1/7/2011 Strawberry Package Catholic Wedding Review:
Hi Everyone! My wedding was on Friday, January 7 2011 and here is my review:
We flew United out of Chicago Oâ€™hare on Tuesday January 4. We checked 3 bags total. I brought my dress in a garment bag and my husband brought his suit in a garment bag as our carry ons. I also brought a big purse and my husband brought a small backpack that would fit under the seats. Everyone was very helpful and friendly. We had no trouble getting through security with the dress and suit. Upon getting to the gate we asked at the counter if we could hang up the garment bags in the plane. The stewardess said that some planes have a closet while others do not. She said that it would not be a problem to hang up the items if the plane has a closet even though we were not first class. About a half hour later my husband got called up to the counterâ€¦ We got upgraded to first class! It was â€œour lucky dayâ€ as the stewardess told us. The trip was off to a good start!
The hotel grounds are huge! You go past a security gate and there is a long street on which all the Barcelo hotels are located. Everything is super clean and gorgeous. We stayed at the Palace. The lobby is breathtaking with its postcard like view of the beach.
Checking in was kind of a pain. Even though there were only a few people before us in line, it seemed like each individual group took 20-30 minutes to check in. We were in a good mood after a very comfortable flight and a few drinks in first class. It didnâ€™t bother us much, but it really did move slow.
My husband (the charming salesman type) managed to sweet talk his way to getting us upgraded to an oceanfront room! The actual room was exactly the same as a regular room but included premium silver wristbands for me and him and internet. The premium wristbands allowed us to use the Club Premium room. It has snacks, computers, TV with a lounge area, and an area where you can mix your own drinks. We largely did not care about any of this. The part that was CLUTCH was that it included a special concierge. The concierge in the lobby always has a line and that line moves slowly. There was usually no wait for the Club Premium concierge â€“ and we that service a lot! We dropped off our welcome bags there for delivery, made reservations for all the restaurants, pre-ordered room service for the wedding day, and borrowed random things (e.g. glue stick) from there. We were there so often they knew our room number by heart. It would have been awful to have to deal with the line for the regular concierge so often!
The room was pretty luxurious. The mini bar is stocked with Modelo, various pop, and bottled water. Aspirin, alka-seltzer, shower caps, shoe shine sponges, combs, toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, sewing kits, vanity sets, soap, body wash, shampoo (which sucks), and conditioner was all available in the room. Everything was replenished daily. FYI for welcome bag planning. The internet is not wifi. You need to connect to it with an Ethernet cord. Luckily I brought mine J
The view from the room was gorgeous.
We ended up requesting that all our guests be put in the Oaxaca building. The hotel is so HUGE it was much more convenient for everyone to be relatively close to each other.
Uh oh! Do we actually have a rehearsal dinner???
Before leaving the lobby after checking in I made some reservations for dinner with the concierge. I had her check to make sure the reservation for our rehearsal dinner was on the books. You can only make a reservation for a large group 25-30 people at the French Restaurant or the Brazilian restaurant. You can only make the reservation 1 week in advance. I called one week prior to our wedding to make this reservation. I was connected to the wedding office and they said that as long as (the non-existent) Karen okays it, the reservation is on the books. And it was. For the wrong night. They had me down for 30 people at the Brazilian restaurant 2 days prior to our wedding. This would not work for us because a large portion of people would not be at the resort yet. My husband and I said decided to let the wedding coordinators worry about this problem at our meeting.
Meeting with Wedding Coordinator
While we were checking in, we talked to the wedding office and found out Karen, our coordinator, did not work for Barcelo anymore. So if you are assigned to Karen as your coordinator currently, you basically have no coordinator FYI. Whoever we spoke to on the phone assured us that everything would work out and that they had all the e-mails we sent to Karen on file. That really meant nothing to us because we sent maybe 3 e-mail messages (multiple times) to Karen while planning the wedding. We basically had given up trying to contact her before the wedding because we would get no response. Now we know why. It was pretty ridiculous of the wedding office to tell us that Karen no longer worked there 3 days before the wedding. They obviously had access to her e-mail and could of sent us a message. Also, we called the office a week before the wedding and the day before we left. When we asked to speak to Karen, you would think they would let us know that she does not exist at Barcelo anymore. Anyways, we were not that concerned that Karen would no longer be our coodinator because we did very little planning with her ahead of time. While on the phone, Gabriela said Lillian (our new coordinator) would meet us the next morning in the lobby at 9:30am to do the planning.
