Hi again! I finally organized my vendor reviews. My day was absolutely fantastic. The weather, my biggest worry, was sunshine and a cool breeze with the perfect temperature. I was very nervous before the ceremony, trying to organize everything at the same time before our first look, but after the ceremony I just let everything go and relaxed. I had such a fun time, and wish the day would have lasted longer! Here are my reviews:
Mystic Aquarium: B-
The Aquarium provides absolutely one of a kind backgrounds and decorations between the belugas and fish tanks, and irreplaceable experiences with the penguins and other extras they offer. I'm very glad we decided to get married there, and the day of the wedding we had a great time. With that said… communication before the wedding was awful. I would send an email with three to four questions, and get a response that answered only one of them. At one point I actually gave up and told my FI he had to be in charge of communicating with the Aquarium, because I was so upset. We were told from the start that our rehearsal had to be at 4pm, then a week before the wedding they said we could have it at 5pm. My DH is from out of state, and his family only comprised of one table. I set up our floor plan that they would be closest to us at the reception, but the Aquarium staff got it backwards and they were in the very back of the room. Although no one told me about it, I overhear my uncle ask for a chair because they hadn't set up enough chairs at his table. We asked for water pitchers on the table (it was written on our final headcount paper), but those never showed up. The staff also kept removing people's drinks from the tables, half full, while they were off dancing. I was actually standing at my table at one point, with a glass 1/4th full still in front of me, and the staff member just took it and a few empty glasses and walked away while I stumbled over words to stop her. My mom told me after the wedding that the bartender had to actually go find some sour mix when she asked for a scotch sour. The catering staff and the Aquarium staff also don't seem to get along. When we showed up on the wedding day, some of my guests were already in the parking lot. We tried to enter the Aquarium so we could hide and a staff person at the front door said we couldn't come in! I'm standing there, in my dress, trying to hide from guests and he's making me wait for someone from the Catering staff to come over. It was extremely frustrating. I did have intricate centerpieces that had to be set up, and as far as I know they were all done correctly (though I never took the time to look, and I believe my mother helped that). They did put extra candles and decorations on our head table (I had only planned on a vase with my bouquet) and found extra vases for my BM bouquets. The other thing that really bothered me was that there were peppers in the seafood fettuccine. Now, this might be my problem alone, but in all the paperwork I got there was never any word of any vegetables, peppers or otherwise, in the dish. I'm extremely sensitive to pepper, so I ended up not eating that night (though I doubt my nerves would have allowed me to eat anyways!). I'm sure this lands mostly on my fault, but it still rubs me the wrong way. The day of, though, they were very helpful and willing to listen to my requests. Also, I got the penguin visit as a surprise gift to my groom, and they never mentioned it in front of him.
Part I: Engagement Session
I'm so glad we picked Jerome to be our photographer. We had our engagement session yesterday and we clicked so well! Jerome explained what he wanted to do for the shoot, helped us relax and enjoy ourselves and still managed to take our opinions into consideration. I told him I really wanted a stone wall scene, and after we had taken some pictures on a stone wall he made sure to ask me if that was what I had been looking for.
Part II: Wedding Day:
Anyone looking for a photographer is welcome to hire another studio; anyone looking for the person that will make your wedding day perfect AND take the most stunning photos ever should hire Jerome! He absolutely was the finishing touch that made my day perfect. He told me I wasn't allowed to tell, but he was so helpful- he helped my mom and BMs to lace up my dress, had earplugs for my autistic brother, took pictures with my cousin's camera so I'd have some before I got my professionals back, made sure my DH had his jacket during our dances, and more. The pictures of his (on his camera) that I did see are outrageously beautiful and I cannot wait to get them back. From my family's camera pictures, I can tell that he was there all night taking pictures of us at all the right moments. I recommend him a thousand times over!
Stylish Blooms: A+ +
Melissa is fantastic! She is so kind and creative. We worked out a style, color and flowers at our first meeting. Then two months before my wedding, my ideas had changed. We met again, and I basically changed everything except my main color- she had not a single problem with this and was eager to work with me! We had decided on mums for the centerpieces because they would be cheaper and more likely in bloom for my wedding, even though I had originally wanted dahlias. Apparently, when she got the mums they were in pink (the one color I hate!) so she decided to order me some dahlias overnight from California. They were beautiful purples and purple/white colors, unbelievable! I was so excited to have them (she put some in my bouquet too). She also mentioned in passing that she had to reorder some of my other flowers because they too had come in wrong, but she told me this the day of the wedding and I forget which ones or how many times. She didn't charge me extra for any of this, which was so nice of her! Melissa also brought my flowers early so I could have the bouquets for the first look, which meant she had to show my mom & grandmother how to set up our centerpieces since she wouldn't be there to do it herself. She left us extra flowers for the centerpieces just incase we needed them, which was so kind of her! Over all, Melissa is a fantastic person and a very talented florist- I definitely recommend her!
Djae Melee: A
We booked Melee without ever having met him in person. The few times I had need to email him, he replied within the week (sometimes I posted on his Facebook to catch his attention, but I think he would have replied even without that). About 2-3 weeks before my wedding we met in person for the first time- he was really down to earth and willing to play whatever type of music we asked for. The ceremony music was perfect and exactly what I wanted- we could hear it back in our hiding place, so I don't think the guests had any trouble hearing it! I don't know if we used Melee's mics for the ceremony or the JOPs- it sounded to me like they were cutting out a bit, but who knows? It might have just been I couldn't hear the echo. I didn't hear any complaints from our guests. For the reception, we only had two small problems. The first was that Jae came down to talk to us before the entrance, so he had to run back to his table (a long trip outside, along the building, then up some stairs before getting inside). We wanted a low-key intro, so instead of waiting for him we just sort of walked in. Most everyone was still at the bar anyway, so it wasn't a big deal. This was a logistics problem more than anything. The other issue was my fault- for our first dance, M/S dance and D/F dance, I had linked him to youtube videos of the songs I wanted. I didn't realize how long they were, and I never told him to cut them short, so for each song we got about half way through and then started trying to look up and tell him to cut the song… but we just had to dance through it. So advice to future brides: make sure you ask your DJ to cut the dance songs shorter. Other than that, he had the dance floor packed all night (thanks in part to my party hard family!), and played some great music. The only songs I really wanted, I remember he played, and the song I asked for as the last song he also played.
Imagine by Carleen (Make Up): A
I had a trial with Carleen a few months before my wedding, and while it looked nice I was worried about the lipstick color. Also, at night after my trial I felt really itchy on my face and feared it was the makeup. However, we emailed back and forth with pictures about the lipstick color, and the day of she brought a couple different shades and types (lip stick, gloss, and balms) for me to try. We found the perfect one! The day of my wedding, she showed up on time with no problems at the hotel, set up her chair and got straight to work. She chatted a bit with my cousin (BM) and Jerome (photographer) about cameras and lenses while applying my makeup, which was surprisingly relaxing. Once she was all done, I looked stunning! I don't remember feeling itchy that day at all, my coverage was great and I loved how I looked.
Bliss Hair Salon: A+
Bliss went above and beyond my expectations. I told my three BMs that they could get their hair done anyway that made them feel beautiful, and they decided together on side-dos with braids or curls. The stylist gave them three very distinct looks, that all tied in together to look fantastic! My mom and MIL got their hair curled too. My hair looked fantastic, and the stylist was able to hide my two problem area - frizz and two tiny curls just above my ears on each side. They also opened the salon an hour early for us and let us bring in drinks and food. When my SIL asked the night before if she could come with us, I shot them an email that I'm not sure if they saw, but they did her hair without any complaints or problems. The salon is also very reasonably priced compared to some of the large names on this board. If you're getting married in Mystic, definitely check them out!
RI Video Pros: A
David was everywhere during the reception, it seemed! Every time I saw my family or DH's family doing something hilarious, I also saw David and his camera watching them. David came to our first look, set up two cameras for the ceremony (I think?) and had a camera in hand all night during the reception. The one problem area was his light- obviously, he needs the light to shoot the video in a dark reception hall, but it was very bright; we had to have him turn it off for my brother's speech because my autistic brother couldn't handle the light. I haven't gotten my video yet, but I'm hoping he turned off the light, and not the whole camera for that.
Mary Pugh (Justice of the Peace): A+
Mary was super friendly during our meeting, and very very organized at the rehearsal. DH & I thought this was really important, because we had seen another relative's wedding ceremony that hadn't flowed very well. Mary took care of positioning our party, talking about how to walk, hold flowers, smile, and more during the rehearsal. DH had basically written our whole ceremony from her template suggestions (taking a bit from here, and a bit from there), and she had no issues with us doing that. The one part we had trouble with, was that each of us was to say our vows, then she was supposed to ask the other if they accepted them- this way we could say "I do." Then we would say something while giving our rings. During the ceremony, she handed DH a paper with his vows AND the ring words written on it, so when it came time for her to ask me if I accepted, she forgot she had to say something. I had to mouth to her quickly to ask, and DH showed her the paper, at which point she did. A minor problem in all. What we really liked about Mary was that she would step to the left and right during the ceremony. This was perfect for our venue, because then our photographer (and friends!) could get clear shots of just the two of us with the tank and belugas. It made for some really fantastic pictures.
Allegra Farms (Horse-Drawn Carriage): A+++
I have wanted a horse-drawn carriage for my wedding since forever. We didn't think it would work out with the Aquarium, but then a month before it did, and we booked Allegra farms because we found them at a bridal show. I love Allegra Farms first of all because they use authentic carriages. Secondly, John (our driver) was really sweet to his horses, talking to them about how good they were and what a great job they were doing. Lastly, and most important, he got me into Mystic Seaport! I had really wanted to take pictures at the Greenmanville Church in the Seaport, but was told I couldn't enter because they had other brides that day. But John Allegra is a vendor at the Seaport- they give rides there during the day- and thus was allowed onto the grounds. After we were done with our bridal party and family pictures, John took just DH, myself and our photographer into the Seaport to take pictures. It was great because we got the pictures, and because I got alone time with my soon-to-be DH. He also went out of the way to show us some beautiful architecture that was related to my family history. He had no problem driving us down roads or to multiple locations, and even lent me his cell phone when I freaked out that DH might see me pulling into the first look location. I also got to feed an apple slice to one of the horses, and he told me to wipe my hands on his clothing after so I wouldn't mess up my dress, haha. Definitely a great company!
Bella Creations (Cake Drops & Cup Cakes): A+
I wish I could say more about Bella Creations, but honestly by the time I got to desserts my mind had stopped remembering things. The two ladies who own the company must have shown up during the ceremony and set up the desserts. The set up looked great. I had asked for a hidden mickey mouse silhouette, and they created one out of the labels, as well as putting some in the icing on the cake drops! One of my gluten free guests hadn't even looked at desserts until I told her there were gluten-free cupcakes there; afterwards she was delighted that she could enjoy dessert with the rest of us. If I tell you that the cake drops were delicious, it is only because I remember from when we saw them at the bridal show- I only got to eat 1/2 of a cake drop that night (As a sidenote: My DH is grain-free, so we had chocolate covered strawberries dressed up as a bride and groom to feed each other. We got these from a chocolate company in Stratford, whom I only spoke with over the phone and still don't know the name of. DH's uncle picked them up, and DH's best man ran back to the hotel during the reception when we realized we left them in the mini-fridge).
Harold's Formal Wear (Bride & Bridesmaid Dresses): A+
Harold's was fantastic to deal with. We went there the first day I was looking for dresses, and found a beautiful Maggie Sottero dress called Saratoga there. I got a real deal on it, because they were (supposedly, at the time) going to discontinue the Maggie collection, and therefore didn't need the sample any more. I had three alteration appointments- the first time, the seamstress was a little short with me, but the other two times she was super friendly and talked about her kids, her day, etc as we asked. The dress fit perfectly the day of, even though we had some trouble altering the bust line previously. The bustle was really convenient too, because they used different color strings to show my BMs & mom which strings were pulled together. The day of the wedding, my BMs didn't pull the bustle tight enough, so I was trailing a little on the ground, but it didn't interfere with my dancing at all. Every time I went there, I saw the same 3-4 women working in the store, so they clearly have a dedicated staff. The store itself has a large collection of wedding dresses, BM dresses, tuxes, and prom dresses. They gave us a discount for buying a BM dress and wedding dress there, and we had no problem ordering the BM dress and getting it on time even though we ordered very close to the cut off date for rush shipping costs.
Bogeys (Tuxes): A
We had no problems with the guy's tuxes (there were only two guys). The lady working at the store helped me convince my DH that his side of the wedding party should be the same color as my girls, not a different color. When it came time to pick up the tuxes, we realized DH and I would be leaving for Mystic before the tuxes were available. They were willing to let my dad pick up the tuxes, but our BM decided to drive over and get them instead. Everything fit fine.
Valentin Imperial Maya: A
Loved the Valentin! It was such a beautiful resort. Everyone we saw was extremely friendly and hardworking. The pool and beach areas were both great looking- I don't think I ever saw a piece of trash. They had workers at the pool, beach and shows each night that would come around and ask if you needed any drinks. If you never wanted to leave your chair, you didn't have to! We saw an empty shaded spot with chairs at the beach the day we went, but a couple walked up to it just before us. We found another spot where there were chairs with towels on them. We dragged over two more chairs and moved so all four chairs were in the shade. The other couple who left their towels never came back the whole time we were there. We had no problems getting towels or floats in the pool. The only problem I had was that room service and drivers took a while to show up, but that was likely due to the fact that we were in an Emerald building and thus super far away from the main restaurants/lobby area. We were in room 11203, and had a great view of the ocean. I saw them setting up for a wedding one day, but it rained and we left the room so I missed the ceremony. Food was great, service was great, everything was fantastic!
We also did some excursions with Experiencias Xcaret. We went to Xel-Ha (A+), Tulum (A), Xplor (A++), Chichen-Itza (A) and Xel-Ha again with the Dolphin swim (B). I highly highly recommend going to Xplor if you like to be active- they had ziplines, unwater river swimming and rafting, and ATV driving. It was tons of fun! Chichen-Itza and Tulum were very interesting, and I think it's important to see at least one Mayan location if you're in Mexico. Xel-Ha was fantastic for snorkeling- we saw tons of fish, including barracudas and stingrays, and got to cliff jump (only 13 feet tall), zipline into the water, and have all inclusive food and drinks. The dolphin swim was okay- it's a great experience, but they focus mostly on getting pictures, and the pictures afterwards are outrageously prices (over $200, so we didn't buy any!). But we did participate in a dolphin snorkel, which I think was better, because they just had the dolphins swim among us so we could touch them, and then did a few tricks for us. They wouldn't let me bring in my waterproof camera, but DH said a few others snuck them into the water in their pockets. The company we booked with was great- we got free water bottles anytime we went to Mayan ruins, umbrellas to use in case it rained, the guides spoke very clearly and were very friendly and the buses were great. We booked after we arrived at the resort without any problems.
More pictures can be found here (clicky) and advice to future brides here (clicky).