First off I want to give HUGE thanks to everyone here for all their help, cheerleading, and camaraderie! Big big thanks especially to @vegasgroom
-- your advice and recommendations MADE my wedding and I cannot thank you enough! Everyone had an absolute blast and we are so, so, so happy with how everything turned out. On to the reviews!
Delano Las Vegas (we stayed here,as did some of our guests): Penthouse Superior Suite A+, General Experience B
Suite: I found the Penthouse Superior Suite from a post by our own @jayjaay
and actually joined TheKnot to send her a PM asking about it -- AM SO GLAD I DID. For our crowd and our reception, it was absolutely perfect. We rearranged the furniture to have food and bar at one end, and a dance floor between that and the big couch area, and there was still space to spare in the main room for the 33 people we had (us, guests, and vendors) running around. You could probably do up to 45, maybe even 50ish if you encouraged people to use the little sitting area on the one side of the bedroom (our guests ignored it, heh). There's an in-room Bose sound system with speakers in the ceiling that you can connect to with any standard headphone cable and control through the main TV -- it does take a little monkeying but there were no problems with DIY DJing. We got a mountain (/airport/parking garage) view, not the strip view I asked for, but it turned out OK because a lot of my guests and DH enjoyed watching the planes and helicopters come and go from McCarran. (Also, when the front desk clerk found out we were getting married, I think she put us on a pretty empty floor -- I saw the housekeeper cleaning other rooms, but I never saw any other guests on our floor, and we didn't get any noise complaints despite being pretty loud in there for 3 nights in a row. So I'll take "empty floor" and "no complaints" over "strip view") The stark decor wouldn't be to everyone's taste, but we really liked it. Shower and bathtub were both incredible and having the second half bath was very handy, both for the reception and for people hanging out in the room on other nights. One caveat: It washes out/off immediately, but the coating on the big dining table does come off on hands and clothes if you rub it. No need to panic about it because it does come off, but maybe don't lay a white wedding dress across it, just in case.
In General: Almost everything was great, but I feel like I have to give it a B for an accumulation of little aggravations. Overall, the hotel nails the calm "boutique" atmosphere, the rooms are lovely and very comfortable (beds included), and every room has a great full bathroom AND a half bath, even the basic room types. The lobby bar and coffee stand are pricey, of course, but both serve very good stuff. Della's Kitchen, the breakfast/lunch restaurant in the hallway between the Delano and Mandalay Bay, is INCREDIBLE -- it quickly became the official restaurant of our group, with pretty much everyone eating breakfast there every morning. (That hallway is also a fabulous place to take pictures, although it's busy.) And one stealthy upside is that the main entrance to the Delano runs off Frank Sinatra Drive, not the Strip, which saves you some time and money if you're using taxis to get around. So what were the aggravations? Both our rooms (we moved to a Panoramic Suite for the last night of the trip) could have stood more attention to fit and finish. The penthouse had some stuff from a previous guest on the closet shelves (it was way back where you couldn't see it easily, but still), one of the TVs didn't work, and there were a lot of cool buttons and switches that we couldn't figure out what they did. The fixtures and wallpaper in the Panoramic looked a little worn considering that they're only 5 years old, and the windows were filthy -- you could see handprints and stuff on them. Finally, we had kind of a pain in the butt experience with Lost & Found, but the articles are supposed to be on their way now. Overall, I would stay there again and be happy with it -- it's just so close to being really great that it's disappointing to see the flaws. Staying at the Delano does come with access to all the Mandalay Bay pools as well as a private Delano-only pool (usually means no kids or very few kids as the Delano doesn't have any kid-friendly amenities).
Mandalay Bay (where most of our guests stayed -- we booked room blocks on both sides of the complex): Rooms (per guest report) B, General Experience A
I was only in one of the rooms for a few minutes; they seemed a little dated and worn but comfortable enough, and that's the general consensus I got from talking to my guests who stayed there. Most of their annoyances seemed to come from the hotel being pretty busy -- noise, elevators stopping on every floor, etc. However, everyone was happy with the huge variety of things to do and places to eat, and with the general atmosphere of the casino being busy and friendly without being too crowded or overwhelming. I never actually made it out to any of the pools but our guests LOVED them. I was surprised by how good and how much fun the aquarium was, and on our last night DH and I had a wonderful meal at Border Grill. Overall, it turned out really great for our group, who mostly wanted to spend time with each other and relax, and to take occasional excursions to other parts of town. Being all the way at the bottom of the strip might make it rougher for a party-hearty or see-all-the-tourist-things group.
Archel Rolwing Events (DOC): A+
Archel and her assistant Brittney were fabulous from start to finish -- so chill and on top of everything, no pretensions whatsoever, incredibly friendly to us and our guests. Archel made a timeline that ran perfectly and kept all of our vendors in order and on the same page. She advocated for me when things got a little messy before the ceremony (more below). When my purse handle broke, Brittney somehow managed to fix it WHILE walking around following us and our photographer through the hotel. If anything else went wrong, I never knew about it; I got to just relax and enjoy my day while Archel and Brittney took care of everything. Prior to the wedding, Archel was incredibly patient with all my neurotic questions, gave great advice based on her experience and knowledge of the Vegas area, and was very on point with communication in general. Hiring Archel was one of the best decisions I made and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. For those of you planning more casual or "offbeat" weddings, she's completely cool with that (some other planners I contacted seemed kind of confused or even resistant, but Archel was totally on board).
Joey Allen (Photographer): A+
Holy crap, this man is a MACHINE. If you know what kind of shot you want, he'll get it done. If you don't (which was us, for the most part -- we had a shot list maybe 8 shots deep), he has a great eye for scenery and composition and will come up with awesome shots for you. If you do something kind of off the wall (DH and I randomly decided to stop at the Delano lobby bar for a drink in the middle of the photo shoot time), he'll work with it and come up with even more awesome shots. If you are unavailable for some reason when you're supposed to be doing pictures, he will find other things to take pictures of. We loved all the preview pictures he showed us. One thing that endeared Joey to me forever: One of our friends was unable to make it to the wedding due to a bad flare-up of his chronic illness. During the reception, DH and I and other friends went to a quiet corner to make a video call to this friend. Joey was nearby packing up his equipment to leave (he was off duty at that point, we only booked him for 6 hours). A little while into the call, one of our friends started going off on a funny rant to cheer up the friend who couldn't make it and we were all laughing, and then a minute later I heard click-click-click-click-click behind us -- Joey had got his camera back out and was ducking and weaving to take pictures of the 6-7 of us clustered together making the video call. The man is absolutely dedicated to catching the moment and I'm really excited to see the results. It's worth nothing that he's VERY direct and no-nonsense in his approach. If you want flattery and schmoozing and sparkle, he's not your guy. If you want someone to just get down to business and take a lot of great photos, he is absolutely your guy.
To be continued in Part 2...
(Edited to update re: Lost & Found at the Delano)