Destination Wedding: El Dorado Casitas Royale by Karisma, Riviera Maya, Mexico
I met Rebecca and Cole at a local bridal show. They were looking for a photographer to travel with them to Mexico for their destination wedding. Even though I cannot speak directly for them, I believe they were having a hard time finding someone they could equally trust and afford.
They wanted a photographer who had the knowledge, skill, talent and the right equipment to guarantee photos and video of their wedding so far away from home. But, they also wanted someone with a solid reputation and completely dedicated to creating the best possible wedding experience.
Given this was my first trip to Mexico, I did as much research as I could online. However, no matter how prepared I thought I was, I still walked away with a few "I should have" statements due to my drive for perfection. Unless you travel a great deal and this is your 3rd trip to your destination, working with a good travel agent is a clear must.
Our agent Theresa Masterson with All About Vacations and Honeymoons was incredible and a diamond-mine. She gave us step-by-step instructions for entering and exiting Mexico along with a detailed itinerary that made our trip and stay worry-free. We even had her personal cell phone number for when we panicked because my hyphenated name was difficult for airline and customs processing.
I can imagine she has done these travel itinerary meetings a thousand times, yet, she was super patient and extremely detailed. Step by step she went through the entire trip, starting with checking-in for your flight to returning back home. We knew what to expect at the airport, customs, the resort including dress codes for dining, things to do and so much more. Since I am at the mercy of my client when it comes to travel, I will be recommending Theresa to every couple I know planning a destination wedding or honeymoon.
Before I get into details about the wedding, allow me to gush about El Dorado Casitas Royale, by Karisma (Riviera Maya). They were beyond amazing and the definition of luxury. Sure, I had to wait my turn to order a drink a few times or to be seated. Yet, this is to be expected since we were NOT the only people at the resort. The staff was so friendly - I loved saying "Hola!" so much that I could not stop smiling whenever I saw someone. Even though I don't speak Spanish and had to use Google translate a few times, they were more than accommodating.
Everything, I mean every thing, was so clean. I loved how all of the public bathrooms had real towels instead of paper. The room safe was big enough to put 3 camera bodies, 6 lenses, 2 flashes and a bunch of little things including our tablets, phones, wallets and papers. We loved coming back to the room to see it picked up and/or welcoming us for the evening. We were there to work, but we enjoyed every minute and plan on going back!
The day we arrived, we met up with Rebecca and Cole at Jojo's for dinner. Since we were all there (they arrived a few days before us), we felt it was a good idea for us to meet up and make a final game plan. We talked before, however, I know from my past experience of working with couples who travel to the Ozarks for weddings at Big Cedar or Eureka Springs.
Real-life, in the moment experience changes things, especially since we were all going on a day trip together on the following day. I wanted to know where and when we should meet. The cool thing about going on a day trip with them, it allowed them to be in the moment without having to worry about trying to capture the moment themselves. Plus, I think it was fun having a couple to pal around with who enjoys doing fun activities. I know I enjoyed their company. It was my job to be focused on them, but we got to have a lot of fun ourselves!
The next day was the wedding and the day started off with a freestyle session with the couple around the resort. We went to several of their favorite places, starting with some photos of their room. My goal was to capture them in their element, what they were doing, and the spots they wanted to remember. After a break for lunch and a quick swim, I met up with the bride at the spa/salon. I stayed with her while she got her hair and make-up done. Together we went back to her room where she got ready and I photographed her wedding dress and accessories.
We had a few minutes to burn so I did some photos outside the room and on the beach while we waiting for them to transport her to the ceremony location. Meanwhile, my husband was hanging out with the groom getting a few candid photos and keeping him company. I will say, they may have had one or two adult beverages given the open bar they had in the groom's ready room. Since our couple traveled without friends and family, the groom mentioned that he enjoyed having my husband there while he was waiting for the ceremony to start.
Once we all arrived at the ceremony location, the groom was looking at the ocean while he had his back to the bride arriving. The bride handed her music to the DJ and we got into position to photograph her entrance. As I photographed the ceremony, my husband recorded the ceremony on video. It was super windy but it didn't matter - today Rebecca and Cole were becoming husband and wife.
After the ceremony, they danced back up the aisle to their favorite song. "I don't Dance" by Lee Brice. It was so beautiful to watch as the world evaporated away, and Rebecca and Cole melted into each other and danced. Honestly, I was having a hard time holding back my own emotions while trying to capture the moment. Just like that, they were married. My heart was so happy for them that we had to take a few moments to congratulate them. They shared a couple of cake pops, and we went off on another photo safari in their wedding attire.
Looking back, I wish we had two more days with them. The freestyle session in the morning, although some of their favorite photos after the fact, made the photos after the wedding that evening really hard to do. I was tired, and they were tired. Don't get me wrong, we still got a ton of great photos. However, we should have done the freestyle session a day or two after the wedding. It would have been more romantic, and from what they told me about the weather - it was perfect and they got all the seaweed cleaned up.
In the future, I would also suggest bringing a second wedding gown if you do not want to damage or trash the dress. My bride is having a reception back home, and she did not want to get her dress wet. I totally understand, but I think she missed a super fun opportunity to do some photos in the ocean and water. Plus, if we would have had that extra day - it would have been fun to do part of the freestyle session in the water. I know it sounds like a crazy amount of photos, but I promise you even with the 2500 images I took on the trip the ideas were endless!!
This is another reason why I think they were happy about hiring me as their destination photographer. They were looking for a wedding photographer, but for the same cost I was willing to far more than a few hours capturing the wedding day. It was my idea to photograph them in normal attire and being romantic. See, as a woman, I know how to help couples to relax and be romantic. I don't just take their likeness standing here or there, I help them to connect and embrace each other - taking their romance to a whole new level.
The day after the wedding, in the morning, my husband and I flew back home. There was a big storm in North Carolina which delayed our flight back to Kansas City, but even it was uneventful. You read all these reviews about people having horrible experiences so it makes you worry. Allow me to share, it you go into traveling with an open mind, a good attitude along with some patience, tolerance, understanding and kindness - You will have a good trip. Did things go 100% as planned. Nope. Being a photographer is about moving with the flow of things, and as an observer it's fun to watch and wonder how will the story end.
I don't mean to sound like an egomaniac, but I know I am talented and skilled when it comes to photography, weddings, and portraits. BUT, it's my passion and love for life that makes me the photographer I am. I love helping my clients to have an amazing photography experience. I'm not so caught up in my story that that I overlook the things that are truly important to my clients. All the awards I have earned over the years are nice, but it's the hug at the end of a long day that is my most treasured reward.
Congrats to Rebecca and Cole! I wish you the happiest life together. This year, my husband and I will be celebrating our 20 year anniversary, and I cannot thank you enough for bringing us with you to Mexico. Not only did we get to celebrate a little early, we got to stay at a LUXURY resort! Seriously, it was beyond incredible - mere words cannot express my gratitude for being your photographer!
LUX editing is when a photo is given extra attention beyond basic editing services. The image is fully retouched and enhanced personally by Jessica Rosa. Standard editing includes basic services where ideal color and density are determined by our editors.