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From the Desk of Desirae: All About My All-Inclusive – The Resort

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If you are reading this, you probably know that Kate & Company plans Sandals Vacations (full disclosure). In my honest opinion, I would love Sandals even if I didn’t promote them on a regular basis and I do truly love Sandals Resorts and how the experience at each resort is different.

My hubby and I knew we wanted to do all-inclusive honeymoon and Sandals was an easy choice. I don’t even remember us needing to talk about it. Kate planned our honeymoon and it was EASY, but you can read more about that here.

I wanted to breakdown what our trip was like and share my experience with anyone considering an all-inclusive vacation (Sandals or otherwise) and hopefully inspire you to book that dream trip! Below is an overview of our time at Sandals Negril. Some of the things may be resort specific, but you’ll find many of the same amenities across the Sandals brand and throughout the Caribbean Islands.

When we arrived in Jamaica (and got through customs) we went to the Sandals lounge at the airport. There were attendants there who checked us in, labeled our luggage and then it was time to start relaxing! (I’m serious here, there is Red Stripe in their lounge). After that, we didn’t have to carry our suitcases again until we got to the airport after our return flight. That’s right – no schlepping bags all over the place!

From the lounge, you’ll get on a shuttle based on resort (if there are multiple on the island), they’ll confirm your suitcase is scheduled appropriately and off you go!

When you arrive at the hotel there is no waiting in line to check-in – our Kate & Company team does this for you in advance. The entire process is completely relaxing. We were in the club level room type and were greeted with a cold towel and taken to the Club Sandals Lounge where we relaxed, had a drink and were checked in by our concierge.

View from our balcony!

We were escorted to our room as they gave a brief overview of the resort. Our room was BEAUTIFUL. We were in the Paradise Beach Front Village and our balcony looked right over the beach. The room was really spacious and featured a table perfect for breakfast room service. We also had a full bar stocked with liquor, wine, beer, sodas, juice and waters (refreshed daily, if you can drink that much!).

That night we attended the resort beach party featuring food, music, and dancing. The Sandals entertainment team does a great job at engaging you without you feeling forced (participate if you want to, but no one will make you!) They had several activities each day ranging from cooking demonstrations to volleyball in the pool. All the details were outlined for the next day in a resort newsletter we received each evening for the following day.

Sandals Resort Negril itself featured four pools (one for scuba and one that was attached to the swim-up rooms).  While we were there, we had six restaurants to choose from (there are 7 now) as well as room service. Our absolute favorite was Kimonos, Teppanyaki, but we also loved Bella Napoli Pizzeria (pizza whenever you want? Heck yeah!) – but I’ll get into the food another day.

The beach was everything it’s made out to be – a beautiful, white sand beach. The water was really shallow at the resort, which was perfect in my opinion, and it was so warm and calm! Warmer than the pools (West coast people, I know you can appreciate this). The resort has floating lounges to relax with a drink and new friends or you can grab a pool float.

Also at the resort is the full service Red Lane Spa. This is not included, but is so worth it. Even if you don’t opt for a massage or facial, you can still enjoy the other spa features such as the whirlpools and saunas for no additional fees. The resort did also have a gym – to be honest, I didn’t make it there.

Sandals Negril, our resort is one of the more intimate Sandals Resorts in Jamaica, which was perfect for what we were looking for. Each Sandals property really does have its own personality and feel which is why it’s key to work with a planner to be sure you are at the resort which will be the best fit for you and has the needs and amenities of your dreams.

From the Desk of Desirae: “I want to do it myself”

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More and more often I hear newly engaged brides-to-be talking about how they don’t want a wedding designer, planner or coordinator and they want to do it themselves. Here is where I think there is a HUGE misconception about wedding coordinators – we WANT you to plan it. This is your day! A wedding coordinator should not be someone handing you a pre-planned wedding – weddings are not one-size fits all. A wedding coordinator is someone to take your dreams and desires for your wedding day and helps bring your dreams into a reality. It’s having someone there who knows the vendors to contact, someone to ask your big and little questions, it’s really all about taking the stress off of the couple through suggestions, recommendations and best practices. You get to shape the day to your desire.

For example, you can scroll through Wedding Wire and look through PAGES of DJs and photographers, but wouldn’t it be great if someone could give you a short-list of tried-and-true and really professional options?  That’s one of the many great services a coordinator can provide!

Pinterest has given brides an incredible tool for wedding design/planning and it’s a great place to look for inspiration. There are so many great resources a bride can use for planning guidance, but the only one that is tailored to your wedding is a coordinator. As a wedding coordinator, I promise we are not looking to take away the experience of you planning your wedding, we just want to make it a stress-free process from early discussion through day-of!

