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For LARGE wedding parties at RIU...especially those w/ fam in JA

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#1 PrecisePlans

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    Posted 20 February 2008 - 04:30 PM

    This is kinda old, but i found it on trip advisor.......warning........it's LONG!!! But covers everything in detail for a large wedding group (150 people):

    I don't know how accurate this is, but i just thought that i would share.

    I got married at the RIU Ocho Rios on June 24, 2006. We were utterly dissatisfied with the service or lack thereof that we received during our wedding. We expressed our disappointment to the RIU Headquarters management when we returned from our honeymoon and they were very uncooperative. The only thing they offered was a refund of the cake that fell over. You'll read more about that below. DO NOT GET MARRIED HERE!!!

    For 9 months I meticulously planned everything, only to have it all fall apart because of the poor service I received. Several things went wrong and I will address each one separately.

    First, when I initially met with the coordinator, Chandlyn Edwards during my site visit to the resort in November, I told her that I expected anywhere between 100-150 guests at my wedding. I explained that my entire family is from Jamaica and therefore everyone was planning to use my wedding as an opportunity to “come home” to Jamaica. Therefore, my wedding was definitely going to be a large destination wedding. I also explained that the vast majority of the guests would be staying at the resort for the days leading up to the wedding, but a few would not stay at the resort and would only come the day of the wedding. At that point Chandlyn explained that any wedding guests that do not stay at the hotel would be required to buy a $50 day pass in order to gain access to the wedding. I was concerned because I did not want to be personally responsible for collecting all the money for the day passes. Chandlyn assured me that each guest could simply go to the front desk, identify themselves as a wedding guest, and buy their own day pass without me having to be involved. When we returned home from our honeymoon we found out that 2 of our guests arrived at the resort gate and the guard refused them access because he did not have a list of wedding guests. At no time did Chandlyn or anyone else ever inform me that I had to provide a list of the guests. I corresponded with Chandlyn several times in the months leading up to the wedding and had an appointment with her the morning after I arrived, 4 days before the wedding. Noone ever told me anything about a list, so none was provided. Nevertheless, the two guests that were refused access were dressed for the wedding and one of these guests was to serve as my personal photographer. He even showed the guard his camera and identified himself as my photographer, yet the guard still refused to allow them to enter the resort. That to me is absolutely unacceptable. Whether or not the guard had a list, since they were adamant that they were indeed guests at a wedding on the resort the appropriate thing for the guard to do was to at least call the front desk and get in touch with the coordinator or someone else to verify whether a wedding was in fact taking place. But the guard chose to simply deny them access without doing anything to verify whether they were indeed wedding guests. That lack of professionalism caused us to lose the opportunity to share our wedding day with two of our friends. These friends flew all the way to Jamaica from Baltimore Maryland just to be at my wedding, yet they were unfairly denied access to the very event they had come for. This could all have been avoided if I had been informed that a list was required. I can never repay these guests for the money they needlessly spent to come to Jamaica and noone can repay us for the intangible benefit of sharing our day with our friends. After complaining, RIU did absolutely nothing to make up for this loss, and they refused to even offer an apology for their unprofessional guard staff.

    Second, I had originally intended to use the florist contracted by the resort for all my wedding floral decorations, including chairs and chair covers. However, on the morning of the wedding after several negotiations with the florist since my arrival at the resort 4 days earlier, we realized that we would not use the services of that florist, as her cost was extremely high and simply not within our limited budget. Chandlyn was present during this final negotiation with the florist and knew that we would be obtaining our own florist. We did in fact find our own florist to provide the flowers and decorations at 1/3 of the cost the original florist quoted, well within our budget. With the change of florist, we decided not to use the chairs and chair covers that the florist would have otherwise provided and therefore relied on the resort to provide chairs. Our wedding was scheduled for 4pm and when that time was fast approaching my bridesmaids looked over the balcony and saw that there were no chairs set up at the gazebo, which was the ceremony location. As it turned out, one of my friends went and found Chandlyn and told her they were waiting to get some chairs. A while later, another employee brought out some chairs but did not set them up. He simply brought them out and walked away. Chandlyn was nowhere to be found, so my friends then joined together to set up the chairs, put out the aisle runner etc. - all without any help or assistance from Chandlyn or anyone else from the resort. As the wedding coordinator, Chandlyn never presented herself out there to help with or oversee anything. My guests did everything that Chandlyn was supposed to do and should have done. That is simply ridiculous and unacceptable. Again, RIU has done nothing to rectify this.

