By TealMarie, · 1,876 Views · 1 Comment
I thought I would do an extensive review of the resort and wedding amenities, as these ones were the most helpful to us when we were planning our wedding.
Flight: We flew Air Transat and upgraded to ‘Option Plus’ for the extra luggage allowance. It was fun having that upgrade because it came with some others perks like priority check-in, boarding, a comfort kit that included a blanket and neck pillow on the plane, a mini bottle of champagne for each of us, pre-selection of our meals, a few snacks, a few alcoholic drinks. It was great to get all of that stuff as it was a long flight and it really built up the excitement of it being our wedding week because we felt like we were treated so special.
There is no closet for wedding dresses on their planes, but they had one overhead compartment near the front that was reserved for wedding dresses. They were piled on top of one another but my dress was totally fine when I looked at it later in our room.
Check in: The road that leads up to ERC as well as nearby resorts like Dreams was in pretty rough shape. They had a lot of rain before we arrived so the majority of the road was underwater. The pot holes were enormous and a few vehicles were stuck in some as we went by. We travelled that road several times for excursions and never got stuck, the drivers were excellent. This is just more a warning so that you’re not shocked when you travel down it, especially if the first time is at night.
The entrance to the resort feels very grand. We were greeted immediately by the bell boys who whisked our luggage off and handed us cool hand towels after our long journey. When you arrive they greet you with a glass of champagne while you wait to check in, which is such a lovely thought. Check in was smooth and they informed me of our appointment the next morning with Gloria, our wedding coordinator. The bell boy lead us to our room and gave us a mini tour of the resort as we went along, which was really helpful.
Room: We went with the standard room and did not make any specific requests other than to be near our family and friends without being too near them, if you know what I mean. They did this perfectly. Almost everyone in our party were in buildings 6 or 7 but we were still spaced out from everyone, giving us some semblance of privacy which was nice. I know I read a lot on Tripadvisor beforehand about which building to request being in. We liked being in building 6 as it was near(ish) to the action, so we didn’t have to walk too far to the pools, restaurants, etc. This was helpful to us because I felt like we were always forgetting something in our room but didn’t want to miss out on the fun. You would get the same proximity if you stayed in building 7 or 1. The downside would be that you can hear some music from the shows at night but it never bothered us and it doesn’t go very late. Buildings 2, 3, 4 and 5 are near the spa, so it’s more peaceful there.
This is a picture of my Aunt and Uncle's swim-up suite, which looks just the same as ours, except we had a king size bed instead of two queens.
In terms of upgrading to a swim-up suite, I’m glad we didn’t. I knew that we’d want to spend our time with our family and friends, so we were always meeting them by a pool or the beach somewhere. Our swim-up would have gone unused. I could see maybe getting one for the honeymoon portion once everyone else had left, but I’m still glad we didn’t. Someone like my parents or my Grandma would have loved it though, as you don’t have to worry about finding a place to lounge and people would always know where to find you.
The room itself was so lovely and perfect. The shower is a huge walk in shower and there’s a separate toilet room. There’s a huge Jacuzzi tub open to the room and we used it a couple of times, no complaints there! There was so much room to spread out my toiletries over the two sink vanity. The closet space was decent but I wish I had more. I used up all of the closet space and shelves for my clothes. Good thing my husband (yay! So fun to use that now) prefers to leave all of his clothes in his suitcase. We’re so compatible ;) We had a king size bed and it was super comfortable. We also had a balcony with a love seat and a table with just one chair, oddly enough. I have a feeling if we requested another chair they would have brought it but we spent zero time out there. We just used the space to dry our bathing suits. There’s also a little area one step down from the bed with a desk, a love seat and a coffee table. I used the desk all the time for any computer related activities and that area is where I put my dress on in the room and the photographers took pictures.
This shows the jacuzzi tub in the room:
Mini bar: The mini bar was awesome, although it wasn’t restocked everyday. It seemed a bit hit or miss but it wasn’t anything we needed. There are four regular sized liquor bottles for you to use (yes, for free!) and I think they were tequila (Jose), gin (Beefeater), vodka (Smirnoff) and rum (Nicaraguan rum). My Grandma had asked them if they could bring her a bottle of Crown Royal, her fav drink but they said no. I had heard you could switch out liquors but maybe that’s only for the Excellence Club? No matter, it wasn’t a big deal as the bars around the resort had everything you could think of. There’s also a mini fridge full of water bottles, coke, sprite, Fanta (all in glass bottles!!), coronas, coronitas, snickers, M&Ms, oreos and chips (one package of each).
