Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jamaican Honeymoon

We waited several months after our wedding before taking our honeymoon. Partially because we paid for the wedding ourselves and needed to save up some money and partially because we used a travel deal site and the best deal was for October.
Ryan and I on the plane ride to Jamaica -  Bright and Early
If you haven’t already used travel sites like Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz, or any of the many, many others, I highly recommend you try. You can get enormous savings by booking through these sites. The travel package we chose was a 7 day 6 night stay at RIU in Jamaica. RIU is an all-inclusive resort chain with locations all over the Caribbean and Mexico. The price of the trip included the airfare, lodging and all taxes and fees. Excluding the airfare, it was about $150/day, which included all food, beverages and entertainment. Pretty great deal.
A shot of the courtyard
View from the stairway near our room
We had a 7am flight that connected in Atlanta. We only had about 15 minutes to spare between flights. It was nice that we didn’t have to wait around. I’m just thankful that nothing came up and it all worked out smoothly. We arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica around 2pm and then had about an hour and a half drive to the resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We ended up using a car service that our friends recommended. It was super convenient and I would definitely use them again. They were waiting for us at the airport holding a sign with our names. It was just Ryan and I in the shuttle which was really cool. They also picked us up on our last day and took us back to the airport. It really saved a lot of hassle and was well worth the fee. In case you’re interested, the tour company is called Karandas Tours.

Upon arrival to the resort we were greeted with drinks! It was very refreshing. The resort itself was HUGE. I think they said it was one of the largest in Jamaica. It was an open air type resort too, which was really neat.
Me in the lobby
Ryan checking out the courtyard
Most of our trip we spent lounging around on the beach, over-eating at the many buffets and restaurants and enjoying the nightly entertainment. The nightly entertainment was somewhat cheesy at times, but still, very entertaining. The entertainment/hospitality crew at RIU was amazing! They were all so talented and STRONG. They also did a really great job at keeping the audience captivated and into the show. Some of their performances included a dancing showcase where they performed various cultural dances from around the world, a production of Grease, another production called Africa, a variety game show, and a beach party. The final night we were there they had a steel drum band play and ended with a break-dance-off. It’s crazy to see people actually break dancing in person! I can’t believe they can do some of the things they were doing like standing on their heads or holding themselves up with just one arm.
Break Dancing at its finest!
Beach Party!
We also took a couple day trips while we were there. The first one we went on was called Reggae and Culture. This tour focused primarily on Bob Marley and the Reggae culture. We took a tour bus up the Nine Mile pass, which is a scary, dirt/gravel road. It’s a single lane that wraps its way up the mountain side. Upon reaching Nine Mile, we were led through the Marley compound. We got to see the house he was born in, where he was raised, and his mausoleum. After we left the compound, we traveled down the opposite side of the mountain, passing through all sorts of towns and villages. It really gave a vivid depiction of life in Jamaica. Obviously it is vastly different from Jamaica through the eyes of a resort. It was very interesting, though, to see this side of the country. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Jamaica, I highly recommend you take this tour. Even if you’re not a huge Bob Marley fan, I still think it’s worth the money.
Ryan and I at Mount Zion in the Bob Marley compound
Some of Marley's friends & relatives playing classic Marley tunes on the compound
Mountain that inspired Marley's "Natural Mystic"
The other trip we went on was somewhat a fluke. We were wandering through the resort one afternoon and a tour guide stopped us. He told us that his tour company (Chukka Caribbean Adventures) was planning a photo shoot for their brochures and said that if we were willing to be in the photos, they’d give us any tour we wanted for free. Well, we were a little hesitant at first, but they followed through on it. The next morning we received a phone call saying that due to the weather they had cancelled the photo shoot, but they were still going to honor the offer of a free tour. 
We chose to go on a river tubing/zip line combo. This was SO.MUCH.FUN! We first were driven about an hour away from our hotel, with a group of people from nearby resorts. I believe the town was called Saint Ann. I’m not positive though. They took us to the top of this mountain and put us all in tubes and sent us down the black river. It was pretty cool. Unlike everything else in Jamaica – HOT – this water was actually quite cool. It was a pretty peaceful float, with a few rapids along the way. There was also the largest bamboo I have ever seen growing along the banks. The tour guide told us that bamboo grows SIX INCHES A DAY! Crazy! The tubing portion of the trip took about an hour and a half, travelling around 3 miles down the mountain.  After tubing, we strapped into the zip line harness and went on 3 traverses. Let me tell you, I am horrible at zip lines. I lost my hand position on the first and longest traverse and basically spun in circles the whole way. It was a little scary. The other two traverses were much milder, and I had a better idea of what to do with my hands. Still, overall it was very fun. I would definitely do the tubing again, but the zip line may take some convincing. I wish I had pictures to show you, but I didn't want to risk breaking or losing my camera so I left it back at the hotel.

