What a truly amazing time!!!! At the risk of sounding REALLY cheesy, I will say that my husband's and my dream came true... for our wedding, we had ALL of our closest friends and family together in one location where they all became friends and family with one another. Our worlds collided and I only wish it could have lasted longer. We decided on a destination wedding because, while we live in Portland (OR), we used to live in NYC and had a ton of guests coming from there and the rest of the world. So really - the destination made things easier and more fun for everyone!
Pictures: Posting this first because this might be the only thing some brides to be are interested in:
All the rest of the Del Sol photos on the pictage page:
Wedding Date: August 7, 2010 at 6pm
10- Bride's brunch w/ the girls
12-3- Hair and makeup in bridal suite
5-6 - Getting ready photos
6-30- Ceremony on Palmeras Beach (originally scheduled for 6, but ran late b/c rain and waiting for guests to shuffle to their seats...)
7-8 - Cocktail and mariachi on Palace Terrace
8:30-Bridal party announced, first dance, slideshow while dinner was served
9-10 - Dinner/Toasts in the Coral Grill
10-12 - Party! (cake, bouquet toss, garter toss... party!!!)
12-2 - Carey bar (air conditioning!!) and Jaguar Disco (which is actually pretty good for a hotel club). Our group looooved getting crazy on the train that takes you to the disco!!
*Note: everything ran a little late. Largely because it was POURING at 3pm (and the only day it rained rained during the 10 days we were down there). The wedding coordinator called me saying they were going to have to move the ceremony to a location across the resort that I had never seen. We begged her to wait 30 minutes. She did and it blew over!!! We were so so so lucky. I stuck a fork (well knife) in the ground because, according to mexican tradition, this stops rain on your wedding day. It worked! If rain on your wedding day is good luck for a good marriage, my groom and I are going to be blissfully happy together for all eternity.
Menu: Lobster Bisque (out of this world with large chunks of lobster), Champagne Sorbet, Surf and Turf (lobster tail and filet mignon), Creme Brulee (Really, ALL AMAZING)
Travel Agent: Wendy Hicks from Wright Travel Agency
Wendy Hicks from Wright Travel Agency (host of the Best Destination Wedding Forum. One of the best decisions we made!!! And I am NOT just saying that because her travel agency hosts this forum!! Every one of our guests who dealt with Wendy directly raved about her. All said she was extremely nice and helpful. We had guests traveling from around the world (Portland, LA, NYC, all around Mexico, Spain, Germany, Chile... ) and Wendy was extremely helpful and accommodating. She was very patient with changes and after hour phone calls (tough work coordinating 95 people). Wendy was just so kind and personable! Wendy got a great deal for our 95 (yes 95!!) guests. The rate Wendy got us through American Express travel was as good and better than any other prices we saw (and we (and our 95 guests) shopped around a ton...). The hotel rates also included transfers to and from the hotel, which was GREAT for our guests.
*Quick Note: be sure to have the driver stop somewhere for beers at a local Pemex... makes the 45 minute drive from airport to the Barcelo quite enjoyable. Especially after flying. You'll be so excited... you'll have a blast.
Ceremony on Palmeras Beach:
The officiant did a bilingual (english/spanish) ceremony that ROCKED!! I was super worried about how it would turn out, but we LOVED it. Many guests said they wanted to fly him to their wedding ceremonies. I had a lot of anxiety about how to communicate the flow of the ceremony. But this was all wasted energy. The officiants are used to whatever you might throw at them (sand ceremonies, vows/no vows, etc). My groom just met with the officiant 5 minutes before the ceremony... he reviewed the program... and everything went smoothly. Well... at least once it stopped pouring!
We rented chairs... through a vendor the wedding coordinator had. LOVED the chairs we had so it seemed well worth it to me.
My brother uses a wheelchair, so having a beach wedding ceremony does not seem like the most logical thing to do. I'm also pretty big on things being accessible and not wanting him to have to rely on others. The wedding coordinator found a pretty elaborate platform that was going to be something like $1500. My brother became best friends with the other groomsmen almost right away, and felt very comfortable with them helping him in the sand. He was also excited about the beach locations. So that is what we did. In retrospect, I think we could have found some plywood at a playa del carmen lumber store (and I did see some when down there) and just laid that under the sand. But would have been a TON of work when everyone wanted to relax by the pool. Access at the hotel is otherwise rather ideal. There are walkways all around the resort that lead relatively close to the beach. Plenty of elevators, etc.
