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lhills

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About lhills

Profile Information

  • Location
    Calgary, AB

Wedding Information

  • Wedding Date
    May 09, 2014
  • Wedding Location
    Riviera Maya, MX
  1. Pics have been sent! I think you could fit 100 up there for dinner, but I'm not sure about room for dancing. If it helps any, the Sky Deck is located directly about the night club, literally down one flight of stairs and you're there. I wish I'd thought of this at the time, four hours wasn't enough time, we were just getting started when they kicked us out!
  2. Now we get into the good stuff... I'd like to go through everything we did for our guests, including the ceremony and reception. My family only stayed for four days, so we jammed everything wedding related into those four days. INVITATIONS Just a quick photo to give you a feel for our personalities and style... We wanted everyone to know from the start that this was not your everyday wedding! They were sent in a black linen envelope, I hand wrote the addresses with a white fine tip felt pen and used superman stamps to mail them... A detail that many of our guests loved! WELCOME BAGS This was seriously the most fun, and most out of control part of our entire wedding! It started small, hubby agreed that we should have a little something to give our guests, we set our budget at $500 but quickly doubled that number. Here is a list & some photos of everything we included: Bags from Vistaprint w/ "Best Day Ever!" logo Welcome Letter & Resort Map (I can get more specific if anyone is interested in sample wording) Mini Don Julio w/ Tag (I ordered the tags from etsy and we bought the Don Julio bottles in Playa, I think they were around $4.00US, this was the only thing I wasn't able to barter on, prices were pretty much the same everywhere) Lucha Libre Masks (Also bought these in Playa for around $15.00US each, I was pretty choked when I discovered after the fact that the beach vendor had the for less. Guests had a ton of fun with these and everyone's mask was unique!) Tumblers w/ "Best Day Ever!" sticker and insert Keycard Holder & Lanyard w/ Insert (this was a last minute add, probably the most frequently used item!) Spanish Phrases for Dummies Recovery Kit Bags (including antacid, motrin, aleve, triple antibiotic, immodium, alcohol pads, shout wipes and band-aids... We chose fun band-aids... Muppets, superman, spider man, hockey canada, etc., they kind of went along with the superman stamps we used to mail our invitations, lo!) Bernard Callebaut Sea Salt Habanero Chocolate Bars (our fav treat!) Hand Sani Aloe Gel Sunblock Puzzle Books Lip Balm Playing Cards (we ordered from Bicycle, they have really cool cards, and selected each style for each guest) We also did separate bags for the kids which included things like sand toys, squirt guns, children's books, kid friendly water bottles, etc. I hand delivered each bag upon guest arrival, it was a great opportunity for us to greet them and ensure they had everything they needed! I had so much fun putting the bags together, it was seriously one of my favourite parts of the entire planning process! *** I must admit, I'm really enjoying this trip down memory lane. It's nice to put it all together with words, I feel like once I'm done with this I can finally put everything away and maybe throw out a ton of stuff (ie. paperwork, etc) that I've been hanging on to for no apparent reason! I'll carry on with the on-site wedding planning next...
  3. @@Vickiw89 the lighting shown in the photos is standard. It's really bright during the day, everything is white up there. PM me your email and I'll send more photos of how it looks at night, if you'd like to see more.
  4. Ladies, I'm so sorry for the silence! I know it's hard to get any info from past brides... Once the wedding is over, the forum stops being a necessity and you don't think to log in so often. I really do want to complete my review, so here we go... THE ARRIVAL I was really nervous about this resort. I grew up in Southern California (living in Canada now) and my family doesn't understand the whole concept of a destination wedding. As a matter of fact, it blew their minds that one would want to go to Mexico to get married. I had heard that the road leading up to the resort was a bit sketchy and that the entrance wasn't very grand. It's true, kind of, that the road into the resort is not the greatest. Did I feel like my life was in danger and that we could get car jacked at any moment? No! It's what you would expect in Mexico, pretty average really. I think those comments had come from folks who'd only stayed at places where you enter the resort directly from the highway. The entrance and lobby of the hotel is nice, understated perhaps, but very nice. From the moment you step off your shuttle, you'll notice that the staff are ON IT! I didn't carry a single bag, they shuffled us right inside, offered us champagne, cool wet towels and a comfy place to sit for a short wait to check in. Check in was smooth and seamless, they did ask for a deposit for any incidentals (although I can't remember how much... $500? $1,000??). This concerned me given that I knew a few of our guests may not have the cash for this kind of thing as they had already stretched their budgets to get there. I was told it wasn't an issue, our guests could simply decline to pay the deposit, and that was the case. I passed the message along to a few that I thought might have trouble and there were no issues that I was aware of. THE STAFF & GROUNDS Oh man... Where do I even begin? Everything was so well kept!! Nothing is perfect, but this place was pretty close, in my eyes! The pools were always clean, not a spec of garbage on the ground and