I posted a very thorough review of my wedding in a new thread because it is very long, but then I realized that it would probably be more useful here (despite its length).
Dates in Mexico: 10/29 â€“ 11/7 (10 days)
# of nights at Moon Palace: 6 nights (Wed. â€“ Tues.)
# of nights at the Iberostar Grand: 3 nights (but not enough!!!)
# of guests (including us): 40
Wedding: Saturday (11/1) @ 4 pm in the Tucan Gazebo
It was such an unbelievable experience. I donâ€™t want to bore anyone with my sappy feelings, but all I have to say is that every time I look at my pictures, my eyes get a little watery. I wish I could do it all over again next month!!
OKâ€¦ So now what everyone wants to hear â€“ the details, recommendations, and even some tips. At the end of the review, youâ€™ll find some links to the companies or sites I used. I will also post some additional documents/templates later today that may be helpful as well.
We had a group contract through the Miami office because one of my brotherâ€™s friends works there. She was able to get us a very good (â€œfriends and familyâ€) rate. The rate, along with all the amenities, restaurants, and location were the key reasons we picked the Moon over the other resorts. We did a site visit earlier in the year to visit a number of resorts (Marriott, Iberostar, Paradisus, Excellence, etc.), but I think we made a great choice.
Since we got 20 rooms, we received a free private reception (value = $1600). If you book 10 rooms with a group contract, you can get a free cocktail hour (value = $800). We were actually short 1 room, so we decided to pay to split up some family that was 3 to a room.
I worked with Yudelka Kok in the Miami office. She was absolutely AMAZING to work with. We had a lot of last minute changes and she was on top of everything!
SAVE-THE-DATES & INVITATIONS
- Save the dates: I designed postcards myself on VistaPrint.com. They were really inexpensive and came out really.
- Invitations: I made my own boarding pass invitations. I will share the template later. They were much easier to make than I thought. I got comments from so many people about them! They are so original and soooo cute!
ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE MOON
Our entire group was on the Nizuc side. I have to admit that the Sunriseâ€™s lobby is much nicer, but it is a lot harder to keep track of people there because it is much bigger. The resort was anywhere between 20-40% occupancy (depending on the day and who you asked). We loved it because we got undivided attention everywhere we went. All our guests were in our building (Delfines) or the one next door (Flamencos). Some others were in the Jaguares building. All these buildings had a view of the Catholic gazebo and the ocean. They were very close to the lobby, which was fantastic! The lobby bar on the Nizuc side is open until 1 am, so it was a great place to meet before dinner or after dinner. If you are not sure where you want to eat, you can suggest that you meet at the lobby bar at a specific time. It worked out great for us.
Contents: Chapstick, mini sunblock, itinerary for the weekend, personalized mugs, chocolates (with label with our logo), key Spanish phrases, a Thank you letter from us, a room list (so they can jot other guests room numbers as the come in or keep track of when people arrive and leave the resort), Shout wipes, Tylenol/Advil, Rolaids, Alka Seltzer, a â€œmaracaâ€ pen, a scrap book note card (will explain later under â€œGuest Bookâ€), and an invitation for a brunch for the girls (more later).
Everyone absolutely loved their welcome bags. I got a lot of things from the Target $1 travel item section. The biggest hit was the personalized insulated mugs. Since the cups that are used at the resort are very small, all our guests used their mugs when they were by the pool. They were blue and had our logo.
As far as the chocolates with our logo, I made them myself. I bought Avery address labels and wrapped them around Hershey Nuggets. The came out so cute! You can google templates and instructions on how to make them yourself.
Instead of having them delivered to rooms, I personally gave them to people as they arrived. If you divide and conquer, it is not a big pain in the butt.
My wedding coordinator was Nancy Ariza. Prior to our arrival, my experience with her was very frustrating to say the least. I would email her and I would not get a response from her for about 1 week. It was a little better 2 weeks prior to the wedding, but in the most part, it was very stressful because I wanted to have more things resolved prior to getting there. I have to admit, when we did our site visit, she did warn me that communication would be that way. Ladiesâ€¦ rest assuredâ€¦ EVERYTHING is resolved during your meeting. It was FANTASTIC!!! They definitely have their act together. She has a list of things you need to decide on and you systematically make decisions right there. We ended up spending less money than we thought because she gave me some freebies which will go into detail later (not sure if it was because I was very nice to her when we were exchanging emailsâ€¦ I definitely wanted to stay on her good side and not harass her). She was absolute FANTASTIC! She was there every step of the way even on the wedding day.
