bestdestinationweddings.com helped my husband and I so much much when planning our wedding, so I've decided to pay it forward by posting a review of the Royalton Punta Cana where we had our AMAZING wedding. Permit me to start by saying that the wedding was a dream come true and that we could not have chosen a more perfect resort! There are only two complaints we had (planning before arrival and the onsite photographers Photoshop Caribe).
I'll start with the good stuff though!
Claribel and Yeisy:
These two wonderful women are the onsite wedding planners and I cannot say enough great things about them! They are simply spectacular. They took care of everything, took away all my stress and confusion, organised things I hadn't even thought to plan, decorated beautifully, dealt with any hiccough that arose, and they did it all with smiles on their faces. I couldn't believe how easy everything was because they were so good at their jobs. I met with them the day after I arrived at the resort and they walked through the entire invoice of what I'd paid for, confirmed everything that I wanted, took my decorations and listened to how I wanted them used, gave me options when they saw I was unhappy with something I'd set up, and made suggestions for changes when they realized that I'd planned for something that would not work out as I'd wanted it. Claribel took me to all the ceremony venues and helped my husband and I to decide on all outstanding details. I could call them day or night with questions or concerns and they addressed them immediately. Honestly, could not have asked for anything more of these unbelievable women!
This was a lovely dinner the night before at the Hunter Terrace and the staff and food was phenomenal. We had our own private area on the outdoor terrace and were able to chat about plans for the following day without interruptions. Claribel offered to also walk us through our wedding with the guests, but we did not feel this was necessary so did not do it. Claribel is so organized that we knew we could count on her to get everything happening the way we needed it to on the day of without a run through. Part way through the dessert course we were lucky enough to have some of the staff come in and do a surprise African music performance! UNBELIEVABLE! Really made our night as my family's background is Zimbabwean, so it was very special.
I only had manicures, pedicures, and hair done at the spa for the wedding (and massages afterward), but it was all amazing. Very talented staff that listened to what I wanted and made it happen. I also had a wonderful surprise when the manager of the spa told me that there was a prep room set aside for myself and my bridesmaids on the day of the wedding for us to get ready! This was AMAZING! It made the whole process so much easier, and allowed my husband and his groomsmen to use our Presidential Suite with a sofa to prepare. It was unexpected and unasked for, but so very much appreciated!
We were the first couple to get married in the EcoSpa garden between the Royalton and Memories Splash (photos on the Royalton Facebook page). It is the only completely private venue, which was very important to my husband and I. It was an absolutely beautiful venue, with a straw thatch roofed building for us to enter through, bathrooms so we didn't have to go off site, an area for the bar, and open stone terrace area for the guest seats and a beautiful gazebo with flowers and bushes and trees for the ceremony itself. The whole area was surrounded by palms and other trees so that no one could look in on us. Truly gorgeous. We also had our cocktail hour with drinks and snacks here after the ceremony for our guests while we took photos with the wedding party on the beach. All of our guests said they loved the location and were glad we'd opted for this rather than the beach (which is quite open and allows for a lot of gawkers). Claribel administered the symbolic ceremony in English for us and it was very well done.
Dinner and reception:
We were originally going to do a semi-private dinner at Opa! and then move to a beach party reception, but were very lucky that Claribel set up a private dinner/reception combo on the central over-tent area between the two main pools on the resort. She did this because she realized that I was not happy with the idea of moving and really wanted a private venue. At the end of the day I think it was mutually beneficial, as I got the private venue I'd really wanted and the Royalton staff didn't have to set up and serve two different locations when one would do! I cannot express how much my husband and I appreciated this and it really did make our wedding much, much better. We arrived to the location and the DJ played the songs to announce us. This was great as we would not have been allowed to do this at the restaurant. Once we were all sitting, dinner from Opa! restaurant was promptly served (Delicious, btw! All the guests were very impressed with the food and service). We did speeches in between courses, so it wasn't too much all at once, and guests were able to get up and dance to the DJ's music throughout the dinner. Again, this would not have been possible had we still done the venue switch as we'd planned, and I know the guests really appreciated this option, so I'm very glad that Claribel accommodated us. After dinner we were able to do our first dance, and get everyone else up dancing with us, right beside the dinner tables. Lots of space, but great to be in the same spot as we were able to sit back down for cake, rather than having it served right after dessert when everyone was full. We'd highly recommend this location for dinner and reception! And the staff that served us were simply superb!
We were really impressed with our DJ. He did a great job of mixing songs and hit all of our cues. This was all the more impressive as he did not have our song list ahead of time (see point 3 of "planning before arrival"). He did a great job of making sure everything flowed well and played a great mix of slow and upbeat songs. Would definitely recommend the DJ!
We opted to go with Photo Souvenir, and are SO happy that we did. We have yet to get the photos back (counting down the days), but Severine was just so professional and personable that we felt immediately comfortable with her. Photo Souvenir worked within our budget and really went out of their way to calm all of our worries leading up to the big day. On the day of, Severine came an hour early to make sure she found all the best spots for photography, to introduce herself and to get acquainted with us and our wedding party. She was very unobtrusive and made sure to ask if we wanted any particular shots. She was very creative and we have an idea of what to look forward to by looking at friends photos that they snapped behind Severine while she worked! She even stayed a little longer than she was contracted for as she realized that we'd been set back by the music glitch earlier in the night (again, point 3 of "planning before arrival"). We will post a photo or two once we get them and confirm what we are fully expecting to be outstanding photos!
