Room Blocks

I will say, that this more of a PSA than my usual posts. I want to share my experience with this subject so that other brides can learn from it.

I’m not getting married at a hotel, nor am I getting married near a hotel. To be precise, the closest hotel in proximity to my venue is about 35 minutes. Now, this drive is mostly due to the fact the venue is on a mountain, and the hotel, well, isn’t. From the beginning, acquiring a discount rate at the hotel was never really a priority. Around February of this year, I tried to get into contact with the hotel, Harrah’s Rincon (which is part of the Caesar’s family, or vice versa I suppose). All I got was a bunch of transferred phone calls that kept getting disconnected, and emails that kept getting generic responses. So I gave up. In May, MOH S volunteered to try to figure it out, since her Mom had been planning on staying there and was interested, too. Since my drama queen of a Dad had declared that he “didn’t want to pay $300/night to stay anywhere” I thought it would be prudent to make sure he had an affordable option.

Somehow, S managed to get a hold of an actual person (something I thought would be impossible). Harrah’s group sales rep, Linda, promptly sent over a contract for me to sign. Now, I did my research prior to this, and while contracts were not UNCOMMON, I was looking more for a small courtesy room block as opposed to a large contract room-block, especially since I wasn’t planning on staying there. I emailed my concerns to Linda, most importantly the contradictions in the contract (one clause said I’d need to cover the cost of 37 rooms, the other said any un-booked rooms would be released at the cutoff date), she assured me that I would not be responsible for 37 rooms, only 10 nights as that is the minimum guarantee to get a room block. I was still somewhat reluctant, however she persuaded me that with my amount of guests, 10 nights would be easy to obtain. So I signed the contract, something, retrospectively, I should not have done.

In the weeks leading up to our 08-22 cutoff date, I was handed over to Mary, who assured me that people always wait until the last-minute, and we could reserve the rooms in my name, and then transfer them to my guests after the cutoff to avoid me being penalized. Mary was so delightful and helpful. However the one person who did call prior to the deadline (yes, ONE) had so much trouble, and they didn’t even book her reservation properly! So I sent an email to Mary, and CC’d Linda, expressing my frustration, to which Linda sent a nasty reply, that honestly convinces me to never work with their hotel chain ever again. Three weeks before the wedding I was still hoping to get my rooms transferred to others so that I didn’t end up with rooms I didn’t need. Two weeks before the wedding, my uncle (one of the few people with a reservation) asked if he could look at the contract. I sent it to him, and he informed me that the contract stated that if the hotel didn’t sell out (yes, SELL OUT) then Mr. B and I would have to pay for any remaining rooms minus 10% attrition. I was so confused and frustrated, especially since that was the portion of the contract I specifically questioned in all of my correspondence. At this point, Mr. B had to get involved. I couldn’t believe that she had so blatantly lied when I questioned the contract, because if she had clarified the contract for me, the way she did for Mr. B when I asked her, I wouldn’t have signed it. At that point, all we had left to do was cross our fingers that the hotel would sell out (as Linda promised us it would).

Mr. B has officially told me not to sign anything without his approval.

Did you have trouble with getting a room block? Or were you able to get a courtesy block without a contract?

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Favors for our Favorite Ladies

Now that I’ve told you the details of the super-awesome joint Bachelorette Party we planned, I can tell you about one of my favorite elements of it: the favors for our Bridesmaids! Originally, I would never have guessed I’d be planning my own Bachelorette (well, I really never thought I’d have one at all). In my mind, it’s something the MOH or Bridemaids would plan in your honor. But since S is my MOH, and I’m hers, we’re planning it for ourselves (which knowing me, is great, since I hate relinquishing control), and planning it has been the best part!

About a month before the Bachelorette,  S emailed me with a suggestion for what we should give our ‘Maids as a favor at the Bachelorette. The suggestion she had was FANTASTIC! I wish I had come with it myself (and perhaps, had the idea of gifts for our ‘Maids at the Bachelorette crossed my mind, maybe I would have!). You see as I was planning my thank you gifts for my bridal party, her suggestion had kept popping up in my many emails from the Knot, and I loved it! It just wouldn’t work for our wedding for a number of reasons, the most important being we’re getting married on a MOUNTAIN. Now if we were having a tropical destination wedding like BM K had, or a local beach wedding like MOH S is having, this might work, but we’re not, so I left the idea behind and moved on to something else. So when S suggested it as a favor for our pool day bachelorette party I immediately said YES!! If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about Wet Bikini Bags!!

Image via The Knot

They were on a great sale and we were able to snag these babies for $8.99 each! We got blue ones for my bridesmaids, green ones for hers and white ones for us! We decided to forgo the extra personalization (for $8 more) and personalize them ourselves. Also, since we had decided to only get them for our bridesmaids who were sharing our hotel rooms, we decided to stuff them with fun pool day must-haves too! The week before we were able to sit down and do the personalization and stuff them, and they turned out great!

Our DIY personalization (this one is BM K’s!)

With everything we stuffed inside: TicTac’s, Advil, lip balm, mini sunscreen & lotion and a mini bottle of champagne (K’s is sparkling cider since she is expecting!)

