Tweedlebud Rachel's Destination Wedding 101-
Why I chose Mexico instead of home

August 26, 2013

Hi, Tweedlebud and colleague of Miss Tweedle, Rachel here. I promised Miss Tweedle before my wedding (in December of last year) that I would do a post on my destination wedding, so here is part 1 of (maybe) 3.
When my husband and I finally (after over 8 years) decided to take the plunge and tie the knot (he proposed by putting the ring in my stocking on Christmas morning-cute, right?), there was much discussion about where to have the festivities.
Here is the ringit really is a beaut!
His family is from the Okanagan and have a beautiful farm in Keremeos, while my family lives mostly in Invermere. I loved the idea of having a spring wedding in Keremeos on the Caswell farm (imagine the apricot blossoms as your walk down the aisle), but the idea of renting tents, setting up dinner, decorating and putting on an outdoor event was more than daunting. My parents suggested we do a backyard potluck/BBQ, I almost fainted from the horror. A potluck wedding, NO THANK YOU (no offence to anyone who has done that, it’s just not my kind of wedding!) So going away, avoiding all the setup nightmares and potlucks was our compromise. Truthfully, I am a pretty ‘throw something together at the last minute’ kind of girl (my sister, and wonderful maid of honour, will attest to this), but I knew that I had to spend some time and make this day perfect (plus my sister is a planning fanatic).

Picking the Resort:

If you ever have to pick a vacation/resort for a wedding, know that it is like finding a needle in a haystack. We started by choosing the time of year that worked for lots of people. I am a teacher, so holidays seemed like the best fit. We thought summer would be good, but why go somewhere where it’s hot when it’s already hot at home. Spring break is expensive and varies so much for everyone, so Christmas holiday was it. I checked the school calendar and we planned for the first week of Christmas holidays. Somehow I managed to read the calendar wrong and we booked the trip for the last week of school before the holidays. We both had to take a week off of work, but it worked out because I had 2 weeks to relax after the whirlwind trip when we got back.
Next we had to figure out which resort worked for us. It is amazing how many resorts offer wedding packages. If you are thinking of a Destination wedding, DO NOT type “destination wedding locations” into Google, it’s terrifying.
Based on the time of year, we made a list of places we thought would work: Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico. After that we weeded out the places that were too pricey: Jamaica and Dominican, and got opinions from our travel agent and friends about Cuba and Mexico. Cuba often has “bland” food, so we nixed that. I have never been to the Mayan Riviera before and wanted to see the white sand and blue ocean, plus I LOVE Mexican food, so we decided on that. 
We then got a list of resorts from our travel agent (get one, they are super helpful and dealt with all our guests' concerns about travel and booking). We made a list of things we HAD to have as well as a top price (we wanted our guests to come, so we had to keep the price down and the resort quality up!).
Three great tips I learned when picking the right resort were:
1. Use Tripadvisor (but take the comments with a grain of salt, some people are truly unhappy no matter where they go).
2. Search the resort on YouTube. I don't know who has time for this, but people actually often will make videos of their trip and you can get a sneak peak of the resort and really what it is like.
3. Almost every resort has the same wedding packages (they vary by price and things that are included, but as the packages increase in price, so too do the things that you don’t really need like a turn down service or massage for 2- things you can pay extra for if you really want them and then you can choose what you really want). 
We made a list of the must haves:
- Dinner for all of our guests (this is sometimes not included and is $$$)
- Dancing (surprising, but usually not included either)
- Ceremony (symbolic, we got hitched in Canada first)
- Cake
- Flowers
These were the basic necessities for us and we eventually settled on the Gran Bahia Principe in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. It included 4 out of the 5 things we wanted and we were able to pay to have dancing. It was a beautiful resort and we really had a good time.

It had all the things we needed!
This was just the beginning. As it turns out, and I am sure my sister will lament this fact, I was actually extraordinarily picky about the little things. Who knew a casual, throw things together at the last minute kind of girl could be so picky and particular?! I definitely made having a destination wedding more work than it needed to be. I can only imagine the bridezilla I would have been if I had had a wedding here. My Dad actually recently thanked me, after my brother’s wedding this June, for having a destination wedding. You are WELCOME Dad!
Anyway, so the wedding was still 8+ months away and I was starting to stress about all the little details. My top priorities were wedding dress shopping and invitations. Tip: if you decide on a destination wedding, pick your resort early and get your invitations out with plenty of time for people to save and plan to take time off work- 8 months did not seem very long!

Creating Invites that make your guests smile:

While I had seen lots of super cute wedding invitations with bows and pockets and little RSVP cards, I wanted to be "different” and do something that was more our style. I had this ‘aha’ moment in the winter when I was ski touring with Mike, which is a once a year sufferfest, that it would be cute to have a little comic on the front of our card of us doing different outdoorsy stuff for our wedding. We are the kind of that couple who everyone thinks is always out there pushing the limits and being wild. The reality is when we go climbing, I cry when it’s too hard and I would really rather be at home watching a movie or something.