Our only setback here was the price set by the Royalton. When we said we wanted outside photographers, we were told we'd have to pay an outside vendors fee. Fine. But then we were told the cost: $800 SERIOUSLY?! We had Laura touch base with her manager on this one and they brought it down to $450. Still very steep we thought, but we paid it because we didn't have confidence in the onsite photography team, given reviews we'd read and their online profile. We were very happy with our decision to go with Photo Souvenir despite this extra fee from the Royalton.
and now onto the bad...
Planning before arrival:
The Royalton Punta Cana Resort and Casino requires that you do all of your planning prior to arriving in Punta Cana with their Canadian coordinator, Laura, and so this is the person we dealt with before the wedding. For the most part this was not a bad experience. Laura forwarded me information when it became available (we booked before the resort opened, so not all of their literature was ready yet), drew up a very concise invoice once I told her everything I wanted, helped me make payments in a way that worked for my husband, and consulted with her manager for us when we were not happy with charges or had questions. I am sure that she did the best she could for never having met my husband and I in person, and for being an off-site coordinator which I imagine is quite difficult. However, I did have a few problems that should be mentioned:
Laura took quite a while to respond to emails on several occasions. I'm sure she had a number of brides to look after, but over a week for a reply is a bit much. I had to ask a few questions several times before I would get an answer. Sometimes I think this was because the information wasn't available (being a new resort), but many times it felt like she had forgotten I was waiting on information. And I never ended up getting the list of alcohol available for purchase through the resort as I'd asked, as we'd wanted to send champagne to the best main and maid of honour. And this final one is my biggest concern and upset me quite a bit on my wedding day. Laura had sent me a sheet to fill out with the songs I wanted for the DJ (first dance, entry songs, playlist, etc), and had told me I needed to email it back at least 3weeks before the wedding so the DJ could get familiar with it. She said that he would have all of the songs before I came, but that some of the important ones I might also want on my iPod. I completed the list, sent it to her and thought nothing more of it... until the day of the ceremony when Claribel came to me and said "what song is your wedding party coming in to?". My heart dropped. Claribel had taken my iPod and I'd told her all the songs were on there... but I found out that Laura had never sent the list to the DJ or Claribel, so they had no idea what to play or when! I spent 15 minutes looking on the Claribel's phone looking for the email with the song list that I could not remember in the moment, and then another 20minutes at the head table doing the same thing! Our groomsmen didn't come in to the right song because I eventually said let the DJ pick something because we were holding up everyone from eating dinner! I was SO disappointed and felt this was quite an oversight since I had to do planning during the wedding that I'd already painstakingly done weeks before!
I have read that you can ask to work directly with Claribel, instead of working with Laura, and I would recommend this, not because Laura is bad at her job, but simply because she is the 'middle-man' and it is just one extra step that causes confusion. Also, with her not being on site, it means she doesn't see the day to day functioning of the resort which is really important to planning a wedding there.
Photoshop Caribe Photography:
Despite getting some nice photos from Rony, the onsite photography company is our only complaint at the resort, and a big one at that. Included in our wedding package was a hour with Photoshop Caribe (the onsite photographers), but they insisted that they take the photos on the day of the wedding, even though we had our own photographer. We argued this, as that was not written anywhere when you had to use this hour of photography (all it said was "1 hour of pictures with our professional onsite photographer - all images taken within the hour provided on a CD for you to share with your friends and family back home"). They ended up agreeing to do photos the day after the wedding as glamour shots. We were happy with this. However, Photoshop Caribe management decided to back out of this and to call us on the morning of our wedding to tell us they would not honour our appointment, and that they would take photos during our wedding or not at all. After telling us we had to come down to the shop (we refused as we were getting ready for our WEDDING, which they knew), and an ensuing argument, the manager told me they would not budge and hung up on me. Needless to say I was very upset. Claribel and Yeisy were spectacular though and managed to arrange everything in the end. Again, we left with quite nice photos, taken on the day and time we'd wanted originally, but management at Photoshop Caribe needs to seriously look at their customer service and make sure they honour what is written into the wedding packages about their services! And they should NEVER call a bride and groom on the day of their wedding to have an argument like this... it's simply a really stupid way of doing business!
Overall, we definitely loved our wedding. The problems that we did have were very small in the grand scheme of things and our wedding guests did not notice anything amiss. I would simply say this as words of advice for future brides at the Royalton:
don't stress: Claribel and Yeisy will take care of everything and it will turn out more beautiful that you could ever have imagined! work directly with Claribel (or at least copy her on ALL emails with important documents attached so that she has everything): this would have saved a lot of time, possibly saved us a fair amount of money, and would have made the whole process a lot easier, Being my first and last wedding, I would have really appreciated Claribel's input from the start, but Laura did not provide any of this. do your research for photographers: we'd highly recommend Photo Souvenir, and were very VERY glad not to have gone with the onsite photography company. tip all of the wedding staff! They work so hard and really do need the monetary recognition of their hard work. Our amazing day would never have been possible without them!
Best wedding ever
the area behind the pool where you see the white tent roof is where the reception dinner was held
Garden Gazebo site (what you would see walking down the aisle)
Garden Gazebo as the groom would see from the front podium
beach for photos... stunning site!
head table for dinner reception
wedding cake provided by the Royalton