I have to say that I wasn’t one of those girls who spent their childhood/teens/twenties thinking about my perfect wedding – not because I didn’t want one; I just wasn’t sure it would happen (cue the violins).
When Tim popped the question we really had to start from scratch of what our perfect wedding might look like. At the odd time I had imagined getting married, it was mainly just fear of repeating back what the Vicar said without forgetting and making a fool of myself in front of a room full of people!
We started brainstorming on Boxing Day 2015 but after about 10 minutes of looking online and identifying that a barn in Surrey would cost us £7000 for room hire only and we would have to have a weekend wedding because so many of my friends were teachers, we instantly knew we needed a different plan.
I can’t fully remember how we discovered Aruba – probably just a google search of ‘weddings abroad’. Neither of us had even heard of it but the idea of getting married in the Caribbean… Hello!
We soon discovered that a 2 week holiday at the Divi Aruba All Inclusive with a wedding on top was going to cost a maximum of £6000. Compared to a barn on a rainy day in Surrey for £7000, this was a no brainer.
I was very fortunate that my parents had saved some money for my wedding and due to a certain estate agent failing at customer service and informing us we could not park 2 cars at our rented flat, we ended up selling Tim’s car for £4000. This meant we only had to save £4000 for our wedding, which when you live in Surrey, is still quite a mean fete.
Both Tim and I had agreed that we would prefer a smaller wedding – this was to remove the expectations of random relatives thinking they might be asked to be the Maid of Honour, the Best Man (and no doubt the Bride and Groom). The only stressful bit was breaking it to our parents because as much as I love them, we couldn’t afford to fly them out. Surprisingly, they seemed pretty up for a holiday in the Caribbean. Not sure why ha!
We chose to use TUI as our travel agent for booking the holiday and the wedding (I don’t recommend using them, I’ll let you know why later on). The paperwork for getting married in Aruba was a little stressful. You can legally get married in Aruba so we needed Certificates of No Impediment and the timeline to turn that around was 3 weeks which was considerably stressful, especially as the registry office spelt Tim’s middle name wrong and we had to request another one.
I sourced my Stella York wedding dress off eBay. The dress was supposed to cost £1200 in a bridal shop but I got a brand new one from eBay for £600. Granted I had to starve to get into it and I had to go to a local seamstress to have it shortened, but in all it cost £750.
As part of the wedding package (which cost £1500) you get a Wedding Coordinator who was THE loveliest and laid back lady – her lack of panic was a bit scary but she proved herself to be a seasoned pro. As part of the wedding package, we got all the paper work, the Registrar, the Wedding Coordinator, a wedding cake, a bouquet and buttonhole, some wedding decorations and champagne. The hotel ask you to complete a vision board form of things you would like and they basically recreate your vision. So much so, I sent a photo of 2 bouquets expressing my liking for the colour of the flowers and they sourced the exact orchids! It did come at additional charge which was not discussed, but look how beautiful!
To save more money we opted to use a mini bus to get us to the Town Hall (slightly less glamorous) but cheap as chips. I chose to do my own hair and makeup on the day to save on costs, but considering that’s all I had to do until 2pm, it wasn’t much of a compromise. We also recruited various friends and family to take the photos. The photos of our wedding day were courtesy of Tim’s (unofficial) brother-in-law James, and the photos of the party were kindly taken by my stepsister and my friend’s husband.
The ceremony in the Town Hall was lovely! I wanted to save my wedding dress for the beach blessing, so my mum bought me a dress from Chi Chi for £65 which was more appropriate for the venue. My shoes were from Faith.
We then returned and I put on my wedding dress (I cannot express the relief when it zipped up). The wedding planner then arrived with the bouquets and it was time.
I had anticipated that I would sob buckets during the beach blessing, but in fact I was the happiest I have ever been. I was still nervous but I was (re)marrying my best friend in actual paradise with the people I loved the most (except my brother who couldn’t make) with me.
Once we returned back to the (rubbish) UK I sent a complaint to TUI about their lack of customer service. Things they did wrong included selling our ‘complimentary’ champagne and chocolates on the flight out (we are STILL waiting for our £34 refund!), the rep was useless, the assistance for my Mum was dire at the airports – anyway I moaned, and TUI have reportedly sent out SIX cheques, yet we never seem to receive them. The dress box managed to make it to our house prior to the wedding, but the postman obviously just targets TUI cheques seeing as I’ve managed to receive other cheques since. Suspicious.
Anyway, we had arranged for a party in my parents garden, continuing with the Caribbean theme and inviting 90 of our nearest and dearest to the party.
We hired 2 marquees, a steel band (I wasn’t pro this initially but they made the day), a Caribbean BBQ, and bought equipment and made a playlist for our own playlist. We hired two people to run a make shift bar and Aldi and Costco will have seen a substantial profit in their alcohol last year.
This was by far the most stressful part of the wedding. My Mum’s knee was dead by the time we got back from Aruba (she was awaiting a knee replacement) and Tim’s parents couldn’t join us until the evening before the party. Therefore, Tim and I decorated the tents ourselves which didn’t arrive until the Thursday afternoon and it all got a bit hairy. My poor step-dad had been prepping the garden for months prior to the wedding and he did a fabulous job.
My friend made our Caribbean themed wedding cake which was literally the most delicious cake – I had SO much good cake in 2017.
(I sourced the cake topper from Not on the High Street.)
The party was more expensive than the holiday (which is just a crazy concept) and because of the stress on the day, I’m undecided whether if I were to do it again, if I would do the exact same thing, or go smaller.
One of the biggest things I took from the wedding like this was that I got to truly enjoy the wedding. I experienced no stress on the day and I can remember every second. The party was more stressful and I was so glad we decided to split the wedding and reception so I could make the most of each of the days.
My argument was always that I didn’t mind spending the money (I really don’t find it hard to spend money), I just wanted the most for money and I think it’s fair to say that we definitely achieved that!