Thursday, January 12, 2012

The never ending search for a wedding venue

First post after the new year... had a bunch of momentum going at the end of the 2011 but I guess it's been pretty busy  lately and haven't had much time to concentrate on blog entries.. hopefully I can get it going again.

Some of you might remember that one of the original reasons for starting this blog was to keep a record of our wedding planning process.. but so far it's just been mostly the same sort of things I usually blog about... (like us doing crazy stuff wherever we go)  Well, now that most people are aware of the wedding date, I'd like to talk about how we arrived at The Decision.

After The Proposal, Carissa and I started talking about where to have the wedding and we both agreed that we didn't want to spend too much and that we didn't want too many guests.  The most important thing, however, was that we didn't want a "normal" wedding.  Probably because we're both not "normal" people.  Carissa and I both agreed that it would be pretty awesome to have a beach wedding.  We started searching online, looking at a lot of places like IndonesiaThailand, and of course, the Philippines.  We narrowed our search down to BatangasCebu, or Phuket and decided to take some scouting trips there to see the venues for ourselves.. and that's where the video below came from.  The banana was Carissa's idea, though.

Hamilo Coast
April 28, 2011 -
We went to Batangas with Carissa's family and we were checking out a place called Hamilo Coast.  It was nice with a decent beach, but the main thing we worried about was the long drive from Manila (about a 3 hours).  There will a new highway opening and a direct ferry from Manila's Mall of Asia by the time of the wedding to make travel easier, but it would still be a little  inconvenient for our guests.  The good thing about Hamilo was that the packages were cheap and we could invite lots of people without worrying about the cost.  We almost went with Hamilo but in the end, the wedding coordinator never responded to our follow-up emails except for one time after Carissa's relatives went there to harass them in person.  Since we were going to be doing all the planning through email and long-distance communication, the delays in correspondence were unacceptable. 

Plantation Bay
May 13, 2011 -
We went to Cebu to check out a few resorts in Mactan... Shangri-La and Plantation Bay. We really liked the Shangri-La and their staff were so nice to us that we immediately decided to forget about trying to talk with Hamilo, which was like pulling teeth without anesthesia. Even while we were checking out Plantation Bay, which was still pretty nice, we were already deciding that the Shangri-La would be where we would hold our wedding.

Amorita Resort
We also checked out Amorita Resorts in Bohol, which was a very, very nice hotel too.  They even brought out one of the chefs to talk to us about the menu for the reception.  In the end though, we thought Bohol would also be too difficult for our guests to get to.
(related entry: Reuben vs Balut in Panglao, Bohol)

Kata Noi
May 21, 2011 -
Carissa found a hotel that she really liked online called Katathani in Phuket, Thailand, and even though we had decided on Cebu already, we already bought plane tickets and wanted to check out the resort anyway. We were immediately blown away by how spectacular the resort was. The beach was secluded with very few guests the sunset was simply phenomenal.  The staff gave us the complete VIP treatment and took the time to answer our many questions and even gave us a thorough power-point presentation of their different wedding packages. There was also an option for us to stay at their premium hotel rooms at The Shore--simply one of the most awesome hotel rooms we've ever seen, complete with its own infinity pool on the balcony and a spectacular view of Kata Noi.  The deal-sealer though, was the fact that they have their own baby elephant who makes a surprise appearance at the wedding ceremony.  How could we say no to a baby elephant???  We decided to change the venue to Phuket.  I could imagine the staff giving each other high-fives after mesmerizing us with their excellent sales pitch.

After we got back to Singapore, reality hit us hard as we actually started doing some calculations of how much the Phuket wedding would cost. Soon it became more apparent that it would be a lot more difficult than we originally thought. The biggest concern was that the flights from Manila to Phuket were ultra-expensive and would cause trouble for our guests from the Philippines.  We would also need to find accommodations for a lot of the guests which might prove difficult for us since we don't speak Thai and have no connections in Phuket.... so we decided that we would need to change the wedding venue yet again, but we still wanted to have a baby elephant at the wedding, so the nearest alternative was:

Bintan, Indonesia - We had looked over the wedding packages for several resorts in Bintan and although they were more expensive, at least we would still be able to get our baby elephant.  And though some of you are probably going "Y U WANT Bintan!!???"  We actually seriously considered it because of the proximity to Singapore so more of our friends and colleagues here would be able to attend.  In the end, we decided not to go with Bintan because it's a little too close to home (it's practically a part of Singapore) and if we're going to have guests come all the way out here for our wedding, they would probably be disappointed by the beaches in Bintan, which are just average compared to Indonesia's best beaches.

 This was a picture from the first time I visited Boracay in 2005.
The scale looks funny in this picture for some reason...
must be my hair
Since we were trying to get a good beach, we thought we might as well get one of the best in the world: Boracay, Philippines.  We were in serious talks with some of the resorts there (like the Sea Wind) and were even about to make the deposit but our relatives were concerned about the difficulty in getting there, especially for our older guests who we needed to consider.  Boracay wasn't cheap either.. it was quickly adding up to cost as much as Phuket and the back-breaker was that we'd have to pay our photographer and videographer to fly out there, which would add even more to the expenses.

It's been a grueling process picking a wedding venue.  All of the resorts and places mentioned here are great and we'd wholeheartedly recommend any of them, but for our wedding, we decided to have it back in Cebu.   The main reason is because it's central and there are plenty of direct flights there so it'll be easier for our guests to get there.  Also, our photographer is from Cebu so we don't need to pay for his accommodations. Many of our guests from the U.S. will be traveling to the Philippines anyway (since if you're Filipino, you don't usually just take trips to Asia without visiting all of your relatives in the Philippines)... so having it there it would be much more convenient for them. Also, my cousins who are wedding planners will be able to help us coordinate some of the details with the hotel.

Later, after making our "final" decision, we thought about switching again to different resort in Cebu when our relatives kept telling us we were getting ripped off (and there are lots of other costs that we neglected to consider). Thankfully, the hotel's representative was flexible and we were able to secure a better deal.  Now we're happy with the package we're getting and though we've changed our minds six traumatic times: we now have a venue...I think.  It was a long, tiring, draining, difficult process, but we've realized that it's only the beginning of a long, arduous journey ahead of us. And knowing is only half the battle.


  1. Are all of those your pictures. The sunset pictures are nice!

  2. Awesome! Would love to know more...

  3. @Cullen, yup those are my pictures, but the scenery in Kata Noi, Phuket was so nice the pictures practically took themselves.

    @justin - hopefully i'll have more wedding updates soon, and any things mentioned you'd specifically like to know more about about.. feel free to ask. i've got tons of stories from our trips :)