* this is an ENORMOUS post, so go make yourself a cup of tea … or pour a glass of wine!
Whether it’s time for you start thinking about how your Big Day is going to unfold… or you’re just considering having a destination wedding – you’re going to love what I’ve put together for you. My amazing husband Rob & I have been on the other side of this ‘wedding’ thing ourselves AND have spent literally hundreds of Wedding Days with our beloved Couples … so I’m confident saying that we’re experts!! Hehe.
You might already know, we wanted to do something unique & different for OUR wedding, so we actually had our ceremony at sunrise. I know, we’re crazy like that! I talked about our decisions at length in this blog post, if you have’t seen it already. Whatever you envision, first things first, we need to check the time of sunset. I always use this website for the exact time. This becomes our ‘benchmark’ for planning out the day’s timeline, because in the Caribbean (unlike most places in North America in the summer), the sun sets quite early (between 5:30 pm & 7:15 pm) and it gets dark VERY fast.
A ‘sunset wedding’ sounds so lovely, but it can be a bit of a disaster. Let me paint you a picture. Say, you’re going for the softly-lit, not-too-hot, golden 6 pm wedding ceremony. You sleep in, have a lazy breakfast, get to the spa in the early afternoon, spend some time drinking mimosas and unhurriedly getting ready with your girls. Hopefully, you do go for the First Look (more on that that very important decision later), in this case you’d need to be ready around 4 pm, otherwise you won’t get to see your Beloved till ceremony time. Although you would have beautiful golden sunset photos, it will be getting dark (fast!) by the time the ceremony is over. This means, we’ll be very rushed to take family portraits. Also: the wind usually picks up considerably around sunset time. Family portraits: at least 20-30 minutes are needed for those, sometimes more. There’s also portrait time with the bridal party (at least 20 minutes) and bridal portraits of just the two of you (at least 30 minutes, but we highly recommend an hour or so). You do the math. It’s devastating when the light is gone and there are still so many ‘must’ shots to get.
As you walk back down the isle, champagne is usually waiting for you and your guests. If it’s important to you to have a group shot at this point, we’ll need to carve out a bit of time for this, because it’s always tricky to get the happy/chaotic group to a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing formation for the ‘cheers.’ You catch my drift – if it’s dark, there can be no more photos with the beautiful scenery, no time to enjoy the ‘cocktail hour’ in daylight, or get those timeless bridal portraits we’re famous for! This might sound bold, but absolutely every Bride who had made the decision to have a sunset ceremony against our advice, has regretted it.
So, what’s the best way to go, you ask? Have your ceremony about 2 hours before the sun sets AND do the First Look beforehand.
WHY FIRST LOOK:
– you get to have some amazing private moments with your Beloved, to take the edge off and take away some of the nervousness.
– this might be the only time you two have together all day, without being pulled in a million directions.
– there’s time for gorgeous versatile portraits of the two of you before the wind gets to your hair, before your guests have a chance to tug on your veil or smudge your make-up, before you break a sweat etc.
– we pick a beautiful secluded spot; usually bring our boombox and play touching romantic music that’s sentimental to you and your love. if you like, chilled champagne too. it’s awesome and so special. There’s tears and laughter, hugs and trembling, and gentle fingertips, and bursting ‘i-love-you’s.’ Sometimes, our Couples also exchange gifts or love letters at this time. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
– no couple has EVER regretted doing a First Look!
– the ‘bridal portraits’ are out of the way before your ceremony, which means there’s now time after the ceremony to let your loved ones hug and kiss you, enjoy some of the cocktail hour with them, get through family portraits seamlessly, take the bridal party to the beach for some fun creative shots, and lastly, send everyone off so that we have a chance to take a few more delicious portraits of just the two of you, in the last glorious rays of sunshine. At this point, you could go back to your room to freshen up or join us & the guests for the remainder of the cocktail hour, or at the entrance to the dinner reception.
If for some reason you’re not into the First Look, there’s an option to do a First Touch, like Katie & Ryan did. And if you’re not into that either – no worries, we’ll still make it work. Just make sure there’s plenty of time after the ceremony before it gets dark. …Erica & Jeffrey chose the First Touch too (their full wedding HERE):
Oh, and one more thing to keep in mind – sometimes things run late and the ceremony time is pushed back, for one reason or another. We’ve seen that happen a few times, mostly because of either a mix-up at the salon/spa, or when a bride didn’t like her hair/make-up and it took more time than anticipated to redo it. That happened at Myla & Richard’s wedding. Because things took so long at the salon, there was no time for the First Look and by the time they said their ‘i-do’s’, it was already dark. What saved us was the Sunrise Rock the Dress session they had booked for the next morning. Those shots are the only non-candid portraits they ended up having. As you can imagine, otherwise, it would have been a pretty sad situation.
If we’re doing the First Look, plan to meet about 1 – 1.5 hours before the ceremony. We need anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour, ideally.
So much time, heart and resources go into planning a wedding – it surely is nice if you, as the Couple, have a chance to actually enjoy the Day. It goes by soooo quickly! Doing the First Look also means you’ll have more memories together. Booya.
If your heart is totally set on having a 6 pm wedding because you really really want the golden light as you say your vows, then consider doing all the pictures before the ceremony. That way, once the ceremony is over, we can just focus on capturing the candid / photojournalistic moments and you can focus on spending quality time with your people. And getting the party started!
* one more thing about the sunset… since the sun sets ‘behind’ the resorts / venues in Punta Cana, we actually lose light even faster than what THIS website says. For example, because Jellyfish restaurant has a second level and tall palm trees all around the property, the last few golden rays of light on the beach are gone a good 10 minutes before ‘sunset’. And that totally makes a difference, if you have a later ceremony and we’re pressed for time when taking portraits.
Let’s back up. Now you can decide when to start getting ready. Whether you begin the preparations in the salon or the bridal suite, here are 10 tips to make the most of this time:
1) don’t go last (hair & make-up) in case time runs short;
2) have your favourite girls there;
3) make sure the space is not too messy;
4) lay out all the important details / wedding gown / shoes on the bed or somewhere else visible & accessible (for us to get creative with);
5) have a playlist with some of your favourite tunes (though we always have music for backup);
6) have a steady supply of mimosas. Order these ahead of time and make sure there are enough bottles / flutes. At some resorts, the champagne takes over an hour to arrive, so think ahead.
7) get the bridesmaids something thoughtful as a gift/keepsake, even if it’s just a sweet card thanking them for being there for you. Wait until we’re there to capture the moments. There will be joyful tears and laughter and awesome candid photos.
8) make sure everyone is fed, it’s nice to pre-order lunch. Again, sometimes the food takes a long time to arrive and you don’t want to rush, stuffing your face before heading down the aisle. Worse yet, having the girls wander off in search of a meal and spending less time hanging out with you!
9) make sure your Mom knows when you want her there to lace up your dress. You don’t want to have to look all over the resort for her or have her miss the moments. This kind of stuff is really important for moms! Also, leave ample time for lacing up your gown, it usually takes longer than you might think! (15-20 minutes is normal)
10) consider asking your Dad to come by and give you a hug in the ‘getting ready’ quarters once you’re all dolled up, before the ‘First Look’ or the ceremony. He will appreciate this so much and will most likely cry. We’ll be there to catch the tender moments.
* ideally, we need at least 1 (one) hour to capture this part of the day.
I love getting the most out of the day and won’t miss an opportunity to create some jaw-dropping saucy images to surprise your new husband with. This usually entails getting a bit of privacy for about an extra 10 – 15 minutes in the bridal suite. I’ll ask you to climb onto the bed in your lingerie or bathrobe and cozy up with your wedding dress and a glass of champagne. This is totally optional – so just know it’s available to you. I absolutely LOVE boudoir & intimate portraits!
Just after sunrise, on a secluded beach in Cap Cana…
And if you’re still wondering what to get your fiancee for a wedding present, you should consider booking a Boudoir session and gifting him a gorgeous sexy book! Best present ever.
I’ve also done Boudoir sessions for Brides a day or two before the wedding day, so that we could surprise the Groom with a few juicy teasers on an iPad. LOVE seeing their faces!!!
SIDE NOTE ON HAIR & MAKE-UP:
– Do a trial if you can. Consider the wind & humidity – if you’re going for curls, they will fall despite the copious amounts of hairspray.
– There are a couple of awesome stylists in Punta Cana (Krystie Ann & Anna Nuet) – they always do a fantastic job. You cannot even compare them to resort stylists… I would highly recommend you book one of them!
Here’s Krystie Ann in action, and here is her email: email@example.com
Here’s Anna Nuet in action, and here is her email: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Relying on the salon: that can be hit & miss.
– If you’re wearing your hair to one side and/or have bangs, consider if the hair will fall into your face throughout the day and how that might affect photos. Also, consider which side of your face will be facing out during the ceremony – everyone wants to see your gorgeous radiant face, make sure it’s not obstructed by your locks.
– If you’re leaving your hair down, please consider the fact that it’s always windy on the beach and you’ll have to clear it out of your face often.
– Blotting paper is nice to have. Give it to one of your bridesmaids to carry & pat down your forehead once in a while. It can get pretty hot & sweaty!
– Fake eyelashes look great, but make sure you have eyelash glue with you – the tears or the humidly may get to the corners & peel the lashes off. Unless of course you’re getting a professional like Krystie Ann or Anna Nuet to do your lashes, they are amazing and I’ve never seen those peel off on the Day.
* ideally, we just need to be there for the tail-end of hair & make-up, to capture some finishing touches. We do not need to photograph the entire process.
SIDE NOTE ON JEWELRY:
There are so many options, from your grandmother’s pearls – to Tiffany’s and Swarovski – to pretty creations from about a million ’boutiques’ on Etsy.com. But I’m just going to share my absolute favourite designer – Chelsea Bond. Her creations are so unique and fabulous, she is brilliant! Also, Chelsea is an incredible human being and I adore her even though we’ve never met (yet!) She’s famous for her ‘Barefoot‘ jewelry and she’s recently added a line of Couture Headpieces. There are so many gorgeous styles to choose from AND she takes custom orders.
