By lolita2014, · 3,041 Views · 8 Comments
My wedding at Azul Sensatori exceeded my expectations. It was more than I could have asked for and all of my guests raved about the wedding and their time at the hotel. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would not have worried as much as I did. This thread was so helpful in planning our wedding. To the women who answered my questions and gave such great advice (@murmel), I can’t thank you enough. While the planning had plenty of frustrations, my wedding day was absolutely perfect. Please note I will discuss $$$ in my review. My husband and I set a budget and it was my mission to stick to it. This website helped me figure out ways to save money and I want to be as candid as possible about how much money our wedding cost to help those brides who are planning their big day.
We first worked with a TA from Beach Bum travel agency. Based on what I desired she helped us choose Azul. However, I had a panic attack when she wanted me to sign a contract guaranteeing 10 rooms. Based on the feedback I was already receiving from friends and family, I did not believe we could fill that many rooms. My husband researched and found that we could do a group reservation directly with Karisma and only guarantee 5 rooms. We only had to place a deposit of $100 per room. Once again, hindsight is 20/20. I ended up having 57 guests. Some who said they might not come, came and some who said they would, did not. I wish I had stayed with our TA, because much like the offsite wedding coordinator department, the Group Reservation department is understaffed. While I never had a problem getting a response from my reservation specialist, my guests complained she was difficult to contact. So, I spent 9 months having guests contact me to contact her to get their reservations finalized. I also struggled with having some guests not read our website ( which had detailed information), ignore deadlines, or RSVP but ultimately not reserve, or reserve but not RSVP. I feel a good TA would have handled all of that headache for me.
On the plus side, at the time we reserved, they had the promotions of Bride and Groom Stay Free (not quite) and Unlimited Private Events. We also had 20% off Food and Beverage. Each room in our block also received 2 $50 wine credits, 2 $50 massage credits and a $50 candlelight dinner credit. I didn’t pay attention to these promos at the time I reserved our room block because I did not believe we would reserve enough rooms to qualify. Ultimately we had 24 rooms reserved in our block. For the first ten rooms reserved we qualified for a free 2 hour cocktail party. I used this for our post-ceremony cocktail hour. After 20 rooms we qualified for a free private dinner. I requested to have another cocktail hour instead because the resort has so many restaurants, I didn’t want to highjack my guests time. We used this cocktail party for our Farewell Cocktail hour on Saturday night, as most of our guests left Sunday.
Also the Bride and Groom Stay Free Promo is not accurate. We had to book a Premium room for 7 days to qualify for the free wedding. What we got was a discount based on average night stay (3), average room cost, average room occupancy (2). So our room was discounted $2280 and we paid a balance of $1304 for our room.
Planning with the Florida WC was miserable. I was prepared for the slow response but not prepared for the lack of information. I initially had Erika. I found her nice and friendly but a typical email exchange was: I send an email, she would respond one week later with a response that answered my question but provided no additional info. I would email back more questions within five minutes, but still wait another week for a response. I understood my wedding was a ways away so I was patient. Ultimately, I sent one email in April and never heard back and when I checked my online detail sheet I saw my WC was now Lucy. When I called I found out Erika had left the company. ***Note: I do like that Erika had provided me an online link where I could check my detail sheet and be sure it was updated as I requested. I didn’t have to wait to receive a copy of my detail sheet.
My new WC was Lucy. New to Karisma, but very willing to help. At this point I realized I got a better response when I called the main number, asked for Lucy and then sent a follow-up confirmation email. We finished up the details of the wedding and I didn’t pay my final balance until my detail sheet was to my satisfaction.
I brought a lot of my own décor for the wedding in order to save money. For the ceremony I purchased one large hanging corsage from Lomas for $70. I brought my own tulle sheers for the gazebo which I purchased online from Amazon for $18. I brought chair sashes for the ceremony and reception ( my WC told me they would not move them so I needed enough for both sites). Fortunately, I found an online sale and got 120 sashes for 49 cents each. I ordered a sand ceremony from Amazon, I got plain white fans from Michaels (40% coupon) for my female guests and got white handkerchiefs from Amazon for my male guests. I’ve been to a few outdoor weddings and know men will incinerate before they use a fan. Total ceremony décor: $171.50.
For our post-ceremony cocktail hour I bought Fuchsia tulle rolls to have them make bow-ties on the highboy cocktail tables. I also made 6 small centerpieces which were small glass vases with moss and a fake pink rose (all purchased from the dollar store). This décor probably totaled $20 or less.
For the reception I purchased luminaries from Etsy 8 for $41.50 (thanks @Jennypert for the suggestion), LED lights to go inside, small tealights from Hobby Lobby, and the chair sashes. Total reception décor was $87.50.
I also brought a cake topper, gift card box, and guest book. $31.29
For our farewell cocktail party, I had found multi-colored sea shells and brought 2 packs at $2 each. I had them scatter these on the highboys.
I also made my own bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids (afloral.com). I made corsages for the moms and purchased premade boutonnieres (50% off) from Hobby Lobby for the men. Total cost: $120.