everything was simply beautiful! The staff... Oh, the amazing staff!!! They are so friendly and genuine!! They remember your name, your preferences, your favorite drinks, everything! At first I thought maybe I was getting special treatment because we were the bride and groom, but all of our guests had the same level of service. Even my Dad, who was the hardest to win over and originally refused to come because we were going to Mexico, was completely blown away by this place. I didn't always have cash on hand to tip, and I always got the same treatment from those I hadn't tipped previously. Several times, I went out of my way to go back and leave a tip because the service was just that good. (Hahaha, hubby just looked over at me from the couch and said "what are you so happy about, typing away over there with a big grin on your face?" LOL! See, this place is still making me grin ear to ear 5 months later! GAWD, I wanna go back SO BAD!) The beach was beautiful, clean white sand right at the resort but a little more rocky in other places. There were also vendors on the beach, I went back several times and had a blast bartering, got a cool bracelet and a hat! THE ROOMS Oh my goodness, THE ROOMS! We had guests staying in a variety of room categories, even the deluxe rooms (lowest category) were so nice! I think the only complaint I got was from my Mom, and it wasn't really a complaint, but she said there wasn't much privacy (she was traveling with a friend) for someone using the bathroom (lol) because of the way the rooms were laid out. The pool view rooms were great, we partied pretty hard and pretty late one night at a friend's room on his patio which was just steps to the pool. They tried to boot us out of the pool at around 10pm, I rebelled and yelled "I'M THE BRIDE!!" while cannon balling into the pool in my clothes, lol! They didn't give us much trouble and we did stay out of the pool after that. Sorry, I just got sidetracked... Where was I? The rooms, right... I was just getting to the good part... Our room! We went with the one bedroom suite with the rooftop patio. OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! I tried to take photos, but couldn't possibly capture how breathtaking it was! The patio was huge, there was a ton of seating, a couple of lounge chairs, a cabana, and a patio table/chairs. There was also a pergula, 1/2 bath, plunge pool (for lack of a better term, more like a giant bath tub... No heating or jets, just a place to soak), and an outside shower. We made good use of this after our reception ended, a lot of our younger guests (and my father-in-law, lol) came back to carry on with the party. We were very up front with them and used the code word "Banana" so they all knew when it was time to leave. Worked like a charm, the moment I felt like I was done for the night, I started yelling "BANANA, BANANA, BANANA..." I got a few echo's of that and they all started making their way out, lol. There I go getting sidetracked again! Our room was exceptional! It did have a kitchen and housekeeping made up the couch into a bed for my daughter. I think the couch was like a sectional? There was still seating once the bed was made up. There were balconies off the dining area and the bedroom. The bed was pretty comfortable, something I was really worried about, and I found there was plenty of storage for clothes, etc. The lighting in the bathroom wasn't great, but that only concerned me on the day of the wedding. I simply opened the curtains in the bedroom to let in the natural light and made do. One small issue we noticed was that several of our guests, including us, had issues with the air conditioning. One call to the front desk and maintenance was there right away to fix the problem. Here are a few photos I took of the rooftop patio: Such a crappy photos, lol! We kinda trashed the place on our wedding night, sorry for the mess, but this gives you a better idea as to how much room is actually up there: Here's a couple looking out from our patio: THE FOOD I think I gained 10 lbs in 8 days... Need I say more? Seriously, the food was excellent! I think I mentioned previously that we'd stayed at Moon Palace and quickly grew sick and tired of the food, we felt like wherever we ate, we were eating leftovers from the buffet. This was NOT the case at Azul Fives. I'll start with the room service, because we ordered so frequently from the room service menu. It was a shock to come home and realize that we actually had to make our own food, lol! But really, the room service menu might be a bit basic and the portions are kind of small, but there were definitely some gems to be found there. My personal fav, the shrimp quesadillas! NOM NOM!! The buffet at Flavours was great, so much variety! I also loved the Lizards Lounge, it was our favourite place to stop for lunch. The nachos were so good that they were mentioned on our thank you's, which I'll get to later. Any complaints you may have seen online about the food must have come from the most upper of class families. I think the only meal I had the entire week that I didn't love, was the pad thai from Tsuki... Very salty, good thing the sushi, and absolutely everything else we ordered that evening, made up for it. Sadly, we didn't get to try Arezzo, but I hear it was equally as good as the others. *** Ok, before I sign off for the evening, here are a few more random photos of the resort for those who might like to see what it looks like from a guest's perspective. Cabanas on the beach: Wildlife: The pier, so beautiful! Nightly entertainment: Staff on our wedding day: From the pier, looking in: Archery lessons: Giant games: My munchkin "sea shellin'", the beaches were clean and sandy right off the resort, but rocky and full of life within short walking distance: Good night!
