Just over a year ago, I got married in beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands on 24.11.16. Since I have written posts on how to plan a destination wedding and a review of the Pacific Resort Rarotonga as a wedding venue, I thought I would share some of my wedding photos too, in case anyone is planning on having a destination wedding there themselves.
I 100% recommend it, it was such an incredible day and we couldn't be more happy with how it turned out. We both loved Rarotonga so much and can't wait to return again soon. I hope you enjoy a snippet of our special day (don't worry, I won't share anything too lovey-dovey!).
I can't believe it has already been three months since I got married in Rarotonga! The time certainly has flown by, I can imagine it will be one year before I know it.
It was about time I wrote about the wonderful Pacific Resort, who made our wedding day and the months leading up to it such a breeze, as they took care of absolutely everything. The communication, special touches and their experience all made them the perfect choice as a wedding venue (as well as a fabulous resort to stay at) and I couldn't recommend them more if you are looking at having a tropical destination wedding yourself. It really was the ultimate dream wedding location and my now husband and I couldn't be happier that we chose to have it with them. I have already written a post on How to plan a Destination Wedding: My Experience which goes into more detail about why we chose Rarotonga to get married in and Pacific Resort as a venue and all the details that go along with planning.
I'll begin with details of the hotel, and it is in my opinion probably one of the very best you can stay at on Muri Beach, before moving on to it as a wedding venue.
Pacific Resort: First Impressions
We arrived late in the evening and although there were five or so couples from the same flight as us checking in at the same time, it was a very quick and painless process.
The friendly porter took our bags for us and showed us to our room. The lush pathway was well lit with flaming torches and I already knew I was going to love the place.
It was 10:30 pm when we arrived at our room (which was huge and looked amazing) and we quickly realised there was no room service available which we were counting on. We hadn’t eaten on the plane as it wasn’t included and we were planning on having dinner once we arrived (as it was still 6:30 pm Australian time we were on).
But as it was a Sunday, there was absolutely nothing open on the island- no hot food to be found or even a packet of chips or peanuts around the hotel. So sadly we went to bed rather hungry, but they did have a drinks fridge in the lobby, so we had two beers each first- which I’m not sure helped or not! Never mind, we were very much looking forward to our breakfast the next day. It was completely our own fault for not realising how late we would be arriving and not travelling with snacks!
In the morning we woke up to the stunning views of crystal clear aqua waters from our room. After a delicious continental breakfast we checked out the pool area and walked around the gorgeous resort. The frangipani and palm trees and tropical vegetation gave it such a relaxing and luxurious feel. The beachfront and lagoon views were so incredible! I couldn't get over the colour of the water. We were so ecstatic to be there.
The welcoming entrance
The muesli, yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast was the best!
Stand-up paddleboards and kayaks to use at your leisure
The beachfront Barefoot Bar
Tranquil sunset from the beachfront
As it was our wedding we splashed out and booked the Beachfront Suite which was an incredible room with a dream view. Located on the first floor right on the beach, it had all the facilities you could want for. To the right of the main door was a kitchenette with cooking facilities and the modern bathroom leading after that was kitted out with fresh flowers and complimentary toiletries. Ahead was a wide open-plan space with a super king bed, a desk and chair, sofas and table. Our favourite feature of the suite was our own personal balcony, which had two chairs and a small table and comfortable bean bag sofas to relax on. That's where we spent most of our time when we were in the room because the views were so stunning- I wanted to soak it all in and enjoy it for as long as I could. Also included in the room was air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a safe and a large wardrobe with fluffy bathrobes and slippers. The only thing it didn't have was free WIFI- and that's because you cannot find free WIFI anywhere on the whole island. (We purchased a local sim-card pre-loaded with data upon arrival at the airport).
Relaxing on the balcony!
Amazing balmy views
The Beachfront Suite room (picture by Pacific Resort as I forgot to take one myself!)
