Since we live in Detroit but had our wedding in my hometown of Grand Rapids, we used a combination of both Detroit-area and GR-area vendors. For this reason, I have included the location of the vendor after the name.
Ceremony Site - Thornapple Pointe Golf Club (Grand Rapids) - A
Since we were having an interfaith wedding, we could not have our
ceremony in a church and had to look for alternative options. We looked into
Thornapple as it is a public golf course and they had just built a pavilion for
special events with 3 retractable sides. This meant that we would have a roof over our heads in case it rained, ceiling fans in case it was hot, and we still had the backdrop of the gorgeous course as well as an outdoor location. The coordinator, Krystle, is really sweet and great to work with. She responded to emails quickly, and was very flexible as well. I would definitely recommend them for your wedding ceremony, as you are able to take pictures on the course, and they only book one wedding per day so you are able to take your pick of the various ceremony sites - the patio near the clubhouse, the pavilion, or on the grass.
Reception Site - Hilton Grand Rapids - A-
As we mentioned before, we had a lot of people traveling in from out of town, so we really wanted to have our reception at a hotel out of convenience for those guests, as well as our other guests so they could take full advantage of our open bar. The Hilton is a very nice, updated hotel with a gorgeous ballroom. They have excellent and reasonably priced wedding packages that include everything from a champagne toast to butler-served hors d' oeuvres and your cake cutting. This meant we were able to include a few extra things at our reception that we didn't think would have been able to before. They were very flexible in allowing us to change things around on the menu, add additional liquors, as well as other things. The communication was tough throughout the process, as our contact did not return emails very well, and there were a few times phone calls were not returned either. This dragged things out and we were still negotiating things the week of the wedding, which I would have liked to been finished with weeks before. On the day of, they did a very nice job - servers were nice, food was very good and we received a lot of compliments on everything. All of our guests liked their rooms, the front desk staff, and the hotel in general, which was a huge plus. We had one problem with a bartender at our organized after-party in the lounge of the lobby, but we addressed that with management the day after the wedding and they were very apologetic. I think they definitely aim to please, and would be a good option for your wedding as long as you are able to be patient with the communication.
Officiant - Gust Bass of Forever Twogether (Grand Rapids) - A
When we discovered that Gust had just finished officiating a Greek Orthodox and Jewish Interfaith wedding 2 weeks before we contacted him, we definitely thought he was going to be the person for us. We were impressed with his sincerity and his knowledge of all the different religions, so we booked him and are very glad we did. As part of our package, he provided us with an amazing book that consisted of various ceremonies, readings, vows, etc. This helped me and my DH create our own ceremony from scratch very easily, which we loved. Gust reviewed the ceremony after we were finished to make sure it flowed well and all that, and offered his opinion, which we really liked as well. He did a great job of taking charge and leading the rehearsal, and on the day of the wedding he did an amazing job. He has a great voice, and really carried out our ceremony as if it were very special to him. We received many compliments on him from our guests, and we are very happy we chose him as our officiant.
Photographer - Amy Carroll Photography (Grand Rapids) - A+++
Amy is amazing - seriously. She is such a sweet, kind-hearted person who is willing to work with you and is easy going and flexible. She is extremely talented, as you can see by looking at her blog. She and her second shooter, Jeff, were very calming and great to have around! She road with me in the limo while on the way to see my FI before the ceremony, and talked to me the whole way to keep me calm and take my mind off how nervous I was. Meanwhile, Jeff talked with my FI while they were waiting for me at the golf course to help keep him calm. This meant so much to us both. When I got to the course, she and Jeff got right to work, making sure that they got as many awesome pictures as possible before the ceremony. When the bridal party showed up shortly thereafter, she did a great job of being nice, yet effective in getting them to come together and pose for pictures. We were running late that morning, so we did not get pictures downtown before the ceremony as we'd hoped. However, she knew we really wanted them, so after finishing family pictures directly after the ceremony, she ushered us into the limo and jumped up front with our driver, getting him downtown as fast as we could to make up for lost time and get some great urban shots. We were able to get to 2 or 3 different places in the hour or so that we had between the ceremeony and reception, which was amazing. We also got some of our best shots downtown, so I am very glad she made a point to get us down there and fit these pictures in. She even helped answer simple wedding-related questions throughout the day and had Shout wipes for me when my dress got a little dirty on the golf course! I have never heard a bad word about Amy, and if she is in your budget, I highly recommend that you contact her (did I mention she doesn't charge a travel fee throughout the state of MI?!)!!! Our preview was up on her blog within 2 weeks (ahead of schedule) and it was amazing - we were blown away by the pictures!!! I cannot wait to see the rest. If you'd like to see our preview, here it is - http://www.acarrollphotography.net/2009/09/rachel-andy-preview-gallery/
