Monthly Archives: December 2022
This is a fun story :)
When I first moved to Idaho in 2016, I made a handful of friends through my first job here at a marketing agency. One of those friends was Zach who we continued to celebrate nearly every birthday and New Year’s Eve together with. In 2020 when I met a new coworker named Rebecca, I instantly went into “matchmaker mode.”
I told my then-fiance Zeb that I wanted to set them up, but both of them were introverted and reserved so it couldn’t be too obvious. We decided to host a little game night at our house where Zach and Rebecca were able to meet and hang out and have some fun!
Over the next few weeks, Zach and Rebecca weren’t quite ready to take things on their own so we went on double dates – hiking, tacos, sushi dinner, movies. I was lucky enough to get a front row seat at the beginning of their relationship, and I KNEW they would be perfect for each other if we could just get over Rebecca’s cat allergy. 😉 I knew Zach would be smitten by Rebecca’s warmth, brilliant smile and Star Wars bumper sticker. And I knew she would appreciate his drive, loyalty, and love for outdoor adventures.
Finally, the two cut me loose from my matchmaking duties and continued to write their own love story. It was clear to everyone that they have a special connection and a true adoration for one another. After a year of dating, Zach proposed to Rebecca. Three months into their engagement, they came over to our house and asked me to officiate their wedding! I was completely shocked. They said that I was the reason they met and fell in love in the first place and it made sense to them to have me as a part of their special day.
It was a non-religious ceremony so I could easily be “ordained” on the website for the Universal Life Church. That’s what allows me to legally sign their marriage license. Rebecca wrote a portion of the ceremony script and I wrote the rest. Zeb and I got a baby-free date night for their wedding rehearsal the night before the wedding. We left Brynnley at my parents house and drove out to a vineyard in Kuna, Idaho with a beautiful outdoor ceremony area among grape vines and an arbor covered in hops. After running through the ceremony a couple of times, we headed to dinner in downtown Boise at Bardenay and got to meet more of Zach’s family that had traveled from the Midwest.
The next day, my parents and Brynnley also got to attend the wedding. Right before the ceremony, the DJ hooked up my lapel microphone and I walked up to the arbor with the same brown leather binder that I had purchased for my own wedding last summer. I was so nervous! I knew this was one of the most special moments of their lives and I just didn’t want to mess up or stumble over my words. I had practiced and practiced reading the script all day long.
The ceremony went beautifully, it was short and sweet. I tried hard not to tear up when Rebecca read her personal vows to Zach because they were so touching. I officially pronounced them husband and wife, and then my job was done and it was time to party!
Well, first we had to go back to the bridal suite to sign the official documents that they could submit to Idaho for their marriage certificate.
Your local ordained-by-the-internet matchmaker
The half way point! Considering I turn 30 (*bleh*) in 2 months, we are in for a VERY busy December and January…..
While in Arizona, we took advantage of time to kill to visit a National Park. There are 3 national parks in Arizona – Grand Canyon, Saguaro, and the Petrified Forest. The nearest to Phoenix was Saguaro National Park which was 140 miles south in Tuscon. We were blessed with fantastic sunny and warm weather and a content baby who napped on the drive down. From our hotel in Tempe, the drive to the national park was exactly 2 hours. Our hotel checkout was at 11am but our flight home to Boise did not depart until 10pm so we had plenty of time to be out and about in the state of arizona.
When we entered the parking lot of the visitor center on the west side of the park, the first thing we did was take Brynnley to the changing station because girlfriend was smelling ripe. Well, it was one of those situations where you decide to just throw the whole outfit away because the damage is so bad…… 😬 She needed a souvenir onesie from the gift shop that said “I sh!t my pants in Saguaro National Park!” haha! Don’t worry, she had a new clean outfit moments after we took this picture together.
Saguaro National Park is home to the nation’s largest cacti. It was established in 1994 and covers 92,000 acres.
There are several trails and paths through out the park with miles and miles to explore among the tall cacti. My mom was recovering from a medical procedure and we were on somewhat of a time limit so we just toured a little bit around the visitor center and didn’t venture too far.
This was one of those destinations for me that is “I’ve been there once so I don’t think I will need to go there again.” The cacti-covered park is very unique but I think I would prefer to explore other areas as the desert isn’t my favorite landscape.
