By dawnb, · 3,932 Views · 9 Comments
July 26, 2014 Wedding @ Barcelo Maya Palace, Riviera Maya, Mexico
For all of you future brides this is a must read if you're trying to determine where to have your wedding or if you've already chosen Barcelo Maya Palace as your destination. It's a very detailed review but I hope you find this information very helpful as I did reading long reviews. First off, I suggest you book your travel through a travel agent, especially if you're anticipating many guests to attend. To start, I spent time browsing the internet about different resorts before meeting with our travel agent. I wanted to get an idea of our pros and cons. After meeting with the travel agent, we narrowed it down to a couple resorts with Barcelo Palace being one. I spent hours upon hours of searching the internet, reading reviews, looking at pictures, asking questions, etc. about Barcelo when I found this website. By reading other reviews, I knew this was the place for what we wanted. Here's the breakdown....
Invitations/Travel Itinerary-Start by sending out a "save the date" so guests have plenty of time to save money, take off work, make arrangements, etc. Once we decided on Barcelo, our travel agent put a hold on a block of rooms. We had wedding invitations created along with travel itinerary & cost of a 3 night stay, 4 night stay, 5 night stay, & 7 night stay so our guests had plenty of options to choose from. We stayed 12 days & turned this into our honeymoon. There was plenty of stuff to do & we never once were bored. Our travel agent booked this through Apple Vacations so free shuttle service was provided for all guests which made things very easy for everyone. We had 51 guests (2 teenagers) attend our wedding-everyone traveled from St. Louis, MO with a couple guests coming from NYC & Tennessee in which our travel agent was still able to set up travel accommodations for them.
Wedding Coordinator: Once you put a down payment you will receive an email from your wedding coordinator. Ours was Lilian Vargas and I can't say enough wonderful things about her! From the very first email conversation to our wedding day, Lilian went above and beyond. In previous reviews from others, one of the cons was that it took a long time for wedding coordinators to respond to email. This was not the case at all. Lilian was always prompt, answered all my questions and gave suggestions. If anything, I was the one that wasn't always prompt in replying cause she responded so quickly I needed time to decide what I wanted in the wedding planning process. The wedding coordinator will send you an excel spreadsheet where you complete in a step by step process of your wedding details. Keep in mind that planning a destination wedding over email can become stressful at times because you don't exactly know what you're getting until you get there or even the day of your wedding. Don't stress cause EVERYTHING comes together the day of the wedding. Our wedding was everything I imagined plus more! I cried multiple times during our wedding day because what I envisioned actually happened.
Wedding Package-There's several wedding packages to choose from. Your wedding coordinator will email you the options. I wasn't exactly sure which one so Lilian suggested the Strawberry Package which fit our needs. There were a few times when I was frustrated because things I wanted weren't included so I had to pay an extra fee. In the grand scheme of things, I would do it all over again and not stress over the extra costs.
Check In Process-We arrived 2 days before our guests to allow us to get settled in, meet with the wedding coordinator and finalize all wedding details. This allowed us to familiarize ourselves with Barcelo property-pools, beaches, food, etc. Upon check in for us, we were escorted to Club Premium and had to wait for about a 1/2 hr in A/C. Since we arrived at Barcelo early in the morning, our room was not ready until 4:00pm. Check in is normally at 3:00pm so I suggest having easy access to your swim suit. We changed in the lobby restrooms and spent the day drinking in the pool which was no problem. We were able to email our guests & prepare them for a later check in. On the day our guests arrived, we had welcome bags ready to go in the lobby Carey bar and greeted everyone as they got off the bus. Some rooms were ready while others had to wait but like I said, it was no big deal cause everyone changed & spent the day at the pool & beach.
Welcome Bags-We kept our welcome bags very simple & did not bother with all the extra little stuff.
-purchased a simple canvas tote from www.carrygreen.com
-guests were able to use these as beach bags
-personalized each bag with a name tag
-Aqua -t-shirt for everyone with a logo I created
-Welcome note with details of wedding day & time & place of meeting for a group picture on the beach the night before our wedding asking everyone to wear their t-shirts. I created the welcome note on www.vistaprint.com . Since I didn't know the specific location/time of group beach pic, I left this blank & hand wrote in once we got there. For the wedding ceremony/reception details, I added TBA & told everyone the night of our group picture.
-Our wedding coordinator meet us & took pics. We didn't want to spend time the day of our wedding trying to get a group picture of everyone since we only had 1 hour for bride/groom & bridal party pictures.
-24 oz insulated tumbler cup with our logo I created from www.4imprints.com
-Insulated cups are a must have for all inclusives! Some resorts give you a small cup, no lid & your drink melts or warms up quickly. We had several people ask us if we purchased the cups at Barcelo cause they wanted one.
-Download the app Wedpics or go to www.wedpics.com It's awesome & guests can join & upload their pictures for you. From there you can organize pics, share, print. I bought the Wedpics cards & placed a card with our password inside each cup
-travel size bottle of tequila we purchased from Playa del Carmen
-We also bought Mexican cigars & large sombreros for our groomsmen. We incorporated the sombreros on our wedding day pics & guests were able to wear them & take pics at our reception.
-I also created an "Are you looking for someone?" sheet. Everyone's name was listed & who they were staying with. Next to their name was their room number. We got these once everyone checked in to their rooms. I spent about an hour hand writing each room number on the cards cause I didn't think a printer was available....it was. I suggest doing this & printing off room numbers for everyone & handing out. Our guests loved this cause no one knew where anyone was. Not everyone wanted to use their cell phones in Mexico.
Flowers- Your wedding coordinator will send you pics of different arrangements to choose from. They didn't have exactly what I wanted for my bouquet so I sent Lilian a picture I found on pinterest & she made it happen! The flowers were exactly what I wanted. However, one type of flower was an extra charge but it was worth it. Bridesmaid flowers-request an upgrade & pay the extra fee per bouquet. They only put like 4 or 5 flowers in each bouquet so I made sure they were fuller. To save on money, I also used my 5 bridesmaid bouquets as centerpieces for the reception tables. They filled clear glass cylinders with water. The glass cylinders were a little too small so if you decide to go with this, make sure to request larger ones. Part of the strawberry package included a large flower arrangement to sit on the table at the ceremony but I didn't care for the look of this at the beach. Lilian allowed me to exchange this arrangement for 3 glass cylinders filled with glass beads on the bottom, water, flowers, and a floating candle on top. I was then able to use these 3 cylinders for my remaining tables at the reception. I chose not to have the groom, groomsmen & other bridal party members wear a boutonniere/corsage. The groomsmen wore linen pants and shirts so I went with a very classy, clean look. Besides, it was hot & I knew the flowers would wilt quickly.
Ceremony-We had our ceremony on the beach at 5:30pm in order to capture sunset pictures. At first, Lilian showed us a beach location at the Palace right in the middle of everything/people. They basically just move the lawn chairs out of the way but there are tons of people around still at this time. We were not pleased with this location and luckily from reading different reviews, I knew about a more secluded location at the far end of Barcelo property called Playa Azul. Lilian checked to see if this was available & showed us the location. It was perfect! It's still a beach area on property with lawn chairs but it's a little away from the resort so people don't venture there often, especially at this time of day. So if you're wanting your ceremony on the beach make sure to request Playa Azul.
The strawberry package included live music which you choose from a violinist, saxophone, or flute. I originally had the violinist and requested specific songs to be played at the ceremony. Lilian sent me a song list of about 100 songs and I only liked one. If I wanted the violinist to play specific songs, I had to pay an extra $100. Lilian then recommended the saxophonist cause he was able to play my requested songs at no extra charge. He was awesome! I started crying when I heard Bob Marley playing as my bridal party walked down the beach cause it's exactly what I imagined. Chairs were covered in white fabric and aqua ribbon (you get to pick the color ribbon). I purchased 2 bags of rose petals in hot pink and bright orange in which Lilian scattered along the beach aisle. I went with a simple hoopa (you can choose the style) to provide some shade but luckily it was a little cloudy at the time of the ceremony. In the middle of the hoopa was a silver chandelier which I did not request it. I think there was a wedding before me so they just kept it up. It's something I would not have picked but when I first saw the beach setting, I was taken away by the elegance of the chandelier. Since we actually got married at home first, we had a Mayan ceremony. I was nervous not meeting the minister before hand but he did a really nice job for not knowing us. Apparently, since my husband & groomsmen were at the beach before everyone, he was able to talk to the minister for a while. We both wrote our own vows and the minister held the mic while we took turns reading them. Immediately following the ceremony was a champagne toast on the beach for everyone. After the toast, we allowed an hour for bride/groom + bridal party pictures. Our guests took the shuttle back to the Palace and hung out in the lobby Carey Bar, which has A/C.