Videographer - Baran Video (South Lyon) - A+
Betty and Larry are very sweet, nice people and you can tell really love what they do. They were extremely unobtrusive on the day of the wedding - I hardly ever noticed they were there! They got a lot of great shots in addition to Amy, and were a nice addition to our paparazzi team. : ) They even stayed longer than they were supposed to in order to make sure they captured everything that they wanted to. They asked a lot of question about us during our initial meeting, to make sure they got a feel for "us" and could incorporate that into our video, which we really liked. They are also making sure that they pay careful attention to any special traditions that were in our ceremony and are playing them up in the video, which is so great!! Our preview was up right on time, and it is great. It gave me chills watching it - I can't wait to see the whole thing!! Their prices are very reasonable, especially considering the great work that they do. I didn't think we would be able to afford a professsional videographer, but after looking at their packages and prices, I was totally thrilled to find out that we could! I would highly recommend them! If you would like to see our preview, here it is - http://baranvideoblog.wordpress.com/
Dress - Brides by Demetrio's (Troy) - A-
I had a pretty good experience at Demetrio's. My saleswoman, Pam, was very helpful and friendly. She picked the dress that I ended up choosing and always gave nice, honest advice when I asked for it. The only issue I had with them is that when I put the deposit down on my dress, they did not mention anything about me having to pay an extra charge for a "plus size." I feel like they should've hinted about this or just pointed to it on the contract as they had to have known I was going to be needing a size that would have a surcharge. So, when I went back to get fitted and they told me my size and then gave me my new total, of course I was a little shocked. I tried to argue my point and they apologized, but didn't offer anything else, so I just left it alone. With the exception of that issue, service was very good and I had a pleasant experience overall! My mom got her dress there as well, and was happy with the dress and the service she received.
Bridesmaid Dresses - Arena Bridal (Shelby Township) - A+
I really enjoyed working with Arena for the bridesmaid dresses. They had the best price on the dress we chose out of any of the other salons in the area, and were willing to ship the dresses to out of town/state bridesmaids for $15, which was a huge help to me (all my girls were out of town). All of the girls had a very smooth ordering process, and everything went well. I don't have any complaints!
Tuxes - Bunny Tuxedo (Grandville) - A+
Bunny was great to work with throughout the entire process. They have their entire warehouse on site, so if any changes need to be made they can be done right there. They also make everything really easy for out of town groomsmen, ushers, etc. They have great prices as well! I think they even altered a tux on site for a really tall groomsman. I would highly recommend them!!
Hair - Emilio and Bianca of AlexEmilio Salon (Royal Oak) - A+
Emilio is my regular hair stylist, and I made a last minute decision to hire him to come out to Grand Rapids for the wedding, as he knew my hair better than anyone. This was one of the best decisions I made in the planning process. Emilio is the co-owner of his salon, so he has a ton of experience and is very talented (especially with curly hair). He and his assistant, Bianca, styled the hair of almost all of the bridal party, as well as both moms and my stepmom. Everyone was very happy with their hair, especially me!! It was perfect - he knew exactly what I wanted and executed it to a "T." Emilio doesn't do many weddings (only for his already established clients), so I don't mean to get your hopes up with this good review, but I did want to give him and Bianca the credit they deserve!
Makeup - Lindsey Smith (Grand Rapids) - A++
Lindsey is amazing. She was the second makeup trial that I had in the planning process, and after getting home and looking over the pictures, I sent her an email right way telling her I wanted to book her. She has worked for several makeup companies and is very talented. She knew exactly what to use to keep my oily skin at bay, and even did contouring on my face to make me look thinner (um - awesome!)! She used a type of airbrush makeup that is great for oily skin, and I loved it. It held up so well, didn't become nearly as shiny as regular makeup, and I didn't have to worry about it coming off on clothes or anything. You can also hire Lindsey to stick around throughout the day for touch-ups, which I loved. She touched me up before the ceremony, and again afterward to make sure I looked perfect for all the pictures. She also approached my DH and managed to talk him into letting her touch him up with some oil-absorbing sheets to make sure he wasn't shiny for pictures either! In case the weather is warm (meaning you may sweat), or if you tear up during the ceremony, it is a great option to have her around! One of my bridesmaids was originally going to do her own makeup, and after watching Lindsey finish up 2 other girls, she decided that she had to have Lindsey do her makeup - that says a lot. I would highly, highly recommend Lindsey!
