Pros: Venue options, catering, flowers, coordinators (when you get the good ones)
Cons: Be wary of the costs associated and not associated (they can be a little misleading), stay on top of the coordinator for what you've requested
Hi everyone! My name is Goldie and my husband and I got married at Barcelo Maya - Palace in May 2016 after what seemed like ages of planning (in reality we started roughly planning Aug - Sept 2015). I wanted to finally sit down and write down all my thoughts and rants to this site as it helped ease the stress of planning a wedding thousands of miles away. As most people have stated here -- don't worry, your wedding will be beautiful and just remember to take it all in :) Overall we loved our experience and the wedding as a whole, but wanted to take the time to list out a few things I wish we were told before/during the planning process.
We had always known we'd wanted to do a destination wedding in the Riviera Maya area and had attended a wedding at Palace Resorts in Cancun. As my husband is Hindu and I'm Catholic we wanted to ensure whichever location we chose could handle a dual ceremony. We finally picked Barcelo compared to other resorts (and it's an exhaustive list -- they're so many!) as they had listed extensive experience with South Asian weddings, the price per guest for an all-inclusive was less than what we had spent to stay at Palace Resorts, and the beaches at Barcelo were absolutely beautiful (you can snorkel from the beach itself).
Total Guests: 80
Ceremony /Reception Locations within the resort (reserve these fast as Barcelo does several weddings especially during peak season and they can do as many as 7 weddings a day):
Hindu Ceremony - Palace Gazebo (I'd highly recommend using this location -- it's beautiful and simple and has an incredible view. We used the basic decorations covered in our package and didn't need much else because of the ambiance) (** Make sure to ask about AV options, we made sure the resort provided MICS and stereo's for music to be played and for the priest to be heard -- free of charge by the resort)
Rehearsal Dinner - It was next to the Mirador buffet -- sorry I don't remember the name it was supposed to be Mirador they had originally told me and I confirmed with them THREE TIMES that it was free for us however when we did our walk-through with our wedding coordinator 3 days prior to the wedding she then informed us that since not all of our guests were staying at the Palace Resort (they were staying at 1 of the other 6 resorts on the premises) they would have to charge 10$ a head, which we thought was ridiculous since it was not mentioned in any calls or emails so we pitched a fit and they let us use a restaurant adjacent for free as originally told in our emails(like I said be diligent!)
Catholic Ceremony - Guadalupe Chapel (it's the only option if you do a Catholic ceremony). Again it's simple but beautiful. Some brides may opt to get flowers and ornate decorations, but we let it be simple and just put fake rose petals at the floor, there was something beautiful of the simplicity of it all. Heads up it is coverred but outdoors (no air conditioning) and if you're getting married in the summer (May - Aug) be prepared to sweat! I prepared my entire bridal party and guests to dress comfortably. The priest who performed our wedding was great - spoke fluent english and had just a beautiful homily that we still remember fondly. I will say they are pretty strict and by the books so the music has to be approved by the church's parish and don't do the sand/candle lighting ceremony if that's something you're keen on. Ceremony was a little over an hour.
Cocktail Hours & Reception - Coco's Pool (it's near the Palace Resort) in my opinion it was kind of the perfect option for us. The packages offered by the resort do offer a free reception in the banquet halls but as my husband says, why go to Mexico to get married if we're going to be inside. Plus we had minimal decorations picked out (just a few lights and signs) because it was so beautiful outside. We also didn't want to be right on the beach because we weren't sure all of our guests wanted to walk/dance in the sand and we didn't really want to spend money on their dance floor because it's frankly a little overpriced and with our high guest list we knew more people would be dancing than could fit on that thing. One caveat to know about this location is that it's not entirely private. It's squeezed in by the pools but no one crashed our wedding and to be honest it was kind of funny getting dipped by husband on our first dance and seeing families clap for us during our dances. We didn't really hear anyone and we didn't notice, but to some they may want a more inclusive environment
Things to note/Recommendations/Tips:
ASK TONS OF QUESTIONS AND KEEP ASKING. Our first wedding coordinator was not responsive at all. I won't list her name because maybe she's been removed or was having an off-moment, not sure. At one point she took 6 weeks to respond to an e-mail. We were understanding but it hit a point where We spent 3-4 months and finally threatened to cancel our wedding altogether as we found out she had not done anything in that time span. The second coordinator was a lot more responsive and even scheduled a few calls with us, but even so we had to be very diligent with them and save all our conversations. I am also aware that the coordinators are stressed and probably not paid enough for their services but if we had not been as careful, I did feel like they would have tried to take advantage of us.
They do have an outside vendor fee (which is the growing trend in most resorts these days) --that being said don't let that deter you as our photographer, videographer, and DJ packages we had selected were way worth the extra $$ and I think they actually came out to be much cheaper than what the resort offers. If you do have outside vendors, I'd highly recommend asking them to come in and meet with you and your Barcelo coordinator in your official walk-through. For us, it was nice to have everyone meet, they knew exactly where to go and where to set up for the wedding so no need to worry about being late on the day of the ceremony, and I was able to walk through our schedule and particular nuances/ details with them. (it also should be free with the outside vendor fee)
If I had to do it again, I would have never wasted time and money on the blocked rooms. It took us over 3 months in conversations (calls, repeated e-mails, lots and lots of frustration) and when we finally got the block, we realized that it really wasn't worth it as we didn't get much incentive and MyBarcelo offers so many deals throughout the year that some of our guests ended up spending more on our block rate than what was offered. If you talk to their sales rep, they'll say it depends on the market and how far booked it is, but honestly if you get your family and friends just to book in one of the 6 resorts and sign up for MyBarcelo, that may be better for you.
Look at all the documents/bills they send you very carefully. Unfortunately I ended up losing a lot of respect for the billing/accounting (not so much the Wedding dept) as they attempted to sometimes charge us double for things and then tell us it works out to be the same when you convert it to USD (not true by the way). We had originally paid our amount due with the resort coordinator when we did the official walk-through and then when we tried to check out they wouldn't let us leave as they claimed we hadn't paid. It was very stressful and it may be because their wedding department and billing department don't talk to each other as often but it was definitely shady. I'm glad I had my husband there to figure everything out or they literally would have made us pay TWICE for our wedding. For their sake, hoping that's not the norm of most experiences
Vendors we highly recommend:
Alejandra Carillo -
she's one of the best if you get her - she worked tirelessly and we brought our own decorations and she set it up exactly as we wanted her to
Latin Asia Wedding Décor
They're an in house vendor (so no vendor fee!) and they have some pretty good selections if you want that extra touch. We only used them for tree lights/lanterns and a lit up sign "LOVE" that was on our table. They did an awesome job with flowers - I just showed them sample pictures and they sent me back estimates with what flowers they could provide and even provided vases so we could reuse them as centerpieces for the reception
They're pricey but SO SO WORTH IT. They made us look and feel great and they're use to handling any size (we had 14-16 women getting ready and they were very accommodating and the makeup/hair lasted the entire night through sweat and all)
Sam's and his team are great! I will say some of his pictures came out a little cheesy but for his price we loved it
Matias is one of the kindest vendors we've had the opportunity to work with and so willing to work with us even after we paid and received our initial draft. He took all of our suggestions and made a video that still makes us tear up every time we see it. His
IVAN is awesome! His music database is extensive and we sent him a prepared list, let him know to allow for music requests throughout, and also had him play our first dance mix and it all went perfectly. His rate is very affordable and he even surprised us with balloons and light up things for the guests - it was felt like a rave haha but everyone loved it!
Hope this helps any future barcelo brides -- good luck and be well!