SIDE NOTE ON TAN LINES & SUNSCREEN:
There, I said it 🙂
You’re a classy bride and even though it’s a beach wedding, tan lines are not very cool. Tuck in your spaghetti straps when chilling on the beach and tell your bridesmaids to do the same. Lather on the sunscreen – your face & shoulders especially! It’s a good idea to remind everyone to use sunscreen, especially the boys… They get drinking by the pool bar and don’t even notice that they are getting a wicked sunburn. You don’t want your Beloved to have racoon eyes and a red nose on all the photos, right? Same goes for Dads. There’s only so much that photoshop can do! The only way to make a photo of sunburnt people look good is to make them black & white. Not the end of the world, but still!
MORE GETTING READY:
Rob will join the boys at the same time that I’ll join the ladies. Since they usually need much less time to get ready, it’s great if they can all meet for a dip & drink at the pool bar. This makes for great candid moments! They can hang out in the water or do canon balls off the edge, or throw a volleyball around. You get the idea. Aside from capturing the Groom & his boys getting dressed, there are lots of fun ‘photographable’ things they can do (again, to create more memories and fun, dynamic shots). Here are a few thoughts: bring a fancy bottle of scotch with you from home/dutyfree or get them to crack a bottle of aged Dominican rum to sip on, with or without cigars. Table games, or just sitting around telling stories, is also good. Getting groomsmen small gifts is also a great idea.Whether it’s funny or sentimental, it’s the thought that counts and the photos are always fantastic.
Tip: if they have to fold handkerchiefs or tie bow ties, make sure ahead of time that someone knows what they are doing. There have been a few instances when way too much time was spent at this task and the boys ended up more stressed out about being ready on time than enjoying each other’s company or getting fun portraits.
* once again, at least 1 (one) hour is required for the ‘getting ready’ portion of the day. While I’m with the Bride & girls, Rob (or second photographer) joins the boys!
SIDE NOTE ON ROOMS:
Please try to arrange for the rooms where the girls are getting ready & where the boys are getting ready to be in fairly close proximity. If not – no big deal, but if you can help it, that will make our transitions smoother and our ability to capture the candid moments more efficient.
SIDE NOTE ON WEDDING GOWN:
If you already have your dress – yay!!! I’m sure you’ll look absolutely stunning in it.
If you don’t yet – let me share a couple of important tips.
– stay away from PURE WHITE fabrics. There are many different shades of white, go for something with ‘warm’ undertones, like off-white or ivory. Gowns that are pure white appear bluish in photos most of the time, especially against all skintones and against the sand. In my humble opinion, they never look as good as warmer tones do, particularly in photos.
– on the actual wedding day: of course it’s important to keep the bottom of your dress as clean as possible, especially for the walk down the aisle. BUT sometimes we see brides / bridesmaids go a little overboard with this 🙂
your entourage doesn’t need to carry your train everywhere you go and neither do you. there’s a way to pick up the train elegantly (pinch the middle of the back of it, including all layers & lift), but for the most part, let the train down – especially on grass, white sand, or resort hallways. i’ll always be there to guide & help you. I’ve had brides say ‘I wish I would have listened to you and just dropped my train like you said… now so many pictures are of me holding my dress and you can’t even see it!’ just something to think about 🙂
It’s a destination wedding, so you can get away something you probably wouldn’t strut in down the isle at church 🙂
One more thing: bring a pretty hanger (and if you forget’s it’s not that big a deal). You can find order a cute custom-made one from Etsy.com or DIY. Some hotel rooms have nice hangers in every room (Dreams & Hard Rock). Even if it’s just plain wood is nice – as long as it’s not one of those flimsy plastic ones…
As soon as you book us for your Big Day, we’ll send you some ‘homework’ – it’s a fun detailed questionnaire about you, your life & your love. We are very passionate about documenting not just the details of the Wedding Day, but the uniqueness of who you are as a Couple. Also, if you’ve visited our blog, you likely already have an idea about the way we will incorporate your answers into the blog posts. We feel this is very special and important.
Please inform us of any surprises planned on or around your Wedding Day. This includes any entertainment, customs, traditions, etc. The more prepared we are, the better the pictures will be. That simple! 🙂
I’m so happy this is becoming a ‘thing’ these days. Many Couples are asking their guests to put away all cameras & cell phones during the ceremony. And it makes such a big difference. First, your loved ones can actually enjoy every moment of the ceremony instead of seeing it through an iPhone / point & shoot screen. Second, the professional photos we take are going to be so much ‘cleaner’ – because we’ll be able to capture the facial expressions, smiles and tears in the crowd (and not the devices in front of their faces). Third, you can mention to everyone that your photographers are awesome and provide the entire collection of your wedding images in a beautiful password-protected gallery, in full resolution, at no additional charge – so anyone will be able to download their favourites from the ceremony (and of course the rest of the day). We are awesome like that! Just something to consider!
LEGAL VS SYMBOLIC CEREMONY:
You might already know this – if you want a legal ceremony in Dominican Republic, you must be in the country for a minimum of 3 days prior to the Wedding. We’ve seen this rule cause a conflict in timing, so please be aware! Most Couples, however, choose to have a ‘symbolic’ ceremony and get legally married at home (sometimes in secret) before getting to DR. This is much easier and, often, more pleasant, since the local ministers / priests either conduct the entire ceremony in Spanish or speak English very poorly. Also, the ceremonies can be dry and impersonal. We always recommend Pastor Rick York, he is absolutely incredible. He has lived on the island for many years and is a true blessing to the Punta Cana ‘wedding bubble.’ He does both symbolic and legal ceremonies.
Most of our guests didn’t know this, but Rob & I actually got legally married in Vegas (at an Elvis chapel!) a few months before our Dominican wedding. The ‘officiant’ for our ‘second’ (sunrise beach) ceremony in Punta Cana was a dear friend, who did such a great job. So, there are options!!
Before we go on, I want to mention another small but significant detail. A professional officiant knows what they are doing. It might seem like a good idea to get a friend to do it, but they might get nervous and miss some pretty important details, especially when it comes to the logistics of the ceremony. Here’s my personal biggest pet peeve: when the ‘officiant’ doesn’t tell the Couple to face the guests. Look at this, gorgeous water, gorgeous Couple, but no amount of photoshop can fix the fact that their backs are turned!
And here’s Pastor Marcus (Pastor Rick York’s associate), rocking it.
The officiants at Hard Rock usually stand on the other side of the Couple (in the aisle between guests), so that everyone can enjoy an unobstructed view of the Bride, Groom & the stunning background. It makes a big difference!
SIDE NOTE ON VOWS:
Personal vows are so great. You don’t have to come up with something over-the-top or extraordinary – as long as it comes from the heart. It’s always great if you can include something personal / funny about your love and relationship. Including personal vows in the ceremony is especially important if you’re hiring us (or anyone else) for video. So, don’t just rely on the officiant, add a personal touch!
SIDE NOTE ON LANTERNS:
Many resorts don’t allow these at all, but some still do. Please take a moment to read this thread on the Best Destination Wedding Forum and make up your own mind. It’s very important. Even the wire in biodegradable lanterns takes decades to break down and can cause much harm to animals and the environment at large. Consider sparklers instead – hand them out to your guests to light during the first dance, for example! (You canNOT buy sparklers in Dominican Republic and you canNOT bring them in your carry on luggage.)
SIDE NOTE ON WELCOME BAGS & FAVOURS:
It’s become somewhat of a tradition to gift your guests welcome bags full of goodies, such as a custom ‘do not disturb’ sign, sunglasses with the name & date on the side, custom luggage tags, custom drinking mugs, ’emergency’ baggies with hangover & sore tummy medicine, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, aloe vera, hand sanitizer, and the list goes on.
This is all wonderful, but PLEASE take a minute to think; what is necessary and what will become unnecessary garbage? Many Couples recycle and are environmentally conscious back at home, but will buy cheap plastic crap in bulk to fill the gift totes for their guests. Would you wear cheap sunglasses with someone else’s names on one side and a hashtag on the other, like #thesmithsgethitched2013? Yeah, didn’t think so.
For our wedding back in 2012, Rob & I spent around $350 on cute wine bottle stoppers. They were nice: the decorative top was a translucent globe filled with sand. The quality was shitty though, as is everything that is affordable and is made in China; the globe would either fall off or shatter in your hands. I wish I would have spent that money on tips here in Punta Cana instead.
The point is, everything that is disposable or single-use will end up in the garbage and is bad for the environment. We all know this, but someone’s gotta say it.
SIDE NOTE ON FLOWERS:
Most flowers are imported to Dominican Republic through Miami or Colombia. They are expensive, but there are a few really talented florists in the area. You can’t generally deal with them directly, let your wedding planner take care of it. I really wanted peonies for my wedding, but they didn’t arrive on time … know what you want ahead of time AND don’t be too upset if it’s not quite what you expected! Most brides are over the moon happy with theirs.
Don’t skip out on flowers… they make such a big difference!
SIDE NOTE ON DINNER:
As per our Agreement, you need to feed us (or whoever else your photographer is) dinner 🙂 It’s best if we eat along with the guests and sit in close proximity to your table, so that we can quickly react when you kiss and can seamlessly document the speeches. (eIt’s best if we eat along with the guests and sit in close proximity to your table, so that we can quickly react when you kiss and can seamlessly document the speeches.
(except Jellyfish restaurant – we always get set up at the bar and that works perfectly for everyone).
Rob & I identify as vegans, but make exceptions at weddings (to vegetarian), so please mention that to your wedding planner / caterer. (And if you’re hiring anyone else – please remember to feed them!) It’s best if your vendors eat first (at the same time you do), so that they can get up and document the speeches. Well taken care of vendors will take better care of you! 🙂
Dinner on the beach: this seems like a good idea, but it’s rarely as pleasant as you imagine.
