We are a Minneapolis couple that took about 10 months to plan our destination wedding. That being said, only the big decisions needed that much time – things like securing a resort for the guests, choosing the wedding spot and reception location… those kinds of things. We didn’t really start with the down and dirty details (flower choices, menu options, etc.), until about 3 months before the wedding.
The Wedding Coordination
The most important and likely the best decision we made was going with Awesome Caribbean Weddings (ACW) as our wedding planners. And, in truth, ACW was actually the ultimate reason we chose St. Lucia as our destination location in the first place. Two reasons for this: First, as I researched various Caribbean islands looking for wedding resources I had a fairly difficult time finding wedding vendors, period. When I DID find vendors, many were exceptionally expensive. Second, on the ACW webpage there are reviews from brides where they comment on the immediate response time from their ACW wedding planner. I didn’t think much about the comments at first, but then I read – over and over – other bride’s that chose islands such as Bahamas, USVI, Aruba, etc, and they complained about how it sometimes took several days for them to get a response from their wedding coordinator. Armed with that knowledge I started researching St. Lucia and all it had to offer. I communicated with ACW, got a quote, and we decided that St. Lucia and ACW were the right combination for us. Truly – it was absolutely simple and stress-free from that point forward. I can’t tell you enough how easy it was to just email requests or even just answer simple questions that ACW would send to us… and *poof* the wedding just happened from that point forward.
Kayt was our wedding coordinator – and she’s a gem. Every email I ever sent her was answered within hours for the entire time leading up to us getting on a plane for St. Lucia. Very rarely did I have to wait until the next day. I kept notes and spreadsheets galore, and she kept up with me pretty darn well! We revised the ‘plan’ and the budget at least 25 times, and that is not an exaggeration.
While we were in St. Lucia she was always three steps ahead of us, which is a compliment that I have to dedicate to a few of my guests. They noticed it… I just noticed that everything went fine. In retrospect, I do see that this is she is so good at her job – she knows what to anticipate. There were a thousand little things that she was on top of, but I will offer this as one example: we provided all of the transportation for the guests… from the resort to the wedding, from the wedding to the reception, and from the reception back to the resort. However… there were some young children that were only attending the wedding and not the reception. Kayt approached me a day before the wedding, (I honestly think she just ‘swung by’ the hotel to ask about this), and asked how the ‘young ones’ would be getting back to the resort from the wedding. Well… I certainly hadn’t thought of it – I assumed the parents would likely make the arrangements. Well, it turns out – the parents hadn’t thought of it either, so had she not asked we would have had some scrambling at the beach! I was very glad she was planning for EVERYONE, and not just the bride. She even found a Dr. for someone who was fighting an illness and made sure they were able to get an appointment on a Saturday… the day AFTER the wedding!
She met with us the day after we arrived on St. Lucia to make sure we had all of the documentation we needed to be legally married, to review it with the lawyer from the island (who was also present for the meeting), and to review the wedding program in full. She also met and reviewed the program with the family clergy we brought with us (Dan had a Priest friend-of-the-family attending and my brother is a Pastor). Both were going to be part of the ceremony and this needed to be coordinated with the St. Lucian Marriage Officer. She reviewed all the details with everyone, said she’d make an appearance at the Groom’s dinner and that she’d be around to help for the wedding. That was it… and she made it all pretty flawless.
Kayt brought my bouquet to me early in the day because she was concerned that the bouquet (which was ALL exquisite orchids!) might be “too big or too heavy”. She wanted my opinion… so they could take some flowers out if I wanted them to. (WHAT?? Take some out? No way! It was GORGEOUS!)
We were blessed to have 36 people attend our wedding. Guests stayed at Bay Gardens Beach Resort – which I also highly, highly recommend.