The extra baggage fee to bring down my wedding items was $40. Wouldn’t you know it this was the bag that didn’t arrive in Cancun when we did! I didn’t freak out and fortunately our airline delivered the bag to the resort that night.
We arrived at the resort on Wednesday 6/18/14. I had arranged for private transportation through Lomas. I was disappointed that we had to wait in a long line for over 30 minutes before they put us in a regular shuttle (although no other passengers) . I have traveled many times and never had to wait that long for transportation. Having paid the extra money, I was very annoyed.
We arrived at AS and I was disappointed again that we were left waiting for ten minutes in the lobby before anyone came to greet us. Then our Premium concierge Leslie came and greeted us. She gave us a quick tour of the hotel as she led us to the Premium concierge gazebo. There we chose scents for the room, soap and pillow preferences. I explained my luggage situation and she told me I could come back and call the airline once we settled in our room. She led us to our room and then took me back down and she called the airline for me. She assured me my bag would be there that night. Leslie was great.
My brother and his wife had arrived the previous Saturday. Upon our arrival they surprised us and told us they had upgraded to a Presidential Suite and it was their gift to us. They are timeshare owners and had traded in their timeshare to purchase a timeshare through the resort. So we swapped rooms for our first 3 nights. The Presidential suite had one king room, one room with 2 double beds and a living space with a small kitchen, dining room and living area. We also had a huge patio with plenty outdoor living space and seating. We were in shock, the suite was amazing. It was also stocked with many bottles of premium alcohol and wine.
On Wednesday night we had our candlelight dinner (include in our wedding package). I fell asleep soon after but awoke at 2am to assemble my Welcome OOT Bags.
On Thursday we hungout in the pool near the Zavas swim-up bar until my 1 pm wedding coordinator appointment. I would advise not drinking before this meeting. I had a buzz and I was afraid the whole meeting that I was forgetting things. Fortunately, I had my wedding binder and I had already printed out detailed info. We brought along my sister-in-law who was also able to be sure they understood what I wanted. I gave them the printed handouts that had all the items I brought along as well as descriptions of how I wanted it all set up. I WAS NOT CHARGED A SET UP FEE.
My “Bridezilla Moment” was when Antonio (Onsite coordinator) tried to tell me that our Welcome Dinner was moved to Sienna. We planned to use our Spoons reservation for our Welcome Dinner. I was adamant that it remain at Spoons because that is where I had informed my guests it would be. They agreed. We also set our locations for the cocktail hours. Because our cocktail hours were free events, you do not find out the location until this meeting.
I was also determined from the beginning that I wanted our reception in the ballroom because I didn’t want myself or my guests too hot. When we saw the ballroom I was shocked that it was so plain. The carpet is a terrible brown color and my sister-in-law pointed out areas where it was ripping. The resort is so beautiful I don’t understand why the ballroom would look so bad. But, my primary concern was A/C.
I told the WCs that I wanted a rehearsal that day (this was included on my detail sheet). I gave Janet (WC) a sheet that showed how I wanted everyone to walk into the ceremony. It was scheduled for 5pm.
We gave them our bag with our décor and left. I was surprised the meeting was so short and I worried that I may have missed something.
My worry quickly faded as my guests began arriving. We hung out in the lobby to try to greet everyone as they came in. We handed out our OOT bags as we saw our guests and handed out the remainder at our welcome dinner.
From the moment our guests arrived the party began. We invited family back to see our Presidential suite and they all loved it. We had the wedding rehearsal at 5pm and Janet made sure everything went smoothly.
The Welcome Dinner at Spoons was great. I was initially bothered that we were seated in the general dining area because they had another party in the private area. Also, our service was really slow. My annoyance turned to joy as my guests began meeting and greeting each other and having a good time. Also when the food did come it was delicious. ***Note: The free Spoons reservation is for a max of 40 guests and then $25 for each additional guest. I believe I had 53 attend and I was not charged. We had 5 guests stay offsite and the 3 who attended paid $25 each to enter the resort. I was happy to hear this as they expected to pay the $80 resort fee.
After the dinner the guys went back to the suite and the ladies went to Mojito Lounge. We didn’t stay more than an hour and a half because I was getting tired. When I went back to room, I found the guys having a good time enjoying drinks and had ordered room service.
The wedding day I hung out with our guests and tried to spend time with everyone I could find. Janet the WC came by to show us the weather forecast and have us sign to confirm that the reception would be on the beach. The weather was great the entire week (average temps 83-87 degrees) with the exception of a light rain shower that lasted five minutes Saturday morning. I also gave her the Ipod that had our ceremony music. At this time she informed me that I did not have enough tulle for the gazebo setup I requested. She offered to provide free sheers to add to mine. We checked my FI into his groom’s room around 11am and we parted ways at 1pm. The suite was ideal because my bridesmaid had one bedroom to get ready and I had my own room. My bridesmaid did my hair and makeup in the living area while our moms and a couple of friends dropped by.
We used Caribe Photo (5 hour package) and he arrived at the groom’s room at 4pm. He came to my room at 4:35 at started taking photos of me getting ready. At 5pm Janet arrived to walk me down to the ceremony.