Cocktail on Palace Terrace:
Sad we missed this... the goal was to make it for the mariachi and cocktail... but we were held up longer than expected with the photos. We had hoped to take bridal party pictures before the ceremony, but it just didn't happen between the rain and the bazillion groomsmen to heard (a battle I didn't fight with the groom). The traditional "don't see eachother until you're walking down the aisle" also made for some nice photos we hadn't planned on. Still... the guests loved the mariachi and I think it was 100% worth it. We paid for one hour of cocktail drinks but not food. So much food to come...
Reception Dinner at Coral Grill:
I guess you have to have 100+ guests to have your dinner in the Coral Grill. I believe this is because they set up one of the a la carte restaurants (japanese?) in the grill and have to shut it down for the night if an event is to be held there. The major downside is no air conditioning and very little breeze. We were adamant before the wedding that we wanted our wedding on the beach or in an open air restaurant. Because August tends to be rain season in the riviera maya, we event with the open air restaurant. If we were to do it again, we would go with the air conditioned banquet room over the open air restaurant! If you, like we did, have your wedding ceremony on the beach you get plenty of beach incorporated into your wedding. Why not be comfortable in the air conditioning? Our reception/dinner was at night and we couldn't see the ocean anyway. The heat and humidity kept some of our guests from dancing. Those who didn't care and danced anyway (my groom) were pretty drenched in sweat! If you decide to go with the open air restaurant option, I would suggest having extra shirts for your groom to change into!
Hair and makeup: Adrian Guerra
Contact info: www.StylingTrioRivieraMaya.com and email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrian was another one of the best decisions I made. Adrian did my makeup and a business friend of his did my hair. Adrian has an airbrush machine that will keep your makeup from sweating off your face. They were absolutely fantastic and super flexible and fun. They also did a practice run on my hair and makeup. It was super comforting to know that I would know exactly what they would do the day of the wedding. They were able to come to our hotel room and did hair/makeup for my bridesmaids, mother, and grandmothers. We had drinks and champagne flowing...It was great! Adrian is so fun and friendly... People were coming and going with questions throughout the day... Adrian kept things moving and even helped translate for my dad and mother in law!! (My dad only speaks english and my mother in law only speaks spanish). Adrian is the one to get in touch with if you don't speak spanish..
Photographer: Del Sol
Vincent Guihard from Del Sol Vincent was great... and his product is FANTASTIC!!! My husband was initially concerned with how much we paid on photography and videos (but what guy isn't), but as soon as he saw the photos he said he would pay double. I suppose you become much more emotionally invested when you see your own photos. Also, I have to credit Melissa Mercado, Del Sol's studio manager, for a lot of our wedding coordination. She knows how busy the resort's wedding coordinators are and Melissa was able to recommend vendors... and send me photographs Del Sol had of their work!! This is how I found my florist...
I do have to say that Vincent kept telling me to look sexy. In retrospect I am pretty sure this meant "keep your shoulders back." I'm pretty hunched over.
Check out our pictures!!
All the rest of the Del Sol photos on the pictage page: http://www.pictage.c...&emailFlag=true
Zaida Marcos from Dolcet
We loooove wedding cake and wanted a variety of flavors. We really weren't excited about what we had seen from the Barcelo, so we hired an outside vendor for this too.
We took cake boxes, thinking there would be extra. We did, after all, also have creme brulee for dessert... and the surprise of chocolate covered strawberries that looked like tuxedos (which everyone LOOOOOOVVVED). But NOT NEEDED... because our cake was FINISHED!!
