Our Second Wedding Planning Trip (March 2010)

Kings Crown lawn at South Seas
Island Resort

So the time came to really get down to business and get some details ironed out for our wedding.  As you may have remembered in my post that “The Decision in In,” we had the tentative go-ahead to start tracking down some costs for the full-out wedding and reception on the island.  As it turned out, March 2010 ended up being family vacation time for my bride’s family.  With the possibility of a southwest Florida destination wedding up in the air, my soon-to-be father-in-law decided we should all rent a house on Captiva Island and visit all the possible venues.  I scheduled the meetings and here’s how it went:

The Venues:

It ended up that the parents of the bride were most interested in seeing the locations at South Seas Island Resort and the Sanibel Collection (Sundial, The Dunes, etc).  When we arrived at South Seas, we learned that some of the pricing had altered since our trip to visit.  We walked the property, checking out all the locations and venues, and talked through availability and basic pricing.  We next moved to Sundial, where we again walked the various properties and went through some basic availability and pricing.

The Details:
I hold much respect for my future in-laws, as they came truly prepared to get their questions answered by the catering/sales managers while on site.  Here were some of the questions they found most interesting:
  • What were all the different locations available for the wedding and reception?
    • Were these locations tied together in a “tiered” pricing system?  In other words, could you only book a particular location for the wedding if you booked it’s associated reception area?
    • What were the backup locations and/or plans for all the outdoor locations?
    • What was the site fee?
  • How many weddings are scheduled the same day?
  • Is there a catering minimum (i.e. a minimum amount of money spent on food and beverage)?
    • Could additional meals count towards this minimum, such as a catered lunch for pre-wedding preparations for the bridal party, or a next-day breakfast/brunch for wedding guests?
  • What is the detail of the contract?
  • When were the timelines for payments, decisions (menu, guest count, etc), and room requirements?
  • What room types could be “blocked”?
    • What was the policy on cancellation of the block and/or unused rooms within the block?
    • Was there a discount applied for guests attending the wedding?
    • Did the number of rooms or nights booked for a stay at the resort affect any of the reservation/site fees?
You get the idea.  They basically went line-by-line, item-by-item determining what was negotiable and non-negotiable.  They also wanted to see how they could customize catering and site options in order to “play with the budget” and control the overall cost of the event.

The Talk:
While I obviously can’t be too detailed on the specifics (I don’t think my in-laws would appreciate it), you can bet there were some serious conversations that followed at the end of our second wedding planning trip.  While my bride-to-be’s parents presented us with two options, the option that we both decided we liked was a southwest florida destination wedding at Sundial Beach and Golf Resort.  We both knew we loved Sanibel and wanted something out-of-the-ordinary that reflected who we are as a couple.   So why Sundial?

The Factors Behind The Decision:

Parents Perspective:  As it were, Sundial was the most flexible in their arrangement of event locations and pricing.  They had a great mix of pre-defined catering packages, but also included a number of items which could be substituted and/or added a la carte.  Sundial also had a lower site fee and catering minimum than South Seas, and offered that we could offset our site fees based on the number of room/nights were booked under our room block.  All-in-all, this seemed to provide the most flexibility to control our “per-plate” expense for the wedding.
Pool Area at Sundial

Our Perspective:  Having stayed at Sundial before, we were well acquainted with the experience the resort provided.  Knowing our friends, and their shared love for fun in the sun, we knew that Sundial would appeal to the young and old alike.  For our friends, there was a pool bar, sand volleyball, pool with waterslide, and on-site sports bar with pool tables.  Oh, and did I mention a pool bar??  For our older friends and family members, there was the convenience of “everything in one spot” – dining, pool, ocean (with beach chairs and umbrellas), hot tub, and the pool bar if they felt inclined for some libations.  Additionally, their stay at Sundial allowed them priority tee times at the Dunes if they felt like playing golf.

What about your own destination wedding planning experience?   What were some critical questions your parents asked when you were scouting for the perfect wedding location?   What were the key/critical elements to a venue you were looking for when you were trying to find a location for your ceremony and/or reception? 

Wedding Dress Shopping – Say Yes To The Dress!

Say “Yes” to the Dress(es)? 

Now that we’re fairly certain of the Destination Wedding, the bride-to-be has started the (what I as the groom would consider long and agonizing) process of selecting dresses and colors!  I definitely had no idea there was so much involved with choosing the dresses for the wedding.  It seems as if all the elements are interconnected (the dress, the color, the bridesmaids/groomsmen, etc) and it’s nearly impossible to find where to start.  I’m hoping that I can help save you the annoyances that plagued my fiance through the early stages of shopping for your destination wedding dress.

Where Do You Start?