  5. I've been a bad bride... Had my wedding, started a review and f***ed right off, sorry guys!! @@kriziac, our reception on the sky deck was simply amazing, 5 months later we're all still talking about how fantastic this resort was! Here's a photo of how our reception was set up. Yes, it was windy, but the staff were really good about making sure everything was secure (ie. rocks inside my centerpieces, etc) This one shows what would be behind the tables in the previous photo, we had 30 guests and there was still plenty of room for dancing/mingling. You can see the bar in the background too. And yes, we were having a freaking blast dancing our pants off, lol! Here's one more which gives you a bit more of an idea as to the size of the space. The resort provided us with a Salsa instructor (lots of fun, but very basic) and we had plenty of room for all of us to participate. Hope this helps! I'm off to work on more of my review, hope to get most of it done this weekend, it's been a nagging thought in the back of my mind for months now!
  6. @@Lilgabri03 I think I've sent you everything requested so far.... Let me know if you're missing something. @@BDABeachBum, yes, I'll send the pics right away! I think the alternative location for rain is either the Oreolas restaurant, which is on the main floor and is open to the beach, it's basically a giant covered patio. Or the Zky bar, which I think has an outdoor covered patio (can't remember.... I was highly intoxicated every time I went there, lol) and is on the second level. Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk They've got pretty much anything you want. They charge extra for really high end premium stuff, but you can get Malibu rum, grey goose, Don Julio, etc. At no extra charge if you ask for it. Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  7. To each her own, I guess.... I wouldn't be offended at all. We had several guests at our wedding who asked to bring friends and I had no issues with it. We welcomed them with open arms and they felt like part of the family by the end of the trip! Why stress about the little things? I just wanted my guests to have fun, so if they needed a travel partner then so be it! That being said, I can't imagine this group of friends from the original post assume that they're invited to the wedding events. Might be a good idea to chat it out with your friend before you lose your mind over something you heard word of mouth. Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  8. @@acw271011, lol, not to worry, there is definitely more where that came from! Thanks for following along, I'll try to get another post in tonight. Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  9. Planning a wedding at Azul Fives was a bit of an adventure. There isn't much out there in terms of resort reviews on this site, I'd never visited this resort, and as we all know, the Karisma off site planners are insanely overworked and don't offer the attention that the majority of brides expect.That being said, all my fears, worries, anxiety, and night terrors (haha, just kidding... kind of) were laid to rest from the moment we arrived on site. HISTORY Where's that rewind button... I'm feeling the need to provide some background. I met my soul mate back in 2009 at a Fly Fishing Expo, I don't believe in love at first sight, but "lust at first sight"... it's a real thing, and he looked like trouble! I assumed he wouldn't give me the time of day, but my instincts are almost never right, I was shocked when he seemed interested and even more shocked when I discovered he was a pretty nice guy. We started as friends and quickly discovered that we had a lot in common. I won't go into all the details, but things were rocky at first. Not because we didn't get along, but he was right out of a very long term relationship and my head was not in the right place at the time. It was almost a year before we figured it all out, haven't looked back since! I've always been anti-marriage, I hated the thought of being the centre of attention and couldn't understand why people spend so much money on just one day and a piece of paper. About 3 years into our relationship, I was going off on one of my anti-marriage rants for one reason or another when this amazing man, that I still can't believe is my husband now, looks at me and calmly and says with a little smirk "You know it's coming, so just deal with it..." What's a girl to do? Two years later, we're drifting out on a lake in our boat, my daughter (from a previous relationship) in the front, hubs in the middle on the oars, and me in the back. It starts to rain and he asks me to pull his coat out from under my seat. I threw it over his shoulders but he handed it back to me and said "No, there's a box in the pocket, can you pull it out?". I knew what it was before I even pulled the box out of the pocket. Here's a pic we took of ourselves after we got back to shore, haha, my little Gracie in that life jacket cracks me up every time! CHOOSING THE LOCATION It didn't take long to agree that a destination wedding was the way to go. We both have family scattered across the US and Canada, so it seemed logical to inconvenience everyone and make them all travel. Why not let them have a vacation while they're at it? I chose the general area based on flight costs, and more importantly, where the best fishing could be found! Playa del Carmen is 2.5 hours north of some of the world's best flats fishing, we definitely took advantage of this. After I'd narrowed down the geographical area, I set out to choose a resort. This was hard for me.... Several years ago we had stayed at Moon Palace near Cancun. This was my one and only all inclusive experience, I don't remember the nice rooms, or how the staff treated us, all I remember is that the food was pretty awful... and I love food. I chose the Karisma chain because they're known for having great food (which