It’s often windy on the beach and may get chilly, depending on the time of year. The food may get cold by the time your plate is in front of you. We’ve been to some wonderful beach receptions, but you’re definitely taking a chance if you are right ON the beach.
SIDE NOTE ON ETSY:
Consider adding some personal touches, especially if it’s a resort wedding!! There are so many cool things on Etsy.com that are wedding-day related. These always look fantastic in photos. Afterwards, these hand-crafted keepsakes can be incorporated into your decor at home.
HOW MUCH COVERAGE DO YOU NEED?
Our most basic, Boutik Collection is 4 hours. This is often sufficient if you’re not planning on having much of an evening ‘program,’ other than a delicious dinner and a few short informal speeches. 4-8 pm is a typical coverage schedule in this case (or 3-7 or 5-9). We’ll eat dinner with you while continuing to take pictures (even if your coverage is over). Please think about all the important moments you’d like captured – you can always upgrade from this Collection, at any time. Since there are two of us, we make sure all the precious moments are captured, often from multiple angles. So, the 4 hours can definitely be enough.
Our most popular Collection is Nova, which is 6 hours. This is usually the perfect amount of time to cover the Day’s events, but of course we can always stay for overtime if you need us. Now that you’ve read through the section above about how the Day is to unfold, you have a better idea of when we should join you – usually, it’s late morning to early afternoon. In our experience, it’s a good idea to document the reception until about an hour after the dancing starts. Anything after that – people get more sweaty and tipsy that they’d like to see it photos afterwards, hehe. Typically, 3-9 pm (or 2:30 – 8:30 pm or 3:30 – 9:30 pm) works really well. That way, we have at least 1 hour for ‘getting ready’ and at least 1 hour of partying, with much goodness in between.
Next up from Nova is the Classik Collection, another popular choice. Basically, you get a gorgeous flushmount leather Wedding Book for an extra $1000 + 2 free additional hours of coverage. Standalone, the Album is $2000 and the extra hours would be $700 (@$350/hr overtime), in other words, it’s a $1000 upgrade for a value of $2700.
Lux Collection: it’s either you’re going to look at it and know it’s the perfect one you need OR you’ll raise and eyebrow and skip right over it. We get it! 🙂
* ask us about our Associate Photographer Collections, they are slightly different, but also crafted to fit your needs beautifully.
SIDE NOTE ON WEATHER:
I, too, was worried about rain on our wedding Day. But you know what? You really can’t predict OR change the weather, so stop worrying about it – at least until the day before 🙂
In all the time we’ve lived and photographed weddings in Dominican Republic, we haven’t checked the forecast once. We always have an umbrella in the back of our car, just in case, but we’ve only used it a handful of times. It rains more in the Puerto Plata / Cabarete area, and also in the Samana region – Punta Cana is the sunniest of all. Sometimes, when there are showers, it will sprinkle for 5-10 minutes and go right back to being sunny. The low heavy clouds pass very quickly, most of the time. Early morning light showers are not uncommon, but all traces of rainfall disappear quickly with the sunshine.
From experience, I’ll say this: if it’s raining in the afternoon before the ceremony, the planners usually advise everyone to wait a bit longer – in most cases, the rain will pass. There’s always a ‘plan B’ – for both the ceremony & the reception.
If there’s a significant chance of rain and your ceremony / reception is outside, your wedding coordinator will ask you to make the call – whether to chance it OR move the event to a ballroom. If it’s an ’emergency’ move, you won’t have any decorations in the room and it will look pretty plain – it’s a possibility, but happens so rarely.
At one point, Rob & I lived in Vancouver for some time and photographed quite a few weddings there. It’s one of the rainiest cities, so we learnt to get very creative with what we had. If it does rain on your wedding day, it’s okay! You will still have gorgeous pictures and amazing memories.
It might also be too hot … and that’s okay too!!! 🙂
And sometimes, there’s absolute MAGIC.And THIS can happen only when there’s a stormy sky, so just trust that the Universe has something very special for YOUR unique Wedding Day. (it started pouring 2 minutes after the images below were taken!)
You could also soak up the rain, we will join you out there!
PUNTA CANA ACTIVITIES / DAYTRIPS:
This really depends on what you and your group are into and how many of you want to participate. At your resort, by the reception area, are numerous tour operators with a ton of brochures, so it is fairly easy to pick what you like. What’s fun and what’s cheesy is a matter of personal opinion, so trust your intuition! Tripadvisor is also a great tool, there are always fresh recent reviews. Tours and businesses operating them are constantly changing, it’s difficult for us to keep track.
The most trustworthy, reliable and all-around WONDERFUL recommendation I can offer you is … use RENNY AVILA: email@example.com
– Saona Island: a full day trip to a gorgeous white sand island. First you take a bus, then a speedboat, then a ‘cruise’ boat or catamaran to the shore. Lunch on the island & a couple of hours of chill time. I did a tour to the island with a girl friend in 2007 (the first time I’d ever visited DR) and it was incredible. There’s weren’t too many people, they grilled fresh fish right in front of us and served us huge coconuts with rum, there were stingrays and many big beautiful starfish… absolute paradise. Rob & I went on this tour again in 2012 and were a bit disappointed. For one, it’s because I was comparing it to my first experience, and also because we really don’t enjoy doing ‘touristy’ things, wherever we are. Once you get close to the island, there’s a quick stop to swim / snorkel / have a shot of ‘mamajuana’ in what they call ‘piscina natural,’ a shallow sandy area with the perfect view of the island. I remember there were tons of starfish, the sand was dotted red beneath the crystal clear surface – and now, you’ll be lucky if you see even one. That’s because we’re not supposed to take them out of the water, and most tourists want to take a picture with one next to their face. The tour guides know better, but they don’t stop people from doing this. So, no more starfish. The same is true of snorkelling here and everywhere else in the Punta Cana area – as a result of all the pollution, water sports, and water taxis, there’s very little to see. Back to Saona – it’s far from the experience it was in 2007, but still, you’ll have a great time, especially if you go with loved ones.
– Ojos Indigenas Ecological Center in Punta Cana (gated community right by the airport). This is a bit off the beaten pack because this is not offered as a tour from any hotels. Get a taxi to drop you off & pick you back up there (or they can wait for you for up to 3 hours at no charge). It’s $30 per person to enter and is a guided walk to 7 gorgeous freshwater lagoons, 3 of which are swimmable. Take a look at THIS post.
* buy honey at the ecological centre, it’s so good!
– Juanillo (inside Cap Cana) is a public beautiful stretch of nearly deserted beach with a decent beachfront restaurant & fancy lounging chairs. This is where affluent locals come to enjoy the beach.
– Caleton Beach Club: upscale world-class beach club near Caleton Villas in Cap Cana. It’s around $30 to spend the day here and includes one drink. It’s tucked away pretty far from everything else, but is worth finding if what I’m describing sounds good to you. There’s a $200 charge to shoot here. Their restaurant, La Palapa, is a beautiful wedding venue.
– Playa Blanca is the closest beach to the Punta Cana airport (literally a 5 minute drive) and is on the property of the Punta Cana gated community (same direction as Ojos Indigenas). The beach is very beautiful and the restaurant is quite good, although expensive. You can kitesurf and paddleboard here – and it’s almost always nearly deserted. Definitely worth spending an afternoon here.
* if you want to paddleboard, it’s best to come early in the morning, as the wind picks up later in the day and it’s hard to paddle. opposite for kitesurfing – late afternoon works best.
– St. Nicholas Yacht Charter… our friends Irina & Nikolai own a beautiful little yacht that can comfortably accommodate up to 8 people. Check out THIS amazing fun shoot we did the first time we sailed with them – if this is not paradise, I don’t know what is!
HERE is a fun little promo video Rob made for them a couple of years ago – his first video ever, haha!
Since then, we’d documented two elopements with Yacht Charter:
– Xtreme Dune Buggy Tours – we’ve never been, but have heard really great things about them from many people. There are other companies, among which are some pretty lame ones (the Cap Cana one and the Hard Rock one for example), but this one seems to be the winner.
– Macao Beach – our favourite public beach in the Punta Cana area. It’s about 45 minutes away from Bavaro (so, resorts like Majestic, Barcelo Bavaro Deluxe, Dreams Palm Beach, Paradisus Palma Real, etc). Macao Surf Camp is located here and also has excellent reviews. Come surf here, eat a delicious and cheap lunch right on the beach, indulge in a cold Presidente and watch the rolling waves. There’s no fee to photograph here either, which is nice:
– Bavaro Ocean Adventures is a great company near the Cortecito pier (pretty close to Jellyfish and right next to Huracan Cafe) and is very reputable; they offer 5 tours which are a Ocean Spa, Sailing Adventure (booze cruise), Bavaro Splash, Stingray Bay, and a ‘Pirate Ship’ (also booze cruise). If you go to their website, you might even see Rob & I in some of the footage – we accidentally ended up being ‘models’ for them when they filmed mini-commercials about the tours. We got to experience them for free – but can genuinely recommend them!
– Rob & I don’t go to zoos or aqua parks for ethical reasons, but I know there is one here. Punta Cana’s ‘aquatic’ entertainment centre is no different from any other… and the mistreatment of dolphins in particular, breaks my heart into a million pieces.
– Go to the capital, Santo Domingo for the day (2.5 hour drive from Punta Cana). Your hotel can arrange this for you. Stay in the Zona Colonial area, it’s so beautiful! Make sure your ‘guide’ speaks good English and can show you around.
– There are 3 bumping clubs (discos): Imagine (which is in a cave), Jewel, and Oro (inside Hard Rock hotel). We’ve had some fun times at these when friends have visited and wanted to go out, but don’t frequent them often. Be prepared to smell like an ashtray when you come out… and don’t mind the prostitutes. Also, don’t plan to come until after 11 pm, the places don’t get busy till midnight. Oro & Jewel put on concerts from time to time. It’s a good idea to check what’s happening during the week you will be there. David Guetta comes to play at Oro every New Years Eve, recently Rihanna was there too. Jewel is owned by Akon – that’s just some fun Punta Cana trivia for ya!
