Okay, here is my review! I wanted to write it while everything is fresh in my mind, sorry is is LONG! I wanted to give all the information and help I could because I found all the past brides SO helpful on here and hope I can do the same
Wedding Date: March 1st, 2013
Resort: Barcelo Maya Palace
Wedding package: Mint Breeze
Ceremony: Playa Azul Beach 5:00pm
Reception: Rancho Grande Grill 7:00-10pm
Wedding coordinator: Jacqueline
Overview: Our wedding was more than we could have ever imagined! Everything turned out perfectly, the staff truly know what they are doing, and I am so happy we decided to do a destination wedding. We had several people come up to us during and after the reception to tell us it was the best wedding they have ever been too!
No one really had issues checking in or out (two of my friends rooming together had been put in a room with one king bed instead of two doubles but they fixed it right away). I had no issues getting items to Mexico (we brought 4 suitcases!).
The weather was unusually cold, cloudy, and rainy the first few days we were there but NO RAIN on my wedding day and it was sunny and warm (at least during the day) the last days of our vacation.
Resort: The Barcelo is a beautiful resort! There is a noticeable difference between the Palace and the other resorts and I am glad we choose to stay there. We originally chose Barcelo because of the size and the different price point options, but all of our guests ended up staying at the Palace and I am glad they did because unless they stayed at the Tropical, the other resorts are pretty far away.
I have heard people complain about the resort being too big, but honestly we didn't mind because we mostly stayed at the Palace and there are shuttles to take to you to locations too far to walk. There is quite a bit of walking to and from the pool/beach and lobby but if you are young you will be fine. My grandmother had to get a wheelchair at times because it was too much for her.
The food was amazing! I have stayed at several all inclusive resorts in Mexico and Punta Cana and the Barcelo by far had the best food. We were seriously sick a few nights from eating too much!
The pool is HUGE and there is a separate adult and child pool, not to mention the several other large pools at the other resorts. The beach is gorgeous we some small rocks toward the end of the palace where the coral is but the rest is soft sand. Standing in the water you see a bunch of fish and turtles and you can snorkel right there. There are many activities like kayaking, paddle boats, water bike things, hobby cats, etc.
The only negative things I could say is the resort doesn't have a beach bar and it would be nice to have a snack bar where you could go up in your swimsuit and grab something quick and not go to the buffet, and they charge for room service (other all inclusives do not). Several of us did have issues with our air conditioner in our rooms, whether it was too cold or too hot..
Wedding: I can't say enough that everything went perfectly! I am a planner but tried to keep in mind that a destination wedding is different and you have to let some things go and just let it be ... and I am so glad I did because the things we didn't plan turned out even better than some we did!
My wedding coordinator Jacqueline was so great. She was pretty quick to respond to emails (about a week) and it got better towards the end of the planning process. We met with her the day after we got to the resort and went over everything again, making sure we were on the same page. You can seriously plan or change anything at that point! I gave her all of the items I had brought and she said she would set it up.
We were planning on doing a rehearsal and a dinner, but decided a rehearsal wasn't necessary. We had reserved dinner at the Caribbean restaurant (max 20 people) previously and they had a set menu, the food was very good! They put sombreros on us, sang us a song, and gave us a special desert for the wedding:)
I stayed with my sister the night before the wedding and my hubby and I decided to go to different buffets for breakfast and not see each other before the wedding. I was surprised I never ran into him and so glad we did it! The boys went to the pitch and put together and the girls got manicures at 11:00am. We did have a slight issue with the appointments at first but it was quickly figured out. The manicures looked good at first but chipped very quickly! I did my own hair and makeup but saw other brides in the spa and they looked really good and they use MAC makeup.
After the manicures we went back to my room to get ready (was done at 1pm for 4 manis). They were supposed to come steam my dress in my room at 11:00am but didn't arrive until almost 2pm!. This was really the only hassle we had. My mom was in my room waiting and called three times before they came up but luckily we had them do it early and it got done in time. It was only about $20 and they did a good job.
I was glad I started getting ready at 1:00pm because I wasn't rushed and we were able to order room service and have some drinks before the photographer came at 4:00. I did my own hair and makeup (with the help of my girls) and it turned out great and was glad I didn't spend the money to get it done.
Ceremony: All of the guests and the groom/groomsmen were picked up by a shuttle at 4:30pm in the lobby and brought to Playa Azul. They couldn't fit everyone in one shuttle so they had to make two trips and that set us back a bit. I was in my room waiting for the WC to pick me up (was supposed to be 4:55) and I don't think she showed up until 4:10 or so. I called down to see what was going in because I was concerned about it getting dark and didn't want the groom to worry where I was! Jacqueline said she was waiting for the confirmation that the guests and groom were there before picking me up which was why she was late.
Jacqueline showed up with all the bouquets and they were so beautiful, way more than I expected and exactly what I asked! She drove me, the photographer, my BMs, my mom, and mother in law all the way to the ceremony site but had me hidden. They had the groom keep his back turned until I was about to walk down and the music started, I loved this part! I was able to see his reaction and was definitely the most emotional part. Jacqueline told us all when to go, what to do, and say right then, no rehearsal needed.
I had the guitarist for the live music and wasn't able to hear any of it because we had certain songs played on the ipod for the BMs and me but I heard he was good and I was surprised that he could play pretty much anything I requested. They did a perfect job with playing all the music at the right time.
