Opinion Recaps Reviews Interviews Explainers
News

Puerto Rican Nightmare: Reality TV Star Wedding Planner Unf*ck Wedding Disaster, Part 3

Bianca's welcome bags getting stuffed on the hotel room beds
Bianca’s welcome bags getting stuffed on the hotel room beds

It’s time to give everybody an update on this Titanic-like, colossal potential disaster of a wedding that I agreed to unf**k for a desperate Mother of the Bride last month. The wedding is not on Vieques Island where I usually plan weddings, so we’ve been traveling and nailing down all the final details on the big island of Puerto Rico for weeks and NOW THE BIG DAY HAS FINALLY ARRIVED. The wedding is tomorrow.

And, of course, in doing all the little final detail work, we found out there were a LOT more problems still yet to tackle and solve. But I truly believe we’ve done it. Maybe. Nothing’s over til the last dance, right? Or in this case a little surprise we have planned for after that!

Bianca and Brian hotel arrival
Bianca and Brian at their hotel arrival

The vast majority of problems all go straight back to the original planner and the terrible travel agent that planner recommended. You should go back and read the first two blogs I wrote about this,  but I’ll do a short recap for those of you who don’t want to go back and read.

I was hired less than two months ago to step in and unf**k a wedding at the only five-star hotel in Puerto Rico by a panicked Mother of the Bride, based in Australia, whose daughter is getting married THIS SATURDAY. The bride actually graduated from college LAST SATURDAY so she has really left all the planning in mom’s hands. On the other side of the world.

Bianca's graduation photo
Bianca’s graduation photo

The wedding planner from Louisiana first hired to plan the wedding in Cabo San Lucas (that spot is her “specialty,” supposedly) told them they didn’t need passports for Mexico, and that started the ball rolling in the wrong direction. Didn’t take long to figure out they’d have to do Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands if the guests didn’t have passports. The problem is that the wedding planner didn’t know Puerto Rico any better than she knew Mexico. And neither did the travel agent. Ay dios mio. And neither one of them admitted the truth to their clients.

Enter me and the Weddings in Vieques “unf**k this wedding” team. And we’ve been working hard.

We have had to deal with the travel agent from hell even after the planner was fired because of the manner in which the travel had been booked. Great friend of the wedding planner who is supposed to have the slightest clue what she’s doing. Unfortunately, she could get lost in her own bathroom with the lights out if what she’s done to the Jones/Adams wedding is any indication.

She outsourced all the travel to a big tour company that doesn’t seem to want to return her phone calls (ironic because I was able to get through and get answers working with the Gran Melia hotel directly and the travel pro could not). As of one week prior to the wedding, the guests (including the bride and groom) had yet to receive their travel documents and didn’t until I went all kinds of “Wedding Island” on her. Then my account exec Kelsi had to channel me and intervene again yesterday as the bride and her parents arrived at the hotel.

By some “accident” or error, the travel agent cancelled the bride and her family’s reservations the night before they were to arrive at the hotel. A mistake or a vindictive, unprofessional move? You judge. But damn was that a nightmare when they arrived to check in. Both the hotel and my team were like “what happened???”

Originally, when this wedding was first handed to me, the travel agent and the wedding planner (btw, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to both industries by even calling these women by those titles), had booked the wedding at the gorgeous St. Regis Bahia Resort and put all the wedding guests in a hotel on the Condado in San Juan.

For those unfamiliar with Puerto Rico geography, the entire groups of guests would have had an hour-plus BUS RIDE to and from the wedding at the St. Regis, the only five-star hotel in all of Puerto Rico. They weren’t even staying in the same region of Puerto Rico! Really, a classy and fabulous way to begin your wedding and reception, right? OMG

So we moved everybody (I’d say with the travel agent’s help but we’ve learned she screwed up far more than she fixed) to the lovely Gran Melia hotel, located less than 15 minutes from the St. Regis. Now the bride and groom can actually have a rehearsal dinner Friday night. Prior to the move, the geography was making things logistically impossible. They couldn’t even have a wedding rehearsal because the pastor was staying too far away to work the timing.

With the amazing help of the director of groups and conventions at the Gran Melia, Elizabeth Bermudez, we think we’ve got the rehearsal dinner and the guests’ accommodations sorted out (some of the wedding party is staying at the St. Regis). But even the actual check-in of the bride and her family yesterday was a challenge because the horrible travel agent cancelled the bride, groom and bride’s parents’ room reservations through her system the night before they were to arrive. For real.

The hotel even had the special welcome baskets in the bride and her mother’s rooms waiting when the system burped and said the reservations didn’t exist and weren’t paid for. The hotel didn’t do this. The travel agent did. It was the hotel who helped fix it.