EX-Wedding Planner - Pearls Events (Grand Rapids)- F
I know what everyone in GR is thinking... Aletha?! What, she's so great?! Yeah, that's what we thought when we booked her as well... she was very highly recommended on the GR Knot board as she had just started her business, and her prices were extremely low. We couldn't believe we might actually be able to fit some planning assistance into our budget, and we decided to meet with her. We really liked Aletha when we met with her, and went back and forth asking more questions (I wanted clarification on what the package included specifically, to make sure I knew what we were and were not getting, as to manage my expectations). Aletha gave an overall idea of what was included in her "partial planning" package, so I thought we were on the same page and we signed up with her. Things started out well, as she was able to give us some vendor recommendations in various categories. The first mis-communication happened when we were meeting with photographers. She mentioned that she never met with photographers when she was planning her wedding since she knew exactly who she wanted, and that if we wanted her to "tag along for photog meetings as well, that would be fun!" So, while we interpreted this to mean that she wanted to come along to gain experience in photographer meetings and that it would be fun for her, in actuality, she counted these meetings against the total meetings included our package. When we brought the mis-communication to her attention, she offered to switch our package from a certain amount of meetings to a number of meeting hours to make up for it, but it still killed about 7 out of 20 meeting hours that we hadn't planned on using. Then, further into the planning process, we realized that Aletha did not really have that much experience in the industry, and was not able to assist in recommending some vendors that we still needed (lighting, officiants, hair, makeup, limo) and so we were left to find recommendations on our own, even though this was supposed to be part of our package. We knew we had hired her early in her career, so we didn't dwell on this too much at the time. Well, further along in the process, we noticed that the timeline that she was supposed to create for us (which after waiting a couple weeks for one, we just created ourselves and sent to her to review), as well as our budget, was not entirely comprehensive and correct, and both were missing several elements - which caused us to go a bit over budget, and to become stressed when we realized a lot of stuff needed to be added to our timeline. Then, we noticed that her email responses started to come a little slower and were not as enthusiastic as before, but we thought it was just us so we brushed it off. Well, after a conference call discussing various decor/detail items at the beginning of the year, in which we could noticeably tell that she was annoyed with us during the entire call, we knew something wasn't right. Within a few weeks, she announced she had started a new business venture on her blog and right away we realized that was the culprit. She was just not as into planning our wedding as she was in the beginning, and now she was working on this other venture, which was taking up even more of her time... She also hired another planner to work alongside of her, so we emailed her to see if we should start working with this other planner instead, and unfortunately, she said no - the new planner was not going to take on any of her current clients. So, after discussing the issue with a few people close to us, we sent her a very carefully crafted email explaining our concerns (slow email responses, not as much enthusiasm, her being annoyed on our conference call), figuring that she did not realize how we felt and that this would help to patch things up. Well, instead we received back a very snippy letter explaining that she had spent "tons and tons of hours helping us plan our wedding" (I would beg to differ) and "had replied to over a hundred of our emails" (btw - unlimited emails were included in our package, and most were quick emails asking for her opinion on something and took her a minute or two respond...) and just reiterating what was included in our package. We were a bit taken aback, but decided to take the high road. We responded to her email and said we did appreciate the time she had spent with us, and wanted to let her know about some of these concerns to help her with future clients. We then said we were willing to move forward and continue on, and we asked her if she thought she could put this behind her and go back to the way we were in the beginning. 