Melissa & James were married at Hard Rock Vallarta! ~ Photo credits go to Nick Vaquerano @NickVaquerano on Instagram ~ Wedding Gown from Chantilly Place in Chelmsford, MA ~ Travel coordination provided by Romance Travel Group
Why did you choose Romance Travel Group?
To be perfectly honest, we had no idea where to start when we started planning this. I googled “destination wedding planners” and came up to another wedding planner. I started off by saying I knew NOTHING about this but this is what I had in mind. They were super condescending and after that first call, to this moment almost two years later, still never received their quote. I didn’t need to though, I knew I didn’t want to hear back from them. Romance Travel Group was a website I had stumbled on while looking for resorts so I looked into my history to find them. That’s when I reached out and scheduled a call with Shelli. Again, I told her I knew absolutely nothing about wedding planning or destination planning and she said “that’s okay! Tell me what you want to know.” I knew then that I’d be working with her through this process.
Were there any objections from your wedding guests about your decision to have a destination wedding? If so, how did you handle overcome those?
Yeah, definitely. No one really *said* anything about it directly, just dealt with more “it’s so expensive” remarks. Shelli set up our website super early (August 2018 to be exact) and so when guests came to our engagement party (we invited the same people we were going to invite to our wedding) we had this whole set up talking about where to go to book. One of the biggest things I guess I didn’t realize was such a big deal until like yesterday when I went to book my cousin’s wedding was that Romance Travel Group offers you the ability to pay the wedding off slowly. From the date of our engagement party to the final payment due date, there was exactly 12 months. That was plenty of time for people to make payments. So we let everyone know that they could book online, pay a small deposit and then make monthly payments. For our loved ones that still couldn’t swing it, we just told them we totally understand and would miss them there. At the end of the day, it’s our special day and we were doing it our own special way.
How did you come to decide on your wedding date? Is there meaning behind it?
I honestly never thought I would choose a wedding date so close to Valentine’s Day- the 14th and my birthday- the 17th. But when we started talking about dates, James brought up that his late father’s birthday was February 15. We looked at the calendar and realized it was on a Saturday. I swear it just felt like it NEEDED to be on that day. It’ll be a little hectic for James every year around that week but I’m sure we’ll always find a way to make it special.
Describe what it was like working with the wedding coordinator at the resort? What went well? Any challenges?
The coordinator at the resort was actually fantastic. Edmundo was swift, incredibly helpful, personable and just overall a pleasure to work with. I had no challenges with him. However, I did have a challenge with the person that comes before Edmundo. I don’t want to name any names so we won’t do that but there was someone who worked offsite (the first person related to the Hotel company itself that you’ll talk to.) As part of the contract with Hard Rock, we were able to use “number of room nights booked” as a benefit towards the wedding; for example: 40 room nights booked gets you a two-hour reception and then you pay for the additional hours. Well, after weeks of not hearing from the coordinator and final payment date having come and gone, I reached out to try to get the last minute details ironed out and get a total. Well, for months she quoted me that I could use 1 of my hours towards cocktail and 1 towards reception and then pay for additional hours of reception. Fantastic, right?! Not so fast- that day, she tells me she can’t honor what had been told to me for months (by her.) She ends her emails for the day saying I would have to pay out of pocket for the cocktail hour ($800) and there was nothing else she could do. Anybody who is planning a wedding knows they are counting every dollar! I was shocked! Fortunately, after pushing it up to Shelli, she escalated it to Hard Rock and they were luckily able to honor it. That whole ordeal was super super stressful so my advice to anyone doing a destination wedding and looking to take advantage of the perks: don’t delete emails.
Tell us about your wedding dress – How did you find it? Who went shopping with you? How do you feel wearing your dress?
Ah, my favorite subject! I found my dress at Chantilly Place in Chelmsford, MA. I went in with a whole different perspective of what I wanted than what I actually got. But when I put that dress on, words honestly cannot describe it. I went with my maid of honor, my mom and my aunt/godmother My mom is probably the least emotional person in the world but when I saw her crying I knew I found the one. It’s beautiful. It flowed. It held me in where I wanted to look snatched. I felt like an angel in that dress. I actually bought extra lace and “designed” a special dress for my daughter to wear too. I don’t know that anyone even noticed it was made of the same material, but I knew and I loved it.