    Although the $795 we paid to have our wedding at RIU Ocho Rios included the assistance of the wedding coordinator, we certainly did not get any such assistance. In fact, my wedding was scheduled for 4:00pm, yet I did not see Chandlyn until about 4:30pm that day, a half hour after the scheduled start time. She had called me once for the first time around 3pm. That to me is unacceptable. I expected to be in touch with the wedding coordinator throughout the day to make sure things went as planned. I was unable to leave the room because I did not want to run the risk of my groom seeing me before the wedding. I suspect that a big part of the problem is that Chandlyn had 2 other weddings scheduled that same day – the first was around 11:00am that morning and the second was at 2:00pm, just 2 hours before my wedding. So Chandlyn simply had no time for me and my wedding plans. As previously stated, from the very beginning I estimated anywhere from 100-150 guests at my wedding. In fact, we ended up with a total of 128 guests. Hence everything I contracted with Chandlyn for was for a total of 130 guests (including bride and groom). Due to the short period of time the RIU Ocho Rios has been open for business, I suspect that mine was perhaps one of the largest weddings held there to date. I think it was poor judgment to schedule two other weddings on the same day so close together, and ultimately, it was me and my groom who paid the price in receiving little to no attention or service from the coordinator. This also caused our wedding to start one hour late, causing our guests to wait in the hot sun. Again, RIU has taken no responsibility for this.

    Another example of Chandlyn’s lack of service to us is evidenced by her behavior during the ceremony and the reception. For example, my sister who was also my Maid of Honor, had been holding my dress and helping me right up until it was time to walk down the aisle. When she positioned herself to begin walking down the aisle, she noticed that Chandlyn was standing there with the other spectators ready to watch the ceremony. My sister then motioned to get Chandlyn’s attention and asked her to please go back and help me with my dress (the train on my dress was 7 feet long and I needed help holding it up so it would not get dirty before I walked down the aisle). I am appalled that the wedding coordinator would think she could stand there as a guest, rather than check on the bride and make sure everything was okay. In fact, Chandlyn never even bothered to make sure the musicians were cued for my entrance. The result is that instead of the “Wedding March” playing as I entered, the steel band was playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as I walked down the aisle!!!!!! I am VERY upset about that. Having the Wedding March played is one of those special intangible things that can’t be replaced or fixed. Every bride dreams of walking down the aisle to the Wedding March. My dream was crushed. Moreover, the entire wedding party was supposed to walk down the aisle to the music of a saxophonist. The saxophonist was there earlier, as Chandlyn had called me around 3pm to let me speak with him so I could tell him what kind of music I wanted him to play. I can only speculate that he left because the wedding started one hour late and he probably had another scheduled engagement to play for. Again, it is me and my groom that had to suffer a loss (not having the romantic sounds of a saxophone) that meant so much to us. That cannot be returned to us. To make matters even worse, right before the ceremony started is when Chandlyn informed me that the saxophonist was gone. I asked her where he was and if he was coming back. She said she didn’t know and asked me if I knew where he was and insinuated that I should know because I spoke to him on the phone! I was very angry that she would make that insinuation because she’s the wedding coordinator, not me. I paid her the $150 for the saxophonist and she contracted with him to perform the service. As the wedding coordinator she was supposed to ensure that the saxophonist was available and ready to perform the service I paid for. Accordingly, she should have kept up with him and knew when he was leaving. Had she done her job she could have explained to him that things ran a little late and sincerely asked him to wait just a little while longer. Perhaps he would have stayed and fulfilled my cherished desire to walk down the aisle to the romantic sounds of the saxophone. Again, the RIU has done nothing about this. In fact, in an email from the RIU headquarters managment, they actually blamed me for this!!

    Immediately after the ceremony the bridal party left to take pictures. I recently became aware that 4 of my guests left the ceremony and went to the buffet for dinner and completely missed the reception because they were not directed toward the Plantation for the private reception. As the wedding coordinator, Chandlyn should have been instrumental in directing the guests to the Plantation. Obviously I could not do so myself because I was off taking photos with my bridal party. I suspect that the guests misinterpreted the hors d’oeuvres and cocktails that were provided immediately after the ceremony as the “reception.” They clearly needed further guidance and there was noone there to give it to them.

    Yet another example of the poor service we received from Chandlyn is her marked absence during our reception. As the bridal party was gathering to be announced and enter the reception there was a lot of confusion and we were looking for Chandlyn to help out. Nobody saw her anywhere, so my cousin went looking for her. She did not know where Chandlyn’s office was, so she went to the front desk and asked for her. Apparently not realizing that my cousin was a wedding guest, one of the employees informed her that Chandlyn had just passed by and said she was “hiding” from our wedding because we were upset and expressing our unhappiness. My cousin then asked to see Chandlyn and told her that we needed her assistance at the reception. That is when Chandlyn finally presented herself at the reception, but by then the bridal party had already entered the reception. After that, I did not see her there for the rest of the night. Again, this is unsatisfactory behavior for a so-called wedding coordinator and it contributed to the many things that went terribly wrong at our wedding.