Restaurants: Overall we loved the food and would give it an 8/10. I think my expectations were set so high based on reviews online so it didn’t quite live up to them but it was wonderful. Our favourite restaurants were Basmati, Agave, Barcelona (buffet), Oregano and Chez Isabelle. We actually never ended up having dinner at Toscana or The Grill, which I know sounds crazy for being there for two weeks. It’s because we kept rotating who we had dinner with every night so that we could spend time with everyone. Turns out everyone wants to go to the Lobster House, so we ended up going there 4 or 5 times! We weren’t too impressed with the Lobster house, but I know our family and friends loved it, so maybe it was just us? And yes, you can order multiple lobsters! They will just wait until you have finished your first before they bring the second, and so on.
My husband is a nutritionist and he loved the buffet at Barcelona for all of their options. They have so many healthy (and unhealthy – don’t worry) options, that it’s almost overwhelming. There are two sides to the Barcelona buffet, so when you’re loading up your plate, go through the doors and check out the other room with even more food. I didn’t know this for several days and missed out on waffles for breakfast! For breakfast they will make you a fresh omelette of your choice while you wait or you can also order eggs any style. Also they have liquor set up in the morning and you can make your own bloody mary or mimosa. Guess who had a mimosa everyday with her breakfast? This girl! The buffet is also where we made sure to get our fill of delicious guacamole everyday. It was nice to be able to pop in there, or to the Grill, Lobster house or Oregano for a snack throughout the day.
The restaurants seem to get busy at 7pm, although they open at 5:30pm, so you can have an early dinner with no wait. We would request a table whenever we were all (finally) ready and they give you a buzzer for when it’s ready. We’d just go to the main plaza, get drinks at Café Kafe and they often had a live band out there, which was super entertaining. Trying to get a table for more than 4 or 6 people was often very challenging. There were around 10 of us who often wanted to get together and most of the time they were able to do it but just be aware it will be easier to split into two tables or else you will have a long wait.
They serve crepes between 4-6pm near Café Kafe and they are delicious. Sometimes there was a huge lineup and sometimes no one there at all. We loved having them as a snack before dinner.
Several times per week they will put on a special outdoor buffet theme night with special bands. We had such a good time at the Mexican, Carribean and 1001 Nights. My only disappointment was the Thanksgiving buffet meal they had but this may also be because you get used to your own family Thanksgiving meals.
Bars: There are bars everywhere and the bartenders are awesome and working nonstop. They have some drink menus which helped us discover new ones we’d never tried. Favourites from our group were the Banana Mama, Playa Blanca, Mango Colada, Tequila Sunrise and on and on. From 4-6pm everyday at Café Kafe they have coffee liquer drinks with whipped cream. Try them out! There’s a juice bar around the back part of the lazy river and they will make you delicious, fresh juices, only available at that bar! I think it opens around 10 or 11am.
I wish we'd brought more $1 bills for tips. Tips are not required at all but the staff there is super appreciative for them. We liked to leave tips at the restaurants, for the bartender who’d been serving us for hours or the server by the pool, the bell boys, the maids, etc. Our only problem is we didn't bring enough smaller bills. The mini bar guy seemed to come by around 3pm daily, so if we were there we would tip him and get some extra chips and chocolate bars, lol.
Pools: They have a few different pools to suit different personalities. There’s the lazy river which wraps around the spa, which is the quiet area. There are tons of huts and lounge chairs, pool chairs and beds around here. People in this area are sunbathing, reading, having naps and lazily floating around the river. A lot of the huts would be taken by 9am, but I found there were a lot of them available after lunch. Walk around the river because there were often lots of spaces available towards the back, especially loungers right in the pool. For some reason people ‘save’ the pool floaties here and basically don’t use them the entire day, even though the resort states you can’t do this. This was probably my biggest annoyance while there, but if that’s the worst thing to happen, obviously I had a fabulous vacation! Sometimes I’d just ask people who had four of them piled beside them if we could use a couple for an hour and bring them back. This usually worked.
