By FutureMrsNelson, · 1,358 Views · 1 Comment
The bottom line for my review is that our wedding was stunningly beautiful, the service was stupidly awesome, my reception was perfect (for me), the food was great, and when it was all done, I can truly say it was the best week of my life. That said, there is a lot the resort can improve on to make this experience less stressful.
Prior to Wedding
1. Choose a Date
This is SO important because there is such a huge difference between “tourist” season and “slow” season. Had I known this difference my wedding would have had a completely different date. I have been to Playacar 4 times in the prior 4 years, and my September travel date is absolute heaven. The resort is around 40% capacity in September as opposed to the 100% in August. The service is beyond phenomenal in September but it is watered-down in August. Additionally, even mother nature has a huge effect! August is stale, humid air whereas September offers a breeze, and is just enough cooler that it’s enjoyable to “warm up” outside your freezing cold air conditioned room. The seaweed on the beach in September is nonexistent, but it’s literally a hurdle to get over in August---just look at my wedding photos! I did not like August at all. I can go on for days how much I love this resort in September. August is a very different story, and the room rates are higher. I choose this date to accommodate family members who are either in school or teaching and could not attend a September wedding. With hindsight, I should’ve told those family members to just come for a shorter, more affordable amount of time in September. August was pure sweat, kids everywhere, disorganized management, kids taking over every event (esp. karaoke), crowded pool, staff running around mindlessly because there was so much going on, and so on. I had guests that could not get double beds for their reservations with 2 kids because the resort was completely booked. Our dinners could not exceed 10 people at one table….it was exceptionally disappointing. I was warned that August was busy season, and I knew it would be different from my usual September trip, but this was a rude awakening. 100% capacity creates disaster!
2. Create an Informative Website
Your guests will have tons of questions and some may even give you a really hard time about Mexico in general. Plus, the Palace Resorts website doesn’t offer too much information. Here is a link to our wedding website that I created to inform my guests. Feel free to copy/paste as much of it as you like. I spent a lot of time putting it together. Please acknowledge that now that my wedding has passed, some of the information might be rather dated including the budget information which largely fluctuates throughout the year.
3. Contact the Wedding Coordinators
I initially contacted Palace Resorts 11 months prior to my finalized wedding date. I feel that this is a substantial amount of time. My wedding was more complicated than most because we (myself & all guests) were booking with Palace Resorts memberships, and the weddings department did not know how to handle all of the benefits Palace Resorts offers to both wedding groups and to members.
One thing that annoyed me right away was that I set up a sight inspection at Moon Palace and Playacar Palace prior to making a trip to Mexico with the Weddings Department. I had booked a 1-week stay at Moon Palace, but I was not informed of the nitty gritty details for the “3-day reimbursement perk” until after I had returned. Because I booked my vacation under my own membership and not the resort’s open (higher) room rate, they informed me that I was not eligible for this reimbursement. I wish someone from the weddings department would have informed me BEFORE I traveled that I needed to book with them in order to receive reimbursement. Maybe when I set up the site inspection appointments with the weddings department, it would have been informative to mention this? So, there’s my first thousand-dollar missed opportunity!
Being that my “membership” wedding was a rarity, I feel like every wedding coordinator I came across did not know how to handle my event or disburse the benefits that I should have received from both the wedding bookings AND my membership. I had to ask about all the perks I was aware of because they just didn’t know how to apply/comp them to me.
Over the course of the next 11 months, I had a total of 5 wedding coordinators. Between maternity leaves and who-knows-what, this was the most chaotic phase of wedding planning! I received no notification that my current coordinator was leaving, and no indication of whomever else I was supposed to contact as their backup. I would send an e-mail with tons of questions, wait for months for a response, call the 1800 number for answers when I heard nothing in return, and then I was told someone would contact me in a few days because so-and-so (my coordinator) was away. When I finally did contact my new “backup,” she had no idea where the previous coordinator left-off or any knowledge of the important membership details that I had negotiated with the previous coordinator. I essentially had to restart this process 4 times. I literally had to copy, paste, & highlight previous e-mails assuring me that there wasn’t any additional charge for something from one coordinator, and send it to my new one because information was not being communicated and they were wanting to charge me for things I was told that were covered. Getting specific, detailed answers was an absolute nightmare and even hopeless in my opinion.