The next morning we met Gabriela and Lillian in the Palace lobby at 9:30am. I told them about the rehearsal dinner and Gabriela went to go deal with it while my husband ran back to the room for our planning folder which we forgot there. By the time he returned Gabriela said we would have back about the rehearsal dinner at the end of our meeting. Next, they took us to go see the Catholic chapel in a golf cart. Afterwards, we went to the wedding office. There we talked about the:
Ceremonyâ€”I emailed â€œKarenâ€ a copy of my program with the message â€œif you
donâ€™t e-mail me back Iâ€™m assuming this is fine.â€ Lilliana had the program on file. I had chosen 2 readings, the gospel reading, written the prayer of the faithful, and chosen all the prayers for the priest from the precana book. I included the unity candle, lazo, and arras. The procession of the wedding party would be to Cannon in D, procession of the Bride and the recessional hymn to the wedding march. This was all fine except the coordinators said I HAD to present flowers to Mary during the ceremony. They said the Father Jorge Casta±eda does weddings all the time and that he would know exactly what to do. They said he would tell us what to do during the ceremony and when to present flowers to Mary. Also, he would not be at the rehearsal. I typed all the readings and prayers at home and gave them to Lillian to copy and provide to the priest. We chose Violin for the music.
Flowers- They had a binder of flowers to choose from but I brought pictures of what I wanted for the bridesmaids and myself. I gave these to Lillian. On the day of the wedding, I was struck by how small the bridesmaids bouquets were. There were maybe only 5 flowers and some greenery in each. My bouquet was big. Both were more or less what I wanted. Aqua ribbon that I gave to Lillian was already wrapped around the bouquets which was awesome.
Meal- We had tomato salad with goat cheese pesto dressing, lobster bisquet, surf and turf (we requested that it be cooked to medium because we were scared it would be overcooked otherwise), luke warm half baked dark chocolate fondant. All were presented beautifully and delicious except for the lobster bisquet. It was salty, tasted fishy, and did not have big lobster chunks like another review said. All the guests said everything was delicious except the lobster bisquet.
seating arrangements- We had 35 guests. The choices for a group this size were round tables of 6 or 8 people. We went with 5 tables of 6 people plus a head table and a dance floor in the middle. This was perfect. The reception looked sizable with this set up. There were maybe 5 or 6 satin ribbon sashes for the chairs to choose from (no additional cost). I know they had aqua because that was our wedding color and they had it J They also had a light blue color and a few others.
Centerpieces- We went with the standard at no additional cost. This was a big melon cut artistically with a lantern in the center. We gave Lillian blue seaglass to put on the table. Unfortunately we did not specify which tables to put it in so it ended up on the cocktail tables and not the reception tables. The head table had a floral centerpiece. With so much natural beauty around us, I donâ€™t think it was necessary to upgrade to floral centerpieces.
Photo and video â€“ we told Lillian and Gabriel that we wanted to opt out of the Kodak photo service and use an off resort photographer and videographer. They told us Kodak would be contacting us and we would go there (downstairs from the Palace lobby) to pay the $300 fee. We provided the names of the photo and video crew (5 people total) so that the coordinators could provide them to security. WE DID NOT HAVE TO BUY DAY PASSES FOR THE PHOTO AND VIDEO CREW. Also, instead of paying for the photo and video crew to eat at the reception ($66 a head) Lillian said she could take them to the Palace buffet for dinner at no cost! This saved us a pretty penny!