The swim up pool bar beside the Grill, connects to another pool where they play pool volleyball and have some water fitness classes. This is where the action is and things are more lively. We hung out with our friends here a lot and caused a (good-natured) ruckus. Every afternoon they have something going on beside this pool, whether it’s music trivia, pool volleyball, a live band, poker, etc, etc. It’s tough to get loungers by this pool but we eventually realized we didn’t really need any since we were in the water the entire time. The swim up pool bartender had to work so hard, and he did it with the biggest smile on his face, so make sure to tip him! It seemed like he never got tips because people wouldn’t bring their money in the water with them.
Beach: This was the only complaint by our guests, although they all said it wasn’t a big deal. The water was not the crystal clear, blue, beautiful perfection you may imagine. It was full of seaweed and wasn’t really a joy to swim in. There was also a storm for several days before we arrived, so this may have added to the murkiness. Again, this was not a big deal at all because almost everyone said they wouldn’t have went in very often anyways even if it were clear, just a heads up. They clean up the seaweed every morning with a big tractor, so the beach itself is wonderful. The sand was white and so fine, that it almost felt fake, it was so lovely. There are a lot of huts on the beach, as well as loungers and beds in full sun. While our friends were there for the first week we split our time between the beach and the party pool. During our honeymoon week we spent more time by the lazy river.
Activities: They have a ton of activities for you to do every day and I’m embarrassed to say I did virtually none of them. I will say that it’s because I spent my time visiting and catching up with friends and family. A lot of our guests tried out so many of the activities and loved them, like: yoga, Zumba, beach volleyball, pool volleyball, beach soccer, texas hold em poker, music trivia, dance lessons, Spanish lessons, tennis, etc etc. They give you a sheet every night in your room that says the list of the activities for the next day. There’s also a big list between Café Kafe and the pool that shows the activities for the entire week. Every night they put on a different show at the main stage. We enjoyed so many of these including: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Carribbean, 1001 Nights, Mexican and the fire show.
Wedding coordinator, Gloria: ….is an angel. The smartest, most organized angel you will meet. I was so impressed with her throughout the wedding planning process and throughout our wedding week. She is there to help you and will try to figure out anything she can to make your dream wedding happen. She knew all the details of our wedding without any prompting and even remembered stuff about it that I’d forgotten!! We met with her on Monday morning prior to our Thursday wedding. She had our witnesses and ourselves present our passports for the marriage licence. We had our blood taken for the legal ceremony, which was not a big deal at all. The Doctor who does this is really good so don’t worry. We went over the choices we’d made for the wedding, as well as the invoice. I had her send this to me the month before, so there were no surprises there. On the wedding day, she brought the guys to the ceremony site and then brought myself, my parents and my bridesmaids down. She stayed for the ceremony and then I saw her again at the beginning of the reception.
Ceremony: The ceremony was so so beautiful and we were so happy with how it all went. Ours was at the beach gazebo and I just loved how it looked. We choose no additional decorations, just the white chair covers, the white cloth hanging from the gazebo and the burlap aisle runner with starfish and shells along the side. I didn’t even want flowers on the table because I just thought the view was so breathtaking, who needed it? I was right and we were so happy with the simple elegance of it all. We didn’t meet the officiant until the ceremony. When I got to the front of the aisle we stood there for a few seconds and I was looking around, wondering where our officiant was. It turns out he was standing at the back, beside the videographer. This was so perfect, because it allowed us to look at each other throughout the ceremony and when we did look at the officiant, we were facing our guests. Everyone loved that so much.
The ceremony script was really lovely and we added in our own vows, which people really liked. We laughed, we cried, we smiled so much, it was perfect. There were minor things that did not go according to plan, but they are just minor and I barely even remember them. Gloria informed me it was too windy for the rose petals down the aisle, but I didn’t care. It was included in our package, not something I specifically had thought of that I needed. There was some construction going on at the resort beside the ceremony site. Nothing anyone could do and I noticed it for a few seconds during our vows, but then I just blocked it out. I would say if I could do it again, I would get a DJ, because our poor brother-in-law had to jump up so many times to attend to the ipod for the ceremony music. A bad decision on my part, but not a big deal. As a note, there will be people in swimsuits walking along the beach behind you and the gazebo is next to the excellence club where people are laying out on beds and loungers. I didn’t notice any of this, even when I watched our wedding video. Once I watched the video a few times, then I finally noticed people behind us, including a gawker for a minute or two in his too small trunks, hahaa. People were really respectful though, so it’s nothing to worry about at all.