24 hours later, we received a two paragraph email saying that "she found it in her best interest to break ties with us as she has put too much of a strain on our professional relationship and cannot promise a funny, goofy planner like we wanted and had originally signed up for... and that a check for half of our deposit was already dropped in the mail back to us." So, she just left us high and dry and that was it... she did not want to reconcile the relationship. Not to mention, our contract said that in "the event the services of a planner were no longer needed, that you would get your deposit back according to her scale" - which was 50% at the time we broke ties. Well, the services of a planner WERE still needed, she just quit on us. So, we felt we were entitled to entire deposit back, and sent her an email asking for her to send us the full amount. She replied with a snotty email saying that "Because the wording does not specify what party fires the other, it simply states that the Pearls Events planning services will no longer be needed, I stand by my decision to only send you 50% of your deposit back." As you can imagine, receiving this email 4 MONTHS prior to our wedding, after working with her for a year, left us floored, upset, and freaked out. We instantly scrambled to set up meetings with any available planners (and keep in mind, at this point, we are only 4 months out - we didn't have a lot of hope on finding anyone so close to our wedding). Thank goodness we found a couple options, and we traveled to GR to meet with them within the week. We found a new planning firm that had a lot more experience and would be able to pick up where she left off and assist us with more than she was able to, so it worked out better in the end. We thought that would be the last of her, however, she had to get her one last dig on us 3 weeks before our wedding, which showed us just how "professional" Aletha is. Imagine roaming through blogs a few weeks before your wedding to find this one - http://www.inspiringfreshideas.com/2009/09/only-working-with-right-clients.html - which is all about you and your FI. (EDIT 11/25/09: As you will notice, the link above is no longer active, as Aletha has deleted this post from her blog in its entirety. It seems that Aletha must've realized the error of her ways in posting something so one-sided and inaccurate about previous clients just weeks before their wedding. If anyone would like the details of the post, please email me at email@example.com, as I have the wording saved). A few of other people, including some vendors, saw this and could not believe that she had the audacity to post it 3 weeks before our wedding, as if she had not hurt us enough. What really gets me in this very one-sided blog post of hers is that she states she "realized they were never going to be happy..." This is untrue, and she has no right in stating this. If we were never going to be happy, wouldn't we have had issues with all of our other vendors or given them all horrible reviews??? You would think so, right?! As you can see, though, we had several other vendors that worked out perfectly and made us VERY happy. I would never recommend Aletha for planning, much less day of coordination. She is only great at marketing herself, which has helped her to become popular, but it is obvious that she was lacking the professionalism and expertise to satisfy us, and I would hate for her to leave another couple high and dry, stressed out, and unexcited about planning their wedding only 4 months out from their big day.
Wedding Planner - Ele3 Events (GR / Lansing) - A
In a frantic search 3.5 months out from our wedding, we met with a few available wedding planners, one of which was Ele3 Events. The 3 owners - Kate, Sherrie and Jen - were incredibly sweet and had awesome references, plus you work with all 3 when you hire them, not just one! They were also able to create a custom package for us to pick up where the other planner left off - helping us with decor, a few final vendor selections, rehearsal dinner venues, and final details. We are soooo glad that we ended up using them, as they definitely surpassed our expectations of a wedding planner!! They researched rehearsal dinner locations for us, and even ate at a couple restaurants to give us honest reviews! They found a couple linen companies for us on short notice when we had to scramble to find plum linens (see story under linen reviews), and answered any questions we had about etiquette, logistics, or anything else. They also accompanied us to all our final ceremony and reception venue walk-throughs, which was a huge help. On the day of, I handed everything over to them and they carried it all out perfectly. They put everything together just as I had imagined it, if not better! If anything went wrong on the day of (which I'm sure a couple things did), my DH and I had absolutely no idea because they handled it all. It was such an awesome feeling to not have to worry about a thing and to know they had it all under control. If you have any room in your budget, I would highly suggest hiring a Day of Coordinator - specifically Ele3 Events. They have very reasonable pricing, and are incredibly sweet and willing to help in any way possible. They will actually work with brides in GR, Lansing, and Detroit.
Florist - Elements of Elegance (Grand Rapids) - A+
Dee is awesome!! She actually runs her business out of her home, so her prices are very reasonable and allowed us to get everything we wanted in our budget. She has professional coolers and everything, so you don't need to worry about her working out of her home. She is so easy going and flexible, we had a great time working with her! She definitely goes out of her way to find the things that you want or to make sure she gets the perfect color for your flowers. She even took us out to the Dahlia farm to make sure that we agreed on the same type and color of flower! Our flowers turned out great - she found the perfect purple Dahlia for my bouquet, the girls bouquets were gorgeous, and the centerpieces were great as well! You can tell she genuinely cares about each couple she works with too - I think I may have gained a life long friend out of working with Dee!