The ceremony was beautiful and our minister, Alberto Parra, was great. His words were beautiful and everyone was emotional.
We took photos while our guests enjoyed their cocktail hour at Zocalo Terrace. We were able to catch the last 15 minutes and they had the highboys decorated as I requested and there was a nice breeze on the terrace.
We then headed to the ballroom for the reception. My FI’s friend MCed the wedding and did a great job. They had the tables set up as I requested but they had random blue and white short pillars in the back as well as a blue-lighted Eiffel tower object near the buffet. My wedding color was watermelon (similar to fuchsia) so that with ugly carpet bothered me at first.
I had ordered the Petite Gourmet Buffet menu. It was a hit. ***Tip: we had 4 child guests and if you order the kids menu they eat for free***. After the bridal party entered we had our first dance, followed by mother/son dance. We then sat down to eat. Speeches began soon afterwards and we were surprised by how many guests got up to share heartfelt words. After the tears dried and we cut the cake, the dancing began. Once the lights dimmed and the party started I forgot about the look of the ballroom. The reception was amazing.
We used Mega DJ and they were AWESOME. I filled out the sheet for requests like first dance, cake cutting, etc songs. Once again, thank you @Jennypert because she emailed me this form, not Erika, my initial WC. I gave them specific song requests for Haitian music (my family is Haitian and I wanted to be sure everyone had something to enjoy). After that I requested Hip-hop, R&B, light rap, Soca and some line dances (ex. Cupid Shuffle). Everyone from my 3 year old cousin to my 80 year old aunt were on the dance floor. My 74 year old mother who uses a cane was dancing too. We danced until they turned the lights on!
The next day everyone raved about the DJ. We even attended my matron of honor’s birthday dinner last night where about 11 people had been at our wedding and they were still talking about how great the DJ was.
A lot of guests went on to Mojito lounge after the reception while my groom and I went back to our suite. Our suite was decorated with rose petals and a decorated Jacuzzi and champagne. The next morning we had honeymoon breakfast set up on the outside patio (included in our package). We spent the day hanging out with our guests were everyone complimented us on the wedding, specifically the food and the DJ. That night we had a Farewell cocktail party at the Roof Garden Lounge. Everyone left to have dinner and a few of us enjoyed Hookah at the Waves Swim up bar ($20 per hookah).
All but 3 guests left on Sunday. I spent the first half of Sunday saying good-byes and the last half we hung out with our last 3 guests. On Monday I enjoyed a massage (they had a $69, 40 minute massage special). It was on the beach and Augustin was phenomenal. Hubby wasn’t interested in one so he played beach volleyball. We then met up and we lounged around the rest of the day. We realized we missed our guests. That night we had dinner at LeChic and we enjoyed it. Our group reservation include 2 $50 wine credits per room, so we had 2 $50 bottlles of wine with dinner.
On Tuesday we also lounged and enjoyed the great restaurants. While there was no pressure, we chose to attend a Prestige Travel Club presentation. The presentation was great until we saw the cost. The first package shown to us was $50,000 then $20,000 then $5,000. We considered it because we were having such a great time, but decided we didn’t want to start our marriage with any debt. We met with the photographer from Caribe and he gave us our CD which had over 500 unedited photos, he did not have our photo books and promised those would be mailed to us. The most I can about Caribe is they were ok. The photographer was nice, but not great. For example, he took a few great shots in the groom’s room, but there are clothes and clutter in the background. Fortunately, I had a few guests with great cameras that caught great photos as well. So, I would not recommend Caribe.
We had dinner at Tapaz and that was great as well. All the restaurants were great and I am glad we got to try them all.
My regrets: Booking our group reservation through Karisma instead of a TA ,and spending so much time on OOT bags. My bags included: mending kit, cotton balls, cotton swabs, aspirin, hand sanitizer, razors, antacid, Tide detergent pack, sunscreen, floss and personalized chapstick. Only one person even mentioned the bags and that is because they were hung over and used the aspirin. If I knew what I know now I would have just made personalized sunscreen labels and got one bottle of sunscreen per room. The OOT items were money ill-spent and took up too much room in our luggage.
I love AS, I would return in a heartbeat. I only wish the Florida reservation dept and WC dept would hire more staff so brides would not have to suffer the frustration prior to the event.
I plan to place my budget on the AS Budget Planning Thread because I found that information helpful. But for anyone concerned: Our budget was $10,000 for EVERYTHING. This includes our airfare, transportation, room, photography, DJ, dress and alterations, suits, wedding bands, bridal party gifts., stationary (STDs, invites, thank you cards), stamps, websites, decorations, flowers, wedding ceremony and reception, cake, OOT bags and etc. When we add additional expenses during our trip (massage, hookah, wine) we still met our budget.
Overall, I could not have asked for a better wedding week. The wedding was great, the hotel was great and my guests were so happy. My joke with my husband has been “Let’s get divorced, so we can get married all over again”. I am most proud that I had the wedding of my dreams and we didn’t go broke in the process. Our guests consider the money they spent to attend well-spent as they had a great time. I could not be happier.