By Susie Reese
When choosing a destination wedding, you want your guests to be wowed. You want them to revel in the sublime setting where you’ve chosen to start your new life, and Melia Caribe Tropical All Inclusive Beach & Golf Resort – Punta Cana is that resort.
GOGO Vacations’ marketing specialist Sarah and I (Copywriter Susie) made the journey to experience the same wedding process soon-to-be brides and grooms enjoy throughout the planning stages. For us, this was a site inspection, one that Ana González, the groups and convention director, and Alba Florencio, romance assistant, suggest every couple take before planning their wedding at the resort.
When I exited the Olympus Tours bus, I was whisked into an open-air lobby with a majestic columns, thatched roofs, and multiple interior gardens cultivating beautiful fauna and flora from the Dominican Republic. The welcome drink was quite exceptional and truly helped me to unwind after the uneventful but longer-than-necessary-thanks-United travel.
Florencio, in a Melia collared shirt and tasteful slacks, greeted Sarah and me at the VIP Lounge, an elegant abode off of the main lobby area with white curtains, classic marble floors, and a sophisticated wood backdrop. She brought us to the wedding coordination suite where everything from table settings to shoes to bouquets were on display, and here, we sat with Florencio and González and learned about the ins and outs of a Melia wedding in the DR.
Scheduling the big day with Melia Caribe Tropical
When you start planning your wedding, the most important—and arguably the hardest— part is getting that perfect date, and with only two weddings a day at the resort, it’s essential to contact the hotel as soon as possible.
“We suggest that the couple reserves the date in advance with lots of time,” explains Florencio, her large white binder of wedding details and nuances open in front of her. “[Brides and grooms] think one year is a lot. It’s not for wedding.”
Melia Caribe Tropical’s high season for weddings starts in April and runs through July, and those dates book up quickly. November through January weddings are very popular, but couples don’t need to have the entire ceremony planned when making that first call or sending that first email.
“We request all the information 30 days in advance of the wedding,” adds González. “The couple can make any changes [prior to that]. They can redo the wedding if they want to, but they need to send us the information 30 days in advance.”
And if couples choose their wedding date with a year in advance, it gives them the required time to plan and then perfect every detail of the big day.
“It also gives the couple enough time if they want to do a site inspection, come to see the property, and have a tasting of the menu that they want for the wedding,” suggests Florencio. “That gives them lots of time to do many changes.”
Booking your wedding at Melia Caribe Tropical
Booking a wedding is a demanding process for the brides, grooms, and wedding coordinators. Such a process can be overwhelming with just one wedding coordinator on staff, so Melia Caribe Tropical implemented a three-contact planning system to ensure every couple’s convenience and wellbeing when booking their wedding at the resort. This includes one coordinator for answering all questions, one coordinator for the booking, and one coordinator for running the wedding.
The first contact is Florencio, who works with the bride to secure that ever important date and start planning the overall ceremony.
“I help [the bride] with the date,” Florencio laughs while patting her large binder. “I help her with the package, the selection of the package, and also the venues for the private dinner.”
She also accepts the deposit, which is the absolute confirmation of the date, before the couple meets the desk wedding coordinator, the second step in Melia Caribe Tropical’s procedure. The desk coordinator helps the bride to plan the entire affair before the bride arrives on property for the wedding.
Finally, couples will meet with the on-site wedding coordinator, González, once they reach the resort for the wedding.
“They reconfirm all the details they selected from home and do the wedding,” says González.
Florencio smiles. “And at the end, their dream comes true.”
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The Wedding Plan by Melia Caribe Tropical
This past year, Melia Caribe Tropical has increased its all-inclusive weddings from three fabulous packages to five with improved amenities and unique special touches.
“The five packages that we have right now—they are similar to the old ones because the agents are familiar with them,” Florencio explains, “so agents just need to see the new ones and see the new inclusions.”
The two new packages are Tropical Emotions and Caribbean Magic.
Tropical Emotions has a welcome buffet dinner included in the package for the whole group. At a private venue, this dinner has meals and the basic bar included. None of the other packages has this private dinner for the whole party, which couples can also use for the rehearsal dinner. The Tropical Fairy Tale has a rehearsal dinner, but it’s just for 24 guests.
Also, Caribbean Magic is the only package that includes a DJ for three hours for the private event, but Melia Caribe Tropical creates a romantic wedding for every couple with a wide variety of customizable choices.
The Melia and the TIDE package has dinner in an a la carte restaurant. “We are very flexible, and we try to think of all the different kinds of events couples would want,” explains Florencio.
Though the resort can host up to 600 guests for a wedding, the Tropical Fairy Tale package is for parties up to 24. The Tropical Emotions is for parties up to 34 guests, and Melia’s biggest package, the Caribbean Magic, is for parties up to 70 guests. Couples can always add more guests to the Tropical Emotions and Caribbean Magic packages.
The best feature of the new packages isn’t found in the inclusions.