Beyond the Room
Pacific Resort offered many facilities and activities free of charge. At the Beach Club you can use snorkelling equipment, kayaks and stand up paddle boards as you please. You can swim or kayak across the lagoon to the Motu (island) ahead and visit there. On the beachfront you can find loungers, sun umbrellas and beanbags to relax and catch some rays. They have a Kids Club that runs daily, a nice pool where you can find fresh clean drinking water. Their Sandals Restaurant and Barefoot Bar are both excellent and even visitors that are not guests of the resort come to eat and drink here because they have delicious food and a great reputation. Located directly across the road is the Pacific Village Salon which offers hair, beauty and spa services (where I went on my wedding day and got my nails done prior too). There is a convenience store two minutes walk up the road as well as the Muri Night Markets and other shops and places to eat; Pacific Resort is in an excellent location. To get around the island you can hire a scooter at the resort or the local bus that goes around the island twice an hour stops directly at the resort as well.
Enjoying a spot of snorkelling and kayaking
Enjoying the tranquil views on the beachfront
The pool (photo again by Pacific Resort as I forgot to take one myself...)
Every single member of staff we encountered was highly professional, warm and friendly and made our stay that little more special. Everyone you passed around the resort greeted you with a friendly smile and "Kia Orana."
There are a few special people in particular I would like to mention. Veronica- the Wedding & Events Sales Agent, was our first point of contact in the months leading up to the wedding and helped us to organise and plan everything. As well as the numerous emails back and forth, we had two skype calls with her and she always made us feel so at ease and took care of every request. She answered all of our questions and made the wedding planning process so smooth. We were constantly changing our minds about things in the lead-up and she didn't mind at all! She was wonderful to work with.
Leilani- the Operations Coordinator, was who we met with at Pacific Resort. We had a pre-wedding day consultation with her and she showed us around the property to the ceremony and reception locations and ran through the schedule. She also took us to the Justice office for the marriage licence, to the florist and to meet with our celebrant.
Leilani was so lovely and made us feel very confident that our day was going to be amazing. She was even the one to come get me when the time had come and I was to walk down the aisle, and she was there for most of the reception as well, making sure everything was running without a hitch. We didn't even notice her there to be honest- she was like an angel in the background!
A couple of bartenders get a special mention too- Rupene who worked our wedding was incredibly friendly and I loved his smile. He also did very generous pours! Aside from that night, he was just as lovely during the rest of our stay too, always chatting to us. Anal also went out of his way to make our stay extra great, as did the matrie d' who unfortunately I didn't get her name.
Other special touches from the staff included a lovely surprise gift the day after the wedding. On our final night we asked the reception staff if we could have a late checkout the next day as we had a late night flight. It normally costs an extra $250 but they waived it for us- special treatment for the wedding couple I guess! We got to stay in our room until 6 pm and we were very grateful for that.
Our lovely gift included a sun hat, sarong, bottle of wine and flowers
Lead up to the wedding
I go into more detail about the planning process in my previous wedding post linked above in the first paragraph, and once we arrived in Rarotonga all of the extra things needed to be done were taken care of spread out over the space of a couple of days. Meeting with the coordinator, being walked through the locations, sorting the marriage licence, choosing our flowers, going through and changing our vows with the celebrant- it was all simple and hassle-free. I had made gift bags for the guests and we handed them and the seating plan over the day before the wedding to take care of. They set up, decorated and arranged everything themselves- it was all included in the package. It was such a weight off and so nice not having to worry about doing that myself!
Getting our marriage licence
On the big day
The day did go fast- I think that is unavoidable! But it was a very enjoyable one and certainly one of the best days of my life. In the morning we had breakfast at the restaurant as usual and then went our separate ways. Luckily Gareth's dad was also staying at the resort so he met up with him and his best man there in his room and they went to lunch and got ready together in the afternoon. My maid of honour joined me and we went together to the salon across the road. We started on our hair and makeup (with some obligatory champers!) and an hour later my two sisters and mum who were also getting their hair and makeup done there also joined us.