The staff at BGBR were incredibly friendly and helpful. They responded to every single request with a smile and the friendliest of attitudes. They upgraded many of the guests to suites, which meant a full kitchen, living room, king beds, balcony… the whole nine yards, (to our knowledge, this isn’t because anyone had complained… they just “did”!) They knew I was ‘the bride’ when I checked in and greeted me as such. (Sometimes it’s the little things, you know?) They OUTDID themselves in decorating our room with flowers and petals and champagne and fruit on the day of our wedding. It was very memorable. I had about 20 women in my room as I was getting ready… we were drinking champagne and eating fruit and cheese and croissants… and we called down to the front desk probably 3 different times to request champagne glasses, and silverware, and even a vacuum once because a bunch of sand had found it’s way into the room. I’m sure we were a huge pain, and very obnoxious… but they were gracious and friendly every time… and I noticed. Again – I can’t say enough good things and will sing their praises to all who will listen for all of their efforts and hospitality.
The resort has a great pool area and a phenomenal beach – both within an arms-throw of the rooms. With a beachfront room, you stare out of balconies at the most gorgeous water you could ever hope for. (I’m a scuba diver and have seen a LOT of water. I’m fussy). The only other complaint (other than “Reservations”) we could offer is that the service in the restaurant and food itself at the resort isn’t the best. However… several wonderful restaurants are within walking distance of the resort and this was perfect for a large group like ours! Each night, (everyone stayed at least a week), people took off in different directions to try various restaurants, and we’d meet back up in the bars later to talk about our experiences and exchange notes about who liked what and who might try which restaurant the next night. It truly added to the experience for everyone. Bay Gardens Beach Resort was a great place for everyone to stay – for many reasons. I would go back in a heartbeat. They offered a great deal for a group rate, and if you can figure out a way to work with the person in charge of reservations, then you’ll be set!
We held our Groom’s dinner at Delirius, which was again within walking distance from the resort. The food was spectacular, and the personal attention was very appreciated. The owner, Duncan, came out to introduce himself to us and to meet with my mother to point her toward what she could eat and what she should avoid (she has multiple food allergies) based on the menu we’d chosen. The chefs had kept several sauces separate from the food to accommodate her allergies.
Although smaller than I expected, the environment was very ‘open air’ and fun. The chefs seemed very proud of their efforts and served you with a certain aura of that pride. I received numerous compliments from guests on the food. I think people start to expect mediocrity in food at weddings, and when the food is great they are surprised and very grateful.
The wedding was held at Pigeon Point, and it was gorgeous. We could not have asked for better weather or a better setting. The beach can be rented for private parties in the afternoons, so your ceremony is just you and your guests. Our biggest concern was that we wanted personal family to officiate the ceremony, but we knew that the St. Lucian Marriage Officer had to say and do certain parts of the ceremony in order for it to be legal and recognized. Kayt had sent us the verbiage that the Marriage Officer would “have” to read as well as a sample of what a ceremony might look like and we were able to work from there. It worked fine to have outside clergy/family members involved in the ceremony (even running it) and to have the Marriage Officer just step in at certain points, but it definitely took some planning. The flexibility from the St. Lucian Marriage Officer was fantastic, especially since we had read that some other legal entities and islands would not be nearly as accommodating.
After the ceremony, Dan and I took off for a while to take photos in other areas of Pigeon Point. In the meantime, our guests played in the ocean, listened to the hired cellist, drank champagne and bottled water and chatted until the sun set on the beach.