It is windy by the beach, which is lovely for keeping cool and happily no one overheated. BUT, it wrecks some havoc on your hair, veil and dresses. I had a cathedral veil and it was like a beast that tried to swallow people. We’re definitely of the mind set to laugh everything off, so we had a lot of fun with it. Having one that long was advantageous because as I see in the video it looks like my bridesmaids either tucked it under my dress during the ceremony or put something on it. If you had one that was shorter, it would whip people in the face, so there's another little warning. I loved how it looked blowing in the wind and twisting around, so I don’t regret it.
Hair & Makeup: There were 6 of us who had our hair and makeup done at the spa. A woman (I’m not sure of her name) did my Mom’s and my Grandma’s hair and makeup and she did a great job, they were both very happy and looked beautiful. Elias did the hair and makeup for myself and my three bridesmaids. I’m telling you, this man is a machine! He did all four of us in 3.5 hours! And he spent a lot of time on mine, not because I requested it but I’m sure just because I was the bride so he gave me extra attention. Make sure to bring in photos because he loves using them and he copies them so so well. Everyone was so happy with how their hair looked. My SIL commented that she’s gone to high end salons in Toronto who couldn’t correctly do the style that he did for her. She was so happy and so impressed. The makeup was also awesome. So don’t worry at all, they will do a wonderful job for your wedding. I chose to have my hair down and curled which would be a bad idea for a lot of people but I would do it again because I don’t look good with my hair styled up. My hair was perfectly curled and beautiful for the ceremony but after the ceremony and taking pictures outside, my curls fell out because I have very thin hair that never holds a curl and it was hella windy. I still liked it though because it ended up looking like beachy mermaid waves, so I went with it. Just a tip if you’re on the fence about down or styled up, I’d go styled up.
Flowers: As you can see in the photo above, the flowers were amazing! I went with ivory, peach and light pink roses, green hydrangeas and something else green that sticks up. I'm not sure but I loved it. I had sent a few photos to Gloria, said I'd like the flowers to look like this and they did it perfectly! My bridesmaids had smaller versions of my bouquet and we used these for centerpieces at the reception.
Cocktail Hour: We had our cocktail hour at Las Olas. I had originally chosen the pier just for the novelty of it but decided against that because of wind. Las Olas is a large covered hut on the beach near the piers. There’s a bar and grill right beside it so getting drinks and appetizers was very fast. We joined the cocktail hour a little late but still got to eat the food and try out our signature drinks. We choose berry mojitos and dark n stormy’s (they used gingerale and beer for lack of ginger beer and it was delicious). We didn’t have to have signature drinks, I just knew this would make cocktail hour easier and quicker for the servers to walk around with two kinds of pre-made drinks, so everyone could have drinks right away. People were still able to order whatever they wanted, but I noticed everyone loved the drinks we picked. For the appies we chose:
- Brie canapé with marinated roasted balsamic apple
- Brochette of cherry tomato and buffalo mozzarella with pesto dip
- Proscuitto with pear and gorgonzola on olive bread
- Seafood profiteroles
- Mushroom filled with Italian sausage and basil, gratinated with mozzarella
- Tomato, spinach and feta in filo with roasted onion dip
- Mini fish tacos with guacamole and Mexican salsa
- Beef flautas with taquera sauce
Everything was delicious and people loved the food. We had the Carribbean trio playing during this time which made everything just so so perfect. I loved the fun atmosphere the band provided and how it brought you back to the reality of, “Wow, we just got married in MEXICO!” Cocktail hour whizzed by so incredibly fast and before we knew it, it was time to move to the reception. I think Gloria was present for the cocktail hour but I honestly have no idea, I was so busy taking photos with people and chatting.
Reception: Our reception was in the Foyer which is a very beautiful, private room to the right of the reception desk. Everyone was so impressed with how lovely the room was and I was super happy because I chose to have very little décor. I will say that previous brides are right and the room is super hot. Two of the tables were near the windows and had a breeze going (one of these was our table, so I felt totally fine). The other two tables were more towards the dance floor, center of the room and I didn’t realize it until later but they were sweating. They asked the servers for a fan and they brought out one huge industrial fan. It did the job but it was super loud. My Dad fixed it for a bit and it was quieter but later on it went back to being loud. We just turned it off when someone had to make a speech and it was fine. Even with the fan, we had some super sweaty dancing, to the point where every guys shirt was soaked and a bunch of the girls were standing in front of the fan holding their skirts up, haha. I don’t think I’d have my reception there in the hotter months, it’d be unbearable.