On the last day, I woke up to this under our balcony. Ryan had written "I love you Bails" in the sand down on the beach. He's so sweet :)
On our way back to the airport, our driver stopped off at a scenic view place and took a couple pictures of us. This bay is called "Discovery Bay" and according to our tour guide, this is where Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean! It was such a beautiful view. The picture just doesn't do it any justice!
Discovery Bay
Ryan and I overlooking Discovery Bay
We also saw this on the way back to the airport. I found it pretty funny that they have warnings on vehicles for drivers on the left side, since they all drive on the right side!
We didn't buy many souvenirs since we carried on our bags, but we did manage to bring back a ton of seashells, a nice conch shell and a small painting that we bought from a local painter who had a stand set up in the hotel one night.
Seashells picked from the Caribbean Sea by yours truly!
A conch shell that we bartered an old beach bum for with a couple Red Stripe beer!
Two people on a beach beneath intertwined palms
He signed the back for us. We bought it exactly 3 months after our wedding :)
If I had to sum up Jamaica in 3 words, they would be Beautiful, Impoverished, and Friendly. I would love to go back someday!

Wedding Recap

Well, this is pretty long overdue considering I’ve been married for just over 5 months now. Ryan and I got married on July 9, 2011. 
Our wedding was at lake in the middle of a botanical garden. We reserved the gazebo for the ceremony and an adjacent shelter house for the reception. From the pictures, the day looked absolutely beautiful. It was a bright sunny day with very few clouds in the sky. There was very little breeze to speak of, so no crazy hair in the photos. It was, however, quite warm. Okay, incredibly hot. But considering the oppressive heat wave that began the day following our wedding, one might say it was relatively cool. 

 As you can see, the temperature on my wedding day was 93 degrees. The remainder of July averaged 101 degrees, with 17 of the 22 days over 100 degrees. Did I mention the wedding was outdoors?

 Ryan and I, and the bridal party, did all of our pictures before the wedding, so we were all pretty hot by the time the wedding began. The pictures turned out great though! I will share the majority in a separate post. On the bright side, many of the pictures look like I’m “glowing” instead of sweating my rear off!
 We tried to keep our guests in mind when planned and set a ceremony time of 5:30pm, hoping that it would cool down somewhat. I’d say it was probably in the upper 80’s around that time so it was still very warm! Luckily I made paddle fan programs (tutorial coming soon!) to help keep them cool!
One of the program fans!

After the ceremony we headed to the shelter house for some cool relief. 

I’m SO glad there was air conditioning in there! I played it cool for a few moments over in the corner (while standing on an A/C vent). Before you say anything, you have to know – wedding dresses are hot, especially so in 90+ degree weather, especially when you’ve been outside for several hours! 

Just cooling off :)
After everyone filed in the building we began the dinner portion of the reception. We had Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ catered and boy was it fantastic. Ryan and I just love that place! I couldn’t have imagined better food! BBQ food isn’t your typical wedding fare, but it suited us perfectly.

Once everyone finished eating, it was time for the party to begin. A few of our good friends are in a bluegrass band called “That Damn Sasquatch” and they did us the honor of playing our reception. It was so much fun! Again, bluegrass is probably not typical wedding reception music, but hey, it was our wedding and that’s what we wanted. We had our first dance, Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, did the bouquet and garter toss, and then we all danced the night away. A couple of the guys in the band also played the ceremony music. There was an acoustic guitar and steel pedal to welcome me down the aisle. It sounded great and I wish I could have heard more of it.
The band playing on the deck outside the reception house, over-looking the lake
The grand finale of the night occurred at the end of the last song. Unbeknownst to me, several of our friends had brought over our stockpile of fireworks (we have friends in the fireworks business), took them down to a nearby dock and lit them all off. It was amazing! They couldn’t have timed it better either. The fireworks began just as the last song was ending. So perfectly choreographed! I wish someone had gotten pictures of it.

Well that about sums it up. I know there are many details that I’ve left out, but I didn’t want to go on too long about it. Inexpensive and fun weddings are very doable. We felt like our wedding suited us to a tee! Doing a wedding for less money does mean that you have to do a lot yourself. I’m so thankful that my Mother helped me every step of the way with planning, decorating, and anything else that came up. Plus, there were some very gracious relatives who helped get the reception area and ceremony area set up the day of the wedding. I don’t know what we would have done without all that help! 

The Bridal Party - Left to Right: Riley (my brother - who walked me down the aisle), Kelsi (my sister), Me, Ryan, Robert (Ryan's brother)

Stay tuned for some of our professional photos and a recap of our Jamaican Honeymoon!