ROCK THE DRESS:
Our version of ‘trash the dress’ sessions that have become so popular. Honestly, I just don’t like the word ‘trash’… Picking the right wedding gown is a pretty big deal and the hope is that you’ll love wearing it – why would you want to trash or destroy it? It’s super fun to get it wet, roll around it the sand with it, lay down on the grass, etc etc – but after this session, you should quite easily be able to dry-clean it and … donate it, sell it, alter it into a cocktail dress, or keep it in your closet until you decide what to do with it. I know some brides have ripped theirs, rolled it in mud, spray-painted it and even set it on fire! We’ve never had one of our brides do this, but we’re always open to your ideas.
We take great care to create unique images that are classy and timeless, please take a look at the many examples on this blog and our website for ideas and inspiration.
The ideal times for the session are right at sunrise & about 1.5 hours before sunset. If these don’t work out, we will do our best to work around the available schedule and the images will still be fabulous. However, the magic happens at sunrise and sunset! These hours are very time sensitive, because the sun moves fast. If we had a choice in the matter, we would always go for sunrise. As difficult as it is to get up while it’s still pitch black, it’s always SO worth it! Besides, you can go right back to sleep afterwards and will feel so accomplished 🙂
In the morning the beaches are empty and the sun rises out of the water. Within a short span of time, we can capture a great variety of images.
* we always bring portable music to our shoots, so do let us know what you like (or consider making a special playlist on your own ipod).
There are a few options for locations, the most convenient of which is probably your resort. I already talked about booking us a room for the night before – otherwise we won’t be able to get onto the resort property (that early in the morningg). For sunset (on the resort, you’ll need to take care of our day passes ($50 – $100 per person, depending on the resort), so in many cases getting a room is cheaper.
Jellyfish or Bavaro beach: no fee to photograph here, but these are both very busy public beaches. They are, however, both great for a sunrise session.
Skim the ‘activities’ section above: we can turn any one of these experiences into a photo session!
INTIMATE PORTRAITS / BELOVED:
An intimate portraits session is essentially like a Boudoir session, but for you as a Couple. We will capture the love, passion, playfulness, and tenderness between you… as if no one was watching.
Sometimes, a Rock the Dress session can get pretty steamy and turn into a more ‘intimate’ shoot – like THIS one. As you can imagine, there were other images that were super hot & sexy, but we usually keep those private.
There are many ways to get creative here and the degree of ‘intimacy’ really depends on you. We’ve had couples *nearly* make love in front of our lenses (or maybe they did for real?!) 🙂 We’re cool with pretty well anything, as long as it’s for art, is consensual, and we can comfortably do our job.
Most likely, you’ve never done this before, so it’s totally normal if you’re nervous and unsure. Even for the most conservative of couples, the initial awkwardness is usually gone within the first 5-10 minutes. Absolutely everyone has said they loved the experience and were glad they let themselves get out of their comfort zones!!
Learn about Beloved sessions HERE. There are elements of our ‘beloved’ technique in all our sessions, including the wedding Day.
Here are a few more juicy posts for you to check out:
P.S. Rob & I got sexy in front of the camera as well… check us out HERE!
BELOVED / ENGAGEMENT PHOTO STYLE GUIDELINES:
1) Make sure your hair is not falling into your face 🙂 2) No heavy concealer or powder make-up; 3) You’ll be kissing your lover, lots! So whatever lipstick or lip gloss you decide to wear, he’ll be wearing too! 4) accessories (necklace, shawl, scarf, umbrella) are awesome; 4) no turtlenecks (as if you were gonna wear one anyway); 5) no crazy patterns, clashing colours, or writing on clothing (unless meaningful to you); 6) loose tops are not the most flattering, unless you wear a belt; 7) dresses rock. so do heels, even in the sand (barefoot is better than flip flops); 8) you don’t have to match, but it’s obviously nice if your outfits compliment each other; 9) dressier is better than casual; 10) prepare to laugh, embrace, dance, get twirled, and possibly consume champagne.
If you already know you want a Beloved Session or Engagement Portraits, think ahead: maybe you want to bring a special bottle of wine from home? Or write each other ‘love letters’ / cards ahead of time and exchange them during the session? …
If you’ve traveled around the world like Rob & I have, you probably know what to expect from all inclusive resorts – in terms of food and service especially.
I’m about to give it to you straight and share *honestly* what we think of the resorts around Punta Cana – that we’ve been to MANY times. I really hope this sharing will help you make up your mind and choose the perfect one, given your wants, needs, priorities and budget.
Please note that everything we’re sharing in this ‘review’ is based on our personal opinions and experiences. Naturally, we have more to say about places we’ve gone to more often!
A NOTE ON FOOD:
* Dominican Republic is notorious for inferior quality of food & service when compared to many other popular vacation destinations… such as Mexico, Jamaica & Hawaii… (although we do hear food is generally worse in Cuba).
Everyone’s tastes are different – every resort has both excellent AND terrible reviews. We’ve vegetarians, but are also big foodies, so here’s what I have to say about the food in ALL resorts in Punta Cana… Everywhere you go, it’s hit & miss. I know, that’s a pretty frustrating answer, but it’s true. Resort food is probably the 2nd most disappointing subject (after the insane amount of unnecessary waste each resort is responsible for). There seems to be a great amount of variety at the buffets, but upon closer inspection, you notice it’s actually slim pickings – because the way the dishes are prepared do the ingredients no justice. You’ll find some things are yummy and some are pretty gross.
Seafood: I’m not going to tell you about the state of our oceans and pollution affecting all seafood, haha. Be prepared to find seafood choices disappointing because it actually mostly comes from the States, frozen. That’s because there’s not a lot of good local fish – there’s some, but not much. The filets are almost always prepared from frozen. Lobster is usually available for a hefty extra charge and is almost always overcooked to death. There are exceptions! The best seafood on the island is at Jellyfish Restaurant. Their lobster is always fresh, and most other places thaw out the tails from frozen and they don’t taste as good.
* Please consider that there’s a ban on lobster fishing in Dominican Republic (as well as other countries in the Caribbean & Central America) from March 1st to June 30th (it’s their breeding season & all local fresh lobster caught during this time is a result of poaching). In the last few years the numbers of these species have been getting dangerously low and at this rate, they are soon facing extinction. Anyone found disrespecting the ban could be fined heavily. Please resist buying or ordering fresh lobsters as a way of protecting them! Do the right thing!!
I can’t say much about the meat, other than that it is also mostly shipped and isn’t local. Dominicans like their meat, so choices are endless! They are also big fans of overcooking all their meat, so if you want a medium steak, as for a medium-rare, or if you’re at a buffet, it’s a good idea to stand & watch over them.
Maybe it’s because we’ve now traveled to places like Thailand, India, and Indonesia that we often wonder – why is is that Dominicans don’t use so many of the local wonderful ingredients in their dishes?! For example, rich coconut milk, flavourful ginger & turmeric, green herbs, cashew & almond nuts, etc etc And what they do do with the ingredients they have (especially in resorts) is so unimaginative and bland?…
They have, however, adapted quite well to typical North American tastes – and I assure you, you and your loved ones will have many memorable meals together.
In all the time we’ve been living on the island, I’ve gotten food poisoning twice, in two different (excellent) resorts, once when we first moved here and once last year. Generally, the standards are very high and we very rarely hear of people getting sick. But it does happen and it could be anything! Make sure you bring emergency meds with you, like Peptobismol, Maalox, Immodium, etc. and be very careful, especially in the days leading up to the Wedding.
There are two on the island. Paradisus Punta Cana is the slightly cheaper one, and the Palma Real location is considered to be one of the most high end on the island.
Both are absolutely stunning properties, with stunning beaches and grounds.
Both have a 3-tiered system: 1)regular guests; 2) Royal Service – the fancy upgraded version, rooms are usually beachfront, adults only; 3) The Reserve – the fancy upgraded version, but kids are allowed. There’s a whole separate area for Reserve guests that’s pretty far from the beach, but it has its own fancy pool with upscale pool furniture, a separate restaurant / buffet with better food and booze, and of course the slightly bigger better rooms. The Reserve is a good 15 minute ‘trolley’ ride from the beach in both resorts, so if you’re staying there, it’s a bit of a pain in the butt to get around.
You, as the Wedding Couple, will likely get upgraded to either Royal Service or Reserve, but consider whether your most important guests / family are going to be staying in those areas as well – because ‘regular’ guests won’t be allowed to hang out with you in the ‘special’ areas, such as pools & restaurants of TR & RS. (Well, they can, but for an additional fee of around $25 per day, just to use the facilities).
This ‘segregation’ can be both a ‘pro’ and a ‘con’ – you might actually enjoy getting some privacy and only meeting with your ‘crew’ at designated times… or it might be an inconvenience, and you’ll have to spend time every day traveling to the ‘regular’ areas of the resort to be with everyone.
Personally, Rob & I aren’t big fans of this system because the staff really do glance at your bracelet before even talking to you – so they are constantly checking if you are where you’re supposed to be, and how nice they need to be to you. We’ve even run into a problem sometimes when we get a ‘regular’ day pass to shoot a wedding or if we’re staying there as guests and we’re NOT allowed to get to the area where the bridal suite is because we have the wrong bracelets. Of course, it’s all good once we contact the wedding planner, but still, it’s an unpleasant hassle that takes time.
On the other hand, when we ourselves have been upgraded, we’ve loved getting extra perks and pampering!
PALMA REAL LOCATION:
The property is huge and very beautiful… Food: great compared to other resorts, but your experience can vary… ‘Gabi Beach’ is one of the most beautiful and classy reception venues on the island…
It’s connected to the ‘Palma Real’ shopping centre… Only a 15 minute walk on the beach to Jellyfish restaurant & a 10 minute walk to the Bavaro / Cortecito pier where a few good tours depart.