Before long we were back in the car, driving north to Phoenix again for a meal and then to return the rental car. We listened to a couple Dateline podcasts and had some Cheezit party mix for our roadtrip snack. Brynnley was a trooper, as usual, and it was fun to cross the bucket list item off with all three generations!
After having stayed at both Secrets and Sandals, it’s fun to do a little ‘compare and contrast’ between the two luxury adults-only all-inclusives. Both brands have an impressive portfolio of properties, which we have barely dipped our toes into the waters of (no pun intended); this will be a broader look at general resort differences regardless of specific destinations or locations.
We visited our first Sandals on our honeymoon in June 2021 on the island of Grenada. We visited our first Secrets resort for a romantic getaway in November 2022 in Akumal/Riviera Maya. We must begin by saying that BOTH were stunning, and we plan on returning to both franchises for many more vacations in the future.
Another thing to note is that it can be difficult to write a definitive “pro and con” list because pro’s to one guest might be con’s to another – for instance having a lively and loud night club for after dinner might be important to some, while others would find it irrelevant. Others might value scuba diving while some would not include that in their list of priorities. Therefore I’ll predominantly be highlighting the major strengths of each brand along with the key differences and you can decide for yourself which one if preferrable! Although either one makes a dream vacation. :)
The key difference between the two is that Sandals resorts are located in the Caribbean on 7 different islands. Secrets resorts are primarily located in Central America – Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic.
Sandals Resorts Strengths:
-PADI Scuba Diving included
-After dinner nightly entertainment – casual and early
-Late night eatery options with pub fare
-Airport transportation always included
-Couples-focused – many honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries. Centered on couples (as opposed to groups)
-Mini bar was better, and contained wine and champagne options. Butler-service rooms also contain full-size liquor bottles with mixers.
-Restaurant menus also included cocktail menus and specialty drinks and recommendations – helpful for those of us unsure of what cocktails and drinks we like yet. And if you aren’t satisfied with drink, it’s all included so no pressure to finish it! I enjoyed tasting several different cocktails that I’d never had before, and learned which ones I never need to try again (i.e. dry martini. ew haha)
Sandals Things to note:
-Some evening entertainment is repetitive and simple
-Room service not available to all guests and not 24/7
-Destinations have less flight options than many Secrets resort destinations. We cannot get to a Sandals resort in 1 day from Boise.
Secrets Resorts Strengths:
-Easier to get to from US.
-Room Service – contactless, tray pick-up, 24/7, all rooms.
-No reservations required at restaurants.
-Nighttime entertainment is more grand and has larger production value than Sandals; full shows with live bands, lighting, hosts, and themes were more elaborate than Sandals offerings.
-Full size toiletries and amenities (our room had sunscreen, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and other uncommon amenities).
-Daily snacks with mini bar restock
-Rotation of different afternoon snacks around the pools, including an ice cream cart, a pop-up pizza oven, fresh coconuts, and churros.
-Group activities daily: beautiful guided tequila tasting; guacamole making classes; dance lessons; spanish lessons, bike tours
Things to note:
-Airport transfer is not included. We used a company called Amstar which Secrets endorses. This will add another $160-320 to your trip.
-Seemed to center more around groups rather than couples. A little more difficult to meet new people than at a Sandals because many guests are already in a large established group that they are dining or drinking with.
-Tipping is common for all bartenders, waiters, butlers etc. Completely understandable, but can add quite a chunk to your total cost if you didn’t factor it in beforehand.
-Mini bar only contains beer and non-alcoholic drink options; no wine, champagne or liquor included.
Strengths of Both:
-Immaculate lush tropical landscaping
-Romantic rooms with interior and exterior bathtubs
-Friendly and kind staff
-Apps for restaurant menus and information, daily activity guides, room service, and resort maps.
-No children on property
-Sit-down restaurant options with diverse menus, rather than buffet-only
Overall, we enjoy Sandals resorts more because of their focus on couples and romance, and their wide variety of included water sports. However many of the Secrets resorts are easier and quicker to access from our region of the US and are comparable in luxurious and beautiful grounds along with restaurant and room quality. We plan to visit more properties of each franchise in the future, but thought a little comparison and contrast between the two might be fun! Have you been to either or both? What are your thoughts on the two resort options and what’s your favorite destination?