I dropped off all the stuff I had for the wedding (place cards, favors, etc.) to her then next day with clear direction on how I wanted everything done. It worked out perfectly.
So this is what our schedule looked like:
- Wednesday: Parents and some friends arrived. Had dinner at Caporales (Mexican) restaurant. This was my favorite restaurant for dinner. It took them a few minutes to seat us because we were a group of 10.
- Thursday: We had our appointment with our wedding coordinator in the morning. By this day, we had about 25 people. We met for drinks at the lobby bar before dinner and then all took the shuttle to the golf club side. We had dinner at the Trattoria restaurant. Since we were a very big group, but the restaurant was pretty empty, they managed to divide us into 3 groups and we all had tables right next to each other.
- Friday: (Also Halloween) By this day, everyone had arrived. Some people went on tours and others were pool-side again. Since we had a private reception and would not be using the restaurant reservation on our wedding day, we decided to use it for a welcome dinner. My itinerary had every meet at 6 pm at the lobby bar. Dinner was scheduled for 7 pm at the Arrecifies restaurant. My reservation was for 35 (this is the max they say they can do). I went to the restaurant 30 minutes earlier and told them that I had an additional 5 people. I was a little stressed out over this because I was told they would not do groups larger than 35, but it worked out just fine.
- Since this was also Halloween, I had asked everyone to bring a costume so we could celebrate Halloween in Mexico. Everyone loved the idea. So, after dinner, we all went back to our rooms and changed into our costumes. We met back at the lobby for more drinks (and an impromptu Halloween contest where the innocent bystanders in the lobby judged us) and after about an hour and a half, we took the shuttle to the Sunrise and partied at the â€œdiscothequeâ€ until they kicked us out! The club is definitely cheesy, but they played great music and we had a great time.
- Saturday: â€œGirls Onlyâ€ Brunch and The BIG DAY! (See â€œCEREMONY & RECEPTIONâ€ for details)
- Sunday: Farewell dinner â€“ Instead of scheduling something in the morning, we decided to have everyone meet at the lobby bar at 7 pm and then we would decide where we wanted to go. We had about 27 people still by this day, so I was a little worried about getting the group to sit together. We decided to go to the Caribe restaurant (which I do not recommend). I had some friends go ahead and let them know that our large group was coming over. We ended up waiting about 30 minutes for them to get the tables together, but we all sat in 4 tables all next to each other.
The girls had salon appointments starting at 11:30 am, so I had decided to invite all my girlfriends and the women in the family for a â€œgirls onlyâ€ brunch. The salon is on the Sunrise side, so I printed a cute little invitation and put it in all the girlsâ€™ welcome bags. We had brunch at the Bugambilia restaurant, which was close to the salon. There was no problem seating our group of 10 together. I gave everyone a tin candle with our logo as well. I bought the candles at Wal-mart and printed labels myself. Againâ€¦ very simple, cute and cheap!
CEREMONY & RECEPTION â€“ How it went downâ€¦THE BIG DAY: Needless to say, this was a very stressful day for me. The weather was not cooperating. We were supposed to have our cocktail hour and reception by the tucan gazebo (in the garden and then the terrace). It was very touch and goâ€¦ When I got back from the salon, Nancy had left me a message telling me she thought it would be best to move the reception indoors because she was pretty sure it was going to rain. I was devastated because I wanted an outdoor reception tooâ€¦ BUT that was the best thing that could have ever happened!! We had the wedding in the tucan gazebo (I loved the long walk way!!!) and cocktails in the garden. During the cocktail hour, the mosquitoes started attacking everyone! (Remember to bring some mosquito repellent because they are vicious!). Everyone was relieved to know we were going indoors.
There are a number of other reasons (aside for the mosquitoes) that going indoors was great. First, it gets really dark out there as soon as the sun sets (around 5:30 pm in November). Second, pictures come out better indoors because there is better lighting. Third, we would get a real dance floor instead of the terrace floor. And lastly, it was really nice to move venues. Otherwise, we would have been in the same area from 4 pm to 10 pm. Everyone was given rose petals (must be freeze dried) to throw when we walked out of the gazebo after being marriedâ€¦ but the best thing was the maracas. I bought very colorful maracas (see link for maracas at end) and everyone loved them! We were all taken to the main lobby where the salons are in golf carts. I thought we would have to walk there, so this was a nice surprise. Our group definitely enjoyed their maracas as they were being driven away. You could hear everyone â€œmaracaâ€ing all the way to the lobby. Even at the reception, people had their maracas in hand!