– here are a few recent weddings we’ve photographed there, so that you can get ideas:
Christine & Ramon http://katyanovablog.com/paradisus-palma-real-wedding-christine-ramon/
Myla-Ana & Curtis http://katyanovablog.com/paradisus-palma-real-wedding-myla-ana-curtis/
PARADISUS PUNTA CANA LOCATION:
They have the most beautiful beachfront gazebo in Punta Cana… Rob & I fell in love with it and considered it for our own wedding! The food here is pretty good… not as good as at Dreams Palm Beach (comparable price point), but quite acceptable.
* the following post was written in July 2011, when Rob & I were considering both Paradisus resorts for our own wedding – so this is a detailed account of our first impressions, from the perspective of potential clients AND photographers: http://katyanovablog.com/paradisus-punta-cana-palma-real-photo-review/
And here’s what a ballroom can look like:
– here are a few recent weddings we’ve photographed there, so that you can get ideas:
Photo review of our first visit http://katyanovablog.com/paradisus-punta-cana-palma-real-photo-review/
MELIA TROPICAL CARIBE:
It makes sense to mention this one next because it’s owned by Paradisus resorts and is meant to be the most affordable option. You’ll notice the prices are great, and so is the value. Melia is adjacent to Paradisus Palma Real and is just a 5-7 minute walk from Jellyfish & 20 minute walk from Huracan (on the beach). It’s also a huge resort. Huge! The rooms are lovely, the grounds are gorgeous… the food is definitely not noteworthy, but you get what you pay for. The property is on a stunning beach and there’s lots to do. This is a great value option for a wedding because the all-inclusive week is likely to be more affordable for more of your guests. Many Couples who have their actual wedding at Jellyfish stay here and have a great time. Value for money – it’s one of the best options in Punta Cana, especially if you’re planning an off-resort wedding.
Their garden & beach gazebos are also very beautiful… and the sunset sky is particularly stunning on the beach most times.
* we’ve stayed here several times and the one time we got upgraded to their Royal Service, we were blown away by how much better the food was in comparison to the ‘regular’ rest of resort. You can get Royal Service at Melia for much cheaper than the REGULAR rate at either Paradisus resorts and the quality / value is greater. Something to think about!!
Looking back, we’ve witnessed some of the most wonderful and stress-free Melia / Jellyfish weddings!
Jennifer & Clarison http://katyanovablog.com/melia-punta-cana-wedding-jennifer-clarison/
NOW LARIMAR / SECRETS ROYAL BEACH:
Another great value-for-money option in Punta Cana. This is a small boutique-style resort on the other side of Paradisus Palma Real, so it’s very close to Jellyfish, and even closer to Huracan.
Now Larimar is fairly priced most of the time and is comparable in value to Paradisus Punta Cana & Dreams Punta Cana / Palm Beach. They do a great job with weddings and have a lovely fountain in the garden area of the resort, where most weddings take place. The food is pretty good, not quite as good as Dreams Palm Beach, but still up to par. Most wedding receptions take place at Castaway beach bar, a fabulous venue close enough to the beach, but with an intimate feel of a restaurant. I love how ‘open’ it feels, but is still hidden from rain.
They have a beautiful spa with an attached bridal suite that’s available for rent.
Similarly to Dreams, they have a ‘preferred’ section with beachfront rooms – a great option for some extra perks and still not ‘separated’ from the rest of your wedding party.
Its sister resort next-door, Secrets Royal Beach, is the upscale, all-adult version. Each room has a jacuzzi, there’s a ‘lazy river’ with complimentary floaties, better food & booze and slightly better service here.
There are NO bracelets at both resorts, which is great for pictures! Some couples move to the Secrets side for the ‘honeymoon,’ which is a good option.
Oh, and beware – if you want a beautiful beach ceremony, it might end up looking like this: crowded and full of bystanders in beachwear. (We’ll still always find a way to take gorgeous photos, but you might want to consider having an off-resort ceremony / reception).
Here are a few recent weddings we’ve photographed there:
Michele & Clayton http://katyanovablog.com/now-larimar-punta-cana-wedding-michele-clayton/
BARCELO BAVARO PALACE DELUXE:
Overall, this is a fantastic resort, but it’s definitely rubbed us the wrong way a few times.
Here’s the scoop… Barcelo is THE biggest and richest Spanish family-owned resort chain and they were one of the first companies to buy a lot of land in the Punta Cana area. That’s why, this resort sits on one of THE most beautiful beaches in the area. It’s always calm and gorgeous bright turquoise in colour. That ‘segregation’ thing I talked about in the Paradisus section applies here as well. Note: this place is gigantic! Be prepared that your guests will be spread out in different areas and there might be restrictions as to where you can all hang out together. There are a few different ‘wings’ to the resort complex, so it’s quite possible some of your guests will have different bracelets. If you book this resort, make sure your travel agent is adamant about at least the majority of your wedding guests being in the same area.
The resort caters to Russians and Germans as well as North Americans, so the overall vibe at the resort reflects that. The management team does NOT go out of their way to please their clients and will NOT bend the rules even a tiny bit, even to please clients who are responsible for bringing the resort so much business.
Also, their beach ceremony site can get pretty crowded. They usually have a guard or two standing there and shooing onlookers off, but it will not be as ‘intimate’ as you might like.
Here’s an example from one of our weddings there:
The Couple chose the standard 3-hour ballroom reception package, which comes with food, booze, and a cake. The cake was cut with about 20 minutes to go – and since everyone was dancing up a storm, the cake didn’t get distributed immediately. The Couple asked the wedding coordinator to please deliver the cake (which was almost whole) to their presidential suite, as that’s where the party was headed afterwards. The coordinator refused, reasoning that everything in the ballroom was only available for the 3 hours of the package. Are you serious?! It’s not even about the cake, but about the principle.
All in all, if you don’t go ‘outside the box,’ you can have a great experience there. But there can definitely be a few ‘bumps’ because it’s a large company AND it’s run by Dominican staff, which means ‘common sense’ does not a problem solve. 🙂
I would definitely recommend staying here especially if your wedding is off-resort property (Huracan, Jellyfish, Tracadero, Juanillo, Playa Blanca or La Palapa).
It’s only about a 10-15 minute drive to Jellyfish / Huracan.
The rooms are gorgeous – most of the property has been renovated recently. Do splurge on one of the beachfront suites with terrace jacuzzi tubs – so good.
* this resort is SO strict when it comes to men’s fine dining attire … women can wear whatever they want, but men MUST have long pants & closed-toe shoes.
Here are recent weddings from Barcelo Palace Deluxe:
Melissa & Will http://katyanovablog.com/huracan-cafe-punta-cana-wedding-mw/
There are two Dreams resorts in the area, Dreams Palm Beach and Punta Cana. There’s a third one in La Romana, which is only about an hour’s drive away from Punta Cana airport on the new highway. A fourth resort is under construction, Dreams Dominicus Beach; it will open in October 2016! All are great – Rob & I are big fans of the Dreams chain. You might already know, we chose Dreams Palm Beach for our wedding week and were so happy with our experience!
I took the time to post a very detailed review and comparison (with pictures) of the Palm Beach & Punta Cana locations on the ‘BDW forum’, take a look at it HERE.
There’s also a blog post ‘Confessions of a Punta Cana Bride‘, which was an enormous labour of love, you can learn a great deal about the resort from it.
* this resort is SO strict when it comes to men’s fine dining attire … women can wear whatever they want, but men MUST have long pants & closed-toe shoes.
More eye candy:
DREAMS PALM BEACH:
DREAMS PUNTA CANA:
One of our favourites on the island, hands down. It’s a boutique-style all-adult resort in Uvero Alto, about an hour or so away from Punta Cana airport. It’s popular with honeymooners, but they do weddings fabulously here. The beach is very different on this side – with pretty big waves, sometimes too powerful to swim. The food is amazing compared to other resorts, the service is outstanding, and there are hot tubs in all rooms. One of my favourite features is their lower pool with free coconuts – the only resort in the area who do this. Yum!
* tip: go to the bartender and ask for all the coconut water they pour out. I couldn’t believe my eyes – they crack a coconut, pour out the delicious healthy natural coconut water that’s inside, and pour their slushy alcohol stuff into it instead (nothing against slushy alcohol drinks!) we were gulping down the electrolyte goodness elixir and loving it. (also, it’s the perfect hangover cure, next to beer!) 🙂
Here are a couple of weddings & a ‘Beloved’ post from Excellence:
Another one of our favourites – Rob & I came here for our mini-honeymoon – and I wrote a thorough review post about the experience.
This is a great resort to get married and the wedding team always does a good job. It’s a huge property and it does take a fair bit of time to get from place to place (the beach is about a 20 minute walk from reception). There is a huge convention centre (indoor wedding ballrooms are there), the best casino in Punta Cana, ‘ORO’ disco nightclub that’s open till 6 am, and a couple of beautiful lounges, one of which even has karaoke on some nights. Hard Rock is the best resort in terms of entertainment – there is so much to do, both day & night. When we first came here, the place reminded us of Vegas! Hard Rock is the only resort in Punta Cana that has an all-adult (topless) pool, Eden. It’s gorgeous and is a great place for a private welcome dinner / cocktail hour or wedding reception. It’s the only ‘gated’ private outdoor poolside venue.
Last October Hard Rock management hired us to do a 4-day photoshoot of their ‘conference’ spaces, so we got to know the place really well. I even went up in a helicopter to do some aerial shots (which sounds much cooler than it ended up being because I got motion sick!) Anyway, here’s a full gallery of hard rock photos (password: hardrock) – enjoy the browse!!
Food: first time we went was the best food we’d had in Punta Cana (all-inclusive), but has never matched up since. It’s really hit & miss. The wedding buffet (again, according to our tastes), is pretty sad. This is baffling, because there are some great dishes in the restaurants, especially Italian & Pizza restaurants. It might be a good idea to do a tasting of your wedding menu.