Furthermore, when it came time to start loading all my wedding choices into a wedding program (“PO”) they were unfortunately going through software upgrades. Normally, this is great for business, but as you can imagine, upgrades mean change, and if you’re bouncing around from coordinator to coordinator and your wedding PO bares zero resemblance to the prior PO, it’s confusing as heck! You don’t know which version you’re supposed to start correcting. They both had so many problems, it was overwhelming. I think it took several e-mails just to get the spelling of my name corrected. I was finding myself color coding and highlighting e-mails and a response/correction would never come….sometimes for 16 days before I called, and then MAYBE I’d get an e-mail in the next 48 hours.
Finally, one day, I told my fiancé that this wedding process made me almost not even want to get married in Mexico anymore. I hated wedding planning because I was achieving nothing, and he was in disbelief that it was as bad as I was saying so he picked up the phone and gave it a go. He called the weddings 1-800 number. He got our coordinator on the phone and by the sounds of it, they were buddies in minutes!?!?! I was in utter disbelief. From one phone call, he got our PO corrected (not completely but it was definitely better) and a new list of vendors (the cheaper ones) sent to him by e-mail in minutes after he hung up. It was ridiculous. This is how we got through wedding planning for the final 6 months. For some reason, when they heard a man’s voice, things got done.
If that’s not enough to frustrate the hell out of you, Palace Resorts was also changing their list of preferred vendors. One day I’d look at a price from their online PDFs, and the next I’d see an entirely new PDF with much higher prices and completely different vendors. When I told my coordinator that I wanted a mariachi band for 2 hours, she’d send the quote from the highest vendor, and I’d literally gasp at the price because it was triple the amount I was expecting. I’d have to make several e-mail inquiries about the price I saw on a previous brochure, and I did this for all my vendors….the mariachi band, the photography/videography, DJ, decorations, cigar roller etc. I had a budget for my wedding, and I seriously had to barter to keep myself within that budget.
I eventually signed contracts with my vendors and sent in payments over the course of a few months. You would think that that meant everything was a done deal, right? WRONG! Vendors that I had signed contracts with all the sudden weren’t “preferred vendors” anymore. My wedding was August 14, and I was informed July 23rd that Ocean Photo Studio was no longer being offered through Palace Resorts and now DreamArt Photography would take over in their place. I ended up being okay with this because I was too exhausted by this time to care. Even after researching Ocean Photo and being confident with them and the package I bought, I was now in the hands of some “unGoogle-able” place that had zero reviews or online portfolios. I don’t think a lot of brides would be comfortable with this, but I decided to not freak out for some reason.
During this time, you should know that the dates they try to enforce for payment are trivial. I’d receive a PO with tons of incorrect information and there would be a due date for payment within the next week which I never paid by. I’d respond with a list of corrections (there was an infamous 16-page, bullet-list of corrections which were color-coded by severity, and I don’t think anyone ever read it) and the due date would come and go and they probably wouldn’t even respond to all my corrections until after the due date. With hindsight, you should know that your PO contract isn’t exactly as binding as you hope. If ½ of your information is correct on your PO, I’d say that’s pretty decent. Don’t worry about names being spelled wrong like I did. I thought every detail needed to be included but looking back, the shellfish allergy warnings were never acknowledged, vendor details were showing up in the wrong events, location names like “beach” versus “north beach” probably made zero difference and so on. I know, it’s frustrating. It’s your wedding and this “contract” needs to be exactly right, agreed? Not really, you re-do the whole process with your onsite coordinator later and this PO is simply her guideline.