I was very pleased with my hair. It was simple, delicate and pretty, which was exactly what I wanted. However, to be honest I wasn't too impressed with my makeup. I didn't get a trial done so it was my own fault really. I wanted a really natural, pretty and glowy look, but I didn't feel that after my makeup was done. I had to ask for my eyebrows to be washed off (as I felt I looked like Mr Bean with those eyebrows!). They were just too bold and dark for my liking- I wasn't used to it. She also went for a very strong smoky eye which was too dark and quite messy. I took most of it off back in my room. I also added some extra touches that I thought she would have done- such as mascara on my bottom lashes, white eyeliner and highlights. It was a bit disappointing because it did cost a lot of money and I even had to pay extra just for being the bride. But I was very happy with my hair, I was able to fix my makeup and everyone else's hair and makeup looked really good on them, so I'm glad about that. I would still recommend them. The ladies that worked on us were very friendly and did try their best for what we wanted- I would just strongly suggest doing a trial first if you're the bride.
After the salon we had an hour or so to finish getting ready in my room. When we arrived our beautiful freshly-made bouquets were waiting for us.
After squeezing into my dress and walking in circles with my bestie, the time had come and Leilani came and fetched us! I was a bundle of nerves by then. (Not about getting married- it was more the other people there that would be staring at me- I'm not the centre of attention kinda gal). Apart from thinking to myself "Don't trip" and "Suck in" I also noticed the path I was walking down was so beautiful and perfectly groomed. There were fresh flower petals scattered everywhere and flower posts leading my way up to the guests waiting at the beachfront location. It was so pretty!
I joined Gareth and the rest of the bridal party under the beautiful handmade floral archway and the rest of the ceremony was a blur! As soon as it ended we were immediately presented with a drink (which I needed and gladly took).
We had group photos taken on the beach before heading to the reception area. The string band was sitting just outside the marquee and they sounded so lovely- we are very glad to have chosen that as an extra. It really added to the tropical and laid back vibe we were hoping for.
The bar was open and platters of food were being served around. The tables were so wonderfully decorated. It far exceeded my expectations and I was so grateful they took care of everything themselves.
This was only half of the marquee area. To the left was the bar, DJ area and plenty of space for a dance floor
The enormous cake that we ordered through Pacific Resort's supplier was such a stunning centre piece! I accidentally chose the largest size and it was much bigger than I thought- but it did look very impressive (and tasted amazing too).
There was a large lawn area for the guests to hang around outside the marquee as well. The whole reception area was very large and private from the rest of the resort which was just perfect.
Gareth and I were then whisked away to do some location shots with the photographer. We were given a bucket of beer on ice and a platter of food to take with us which was so very thoughtful and welcome (as I hadn't eaten lunch except for a banana and it was about 5 pm by then). Our photographer Melanie Cooper, also originally from New Zealand was so easy breezy and wonderful to work with. Highly recommended if you are in need of a photographer in Rarotonga. I'm still waiting for the wedding photos, but I'm sure I'll get them soon.
Then it was reception time! The string band had finished and our playlist we created had begun (starting with easy going music). I was immediately asked and given a drink of my choosing by Rupete, the lovely barman.
My seat and a much-needed mojito
We had our speeches and then it was time for dinner. We had selected the gourmet buffet option which was beautifully presented in a large canoe. The food was better than we could have hoped for- it was all so fresh and very delicious. They catered for all of the different requirements we asked for (some gluten and dairy free etc.) without a problem. Everyone told us they loved the food- and there was so much of it! The dessert as well was perfect and we were so happy and satisfied. The bartender all night long was awesome and smiley- he had great customer service and made us whatever we wanted. The rest of the night was party time where we cranked the music, danced and enjoyed the evening. I loved the fairy lights hanging off the sides of the marquee which made an excellent backdrop for photos. Unfortunately the music had to stop by 10:30 pm which we found quite early. But to be frank a lot of people said it was a good thing because things could have gotten messy! I suppose with an open bar since 4 pm there were a few merry people by that stage. It had been such a wonderful day and Pacific Resort helped make it truly epic.
