Albeit late, let’s start the love month with a wedding post! In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still not over being a bride and the whole shebang, thus this long blog entry.
If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know that we had quite a long engagement – one year, 8 months and 6 days to be exact. It’s difficult to plan a wedding thousand miles away from where it’s going to happen. Choices of suppliers are limited, you don’t get to go to bridal fairs, good deals are hard to find and your knowledge about certain suppliers are inadequate! When we were planning ours, we had to rely on forums and other brides/couples’ suppliers’ review (first wedding in the family and our little circle of friends, btw), which turned out extremely helpful for us. So, in the spirit of sisterhood, here’s paying all the goodness forward with our own review.
I’m splitting this post into three, as I know we have lots of praises with our chosen suppliers and yes, a couple of rants, too. I made this list according to the first supplier we booked.
Ceremony & Reception Venue and Catering: Tagaytay Highlands
Right after picking the date, the next most important task was to select where to celebrate. I wanted a wedding in Tagaytay and with two specific things in mind, we easily narrowed down our options for the venue- (1) It should allow morning weddings and (2) it should have a view of Taal.
We booked Tagaytay Highlands a year and a half before our wedding day. Slots sell out fast and if you’re a little indecisive, someone else might take the better date and reception venue, *cough* Midlands Veranda *cough*
Overall rating: 7/10
- Good deal for a weekday wedding – We were surprised to learn that ours was waaaay affordable than a wedding in the metro!
- All-in-one place – The hotel prep, ceremony and reception were all held within Tagaytay Highlands. The church and the reception venue are within walking distance!
- Inclusions – The weekday wedding package includes an international buffet for 100 guests, basic floral arrangement (couple, VIP and guest tables), venue rental and electricity fees and a complimentary one night stay in a one bedroom suite for 2 persons
- Exclusivity – Well, it’s one thing that Tagaytay Highlands claim but what’s the point of providing a guest list to the security, heck, what’s the point of having a security in the first place, if gatecrashers can freely get into your event. This is what disappointed me the most – entering the reception venue and seeing faces I don’t know.
- Service – I felt we were put aside by TH and was only given priority a month before our wedding. The reason why we had a long engagement is so that we won’t cram at the end. But if the Account Executive assigned to you takes a lifetime to respond to your queries and changes rates/information at the succeeding mail exchanges, then lots of time has been put to waste. And may I add that the maps we endorsed to them for distribution to the guests coming in were not used. What a waste of effort.
- Aesthetics – As landscape architects, we make a big deal about how a certain place gets maintained. In all fairness to TH, they have kept their property beautiful all through the years.
- Catering – Well, when we had our menu tasting, food wasn’t bad but it wasn’t excellent either. It was a little over average (you know, just a couple notch the ‘okay’ level). The variety is great with beef, pork, chicken, fish and vegetable dishes. We didn’t hear anything negative from our guests either so I assumed they were fine.
- Hotel Preparation – Tagaytay Highlands boasts an amazing array of big and fabulous suites and homes that can be rented for the wedding preps. But these cost so much that what we actually saved from the entire package was put to pay for the hotel charges. We had Woodridge homes reserved as our first choice, as the Woodlands homes were not available for our dates. These homes are fully furnished and excellently maintained but lack wi-fi connection (something that is a necessity nowadays…). And the fact that we cannot cook in the unit somewhat makes the fully equipped kitchen useless. Otherwise, it’s all good, but uhm, we had a 10-15 minute power interruption at the eve of the wedding day.
- Ceremony Venue – Madre de Dios Chapel has a very classy design. It’s not overly decorated so it suits well our simple wedding. The chapel is air-conditioned with huge glass windows allowing natural light. Some brides don’t like it for its short aisle but I didn’t mind. I prefer a wide aisle than a long one. I also liked the backdrop the bride gets when the door opens (lush greens although there’s the funicular rail but it doesn’t look cluttered so I’m very fine with it). It’s also worth noting that MDD is quite strict when it comes to dress code (goodbye, sweetheart neckline) as every church should be. No sleeveless and backless gowns. And oh, also, power interruption again.