Also a few other reviews mention the transition time of silence between the weddings department and the onsite wedding planner in the last 3 month “hand off” prior to your wedding date. This is very true. No one contacts you unless you kick and scream and this silence 1 month before your wedding can create a true Bridezilla moment if you need feedback. The silence will be longer especially if you are getting married May-August when the coordinators have 100s of wedding to handle. Trying to get questions answered for your guests, food allergies updated on the menus, additional room nights added to reservations, etc in the 3-1 months before your wedding and not having any responses is just unbearable. You would have thought that a weddings department would be a little more informative and “there” for a bride this close to her wedding. We didn’t sign our FINAL PO until July 22 and looking at it now, it didn’t even have the correct vendors on it. Our wedding was August 14.
Advise during the planning process:
1. Barter They don’t advertise their “cheap preferred vendors “ list. There are MORE VENDORs than what they offer in their online PDFs that are “preferred” and they get much cheaper. You have to initiate & ask! Coordinators won’t send cheaper vendors to you. You have to give them a price you want to pay and ask them to find a “preferred vendor” who will honor that price. Don’t settle for what you see online. It’s a hassle, but you have to do it if you’re on a budget. I also never knew about hair and makeup vendors. I had asked one of my coordinators, but somewhere in all the “handing off” I was never told anyone could do my hair and makeup besides the in-house spa ladies (who were absolutely wonderful). I’m glad these ladies were extravagant, but still, it would’ve been nice to know there were options (I actually found out about hair and makeup from this website).
2. Dress Suggestions Look for a really light dress! Girls have passed out on the beach. Don’t constrict your torso; expect to sweat- A LOT. Get groomsman sweat-proof gear. My husband had a HUGE sweat stain on the back of his jacket after the ceremony. It couldn’t hurt to have a “shirt before the shirt”.
3. Photo Poses In Advance Send your photographer pictures you like of other weddings and poses you want to do BEFORE you go to Mexico. Find out if your vendor photoshops at all? Ask what an “edited” photo means? Do they remove red-eye, people in speedos in the background of your photos?, acne? Etc. DreamArt does not do any of these things. I have no idea what an edited photo meant and after looking at pictures with an embarrassing amount of acne on the side of my face, I realized I thought I was paying for them to “edit” this sort of stuff out of my photos? NOPE—still got the roofers on the building and speedos in the background too. So yes, contact your vendors and make sure you know EXACTLY what you are paying for.
4. Trial Hair and Makeup Photos Do trial runs for hair and makeup with your local salon before the wedding so you know EXACLTY how you want it AND take pictures of it. The girls in the salon do speak English but it is a little broken. A picture will literally speak a thousand words (in a different language too)! I did this and it helped tremendously!
5. Book Resort Credit Spa for Bridesmaids in advance plan to use as much resort credit as possible! If you can use in-house credits for the ladies in the spa to do your hair and makeup DO IT!
6. E-mail length and format Never send an e-mail more than a few lines long. Use bullet lists. If you have a Spanish friend or trust google translate—use it!
7. Don’t Overplan I also tried to make “guides” for my wedding guests. This may not be a great idea with hindsight. Firstly, I mentioned that guests should shake maracas at our ceremony which meant that they needed to be placed on seats or guests needed to know that they were supposed to grab them when they sat themselves. OOPS #1. Secondly, I had no idea that the officiant was going to have us sign something at the ceremony. We told Laura, the Playacar wedding coordinator that we wanted our ceremony to be as “legal” as possible. So here I am telling guests that we’re not signing anything in the guide and now we’re signing something in reality. Now I have a very suspicious in-law wondering when I actually got hitched to her son. OOPS #2. THEN, after our ceremony we had a happy-hour on Cielo Terrace which is just outside the main lobby overlooking the ocean. I’m glad I mentioned this in the pamphlet, but because another private event was happening on the pool deck, my guests figured it was for our event and that really irked me. I wish the coordinators would have told me that another event was being set up between my ceremony’s physical location and my happy hour. I may’ve been more inclined to move my location had I known. Additionally, we weren’t able to set up the “guest book” at the happy hour, so it made completely no sense for me to mention signing it where I did in the guide. Also, seating wasn’t really “fair game.” My decorator assigned seats for parents of the Bride & groom. Guests couldn’t request songs if the DJ didn’t speak English. No room block whatsoever! No one was near each other. Don’t give precise details if you try to do something like this…and if you do, be prepared to follow through.
8. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. For Example: Wedding ceremony times offered are BS! Just because the last time offered on your initial wedding application is 4pm, it doesn’t mean they won’t have a service at 6pm. You have to ask. I WISH I would’ve done this---the girl who got married at 6pm the day after I got married had shade for her ceremony, and I was sooooo jealous!
Private Events/Locations & Restaurants: All Restaurants won’t seat a table with more than 10 unless you book a private event! Personally, I think this is crap. I’ve been to Palace with a group of 30 members before just on vacation, and we’d raise hell if they wouldn’t put tables together. For some reason, they enforced this at my wedding. I thought I was being smart (money-wise) and thoughtful (they didn’t have another event to plan and dub as “private” on my PO) not adding a night of dinner to every single night of “private events” but that was a mistake on my part. My dinners were constantly split with my wedding of 32 guests, and unfortunately this usually meant that the bride and grooms family rarely intermixed. Because of this maximum table occupancy, sometimes the groom’s family wanted to eat at a different restaurant entirely. This meant that I really didn’t see my fiancé all week for dinner. I wish someone would have told me this so I could’ve taken advantage of the “free-private-event” every night perk. It’s more planning and having to deal with coordinators, but if it means your party can at least sit together….do it! I also would highly recommend that if you’re the type of couple that doesn’t want/need to eat with your entire guest list, just tell everyone to meet a Luna Lounge every night at 7pm before dinner for drinks so that you can all touch base and then go your separate ways for dinner.
Luna Terrace---(Wedding Reception): -not happy at all that my guests had to leave the happy hour to go decorate. Palace Resorts only give you the room 30 minutes before the private event begins because it is regularly the sales office! Super inconvenient that I had no guests at my happy hour to enjoy the mariachi band because they all went to make light of decorating for my reception. A solution might be to definitely hire a decorator if your heart is set on being in this room. Oh yeah, and only 1 bathroom!
Wedding Terrace for the cigar rolling (bachelor night): I’ve been here for a wedding before and I think it’s perfect for a small ceremony. I wish I did more here. All my groomsman met here for a cigar rolling bachelor night just before our wedding. It is essentially a very large balcony overlooking the beach. It is more private than most locations and offers a shelter in case there is rain. I think this is perfect for a intimate event. One thing I should mention is that the floor is very slippery. High heels at this location can be very trying.
Cielo Terrace – Cocktail “Happy” Hour; great location for the mariachis. Plenty of room to start dancing and setting up hors d’oeuvres. This location comes with couches and cocktail tables. I have nothing bad to say about it other than the usual sun = heat = sweat. I wish I could get some cold towels served like they give at check-in.
North Beach (Wedding Ceremony) On August 14th my ceremony began at 4pm. It was direct sunlight on the entire venue which was awesome for the pictures but not so much for my husband who had his eyes closed in every single picture and sweat stains all across the back of his suit jacket. I preferred this location because in years past, I’ve witnessed brides coming out of the south side of the resort when the entire pool claps and whistles, and I just didn’t want that sort of attention on me. Well, face it ladies, no matter what side of the beach you get married on, you will see 20 people you don’t know in swimsuits on your way out to be married. There will be bikinis in the background of your pictures especially if you are there during tourist season. . This is a public beach and there’s nothing you can do about it. At this point in time, I truly believe there is no difference whether you get married on the North end of the resort beach or the south end. Both location are combed before your ceremony. If you have friends putting up decorations for you, they may only get 40 minutes prior to the ceremony to start decorating due to the fact that chairs may not be setup yet. Be concerned about this and have everyone plan wisely!
Location Name is Unknown but it’s the area right out La Terraza under the awning. (Rehearshal Dinner): Way too hot. They’ve added a grill recently that wasn’t there in previous years, and it was miserabley hot. So hot, that I literally got up and left just to wipe the sweat off my face several times during the photographed meal. Even though you are having a “private event” here, they will use this grill for the public and if there isn’t a relieving breeze, you will feel like you are cooking right alongside with whatevers on that grill. Also, people will walk right through your event to place an order with the chef at the grill. I did not appreciate this lack of intimacy for my event and it was just so ridiculously humid with the grill going high.
