Archive | June, 2013

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29 Jun

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General Wedding Recommendations

25 Jun

1)    Learn about and use Vistaprint early on.  There is so much you can do on Vistaprint.  We made our welcome brochures, wedding programs, and stickers for our wedding welcome buckets all on Vistaprint.  Some brides even use Vistaprint to make their invitations and save the dates.  And, with all of the coupons for Vistaprint, mixed with the frequent Groupons/Living Socials, Vistaprint is super cheap!


2)    Divide the tasks early on between you and your fiancé.  And, truly trust your fiancé to get his tasks done.

3)    Early on in the planning process, create a time line of wedding tasks and try to stick to it.  Keep it in a visible place where you and your fiancé can check off completed tasks.

4)    Make wedding tasks/chores a fun time for you and your fiancé.  For example, only discuss the tasks at a weekly lunch at your favorite restaurant.  Bringing the wedding stress home can lead to fights.

5)    Early on have frank conversations with your families about finances to find out who is willing to pay, what their willing to pay for, when are they willing to pay, and how they would like to pay (e.g., a check to you after you pay or do they want to be the one that pays the vendor).

6)    If you plan to change your name right after the wedding/honeymoon, don’t book any trips for after the wedding/honeymoon.  In particular, do not book airline tickets.  It seems that most airlines make you cancel your reservation if your name changes, which means a cancelation fee (South African Airways wanted to charge me $600 to cancel the flights and then rebook them).

7)    Make a thorough vendors list that includes the vendor’s name, contact person, phone number, email address and the time arriving.  Keep this organized so you know when and where your vendors are supposed to be.

8)    Find a day of coordinator even if it is just a friend.  The last thing the bride should be worrying about is vendors.  The bride should be enjoying the day.  Have someone else coordinator the day of and make sure that everyone and everything are in the right place.

9)    Really enjoy the day.  Don’t worry about the small things.  Everything will come together or at least it will be some funny story you will tell your kids about.

10) Find a photographer that you LOVE, not just like (or worse, sort of like), but LOVE.   These are the photos that you will look at throughout your life.  Do not skimp on them.  Choose a photographer that knows wedding photography and fits with the kind of photography that you want (e.g., artistic, traditional, etc.).  Even better is if the photographer has done a lot of shoots at the venue so they know where to get the best shots.  Finally, find a photographer that you get along with and that is flexible with their day with you.


12) Get your bridesmaids and groomsmen on board with helping you out the day of the wedding.  Tell them about any concerns you have whether it be about a vendor not showing up or a drunken relative.  Have them take care of your concerns.

13) Choosing bridesmaids/groomsmen:   My #1 rule is to choose people you truly think you will be friends with for a lifetime.  How many times have we opened our parents’ wedding photo albums to have them tell us that they are not friends with their bridal party any longer or they don’t know where these people are nowadays?   The way I believe you can overcome a lot of this is not having a bunch of ladies from different areas of your life, but instead choosing the ladies that are in your close group of mutual friends.  It is harder to lose contact with one of your girlfriends if you are all part of one group.  Also, this makes it easier on everyone since everyone knows each other already and are close. I chose three of my closest girl friends from college.  We were all part of the same sorority.  I think it worked out beautifully and our friendship really shines through in the photos.



Do you have any good suggestions for brides?   Please email me at or write them in the comments section!

Destination Wedding Recommendations

20 Jun

1)    Choose a resort that is well recommended and not just a resort that it super affordable.  You may think you want a lot of guests and thus choose a cheap resort, but if all those guests are only having an ok time because the resort sucks, then you will be sorry.  Better to be at a great resort and have fewer but much happier guests. 


2)    Make sure that you are not entertaining all weekend but actually enjoying the activities.  I realized that I was more focused on making sure everyone else was having a good time that I completed missed out on enjoying a lot of the activities I planned.

3)    Our welcome buckets were well received.  The sunglasses from were used by almost everyone throughout the wedding weekend.  Our guests loved them.  We also put sunscreen and aloe in the buckets, which we saw our guests using on the beach.  The snacks we got from Costco were good munchies to have in the room between meals.