When my fiance started her dress shopping, she hadn’t really decided on the theme and/or color-scheme to her wedding.  It seemed as though she was looking at everything all at once.  This quickly got overwhelming and made her start second-guessing just about every choice she was making.  From an outside perspective watching the whole thing transpire, I would have recommended she start by looking at the following process:

  1. Decide on your wedding location and season (or date).  This will dictate many of your “style” options.  For example, a heavy dress with a long train may not be appropriate for a summer, beach wedding.
  2. Know the colors appropriate for the season of your wedding date.  Yes, it’s your wedding and you can do what you want to.  However, if you really want your wedding to have a tied-together look, you should make sure all the outfits are coordinating with colors appropriate to the season.  Do you really want your bridesmaids in a warm winter holiday color in the middle of summer?  Check out the wedding themes and colors article at FavorIdeas.
  3. Choose the color scheme for your wedding.   If you don’t necessarily abide by the “I have to have a white wedding dress” philosophy, you may find that an ivory colored dress looks incredible compared to the traditional white dress depending on the color scheme of your wedding.  Also, choosing the color scheme now will help you when you start looking for ideas for other aspects of your wedding, such as cakes and flowers.
  4. Find your perfect dress.  Start shopping for YOUR dress.  What looks best and flattering for your figure?  What fits within your budget?
  5. Find your bridesmaids dresses.  Now that you’ve found YOUR perfect bridal dress, start shopping for the bridesmaids dresses.  Some folks choose a “mix-and-match” of styles while others want all their bridesmaids coordinating in the same style dress.  Personally, my fiance and I found the coordinating (same) style looked the best for the theme we were trying to create.
  6. Choose the Groom and Groomsmen outfits.  Again, make sure you take into account the season of your wedding.  If your wedding is in the middle of summer at a beach, the full-blown black tuxedo may have your wedding party passing out from the heat!
  7. Choose the Mother-of-the-Bride outfit.
  8. Choose the Mother-of-the-Groom outfit.
  9. Choose the Fathers’ outfits.
  10. Choose the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer outfits.  As these generally tend to be young kids, you should choose these outfits as close to the wedding as possible.  Young kids grow fast, and if you buy the outfit too early they may outgrow it!
  11. Choose the Usher outfits.

The Choices We Made:

The End Result!
Our wedding party final outfit choices!

As you know from our previous post, we want to do a beachside ceremony.  While my fiance took the “long road” getting to her dress/color decisions, we eventually made it and found everything we wanted.  As such, I wanted to share with you our choices, as well as some after-thoughts that may help in your search.

  • Bridal Dress:  My fiance ended up with TWO wedding dresses.  Before you faint, pick your jaw off the floor while I explain why.  First, she was torn between two vastly different dress designs, both of which happened to be on SUPER sale.  Additionally, she had stumbled upon the idea of doing a “trash-the-dress” photo shoot, and due to timing we’re planning to do our “trash-the-dress” shoot immediately following the ceremony and prior to the reception.  She chose a longer, traditional dress for the wedding (white at my request), but chose a shorter, ivory dress for the reception (better for dancing and dim lighting).  The point is, she knew what she wanted and found a way to get the best of all worlds.  Don’t be afraid to find bargains and use them to your advantage!!
  • Bridesmaids:  My fiance went round-and-round about colors, but finally landed on the Dessy “Firecracker” color.  She thought it would stand out best in the sunlight and evening lights, look great against the blue sea backdrop, and also be a fun bright color for flowers and decor.  She ended up choosing an A-line bridesmaid dress, as it was the best fit for all of her bridesmaids.
  • Groom and Groomsmen:  My fiance was nice enough to let us go the khaki route versus tuxedos.  (Personally, I think this helps keep the beach wedding feeling more relaxed and fun, versus stuffy and traditional.)  We found a great vertical stripe shirt that closely approximates the firecracker color and a nice blue complementary color.  We also found fun ties that coordinate with the two colors.  My groomsmen will be wearing blue ties with a small firecracker-colored crab print.  My outfit was a contrast to the groomsmen – a light blue gingham shirt with a firecracker-base tie (and light blue dolphin print).  We thought the small print on the ties was a fun way to bring the “island” into our wedding without being tacky.

Side Note:  We actually color coordinated the dads into the wedding party, by getting them the same khaki/shoe combo, and then having them wear a shirt matching me and a tie matching the groomsmen (blue on blue).  Our mothers chose outfits that coordinated our secondary color (blue).  It looked awesome and definitely helped them coordinate and show their importance with with wedding party without being overly formal.

What’s Been Your Experience?

As I mentioned, this is mostly just my thoughts as an outside observer.  For any of you brides that have already gone through the process, what was YOUR experience?  Would you change the order around if you could do it all over again?  We welcome your stories and tips in the comments below!

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The Decision Is In!

Happy Day!

We’ve presented all the facts and figures to the parents of the bride!  They are tentatively giving us the go-ahead to start doing additional research on vendors for a Sanibel Island Wedding.  As it stands, we are planning our second trip to Sanibel for sometime in March 2010 to show them all the options before we make the final choice and book the venue!

Why are we waiting so long?  Something we didn’t know but found out talking to all the sales and catering managers:  many of the venues WILL NOT book more than 1 year in advance.   As such, we’ve got plenty of time to go over ideas and research vendors as it we won’t really be able to book our venue for our April/May 2011 wedding until after the trip in March 2010.

As you know, we’re leaning towards Sundial and I don’t want to spoil the surprise of how pretty the resort is.  As such, here’s some pictures of the other wedding locations we scouted for your viewing pleasure!

Walkway to the Beach at Casa Ybel
The Beach at Tween Waters
Thistle Lodge at Casa Ybel
The Dunes Golf Club – Sundial Alternate
Kings Crown Lawn @ South Seas
South Seas Wedding Location