We had rented some pieces of furniture from DECO CANCUN. Ask your WC if you are interested. I wanted to create a lounge feel so people could sit down somewhere other than at their table. I was a little worried how they would look indoors, but they were set up in a way that really made the room look very nice. I think the room would have looked really big for 40 people if we wouldnâ€™t have had the furniture. They created about 4 mini living rooms. We also got some candle structures that were set at the corners of the room that brought everything in. I have pictures that I will post later.
We started off the reception with the music from the mariachi. We made dinner available half way through the mariachi set. As soon as people finished with dinner, cake was distributed, and then we had our first dance. As far as timing, I think that was the best way to go. After the first dance, we had dance music and people danced until the turned the bright lights on on us.
For favors, we gave everyone a single serving margarita mix envelope and a mini tequila bottle. Finding affordable mini tequila bottles was very challenging, despite being in Mexico!!
It ended up not raining, but I have no regrets moving the reception. We had a great time!
OTHER WEDDING DETAILS
- Bouquets: I went with the gerber daisies in pinks, yellow, and orange. It cost $140. The bridesmaidsâ€™ ones were $95 each. So ask for the smaller version bouquets for your bridesmaids! The colors totally popped against their turquoise dresses!
- Horse drawn carriage: It was beautiful!!!!
- Groomsmen attire: Linen khaki pants with Cuban-style linen shirts embroidered with the same shade of turquoise from the bridesmaidsâ€™ dresses. They looked great! The guys absolutely loved them and said they would wear them again.
- Bridesmaid dresses: Turquoise halter dresses
- Centerpieces: I opted to pick flowers for the alter at the gazebo that could me reused as centerpieces. They were pretty inexpensive ($140 per pair).
- Linens: I went with turquoise table covers and used their white table cloths underneath. I also got the same color ribbon for the chairs.
- Cake: We choose vanilla (2 layers) and chocolate (1 layer). I didnâ€™t get to taste the chocolate, but I heard it was great. The vanilla was very delicious too! We were encouraged to stick to either vanilla or chocolate by our WC and she was right on.
- Starfish place cards: I had 4 tables and made place cards with our logo and each guestâ€™s name and table number. I tied a turquoise ribbon around each starfish. The staff set them out on a table at the entrance. Almost everyone took their starfish with them.
- Food: We choose the international menu for the cocktail appetizers and the Mexican menu for the buffet dinner. It was just â€œOKâ€.
- Music: I wanted the mariachi to play as soon as the reception started. It worked out perfectly. When we walked in to the reception, the played a grand entrance song for us. Beautiful!!
- Favors: Single serving of margarita mix (Label said: â€œThe perfect mixâ€ and our names) and a mini tequila bottle. I didnâ€™t bring the tequila with me from the US because I was convinced that I could find cheap tequila in Mexico (â€œMiniâ€ bottles, that is). WOW! Was I wrong. I managed to find cheap mini tequila bottles at a liquor store across the street from Wal-Mart #1 in Cancun. (Yes, there is a Wal-Mart in Cancunâ€¦ Actually there are 2! So if you forget something, you can get it there.) I forgot the exact name of the liquor store, (â€œEuropeaâ€ maybe), but it is across the street from that Wal-Mart. They cost about $1.50 each (vs. $4 - $5 everywhere else).
- Sound system: We rented the sound system for 4 hours. Nancy was going to let me use 1 hour for the cocktail hour and then 3 hours for the reception (since the first hour of the reception was the mariachi), but since my reception was moved indoors, the sound system went indoors too and we didnâ€™t have music during the cocktail hour. I donâ€™t think anyone cared. The sound system came with a microphoneâ€¦ and a DJ! I had worked on play lists for weeks, so when the â€œout of workâ€ DJ started playing music I knew was not on my play list, I got really annoyed. I went up to him 2 times to play from my play list, but once someone made a request for a song, he just kept playing his music. He hijacked my iPod play list!! It turned out OK since there were people dancing during the whole reception, but I really wanted to play certain songs that I never got to hear. End of the day, I got a DJ for free too!
Instead of a traditional guest signing book, I got a cute scrapbook where I am putting everyoneâ€™s picture. The welcome bags had a small note card that they used to write us a message. I am working on printing the pictures and attaching the messages next to the pictures now. Unfortunately, some people did not return the card, but I will just use their picture. Youâ€™ll find that your best friends and family will want to write something. I also saved a copy of our save the date, an invitation, our boarding tickets, and our room key. They will all go I the front pages of the scrap book.