4)    The sky lanterns were also well received. has them for really cheap.


5)    Join  I think it is the single best source for planning a destination wedding.

6)    See if there is a forum specific to your resort.  Iberostar Rose Hall Suites has a few popular groups on Facebook.  These forums can be really helpful especially if you are at a popular resort with few wedding coordinators lending to delays in responses to your questions.

7)    Plan daily optional activities for your guests on non-wedding days.  These can even just be “wedding couple will be at the beach next to ____ from ___am to ___ pm.”  I found that many guests wanted to know where we were going to be so that we all had more time together.  One thing I would have done differently is to tell all our guests where we were going to go to dinner each night and at what time.  They could then make reservations at the same restaurant if they so pleased.

8)    Have everyone stay at the same resort.  People seemed to really bond and we got to spend a lot more quality time with each of our guests.

9)    Stay organized.  Make an Excel chart with (a) vendors, (b) guests, (c) gifts, (d) budget, (e) tables (place cards), (f) wedding songs, (g) schedule, (h) wedding tasks, (i) packing list, and (j) miscellaneous.

10) Book your vendors early!  The best ones get booked early!  Don’t miss out!

11) Pack envelopes to put any checks/cash presents into.  The envelopes make it easier for keeping track of presents and the money.

Have any suggestions for wedding couples planning a destination wedding?  If so, please put them in the comment section or email me at!

Excel Chart for Destination Wedding Planning

15 Jun

I have created an Excel chart that is a good starter for organizing your destination wedding.  See attached:  Excel Chart for Destination Weddings.  Please send me your thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions!

Happy planning!

Courtney Mara

P.S. The packing list is information I collected from other brides on


How to Plan a Destination Wedding

7 Jun

So, you want to have a destination wedding…


Here’s how to begin:

(1)  Work on your budget. How much do you have to spend on your wedding?  Talk to your family to see if they are willing to help and, if so, how much, for what, and how do they want to pay (e.g., directly to the vendor, give you a check, etc.).

(2)  Join  It is the best resource for brides considering, planning, and returning from their destination weddings.

(3)  Find a few different travel agents.  Get their opinion on locations if you haven’t picked one.

(4)  Pick a location (city/state/country).   To figure out your location, answer a few questions.  What feel do you want the wedding to have?  Do you want warm weather or cold weather?  Do you want a mountain, garden, indoor, beach or cliff side wedding?   Are you getting legally married in that location?  If so, make sure to check the country’s marriage restrictions and whether you can abide by the laws/regulations to get legally married there.  Some countries even require blood tests or have in-country stay requirements.  Also, are you fine with a marriage certificate in another language?  If not, make sure to choose an English-speaking location or find out if they have the option of having the certificate in English.  Finally, how far are your guests willing to travel?

(5)  Once you pick the destination, pick the resort and/or location for the ceremony/reception.  Ask travel agents for their recommendations for weddings in that particular city/state/country.  Then check the pricing of the resorts to see which ones are affordable for your guests.  Also, check reviews of the resort on TripAdvisor,, and other websites.  Finally, make sure to find out the cost of a wedding at the resorts/locations that you are looking at.  Pricing can really differ at the resorts and also ask if you can use outside vendors if you have particular vendors you want to work with.

(6)  Talk to the resort/location and get a date locked down.

(7)  Get price quotes from a few travel agents and pick whichever travel agent gives you the best quote, mixed with the one that you work well with (are they easy to get ahold of?),  and that gives you good benefits (e.g., free stay for the wedding couple, champagne in the room, etc.).  Sign a group booking contract with your travel agent.

(8)  Once you have your particular location of the wedding weekend, see if your travel agent has any past brides that you can talk to.  Also, look for the forums for your location on and if there are any on Facebook.  For example, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, the resort where my wedding was held, has three forums on Facebook and a few on  These forums can be very helpful since it can be hard to reach wedding coordinators at popular resorts.