Say what? Swear to God. That’s what it appears happened. When Gran Melia checked and confirmed on Wednesday, everything was all set and paid for and good to go. Totally confirmed. Less than 12 hours later, the reservations had disappeared from the system and they had been removed by the travel agent. For shame! God bless the Gran Melia’s staff (led by Elizabeth who jumped right in and personally helped reassure the mom) for getting them checked into their rooms while American Express intervened to sort out things too. That travel agent is playing with fire.

Bianca and Brian's family posing with Sandy upon arrival
Bianca and Brian’s family posing with Sandy upon arrival

We’ve met with the St. Regis and have full faith in their event staff and game plan – everything is confirmed and they even caught a small error just today that could have been embarrassing tomorrow (gotta make sure the menu cards printed and brought from Australia actually match what we’re serving them for dinner). Their property is fantastic and they got off to a great start with dinner for the bride’s whole family last night at their restaurant Molasses. As I write this, Bianca is being checked into her bridal suite there and probably feels like a queen. Her mom said she cried when she saw it.

I’m bringing in the fabulous Carmen from the award-winning Wanda Montez salon in San Juan to do the wedding party’s hair tomorrow. Bianca and her mom, Andrea, did practice hair with Carmen in San Juan yesterday so they feel confident and beautiful. The makeup artist Alexia Greer is flying in this afternoon with her husband, the very well-known and highly-talented photographer Rance Elgin (he’s done Michelle Obama’s pics in the past) today. Not only will they have amazing wedding pictures, Carmen and Alexis will return Sunday morning to do Bianca’s hair and makeup again for her “Trash the Dress” shoot! Their videographer arrives tomorrow.

The St. Regis Bahia is TO DIE FOR. Of course, as THE ONLY five-star hotel in Puerto Rico that is also home to some private vacations homes for the rich and famous within the property (you should see Oscar de la Hoya’s house and the place where Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner stayed during the “Runner, Runner” filming for months), I would expect nothing less.

From the serious security at gorgeous gates to their Audubon Society-ranked gardens along the driveway to the bellman that practically carried Kelsi and I into the lobby upon arrival, I was IN LOVE with the St. Regis Bahia Resort from the first trip over to meet with their event staff last month. It’s all top notch. It is a Caribbean version of The Homestead or The Greenbrier in their heyday (if you’re a golfer or spa whore, you’ll be familiar with those very famous historical hotels).

Bianca and Brian's engagement pic
Bianca and Brian’s engagement picture

The Plantation House Lawn where Bianca and Bryan will exchange vows is gorgeous and runs right out to the water. It’s perfect for the lush carpet of rose petals (please Mother Nature, let the breeze cooperate with us that day) and amazing canopy of blooms under which they will exchange vows. We’ve put the décor in the hands of the very famous designer at Arquetipo from San Juan and I’m excited to see what his interpretation of a flower budget that rivals the cost of a very nice used car will be. The pictures are amazing.

The reception is being held in a gorgeous event space that couldn’t have a lovelier feel to it, surrounded by lush vegetation and with a fun pagoda that works as a dance floor. I trusted the hotel’s event director’s suggestions on lighting and some décor changes and I believe, 100 percent, that she’s got EVERYTHING under control over there. Right down to the special things the bride will find when she returns to her room on her wedding night (no spoilers – Bianca is probably reading this).

There are also a number of other surprises headed their way – some for the bride, some for the guests – only MoB Andrea and the Weddings in Vieques planning team know the whole game plan and how special it will be. Now it’s our time to shine and prove that with less than two months’ notice, I can unf**k a wedding ANYWHERE and save the day for the traumatized bride and her mom. I hope.

Off to double check schedules, confirm vendors one more time, reconfirm the bachelorette party that was requested last night by the Maid of Honor Erin (yes, we got the limo and party plan all set up – watch out Bianca!), and get ready for the wedding rehearsal on the beach and the sunset BBQ beach party rehearsal dinner at the Gran Melia this evening. And then we’ll all be meeting and confirming schedules and packing what goes with us in the morning to the St. Regis for setup so we are good to go.

There are so many elements of planning an event someplace you’re not based – but still, it’s easier than planning a wedding on Vieques or Culebra islands where we are the lighting crew, flower team and setup crew as well as the planners. I think this is going to be fun. Fingers crossed for beautiful weather and fair breezes. Promise to share LOTS of video and pics if we survive it.
Time to go finish unf**king this wedding!

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone

If you like this story then follow us on Google News or Flipboard.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments