I was in pretty much your same spot, planning my Cartagena wedding from Texas. I ended up going with Caribe Cordial wedding planner. She told me nicely that my $10k budget wasn't really doable... that even for a super budget wedding, it would need to be more like $12k. In the end, we spent about $15k for EVERYTHING, even airfare, hotels, invitations, and the dress. (The exchange rate was good and that helped, not sure what it's like now.) So I would say be a little flexible on the $10k amount if you can. In the end, it was a very nice wedding for the money - I don't think anyone thought it was that inexpensive. We had about 40 guests and rented a 9 bedroom colonial mansion for 2 days to have the wedding in and to stay in with our friends... it felt pretty baller. Definitely the most expensive part of the wedding but well worth it. Here's the rough breakdown of expenses:
Venue: about $3k - we also slept here for 2 nights so that reduced the hotel cost)
Food & Drink: about $2k
Booze: about $600
Decor: about $900
Music (violinist & DJ): $1200
Officiant ("symbolic" - we went to JOP in TX) $180
Other details (hair/makeup, welcome bag items, etc.): $400
Photographer: we paid for this separately, but I think we paid about $1500 for both photography and video
We also added an Hora Loca (traditional dancers come and energize the party) which was about $500.
Here's a video of our wedding so you can get a sense for it: https://vimeo.com/162972845 Password: megan&joe123
The cost will depend on what kind of wedding you want and the details you specify. Exchange rate has a lot to do with it as everything is paid for in COP, and vendor rates increase from year to year sometimes too. Also, I recommend making a trip down there to plan. Choose a wedding planner, and then use that time to tour the venues they recommend. I couldn't imagine trying to plan the wedding without having gone down there to see the space first.
About wedding planners: You will absolutely need one. If you are hesitating, just know that it's not really possible to plan a wedding in Cartagena without living there or having a relative who lives there. However, costs are low - from $1500-3000 from what I found. Caribe Cordial was one of the most inexpensive, but also had good reviews online. I also chose them because they were the best about getting back to me with thorough responses in the first contact, which is appreciated when you don't know what you're dealing with yet (as you know!). However, communication over the months that followed was very frustratingly slow - we're talking more than just a cultural difference... a customer service problem. In the end, though, the wedding was beautiful and everyone had a good time.
We couldn't have been happier with our choice to have the wedding in Cartagena. It was such a special experience to share with our friends and family - much more so than if we'd had it in the states or a resort. You won't regret it!
Hope this is helpful! Good luck!
I will also say that we very early on considered just doing a restaurant reception, maybe renting out the space for 1 night, to save costs. In the end, we decided to spend a little more and make the experience more special. Plus, I'm not so sure we would've even really saved any money that way as the costs we incurred were pretty low. Once you choose a wedding planner, the rest will sort itself out - truly!
Megan thank you so much for your thorough response!! The info is incredibly helpful!! I do have lots of family that live in Barranquilla so i'm wondering if I can get away with having them help. I'm also planning on going down there in april and then probably once again before wedding.
I guess I was a little turned off when I emailed one wedding planner with my $10k budget and was told that I needed to AT LEAST double it. You seemed to have had everything i'm looking for and $15k is attainable but 20? I don't think so. I would've appreciated if she would've given me a few tips or warning or something but she just rejected me =/
Megan your wedding was so beautiful!!
How many guests did you have?
What was your venue? I feel like I've seen it in all my searching.
did you do any tours or beach trips?
Thank you!! We planned for 40 and I think in the end about 35 guests attended. The venue was called Casa Estrella, but good luck searching for it online, there are a few other places with similar names and it doesn't have its own website or listing online. It used to be called Casa Don Sancho and it is on Calle Don Sancho. I had no contact with the owner and it is privately owned so it may be tricky to figure that part out without the help of a wedding professional.
As for tours, we let our guests do their own thing but directed them to Cartagena Connections to make arrangements. We did do a street food tour with Cartagena Connections which was so fun, and worth it - I learned so much about the town even though I'd been to Cartagena twice before that.
Wow, yeah there is no need to spend $20k, unless the exchange rate is terrible! I would say adjust your budget to $14-15k and then be very strict about not going over. Better to plan for more than you think and be under, than to be surprised and have to come up with more cash later.
For wedding planners, another benefit of hiring one is that you're paying someone to manage everything, and therefore the relationship is transactional; going through family, the role of who does what is not so clear, and you might have some drama or tension. If you need to be very assertive to light a fire under someone's ass, it's a lot easier and more acceptable to do that with someone you're paying than with someone you're not. Just something else to think about!
That is so true. I will keep all of this in mind!
I actually also live in NYC and my fiance is currently living in New Orleans (I just moved up here for a job); he is originally from Colombia and so we are also getting married in Cartagena.(6/24/17) He's got the whole budget break down and I can let you know the break down and everything, if you'd like. I think we're around the same budget as you. We aren't doing a very traditional wedding though. We're going through Hotel Almirante, doing a beach ceremony and a poolside, oceanview, open-air terrace for the reception; if everyone rsvp's yes, though we'll have to hold it in the larger indoor space, but it's at least still ocean-facing with large windows. Our current thing we're tacking is coordinating/renting the music equipment for the live band and DJ we're hiring. If you have any questions please let me know, though like I said, we're not going the uber-fancy route. Just good music, good ambience, booze and food, and hopefully a fabulous party for all our fam and friends.
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