Something important I want to stress: it really takes a long time to get from place to place because the property is so big. When planning the events of the wedding Day, please keep this in mind. At this resort more than any other place, we’ve witnessed wedding stress related to ‘someone forgetting something in a room that is far away’ and the bride being late for the ceremony because the golf cart is not showing up. Try to get the ‘getting ready’ suites of the bride & groom fairly close to one another, this will help. And please take ‘travel time’ into consideration when booking the events of the wedding Day.
HARD ROCK PUNTA CANA WEDDINGS:
Natalie & Josh http://katyanovablog.com/hard-rock-punta-cana-wedding-nj/
Sherricka & Stanley http://katyanovablog.com/hard-rock-punta-cana-wedding-sherricka-stanley/
Alexandra & Brian http://katyanovablog.com/hard-rock-wedding-photographer-ab/
Great resort… but it’s more like four resorts in one! The Esmeralda side of the resort is the fanciest one, and that’s where everything took place – but some of the guests stayed in other areas of Bahia. If you’re at Esmeralda, you can go anywhere within the property – so make sure your family / guests know that ahead of time, to avoid disappointment when the difference in bracelets might prevent you from hanging out together. The food & service are average (typical of Dominican). The beach is pretty crowded, so I’m not a very big fan of their beach ceremony site – we had a tough time making it look good in photos due to all the onlookers in beachwear… But of course, that’s exactly the reason to hire awesome photographers 🙂
OCEAN BLUE SAND RESORT:
The beach is gorgeous, so are the rooms and the grounds. It’s not a very big resort, so it’s fairly easy to get around. The service can be hit & miss, but the FOOD!!! So, so good! They must have a fantastic kitchen manager, because it was some of the BEST resort food we’ve had. They even have a juice bar with green juice! Hehe. The a la carte restaurants are really good too.
The beach ceremony spot is quite crowded during the day and it’s difficult to make it an intimate experience. If you’re getting married on the beach, expect tourists with iPads watching nearby.
Here’s the most recent wedding (I especially love the sunrise Rock the Dress at the Ocean Dream!):
This is an average Punta Cana resort, I can’t think of much good or bad to tell you about it. The beach is beautiful, but quite crowded. Consider this if you’re dreaming of a beautiful beach ceremony. The food is okay, the resort is quite old, some buildings are renovated and some are quite outdated. Iberostar is popular with European tourists, not so much for North American weddings.
Here are the two weddings we had there:
When Rob & I first moved to Punta Cana in September 2011, a really shitty misunderstanding happened with this resort at the very first wedding we photographed there. If you really want to know the dirty details, I’ll tell you over a glass of wine sometime, but to make a long story short, doing business on the island is much more cut-throat than we, naive Canadians, imagined it to be at the time.
We don’t personally shoot here, but our associate photographers do. Please shoot me an email to ask about that if Majestic is your place.
More than anywhere else, Majestic is considered a ‘wedding factory,’ as they can have up to 8 (or so) weddings in a single day. How special would that make you feel, as a bride?
Majestic is only 15 minutes away from Jellyfish or Huracan, making it a very convenient wedding venue.
The resort was notorious for below average food & service, especially on the Colonial side – but once again, experiences vary and we’re just basing this on our past clients’ comments and stories.
ROYALTON / MEMORIES SPLASH:
A fairly new resort and a really good one! The beach is quite crowded, but the boutique feel of the property means finding your friends & family easily. All the rooms are new and beautiful. The service is fantastic and so is the food! Also, no bracelets… awesome.
They also have a super fun aqua-park!!!
SECRETS SANCTUARY CAP CANA:
I’m going to talk about Cap Cana a little later. For now, let me tell you about the only all-inclusive resort there. It’s an upscale property and is absolutely breathtaking, with its classic Mediterranean ‘castle’ feel. There are many options for accommodations, ranging from a regular hotel room to an oceanfront villa with an infinity pool. They tend to cater to high end corporate retreats, so not many weddings take place there.
There is a beautiful beachfront restaurant on ‘stilt’s, called ‘Blue Marlin’ – it used to be famous for its excellent cuisine and atmosphere. Now, only the ‘atmosphere’ aspect remains noteworthy, and the food – disappointing in comparison to what it was. It’s still great if you’re indeed staying for the all-inclusive experience, but the restaurant is also open to general public. Blue Marlin is a great place for a Welcome Party, and of course, it’s spectacular for photos!
There are many other options for a cocktail hour and wedding reception. So, so beautiful.
I wish we had more weddings here, because the resort is so unique and gorgeous.
What we do know for sure is that they’ve had a very high turnover of wedding coordinators and it seems no one is really in charge for any significant period of time. We’ve found this so frustrating, because it’s difficult to recommend Sanctuary Cap Cana to our couples, as we never really know what level of service they would be receiving. If you’re interested in having your wedding at this resort, be patient with email replies and get clear on what you want – of course we’re always here to help. Overall, even with some glitches, it remains one of our favourite places to shoot.
The nearby property Fishing Lodge / Alsol Luxury Village (7 minute drive) is home to a stunning chapel, which comfortably fits around 60 people. The scenery is so unique and perfect for photos. It’s almost always deserted, which feels special.
I’ll let the images speak for themselves:
PALLADIUM (ROYAL TURQUESA):
Huge chain, beautiful resort. We recently photographed a wedding at the most ‘upscale’ side of Palladium, Royal Turquesa. Honestly – some of the worst food we’ve had. And I’m not just saying that because there were few veg options. The selection was very poor, low quality ingredients. We were very surprised. But hey, at least the champagne is good!
ALSOL / FISHING LODGE:
Oh, this place!
What an ENIGMA this hotel is!
We discovered it by accident one day, riding our bicycles around Cap Cana, where we used to rent a condo (several years ago). The blend of natural & architectural beauty of this place is astounding. It’s a unique hotel with condominium-style suites, a few restaurants, lounges, walking paths, a state of the art gym, and beautiful pools. Situated right on the Marina, the views are mind-blowing. There’s now a lovely manmade beach here now. Phew!!
We also loved it because this was our awesome secret place to bring couples for a Beloved / engagement / honeymoon / Rock the Dress / intimate portraits shoots… we didn’t have to pay a fee and no one said a thing.
We left for our big India & Southeast Asia trip just as new management was figuring out their new policies (including charging a fee for shooting there), so we’ll have to find out what it is in the near future.
Take a look at some of the sessions we’ve done – and let us know if you want us to bring you there!
If you’ve seen our own wedding pictures or video, you’ll recognize Fishing Lodge – we brought our photographers & cinematographers for lunch there and took some super cool footage!
This is an area of 45 square miles (120 km2) a few minutes away from Punta Cana airport. There are a few beautiful beaches, the most popular of which is Juanillo; many condo, apartment & villa complexes; a couple of golf courses; multiple fancy restaurants, hotels & resorts; and finally, a Marina club that’s home to many shiny yachts. We used to live here and loved it. The rent was pretty high, but the place was safe, beautiful, modern, quiet and conveniently located. The trouble with conducting photo sessions in the area started when a handful of Russian photographers based in Punta Cana began frequenting the place, with their signature ‘love story’ sessions, which were sometimes loud, over-the-top, and disturbing to Cap Cana’s residents. Now, although I grew up in Canada, I am Ukrainian and Russian is my first language. It’s been disheartening witnessing some of the behaviour during these shoots (such as trespassing onto someone’s private boat), etc. Cap Cana counsel quickly responded by raising the cost of photo sessions from $60 to $300. They’ve also made the application process to have a photo session there quite difficult: the photographers need to register & submit copies of passport, driving license, car insurance, blood & stool samples (sorry for the detail) to the main office weeks in advance. As you can imagine, this makes us much less excited to shoot there! It is, however, an amazingly stunning place, so if you want to come here for photos, we can absolutely help you make that happen.
Gorgeous restaurant in Cap Cana, on top of a hill. It’s recently changed management… I hope they do weddings there one day!
It’s a beautiful ‘wedding boat’ and can potentially be a fabulous venue. Make sure you are very clear with your expectations and timing. I’ve already talked your ear off about sunset – make sure you choose the time for pick-up carefully, so that you don’t end up missing the sunset. The boat departs from Jellyfish beach, so there must be enough time for you to get there from your resort.
CASA DE CAMPO / ALTOS DE CHAVON:
Casa de Campo is a 7000-acre property / resort in La Romana, just minutes away from La Romana airport and about an hour away from Punta Cana airport. The 5 star accommodations range from modern hotel rooms to luxurious villas and as a guest here, everyone gets their own ‘golf’ cart to tour around the resort. Pretty sweet! There are multiple restaurants, a golf course, a Marina, a spa, various water sports and horseback riding.
The main attraction on the territory of Casa de Campo is Altos de Chavon. It is a unique architectural wonder and is a full-size 16th century replica of a Mediterranean village. It’s a cultural centre and sometimes – a concert venue. They don’t advertise weddings here, but they should! All it would take is to have a talented and dedicated wedding planner, like Cabarete-based Richard Weber or Mayte Mari or Val’s Weddings.
Engagement portraits we took there: http://katyanovablog.com/altos-de-chavon-casa-de-campo-engagement-pamela-cody-2/
We’ve taken one of our couples here for sunset ‘day-after’ portraits and it was an amazing experience. It regularly costs $275 to shoot here, but for us it’s less.
There are two other locations that are great for photo sessions, Minitas Beach ($100 shooting fee) and La Marina ($250), but Altos de Chavon is definitely our favourite.
We can’t wait to document a wedding here one day!
Absolutely gorgeous high-end hotel in Uvero Alto (about an hour away from Punta Cana airport). It’s not an all-inclusive resort, so has a very different feel… quiet, boutique, exclusive.
We’ve never photographed a wedding here, but have spend a decent amount of time acquainting ourselves with the place. I know they’ve done weddings there in the past, so it’s another great option!