Anyway, I put the word out to my artsy friends and my super talented friend Cajsa said she would do it. She is amazing and came up with a 3-frame concept that had us skiing, scuba-diving and climbing in our duds. I love the black and white simplicity and how she really nailed each of us, plus the rock is huge, just like mine ;) ! I have the original art work framed in my house- it’s so cute. The inside of the card, I designed myself and added some Cajsa-art touches as well as a photo insert of the two of us.

Instead of an RSVP card, I created a wedding website where people could RSVP as well as an email address just for the wedding.

These both had moderate success and I definitely had to track people down for an answer. I also created return labels for the invites to match the theme of the card and with the help of my trustee Mom and sister hand addressed them. I spent HOURS on the invitations and--- ask MissTweedle, I lamented the whole process often on our carpool trips, but they were really perfect in the end.

Dress Drama:

Next task was the dress. Like everyone, I had a dream dress in my head, it was flowy and light and Grecian or maybe empire waist or drop waist. Whatever it was, it would fit me perfect and make me look AMAZING. Not long after we got engaged, my sister (and nieces- don’t take small children dress shopping, it’s crazy) stopped at the bridal shop in the closest big town. I tried on a bunch of dresses; mostly with drop waist and I really liked them. I was surprised how they fit and complimented my figure. I actually really liked one gold coloured dress. I know what you’re thinking, GOLD? I looked regal, or like I was going to the Oscars. It’s exciting trying on dresses for the first time. I got excited OK?

My sister snuck photos of me (you apparently aren’t allowed to take photos of the dresses, but everyone knows that’s stupid and sneaks pictures anyways). Later upon review, none of the dresses really were as nice as they had seemed in the shop, so I had to wait until a trip to the big city. I got my first chance when I went to Vancouver for a teacher’s conference. My best friend and bridesmaid Lisa lives there, and this being our only chance, we had to do a little dress shopping. Lisa knew about this trendy dress shop on Main near her place, so we went to check it out. It ended up being the only store we went to. 

By this time, I knew I was going to have a destination wedding, so I was looking for something breezy, not too many layers, but I definitely wanted a gown. Lots of destination specific wedding dresses are either short or sleek and simple. I am of the mind that you only get married once (fingers crossed), so I better have a gown to die for, not just a dress that’s white. 

I tried on a bunch of different styles and really liked some fit and flare types (they reminded me of flamenco dancers- very appropriate for our destination), but nothing was really making me go wild. Just before we left, Lisa remembered one last dress, that was out of my price range, we had forgotten to try on. It was strapless, with a sweetheart neckline, high empire waist, jeweled belt and flowing organza skirt in a ball gown style with a short train. I put it on and LOVED it. Lisa immediately felt guilty that my sister and mom weren’t there. I knew that I couldn’t buy the dress right then and there and I asked the lady if I could get the information about the dress and maybe call back later to order it. Unbelievable enough she refused to even tell me the designer unless I committed to buying it. I was not impressed and definitely didn’t want to buy the dress from her after that. Luckily I had taken pictures of the dress (sneakily of course) and I began a hunt to figure out who made it. I had to have this dress. It was THE dress.
Here I am swooning over it!
I spent hours searching the web and thankfully there are tons of knockoff websites who literally steal the pictures from real designers and post them to sell a knock off version. I found a picture of my dress and then sent emails to all the dress shops in Calgary to see if they knew who the designer was and if they had this dress in stock. Ethos Bridal called back and said they had the dress and were happy to tell me it was by Mori lee, so I booked an appointment.

With my mom and sister in tow, and my niece Lily – why did I keep bringing children to these things?!-  they do not belong in stores like this! - we went and tried the dress on. I LOVED it again, but to be sure I tried on about 30 other dresses to confirm it. Nothing compared. We veiled up just to get the tears out of the mom and decided that it was the dress. I wasn’t even concerned with sneaking photos of the dress or others because at Ethos they don’t care. They are wonderful there. If you are from Calgary, go to Ethos. They will help you out!

Unbelievably I was able to get a cheaper price by haggling over the cost of the same dress in the Vancouver store and they took $400 off. The dress still felt like it cost a fortune, but my mom said it was worth every penny. Thanks Mom!

Tip: Go dress shopping early. If you find the dress you have to have and it’s not in your size at the store, it takes 4-6 MONTHS to order one. Then you usually have to have it fitted which can take a month as well. Also, haggle over the price, I guess normal set pricing doesn’t always apply in bridal wear.

Yay! By the end of April, I had my invitations out, my dress purchased and on order and my wedding booked at the resort. I figured I could relax about the wedding for a bit, maybe go crying/I mean climbing with my fiance, plus my Dad kept saying, “chill out, you have LOTS of time!” This did little to calm me, but I did take a break from planning for a while.

Next time I will get into the little things and why small towns are terrible for planning weddings in, plus how it all worked out beautifully for both weddings (yes, I actually had 2 weddings, one here and the big show in Mexico).

Oh, and I really do love getting outside and enjoying adventures, crying just comes with the territory. For example, below on the same ski traverse, I am probably crying in the picture because I am walking up hill, carrying my skis with my goggles on, with freezing fingers, blisters on my heels in blowing wind and white out conditions and we are a 3 day walk from home. Who wouldn’t cry? Men, I suppose. I do love him though.


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