“The best part of these guides—I love it—is that all the prices have the taxes included,” gushes Florencio. “In the old ones, they did not have it, and they were a little hated because the bride just saw the amount that was there.”
But brides don’t have to conform to the traditional wedding packages. The wedding coordinators can host different religious and wedding events, like an Indian ceremony. The biggest wedding on property included more than 300 guests with a week’s worth of activities, including a cocktail hour, games, a henna party, and even two ceremonies before the official wedding.
“When we know we have an Indian bride and it’s confirmed, we just have the one [wedding] that day,” says González. “In that way, all our coordinators can help in the wedding, and also the hotel can manage the venue.”
The legalese of a Dominican Republic wedding
Melia Caribe Tropical welcomes same-sex couples to the resort, but the wedding will be symbolic, as the Dominican Republic does not recognize gay marriage. However, González and Florencio recommend a symbolic wedding for all couples who host a destination wedding in the DR as the process for a legal wedding is quite cumbersome.
“We suggest the weddings do just a symbolic wedding in the DR because the civic process is very long,” explains González. “The cost is very high, and it takes too much time to get the certificate back home.”
Also, all civil weddings in the Dominican Republic are performed in Spanish with the wedding coordinator translating, but if the couple has a civil wedding in the United States first, then they receive the marriage certificate in a timely fashion and in English for a fraction of the cost.
“And no one in the family needs to know,” confirms González. “For some, it doesn’t matter, but for the ones that it does…”
“ ‘Remember, nobody knows,’ ” Florencio winks and whispers.
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Where all the brides are
So you’ve decided on your date, your package, and your type of wedding, but where will you hold it? González took Sarah and I in one of the resort’s taxis—a golf cart—to visit the lovely venues the Melia Caribe Tropical offers couples. The tropical setting is romantic with unlimited sunshine, warm sand, and a cool breeze on one of the best beaches in the world—Bávaro Beach.
The Garden Gazebo
Decked out in white and surrounded by enchanting statues of angels, the Garden Gazebo is included in the price of every wedding package. It is close to the a la carte restaurants on property and can host just the wedding couple or up to 150 guests. The wedding couple and family enter the gazebo by crossing a picturesque bridge, decorated in white cloth.
The Beach Gazebo
One of the most popular venues for ceremony, the beach gazebo is perfect for brides who want an ocean backdrop for the ceremony but also want to wear those fantastic heels. Next door is the brand-new Barefoot Grill with an entire sand terrace (Okay, so you might have to kick off those high heels), which will give the reception a timeless ocean feel for a little extra cost. The venue can fit up to 200 guests.
Recently renovated, Agora Grill has a thatched rooftop, hard floors, and an ocean view, making it popular for bigger parties. It also has an elegant, whitewashed theme that’s a mix between island décor and a contemporary kitchen. Next door is a wading pool with elegant shrubbery and statues, perfect for cocktail hours, and the beach can host a barbeque for a rehearsal dinner. This venue also has an extra cost.
Other popular venues on the resort include the beach (for an extra cost) and the Tropical Ballroom (inside the convention center); however, guests are not limited to these options.
“If the couple comes from a site visit and they don’t like the location we have but like any other location, we can make it possible,” assures González as she climbs into the driver’s seat on the cart. “For example, we have done a wedding at the Lobby Tropical because the couple liked the vegetation.”
Weddings at Melia Caribe Tropical are celebrated at either two or four with the option of a six o’clock ceremony. Six is extremely popular, however.
“Couples love the sunset,” reveals González.
The coordinator shuffle
With three contacts at the hotel and a four-person wedding department, every couple has a dedicated team working to ensure the wedding day runs smoothly.
“For me, it’s a waste of money because the couple has a coordinator here that is helping and doing what is needed,” Florencio says, “so why do they need to have another person and pay them to be in the middle?”
However, some couples don’t have the time to plan with the resort, which leads to the hiring of a “wedding coordinator” in the states.
“If couples need to do it because they don’t have time to plan everything, they should request that the wedding coordinator know the property,” suggests González. “If coordinator doesn’t know the property, it will be difficult for them – for the wedding coordinator, for us, and also for the bride.”
Most brides know more about the property than the wedding coordinator, and that may make the state-side coordinator’s job difficult.
“We can suggest that instead of paying to another wedding coordinator, [couples] do a site inspection,” Florencio says. “Even if they have their wedding confirmed, they can do a tasting. They can meet with the providers, the florist, and it makes it easier for them when they arrive for their wedding.”
To help with the planning, the Melia Caribe Tropical has a Facebook page they update with pictures of the ceremonies they host to help soon-to-be brides decide what decorations, food, and experiences they want for their wedding.
Sarah and I decided to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Agora Grill after a long afternoon of wedding planning. Exhausted, I wasn’t sure how the Melia Caribe Tropical deal with wedding planning and executing on a daily basis.
“It sounds a little hard,” admitted Florencio during our meeting. “The process is a little hard, but in the end, I love it.”