Transportation- There is a bus that shuttles people between the Barcelo Maya resorts. It runs every 10 minutes from the early morning to 2am FYI. Lillian said she could have a private bus to shuttle guests to and from the rehearsal for us. Also there was a bus to shuttle guests + groom + groomsmen to the chapel for the ceremony. Me + mom (walked me down the aisle) + flower girls (we had 2 flower girls, no ring bearer) + bridesmaids were driven to the ceremony in a golf cart by Lillian.
Spa services/makeup- Lillian booked me and my hubby for our massage on the beach and my pedicure. I told her I would be giving away the other spa services to other guests and I was able to schedule those myself at a later time. I told her I would be having Jalil, a girl that works with Adrian Guerra do my makeup and hair for the rehearsal dinner and the day of the wedding. I just needed to provide her name so that Lillian could notify security. I did not have to buy her a day pass.
Next Lillian drove us to see cocktail hour and reception locations. We decided on the La Hacienda terrace, which has an awesome view, for the cocktail hour. We chose the Palmaras beach (right in front of the Palmaras Grill) for the reception. It has white sandy beach and palm trees. It is right in between the Palace and the Colonial and it was close to our guestsâ€™ rooms in the Oaxaca building. After our locations were chosen, Lillian drove us back to the lobby where we paid for the wedding. They take credit, travelerâ€™s checks, and cash. The officiant and the mariachi needed to be paid in cash. As we were finishing paying, a third coordinator who was trying to sort out our rehearsal dinner came over and said that she fixed the problem. We had a reservation for 30 people at the Brazilian steakhouse at 6:00pm the night before the wedding. She said we only had the area reserved for 90 minutes though. We needed to be done by 7:30pm.
We included: sunblock, first aid kit, tums, ibuprofen, a list with all the guestsâ€™ room numbers on it (in order to call each other- VERY HELPFUL!), wedding itinerary, door hanger, map of the resort with stickers to designate wedding locations, and a hand written note from me and the hubby. Here are links to the door hanger and room number lists I used:
We got the room numbers from the wedding coordinator during the meeting and filled in the numbers by hand.
These were our first disaster. We dropped them at the concierge and were assured they would get to the rooms when the guests arrived. About 40% of them arrived to the rooms. We ended up having to track down the rest (one was permanently MIA) and distribute them ourselves. The one that was permanently MIA was going to our only guests at the colonial. We were frantically calling their room the night before the wedding trying to reach them to tell them where the wedding was taking place. These guests had already missed the rehearsal/welcome dinner because they didnâ€™t get the information. No bride wants to be doing this the night before her wedding! My advice- deliver the bags yourself even though itâ€™s a pain!
I was running 15 minutes late for the rehearsal at the chapel because of hair and makeup. Lillian couldnâ€™t wait with the private bus so the guests involved in the ceremony and me and the hubby had to just take the regular shuttle. The rehearsal took about a half hour. We practiced walking down the aisle and we had to push Gabriela to go over how the other parts of the ceremony would run. She just kept saying that the priest would tell us what to do.
We arrived to the Brazillian Steakhouse with 95% of our group at 5:58pm. There were two families ahead of us that we waited for to be seated. Our entire group was seated and ready to eat maybe at 6:04. As our group was entering the restaurant the maitre d approached me and reiterated that we need to leave by 7:30pm. We were on time for our reservation so I didnâ€™t understand why he felt he needed to say that. Anyways, the servers were super SLOOOOW. We waited a good 30 minutes for them to get us our drinks and tell us to go to the salad bar. Then they SLLLOOOOWWWLY served all the food. There was entirely too much time between meat portions. At 7:38pm the maitre d came to me and my husband and started YELLING at us in front of our guests!!!! He told us that our guests needed to leave because it was after 7:30. He told us that our group was 25 minutes late arriving for dinner and we needed to leave without desert. When me and my husband (both stunned by this ass***** audacity) tried to let him know that we were completely on time for our reservation and that the reason we were still sitting in his restaurant was because his servers were serving food at a snailâ€™s pace, he walked away from us!!! We immediately got up, chased him down and gave him a piece of our minds about his behavior. We ended up staying for desert regardless of what that guy wanted but never got an apology from him. All I have to say is WOW didnâ€™t expect that to happen! The food was okay, nothing special. The best meat they served was green sausage. I bet the French restaurant would have had better food.