Do have skype calls and ask any questions you have in the lead up to arriving. They have the answer to everything and want your day to be as amazing and special as you do, and will try their very best to make it happen.
Don't bother with sky lanterns- it's usually windy and didn't work for us! We tried to finish the evening with them as a surprise but it was quite a fail.
I would highly recommend you don't book one of the drinks packages which are very expensive- just have an open bar. We literally saved thousands of dollars this way.
Get a trial makeup done prior to the day if you're the bride!
You have to try the Ika Mata (Rarotongan raw fish salad) at Pacific Resort- best I had on the island! For other recommendations of places to eat and food to try I have a post on: Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga.
Make the most of the happy hours twice a day. The cocktails and local beer are delicious!
Location: Muri Beach, Ngatangiia District, Cook Islands
Reviews: Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor with 4.5/5 stars out of 1,044 reviews.
Price: Depends on the time of year but Standard Studio Rooms start at $200 NZD a night. For wedding packages and prices download their Wedding Pack.
I honestly can't thank Pacific Resort enough for everything they did to make our wedding day as incredible as we could have possibly imagined. Gareth and I couldn't stop gushing about how happy we were and that our guests had told us they really enjoyed it too, which was exactly what we wanted- especially as they had come all that way just for us.
We were so glad we chose to have a destination wedding, as it was only our closest friends and family that came which I think made it so much more enjoyable and special for us. It was more personal, completely stress-free and quite simply- easy. I'm not the kind of girl to plan a wedding myself. I haven't been dreaming of it since I was a little girl. So having professionals take care of it all for me and all I had to do was chose where, when, what food and entertainment I wanted (okay it was a little more work than that, but you know what I mean)- it was just perfect.
Again, if you are looking at a destination wedding yourself- I couldn't recommend them warmly enough. Even if you aren't getting married and want to stay in a fantastic resort in Rarotonga, for a special occasion or just to treat yourself- your stay will be one you will never forget. Their genuine friendliness, hospitality, little extras as well as being in a stunning location all make for the perfect beach getaway. Our time there was absolutely magical and if I had to go back and do it all again- without a doubt it would be at Pacific Resort. That's how you know you made the right decision!
If you would like to see more photos from my trip check out my travel diary post and I also made a video for YouTube from my incredible week there:
I hope you found this hotel and wedding destination review helpful. Please get in touch or let me know in the comments if you have any questions at all about getting married in the Cook Islands. Rarotonga is such a paradise and we were incredibly sad to leave. We absolutely cannot wait to return and stay again with the amazing Pacific Resort.
This post is not sponsored; it is as always my genuine thoughts and opinions.
This is a quick post to let you know that I will be away from here for a little bit as I am off to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to get married!
I will be away in tropical paradise for just over a week and when I return I plan to write a travel diary blog post of my time in Rarotonga as soon as I can! Then I will be off again a few days later to Vietnam with my then husband (the word seems so strange to me at the moment!) for a fun and adventurous honeymoon. We are spending two weeks there starting in Ho Chi Minh City, then venturing north to Hanoi where we will be visiting Ha Long Bay which is one of my bucket listdreams! I recently made a video on my YouTube channel about my wedding and travel plans if you're interested:
I will be back home on the 18th of December so I'll be very busy the week up until Christmas catching up on my blog posts as well as making my YouTube videos! For those that don't know I have a YouTube channel where I post travel vlogs, lifestyle and a bit of everything really, it's become a great creative outlet for me this year along with my blog. I'll be doing a Rarotonga travel vlog as well as one for each of the places I go to in Vietnam. Make sure you're subscribed if you wish to see those! When I return I will also be writing a hotel review from Rarotonga and plenty as well for Vietnam so I will be one very busy lady!