Reception-We had our reception at Palmeras Grill at the Palace. The grill is closed for dinner so they're able to use this for events. During the day it was hot in there so Lilian suggested we check it out in the evening. With the ocean breeze & ceiling fans it actually was cooler than expected and kind of private because it's away from the other buffets/restaurants. Once the dancing started, it was HOT but but no one cared. Everyone kind of had the same mind set of "ya it's hot but we're in Mexico & we're having a blast." We had people stopping & watching us but it didn't bother us one bit cause we were having so much fun. I sent Lilian our seating chart through email & she set it up exactly how we wanted it. You really don't need to go all out & bring tons of decorations because the tropical landscape is what makes it beautiful. The palm trees were covered with white fabric & aqua ribbon and lit up. They even made an aqua drink of rumchata served in martini glasses & passed out to guests at the beginning of the reception. It was perfect & I didn't even have to ask for this. As mentioned previously, we used the bridesmaid bouquets & vases from the ceremony for centerpieces along with small votive candles on the tables. For table numbers, I purchased sanddollars off of etsy & painted numbers on each one. Purchased picture frame holders from Michael's & placed the sanddollar on each one. For name cards, I purchased small star fish on etsy & tied the name cards to each fish. Lilian had a box filled with sand & placed the star fish in it. It was perfect! I created a photobook of our engagement pics & used this as our guest book. Printed out a saying for guests to sign our guestbook & put in a frame. Lilian had this set up on a table by the entrance along with 2 wicker baskets filled with maracas and tambourines we brought. Our guests went crazy with the tambourines!!! It really got the party started and added a unique touch to it.
We originally planned for the mariachi band to play but there was no good time for them to play since I wanted specific songs during dinner. Instead of the mariachi band, we added an extra hour to our reception so it was from 7:30-11:30 pm. So happy we did this cause our reception was soooo much fun with everyone dancing!! All the servers were interacting with guests, bringing drinks to the dance floor, giving us shots & having fun. For dinner, you'll get to choose from 4-5 options. We went with tomato, basil, goat cheese salad (delicious); lobster bisque soup (it was ok but still good); steak & lobster (so yummy), and strawberry cheesecake (my favorite). Everyone raved at how good the food was. We just went with the basic wedding cake that was included in our wedding package. By the time we cut the cake, it was kind of melted & mushy since it was hot. We're glad we didn't upgrade the cake cause they're was plenty of food during dinner.
DJ-we went with the resort DJ and he was awesome. I created a playlist & asked him to play specific songs during dinner & for dancing & he did exactly that. I sent the playlist to Lilian before hand so the DJ made sure he had all the songs. He kept the party going all night. I was little nervous about using their DJ because of previous reviews so I had a friend download the playlist on his iPod for back up which was not needed. The DJ let us use one of the mics all night so we basically had our own karaoke. We did NOT go with the light up dance floor; spent the money on the extra reception hour. If you were to have your reception on the beach, then I recommend the dance floor but it's not needed at Palmeras Grill if you're on a budget.
Hair/Make Up-I chose Styling Trio www.stylingtrio.com and paid extra to have Adrian Guerra personally do my make up. While reading different reviews about the Barcelo Spa, several brides highly recommended The Styling Trio so I looked into them. I've never felt and looked this beautiful until the Styling Trio made it happen. They specialize in air brush make up which lasts all day/night & doesn't come off if you sweat or cry. My make up was absolutely flawless. In previous email conversations, I sent them pictures of me as well as pictures of hair styles & make up. I did pay the extra fee to have them do a trial run on hair make up. I'm glad I did cause it put me at ease the day of my wedding. I scheduled the trial the day before my wedding because we had a group picture taken of everyone on the beach at sunset. My hair stylist even changed my hair into a side braid so people wouldn't see how I was wearing it on my wedding day.