I called laundry service two days before the wedding and two people came to my momâ€™s room to steam my dress the morning of the wedding. We got the groomâ€™s and groomsmenâ€™s clothing pressed.
Hair and Makeup
Adrian Guerraâ€™s girls, Jalil and Bianca, were an hour late the morning of the wedding! Adrian was in Houston so he was not there. Security took them to me and my husbandâ€™s room first even though we were getting ready in my momâ€™s room. Iâ€™m sure that added a few minutes onto the trip to our location, but not an hour. They did a good job with hair and makeup for me, my mom, and the bridesmaids. As soon as they were done it was basically a mad dash to the chapel. The wedding was 30 minutes late because of hair and makeup. After the wedding Adrian e-mailed me to ask me how everything went. I told him what happened and all the problems starting the wedding late caused. Adrian was very professional and apologetic. He said he would personally make sure this never happens to any other bride. Overall, I think what happened in my case was probably a fluke. Everyone else seems to have great reviews of Adrianâ€™s work.
Photo- Claudia Rodriguez
She was great! She came with an assistant. We have not seen our photos yet, but she was very helpful in making sure the wedding ran smoothly throughout the day. For example, she told us when it was time to head over to the reception from the cocktail hour and suggested we make an announcement to the guests. She even got scissors for my husband to cut ribbon so that he could tie a bow on my wedding gift.
Christian Pinto came with 2 other videographers. They were with us for most of the day. I have not seen the video yet but I have no doubt it will be phenomenal given his other work. I was pleasantly surprised by how uncrowned I felt by both Christian and Claudiaâ€™s group. With 5 people total shooting photo and video that day I figured it would feel like my own hired paparazzi. Looking back on the wedding, I donâ€™t even remember them shooting me or getting in the way at all. Working with them felt natural.
Ceremony- A Comedy of Errors
When we got to the chapel one of the coordinators had be and my mom wait by some shops (that surround the chapel) so that we would be hidden while my bridemaids and flower girl moved closer to the chapel. The priest came over and insisted that I go through confession if I was going to receive the Eucharist (keep in mind we were 30 minutes late). Had I know he wanted this I would have done it back home before leaving for Mexico. Then he blessed me and my mom. He went back to the chapel and the ceremony began.
We soon realized that the priest was all about doing his own thing and not so much about doing what we planned for our ceremony. He had our program with him at the alter. He didnâ€™t use the prayers we selected from the precana book but he did read the Gospel passage we selected. He homily was JAW DROPPING. First he insinuated that I was pregnant. When I heard tons of whispers on my side of the church I literally turned around and said â€œNo guys, Iâ€™m not pregnant.â€ Then he kept ranting about how my husband (Lutheran) has a â€œlonger road to heavenâ€ and is â€œbehind me in knowing Jesus.â€ When he started glaring at my husband and saying â€œJesus (pause) died (pause) on the cross (pause) for you and your sins. He suffered and died for youâ€ my huband had enough. He cut off the priest and said â€œIâ€™m Lutheran, not aethiest. I believe in God and Jesus.â€ Thatâ€™s when the priest finally eased up on the trying-to-convert-my-husband-to-Catholicism thing. The homily FINALLY ended (a good 20 minutes long) after my maid of honor looked at her watch, glared at the priest, and looked back at her watch, lol! The priest proceded to screw up our vows (he had us read them from his book, so weird!), screw up the arras (which is so funny because thatâ€™s a Mexican tradition), and skipped the presentation of flowers to Mary (which is so funny because the coordinators told us we had to do this), and skipped the prayer of the faithful. On top of the already perfect ceremony, our unity candle went out even though the two separate candles you light it with stayed lit. It was like he had never performed a marriage ceremony. Then again the coordinators were so confident in his abilities that they insisted he didnâ€™t need to be at the rehearsal.