Not too far from Sivory & Dreams Punta Cana is Zoetry, a magnificent 5-star boutique-style all-inclusive resort. Most of the food is organic & gourmet, all accommodations are thatched-roof beachfront bungalows, there’s daily yoga, incredible service, among many other things! It’s not particularly impressive visually, but isn’t really meant to be. They focus on the real meaning of luxury, in my opinion. I would highly recommend this resort for your honeymoon. They do a fantastic job with weddings as well – but do not have a talented decorator there.
Rob & I are big fans of this resort, it’s very special. Cayo Levantado is a small island off the coast of Samana, a 20-minute ferry away. Samana is a beautiful lush green peninsula, 3 hour drive from Santo Domingo and 5 hours from Punta Cana. There’s also a small airport here, so getting here is not as tricky as one might think! Cayo Levantado Bahia Principe is the ONLY resort on this little island, so if you’re considering it for your wedding, it’s a good idea to stress to your guests that they need to book this place ahead of time – because if they wait till last minute and the resort is sold out, the only option for them will be to stay on mainland, take the shuttle ferry and pay a $100 or so day pass fee to spend time with you.
We’ve stayed here 3 times for weddings – what an amazing place. Since this is my chance to tell you about the ‘little things,’ I will mention the few things that we didn’t particularly care for… 1) they need to recycle! 2) it’s an upscale resort, but the wedding decor is outdated, same goes for floral designs, chair covers, ribbons, etc. I mean, it’s like that at most other Dominican Resorts, but it’s more noticeable here. In the links below, you’ll notice our Brides brought lots of stuff with them from home and in a couple of cases, arranged for the rental of classier chairs. Their wedding planner, Simona, was so impressed she said she will try to convince the upper management to upgrade what they currently have. (She is wonderful, by the way!) 3) the designated beach ceremony spot can be a bit awkward because of the amount of wind on the beach close to sunset.
I also want to add that the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking here, as the sun actually sets into the water. Everywhere else we usually shoot (in Punta Cana), it rises out of the water – hence the popular ‘sunrise’ shoots we do there.
OUTSIDE VENDOR FEES:
Make sure you arrange our ‘passes’ to enter the resort property. Most times, it’s easiest (and often cheapest) to get us a night at the resort in lieu of paying a vendor fee, but every resort is different. It’s a bit ridiculous, but we often get stuck at the entrance gate to the resorts, even though our Couples do their due diligence and remind the wedding coordinators to arrange for us to enter without a hitch. The gate guards don’t have our names and have no idea what to do with us, until they call the reception desk, who call the wedding office, try to get a hold of the wedding coordinator who’s assigned to today’s wedding… and only then ‘approve’ us for entry. We usually arrive at least an hour before the coverage starts, but there have been times we’ve spent over an hour trying to get through the gate and onto the property… It’s really frustrating and can be avoided. Below is an outline of the ‘outside vendor’ policies at some of the most popular resorts:
PARADISUS & MELIA: very strict outside vendor policy, either $1000 or 3 nights at the resort. We can humbly offer you the gift of one of our famous day-after Rock the Dress or Beloved session ($650 value). If your wedding is off-resort property and you just want us to come there for the ‘getting ready’ photos, we can get away with just one night’s stay, because we’re not actually shooting a wedding there – or a regular day pass. If we’re guests at the resort, it’s our business what we do in your bridal suite with you!
* we recently had a wedding at Paradisus and I saw that they only charged $35 for the make-up artist to come in for the day (while a regular day pass, for anybody, is $120). What a crazy difference, right?!
NOW LARIMAR: very strict $500 per company vendor policy. period. booking a room isn’t an alternative option, unfortunately! Ask for a cheaper fee if the actual wedding is off-resort property and your photographers are only there for the ‘getting ready’ portion of they day.
BARCELO BAVARO PALACE DELUXE: there’s a ‘no outside vendor’ policy, but if we are staying there for the night, we are allowed to do whatever we want, including photographing your wedding. Room rates are usually pretty cheap (as low as $170/night for a double-occupancy room), so it’s an accessible and affordable option that we recommend. If your wedding is off-resort property, getting us one night’s stay to document the ‘getting ready’ / sunrise ‘rock the dress’ the next day is a perfect option. I’ve recently heard from a bride that the outside vendor fee is $60 – I’m having a hard time believing that, but it might be true! They are constantly changing the rules, it’s hard to keep up!
DREAMS PUNTA CANA / PALM BEACH / LA ROMANA / DOMINICUS: $150 per vendor (not per company). We usually have our Couples book us a room at the resort for the night of the wedding (usually around $250). This is great, as it’s cheaper, less hassle for us at the gate, and we’ll be there for you if you decide to book one of our famous ‘Rock the Dress’ sunrise sessions!
EXCELLENCE: it’s a $500 outside vendor fee, but again, getting us a room at the resort is cheaper and more convenient (usually around $350)
HARD ROCK: there’s a $1000 per company outside vendor fee (or 3 nights). We humbly offer to split the fee with you.
BAHIA PRINCIPE: strict $500 outside vendor fee, per company.
OCEAN BLUE & SAND: strict $500 outside vendor fee, per company.
PALLADIUM: fee changes; safe to book a room for the night of the wedding.
ROYALTON: $450 outside vendor fee; only $60 per vendor if the actual wedding is off-resort property.
MAJESTIC: $300 strict outside vendor fee.
IBEROSTAR: $500 strict outside vendor fee.
ZOETRY: no outside vendor fee.
SANCTUARY CAP CANA: policies are unclear, best to contact them directly…
* booking (us) a room at your resort: you are welcome to do it or we can do it ourselves, whatever you prefer. We usually use the following sites for the best deal: Orbitz.com, Cheapcaribbean.com, Expedia.com… but there are others.
You must know about this place by now, right?! Hands down, it’s the most famous and beautiful wedding venue on the entire island. They’ve been in the wedding game for many years, under the masterful guidance of the most extraordinary wedding planner, Mayte Mari. As of May 2014, there is a new wonderful team there: Gianna & Clara are the decorators, Isaac is the owner and main manager.
If you haven’t already seen the big blog post I’d written about Rob & I getting married there in April 2012, check it out now.
The caliber of the event simply cannot compare to a resort wedding. Just take a look at some of the weddings we’ve photographed there and you’ll feel it – we don’t need to tell you!
Here are the new great on-site decorators, Gianna & Clara:
And here’s the owner, Gabriel & his son Isaac – they’ve been an amazing and solid team taking care of all the Jelly Brides!
WEDDINGS BY GIANNA & CLARA:
Lillian & Vincenzo http://katyanovablog.com/jellyfish-punta-cana-wedding-lillian-vincenzo/ (Caribbean Celebrations)
Michelle & Alan http://katyanovablog.com/jellyfish-punta-cana-photographer-ma/
Yulissa & Adrian http://katyanovablog.com/jellyfish-punta-cana-wedding-ya/
… and MANY more coming 🙂 🙂 🙂
SHOULD YOU GET READY AT THE RESORT OR AT JELLYFISH?
That’s totally up to you! Jellyfish has a lovely bridal suite (part of the back office), so it will be comfortable for you and your girls. If you hire Krystie Ann or Anna Nuet to do hair & makeup, it’s probably easier (and cheaper) to just have them come to Jellyfish. We do love capturing the ‘getting ready’ portion of the day in the space you’ve created at your resort, and it’s definitely nice to document the gorgeous space you’ve chosen to stay in for the week.
Meet beautiful Nati! She is in charge of transforming this gorgeous beach restaurant into the dream wedding venue you’ve seen in photos. If you’d like to get in touch and discuss possibly having your wedding here, here’s how: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a unique and eclectic beachfront restaurant perfect for weddings. It’s a bit smaller than Jelly – perfect for up to 70 guests or so. The place has gotten a big ‘facelift’ recently now (beginning of 2016), so it’s even more impressive.
Here’s the first wedding that made the place “famous”: http://katyanovablog.com/huracan-cafe-punta-cana-wedding-alexandra-tyler/
Good to know: Huracan is 5 minutes from Now Larimar (walk), 10 minutes from Paradisus Palma Real (walk or drive), 15 minutes from Melia Caribe Tropical (walk or drive), 15 minutes from Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe (15 minute drive), 15 minutes from Majestic (drive), 20 minutes from Bahia Principe (drive), 25 minutes from Paradisus Punta Cana (drive), 20 minutes from Dreams Palm Beach (drive), 45 minutes from Dreams Punta Cana (drive) etc.
The food is phenomenal there. You’ll be able to choose either from the Wedding Menu or from their regular menu. My fave is their truffle mushroom pasta (salivating!) – but if you’re not vegan / vegetarian like Rob & I, you’ll absolutely LOVE their seafood!
The beach ceremony will be gorgeous. Nati can create many unique looks. Here’s an example:
And here’s the inside (there are more renovation plans for 2015 weddings):
Full weddings from Huracan Cafe by Nati:
Lina & Stefano: https://katyanova.smugmug.com/Other-2/Lina-Stefano/ (password: onlylove) photographed by Tamara
Full weddings from Huracan Cafe (by Mayte Mari & Nati):
Melissa & Will http://katyanovablog.com/huracan-cafe-punta-cana-wedding-mw/
Mae & Alex http://katyanovablog.com/huracan-punta-cana-wedding-mae-alex/ (photographed by Tamara)
Tanesha & Cornelius http://katyanovablog.com/huracan-cafe-punta-cana-wedding-tanesha-cornelius/
… and many more to come!!!
CALETON CAP CANA (LA PALAPA RESTAURANT):
We LOVE with this venue, even though they don’t value vendor relationships. For a Bride with a slightly higher budget, it’s an absolute DREAM, especially in the hands of talented wedding planners / decorators, like Nati or Val’s Weddings. It’s about a 20+ minute drive from most resorts and only 10 minutes from the airport. A lot of changes have been taking place here, mostly for the better. I’m always here for you, to comment on the latest news.