The reception was held at Cotton Bay and the adjoining restaurant – 1461. We had a steel-pan band play for an hour of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. This was very fun and definitely a unique island thing to do. It was the perfect ‘in-between’ activity when everyone was really ready to celebrate after coming in from the beach ceremony. We all had a few cocktails and had an hour of fun dance time and laughter before settling in to the reception dinner. Everyone had great things to say about this and I must say that it was one of my favorite touches. I was sad to see it end when it was time to be ushered into the reception. Any disappointment was quickly washed away however, as we wound our way through the tropical plantings of Cotton Bay to the secluded back area where the reception was to be held and our eyes fell on the beautiful scene before us. Here is truly where my complete awe begins. The set-up for the reception was one-in-a-million. The pictures I had received when choosing the place just didn’t do it justice. I had NO idea of the true beauty it had to offer. Granted, some of it was the candles and draping, but it really took my breath away. The crown on the whole place is the beach – behind the head table and behind the deck, (where you’ll be dancing, if you’re the dancing type), with an ocean that washes up behind you. I looked out a few times after dinner – during the dance – and saw that guests had rolled up their pants and/or lifted their dresses a little and waded out into the water and were dancing – in the ocean. Other than the thousands of moments I had with my new husband that day and evening, this was my favorite memory: watching our friends/family dance in the ocean under the stars.
Here again, the food was out of this world. We had a large menu with many options on this night, and the restaurant was willing to serve parts of it (e.g. soup, salad, and dessert choices), and let the rest be buffet-style. To me, this offered a nice atmosphere of both a served/sit-down meal as well as freedom of a ‘choose what you want’ buffet meal. I definitely appreciated this flexibility. The presentation of the food was exceptionally elegant and the spread looked amazing. I was thoroughly impressed, which is pretty hard to do.
One final, “you’ve got to be kidding me” touch that I had no idea was coming: Behind the head table there was a covered, (but open-sided) deck where the music is played for dancing. You can step down from the deck to the beach… and into the ocean. On the beach – off to the side – they had set up an open-sided canopy that was up-lit, and pegged into the sand. Under this canopy… were several small, but very cushy couches, (these same-style couches were also set up on the deck, by the way). So – picture this: there in the sand, kind of ‘out of nowhere’, right next to the ocean… is this up-lit canopy lounge area. Waves are rolling up just inches from the feet of the couches… and people are curled up (or stretched out!) and relaxing. Music is playing, and guests are dancing – either on the deck, or in the water – and you could be sitting on these couches, with waves rolling up inches away from you. It… was…amazing. This is OUR wedding! What a night!
ACW uses Mikael Lamber for photography. He is friendly and professional and does a good job. We definitely liked our photos, and maybe just as important – enjoyed our day with him. He was good at catching lots of ‘moments’, as well as traditional shots. He is reasonably priced, especially when it comes to buying all of your pictures when it’s all said and done. I feel honest in saying that brides don’t need to have any hesitation in using him and that you will likely be very pleased. If there is ANY issue at all, it’s that he seems to be exceptionally busy, and may have less time on the back-end to ‘process’ the pictures, (take out fine lines in faces, crop excess ‘stuff’ out of the pictures, add effects to photos, etc.), so if you are interested in a lot of post-processing, you might be better served to buy the pictures and spend time either doing this yourself, or with someone else that you know that does this type of thing as you put your albums together. But as far as the ‘shots’ themselves and the lighting, etc… he did an excellent job and we are very happy with the work he did.
Wrapping It Up
All of this being said, (and I know it was a lot, but I also know that when you are planning these things… details matter), you should know that we really didn’t spend a fortune to have all of this. If you plan it right, you can have amazing extravagance for not a lot of money. I had tons and tons of orchids at my wedding – they were everywhere. (Try doing THAT in the states!!) We had amazing menus at both the groom’s dinner and the reception. The location of the wedding was gorgeous, and the reception… well, we’ve covered that. The resort where guests stayed was far beyond adequate – I would absolutely be a return guest, and it was a phenomenal spot for a group for many, many reasons.
As far as choosing who to coordinate it all, Awesome Caribbean Weddings handled every last detail and didn’t drop a thing. Also worthy of note was that they were willing to research any additional requests that I had and provide me with solutions or at least options. We threw several non-traditional situations at them – probably not as many as some – but definitely our fair share – and all were accommodated.
I wish all of you planning a destination wedding the perfection that we were lucky enough to have!