So sorry this has taken me so long. I – very selfishly – found it a little hard to come and visit the board after our wedding. It all went by so fast and was so wonderful, it bummed me out that it was over. I was a little jealous of you bride's still planning! But, alas, now that the honeymoon has been taken, thank you notes have been sent and pictures have been received, we're finally settling back into reality.
Word to the wise - brides, do not stress out once you get to Vegas. Sure there's gonna be last minute details and maybe even some changes or surprises, but most of the work is done and you're there to get married to your best friend and person you love. Matt, the hubs, and I made sure to take time out every day we were in Vegas to spend time alone. We didn't have too many scheduled events with family and friends, but everyone did want to hang out and see us pretty much every day we were there. So, what we did was order room service for breakfast, or hit the black jack tables at a small casino off the strip for a while, or even just go to a bar before dinner to sip on a cocktail, just the two of us. This allowed us to really take everything in and share our thoughts on how everything was going and laugh at all the ridiculousness that inevitably ensues when family comes together. I'm so glad we did this. Some of these little and sometimes brief moments are the ones I truly treasure about our weekend. So, if whether under scheduled or over scheduled with friends and family, remember to save just a little time for the two of you.
We also did this at our reception and had our first look as just the two of us. That helped as well.
Ok, just had to share that little piece of advice! Now, on to reviews... but first, pics!!
I'll highlight our vendors and to keep it simple, will just give you the basics. If you want any more info or have questions, just let me know!
VENDORS I LOVED
American Airlines – I fly them all the time for work, so I have status with this airline. Regardless, they were super friendly about the dress situation and let me put it in the first class closet even though we didn't make it into first class (missed our upgrade by 2 people. Argh!). They also gave us free drinks on the flight and then 3 mini-bottles of champagne as we departed. AWESOME. Flying sucks, but American is the least of all the evils in my opinion, so I'll stick with them.
Tropicana (the room) – Really beautiful. They've done some really nice upgrades and updating at this hotel. All of our guests enjoyed their stay. Like many Vegas hotels, check-in was a bit crazy and a long wait, but once we got into our suite, it was all worth it. We had a 2 room suite and it was perfect for entertaining family and friends as they arrived and for me and my gals getting ready on the big day. When we go back for our anniversary, we'll stay here again.
Battista's Hole in the Wall – We had an un-hosted dinner here with whoever was in town on Thursday. We made a group reservation and they were super accommodating. This is by far my favorite restaurant in Vegas and I go every time we're in town. If you haven't been check it out - behind Flamingo.
Trevi - When we came to Vegas for our scouting trip we checked out Trevi. We liked it, but once we found out we could do an all outdoor event at The Trop, we decided to go that route. But, the hubs' parents wanted to do a welcome reception for our guests, so we decided to have that at Trevi. Not all of our guests stayed at The Tropicana, so we didn't provide transportation, which ended up working out just fine and no one even expected it (I only mention that because I know there's a lot of question around that here - whether or not to transport your guests to events). Michelle at Trevi was great. Very responsive and willing to work with us. The food was delicious – we did just snacky stuff because we didn't want to have 2 receptions, so we had flat breads, a prime rib carving station, cheese trays, pasta station, desert trays and vegetable trays. It was definitely enough for dinner, but also felt like a well catered happy hour.
Thunder from Down Under – My girls took me here Friday night after the welcome reception. It was hilarious. I don't know that I'd go back, but for a fun "bachelorette party type thing" it worked out great. Seriously funny if nothing else.
GlamSquad – I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE these guys. They came for hair and makeup (airbrush and hair is $160 and it's $25 extra for eye lashes). They are all super talented and fabulous and oh so funny. As soon as they arrived, the party started for me and my girls. There were 6 of us and there were 4 of them. One guy came first to start hair and then the rest showed up about an hour later. They carried the conversation and we had a blast with them. They are also so good at what they do and were quick! The only downside - you pay your deposit online via credit card, but then the day of you pay the balance in cash. That was like $800 bucks, so it was just a lot of cash to have on hand, but that would never stop me from using them. When we go back to Vegas for our anniversary, I'll probably have them come and get me dolled up for a night. USE THEM, you will not regret it.
Tropicana Garden Chapel (the ceremony location) – Our wedding took place at 7pm in The Garden Courtyard at The Trop. There were of course record breaking temps that day, but luckily just before our ceremony the clouds came over and it cooled off about 10 degrees and there was a great breeze. This area is gorgeous and it worked well with our 48 guests - wasn't too big or too small. We also didn't really need any decor because there are flowers and trees surrounding the area, so that saved us lots of money.