Dee is also a wedding planner, and after our other planner backed out on us, she stepped in to help until we found a new planner. She did this at NO cost to us, despite our many offers to pay her, which was so incredible. She helped to keep me calm during an extremely frustrating time, helped create a detailed timeline for us, since the one from our previous planner left a lot to be desired, and she helped give us new planner referrals as well. She helped us out so much that I don't know how we could ever repay her. There are not a lot of people out there would go this far out of their way for you, and I think this says a lot about Dee.
Cake - Sinful Cheesecake Company (Hudsonville, MI) - A+
Stacey is great to work with! She is very sweet and funny, and very easy to work with. To keep costs low, she doesn't have a ton of flavors available at your initial consultation, but she allowed us to purchase mini cheesecakes throughout the year leading up the wedding so that we could sample various flavors. She did an amazing job on the design we agree upon - I loved the way our (fake) cake looked. We also received a ton of compliments on the actual cheesecake - many guests said it was the best cheesecake they've ever had! She doesn't have as many flavors listed on her website as she used to, but don't hesitate to inquire about others, as she seems to be very flexible. We offered 2 options at the reception - cherry buttercreme and peanut butter cup with a chocolate ganache on top. Both were excellent!
Guest Table Linens and Chair Covers - Special Occasions (Rockford, MI) - B+
Penny owns all her own linens, which makes her prices very, very reasonable. She had exactly what we wanted, so it was an easy decision to go with her! The only reason she got a B+ is because she was sometimes a little difficult to get in touch with, and she told us she would order the plum linens we needed for our accessory and cocktail tables as long as we made a decision by a certain date, and when I called her a week prior to that date, she told me she had changed her mind and it was not in her best interest to order them. So, a few months out from the wedding, we were forced to find a separate vendor for the remaining linens and napkins, which caused us to go over budget a bit. However, on the day of she came quite early as we had asked her to so that everything else would be set up on time and the setup was exactly like I wanted! The linens and chair covers were gorgeous and we received a ton of compliments on them!
Accessory Table Linens and Huppah - Event Depot (East Lansing, MI) - A+
After Penny told us she would not special order our plum linens, we had to find someone who would, quickly and for a reasonable price. Event Depot got swatches in for us right away, and they were very nice and friendly to work with, in addition to having very competitive prices. They also were the only company we could find this side of Detroit that had a huppah to rent. We sent them a picture of how we would like the huppah to look, and they made it look almost exactly the same! We received a lot of compliments on the huppah, and the linens and napkins we rented from them were gorgeous as well!
DJ - JC of Xtreme Creative Entertainment (Grand Rapids) - A
We really liked JC! We were looking for a DJ that was not cheesy or only did weddings - we wanted one that would have the most modern music selection and that could do some spinning at our wedding. JC fit all that criteria and he has a great personality! We wanted a special type of music for the cocktail and dinner hours and he found the exact type of music we wanted, we were very impressed! He even created an awesome Michael Jackson mega-mix for us, which got quite a few people out on the dance floor - and he gave us a CD of all our songs and the mega-mix on it at the end of the night! He managed to keep the dance floor full the entire night, and we really enjoyed working with him!
Uplighting - AV7 Weddings (Rochester, MI) - B+
We had a hard time finding any lighting vendors in the GR area, so we contacted Dan, the owner of AV7, and he said that they would travel to GR, so we met with him and really liked him. His prices were quite competitive and they have a lot of experience in the industry. They are great at what they do, but that means they are really busy and communication was tough at times (slow or no response to emails). This was frustrating, and was probably why the final color was slightly different than what we had wanted. All in all though, we received a ton of compliments on the lighting, we were quite happy with it, and Dan was very nice to work with.
Ceremony Music - Quartet 441 (Grand Rapids) - A+
These girls are very talented and very easy to work with! Not to mention, their pricing is great too! They came to the rehearsal (which was extremely helpful, by the way), were early on the day of the wedding, and did a wonderful job playing during the ceremony. They even had a Beatles song in their repoirtoire that we used for our sand ceremony - we loved that they had some unique music that we could use!
Invitations - Tulaloo Stationery Studio (Connecticut) - A
Jessica, the owner of Tulaloo, is the wife of my DH's fraternity brother from college, so she was an easy choice for us. She is very, very creative and created several custom designs for us to choose from. She is also a perfectionist (which is great because I am too), so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about her work at all - everything blew us away when we received it and we received tons of compliments on our invitations!! She was also able to turn around our extras (placecards, table numbers, menus, etc) very quickly!