    I paid Chandlyn $250 for a two tiered fondant wedding cake large enough to feed 130 guests. When we arrived at the reception I noticed that the cake table was set up in front of the bridal party table. However, there was no cake. After more than an hour someone finally brought the cake out and placed it on the table. That is simply ridiculous. Then as the cake sat there we noticed it was melting – the icing was falling down from the sides of the cake. By the time we went to finally cut it, it looked a mess. Perhaps it was because the cake was buttercream and it was supposed to be fondant! Moreover, as my groom and I began to cut the cake in front of everyone, we were embarrassed to realize that for some reason we couldn’t cut into the cake. As it turns out, there was a piece of cardboard covered in foil sitting on the top of the bottom tier of the cake. The baker had placed it on top of the cake and put the icing over it!!! That is unacceptable!! Then it got even worse – we managed to get a little piece of cake from the side to feed each other. As we were doing so, the cake fell over in front of everyone!!!! That was embarrassing, absurd and simply deplorable. Moreover, because it fell nobody had the opportunity to eat any of it. As a result, we had absolutely no dessert for our guests at our wedding. Had Chandlyn been there doing her job, perhaps she could have gotten us some dessert from one of the other restaurants at the resort. At least they refunded this - after 6 months of complaining!

    While the staff that served the food at the reception was very nice and courteous to our guests, they faltered in one respect. As we were preparing to begin the toasting portion of the wedding, for some reason the staff did not manage to fill all the glasses in time. Therefore, several of the guests had to toast using the water that was on each of the tables. Additionally, the food service was very slow, so the guests were not served at the same time. While some were just getting their dinner others were already finished eating. There simply were not enough servers assigned to my reception and that clearly was the responsibility of the RIU Ocho Rios to provide a satisfactory number of servers.

    We paid $1500 for a combination of the resort’s photography and videography packages. During the ceremony the cell phone of one of the photo/video assistants rang. At the time, he was standing outside the gazebo taking pictures of us (the groom and I were inside the gazebo reciting our vows). The assistant came into the gazebo and answered the phone!! He proceeded to have a very loud conversation and totally interrupted the ceremony!! My groom had to tell him to hang up the phone and get out of the gazebo. Why should anyone have to tell him that? He should have known better and the fact that he didn’t speaks volumes about the lack of professionalism in the service provided. This was clearly a very rude disruption to our ceremony.

    Despite the obvious rudeness of that assistant, overall, I was satisfied with the photographers’ performance. The only other performance issue I would note is that they refused to stay until we were ready to cut the wedding cake. They wanted us to cut it as soon as we started the reception, even before we ate dinner! That is not the normal protocol at a wedding and it was ridiculous for them to expect us to do that. As a result, we did not get any pictures of the cake cutting. Nevertheless, because the cake was set in foil-covered cardboard and it fell over, I guess there was no real picture to capture anyway.

    The final major issue with the photography/videography concerns the additional cost we were charged. Because the wedding coordinator’s lack of control of the event caused us to start an hour late, the photographer charged us an additional $360 ($90 per hour for the additional 2 hours each of the 2 photographers worked). We objected to the charge, but we were informed that if we did not pay the charge we could not get all the pictures in the package we originally paid for. In other words, the photographer was going to withhold as many photos as needed to offset the $360 cost of the additional time. We realized that these were the only so-called professional photos we would have of our wedding, so in order to ensure that we got pictures for our album, we paid the additional cost. It is not fair to us that we had to pay that additional $360 because it was not due to our own fault that the cost was incurred. It was clearly the result of the poor service we received. The coordinator simply had no sense of control or organization of the event and caused the wedding to start an hour late, which in turn caused the photographers to work additional time (including the initial hour they stood around waiting for the wedding to start). Of course, RIU has done nothing about this either.

    Bottome line, if you want a wonderful memorable wedding, do not get married at the RIU Ocho Rios. Ours was memorable alright - a nightmare that unfortunately, we will never forget.

    #2 rodent


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      Posted 20 February 2008 - 04:41 PM

      Wow that's a bad review. usually I don't take reviews to seriously because people tend to complain more than necessary when they get upset, but this person had some very specific examples. 2 guests getting turned away! Thats terrible! Any an assistant should not be on the phone. wow! Hopefully this was one particularly overbooked day. Sounds like plenty of people have had great ROR weddings too.