Vendors We Love: SoHo63

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Looking for a modern, unique venue? Look no further than SoHo63 in downtown Chandler! This area is the perfect location (easily accessible, near hotels and in a fun downtown atmosphere with multiple restaurants and activates). Here are just some of the reasons we love SoHo63; the spaces, the décor possibilities and their extra ordinary team.  Inclusions include AV equipment (projectors and screens (you bring laptop/media)), large satin draping, door man and more.

The Spaces

SoHo63 has four event spaces – Brix on Boston, the Plaza, Gramercy Ballroom and the Terrace, two with complete AV packages included.

Brix on Boston is fun space featuring huge windows looking out onto Boston St. with exposed historic brick and original ceiling tiles.  With the book shelves and leather couches and cozy furniture, this is the perfect space for a cocktail hour or bridal shower and is also a super fun spot for photos.

The Plaza is a stunning ceremony spot featuring a crystal beaded screen and a nearly 100 hand lit candle wall – this backdrop is sure to wow your guests.

Gramercy Ballroom is the main ballroom space and features beautiful, modern crystal chandeliers, a stunning, reflective black floor and large glass doors opening up onto the Terrace.  Just think of your wedding reception in this room with easy flow back and forth onto the beautiful outdoor space.

The Terrace can be used as your ceremony space and as part of your reception. The enormous marble and gas fireplace and dimmable bistro lighting provides a romantic atmosphere for the whole evening!

One of the best things about these spaces is that you never feel boxed in. Each space compliments the others and has a natural flow that will make your entire event feel open and spacious.

The Décor Possibilities

There are endless possibilities for any décor concepts at SoHo63. The wonderful thing about the various rooms is that they can be customized to fit any theme and any color scheme. The existing décor is stunning by itself but can also be subtle enough allowing you to design the space to fit your dream.  No two weddings in this space are ever the same. We have never seen a theme or color scheme not work in this versatile space!

The Team

Megan and her team at SoHo63 really go above and beyond to make your day special.  As one of the most responsive and responsible teams in town, they are with you from the first walk-through to your wedding day and will feel like close friends by the time you say ‘I do!’ They are professional, knowledgeable and just a ton of fun to be around. If you aren’t already sold on the space, the team will win you over!

Photos by: Charity Maurer, I Do PhotographyMicah Carling Photography

From the Desk of Desirae: Be a Wise Bride!

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As I planned my own wedding, many of my vendors did not know that I’m a wedding planner. So I was really able to see what my brides are experiencing as they learn more about vendors and their services and practices. And here is the biggest thing I want to share with fellow brides based what I saw when I was in your shoes: Don’t just go with everything a vendor tells you. Ask questions. If something doesn’t seem right, bring it up! If you’ve already hired a day-of coordinator, ask their opinion.

Here’s what happened for me: We were renting chairs for our reception and selected a rental company that seemed reasonably priced. When I went to pay our deposit I wanted them to update the pick-up time (they had it at 6:00 PM on wedding day – um. NO!, big conflict with my ceremony and reception). So when I asked them to pick it up after the reception they said there would be a late night pick-up fee, but if we could work with the venue to have it picked up the next morning they would remove that fee. So we went to our venue and worked it out so that the rentals could be picked up Sunday morning. Perfect, right? NOPE. When we went to update the invoice to remove the fee and pay our final payment they said not only was Sunday still considered an after-hours pick-up, but they also needed to charge us a Sunday pick-up fee.

BRIDES, this is when you need to stand up for yourself!

If you didn’t originally agree to it or fees keep being added and they aren’t being clear, bring it up. Express your frustration and see if they will discount the fee for you. The worst they will do is say no. I was able to get myself a discount by doing just that. Give it a shot, don’t be afraid to negotiate!

Motown Birthday Bash

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We had the absolute honor of working with an incredible family to plan a 50th Motown themed Birthday Bash. This family was an absolute dream to work with and we had so much fun seeing them relax and enjoy the party with their family and friends. The dance floor was never empty and you could absolutely feel the love they all shared for the guest of honor. Some of our favorite details included the custom record guest book, the donut wall with personalized flavors and the custom centerpieces. The details were stunning, but the guests made the night unforgettable – from costumes to dancing this was a night we know our team won’t soon be forgetting!

