Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vendor Review

We're back! Puerto Vallarta was gorgeous and so much fun! We were totally and utterly spoiled over the past 8 days. It was the best vacation I've ever had, and just the greatest honeymoon I could ever ask for. Recap to come later, since it will likely be long and involved... ;)

Lots of brides on wedding forums provide vendor reviews for the wedding, so that brides in the same area know who was great and who wasn't. Most of the brides reading this won't be in the area, but I found during my planning that reviews give good ideas on what to watch out for or ask about. So here are my thoughts on my vendors...

Ceremony Location: Padre Serra Church - A
Firstly, I realize it's a little weird reviewing a church, but I did pay many of the people who worked with me there, and I gave them a rather large "donation", so I figure they're just as much a vendor as a country club. Anyway, they were fabulous! The church itself is gorgeous and I got so many compliments on how beautiful it is. What's more, it was decorated with tons of flowers and large swags of cloth for Easter, so I didn't need to decorate the church at all. (I had intended on adding pew decorations, but I didn't have time) Vivian, our church coordinator, made the ceremony flow smoothly and the procession (as far as I know) flawless, so everyone knew when to go and how to walk and everything. Dan, our music coordinator and pianist, worried me at first with how little he communicated with us, but he and my brother went over the music the day before, and it was utterly beautiful. I LOVED the music. The church office took care of the little details too, so I didn't have to worry about sending in my marriage license and kept track of our papers and everything. Just a great experience.

Presider: Deacon John - A+
Sam and I really and truly love this man. He is just the greatest and nicest old man you'll ever meet. All the sessions we had with him for our Pre-Cana process were comfortable and enriching. He was so patient and sweet, and helped me accept the things that were going on with my mother. And he put us at ease during the ceremony with how warm and friendly he was. He came up to us after I reached the altar, chatted and joked with us as the music finished playing, and really calmed our nerves. He gave us big hugs after the ceremony too. He was absolutely invaluable, and made our ceremony so meaningful and comfortable.

Reception Location/Caterer: The Sportsman Restaurant - B-
Admittedly, Sam and I kinda "settled" on this place after a very long and arduous search for a reception place that was close to the church and within our budget. The Sportsman is a nice restaurant, so even though it wasn't swanky, it was a good semi-formal place for just 50 people to party in. First, the good stuff: The food was incredibly delicious, and really filled us up. The waiters, at least, were pretty friendly and on top of things. And they weren't strict about anything. They didn't care if we had a lot of candles (which can be an issue with some indoor venues), and ordered the linens in several different colors. They didn't charge us a site fee, and it was so affordable at $18 per person. And even though we had a bar tab, we either didn't reach it (which seemed pretty unlikely because many guests got drunk) or they just stopped counting, so it was free all night. So that was pretty cool. That said, here's the bad stuff: I had asked for 8 tables - 6 for our guests, one for gifts, and one for placecards and guestbook pages. We got the tables for our guests, and that's pretty much it. My MOH and family put the gifts on a pool table in the corner (you can see it in the background of this pic, but they didn't have room for placecards, so they were put on the tables. The guestbook pages were placed on a small bar table in the back of the room, and I feel like some people didn't know about them. Thankfully, my friends alerted most people about them. Also, we had asked the manager for a dance floor, but when we got there, there wasn't any dancing space whatsoever. He had assumed that since we weren't having a DJ, that we weren't having any dancing, even though we had specifically asked for one, and we told him that we'd be bringing our own stereo. He said he'd clear some space near the bar for us by removing some tables, but it still wasn't done by the end of dinner, so I had to track him down AGAIN to get him to clear the space. Also, even though we were having a private party, he let other customers sit at and around the bar really close to us, and I heard the other people were pestering my guests. I don't mind that they were there, but I feel like he should have made more of an effort to close off at least part of the bar area for us. I also heard (since I didn't drink much) that the drinks were kinda bad, and the bartender wasn't very nice. I felt like the customer service there was really lacking. I regret not writing out everything I wanted in detail beforehand.

Cake: Siblings Bakery - A-
These people are really friendly. They were the ones I missed the first time around and had to reschedule with, and they were so cool about it. They gave nice-sized portions for the taste testing and even gave us a big hunk of cake to take home with us. The cake we got was DELICIOUS!! And huge! It was supposed to feed 60 people and we ended up with about 52. But at the end of the day, we had two whole tiers left over, and most people had second servings. Granted, the servers cut the cake slices small, but don't all wedding cake servers cut them small? And it's not like we were going to save the top tier, because they give us a free small cake on our first anniversary. So I gave my family the top tier, and we took the middle one. And it's still moist and delicious now, even after sitting in our fridge while we were on our honeymoon. Two disappointing things: 1) The cake wasn't decorated the way we had gone over it. It was kinda close, and had the right colors, but it wasn't what we had discussed. Don't get me wrong - it was still pretty and I got some compliments on it. And I feel like I'm being nitpicky, but it really was quite different from what I had shown them. If you remember what I posted as my model a couple months ago, the flowers were bigger and more prominent, right? But the cake did end up being very cute. Just not what I expected. 2) The cake was supposed to have fresh strawberries and Bavarian cream in the middle. We got the Bavarian cream, but there were VERY few strawberries. I think some of my guests ended up not having any. In fact, I'm glad we didn't end up serving the middle tier, because we've eaten nearly the entire thing, and we haven't found a single strawberry in it.