Programs - Sondra's Ink (Holland) - A+
I really, really wanted to do program fans, and most invitation designers have to send these out to be die cut, which drives the price up around $5 or $6 a program, which we just could not afford. I contacted Sondra about doing these based on a recommendation from our florist, and found out that she hand cuts them, making her prices much lower than anyone else's! I sent her a copy of our invitation for inspiration, and the design she came back with was amazing, it complemented our invitations perfectly! Not to mention, she created 100 of these programs for us in less than a week, which was AMAZING. She responded to emails very promptly and was great to work with!!
Limo - Crystal Limo (Grand Rapids) - A-
In the beginning, it took us a while to get a contract from Crystal Limo, which was a little frustrating, but after following up for a few weeks we did receive one. They did accidentally charge our card for the deposit twice, but refunded it immediately when we noticed it, so that didn't bother us much at all. On the day of, the limo we had (the stretch Escalade) was great, everything went well, and the driver was AWESOME. I believe his name was Mike, and he was by far the nicest limo driver I've ever had. He was so helpful each and every time I got in and out of the limo, called me and my DH by our first names and was very friendly and nice. I would recommend Crystal Limo, and I would definitely request Mike if you use them!
Alterations - Michelle of The Wedding Shoppe (Berkley, MI) - A
I was referred to Michelle by another knottie, and am so glad I found her!! At my first meeting with her, she assured me she could handle everything I needed done with my dress as I had lost a bit of weight and it needed to be brought in in several different areas. She really listened to me at any fitting and made sure that I was 100% comfortable in my dress. We had like 3 or 4 fittings (that last of which was the day before I left Detroit for the wedding), to make sure the dress fit me to a "T." It was a great fit and I am so impressed with her work!!
Jewelry - The Wedding Shoppe (Berkley, MI) - A+
While at The Wedding Shoppe for my first fitting, I discovered that they make custom jewelry at really good prices. They already had a pretty good selection, so I was able to pick up a couple pieces and mix and match what I liked from them to create pieces that were all my own. I had them make a necklace, earrings, and bracelet for me - all for less than my jewelry budget! If you can't find what you are looking for, I would definitely suggest going there to see if they can make it for you!
Bridal Shower - McFaddens GR (Second Floor) - A+
Erin, the coordinator, was really flexible in working with my sister (MOH) for my shower. The food was great (their homemade chips and french onion dip are awesome!), the venue was very nice and set up very well, and the service was great as well!
Wedding Bands - Lucido's Fine Jewelers (Rochester) - B
We had to have my wedding band custom made to go along with my e-ring, because of its unusual shape. We went to a few different jewelers in Rochester, and they were all comparable in skill and price. Lucido's had a band that my FI loved, so that put them at the top of our list. My band turned out okay. They said they would match the band size, diamond size, and diamond quality in the band of my e-ring for the wedding band. When it was finished and we went to pick it up, I swore that the wedding band was thicker and the diamonds were bigger, but our sales person was adamant they were the same thickness/size, and brought over 2 other employees that agreed as well. Him and my FI thought it was because I wasn't use to seeing the band with my e-ring, so I just agreed and we went home with the band (since he alluded to the fact that there wasn't much they could do with it at that point). Now that I've been wearing the band for about a month, I know for sure that the diamonds are bigger than those in my e-ring band, and the band is thicker as well. Its too late to do anything about it, but I wish I would've stuck to my guns and not let them talk me into it when we picked it up. However, FI's band came in perfect, was a great price, and their customer service has been good thus far.
Travel Agent - Beach Bum Vacations (agent: Hayley) - A
Since we were taking our honeymoon in the middle of hurricane season, we decided to work with a travel agent - just in case. We were referred to Hayley by another knottie and really enjoyed working with her. She was very responsive on email, and even worked on a Saturday to pretty much match (i.e. came within $30 of) a price we found on Orbitz. She offered us "cancel for any reason" insurance, and made sure we had all the information we needed to get there and back safe and sound! Seeing as it costs literally nothing to use a travel agent, I would highly recommend using one for your honeymoon.