The tables at our reception. I made my own napkins and brought the candle holders, maracas and notes. The linens, vase and some of the candle holders were provided by the resort:
For dinner we had one of the salads with orange-passion fruit dressing, the avocado-cilantro soup (surprisingly so good), the pineapple ginger sorbet, the roulade of chicken breast or the pecan crusted mahi mahi and the jasmine crème brulee. Everyone was very happy with their meals. We figured it must be a tradition in Mexico to serve your guests first because they served the other tables first and then they served our table and served my husband and I last. Personally, we thought this was great because that’s how we would do it if we had a party in our own home. Now I’m not sure what happened but no one at our table got the mahi mahi, even though they ordered it. We all ended up with the chicken and everyone loved it, so it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe they ran out or maybe they got our orders wrong? People got the correct choices at the other tables so that’s good. My husband did ask the servers about it, as we were curious what happened, and they were about to whisk off and get us all fish, but we stopped them and thanked them for offering. The level of service that the waiters provided to us all night was unbelievable. They would notice when my drink was empty and bring me another before I even asked, even if I was out standing on the balcony. They did this with all of our guests, not just the two of us.
A bit of a view of the Foyer, although it extends to the left and right of this picture, so there is room to fit a lot of people in there. There's also a lovely, breezy balcony.
I used the girls’ bouquets, as well as my own as the centerpieces for our four tables. Gloria provided the vases. Two other centerpieces were included and were placed throughout the room. I’m not sure where because I was too busy talking, eating and dancing the whole night. The funny thing is, I never saw where our guestbook was and I never even saw our cake! I still laugh about this, but it doesn’t bother me at all because that cake was delicious. I’d read from past brides on here that they had trouble getting the serving staff to bring out the cake or get it cut, I’m not sure which it was. I had assigned a few people to make sure we got to eat the cake. I guess in my excitement of getting the cake served to everyone we just bypassed my husband and I actually cutting the cake. It’s a tradition that I don’t feel any emotional attachment to, so I didn’t care. We had the tres leches (I think they might call it sponge) cake and Mylanta was that ever delicious!
We rented the speakers and used our own playlist for the reception. This worked well on the whole but if I were to do it again the only thing I’d change is I’d get a DJ. I was too stressed over whether the songs were good, whether people were having fun, etc, etc. I stood near the ipod all night so I could change the music when it seemed people wanted something more upbeat, slow, country, etc. We partied hard until midnight (we extended our reception by two hours) and it was just the perfect time. We had so much fun, as did our guests. I had asked Gloria if she would pack up the votive candle holders for us so I could take them back with me. They did pack them up and whatever other décor was left over as well and she even had it delivered to our room two days later!
Videography: We had the ceremony video that's included in the Gold wedding package. I am so so so happy we have this video! It's not the high quality you would get from hiring someone to come and do videography for you, but it's good and you can hear everything that's said during the ceremony, despite the wind. We have watched it probably 10 times by now because a lot of people who couldn't make it to the wedding wanted to see it once we got back and over the holidays. The video was 20 minutes long, it has a two minute intro showing the resort off and then it included our entire ceremony.
Photography: We used Victor Herrera Photography and our photographers were Adrian Herrera and Uriel Perez. They brought two assistants with them and they were phenomenal. I can not recommend this company enough. They were professional, courteous, talented, creative, everything you could want from wedding photographers. We have the most amazing photos and I couldn't be happier with our choice. Here's a link to their blog, it shows just a small selection of photos from our wedding: http://victorherrerablog.com/?p=5019
We won a photo shoot with the in house resort photographers. We did a quick 45 minute shoot on our honeymoon and it was fantastic! The photographer was very nice and the photos turned out amazing! I'll include a fun one below.
Spa: I took my bridesmaids and our Moms to the spa the day before the wedding for a treatment of their choice (massage, facial or mani/pedi). Almost all of our treatments included the use of the hydrotheraphy pools, sauna, steam rooms, etc. We were able to do these together and we had such an amazing time! I won't go through all of what it entails, because it's a fun surprise and they lead you through it. Afterwards we all had our treatments and everyone really enjoyed it all. I highly recommend getting a treatment at the spa, it's so completely luxurious and relaxing. My husband and I had our couples massage (included in the Gold package), the week after our wedding and it was a really fun and relaxing time as well.