My Aruba Wedding at the Renaissance 11/05/11 (LONG)
I did vow to post on this message board after my wedding; it took awhile, but here it is! What I've tried to do is bring myself back to 2010 when I was doing my intial research, and fill in the information gaps where we struggled.
For starters - the information on this board made a huge impact on the decision to have our wedding in Aruba. So, let me begin by saying THANK YOU to the posters, moderators for your tireless efforts!
Date: November 5, 2011
Place: St. Filomena/Renaissance Island
Guests: About 70
1) Renaissance Hotel - Annie De Veer was very helpful, and we really enjoyed the hotel. Since the Ren is downtown, it has a ton of options for eating/restaurants. On the downside, you lose a bit of the 'beach' feel of the uptown resorts. In terms of the rooms - the wedding suite was fantastic, but the 'normal' rooms at the Marina (used by most of my guests) showed their age.
The Renaissance has two buildings (Marina & Ocean Suites) - I would recommend having everyone stay in one hotel if possible. It's a bit of a pain to move back and forth, since it is a 7-9 minute walk/ride.
2) Wedding Planning - Juney Jones. Extremely competent, but extremely busy. He really does have everything under control; uncanny ability to execute, even when the bull is running through the china shop.
The venue has increased greatly in popularity, and the Marriott definitely needs scalable solution to achieve a high level of service. I'm hoping that Juney's assistants - who are really nice - can take a more active role in the leadership and communication. This would really help regarding the speed and timeliness of communications.
3) Airport Transportation - We used a combination of Bully the Cab Driver and KiniKini. Both parties were helpful and punctual; we were pleased with the service. It was indeed a huge pain to coordinate the travel plans of a relatively large number of wedding guests. I would recommend delegating this activity to trusted parties if it can be accomplished.
4) Wedding Ceremony Preparations - we had a Catholic wedding ceremony, so we had it at St. Filomena. We were lucky to make contact with one of two English-speaking pastors on the island (Father Toti).
This area of the wedding planning was probably the most stressful for us. It's a small and laid-back island, which makes precise planning extremely challenging, if not impossible. In addition, there was a recent storm during our visit, which cut off some of our choices.
The Church is really doing us (the tourists) a favor by allowing us to wed in the parish, so I'm thankful that it worked out. In the end, the church and the ceremony were perfect, and the event went smoothly. I can probably write an entire essay on this one, so if anyone has any questions please let me know.
FYI, we got legally married a few weeks beforehand in our hometown. This eased the paperwork burden.
WEDDING DAY STUFF:
5) Hairdresser - Used a Marriott recommendation by the name of Gladys. She seemed nice, and did a good job at the trials. Unfortunately, on the actual wedding day itself, she arrived really late (1 hour?) to the rooms. We had a relatively large wedding party, and this really messed up the entire schedule and created huge drama. The bride's makeup & hair were actually done by one of the bridesmaids!
It was really upsetting, and we are definitely disappointed here - probably the worst mistake we made. Better to get multiple people to work on the hair and makeup, or just get it done at the salon. Redundancy is important, especially when time is of the essence.
6) Limo - we also got really hosed here. There is only one limo service on the island, and their limo broke down on the way to the hotel. They were 30-45 minutes late to the WEDDING, and didn't even offer us a discount when they showed up with the less-expensive limo. Had to pay in cash, so we had little recourse. Absolutely terrible, so avoid if humanly possible.
7) Renaissance Island - This is the obvious hook. The island was nothing short of spectacular, and it's a perfect location to get married. You can see the pictures/video for more details. The bugs are a real issue for about 10 minutes, but they are quickly forgotten after a quick spray.
One bit of advice here - the churches are not air-conditioned, so weddings start around the 4PM timeframe. This makes it a challenge to get back to the island in time for the pictures; make sure to get back there as soon as possible in order to get the sunset.
8) DJ - CYCLONE PRODUCTIONS AKA DJ Tino. Loved him! Please realize that the DJ really makes or breaks the reception. DJ Tino knows when to play the right songs to either heat up or cool down the crowd. Plus, he's got that silky smooth voice that really fits into the whole vibe. Great job - we had an awesome time!
9) Videographer - We took a chance on a couple of up-and-comers from Chicago; Chris and Oliver. Definitely impressed with the final product!
Only drawback (and it's a big one) is that the travel arrangements to/from Chicago were pretty pricey for both people. It's certainly more cost effective to choose a local videog, or at a minimum, a group with a direct flight.
10) Photography - after a ton of deliberation, we chose a local photographer in New York named Ryan Brenizer. This was probably the best decision that we made (besides Aruba itself). He is extremely talented, has a great eye for detail, and works hard at his craft. He actually went to the island a day early just to ensure that he was prepared.
The only potential issue is that his rep has greatly increased, so it might be a problem to get him out here again.
This is all that I can think about at this point in time. I'm sure that I forgot a whole bunch of stuff. It did take me quite a bit of time to write this post. So I hope that this will be helpful to someone.
I'll be monitoring the thread for any questions. Fire away!