Honeymoon - Excellence Punta Cana - B+
Overall, we were happy with the Excellence PC. Upon arrival, check-in was smooth and quick. We were greeted in our room by a bottle of champagne and a plate of fruit (part of the Honeymoon pkg), which was really nice after the long trip. The room was pretty nice (could use a little updating), but was a good size, had a nice little balcony, and a pretty nice minibar (stocked with beer, soda and water). We ran into some issues with the water, as on our third night there we went to fill up the jacuzzi tub and noticed that our water had a brown hue to it (wasn't noticeable prior to this in the sink or shower). We called the front desk, who sent maintenance up, and they told us to run the hot water for 15 minutes and then it should be clear. Well, of course we let it run for about 30 minutes and there was no change. So, we gave up and went to bed. The next day we had the same issues, so we spoke with the front desk again, and they said they would move us to a different room. They did move us over to one of the Excellence Club rooms (a little bit of a step up, but not much), which was nice. Well, we had assumed they would have checked the water, but that night when we attempted to use our jacuzzi tub again, and we noticed the same exact thing. We called down and talked with a manager at the front desk, they apologized and explained they couldn't figure it out (which was gross, but you don't drink the tap water, so we tried to let it go) and offered us 2 free massages for our trouble. We did appreciate that they tried to make it right and were very apologetic throughout the whole water ordeal, but we were bummed that we never got to use our jaccuzi tub the entire trip. Other than that, the service was very good, they had a very large selection of bars and restaurants, and several of the shows they put on were quite funny and entertaining. The breakfast and lunch selections were pretty good (buffet) and we really liked all of the meals we had in the various restaurants for dinner. We had our "romantic" honeymoon dinner in the French restaurant and that was really nice - we really enjoyed. The pool is also very nice and large - which was a huge plus for us!
Websites / Etsy Sellers / Ebay Sellers Used in the Planning Process:
Netbride.com - Veil - A+
Great price (got the veil I wanted at half the price they wanted for it at the bridal salon) and fast shipping, no complaints here!
Bridal Xpress.com - Cake Topper - A+
Once I found the topper we weanted, I looked through a bunch of sites to see who had the best price. They were by far the lowest, so I took a chance and ordered it. The cake toppers came quickly and were in perfect condition!
Cyber-SavvyShop.com - Envelope Guest Book - A+
They were very helpful when I called to ask a question about the product, and their price was lower than some other sites. The guest book arrived in great condition!
Etsy Seller: JMGJewelDesign - Headband - A-
After ordering a few different headbands, I found what I thought was the perfect one. I ordered it, and they sent me one with ivory pearls vs. white. As soon as I got it, I contacted them about the error. I sent it back, they reimbursed me for the return shipping and sent the right one out right away. When I received the white one, I loved it. It was incredibly flexible, meaning it did not hurt even after wearing it all day - it was really comfortable (which I have been told is usually not the case)!
Etsy Seller: HartJewelry - Bridesmaid Dress Brooches - A+
I had an idea of what I wanted for the brooches for my bridesmaids dresses, but could not find them anywhere online, despite weeks of searching. So I posted an Alchemy request on Etsy, and HartJewelry was one of the sellers to respond. She seemed to know exaclty what I wanted, and had a great price (as a recent bride herself, she knows what it's like to have a budget!). She created the brooches very quickly, and they were perfect when I received them. I couldn't have been happier, and the girls loved the brooches as well!
Etsy Seller: LiveLoveBead - Earrings - A+
I found a pair of earrings on their site that I loved before I found The Wedding Shoppe, so I ordered them - they were great! Exactly what I was looking for, and great quality!
Etsy Seller: Pinstripes0108 - Custom Ceremony Sign - A+
I really wanted a sign to direct our guests to the ceremony site at Thornapple, and I came across this seller on Etsy. She custom painted the wood to match our wedding colors, was very easy to communicate with and completed the sign in like 2 days. I would highly recommend her!
Ebay Seller: ewatkins32 - Purple Square Soy Candles for guest tables - A++
I am so glad I found this ebay seller! She makes custom soy candles, and they were the perfect size for the small cube candle holders we had bought. I sent her a swatch of the bridesmaid dress material, and she matched the candle color to it almost perfectly!! Her prices are incredibly low for custom candles (as in, comparable to plain white square candles on other sites), and she completed them really quickly. I would definitely check her out!
Ebay seller: mteng0121 - Bridesmaids' Jewelry - A+
I also knew what I wanted for my bridesmaids, but was having a hard time finding it for a reasonable price. I stumbled across this seller on Ebay, as they create pearl jewelry sets in all kinds of colors. I communicated back and forth with them to find out they could make exactly what I wanted within the price range I was looking for, and I got a discont for buying 6 sets. The sets were made very well and the girls loved them - I just wish I had ordered one for myself!