If you wish to come along on my travels and keep up to date with me follow my social media where I am most active (WiFi dependent!):
Thanks so much for everyone's support on my blog this year. I've hit nearly 30,000 views already which is pretty amazing. I'm absolutely loving blogging and I have big goals for the future that I am working hard towards!
I'm off at 3 am tomorrow morning so I will see everyone for a new post when I'm back by the end of November!
First things first! Choose the right destination! Do you have somewhere in mind you have always dreamed of getting married? If it is somewhere that you truly want- then make it happen! Make sure you have heard the place is known for weddings and that it's a good fit for you. Whether it's one or two years away or even a few months, it should be an affordable price you can manage. Pick somewhere that gets you excited thinking about it, where you can imagine tying the knot and having the best day of your life. Is it on a tropical island on a beach? Perhaps it's in an exciting city in a grand church, or on a vineyard in Tuscany. Wherever the place, try to pick somewhere that's relatively easy to get to and keep in mind your guests that you wish to come too. My destination:
For me, I'm not too fussed about the whole wedding thing- I wouldn't mind being married in Las Vegas! For my fiance- his dream destination is in Tuscany (and hey I agree that would have been amazing!). But if we had of chosen Europe- my family and the majority of our friends would not have been able to make it. We would have been lucky to have more than four guests. Because we did really want our family there as well as our closest friends- we compromised and chose Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. It's a country we haven't been to (exciting for me), it's on a stunning tropical island that apparently really does look exactly like the pictures, and it's an easy flight from New Zealand (about four hours) where all of our guests are coming from.
We did consider Fiji as well (also in the Pacific Ocean), but we found the prices of Rarotonga to be more comparable to New Zealand, whereas in Fiji prices of things were over-inflated and quite often double. Rarotonga was better value for ourselves and our guests too and it looks just as gorgeous- if not even more so!
We thought Rarotonga would be perfect for us because we aren't having a traditional wedding, rather we want it to be a very relaxed and fun affair for all of our guests and for us as well- we want to actually have an amazing and enjoyable day! So many people we have heard from say that their wedding day was ghastly expensive, stressful and goes by in the blink of an eye. That's why we thought going 'Island Styles' and having a casual ceremony on the beach, followed by a relaxed reception under a marquee in the sand with good music, food and drink would fit us perfectly.
Picking the wedding venue
Once you have chosen your destination it's time to get researching on the wedding venue options! It's a great idea to go with ones that already have great reviews and to choose one that comes with a package and a wedding planner.
What we did:
We booked our trip through Flight Centre and they gave us three good recommendations of resorts where you stay and host both the ceremony and reception. We took those recommendations on board but the most important thing is to do your own research. We spent hours and hours on Trip Advisor going through every place that offered wedding resorts. In the end it was a hard toss up between two and I honestly think both would have been perfect. The comments were all lovely and had glowing reviews as wedding venues. We ended up choosing one over the other because of the stunning luxury beachfront suite we would be staying in for one, which looks like an absolute dream!
We chose The Pacific Resort and we are so incredibly happy that we did because organising our wedding with them has been such a breeze. They have a fabulous weddings coordinator and she is so great at answering any of our questions, incorporating everything we want and she knows exactly how to make our day run smoothly and without a glitch. We've had numerous emails back and forth throughout the year as well as two skype calls and it really has been so simple and stress-free to work with her- she is very good at what she does! I can't wait to write a review of the resort as a wedding destination as I'm very confident it will be everything we can possibly imagine!
Once the venue and dates have been chosen, book it along with your flights and travel insurance.
