Destination Wedding Bells

By Nancy Clark

 When a daughter says she knows what kind of wedding she wants, a parent hears dollar signs. Not in my case though. One lazy Sunday, I’d spent the day reading the New York Times. The wedding section spread open on the kitchen counter when my daughter stopped by in between studying for law school exams. “Mom, I would never want a wedding like that,” she pointed to a snapshot of the bride in the story surrounded by a bevy of bridesmaids clutching nosegays. “I want a wedding on a beach, with just you and Jarod [her brother] and his parents,” she added.

“You might want a groom,” I nudged the conversation.

“Dah...I mean I want it to be just family,” she left almost as quickly as she’d arrived, having snagged some food from my refrigerator.

A decade later, my now-engaged daughter pronounced that since she had never learned to walk well on high heels, hers would be a flip flop wedding and Cabo would be the place. I’d taken my kids to Cabo three times as teens and everything about it appealed to them, particularly the ease with which we could leave the piled up snow in Denver and be piling sand on each other on a beach six hours later.

It would be just family.

Bajavacations.com is a customer of Unleaded Software. We’ve built two of their websites. I rented the magical Clara Vista through Patricia at Bajavacations.com and we were now committed to a Cabo ceremony. Perched high on a hill in the exclusive Pedregal community, the views from this six-bedroom, seven-bath estate are indeed panoramic—both the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez extend beyond the edge of the infinity pool. The bonus round was that our dates synced up with whale watching season. I imagined that as a visual distraction as we tanned and sipped our umbrella drinks.

Immediately after paying the deposit on Clara Vista, I ponied up for plane fare for 17 on Frontier Airlines’ direct flights to and from Cabo.

And then the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the Baja snuffed out the tourism business for the next six weeks. Even the airport was closed for massive repairs. Websites for Cabo golf courses posted notices: Closed until April 2015. Options were narrowing down.

I field dozens of websites. I find a florist online. I find a chef for the wedding dinner online. I choose them because of their websites. After all, we are in the web development business. It turns out I’m right, that a good-looking website indicates that a business, even internationally, is a good business to deal with.

You need three things to plan a destination wedding in Cabo (or for that matter, anywhere). A bride. A groom. And a credit card company that has your back. I would have written this story sooner (the wedding was in January) if I’d actually known how the credit card matter would play out. Turns out, I’m still in limbo. More about that coming.

Clara Vista’s all-white sprawling Mediterranean flair was the inspiration for all the wedding décor—from the white trapezoid-shaped gift bags for guests to the white tulips bundled for the bride’s bouquet and the white linen cocktail and dinner napkins embroidered with the bride’s and groom’s initials. I vowed to karaoke to Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” at least once over the four days.

It took months of online shopping to locate all the parts for the gift bags: light cotton spa robes so that family members could wander into the kitchen for coffee in the morning without having to get fully dressed, white baseball caps, white sun hats, white flip-flops to decorate at the bridal luncheon. I ordered PG wedding movies like (Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride”) for family members to enjoy in Clara Vista’s in-home theater.

I considered that the gift bag contents were going to be cumbersome to drag with me on the airplane, plus each extra bag cost $25, so I headed to FedEx to ship the wedding gift bags to my florist in Cabo. Cha-ching. $500+ on the credit card. No worries, I told myself. A Google search for FedEx Mexico calls up links that say things like “Trust FedEx for Fast and Reliable Shipping Solutions to & from Mexico.” Two days later I get a call from a FedEx rep saying my three boxes are being held in Toluca, MEX, Mexico. I am instructed to get hire a customs agent to get my gift bags through customs or the boxes will be considered abandoned. Some eight FedEx agents later, I am told that instead of hiring a customs agent (of which there are none in Toluca that handle personal shipments), I can send my florist to pick them up. Toluca is a 2 hour flight from Cabo. I tell the FedEx agent that is like leaving my mail intended for delivery in Denver in Phoenix and telling me to pick it up. It’s a 13-hour ride each way. She hangs up on me.

Two FedEx reps later I am told that I need to open an account with FedEx and pay to return the items to Denver if I want them back. So I do. The charge to my credit card is $485. I’ve now spent $1000 shipping 3 boxes with contest worth $700. I call Denver’s Mexico Consult to complain. He says he has never had such trouble and that I’ve been led astray by FedEx.

Frontier cancels the return flights. Business is Cabo is down since Odile. One frantic day later, all 17 of us are rebooked on Southwest. Now I can check two bags for free—among us, 34 bags in all.

The three boxes are delivered to my office and I unpack all three. One of the linen napkins has been crumpled and used. A spa robe has been removed from its wrapper and the belt put into the loops. It’s been worn and jammed back into the box. I am more than annoyed. I send the two items to the dry cleaner and call FedEx to dispute the charges.

The highlight of my wedding planning is finding Chef Cosme Obeso, executive chef to the stars (www.chefcosme.com). His clientele include George Clooney and Toby Keith. No wonder. On the phone he is charming. His emails are positive and gracious. And come to find out on the wedding night, the fare is magnificent. His proposed menu woos me and satisfies my daughter’s command of “No cake.”

