*** this post was written in July 2011, when Rob & I were just looking for the perfect venue for our own destination wedding. I hope this review helps you in your own wedding planning! If you have any questions – email me – I’m always here for you.
As a wedding photographer, I thought planning our own destination wedding would be a piece of cake… Step one, pick a resort or venue… Step two, invite guests… Step three, have a party! Okay, maybe some more details in between, but I didn’t expect to get stuck on the first step for four months. Rob and I got engaged this past December in Punta Cana, DR and had the luxury of looking at the resorts we came across with a fresh eye. We photographed Robyn & Graeme’s Occidental Grand anniversary session on the same trip and strolled by a beautiful resort that really stood out. It was none other than Paradisus Punta Cana! The image right below was taken in front of Royal Service buildings, with the wedding gazebo to the right. I love the evening light! After the session we knew we had to come back and see if it was our perfect resort. And so we did!
I will tell you now: we ended up choosing Dreams Palm Beach & Jellyfish Restaurant instead… (watch for a link at the end of this blog post). But here is a detailed account & review of Paradisus through the eyes of a bride & a wedding photographer!
The resort grounds are beautiful. They really do go above and beyond and it shows. There are even hidden speakers along the paths, whispering soft harmonious lounge music. You could walk and walk. And walk. Paradisus Punta Cana is enormous! From a perspective of a bride, this threw me off. Plainly put, it would be difficult to run into your guests or have spontaneous meeting places. If your guests are arriving at different times and you want to greet them in the lobby, the proximity issue takes quite a bit of precious time. At Paradisus, you couldn’t just say ‘Let’s meet by the pool after breakfast or at the beach after lunch’ – you may be looking for your peeps for a long time. On the other hand, if you have an organized schedule, it might be nice to fall away from the group at a whim and get some privacy.
The wedding gazebo stole a piece of my heart as soon as I saw it. It’s right on the beach, but still on a patch of green atop a tiny hill, so you could have your dream beach wedding and still wear those coveted Manolo Blahnik’s or Jimmy Choo’s! The two bottom images are of the Paradisus Garden Villa – it would be such a great place for a private cocktail party (and a mini-honeymoon)!
The next few images are of the private ‘back yards’ in the Royal Service portion of the resort. Yes, I snuck in here and trespassed a little, so worth the snoop. How’s this for a balcony?!
If we were to get married at Paradisus Punta Cana, it would be at the Gabi beach. This place is magical, especially when you can imagine your decorations, music, delicious food and your new husband by your side!
Quick peek at the beautiful lobby – this is usually the back-up plan for the ceremony in case of rain and a great place for a cocktail hour! [Ahem, the picture on the right is in the bathroom. I know, I would sooooo have a photoshoot in there!] 🙂
Now, come with me to The Reserve in Paradisus Punta Cana, a portion of the resort you won’t see unless you upgrade. For regular guests, a $25 guest day pass will get you inside, enjoying the amenities and slightly better food & service. The main restaurant here is Gabi – not to confuse it with Gabi Beach, that sweet wedding reception venue back at the beach. As gorgeous as this is, I personally couldn’t imagine spending all my time by the pool, knowing that I can dig my toes into the sand, hear the ocean and feel its salt on my skin. But that’s just me! The Reserve is also a 7-10 minute golf-cart-shuttle ride away from the beach, which is pretty far if you happened to have forgotten your lotion… By the time the wedding planner, Jessica, brought me here, I was starving. The resort we were staying in was over an hour’s walk away. ‘Pretty please, feed us and we’ll totally get married here!’ After checking with all sorts of managers over her walkie-talkie, we sat down for late lunch. I was too hungry to take pictures, but let me tell you, the food was amazing. And that was just the buffet! The wine was delicious too, not like the watered-down slightly alcoholic rosy-looking beverage that gives you heartburn served in some other resorts. Thumbs up for Gabi!! This would be the perfect wedding reception venue for about 100 guests… so if you have a large wedding, definitely consider this! Most receptions in the DR must be over at 11 pm because of the noise. Since this restaurant is pretty contained, you could probably push it a bit … before heading over to the disco!
More Gabi at The Reserve at night. Beautiful!
The next day, I walked over to Paradisus Palma Real, the fancier sister resort a short 10 minute walk away. At the time, I didn’t know this resort would be only a few minutes away from our first Punta Cana home! Here are a few images of a Gabi Beach wedding reception being set up. … definitely a little different from what Rob & I would’ve done with the place… but whatever your taste, it’s impossible to go wrong with this paradise setting!
Further into the resort, the view of the most beautiful and spacious beach around and the terrace walkway to the buffet. Use your imagination and fill these spaces with your wedding ideas! 🙂
Paradisus Palma Real is also a very vast resort. You couldn’t feel crowded here if you tried! It feels a bit more modern and posh in comparison to Paradisus Punta Cana, but I really loved them both.
A few more snapshots before heading to the beach!
If you’re a bride (or groom), already a wife (or husband) or a photographer, I hope this post was helpful!
Please share this with others – and … come visit us!! 🙂
HERE’S OUR FULL REVIEW OF OUR DREAMS PALM BEACH + JELLYFISH WEDDING! Enjoy!
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