(9)  Talk to vendors.  Read their reviews.  Check WeddingWire, Facebook, Google, and  Find out if their price point fits your budget.  Book them early.  10 months prior to my wedding, a lot of vendors were already booked.  Really talk to vendors early and book them!

(10)    Make a thorough Excel chart with (a) vendors, (b) guests, (c) gifts, (d) budget, (e) tables (place cards), (f) wedding songs, (g) schedule, (h) wedding tasks, (i) packing list, and (j) miscellaneous.  Get organized early on!

(11)    Lastly, tell your guests early on about your plans to have a destination wedding.  Send out save the dates, create a wedding website, and get your guests in touch with your travel agent.

Stay tuned to for more wedding and travel planning advice…

Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Review

1 Jun


Arrival/Check In – B

We never got a welcome drink!  We also arrived at 1pm and were not able to check in until 3pm.  This is one of the few times where a resort really has not allowed us to check in before the designated check in time.  However, you are allowed to enjoy the resort (including the restaurants) until check in time.  You just leave your luggage at the front door with the bell hop.

Resort – A

Beautiful grounds, beach was beautiful, lazy river is super lazy, but still a ton of fun to go around with a big group, the pools were awesome, there were always activities going on from dancing next to the pool, volleyball on the beach, volleyball in one of the pools, etc.  The lobby and other areas inside the resort are very classy.


Room (Oceanfront) – A

The beds were comfortable, the balcony was huge and had a gorgeous view.  I only turned on the TV once but was able to find our home baseball game on and the show “Friends.”  The shower and tub are big.

Nightclub – A

Best all inclusive night club I have ever been too.  Good music, fun lights, big bar.


Breakfast Buffet – A

Lots of choices and really good.  Great fruit, bacon is crisp, and LOTS of fresh juice choices.

Lunch Buffet at Aunt Rubys – B+

Food was good, just not so many choices.   Although, my brother was able to get a huge turkey sandwich one day, which I don’t think is that common at all-inclusive resorts.  Convenient location (next to beach).

Dinner at Aunt Rubys – B

My pork was ok.  My husband and his mom didn’t like the tenderloin.  Most everyone else seemed to order the rib eye and really enjoyed it (it was HUGE).  Plus, the dessert was the best for any of the restaurants.  I LOVED the apple pie.

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Dinner at Calabash Gourmet Restaurant – C

My husband’s steak was really good.  The lamb was only ok.  The appetizer of asparagus soup was really good and so was the salad they gave us.   My husband who is the pickiest eater and doesn’t like to try new things even liked the asparagus soup.  The dessert they gave us was some chocolate soft thing – it was terrible.


Dinner at the Mexican Restaurant – A-

Loved the special tacos.  The appetizer bar is really good with a lot of Mexican and non-Mexican options that I almost didn’t need to eat the meal.  The dessert table was really lacking.  Nothing I wanted to eat.

Dinner at Iberostar Rose Hall Beach’s Japanese Hibachi Restaurant – B

The atmosphere and experience deserve an A, but the actual food deserves a C.  The chicken was really good, but the rice was burnt and the steak was terrible.  SAM_6370Pool Bar – A

The drinks were great.  I recommend the Dirty Banana.

Beach – B

Beautiful.  I just wish there was more room to swim out and around.  There are a lot of parts with seaweed or maybe it was coral – but where you couldn’t swim too easily.   Lying on the beach is awesome though.  Lots of shade and sun areas.


Pool – A

Multiple pools.  Lots of activities.  The pools really made my husband and me into pool people.


Water Activities – B

The kayaking is fun and relaxing.  Just reserve it in the morning for your afternoon time.  Parasailing was $120 per couple.   Our friends liked the sailing which was free.


Spa: A

Get a long massage!  I had the best massage I have ever had and I tend to be picky about massages.  Plus, the atmosphere they have in the room and rest of the spa makes you feel that you are at a five-star spa.  Also, they have spa pools that are free to use.  Check them out.

Fitness Center:  C

We didn’t use it because I like to run with a TV and they didn’t have it set up so you can do that.  I remember there being one TV, but either you couldn’t see it from the treadmills or there was no noise.