My new husband and I chose the Secrets Resort over the Sandals resorts that we had been considering because the Secrets wedding package included a lot more things such as: steaming of the dress/suit, bridal hair and makeup, spa session for the newlyweds, and dinner for 20 (Sandals only offered dinner for 8, and additional tables were $500!).
Overall, we were very pleased with what we got for our money, and even more happy with the wedding department staff, inlcuding Lisa-Marie and Sade, who really looked after us. The only things that could be considered some of the drawbacks were: a sound system is not included in the wedding package, and it costs $540 to rent the one on the resort (which was kind of hidden in the small print). Thankfully, we had caught it before we left and instead of shelling out that money, we bought a portable speaker for our iPod for about $150 and used that instead. Also, the resort charges $350 to decorate the venue, although the standard decorations that you get for that $350 is two sheer panels and two flower arrangements. It is pretty, but not worth that much money. Instead, we bought some tule and silk flowers and had members of our wedding party put them up for us. It only cost us about $50 to do it that way and it looked just as nice.
I had read some other reviews of other resorts where people cautioned about sending your dress for steaming, because the other resorts had ruined it, but Secrets did a great job of my dress and my groom's suit. No complaints there at all. I had also had people tell me not to let the salon do my makeup because they'd make you look way too dramatic. I didn't find that to be a problem at all. Some of the makeup was a little dark at first, but I just asked them to change it and they did: no problems, mon! They did a fabulous job on my hair and makeup and I couldn't have been happier.
Our photographer, Dwayne, was also awesome. We have oodles of great pictures. I think one big hint to making sure you get what you want with your pictures is to be prepared. I know lots of people pick destination weddings because it is supposed to be less maintenance, but a little preparation goes a long way. Before we went, my husband and I spent a few hours browsing the internet for examples of destination wedding pictures. We saved the ones we really liked and printed them off to give the photographer. That way, he knew exactly what we were looking for. He was great at taking our suggestions and had some great ones of his own, too.
The package comes with 50 photos (and the CD of all the photos costs over $1000, which was too expensive for us), so instead what we did was ask one of our wedding party to accompnay us on our photoshoot. He basically followed us and the photographer around, and every time the photographer snapped a picture, so did our helper (Note, he has a really nice camera and is kind of a hobby-photographer himself). As a result, many of his pictures came out just as nice as the photographers, some of them even better. That meant that besides the 50 we got from the package, we also had another 200 that were just as great. We got the best poses from each and it didn't cost us a thing.
Kudos also goes out to our videographer, Damian, who was very funny and worked really hard to get our video just right for us. He even put in some OT and stayed to get our first dance. The other FABULOUS thing was that the wedding staff pulled some last minute strings for us: It had been raining all day. It had let up enough for us to have the ceremony in the gazebo, but not enough to have our cocktail hour and dinner outside as planned. They told me we would have to move it to our back-up location (a conference room), but the conference room I didn't really care for. It had small windows and no view at all. I was disappointed, but willing to go with it because the weather was hardly their fault, and then, they told me that they would move it to another location. One of the restuarants, Oceana, closed at 5pm that day anyway, so they moved it there. It is a pretty open-air patio type restuarant, over looking a pool and the ocean in the distance. It covered us enough to keep the rain off, with plenty of room for danicing and our band. That was really a great touch that just made everything come together, and we were sooo happy they arranged that for us!
So I would highly reccomend anyone considering a Jamaican wedding to pick this resort. I really don't have anything negative to say about the professionalism and friendliness of all of the staff we worked with.
Some other things to consider about the resort itself....we did travel with a wedding party of 10 total. When we went to have meals together, sometimes it was difficult to get a table together, because the restaurants don't take reservations. We usually had to wait a little while, which wasn't too bad, but there was once that we couldn't get in at all and had to split up. The beach (which I had read in some other reviews) was a little on the rocky-side. I didn't give that too much thought when I had read it, becuase where I live the beaches are rocky anyway. But at home I only go to the beach once or twice a week for a few hours, not 8+hours every day for a week! So after a few days my feet started to get a little sensitive to it, so make sure you have comfy shoes!
I was also a bit disappointed with the water sports offered at the resort. Snorkeling was only free if you went on the guided tours, which were only about 30 minutes in the water and most of it was spent swimming to the reef and back. Taking the snorkels out by yourself required a rental fee. Next time, I will just take my own. Kayaking was also nice, but they required you to check in every 15 minutes, which limited how far you could go. I also never saw any windsurfing, and that was something I had really wanted to try.
The food at the resort was excellent....even for me and I'm a vegetarian. I'm also a dessert-atarian and they had plenty of those, too! The resort was laid out quite beautifully, with lots of walking trails and romantic sports and picture opportunities. We never had any problems getting a beach chair at any time of day, which is something I had heard about at other resorts. All of the staff that we encountered were so friendly and accomodating. We really have no complaints about anyone we encountered, and we are looking forward to staying with the Secrets chain for our next vacation!
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