The chapel was gorgeous and surprisingly private even though there are shops all around it. We didnâ€™t have crowds peaking in and only a couple people walked on the walkway between the alter and the greenery behind it (see photos) during the whole 1 hour ceremony.
We did the Mexican fare ($14 per person INCLUDING alcohol) I didnâ€™t get to try much, but what I did eat was good. We also had the Mariachi for the cocktail hour. I asked Lillian for signiture drinks in our wedding color (aqua) and she pulled through.
OMG! It was GORGEOUS!! I could not believe it was my reception! They wrapped the palm trees with lights and also had two big tall lights so that it was not dark. The sounds of the ocean (and music) were in the background. There was a bartender waiting with a tray of ANOTHER signature drink in aqua for the guests to take as they walked in. The bar was fully stocked. The cake was displayed. It was perfect! It was private too. During the day the palmaras beach is full of people but at night it was empty giving us privacy. I felt bad for people having their ceremony on the palmaras beach during the day because there was no privacy. There was one ceremony at 3pm and there were people laying out in lawn chairs about 20 feet from the ceremony on each side. There were people walking on shore and more people in the water behind the ceremony. I bet those extra faces are not what the bride and groom wanted in their wedding photos!
DJ- Barceloâ€™s DJ
AWESOME!! He played great music all night long! We gave Lillian a play list. Itâ€™s not so much that he played exactly what was on the list, but he had an idea of what types of songs we wanted. He even played a few songs in Polish (my family is Polish)! We didnâ€™t even request it! It was great! My husband loved the songs he played during dinner.
Great! My favorite part was when the head waiter/bartender went around giving everyone shots of tequila from the bottle into their mouths. This really got the party started! Everyone was ready to hit the dance floor after this!
We ordered 2 layers. Strawberry top layer, coconut bottom layer. I think it ended up being all coconut. All I ate of if was what my husband smeared on my face but that little bit was delicious!
Our new wedding coordinator was awesome. She went out of her way to do everything in her power to make our wedding perfect and to make us happy. She took the time to handle all the little details of the wedding and reception that make the day extra special. I really felt like Lillian (and the other coordinators) had our best interest in mind during the planning and the wedding day. These coordinators work really hard and have a tough job!
Sunny, high was in the lower 80â€™s (and pretty humid), low was in the high 60â€™s. Most guests were comfortable in summer dresses during the day and added a cardigan for the reception. I was comfortable all day in my dress. My husband was hot in his suit during the day but they felt comfortable in it at the reception. I remember reading something about it being windy on the beach during January. I even chose a different hairstyle because of this. During our time at Barcelo, it was not windy on the beach by any means. I think itâ€™s because of all the palm trees. There was a little breeze but nothing more than that.
Trash the Dress- Del Sol
What an amazing and super fun experience! We did our trash the dress a few days after the wedding at a cenote. Matt and Sol were very easy to work with and are extremely talented. We have only seen a few pictures that they showed us on their digital cameras during the shoot and those were AMAZING! Swimming in my wedding dress in a beautiful cenote was surreal. Not only will be photos be gorgeous (Iâ€™m sure of it) but the experience is one of me and my husbands favorite wedding memories.
Most of the reviews I read before leaving for my wedding said something like â€œdonâ€™t worry even though you canâ€™t get a hold of your coordinator, everything will turn out perfectly.â€ I guess those ladies were much luckier than me because there were plenty of things that went wrong for my wedding. If I were to give a single piece of advice, it would be to go to Barcelo and be ready to roll with the punches. Even though it is frustrating to plan a once in a lifetime event for over a year and have it not go the way you wanted, you just need to deal with it. Getting upset about it or crying over it will only ruin your own wedding day.
I could not have picked a more perfect resort than Barcelo to bring all my friends and family to. Everyone had a great vacation and a great time at the reception. That is far more important to me than a super perfect ceremony.
I made an album in snapfish with the Strawberry Package menu and other photos that you ladies may find helpful during your planning:
Let me know if it doesnâ€™t work!