We also got them plastic re-usable cups for by the pool that we didn’t have with us, but they won’t fit in the bag anyways! I will say though, these bags are WAY bigger than I expected. I was thinking they’d measure 5″ x 7″, which would’ve been large enough to hold a bikini in my mind. But these are definitely bigger than a standard sheet of paper, which means more room to hold fun stuff! I definitely recommend them if you’re looking for a fun, beach-oriented gift for your ‘Maids!

Did you plan a fun surprise for your ‘Maids for any pre-wedding activities? Are you like me and love to spoil the people who mean the most to you?

All Photos Personal unless otherwise noted

Practice Makes Perfect

For the reception of course!

One of the most important steps to take in order to ensure things go smoothly on Wedding Day is having a rehearsal. I know some people skip this step, but to me it’s important; especially when you consider our wedding will be outdoors, and the majority of our wedding party will be seeing the venue for the first time that weekend. Since we have Bailey’s Thursday through Sunday, it was really up to us when to we wanted to schedule it, and with everyone’s work schedules, Friday night was just the most logical time. In order to have a wedding rehearsal, you must first have a plan for the ceremony, which is something I didn’t finish until like the week before (not that it surprises me, nor should it surprise you!). So my lack of pre-planning a ceremony aside, one of the best parts of having a wedding rehearsal is having a rehearsal DINNER. Or a pre-reception as some may call it, and lets face it, planning the pre-reception is so much harder to procrastinate on!

As I’ve mentioned many, MANY times, I LOVE our venue. But when it came down to planning our rehearsal dinner, it made me more than a little bit frustrated. You see, Palomar Mountain is BEAUTIFUL, but it is also a very low populated MOUNTAIN. There is ONE SMALL general store, and ONE SMALL restaurant. In February, we took GM R, BM K and Little K up to the venue to check it out. After we left, we were STARVING. So we figured we’d try the restaurant to see what it was like (OK, I only cared about scoping it out for a rehearsal location). Mother’s Kitchen was a cute little place, and it seemed to be a popular stop for biker’s cruising the beautiful scenery on the weekend.

Image via New Desert Times 

We were so hungry that at first we didn’t even notice that the menu was completely vegetarian. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes vegetarian food can me more delicious and filling than food with meat, but when it comes to a potential rehearsal dinner, I just can’t picture a completely vegetarian menu. The fact that we stood there for 10 minutes without even being acknowledged didn’t help either. FBIL K and FSIL, however, LOVE Mother’s Kitchen and stop in every time they’re up the mountain, so I asked their opinion. But even they agreed it probably wasn’t right for our rehearsal dinner. So back to square one I went!

Did you have to overcome any obstacles when trying to plan your rehearsal dinner? Or was picking out a location easy?

Unexpected Surprises

Throughout the planning process, there was one traditional element of weddings that we knew we were going to have to do without: a honeymoon. Now, as I’m sure you can imagine, this was not because we didn’t want one; since we’re paying for the entire wedding ourselves, there simply was no money left to plan one. Trying to plan a mini-moon was definitely on my to-do list, but it was always put on the back-burner. Around the time we hit the six months mark, I started bringing it up again to see what Mr. B would say. All of the mini-moon ideas I suggested were immediately dismissed by FI, including:

Catalina Island, where we got engaged last year!

Photo New Desert Times

Or Disneyland (honestly, I KNEW he’d shoot that one down, but it’s worth a shot, right?)

Photo via Wikitravel

But then my wonderful mother and step-father reminded us that they had an extra week at their timeshare that they would be happy to give us! The only thing was that it is in Puerto Vallarta. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Puerto Vallarta (I’ve actually NEVER been there), and I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but Puerto Vallarta wasn’t Mr. B’s or my dream honeymoon. After doing a bit of research through her timeshare exchange group, my awesome Mom shared the great news that they could use their timeshare in Hawaii. You see, if Mr. B could choose ANYWHERE to go for our honeymoon, Hawaii is at the top of his list. Ever since we went to Kauai last year for K and R’s wedding, he has been obsessed with going back! And after working so hard to make sure that I would have the wedding of my dreams, knowing that we could take his dream honeymoon made my day!

Of course, a honeymoon, especially one to Hawaii, isn’t cheap, even with the hotel paid for. Thankfully, my Mom came through again with helping to cover the airfare!  Talk about having wonderful family! Now it is just a matter of choosing an island to go to! We really had it narrowed down to our top two choices, leaving the rest of the choosing up to my mom and step-dad:

. MAUI

Kaanapoli Beach Photo Source

Maui was our number one choice for many reasons, the most important of which, Mr B. had never been there. I’ve been there a couple of times already since my Grandpa has owned a house there as far back as I can remember and my sister and I went to visit with him in high school, and once when we were younger with our family. Even though I have been there, I was never able to really experience the island as an adult. There are also a lot of fun activities that don’t involve going into the water, which made it high on my list. On the other hand, there was plenty of water-oriented activities I would do, and 4-star golf courses for FI to enjoy.

2. KAUAI

Mr. B and I in Kauai for K & R’s DW last year

Personal Photo

Despite the facts that we went to Kauai last year for K & R’s wedding and it’s the only island Mr. B has been to, Kauai was still number two on our list. Mr. B really enjoyed our vacation last year (it’s the WHOLE reason Hawaii was his top pick!), and having been there for a wedding, we really only got to spend a couple of days enjoying the island. There were a lot of trails and beaches left for us to discover.

Did you receive any unexpected surprises in the planning process? Were you lucky enough to be gifted a honeymoon?