Photographer: Joannessa Clawson - A+ (so far - pictures not back yet)
So far, I really love her. She was so professional, and I felt like she acted as more than just a photographer, but kind of as an impromptu wedding "coach" or something too. She helped me relax before the wedding, set up a lot of fun and cute formal shots, guided me during the cake cutting (I didn't know what to do exactly...), and made sure her assistant stayed for a while after she had to leave so we could have candid dancing photos (we were running really late). I felt at ease with her around, though I did feel bad that she was sitting around for a while because dinner ran long. I feel pretty confident that the pictures she took will be gorgeous too.

Dress: Cinderella Bridal on Ebay - A-
As I said before, my dress was gorgeous, and almost exactly how I imagined it. The cloth was really high quality, but I got it about a week later than expected without much explanation or assurances as to when it would be done. Also, it was much longer than it should have been. I gave them the correct hollow to hem measurement, but about 5 inches had to be removed from the bottom by the tailor. That's a lot for a custom dress. And a seam ripped a little while I was putting it on at the tailor, but I'm not sure if that was bad sewing or my freakishly enormous ribs. I didn't fix it, but barely anyone noticed.

Tailor: Flavio's Tailoring & Alterations - B-
First, let me say that they really did do a good job with the alteration. They did have to take off a lot of material from the bottom, and - unless you looked really hard - you wouldn't be able to tell that it had been altered. However, as I mentioned before, they were really bad at getting the job done when they said it would. They said it'd be done by Friday, called to say it'd actually get done on Tuesday, and then actually got it done by Wednesday. It's not even like they did it to just me. My cousin got her bridesmaid dress altered there too, and it wasn't ready until the day before the wedding! And they barely made any apologies for their being late with my dress! Really unprofessional customer service.

My Ring: Linda Clifford Celtic Jewelry - A
I love my ring! It's gorgeous, and it fits perfectly! Exactly as described. And the customer service was fantastic too. Very easy email communication, they were very quick to reply, and when I was having trouble with my bank card, they accomodated me really well with no fuss at all. They were really friendly too. Highly recommended.

Sam's Ring: Zales Outlet - A
This was a really easy purchase. We had gone in there a couple times to try out rings for him, he found one he really liked, and it was a great price. Beautiful ring! And the salespeople weren't very pushy, and were actually even pretty friendly.

Tuxedos: Men's Wearhouse - A
I was a little nervous ordering everything out of a binder with pictures and cloth samples. After all, you don't order a wedding dress without trying on a sample, right? But it all turned out so well. Sam looked so handsome! (His groomsmen looked good too.) What was even better was that the whole out of state groomsmen thing worked really well. I picked out styles and colors for them (Tim, the best man, in violet to match Nimalee's dress, and Miguel, the groomsman, in a silvery blue to match Ciara's dress), and Men's Wearhouse put that information in the computer. Then the groomsmen just had to go in to their local Men's Wearhouse in Chicago to get fitted, and they picked it up here at our Men's Wearhouse the day before the wedding. After the wedding, we returned them back here, so the groomsmen didn't have to mess with putting them in their luggage or anything. Very convenient. (Yes, that's Sam dancing with his brother. I'm comfortable with it!)

Bridesmaid Dresses: David's Bridal - A-
The first time we went in for a fitting, it was mostly for me, and we got great service. Our salesgirl was very prompt and helpful. But the second time we went, for the bridesmaids, they were distant and not very helpful at all, even though they weren't as busy. At any rate, they had a wide selection of dresses to look at on the catalogs, but their range of sizes and colors were a little lacking. If we liked a color, they didn't have it in stock. If we needed a particular size, it was really hard to find dresses that we liked in those sizes. In the end, I got the dresses during their clearance sale, and they thankfully had them in my bridesmaids' sizes (or very close). $50 each! I think David's Bridal is a good deal when they have a sale (which is quite often). And my girls looked beautiful!

Honeymoon hotel: Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort - A
Absolutely the best vacation I have ever taken! Loved the all-inclusive package. Through Orbitz, we got a great deal - $850 per person for 7 nights stay including airfare, all meals, all drinks by the glass, 24-hour room service, mini-bar, and most activities. Unless we were tipping, we didn't have to take out any money at all. It's right on a secluded white sand beach, with 3 pools and hot tubs, 2 bars, 5 restaurants... The food was delicious, the drinks were great, the rooms and property were clean... We loved this place! Only complaints were the beds were pretty hard, and the restaurant service (especially during lunch) was very slow. But we probably saved $1000 on food and drinks alone, and we have never stayed anywhere so beautiful or been so pampered in our lives! I bet we would have spent easily as much on a "cheaper" room in Las Vegas after food and drinks.

I've been working on this for a while, so I'll go pay attention to my new husband now. ;)


At May 19, 2006 2:21 AM, Blogger BZ said...

Whoo-hooo you have a HUSBAND!!!! How exciting!

Sounds like a fabulous day and despite a couple of hic-cups, all went smoothly indeed. Great to hear your review and very helpful, not only for the vendors, but for us other brides-to-be, in terms of what caught you out on the big day but ultimately didn't matter tom the overall experience.

Glad to see you had a great honeymoon too - i'm being informed by my fiance that he is planning on coming back from our all-inclusive at least 20lbs heavier as he plans on taking full advantage of the 'all you can eat' option!

Welcome back and congrats again. You both look very happy indeed. :)

At May 26, 2006 10:32 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

Thanks! And I'm glad you found it helpful. :)

Amazingly, I didn't gain any weight over our honeymoon. Woo hoo! But I should go back to eating healthier. My stomach feels big to me.


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