they do) and they would provide a donkey with barrels of beer on it's back at your cocktail party (which they don't, this crushed me when I found out a couple of months before the wedding). I ended up choosing Azul Fives because they were the cheapest of the Karisma hotels. WEDDING CONTRACT & BLOCKING ROOMS I wanted to keep things small and didn't think I'd do much in terms of planning, but things escalated quickly and the whole planning process got right out of control! It's true, Lomas Travel will nickle and dime you until you bleed out of your eyes, their pricing is obscene. I negotiate for a living, it's what I do... There is no negotiating with these people, believe me, I tried. The only concession I was able to get in our contract was on the outside vendor fee. They refused to knock anything off of the $800 outside vendor fee, but I did get them to agree that if my outside vendor was a guest of the hotel for two, rather than three, nights, that the fee would be waived. In the end it didn't matter, I invited my very talented cousin to the wedding and offered to pay for his trip if he'd take our photos, he stayed for five nights. I shopped around on rates quite a bit. I contacted the hotel directly, they didn't offer much by way of incentive. They offered their "discounted rate", which was the same as what you could book online for at the time, and althought their website was advertising 1 room free for every 6 booked, they offered me 1 room free for every 10 booked. Luckily I had saved the flyer, they had changed this promotion on their site within a day or two of my inquiry, I was able to get them to agree to the original offer. I also contacted a couple travel agents, only one responded, she was able to get cheaper rates for our guests (deluxe rooms were around $160/night/person based on double occupancy and kids were free). Although it would have saved us money to book through the hotel, we ended up booking through Pam at Tier One Travel in order to save our guests money. Pam was fantastic! PLANNING Once our contract was signed, I was handed off to our coordinator and was provided with an online booking system where I assumed I was to make all of our selections (no direction was provided, I was just sent a link with login info). Several months later, the login stopped working and I was told that I had to make all selections through our coordinator. I noted that a few other brides had a similar experience. I think we're all aware that Karisma's off site coordinators are brutal... But I'd like to take a moment to stick up for them! A few days before we left for our wedding, I had a very frank conversation with my coordinator who explained that she was currently working on 151 weddings, 20 of which were in May! Karisma is seriously hurting their reputation by overworking their staff, I know my coordinator had the right skills to do her job, but with that much on her plate, how could she possibly give me the attention I needed? Please, ladies, don't take your frustrations out on these coordinators, they're doing the best they can with what they've got. When all was said and done, everything turned out just fine. The on site coordinators are great and you will have the opportunity to run through all the details once you arrive. ... It's late and I have to work in the morning... to be continued.........
  10. I just went back through all the photos our guests posted on wedpics (which is a great app, by the way), I found a couple that might help those who are looking for photos of the garden and pool area! I'll send them via email to @@TinkerSofi, @@Lilgabri03 and @cgcabazas. Heads up, the garden area offers very little privacy... It's located right along the only walkway that connects the hotel rooms and the restaurants, main pool and beach. Here is an overhead shot of the pool with the edge of the garden off to the right: This one shows the garden in the background, that white structure you see is the gazebo. For perspective, you can see this cabana in the first pic, it's at the far end of the pool on the right side of the photo (the one closest to the fence) I know they're not the greatest shots, but I hope it helps!
  11. @@Lilgabri03, no problem, will send them tonight! It was quite windy, but the staff were kind enough to make sure everythijgnwas secure (ie. They put rocks in my mason jar pieces, made sure my Wed libs didn't blow away, etc). Ok ladies, I'm working on a full review, will try to get it done tonight! Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  12. @, here are our ceremony and reception photos. Both were amazing, but the sky deck was a bit windy. This didn't bother me much, but I can see how some might be annoyed by it. Still working on a complete review with more photos, will post soon. Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  13. Ladies, this resort is fantastic! I will post a complete review when we return, but just wanted to pipe in and say that there is no need for stress. Our day (and our entire stay so far) was absolutely perfect, I haven't had a single complaint since we arrived! Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  14. Congrats @@mrsrobertkarlik! I'm happy to hear they took good care of you once you were on site! We leave for Mexico tomorrow, planning was a bit stressful for me as well. I did find out from my coordinator that she is currently working on over 150 weddings and at least 20 of them are in May. It's no wonder they're so slow to get back, I can't imagine the workload! I hope Karisma will smarten up and do something about this issue, they're only hurting their business by overloading their coordinators. Anyway, I'm so happy to hear you had a great time, and congrats again on your wedding! Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
  15. Keep at it, you'll find the one! Sent from my HTC One using Tapatalk
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