Spa-Part of the strawberry package included a mani/pedi, hair/make up, and couples massage. I had a mani/pedi before I left so I was able to give this to the groom. He was in dire need of a pedi so his best man got one with him. However, my husband did not care for the pedi cause they cut his big toe which bled for 2 days & burned from the salt water. The lady was so flustered cutting him that she forgot to finish trimming a few of his toe nails & didn't scrub his feet. I did get a color change (brought my own polish) the day of my wedding and it was ok. A couple nails weren't completed polished on the sides & the lady quickly polished them. Since I had Styling Trio do my hair/make up, I asked if I could trade this in for another spa service. They allowed me to do this; however, it's a new policy that this is NOT allowed. My wedding coordinator called the spa & a worker approved this over the phone so they had to honor it for me. It's worth looking into if you don't use it or you can give the service to one of your guests. One of my guests was a hairstylist & did my bridesmaids hair. Just an updo costs $120!!! I feel the spa is overpriced for their quality of services. After our wedding, my husband & I had the couples massage. It was relaxing and nice but I wouldn't pay for this service at Barcelo. We've stayed at El Dorado in Riviera Maya a few years ago & had a couples massage....so much better. On the other hand, my mom & friend got a facial at Barcelo spa & said it was one of the best so it just depends on who you get & type of service. If you have the budget to go with the Styling Trio, I highly recommend them. Since I went with Styling Trio I had to pay a resort fee of $150 but they're worth the extra expense!
Rooms-All of our guests loved the junior suites. Just a few set backs-a couple guests walked in on people already in the rooms so they had to wait for another room. At first, we were a little disappointed cause we didn't have an ocean view room & had a pool view instead. There's not many ocean view rooms available even though we requested this. However, we weren't on our balcony much since we had so many guests here. All the rooms were very spacious, awesome shower, balconies, clean. Rooms restocked daily with water, soda, chips, juice. Some rooms are farther back & require a lot of walking but I think since we booked early enough, we were able to get a block of rooms in the same vicinity. I suggest requesting rooms closer to the beach/pool. As the bride & groom, you'll get little surprises left in your room throughout your stay.
Food-Best food we've had at an all inclusive but make sure you stay at Barcelo Palace & not another hotel on property. We heard the food was not as good. The buffets had everything you could imagine & each night was a different theme-mexican, italian, seafood, etc so there's something for everyone. We made reservations at the seafood, steakhouse, and french restaurants at the Palace. Our favorite was the french restaurant. Dinners consist of 4-5 course meals so you leave there plenty full. Reservations are required at the fine dinning restaurants. Others will tell you to make reservations days in advance but we didn't until the day before or day of. Men are required to wear pants & they say closed toe shoes but our guys always wore flip flops & no one said anything. Women can wear whatever.
Photographer/Videographer-We went with www.PlayaWeddings.com because they offer both photography & videography services. I didn't want a photographer from one vendor & then have to hire someone else to video take our wedding from another vendor. I spent hours upon hours reading reviews, checking out websites, emailing photographers, etc. I was constantly comparing Barcelo's photo services with others. When I came across PlayaWeddings, I couldn't find a single negative review which sold me. Barcelo's photo services had too many negative reviews which made me way too nervous. I figured if we're spending all this money for a wedding then I want no regrets. The day happens so quickly so I'm looking forward to reliving the time through the eyes of a professional photographer/videographer. This was the most stressful part of the whole wedding planning process for me because I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend half the budget on this or use the resort photographer which still was expensive. Barcelo charges you an additional $500 vendor fee for using another photographer plus you need to provide your photographer & staff dinner. After hashing it out, I'm soooo happy I chose Playaweddings & spent the extra money. They're prices are reasonable for Mexico. Rachel & Paul Shrank and their staff were very friendly & personable. I forgot they were even there at times cause they blended in. Since it's only been a couple weeks, I'm still waiting for the pics & video. We did get to take a sneak peak at one of the pictures & it looked beautiful. If you have the budget do your research and choose PlayaWeddings or a vendor that fits your needs.
Laundry Service-brides make sure you get your wedding dress steamed. They come to your room & steam your dress in front of you so you can approve it. No extra charge-I'm assuming it's included in the wedding package. I also had the groom's outfit, bridesmaids dresses, and mother of bride dress steamed for a fee. They did take these garments with them but delivered the next day to my room. Worth the cost.
If anyone has questions or would like to see pictures of anything just ask! I hope this helps answer many of your questions or concerns. Just remember, it's your wedding; do what makes you & your fiance happy cause in the end everything will come together and turn out beautiful.