- Reception Venue – There are a couple of venues available for reception – Midlands Veranda (overlooking Taal and Highlands Golf Course), Country Club Veranda (pool view) and the number of restaurants scattered all over the property. We had ours at Midlands Veranda. It’s quite spacious for 100 guests with facilities like bar, toilets, a wooden stage and a parquet dance floor. The huge glass windows allow natural light and offers beautiful views all around. It has a high ceiling that most stylists would want covered. The overall ambiance is airy and pleasant but yes, it still depends on how you decorate it.
Photographer: Chapter One Studios
Picking a photographer is a tedious task. Aside from finding one that fits the budget, we also considered style, editing, delivery time and the way they do their slideshow (main criteria for judging – music used, we’re a bit fussy about scoring). Of course, we also looked for (sort of) a team whose members are almost our age so it’ll be more comfortable working with them.
Chapter One Studios was one of those photographers we emailed and we instantly liked them at first exchange of mail! If I remember it right, I found them through a Bride and Breakfast feature, checked them out and got interested with their warm and candid style.
Overall rating: 9.5/10
- First impression – We sent them a letter of inquiry sometime in June at 10ish in the evening, Dubai time, and we were surprised at how prompt they responded – less than 15 minutes! Considering that it was already wee hours in Manila and the reply we received was not even a bot mail – to say that we were impressed was an understatement.
- Cost – Unlike the other photographers we inquired with, C1 doesn’t charge ridiculously. And what’s even great was they had a promo at that time. We got a free e-session and a lower reservation fee! TIP: Reservation fees/down payments are usually nonrefundable so the lower it is, the less you gotta lose if you find out you don’t like the supplier you booked.
- Fun team – Prior to the wedding day, we met Brian twice, and his team once during the e-session. These short and meaningful gatherings turned out to be helpful that we became comfortable with them on the big day. The team wasn’t hard to like, they were fun and easy to get along. They made all shoots lax making the photos feel casual and not stiff.
- Style – C1’s photography style is more of fresh and candid, which we instantly like. Sometimes they direct you with the poses but these poses aren’t the cringe worthy types. Their editing style is not harsh (there are some photographers who over-edit photos to the point that the whites become blue, omg) and they don’t overuse filters. Though I just had to add that there were few shots where the subject is out of focus.
- Onsite slideshow – Included in the package is an AVP of the first batch of edited photos. These were shown during the reception and we were beyond happy with the outcome! I loved how the AVP looked clean and organized (no single portrait shot with empty background!) and the time-lapse shots are really cool!
- Delivery – We received the e-sesh photos a month and a half later, which sort of killed us coz we were really excited to see the set. Come wedding day, before the team leaves the venue, they handed us a CD with a set of (100+) edited photos and copy of the onsite AVP. Win! Final delivery of the rest of the package will be within 45-60 working days.
Videographer: Treehouse Story
Unlike other normal girls, I didn’t grow up with a dream wedding in mind. But one of the shallow reasons that sort of started pinning wedding ideas in my head was the rise of same-day edits. The first one I saw was that of Rica Peralejo’s and since then, I dreamed of getting the master Jason Magbanua to cover my wedding.
Then again, for practicality reasons, I shook that dream off, though I had to admit we still sent him an inquiry (wishful thinking). We’re beyond thrilled to get a reply from him (we’re fans!) that after (re)learning that we can’t afford him, we asked who he can recommend. He sent a couple of names and we’re ecstatic to know that Treehouse Story, one of the videographers we’re eyeing, is in the list! He promised we were in good hands and boy, he was right!
