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My son and daughter in law were recently married at GP Lady Hamilton. As all wedding planners can probably relate, planning a wedding ranks high on the “stressful situations in life” list. Hopefully some of our observations and experience will help you. I am also willing to accept any questions as they come up in your own planning.
First off, in retrospect, we did a ton of needless worrying about whether things would turn out exactly as dreamed. Each and every guest that I talked to related that this was the most beautiful wedding they had ever attended. Always keep it in mind that you are marrying the love of your life...in Jamaica....so you are ahead of the game already!! We have traveled extensively throughout the Carribean and Mexico. IMHO, Jamaica is tops on the list of destination wedding locations for many reasons. Foremost is location. The weather in Jamaica is almost perfect year round. During the hotter months you might want to consider setting the wedding time either during the morning hours or take the 4 pm slot....which is what we had. The Grand Palladium is a perfect choice for a wedding because it is paradise found and the staff have every intention of making your memories GRAND!
We started the planning for this wedding almost a year ahead of time. Our daughter had a local wedding two years prior and we needed every bit of a year to get the details scheduled and worked out. That is NOT the case with a wedding at GP. Your first step is to download the current wedding brochure....it will change for 2010. Your prices are set from the time you sign a contract. Once you pick your date send an email to the wedding coordinator, Miss Nina, giving her the date for confirmation. She will tell you if the date and what times are available. They can do a couple of weddings per day so unless you are booking Valentine’s Day or some other very popular time two weeks beforehand you won’t have any problem. You will need to fill out the Wedding Agreement Contract (last pages of the wedding brochure) and send it with a $300 deposit. For now - that is it. Stop worrying and enjoy your pre-wedding bliss!
When booking this wedding we hit a time when GP was experiencing personnel problems which were fully explained on this website. From start to finish we had three WCs!! At the time all of us kind of panicked..the bride more so than anyone. As a self professed perfectionist I can assure you that these issues have been resolved with the hiring of Miss Nina and her assistant Lori. Miss Nina is a long time GP employee who “earned” this position because of her knowledge, professionalism, and attention to her clients. To say she is wonderful is an understatement!!
In the months prior to the wedding take your time to read all of the different possibilities for the wedding. Don't worry if you can't decide on any given detail. Miss Nina can help you when you get there. Believe me, you could actually not make any decision prior to your trip and the wedding would still turn out great.....they are that good!! GP can really do everything from the simplest to the most extravagant of weddings. If you feel more comfortable you can email them with requests prior to the time of your arrival....although from experience I can tell you that they are more than capable of arranging your requests during your meeting with Miss Nina. When you arrive you will get a letter telling you what time to meet with her the next day. Be sure to read all the requirements (documentation needed) to secure your wedding license as she will ask for the paperwork. Instructions are fairly clear in the brochure but just ask if you are not sure about any of the procedures.
At the meeting you pick your flowers. Packages include the decorating of the wedding site (lovely), bride’s bouquet and groom boutonniere. Any additional flowers can be purchased. GP uses: http://www.taiflora.com for flowers and they do beautiful work but can become expensive. Alternatives would be to downsize, bring your own dry arrangements, or go really inexpensive as we did. We figured flowers were only used during the wedding and the girls didn’t really care about them. Rather than spend the money of bouquets/boutonniere for the attendants we just picked single flowers for the girl’s hair. See pics...it looked nice. There was no additional charge (Nina even helped us find matching flowers to pick). Bouquets would have been tossed as soon as the partying began so this was a good way to save for us. The flowers that decorated the wedding site will be moved to your reception site.
Cake flavors are also chosen during the meeting with Miss Nina. Cake and everything is covered in the package for 8 people. You pay the additional cost of any persons over that amount. The cost covers additional covered chairs at the site, extra champagne, and the additional cake. The cakes are beautiful. You have a limited selection of flavors. We had a large 2 tiered cake and chose one layer vanilla and one chocolate. Everyone raved about the cake saying it tasted like the kind their grandma’s used to bake!!
We decided to go the even easier route. My son and DIL got officially married in a small ceremony just days prior to travel. This might not be for everyone but suited us fine. This way, they had their license and the ceremony was just that....ceremonial. GP considered it a renewal of vows. We did this to avoid all the paperwork. None of the guests knew this was the case and the bride and groom treated this ceremony as their “day” and the one they will celebrate in anniversaries to come.