Appetizers of Spicy Tuna Tostadas. Beef Carpaccio. Crab Wontons. Chicken and Beef Satay. Coconut Shrimp served with Mango Jalapeno Sauce, Scallops wrapped in Bacon served with Oyster Reduction Sauce. Mix Drinks and Cocktails of Wild berries and Mango Margaritas, Frappe Mojitos, Watermelon Martinis. A salad course of Mix of Organic Baby Greens, with roasted beets and mixed bell peppers, grilled corn kernels, Sundried tomato, and fresh local cheese, tossed with White Balsamic Sweet Basil Vinaigrette. The main entrée of Grilled Fillet Mignon topped with poached leeks, and Baby Portobello reduction plus Grilled Pacific Lobster with Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce served with Baked Potato and Grilled Asparagus. For the wedding dessert: Mexican Style Flan and flaming after dinner drinks.

Is this how George eats? I ask. Chef Cosme doesn’t cook and tell. I’m in. Wire funds.

While Bajavacations includes transportation from the airport to the residence and back for 10, I figure we’re definitely going to need a car, so I rent one on the internet. I’m not looking at price; I’m looking for a Jeep. Pedregal is steep, like Lombard Street on steroids. Only it’s on cobblestones, making it ever more difficult for walking. Rentalcars.com catches my eye. The website is straightforward. Turns out it’s as crooked as they come. When we arrive in Cabo and fight our way through the Time Share throngs, we can’t find a van going to Rentalcars.com. Finally, after half an hour in the son with my son, daughter-in-law and their infant son, a van rolls up. On rental car row, he pulls up to Rentalcars.com and the service rep claims to not have a Jeep. But we could take the sedan Acura, he suggests. Not unless I have a trailer to pull behind with the gift bag contents, a baby stroller and 4 human beings, one in a baby seat. I recommend the dealer upgrade us to the four-wheel drive Lincoln on the lot. He won’t. I ask for a refund. He won’t. I walk next door and wave the rental papers from Rentalcars.com in front of the Thrifty agent. I ask if he’ll rent me the Jeep in the lot for the same as Rentalcars was supposed to. He giggles and hands me keys. I had paid way, way too much to Rentalcars. I was so steamed by now I didn’t care if I paid the same crazy sum to Thrifty. We got up Pedregal’s hill one hour after my guests had arrived.

The wire from my bank in Denver did not get to the florist who had acted as wedding planner purchasing all the tickets to whale watching scheduled for the morning after the wedding and scheduling our Sunday brunch and transportation to Flora Farms . She’d schedule spa treatments and golfing for the men and purchased all the food for the house for our four days. Konstanza from www.emperioartefloral.com took my Americanized grocery list and translated it quite adeptly…except for the 20-pound cube of butter (i had noted “large butter” on my list) that in hindsight could have carved into a butter ice sculpture. I notifed my bank to stop the wire and drove to the florist’s shop to pay by Amex.There was no way i was coming this far to not have wedding flowers and table linens at dinner. My credit card saved the day. (It took my bank another 5 weeks to redact the wire funds.)

The bride nervous. The groom anxious. The flower girls prancing for the event to get started. Moments later, I do, i do is finished. One of the chef’s assistants has informed us that the whale a short distance from the shore is slapping her tail to announce she is meeting up with a male whale. We laugh. It isn’t until the next morning on the whale watching cruise that our tour guide clarifies that whales slap their tails to rid them of crustaceans.

Checking on our departure details, I noticed that the driver for our return to SJD Los Cabos Mexico International Airport has noted we depart the next day in the afternoon when in fact we are to leave the villa by 9 a.m. I ask the whale watching driver if he is able to take us to the airport instead, since I don’t have any contact info with me. He agrees to do it, but says I can’t tell anyone. Who to tell? I wonder. Two weeks after the wedding this same van driver calls me on a Friday as I sit in my desk in snowbound Denver. “I’ve been pulled over and my cab license taken away. I’ve been fined $500,” he rattles off his woes. “Why are you calling me?” I am incredulous. “I am calling you so that you can pay my fine.” I hang up. I hate Mexico.

I get online to learn that Rentalcars.com is headquartered in the UK. I call and speak to a representative about a refund for the nearly $500 I paid to rent the car that I didn’t rent. The rep warns me in a delightful English accent, “You’ll never get a refund from us.” I hate Mexico more.

I get a call from FedEx. It’s a sales rep. He wants to know how I like my new account. “Are you serious?” I ask him. Then I decide to tell him what’s gone on and he decides to listen. He promises me he will get to the bottom of this and that I won’t be charged by FedEx. My point to FedEx is that I engaged them to perform a service, namely deliver 3 boxes to Cabo. They failed to perform the service. Then they refused to return the 3 boxes unless I double paid. The FedEx sales rep is sweet. He gives me his direct contact phone number. I find out on Feb. 26 that I will have to contact him again. Fedex has again charged my credit card for the same service not delivered. I’m hating all of Mexico and everywhere FedEx delivers. We use FedEx regularly for our intracompany deliveries to our office in India. I’m looking for a replacement for FedEx.

The photos are in. My grandson is precious in his drawstring linen pants that my daughter-in-law sprung for in a one-time-wearing-only scenario. The tulips on the individual tables set on the uppermost rotunda overlooking the horizon droop as ordered, perfectly, just as if they’d been touched by Martha Stewart. My daughter, ephemeral. Mexico tugs at my heart. I do like it here. Anywhere in Mexico.

I just won’t get there by FedEx or Rentalcars.com.

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