We had the following three flavors:
Coconut cake filled with key lime buttercream and raspberries
Chocolate cake filled with strawberries and chocolate ganache
Pink champagne cake filled with Swiss meringue and strawberries
Videographer: Mediamorfosis crew
love Love LOVE these guys!! The work of Christian Pinto and Claudia Varela (I didn't get the names of the other 2 guys in their crew) makes me cry every time I watch one of their wedding videos. Cannot wait to see our wedding video!! The Mediamorfosis crew came the day before the wedding and shot video footage for the rehearsal, wedding day, and trash the dress the day after the wedding. Check out their blog... my words can't do their work justice. It was a last minute decision that really stretched our budget. But the is something we will have, treasure, and cherish forever!!! They were all very nice and we are lucky it worked out so last minute. Then again, the advantage of having your wedding during Mexico's August off season. We weren't going to do any photos other than the day of the wedding, but the video was a great way to get coverage on our whole trip. Our wedding day was on my grandmother's 80th birthday, so in retrospect, I'm particularly glad we went with this last minute decision and were able to catch her taking a bite directly from her birthday cake at our rehearsal dinner!!! (A Mexican tradition that I loooove and am so happy she embraced!).
Florist : Vanessa Jaimes from Diseno Floral
I wasn't excited about the flowers I had seen in Victoria's email. The Barcelo wedding coordinators REALLY need to update their promotional information. I know they can do great things at a moment's notice. Other brides on here have amazing floral arrangements they got through the hotel. But... I at last minute realized I wanted these things finalized before I was in Mexico trying to relax and enjoy time with my friends and family. Didn't want to be thinking about what flowers we were going to have for the wedding. Vanessa was GREAT to work with. After I had given her an idea of what I might like, she sent me pictures of what she had in mind and a contract with prices, etc. We paid the deposit, and the final payment was due about 10 days before the wedding. I only saw Vanessa Jaimes for about 5 minutes when she came into my room to deliver to the bouquets, but she was so so incredibly nice and friendly.
I was really glad we got the shepard hooks to line the aisle. They added a lot of color to the ceremony without adding too much extra dollars. The centerpieces were EXACTLY what I wanted and I thought they looked great in the candlelit coral grill. Too bad we don't have too many photos of the centerpieces at the guest's tables. They were one of my favorite parts. I loved the bouquets, but in retrospect, might have gone with what Vanessa initially recommended. Listen to her! She knows what she's doing.
She, like all of the other outside vendors, take pride in what they do. They are excited about your wedding. It was a lot of fun to work with the outside vendors because they get a lot more enthusiastic and excited about your wedding day. We only get married once... and they know this... so they are enthusiastic. The resort wedding coordinators generally seem to be much more apathetic. But perhaps even more so at the Barcelo. Victoria was nice, but I certainly got the unspoken sense that she is very difficult for the vendors to work with. And she also made me feel as if I was putting her out every time I spoke with her. But bottom line is that the Barcelo wedding coordinators are completely overworked. They get so many emails and phone calls. It might be a TREMENDOUS help if they have one person in the office to answer ALL questions and emails from brides, and then another wedding coordinator to handle weddings when the bride arrives at the resort. I'm not sure. I'm not the expert and I don't know exactly what their system is. But bottom line is that their current system is not very effective. Which is why brides get so desperate and turn to this forum for answers to basic questions that they should be getting from their wedding coordinator. But like one of my bridesmaids said... you get what you paid for... which is a free wedding coordinator.
My Aunt (and of course my Mom):
These ladies need credit because they were in charge of a lot of the details that turned out AMAZING. First of all, my aunt does calligraphy, and she did an amazing job addressing my invitations. Look for her soon on etsy: Robin Townsend. She also made the menus and some awesome signs that directed people to our wedding site (and served as photo props)...
This was the one area I was very disappointed in. We went with DJ Mannia because of all the great reviews they had on this forum. After the wedding I was extremely upset to find out the hard the time the DJ had given my family while the groom and I were busy with the photographer. The maid of honor's boyfriend went ahead of us all to give CDs with the first dance song to the DJ. With 100 guests on their way to our reception, the DJ informed him that he wasn't going to play until he had $600+ cash. We had never received any sort of follow up email to remind us that the rest of our balance was due. Granted this is largely our fault... and I thought my groom had taken care of this... but we received email reminders from EVERY OTHER VENDOR. I would accept the responsibility for this; however, I am upset that I even emailed DJ mannia the morning before the wedding to ask if they needed anything else from us... and they responded the day of the wedding saying "yes everything is set for your wedding today"?!! Additionally, my groom was in touch just days before to ask them about buying prop pieces (masks, leis, etc. for the party). Not a peep about the fact that we still owed money and that they would require cash on the day of the wedding. It's just bad business.