I used a resort photographer (David Pena). Based on the work that I saw from the other resort photographers, I think he is the best. I was able to pick up my pictures on Thursday (5 days after the wedding). I have to say that I was hoping for slightly better pictures, but we did get a number of really great ones. The reception pictures were pretty weak, but the pictures after the ceremony were very nice. I think I would seriously consider hiring an outside photographer if I could do things againâ€¦ OR give him more direction. Having a list of pictures you want may also be helpful. He had a tendency of just hanging around and waiting for people to pose before he took a picture. Overall, he was not that bad. We also had several friends that can take great picturesâ€¦
I do have to say that my expectations for the food quality were not that high. All-inclusives generally do not have the best food. Overall, I was not surprised. Food was OK. Some places were better than others. I liked the Mexican (Corporales) and Brazilian (Arrecifes) restaurants. The others were â€œacceptableâ€. The worst restaurant I that I went to was the Caribe (Caribbean restaurant in the Grand side). It had the worst food and the worst service despite being on the Grand side. The breakfast buffets were all very similar to each other. Lots of fresh fruit and made-to-order omelets.
We spend a couple of days by the Nizuc pool, but were mostly at the Grandâ€™s infinity pools. There is also a Taco place on the Grand side that has THE BEST food I had at the Moon. They were simple tacos, but they were really yummy!
We spend 4 incredible days at the Iberostar Grand. It was absolutely beautiful. We had our own butler and concierge. All you had to do was ask and you would get anything you needed. Treated like absolute royalty there! The food was incredible too! I canâ€™t wait to go back for an anniversary!
- Mugs: Personalized imprinted Travel Mug - customized promotional printed Fun Travelers Mugs(PT8 from DiscountMugs.
- Spanish Phrases: Print a Free Pocket-Sized Phrase Booklet | Spanish - Espaol
- Maraca pens: Party supplies, crafts, party decorations, toys: Oriental Trading
- Maracas for post-ceremony: Mardi Gras Beads, New Orleans - School Supplies, Custom Imprinting from Big Wheel
- Freeze dried rose petals: Wedding Rose Petals Silk rose petals, silk wedding bouquets, rose petals, wedding freeze dried petals.
- Margarita mix for favors: Cheap Wedding Favors - Cheap Personalized Wedding Favors - Bridesmaid Gifts
- Starfish for place cards: ebay (search white pencil starfish)
- Groomsmen shirts: WeddingTropics
- Bridesmaidsâ€™ dresses: Maggy London Silk Chiffon Halter Dress - Bridesmaids - Nordstrom
â€¢Get a couple of sets of walkie talkies. It helps to keep track of key people in your party because the resort is huge.
â€¢If people have blackberries, use them! A lot of us were on the AT&T network and we used our blackberry to keep track of each other.
â€¢Give everyone an itinerary with all the events. If you donâ€™t know exactly what you want to do, just set up a meeting time at the lobby bar and then decide what you want to do for dinner when you are there.
â€¢If you can, plan your wedding during low season. All the restaurants are willing to accommodate larger groups then.
â€¢Forget the bubble machine. It is too windy.
Bring lots of change for tips
â€¢Use a picture sharing so you can get access to everyoneâ€™s pictures. phanfare - All your photos and videos. For life. is great and allows you to download hi-res pictures.
â€¢Give the photographer direction on what type of pictures you are look to get.
â€¢If you are told to go to the Mercado 28 for Mexican items, donâ€™t bother. I found the prices to be very high there as well. (Even for mini tequila bottles).
â€¢Make a list of the things you are giving your WC and include very clear directions on where and how you want things placed.
â€¢If you want to add a little something more to the d©cor, use DECO and rent some furniture. We created a cute â€œclubbyâ€ feel with the furniture.
â€¢If you decide to use starfish for place cards, buy extra. I had tons and we had them everywhere at the reception.
â€¢Consider renting a car. We wanted to personally pick up our parents and buy some things in Cancun, so it was very convenient to have it there. (Rent online before you get there because it is a lot more expensive there.)
â€¢Be patient with your WC! Nancy split between my wedding and someone else's wedding that evening. When she said good-bye to me at the reception (8ish), she was on her way back to her office to answer some emails (on a Saturday night).
Ohâ€¦ this was long! I will post pictures and other documents laterâ€¦
Let me know if you have any questions!