The officiant was awesome! We didn't have anything planned other than giving the WC a paper that had some things we wanted mentioned or to do during the ceremony. I was nervous about not talking to the officiant before hand and knowing exactly what would be said, but I guess he talked to my husband before the ceremony for a few minutes and asked him if he wanted a prayer and a little bit about us. He did such a good job of combining everything we wanted with what he normally does. We did a ring warming and had him saying a reading during this and it ended up taking a lot longer than we thought to pass the rings and he said "well their rings will be very warm with love, let me say another reading about..." and it worked perfectly!
We were very worried about the time of our ceremony and not having enough light for pictures but it ended up working perfectly (read more about our photographer later). I am SO glad I choose Playa Azul for the ceremony and a later time. It was very private and pretty much no one around. I saw many other wedding while I was there and it didn't seem very personal with a bunch of people around staring.
Reception: When we met with the WC beforehand she told us we would be upgraded to an open air restaurant due to "all of the people". Wasn't sure exactly what she meant but wasn't going to question it! I saw some of the banquet halls at the resort and they are very nice but I was still excited to be outside and not pay extra:). The Rancho Grande Grill was right next to the ceremony site and although it is large and we had a smaller group, the sectioned off half it and it worked and looked great! We did not have a cocktail hour and sent the group to the outside bar the was right behind the grill for drinks while we took pictures (with the ceremony, toasting, and starting a few minutes late I think we were done about 5:45 so had a little over an hour before the reception started at 7). This was perfect for us because we had some pictures done before the ceremony and did want a bunch of pictures anyways (I was honestly sick of it after 45 min lol!).
We had our friend run our ipod and make some announcements. I am so glad I didn't pay for a DJ, especially with our small group (30 people) it wasn't necessary and I loved having my own music picked out (even though it was tedious!). I have had several people ask for a copy of the playlist already!
The decorations were great! I had everything very simple but loved the way it turned out. I brought candles, ribbon, and starfish and explained how I wanted it set up and Jacqueline did such a great job! We also had the flower centerpiece from the ceremony that was included and I rented vases for the candles and the bouquets.
The food was great! Better than some of the restaurants. We had the caser salad (everyone loved), minestrone soup, beef tenderloin, and caramel spring rolls (also lots liked). I wasn't able to eat much, partly due to a tight dress and excitement, but from what I tried it was awesome and heard all good things from guests. The presentation was very nice as well. We had a two tiered cake with cream frosting and pineapple and vanilla filling. No one really ate much cake because we were so full from dinner but it was pretty good (pineapple better) and looked nice. We mostly got two tiers because it looks better and was nice to have it the next day, but don't listen to them when they say each tier feeds 10 people..we had 30 people and hardly ate the smaller tier!
We did not add any time to our reception. Because we had a smaller group it worked out perfect to have dinner, toasts during dinner, first dance, father/mother dances, over an hour for dancing, and cut the cake. At the end some of the older folks were ready to leave and it made sense to move to the disco and not add time. We went to the disco and it was surprisingly really fun! You kind of get carried to in your wedding gear;). The groom and I only stayed at the disco for a couple hours and headed back to our room but the rest of the group partied at the disco/lobby bar until 3am!
Jacqueline took all of the wedding items back to her office and we picked them up the next day.
The next day: We had breakfast in bed (SO MUCH FOOD) and our couples massage at 11am. Everything was on time and great. So nice to relax after everything! We had rose peddles and champagne in our room the wedding night, the next morning, and also when we checked in. They also brought in the rest of our wedding cake with our breakfast and we brought it down to the lobby bar later that night for everyone to help finish!
Photographer: We caved and paid the $500 outside vendor fee to have Juan Navarro for our photographer and I am so glad we did. I wasn't impressed with the resort photographer online, but when we went into the office to pay the fee the pictures they had up were actually not bad, they should update their website! I had heard that they can be a pain, calling you over and over, etc. but probably because we paid the fee right after we met with our WC they didn't bother us. Because of the 3 night minimum during this time of year, it was cheaper than booking a room.
Like I said I am so glad we chose Juan. He spoke perfect English and was very personable and easy to work with. He knew I was worried about having enough light so really tried to get our pictures in and kept saying "I am sorry I am rushing, I just want to get your pictures in before its dark". He did several couple pictures first, then the group pictures, and finished off with more couple pics in the dark.
We did several beach pictures, some outside and night, and some inside. He showed us the camera as we went so we could see how amazing they looked! I told Juan ahead of time we didn't want a lot of posed pictures and wanted fun/romantic pics, that were in the moment and he captured just that! He directed everyone perfectly and my favorite thing was he had us laying in the sand and told my hubby to whisper in my ear what he was thinking when he saw me walk down the aisle:). He also had us hold hands and walk the beach telling us to talk and be casual....exactly what I was picturing for photos!
I am pretty sure (hard to keep track of time) he stayed past the three hours to get in our group picture and he even came back after he went to his car because we forgot to do a picture with our rings on a starfish like I had mentioned. I highly recommend him and he was pretty affordable, even considering the fee.
Trash the dress: On our last night we decided to do a mini trash the dress session on the beach. We just had our family/friends take pictures and it was so fun and glad we decided to do it! It didn't ruin my dress at all and was a great alternative to paying a photographer and everyone loved to be there to watch:)
OOT bags: We made OOT bags for everyone that had a water bottle, sun block, "wedding week survival kit", and welcome brochure. To be honest I think half of the people used them/looked at them lol. A lot of my friends were only there for a few days and were hardly in their room to really look at it. Most people loved the bottles for drinks to keep it cold and have larger drinks, and a few used the bags...but if I could go back I would have saved the time, money, and effort and just done the water bottles and paid for a trip or something as a thank you to everyone
The cake & BM bouquet
The grill (reception location)
Playa Azul (ceremony)
The married couple
Trash the dress