Wedding site: You have your choice of two sites. (The brochure is outdated and lists more than these but the available sites are sure to please) If it rains, the ceremony will be moved to a covered area in the spa and it is also beautiful. You chose either the gazebo or under an archway on the beach. Ours was at the gazebo which was decorated with beautiful flowers, a white aisle runner covered with rose pedals and linen covered chairs for guests (all included in the package). There is a table off to the side with flowers where you sign the license. The view from the gazebo is gorgeous. You can take group pictures after the wedding and then also go down on the beach to get the best of both worlds. We were lucky with such a large group that one couple was in the villa right next to the wedding gazebo so that is where the bride and her attendants got ready for the ceremony. If you are not near your location, make sure to let the golf cart drivers what time you want to be picked up. (A tip is a good idea here but not absolutely necessary) The groomsmen were picked up on time and not sweaty from a long walk!!
Ceremony: We brought our own pastor for the ceremony although I did see two weddings done by the Jamaican officiant and they were nice also. In lieu of a sand ceremony they did a braiding of three cords thingie which is hard to explain. One cord represents him, one her, and the final the families that when braided all make for a very strong rope. You can see the pictures on our snapfish. After the ceremony they pass out frosted glasses of champagne for everyone to toast.
They do have a cd player if you wish to use that for music and can bring your own cd. We opted to go with the steel band. This option is costly but soooooo very worth the money. With the band you have the choice of having them play at the ceremony itself or at the reception. This is important because the charge is based upon hourly cost. We booked one hour.....but the band played a good hour and a ½. The reason I say it is important is that you need to decide what your guests are going to do. If the band plays at the wedding will they just stand around (bars are not close) Or, could you walk down the aisle to cd music and enjoy the band at the reception. Personal choice for everyone. If you are set on a band I have an important consideration for you that we had not thought about until after talking to Miss Nina. For $15 per person they will set up a bar with rum punch and non-alcoholic juice along with an out of this world appetizer buffet. I am not kidding with this description. There were approximately 20 selections running from cheese/veggie platter to mini beef wellingtons, lamb kabobs, coconut shrimp, pates, jerk chicken wings, egg rolls, mini crab cakes, just way too much to mention. Suffice to say it was all wonderful. Again, we had a lot of guests so this was a cost we hadn’t counted on but if you can swing it - you won’t be disappointed. Guests all raved about the punch, enjoyed the band and people had something to do while pictures were being taken.
Reception: We had the 4:00 wedding time which worked out well for dinner. Guests listened to the band, enjoyed appetizers and all walked together (or got a ride) to dinner. Because serving larger parties can be time consuming, Miss Nina will have you pick out a dinner menu prior to the event. Our bride was afraid what she chose wouldn’t suit everyone....but keep in mind if someone doesn’t like what is served there are tons more places they can eat later!! GP General Manager, Dimitri, surprised our party by letting us use the Blue Lagoon Restaurant privately since we were such a large party. In retrospect we probably would have booked this because it was so super nice. But, keep in mind that they will block off an area for you to eat in a regular restaurant at no extra cost. There are so many options as far as dining is concerned. Most importantly keep in mind that whatever you chose, at whatever your budget allows, it will turn out wonderfully. Just chill and let it all happen.
Photos: GP uses True Colors for their contracted photographer. My DIL is kind of picky and wanted to hire her own photographer. You can bring your own photographer BUT they must be a guest and staying on the property. I won’t go into this in detail, if you have questions PM me. Please do keep in mind that the terms of the wedding contract are not changeable. We brought our own pastor and photographer but did not get a deduction on the total cost. We knew this in advance and made the decisions accordingly. This sounds kind of strict but rules are rules and respect goes a long way. If your budget is such that you stick with True Colors, don’t worry, it will be fine.
Make sure to send an email about a week prior to your arrival reminding them of your wedding room upgrade. These are not guaranteed but they do go out of their way to make the bride and grooms experience as special as possible. In our case, they were upgraded from a Jr. Suite to a Romance Villa! They also received chocolate covered strawberries one day and a bottle of champagne another. Wedding couples get special red wrist bands which denotes their VIP status. Note: you can take the wrist bands off during the wedding and photographs. They will give you another one.
I would also recommend letting the staff know that you are a member of Palladium Addict as they are happy to see us and will go out of their way to make your experience that of a lifetime. One last very important suggestion - as with any vacation destination you will see people who are “complainers” and “just plain rude”. Jamaicans are friendly, respectful, welcoming people with hearts of gold. Treat them with respect as they will you and your trip/wedding will turn out perfect. Also, as your budget allows tip as freely as possible. These people work harder than you can imagine for less than they really deserve. They earn their tips tenfold and totally appreciate your gratitude. Lastly, as any previous bride can tell you, there is never a wedding that goes off without a hitch or a small oversight. Relax and enjoy your special day. Don’t worry about the small stuff.....or as they say on the island “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.