Katie Sinnett (Tropicana wedding coordinator) – Katie's awesome. If you read any reviews about Trop weddings, you'll see she consistently gets an A+ from brides. Very responsive throughout the wedding process and helpful the day of and during the rehearsal. Couldn't recommend her enough.
Tropicana Palms Area (the reception location) – We had our reception just after our ceremony, so it started around 7:45ish. Everyone was outside right by the Trop's pool. It was really lovely and made it feel less like a formal reception and more like a party. All of our food stations (see below for details) were placed inside cabanas and our DJ was up on a hill. It was really pretty and very us.
Tropicana Catering – Holy cow our food was AMAZING. My dress was pretty tight, so I couldn't eat a ton - it made me feel so full so fast - and I'm super bummed about it. We had stations rather than a sit down dinner or buffet. There was a mac and cheese station, salad bar, mini sliders (hamburgers, chicken and hot dogs) station, ham carving station, potstickers and we had cupcakes for desert (we didn't want to do the whole cake cutting thing). It was all so unbelievably good. We still get compliments. Also, the bar packages were affordable (we ended up doing consumption) and the staff was great.
A Garden Floral - This is the Trop's floral vendor. Our flowers were gorgeous, loved the bouquets, and also affordable. We ended doing chair markers that then doubled as our centerpiece decorations.
All Night Long Entertainment – They were our DJ. I don't recall the specific person we had. My dad ended up tipping him for us at the end of the night, so we never even spoke with him. But, the company is great to deal with and he did a wonderful job. The only downside was that he was up on a hill and a little farther away than I would have liked, so the music wasn't really loud. You could hear it, but since we were outside the sound carried far so it just made it seem a little less reception-like. We're not big dancers and neither our are family members (lots of older people), but people did their fair share of dancing... it just wasn't crazy. But, that was no fault of the DJ. He played all of my weird requests (like the Pittsburgh Steelers Polka and some other regional songs from our hometown) and steered clear of the things I said to.
The Emerics (photographers) - I had originally hired Todd from BW as our photographer and it was the only decision I continually second-guessed. He's great and has wonderful reviews, but his style just isn't my favorite and he works alone rather than having a second photographer. Two months to the day before the wedding I had a panic attack about it (being that our pictures would be THE ONLY thing we'd get to keep from our wedding day) and decided to find someone else. Luckily, The Emerics, who were more expensive but had a style that better matched what I wanted, were still free. We lost our deposit with Todd and I felt badly about not working with him on somewhat short notice, but it was probably the best decision for my sanity. The Emerics were great from the start. I had told them our situation about second-guessing and they were very sympathetic and reassuring that you have to go with your gut (expected, but nice). They did a few skype chats with us and met us the day after we got into Vegas just to check out the hotel and find some good spots for our first look photos. Jessie and Jason are a husband and wife team that you'll want to hang out with after you meet them. They fit in so well with our family and friends that we actually had a few people tell us how nice it was that we had close friends that were photographers who offered to shoot our wedding day (they thought we had known them forever... ha!). They kept my stress levels low, carried water around for us (Jason has a killer fanny pack/tool belt thing that has EVERYTHING in it, including safety pins which I ended up needing for my bustle) and got some great photos (see link above).
VENDORS I LIKED
Leah Abbs (Tropicana reception coordinator) - Leah was very friendly and helpful throughout the planning process. She was also, however, somewhat unresponsive, hard to get a hold of and didn't seem nearly as invested in our wedding as Katie (the wedding coordinator) was. I know it's an unfair comparison, but their levels of customer service were night and day. But, Leah did help us finalize the details over the phone before we got to Vegas and met us at our rehearsal the day before to go over details. So, she was into our wedding just before it all happened. Because we only had a few special details, I ended up hiring a day of coordinator because I didn't fully have trust in Leah, which sucked a little because it cost us extra money. Since we hired that day of coordinator Leah took a backseat and we didn't even see her the day of our reception. Our coordinator told us she had another wedding. So, that kind of sucked. I hope the Trop makes some changes there because Katie is so wonderful and it's disheartening to have such a drastically different experience with our reception than we did our wedding. I still would have my reception at The Tropicana again if I had to do it all over, but would have loved someone with a bit more enthusiasm and quality customer service.
Janet Miller (Tropicana officiant) - She was just OK. Very nice and put on a great ceremony, but we didn't finalize details with her until literally just before walking down the aisle, so it seemed a little frantic and rushed. I would have expected her to emailed us the day before or something, or showed up at the rehearsal, but it is Vegas so nothing is super formal (unless you pay for it, I guess). I had made some significant changes to her usual ceremony script which made it more personal to us and she didn't look at them until we first met, which was kind of annoying. But, all in all, she was nice enough and we got married, so I guess you can't ask for much more than that!