Overall rating: 9.5/10
- Fees – I’d be honest that their rates quite hurt the pocket (but doesn’t hurt as much as Jason’s would x_x). We took their basic package, which consists of SDE, cinematic highlights and full wedding footage. They charge an extra 5K for out of town weddings.
- Team – Treehouse has such young, talented, friendly and fun guys. They made the day less stressing, especially for me. We didn’t feel pressured when they’re around. In fact, they made us feel like we’ve known each other for long. It’s also good that they’re friends with our photographers. These two teams, when together, create a fun (and energetic) atmosphere. Riot, in a good kinda way. We’re happy to pick the right guys!
- Style – Treehouse uses a unique formula in telling a couple’s story. It doesn’t look too dramatic or directed but more of what actually happens on the wedding day. They usually work around the vows, which we were pretty reluctant at first (we don’t want to hear our voices in the SDE) but they managed to convince us. The team guided us with some of the shots like “look away, look down, look at me and then smile” that turned out amazing. They also taught us what to do in our first dance (because we did not prepare for that) and used those footages to end the SDE. That part was my favorite; we looked like we know what we’re doing! Signature Treehouse shots include awesome slow-mos, beautiful drone clips and the very impressive ring shot.
- Same-day edit – Ours turned out the way we wanted to. Simple, fun and not filled with drama. It’s easy for us to see ourselves in the film, I mean that was “us” and weren’t like other people acting as someone else so the product will look good. We love how our emotions were captured and that they used the songs we preferred for our video. The editing is superb and the guys really delivered an awesome, awesome work. The SDE was also shown during the later part of the reception.
- Delivery – we received a copy of the SDE (which we happily re-watch every single day) before the team left the venue. The rest of the package will be sent to us not later than a year after the wedding day.
On-the-day Coordinator: Events and Elements
The husband and I were hands-on wedding planners that we don’t see any need for a full time wedding coordinator/planner. Instead, we hired an on-the-day coordinator who will just execute our plans on the wedding day itself.
After careful considerations, we booked Events and Elements. Although they were quite new in the industry, they have few but all positive reviews in the forums.
Overall rating: 7/10
- Rates – Events and Elements has reasonable fees and they don’t charge extra for Tagaytay weddings.
- Consultations – E&E offers unlimited consultations. Bon is always happy to answer our questions, even the silliest ones. She usually responds promptly, be it by email, Viber or Whatsapp. We often ask her for supplier recommendations and she’s always happy to give a name or two. She even did the negotiation with our invitation supplier who failed to deliver.
- Meetings – We had a total of 3 meetings with Bon. The first one was with the host to discuss the program flow, the other was when they joined us for food tasting and detailing with Tagaytay Highlands and the third for a final walkthrough of the entire wedding day. During the food tasting, Bon was joined by her mom who has been a great help with food comments and hotel prep negotiations.
- Organization – To make things run smoothly, E&E provided us with a wedding template to follow and fill out. This list helped us a lot so we’d know which ones are still pending. It also informed us of the minute details we didn’t know we had to prepare. 5 days prior the wedding, we received a detailed timeline of the preparation. The coordinator should arrive by 5AM.
- Inventory – The night before the wedding, the team paid us a visit to do their inventory. I prepared 3 boxes as per their instruction, with a checklist in each one bearing the contents of each box. They had the boxes opened and checked one by one but despite doing this, during the reception, there were items missing that I am very sure I have kept inside the “reception” box. This totally stressed us out. If not for our sibs who volunteered to do a search of our units to find the missing items, I’d be transformed to a monster. Our sibs were able to find the items but then, they missed some of the fun moments during the reception.
- Coordination – The team has 5 members – one assigned to the bride, another to the groom, one each for reception and church and one overall coordinator. During the prep, the HMUA and gown team arrived ahead of time so we finished quite early. They were a bit anxious not to see the coordinators. Also there have been problems with breakfast meals that came in late.
Whew, that was long! The second part will cover hair and makeup artist, bridal car, musician, lights and sounds and gowns.