Describe the booking process for your guests. Did they find that to be easy to navigate?
It was actually really easy through the website Shelli set up for us. I mentioned this a little before and I will again now - having it go through Romance Travel Group was so much easier than the other ways we’ve seen it (having to do it directly through the hotel’s website with a block code.) Trips are a big deal and they take financial planning. Being able to make monthly payments towards it (even for the bride and groom) is so much more convenient for your pockets than having to pay it all upfront.
What were some of your biggest fears or things you worried about as your wedding date drew near? How did you get through this?
I think honestly my biggest fear was that the wedding was going to be too simple. We opted to go pretty simple with the decorations because it was an outdoor wedding and really what’s more beautiful than being able to see the beach and the mountains in the same view? We didn’t go crazy with the tables - white linens, white chairs and a flower centerpiece to match the colors of the bridal party. I have to say, I’m so glad I was wrong about my concerns. As simple as it was, it was absolutely perfect. The color changing columns were awesome as it got dark out. Hard Rock did an amazing job making simple look so elegant.
Describe the meeting you had with the onsite wedding team when you arrived at the resort.
It was pretty simple. Edmundo met us when checking in and introduced himself. We set up an appointment to meet the following day to check out the sites. The following day, we met as planned. He took us to the sites (the gazebo.. just wow.) and to the salon. He explained to us how everything would work, what time he’d come get us, our guests, and so on. It was actually pretty cut and dry. No stress there, at all.
Were your guests wowed by the resort and the all-inclusive concept? What was their reaction upon arrival?
Every single person who went for our event commented about how incredible of a resort it was. The food was FANTASTIC. That’s honestly not something either one of us can really say for any other resort we’ve been to. We were impressed with every single meal we had. Every restaurant was included, they didn’t try to upsell you on food when you got in which was impressive. The lobby was amazing. The memorabilia was breath-taking, the staff was so helpful. At the end of it, every person said they wanted to come back. In fact, I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law and two aunts pre-booked their next trips through the staff there. We got comments the whole next day about how fun the wedding was. Overall just so happy with the experience.
How easy/difficult was it to travel with your wedding dress? Did you carry-it on, where did you store it? Did you get a lot of comments at the airport?
It was actually easier than I thought. We carried it on. Once we got into the airplane, I asked the attendant at the front if I could store my dress in the closet. All four flights (two there, two home) I was told I could. So many people asked if it was our wedding and congratulated us, I loved that part.
What was the best part of having a destination wedding?
If I’m being honest, I think the best part of the destination wedding was the whole vacation with everyone you love. At one point the day after the wedding, everyone we love was sitting around the pool party all interacting although many of them hadn’t met until that weekend. James’ best friend was hanging out with my aunts, my childhood best friend was back around my family like time hadn’t skipped a beat. It was enjoyable to see.
What is your most favorite memory of your wedding experience?
Honestly all of it. I’ve gone to so many weddings and one thing I’m always told is to enjoy it because it’s gone in the blink of an eye so I did just that. At points, I sat back and watched my family dance. I also danced the night away. I watched my bridal party get ready, we popped champagne, we took pictures, we laughed and all around celebrated. I feel like I took so much of that day in that I could replay it all.
In what ways did Romance Travel Group make the planning less stressful for you?
Many ways. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: guests. will. appreciate. payment. plans. But besides that, having someone to escalate issues like the one I had with the Hard Rock planner was a huge help. And I think without even trying to, Shelli helped me save like $800. She sent out what I would assume was a mass email about photographers that are willing to travel to do weddings. I had no idea that was an option, I thought we had to hire the one at the resort. Because of that email, we were able to contract someone James actually knew and saved a lot in doing so. Plus, they’re my favorite pictures ever.
What would you do differently? What advice would you give to couples just starting the planning process?
I don’t know that I would do anything differently, but I definitely have some advice:
Would you recommend Romance Travel Group to other couples who are considering a destination wedding?
Way ahead of you, I already have and will keep saying nothing but good things about you guys forever more.
Is there anything Romance Travel Group could have done to make the experience even better?
Not at all. You were so helpful throughout the entire process. Not a single regret.
Congratulations, Melissa & James!! Thank you for sharing your day with us!
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