Faith from Faithfully Yours (day of coordinator) - I hired Faith because of Leah (see above). She was really great and had worked at the Trop before, so that was helpful. Overall she went above and beyond before our wedding day, meeting with our vendors and being great at answering questions. We were also able to send her all of our favors and some decor, which was a huge cost savings and then she sent it back to us after the fact, which was awesome. She's in the "vendors I liked" instead of the "vendors I loved" section only because she made some mistakes the day of the wedding and it may have just been due to miscommunication. For example, she moved all of our buckets from the ceremony to the reception, but I had told her to get the Trop to do it so that it could be done faster. In the end, our family members ended up taking some with them after pics, but our guests were already at the tables so it was a little weird. I also blame the Trop for this as I had been assured that there would be folks to help (but, Faith didn't necessarily coordinate it either). I wanted to have my whole family do the grand entrance, and Faith had thought it was going to be just my husband and I, which we NEVER discussed. Luckily, the DJ had it right. I had also told her that I wanted to do all the formal dances before we ate. She suggested just doing the first dance, but I really wanted to do the first dance, father/daughter and mother/son before to get them out of the way, which is also what I had told the DJ. Right before our grand entrance, she said it was just the first dance... luckily the DJ kept with what I had told him and we did all the dances, but I was confused a little when they called my dad up after our first dance since Faith had said we weren't doing that. So, a little annoying since it's something I had been clear about. Lastly, some of the decor was set up incorrectly leading to confusion. I had a box for cards and these madlibs I bought, so that people could drop them in there when they were done. But, she put the empty ones in there and somehow all the pens I bought either disappeared or didn't show up, so not a lot of people filled out the madlibs and since the empty ones were in the card box, no one knew where to put the cards, so they just gave them to my dad. The pens I bought to go with our "guest book" frame went missing, so not everyone got to sign that either. Luckily, my maid of honor walked around to find a pen and then the DJ announced where to put cards and to sign the frame. Again, not soul crushing, but I had outlined everything in a powerpoint (with pictures - yeah, I'm type A) so that this would get done correctly. Ah well. Overall, I'd recommend Faith if you want someone who will do stuff for you and be a second set of eyes. Which is what I paid for and what I got, for the most part (and full disclosure, I'm a little nit picky, but aren't all brides?!? ha!). But, if you need someone to take over and be sure everything is just to your liking as well as make more suggestions, you probably need to go with some of the higher priced options.
VENDORS I LOATHED
Cashman Photography (Tropicana exclusive photogs for ceremony) – I feel very blessed I only have one vendor to list here and given all the other reviews or comments, I'm not surprised it's Cashman. If you are getting married somewhere that they are the the mandated photographers/videographers PAY THE OUTSIDE VENDOR FEE. They are awful, seriously awful. Because we loved The Emerics, we decided to forgo the 30-min we got with Cashman after our ceremony, but we still had to use them for the ceremony. First, the one guy (and there may have only been one) who was taking pictures showed up in white jeans and polo shirt that was bright green, blue and yellow with a giant horse on it. His collar was also popped. Total joke. Was this guy going to the club? WTF. Everyone was asking if that was the same photographers, god it was embarrassing. He was all in our faces during the short ceremony and even got right up next to the officiant's head with the lens in a way that she had to stop and laugh. It was so awkward. We got 24 photos with our package. When we got the photo options, we had like 35 to choose from. I was shocked. ONLY 35?!? And most were horrible - no one looking at the camera, or one person not smiling. REALLY?!? They couldn't get one good photo of my dad and I walking down the aisle. I was so disappointed. I don't know if they gave us less because we didn't use them for the whole time, or what, but it was really depressing. Also, we only got prints, no digital photos. For 24 digital photos it would be $500. Are you effing kidding me?! I hate them and I hate that they have this dumb arrangement with so many hotels. (Sorry for the rant, but it angers me to think of the crappy photos we got). The Emerics took some pics from far away, since they couldn't be at the ceremony, so that was at least somewhat of a relief. They also took video and it was a joke. So, my personal opinion is avoid at all costs, but I know some people have loved them. Probably just depends on who you get. I scanned a few of the photos from the ceremony (they are the last ones in the album link above).
And that's about it! Good luck to all you brides out there. I'm so jealous you're still planning and getting things together. Looking back, it was all very fun, despite being also somewhat stressful. XOXO!!
The (not so entirely new) Mrs. Damiano