Luna Lounge: This is my favorite spot in Playacar Palace. It has air conditioning. During September, this spot is nearly always empty and I use it as a cool respite away from the daily commotion of the resort. It was remodeled recently with a stage and now there is weekly karaoke and it’s very busy during August despite the fact that it is not a restaurant. I told all my guests that I will be here every night at 7 for before-dinner drinks and that’s how I kept in touch with people. It ended up being a very good idea.
This did not go as planned. Firstly, my groom and I arrived a day before our guests so we could put welcome bags together and essentially have a day to relax before the Whirlwind. We arrived and there was no cold washcloth greeting. We were covered in sweat and were not greeted with drinks like we have been in years past (thank God they did this for our guests though). We put all our welcome bags together and had staff deliver them to our guests room upon their arrival for a small fee per delivery. A couple of these were messed up and it ended up being just another thing that took me away from relaxing pool time but I guess it was what I was supposed to do as a bride, right? My guests found that the week’s event calendar I placed in the bag were very useful along with a hangover kit and Tide-to-go sticks.
Transportation Some of our guests were not properly accounted for and had to sit and wait at the airport for several hours before the transportation department could get their shit right. Please note, if you have guests sharing a room that arrive and depart on different flights and days, don’t expect to have any transportation at the right time. They can’t comprehend two people or rather, “a couple” arriving and departing on different days for a vacation. They will only make 1 trip to/from the airport per room. This caused a huge fiasco and stress since the guests had never been to a foreign country before and they had done everything they needed to book & confirm their transportation. I was so embarrassed that this immaculate resort I had bragged about couldn’t even get the transportation right even after the party paid for it.
Other things worth mentioning:
As far as a “room block” is concerned. Don’t assume any of your guests will be anywhere near each other. I had tried/hoped we would all be given rooms near our reception since I knew our reception location only had 1 bathroom. This request I don’t think was ever considered no matter how many times I asked.
We had one Palace Resorts person designated as our group’s concierge/vacation planner and that was kind of a disaster. The biggest problem was that she saw all our black wrist bands and assumed everyone knew how the resort credit process worked. Make sure your group’s concierge explains which excursions are not complimentary and that there will always be a tax payment!
The pool was being cleaned the night of my wedding so no late-night dip in the pool. :(
Bracelets: we just left them on. We told our wedding party to leave them on too because of all the hullabaloo. I was the only one who cut mine off and I remembered to save it and turn it in for a new one the next day.
Dry cleaning/ press for my dress: I was offered this as a free service when I first arrived by my concierge but I ended up being charged, and it was delivered to my room where my husband saw it after I strictly requested that it be sent to my “getting ready room.” That and the fact that it was charged to my room pretty much sums up the miscommunications for the week.
Ceremony officiant: I had a pleasant gentleman conduct my symbolic ceremony with a request that we keep it as catholic and as “legal” as possible. He was a great officiant, but I wish I could’ve met him before our I DO’s and told him to keep it short. I also wish I could’ve gone over the ceremony more with my planner so we could’ve agreed or not agreed to sign papers etc. I also wish my photographers would’ve initiated more poses during the ceremony, but I’ll talk about that in my vendors reviews.
***Any reimbursement owed as a benefit from your wedding will be comped to your room during checkout. I asked over and over again if this amount would be credited to me on my credit card and I was told over and over again that NO! I needed to make sure I had charges to my room that were equal or greater than my comps because Palace Resorts would not give me the benefit money back. I gave my wedding vendors tips and charged it to my room all week. At checkout, I was asked if I would like any remaining compensations put back on my credit card and my jaw nearly hit the floor! This was a lot of money and I would've loved to have had this put back on my credit card but I was given the impression that I had to spend this money or else I would lose it. This, by far, was the largest upset during my wedding.
My list of vendors: DreamArt Photography, Mariachi (5), cigar roller, GAMA group, JSAV