase a day pass.
BUT, this meant that I could have an adults only stay while still having my son there. (He stayed with my grandparents at White Sand). The price per room for the guests was significantly cheaper as well.
Weddings by Palladium
For all Palladium weddings, they do offer a free wedding as well. To qualify for the complimentary wedding you'll need to have a minimum of 12 rooms for a minimum of 4 nights at any Grand Palladium or TRS Hotel.
Palladium has something for every budget as well.
They have wedding packages starting at $890 for up to 10 guests. They also have packages designed by Karen Bussen that start at $2,690. You can also choose a Party Lovers Package which includes a private reception (one that includes a DJ). And you can always add on a Beach Bash package for $1,800.
Each wedding package includes:
Bouquet (depends on wedding package, or choose your own)
Private Check in
Room upgrade (subject to availability)
Ceremony Sound System
Champagne toast immediately after ceremony
Dinner reservation at one of the restaurants
Complimentary access to spa for bride and groom for their whole stay
Special turndown service
Breakfast in bed the morning after the wedding
Depending on the package you choose, you may have more included for your wedding.
Ultimately, what turned me on to this venue was the location of the wedding ceremony.
The beach gazebo. It's paved. Right next to the beach. So close that you think you're on the beach. I absolutely loved this location and knew this was the place.
What does the TRS Hotel have to offer?
The TRS Yucatan Hotel has many things that make it stand out. It is an all-inclusive resort.
You get butler service. Yes, you get your own butler to help with anything you may need such as dinner reservations, helping with in-room technology, luggage, restocking your mini fridge, and any other request you can think of. Kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle surfing. They have golf carts that whisk you around the enormous resorts. Adults only beach. Exclusive TRS restaurants.
TRS also has CHIC Cabaret. This is one of the best shows in Mexico! Currently it's $35 per person when staying at TRS and $100 per person when staying at Grand Palladium. This includes pre-show and post-show cocktails. This show is similar to a burlesque like show and is truly amazing!
We chose the Suite with Private Pool. It's huge! One of the biggest rooms on property aside from the Ambassador Suites. I really chose this room so our guests have somewhere to come party with us after dinner. And the space of this room will allow my bridesmaids and I to get ready comfortably.
My Wedding Day Preview
Palladium offers a wedding day preview, which is similar to the Sandals Test Drive Your Wedding. The cost was $550 for 2 nights for the couple to stay at TRS and $450 for 2 nights for the couple to stay at one of the Grand Palladium Resorts. We did add on a night since flight times were terrible. For this, we did have to pay full price for the room for the night, which was only about $350. WORTH IT! Plus, the $550 or $450 gets credited back toward your wedding.
We got to scope out the resort, meet with our coordinator, and test out different restaurants.
Check out the My Wedding Day Preview Blog for more details!
Once I chose my resort, I reached out via email to ask about available dates. I gave them a list of dates I had in mind. We chose to have our wedding during the summer since my fiancé's mom is a teacher and we have other family members still in college.
It did take a while for them to respond to me. However, I got on a few Facebook pages and apparently it is normal for slow responses, especially at the beginning stages. The resort does multiple weddings every day. But, in no time I had my date chosen and received information on different packages to choose from.
Before I was assigned a wedding coordinator, I put down a deposit of $300 for the wedding. Once the wedding coordinator was assigned to me, I was given even more details about packages and add ons. We also scheduled a phone call to go over some details.
I will say, the Facebook groups definitely help. There are other brides asking questions and giving reviews as well as posting pictures. Since I was doing the Wedding Day Preview, I didn't make any real decision until I was there, but I had notes and questions on the notes app on my phone prepared to ask away during our meeting.
Over the course of the year prior to the wedding we sent a lot of emails. Still kind of sporadic with the replies. So, each email you'll need to have all of your questions laid out.
Once we got to the 30 day mark, former brides on the Facebook page for weddings by palladium said you get more interaction. This was not true for us. I had to reach out with my “list of demands” as I like to call them (lol) But honestly, the staff can put a wedding together within 24 hours.
We had a late afternoon arrival and a catamaran planned the following day, so we did not get to meet with the wedding coordinator until the day before the wedding. Which turned out to be fine because everything was absolutely amazing!! I even changed our package at the last minute and they accommodated.
I heard nothing but good things from all of my guests about the venue, ceremony, reception, and dinners we planned with everyone.
I’ll post another blog about my review of the wedding and resort.