This was my first time using a party planner. Going forward, I will always use one. I worked with Molly & Desirae from Kate & Company and I couldn’t be happier with the care, time and attention that was given to me and my family for my husband’s 50th Birthday Party. I had a vision of what I wanted and the team helped my vision become a reality! Very grateful for the professionalism and attention to detail. Thank you Molly & Desirae!!!
–Terrilyn, Event Hostess

Location: SoHo63
Photography: Ruth Jimenez Photography
DJ: Apollo Productions
Donuts: Fractured Prune
Donut Wall: Fancy Lou 
Catering: SanTan Brewing Company
Bar Services: Couple of Bartenders
Coordination & Decor: Kate & Company

Meet Skye Young

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Native to Arizona, Skye has spent time with her family as a mid-Westerner and also in Mississippi, Virginia, and North Carolina.  She has come “home”, returning to Arizona recently with her husband and beloved pet, a Jack Russell Terrier. While interested in elementary education and business management Skye presently enjoys the “hands-on” approach and creativity with wedding and event planning at Kate & Company. Skye loves family, friends (well actually everybody), her faith, being creative and she embraces the adventures that life brings her way. She has been able to focus on her lifelong dream of becoming an Event Planner over the past few years and hopes to continue working toward her dream career. She hopes that with each of her events she is able to bring as much happiness to clients and guests as her passion brings to her. Skye is our newest Kate & Co. team member, when she isn’t busy with events she likes being active outdoors, anything crafty and being with the ones she loves.

What is your current favorite wedding trend?
There are so many to choose from, but I think that having unique food options is one of my current favorite wedding trends. Along with that being said I also love how people are going back to the tradition and formality of weddings. Kind of contradicts each other but hey, it works!

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give a couple planning their wedding?
Don’t sweat the small things that can go wrong, they can always be fixed. In the end you are marrying the love of your life.

What is your favorite part of weddings?
May sound cheesy, but my favorite part of the wedding is the reaction of the bride and groom (mostly groom) have when they first see each other on their wedding day. Whether it be a first look or just seeing each other as the bride walks down the aisle it never fails to be my favorite moment.

Favorite season for a wedding?
I would have to say Autumn. This is just because it is my favorite time of year in general. Spring is a close second for my favorite wedding season.

What made you want to work in the wedding industry?
I wanted to work in the wedding industry because I love people and making people happy. It is what brings joy to my life.  Also, because a wedding involves so many of the things in life I enjoy to do. From the food, to being creative, the photography and helping people with the happiest day of their life.

What is your favorite “wow factor” décor item? (i.e. lighting, florals, specialty linen, etc.)?
The bride’s dress.

What is your current favorite wedding color pallet?
How can you choose just one?! I think it depends on the day and the wedding and the location.

Do you prefer a first look or for the couple to see each other for the first time at the ceremony?
I prefer the couples to have their first look at the ceremony. Although, I think the first look before is cute and sweet, keeping with traditions and what I have always known, at the ceremony is my preference.

Favorite bride in history? (i.e. Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana, etc.)
I do not think I have ever had a favorite, but Grace Kelly was STUNNING!

Favorite flower?
Favorite flower hands down in a sunflower. For a wedding I love sunflowers but I also love anything pastel with a lot of greenery! Especially peonies, baby breath (or lily of the valley for something a little more large).  And not a big fan of roses.

Favorite wedding movie? Favorite movie?
Favorite Movie – it is a tie between The Wedding Planner, The Proposal well how can you choose? They are all great. But those two are most definitely a top two. And as far as favorite movie it depends on the genre. I just love movies!

Favorite book?
Nicholas Sparks and Thriller Movies!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Real-estate agent, Just because that is what my mom did and I wanted to do everything she did.

From the Fingertips of Kate: Get Exactly What You Want

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As a bride planning her wedding, there are so many things to do, visions to plan, vendors to secure. Once your vision is in place (and your budget), the vendors you secure are those that are going to make your day seamless.  Your DJ is going to make or break your reception.  Please deeply consider hiring a professional wedding DJ, as your wedding Emcee, this person will keep your celebration not only on track but also create the tone for your wonderful evening.  I have experienced brides having a friend or a friend of a friend who may be a part time DJ and secured for a discounted rate, and while the music is good, the Emceeing and taking the lead of the event has often fallen by the wayside.

I’ll share a few examples:

A high profile athlete wedding who was flying in a friend who was a DJ that he liked – didn’t know anything about a Grand Entrance, while the music was fine, this guy completely ignored the timeline with all the dances, speeches etc.  It was a party, but all the traditional things went flat, thus all the photo opportunities just didn’t pop like a bride dreams of.

Hungry guest….well how about no DJ/Emcee announcement following the Grand Entrance but this: “Table 1 is released, Table 2”.  No one knew what they were released for or where to go.

Your DJ is a key vendor for a smooth flowing successful ceremony and reception.  While you are paying for his/her services, don’t forget to provide a gratuity to them as well.  Ask your wedding planner about appropriate gratuities for specific vendors, while these are never expected, they are much appreciated.