Photo Credit: Maxi Cory Photography
Picture this: the sun is shining, the waves are crashing on the shore, you’re in a stunning destination location, and your loved ones are gathered around you as you prepare for the destination wedding you’ve been planning for the past year.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? But what happens when an unexpected force of nature gets in the way? Just ask Madeline and Drew, who faced Hurricane Fiona just three weeks before their 115-guest wedding at Cana Bay Beach Club!
Despite the major setback, Madeline and Drew’s wedding was a huge triumph! We helped her navigate their wedding party to a new resort and they still had the unforgettable experience they had dreamed of. And what’s more, the celebration was full of energy, laughter, and even a pool-jumping finale that will definitely have guests talking long after the last dance!
Read on for more information on what their destination wedding experience was like in beautiful Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!
Photo Credit: Maxi Cory Photography
What were your biggest fears when planning a destination wedding?
I am extremely Type A. So for me, a destination wedding was a blessing and a curse. It forced me to forgo being able to nitpick all of the tiny, minuscule details that you just simply cannot control when planning a destination wedding. However, my biggest fear was losing control of the event and how it turned out.
Is there anything about the actual destination wedding experience that surprised you?
Everyone assumes a destination wedding is going to be cheaper than having one in the U.S. I think that could be true, but in my case, it was not. I believe I got more bang for my buck, but I ultimately ended up spending what I would have on a U.S. wedding — with way more events.
We had 4 big events — welcome drinks on Thursday, welcome dinner on Friday, a boat excursion on Saturday, and the wedding on Sunday. That would have been outrageously expensive to host all 4 events in the U.S.
What is your favorite memory of your destination wedding?
There are so many amazing memories from the wedding, but a few that stick out to me.
One, we opted not to do a wedding party. In our opinion, everyone that was there with us was a part of our “wedding party”. This also allowed us to have a very relaxed morning. I still got ready with a bunch of close friends, but I didn’t even start getting ready until 11 AM. Earlier in the morning, my partner and I sat on our balcony and watched our friends walking around the resort. It’s a very surreal experience to see friends and family who previously didn’t know each other interacting all in one place. And I enjoyed a moment of calm with my partner before the craziness of a wedding day begins.
In terms of the actual wedding, our dance floor was phenomenal. Everyone told us it was the best wedding they had ever been to. The dance floor wasn’t empty once all night! Zero slow songs. There was SO MUCH energy. During the very first song, my husband turned to me and asked, “How can we extend this?” You could feel the energy.
We also loved hora loca and highly recommend it. As a bonus, try to keep it a secret because our guests were FLOORED when dancers and a guy on stilts came out. It was phenomenal.
A final favorite memory: we jumped into the pool at the end of the last song. We got married outside of a resort at an off-site venue that had a pool. As soon as we jumped in, all our guests followed suit. There were probably 20 people in the pool swimming in full suits and dresses. It was the perfect ending to an amazing night!
Did you splurge on anything travel or wedding related? If so, what was it and was it worth it?
We did our best to cut costs where we could and we splurged on anything that would heighten our guest experience. For example, I bought my wedding dress on Etsy and saved so much money — and we used that savings to pay for a boat cruise the day before our wedding.
Also, I highly recommend getting your dress on Etsy. I’m obsessed with my dress and it was $2,000 cheaper than the exact same dress from a store.
Hora loca is a must. Everyone told us this and we were skeptical, but we’re so glad we did it. It’s phenomenal and our guests loved it.
We also did rum tasting and cigar rolling at the cocktail hour, which was very popular.
Did you attempt to save anything travel or wedding related? If so, what was it and was it worth it?
We did attempt to “save” on things that wouldn’t enhance our guest experience. Our invitations were simple (Minted) and I got my wedding dress on Etsy. In my opinion, it was worth cutting back on some of these things. We also nixed a lot of things like a guest book, garter, wedding party, etc. We really tried to focus our time and money on anything to make the guest experience better.
You could change anything with your wedding (planning, the day itself, the location, resort, ANYTHING) — what would you change?
I would have done a rehearsal before the wedding. I know this should be obvious, but we were getting married offsite and I didn’t want people to have to travel the day before the wedding, especially since we did a boat cruise and welcome dinner already. Our actual ceremony was a little chaotic and I think it would have been improved with a rehearsal.
What kind of feedback did you get from your guests?
Our guests told us it was the best wedding they had ever been to. I’m sure a lot of couples get that, but truly, our guests had an amazing time. I’m sure it is a wedding that will be talked about for many years. We went out of our way to give our guests the best experience.
Now that you’ve been through it, what is your #1 best piece of advice for wedding couples entering the planning process?
The most important thing is staying on top of your to-dos. Our wedding was in the DR and their timeline is different from ours. I made sure that we were never the reason for a holdup on a decision. If they asked me to pick out my appetizers, I would do so that night. You need to 100% stay on top of the tasks because no one is going to be as focused on the wedding as you.
Keep lists and set dates for when you want to do things by. Also, do as much as you can early. For example, if you want to order glow sticks, why wait until the last month? There will be so many things that come up during the last month — if there are things you can do early, you will thank yourself.
In what ways did Alpaca Your Bags Travel make this less stressful for you?
How do I start? My entire wedding venue and resort were taken out of commission by a hurricane 25 days before our wedding. AYBT helped move a group of more than 100 people to a new resort, competing with thousands of displaced travelers who were also looking for a place to stay.
Without AYBT, we simply wouldn’t have had a wedding. Ashley and her team dealt with everything. All the logistics. She kept me in the loop, as I needed to be. There’s no way I would’ve been able to manage anything like that on my own while simultaneously working full-time and moving a wedding from one venue to another.
Is there anything we could have done differently or better?
Literally nothing. Ashley and her team were the best part of the destination wedding experience.
Video Credit: Maxi Cory Photography
Travel Advisor: Alpaca Your Bags Travel
Offsite Venue: Cana Bay Beach Club
Photographer & Videographer: Maxi Cory Photography
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