As a result, my mom, and cousins were left SCRAMBLING to try and pull enough cash out of the atms... particularly difficult given their banks have a cap on pulling out cash. I'm just extremely frustrated that my family had to go through this stress during the wedding reception. Worst of all... my mom felt the DJ was just rude about it all. Unfortunately she had to just do it... not knowing if I had planned to pay him $600+ cash like I had planned for the officiant, cigar roller, and to tip (the cash the best man was in charge of distributing). My mom couldn't ask me because I was on the other side of the resort taking photographs.
I wasn't particularly impressed with the DJ's music either. Again, will have to take some responsibility for this. We asked months in advance if DJ mannia could play bilingual music and they said no problem... that they played music from both the US and Mexico at many weddings. It sounded like they and my groom had everything under control so I decided this was the area I would leave up to the groom. I also thought it was silly to have a "do not play list" - thinking AMAZING music was played at every club I've been to in Mexico, and that there really aren't too many songs I'm unhappy with. My advice for future brides: DO email the DJ a playlist of all the songs you love! Yes we had the music for our first dance and father daughter dance, but the rest of the music selection was almost painful.
The DJ did seem to play a little later than we expected which was very nice. We had a ton of toasts, which I love. But made the expensive DJ mannia seem a pretty unnecessary. We went with the DJ because we figured it would help with our flow, but I'm not sure it really did.
As a general recommendation, I would try to visit the resort before your wedding so you can plan the logistics out in advance and know it will all come together. That way you can just enjoy yourself the day of the wedding. It's difficult at a distance. But generally you would get to meet with the DJ in advance and would know that the details are finalized. But then again, my cousin's DJ didn't even show up for her wedding in the US!! Visiting in advance had been our intention. So the summer before our wedding we visited Puerto Vallarta. Because it poured every day, we decided to get married in the Riviera Maya instead. At that point we didn't have the budget to visit in advance.
The Barcelo Resort (we stayed at the Palace)
This forum was particularly helpful in choosing the resort. But I have to say that the photographs just DO NOT do it justice and it was gorgeous/immaculate. The pools are just gorgeous, it is so so clean. The restaurants are delicious. We had such a fantastic time being able to spend quality time with our friends and family there. They all loved the resort as well. Some said they might have tried to go with the less expensive resort, but realized once there that they were glad we all decided on the palace. Easier access to the bars (not so many people) and all top shelf. Miraculously nobody had hangovers!! Even with all those tequila shots (and the groomsmen got my dad to have A LOT - he who never really drinks otherwise)!! Don't know if this was because of the top shelf alcohol or the sea air... but our time there was paradise.
I would recommend that brides recommend having rooms next to the friends/family members who are helping with details of wedding. THe resort is huge. It isn't such a big deal for most people, because the routine is to hang out at the beach/pools all day, then make one trip to the room to shower and get ready for dinner followed by the theater or drinks in the air conditioned Carey Bar. But having my mom and aunt in the room next to me would have made a lot of things easier in retrospect.
Also, I have to say we felt SO INCREDIBLY SAFE the entire time we were in the Riviera Maya. A friend at work changed her honeymoon from this region to somewhere else because they were worried about issues along the border. Frankly this seemed pretty naive to me. You have to be careful anywhere you are, but the border issues are so far removed from the Riviera Maya. As far as the Barcelo hotel itself goes, I was so so extremely impressed when my mom left her phone at the reception and was able to recover it the next day at the hotel's lost and found. Or when the car rental company staff drove back to the hotel to return the camera that we left in the glove compartment box. Frankly, these items would probably have been considered good as GONE at a hotel in the US.
We had such an AMAZING time and so did all of our guests. The Barcelo Palace is an amazing resort and I am now in love with the Playa del Carmen area. I also want to reiterate how wonderful our travel agent Wendy Hicks was. Also, Adrian Guerra (makeup/hair), Del Sol (photo), Mediamorfosis (video), Zaida (Dolcet / cake), and Vanessa Jaimes (florist) were all truly fantastic. Full of enthusiasm and they just made the day wonderful!!! Also have to say.... thank you thank you thank you for this forum and to all the other brides who have contributed!!!!!
Okay - I'm done with this "book." Sorry if I bored you all!! Let me know if you have any questions at all...