This will be the view from our room at The Pacific Resort! *love heart eyes emoji*
Choosing who you wish to come is the next step. Start with Save The Dates and send them out as early as you can. If you want as many guests to be able to make it then the earliest warning and most time to save is ideal (for both parties!). For ours, I just created my own Save The Date image and sent it in an email to each person to save a bit of money. We asked for an informal RSVP and a few months later once we knew who was interested in coming we mailed out the formal invitations. For destination weddings it's always nice to keep it small and personal. For us the ideal amount was no more than 30 of our closest friends and family. If you wish to invite only a select few, then you just have to be very hard on yourself when sending out the Save The Dates. You don't have to invite every distant relative or co-worker- it's your special day so only invite those who you truly want to be there.
Sort the details with the planner
Next it's time to get working with the wedding planner and sort out all of those details! This will include:
Ceremony time and details
Food and drink
Music and entertainment
Cake and flowers
Your wedding planner should be able to provide you with all of the information and choices for the above- all you have to do is choose what you would like! In our packages with The Pacific Resort most things are included and you can opt into extra things if that tickles your fancy. For example, we just took the basic ceremony package which includes the celebrant, marriage license and certificate, a perfectly groomed area on the beach with 8 decorated chairs and signing table, floral arrangements, sound system and of course the unlimited services of the professional wedding coordinator. They have many wonderful extras you can include and a couple we have chosen is having a handmade floral archway to stand under and a string band to play for the ceremony and then into the reception for the first couple of hours. For our reception package included is a beautifully decorated marquee with fairy lights, floral table decorations and candles, flaming tiki torches, linen and chair covers and a sound system. With our food and beverage packages we have a personal bar with a bartender as well as all of the food organised and cooked fresh on site. We don't have to worry about a thing on the day except to enjoy ourselves as it will all be taken care of and the wedding coordinator will be there the whole time as well to help with anything to make the day as perfect as possible.
Some things that you will have to organise yourself include:
Makeup and hair
(For these two above planners should be able to give you good recommendations).
The obvious things like your wedding dress, suits etc.
Any extras you might like that gives it a personal touch. Maybe you'll want to organise some games, have sky lanterns, extra bride and groom table decorations, a lolly bar or ice cream truck etc.
Speeches and any readings
Seating plan arrangements and any gift bags
Hen and stag activities
Extras, gift bags and hen and stag activities are totally optional, but it's always a nice touch especially as your guests are travelling a long way to be with you for your day, and it's a great way to acknowledge that and thank them.
We wanted a day where we could all get together before the wedding, meet up and have some fun- so we organised a boys and girls activity day.
The boys are going out on a big game fishing trip and will be enjoying a BBQ lunch and a few beers on board.
The girls are doing an afternoon to sunset cruise on a glass-bottomed boat with drinks and nibbles and some organised games on a sandy island.
Afterwards, everyone is meeting up together at a chosen place for dinner and drinks and it's a fantastic chance for all the guests to meet prior to the wedding day and for us to all hang out.
I'm yet to test this point out- but not long to go for me now! We fly into Rarotonga on the 20th of November and I have no doubt that everything will be taken care of and we will feel instantly relaxed. My destination wedding planning experience so far has been better than I imagined and I'm so grateful to The Pacific Resort for that.
Our first full day there is a Monday and we have a morning meeting with the lovely wedding coordinator, where she will show us through the resort and wedding locations and go through all of the fine details and any last minute decisions. We will also meet with the celebrant during that time and go through how we want our vows to be done. After that we have an afternoon meeting with our photographer and the rest of our time is free to relax and enjoy ourselves. On Tuesday I have my hair and makeup consultation and then our organised Hen and Stag activities in the afternoon, and our meet up afterwards for dinner and a few drinks. Wednesday is a free pamper day for me where I am planning on getting a nice massage and my nails done, and then Thursday the 24th is the big day!
It's less than two weeks until I fly out now so it's all getting very exciting. I hope you found this post interesting and helpful in any way if you are planning a destination wedding of your own. Stay tuned for a Rarotonga Travel Diary upon my return, and then a hotel and wedding destination review of The Pacific Resort. If I have any more tips to add I may do a second more updated post on destination weddings.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope to catch you in my next post!