Keila & Francisco http://katyanovablog.com/la-palapa-caleton-cap-cana-wedding-kf/
Kara & Christopher http://katyanovablog.com/caleton-la-palapa-wedding-kara-christopher/
Danielle & Sam http://katyanovablog.com/eden-roc-cap-cana-wedding-danielle-sam/ (password: love)
This is totally optional, but it might be a nice idea to host a ‘rehearsal dinner’ for your guests. Now that you’re familiar with different resorts and off-resort venues, you can choose what suits you best. In my opinion, Jellyfish, Huracan, or a booze cruise are all really wonderful options. You might also simply make a reservation at one of the resort restaurants to avoid the extra expense.
Several resorts (Paradisus & Melia in particular) offfer a Welcome BBQ for an additional cost, which is really fun because it can be a unique private event just for you and your guests. We very rarely photograph these dinners, but if we’re available, we’ll be happy to be there for you!
We’ve recently photographed a couple of weddings where the Couples organized an ‘All-White Party’ for their guests the night before the Wedding. Both were a SMASHING success! Delicious cocktails + Karaoke machine is a dangerously fun combination!!!
Let me tell you something else… The footage you get from your videographer / cinematographer largely depends on how good your photographer is. When Rob & I shoot, we want to capture the ‘aliveness’ in the moment, so even when we ‘pose’ you in portraits, we make sure it’s fun, fluid, and natural, all the time. We are constantly creating moments and experiences throughout the day that can be captured beautifully not only on a stills camera, but also on film. For example, I like to get the girls together either by a large window, or on the big bed, with champagne flutes, and get the bride to pop the bubbly. It’s always a fun memorable moment and the pictures turn out great. Not only that, but it’s a treat for any videographer, because all they have to do to get a killer shot is to stand beside me. I do all the ‘directing’ and ‘creating,’ which makes their job much easier. See what I mean?
I can wholeheartedly recommend Diego’s company CoresFilms. We’ve worked with many, many videographers and these guys blow everyone out of the water. They are super talented, have wonderful work ethic, there’s no ‘cheese’ factor, and they are REALLY wicked human beings. We work really well together – which is kind of rare for photographers & videographers (cuz we’re always in each others’ way, hehe).
We also LOVE working with Mibsan Espejo and his wife Paloma. They live in Santo Domingo but travel to Punta Cana for weddings often.
Last but not least, Florian of Video Punta Cana Weddings. His rates are affordable and he is such a great guy!! I believe he’s the only one who sells raw footage, which is very rare.
Yep, we have one! It’s an absolutely fantastic idea and is such a hit among the guests.
Rob usually sets it up at the beginning of cocktail hour or beginning of your reception dinner – he operates it while I take care of remaining coverage hours, or we’ll have our new associate photographer, Lacy, on duty there, to encourage the guests to use it. We have a trunk full of goodies (funny glasses, boas, masks, etc) available for your guests – but you’re also welcome to bring something to contribute!
The images will be ready for your viewing and sharing pleasure within 48 hours, in full resolution, in an online downloadable gallery and / or facebook album. (They do not get printed out on the spot).
WHAT ARE YOU GETTING?
Rob and I work seamlessly as a team and have our art and craft down to a science. We are crazy about each other and what we do, which seems to be the magic formula contributing to the uniqueness of our style and imagery. First and foremost, you’re getting our undivided attention and love on your wedding Day!
We often get asked how many pictures are in a Collection. Roughly, 100 – 150 images per hour of coverage: this largely depends on what you have going on for us to capture. We take literally thousands of ‘impressions’ at each wedding, and edit it down to a collection of best.
To share an analogy with you – think of your favourite movie. Would you like it more if it was 7 hours long? Probably not 🙂 So, the approximate ‘yield’ of images in between 500 and 1500. I know we deliver, on average, a lot more images than most other photographers. Especially since our own Wedding, we came to see that even the photos that aren’t particularly ‘noteworthy’ or striking from a photography perspective are still precious to you. So, we want you to have them all!
SIDE NOTE ON ARCHIVAL DISCS & ALBUMS:
You might already know – ‘discs’ are old news! We use the best proofing gallery / image delivery system in the virtual world today.
Here’s the process: your photos are culled down to the perfect Collection, then lovingly processed in our signature style, and are immediately uploaded to a private password-protected gallery, where they are stored in full resolution, FOREVER. Well, if not forever, then at least till the end of internet as we know it! In other words, the gallery never expires. This means, you and any of your family / friends will be able to access the images and download them right to your desktop at anytime, from any computer anywhere in the world. It’s perfect for viewing, printing, sharing, etc – and you don’t ever have to worry about losing or scratching your ‘disc.’ The approximate turnaround time is 6-8 weeks, depending on how busy we are. We always do our best to under-promise and over-deliver! Once you download the images, you can transfer them onto a disc, memory stick, or better yet, an external drive (which you use to back up all your important stuff, right?) If you still want us to send you a disc, we’ll be happy to – as soon as we’re on Canadian soil (because sending anything from DR is highly unreliable and would take a very long time).
* also, I know I said we upload the Collection ‘immediately,’ but please remember, we’re still in Dominican, where we internet connection is not as fast or reliable as back home 🙂
Our uber-talented Album design team and Wedding Book company is in New York. We will email you the designed spreads to approve or amend (until the design is perfect) within two weeks of receiving the list of your chosen images. You will have two complimentary opportunities to make changes. There are many gorgeous leather covers to choose from. 4-8 weeks later, your beautiful book is shipped right to your doorstep. We’re jealous we won’t get to see & touch it, but we’re pretty pumped to be living in this global village, where we can give our Couples the best of everything!
ASSOCIATE PHOTOGRAPHER: WE’RE EXPANDING!!
Rob & I are have welcomed new AMAZING and super talented associates into our team who have moved to Dominican Republic from Canada to serve our destination wedding Couples with us.
Tamara is already an incredible seasoned pro – and is here to deliver that same raw, sexy and timeless signature ‘Katya Nova’ flair. More great news: we are now thrilled to offer these additional Collections at a lesser rate. Bookings for 2016 /2017 are filling up fast.
Meet Tamara! (here’s her bio & gallery)
please email me for their portfolios & rates)
WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR US TO LIVE IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
We get asked this questions so many times, I thought I might as well give you a bit of insight here!
There are many things we love, but also many things that make us feel frustrated or sad. I’ll alternate a few points below:
– there’s little to no awareness about the environment, the effect pollution & waste have, long and short-term. we see so much waste at the resorts – precious food and water. the dolphins and other sea life suffer greatly at the Sea World (please think twice before going!) there are parrots and monkeys on a leash on the beach in the heat, getting smothered by hundreds of tourists and exploited. the horses on some beaches (for horseback riding tours) are worked to extreme exhaustion. all of this is difficult to see and live with when there’s not much we can do.
– the weather is always awesome! even when it rains, it’s still nice. We especially appreciate it having come from Alberta, Canada, where the summer is pretty much 3 months long. There’s no ‘rainy season’ in Punta Cana. The heat gets pretty intense from July to September. Surprisingly, July is one of our busiest wedding months! Unless you’re pool-bound though, spending time outside air-conditioned areas can be rough during the day (especially if you’re wearing a wedding dress or a suit).
Rob misses snowboarding, but I’m quite content without snow. It’s the 5th year we don’t see winter!
– we really miss our friends & family. It’s great when they come visit, but other than that, we don’t have much of a social life. Everyone is transient, so makings real friends is not easy. It’s okay though, because we’re always working anyway! 🙂
– it’s gorgeous – pure white sand beaches, warm turquoise waters, and picture-perfect scenery a plenty. A photographer’s dream!
– Rob & I should already be fluent in Spanish, but we’re far from it. We’re constantly working, and are always with English-speaking Couples – so we haven’t been forced to learn more than the handful of phases we know to get by.
– we absolutely love working with people, happy people. By the time our Couples come to Punta Cana, we feel we already know each other well, thanks to email correspondence, instagram, and Facebook. The day we spend together is one of the best days of their lives, how lucky are we to be a part of that?!
– Punta Cana is not a city, no one is ‘from’ Punta Cana. In fact, it’s only a small residential upscale ‘village’ near the airport, which only has one a couple of hotels. The 40-some other hotels, classified as ‘Punta Cana’ resorts, are in neighbouring towns / villages within about an hour from the airport. Most Dominican workers are not ‘local’ and leave their families to come to the ‘Punta Cana’ area for work. This probably has something to do with how they generally are outside the resort setting (towards tourists)… they can be dismissive, arrogant, rude, and always looking to make an extra dollar. Okay, not alllllways, but more often than not! We’ve had countless negative experiences at gas stations, restaurants, with corrupt roadside policemen, etc. We’ve travelled all around the island and can assure you this is not typical of all Dominicans. We’ve now made many Dominican friends whom we adore.
– you’d think Dominican Republic was inexpensive, but the prices are comparable to North America on most things. Some things, like seasonal fruit, rum & beers from a corner store, and medical insurance are cheaper than at home, while expenses such as utilities, taxis, groceries, and gas can be even more expensive. Same goes for dining out, as there’s a 26% tax on top of your bill. Rent (at least in our neighbourhood) is comparable to the rates back home. Are you surprised? We definitely were!
PHEW!!! As you can imagine, this post took a tremendous amount of time and energy. I hope you feel cared for and loved – Rob & I are so passionate about your wedding being the best one EVER. This sharing was originally intended to be an eBook, but I quickly realized that it will require frequent amendment, as I add more details and tweak some parts in order to reflect the most up-to-date info about destination weddings in Punta Cana.
If you got to the bottom of this post, right on, sweet bridal sister!!! Please leave me a comment even if you’re not planning to book with us (because I’m a real person with real feelings and that would be so nice to hear from you!) I’m really looking forward to your comments and questions – we’re always here for you!
Lastly, just for fun – here’s a shot of Rob & I goofing around in Bali, at the end of our 6-month long Southeast Asia trip. … thank YOU for reminding us about how in LOVE we are!!!
And 2.5 years later, here’s our little family. Meet our baby boy Zion!!!! He’s already learning about best angles, haha! This is us on our lawn with a wedding Album we finally made for our 4 year anniversary, haha!
Katya, Rob & baby Zion.
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