      #3 Bride010101

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        Posted 20 February 2008 - 04:41 PM

        Just want to point out that this wedding was in June 2006 and the resort opened in late 2005 (I believe). They now have had 2 more years to better prepare themselves for large groups/weddings. I was looking into having my 2009 wedding at Riu in Montego Bay (they are opening next fall) and was warned by just about everyone how risky it would be to a hold a wedding w/in the first 6 months of a resort opening. I think its safe to say they aren't perfect ... but I would bet a lot of these issues have been ironed out.

        With that said... I am getting a bit nervous w/ some of the things I've heard lately - particulary in realms of photography.

        #4 ACDCDCAC

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        Posted 20 February 2008 - 04:46 PM

        Wow that really sucks! I know I've heard much better things on here, and lets just hope for the future ROR brides that this was a one time catastrophe.

        #5 PrecisePlans

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          Posted 20 February 2008 - 04:48 PM

          Most of the reviews that I've heard are pretty good, but the reason this one stuck out to me is because a big portion of my family is from JA and I don't want them being turned away at the guards desk. I will be sure to provide a list.

          #6 Ilandking

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            Posted 20 February 2008 - 04:57 PM

            I received an email from Chandlyn and she said that as long as we provide a list with names it wont be a problem. Also what I intended to do was pay for 50% of the $50 entrance fee since we will be having about 40 people from off the resort to kind of help them with the cost. She also said this wouldnt be a problem.....But for some reason I still feel the need to keep my fingers crossed...

            #7 PrecisePlans

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              Posted 20 February 2008 - 05:04 PM

              Originally Posted by Ilandking
              I received an email from Chandlyn and she said that as long as we provide a list with names it wont be a problem. Also what I intended to do was pay for 50% of the $50 entrance fee since we will be having about 40 people from off the resort to kind of help them with the cost. She also said this wouldnt be a problem.....But for some reason I still feel the need to keep my fingers crossed...

              so your off site guests will pay $25 per person. Hmm.....i never thought of that. I just assumed that I would pay for them and a spouse. That would really cut down on some of my expenses because I have tons of people coming to the wedding, not staying on the resort, that live in JA. It's sucks that they won't be able to visit me (without paying) for the rest of my stay.

              #8 JamaicaBrideToBe

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                Posted 20 February 2008 - 06:04 PM

                One thing I want to mention too. As sad as it is that sabotage exists it does. I've read so many reviews of so many places and things that I've been told that competition will sometimes go on the internet and write terrible reviews, likewise the you will find the opposite happen with unbelieveably great reviews - because they are coming from someone that has some kind of stakes in the product they are marketing. I read this review a few months ago and I just find it hard to believe that so much could be so severely terrible at a 5 star resort - although, this is just my opinion.
                That being said, I trust word of mouth more than anything else and from the reviews I have found on this website I believe our weddings will be memorable with minimal hiccups. The one thing I am doing in my back up is having my maid of honor and my mother check the reception area before we all get there. I'm bringing some of my own linens and centerpieces and I want to be sure the tables are arranged the way we want...other than that, I hear the resort does a fabulous job.

                #9 JamaicaBrideToBe

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                  Posted 20 February 2008 - 06:15 PM

                  Originally Posted by md_ocr
                  so your off site guests will pay $25 per person. Hmm.....i never thought of that. I just assumed that I would pay for them and a spouse. That would really cut down on some of my expenses because I have tons of people coming to the wedding, not staying on the resort, that live in JA. It's sucks that they won't be able to visit me (without paying) for the rest of my stay.

                  Maybe you can call on local family to help you with the costs of paying for your family in Jamaica to come? The only reason I say this is if you have ever been back home to Jamaica you know that whatever you leave with in terms of clothing and goodies you can expect to come back with less than half. And wherever you go you are expected to pay the bill. It is a third world country after all, most of the locals are just getting by. Although we are not wealthy on our end we also have about 20 local family members that are coming...we went to some Aunts and Uncles and asked them if they would be willing to contribute and they were more than happy - they are going to see family too...Jamaicans are such a generous culture I must say. I'm born in Canada and my fiance is Jamaican, as I said none of us are wealthy but if anyone in his family needs money we tend to pass the basket to help them...then when situations like these come around and it's our turn they don't hesitate. Just a thought so you can see your family and not break the bank!

                  #10 Shenmaat

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                    Posted 20 February 2008 - 08:11 PM

                    I was worried about this also but I was reassured I shouldnt have a problem. Im crossing my fingers that the wedding will not be as big as 150 people but with Jamaican family members (I am Jamaican and he is not) you never know!

                    I am shelling the money for the guests and it is driving my costs up. Hopefully Chandlyn does not tell me they are enforcing the limit of people who are allowed on the property.
                    "An accident of chance became, our lasting gift that day. Some paths may cross but do not always, join in such a way"

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