Review of Occidental Grand Xcaret Wedding... LOOOOOOOONG
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:14 PM
Just so you have a little background, I started planning this wedding immediately after graduating law school and taking the bar exam. I had just come off 3 years of researching, writing, and taking examsâ€¦ and I was unemployed. To say that I THREW myself into intense wedding planning mode would be a serious understatement. You should also know that my husbandâ€™s parents paid for all our guestsâ€™ accommodations for 2 nights. Because of the logistics involved in coordinating all our guestsâ€™ reservations and payments, we really got to know the hotel and reservation management â€¦ this made a huge difference in how OGX treated us and our wedding in general.
Soâ€¦ I got married at OGX over Memorial Day weekend, with 110 guests staying at the hotel for at least 3 days, but close to 80% staying 4 or more days.
And now for the review:
As a hotel, it was absolutely perfect for us. I knew early on that I wanted a â€œtropical paradiseâ€ type hotelâ€¦ low buildings, tons of trees and flowers, etcâ€¦ OGX had all of that. At first I was concerned about the size, but as more and more people confirmed their attendance, I was actually relieved that there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out. The hotel has several pools and a beach, which meant our various groups of friends and family could comfortably hang out without feeling like they were right on top of each other. There are no elevators in any of the buildings except the lobby. Although we had a number of older guests, this wasnâ€™t a problem because the hotel made sure they were in the rooms off the lobby so they could use the elevators and trolleys/golf carts that come around. Also, they have the restaurants and buffet off the main lobby so this meant less traveling for the older guests when it was time to eat.
I just want to say that Miguel, the manager of reservations at the hotel, went above and beyond. Each morning, we went down at 9am to meet with him. He brought us a list of our guests that were checking in that day along with a list of available rooms, and we went through and figured out where to put everyone, i.e., college friends in the same building, my immediate family in another, etc. It wasnâ€™t a perfect system, but it was worth the 30 minutes so that guests that knew each other could hang out together.
I know some girls had bad experiences, but â€“ I cannot say enough good things about them. Before the site visit in August, I dealt primarily with Edith and had a really hard time getting any answersâ€¦ I guess they arenâ€™t used to planning weddings that far in advance. However, when we went down there in August and met Edith and Marialma (the assistant wedding coordinator), I explained that I was really nervous about the lack of communication and that I was going to need a lot of helpâ€¦ basically I asked if they thought I should get an outside wedding coordinator. They assured me that they could handle it, and Marialma pretty much took the lead from that point on. I spent the next 4 months planning everything on my end, and occasionally emailing Marialma about the availability of certain flowers, music, etc. Probably around January, we started really emailing regularly, probably 2-3 times a week. I had a million questions and ideas, and she was sooooo patient, always getting back to me with answers or suggestions. Between January and May, every last detail of the wedding was planned â€“ flowers, music, events, entertainment, decorations, and guest accommodationsâ€¦ she was a rockstar!
We arrived at OGX on Wednesday, 4 days before the wedding, and one day before all our guests were arriving. I had asked Marialma to coordinate a meeting for us with all the vendors so that we can finalize everything. That Thursday, we spent 4 HOURS meeting with the catering manager, the florist, the DJ, the decorations company, and the hotel manager. Marialma and Edith had all the information I had emailed over the months and I brought my â€œbibleâ€ as Steve calls it (a binder filled with lists, pictures, contracts, etc)â€¦ they were on top of everythingâ€¦ I really couldnâ€™t ask for more. After the meeting, we went through the 15 boxes of decorations and favors we had shipped before coming down to make sure they knew where everything wentâ€¦ I had total confidence that the wedding would be perfectâ€¦ and it was!
I really canâ€™t put into words how amazing Marialma and Edith were during my wedding weekendâ€¦ they really went above and beyond and I am so grateful.
I couldnâ€™t communicate with the florist before the wedding because he only spoke Spanish, so all my questions were passed through Marialma. At the Thursday meeting, I found out I had nothing to worry about. He showed up with all the pictures I had emailed, and knew exactly what we wantedâ€¦ although our centerpieces were simple and modern (see pictures) I was really particular about the vases and types of lilies I wanted. Not only were the centerpieces perfect, but he BLEW US AWAY with the Chuppah he created. It was so beautiful â€“ made of hundreds of hand woven carnations and lilies â€¦ I canâ€™t describe it, you just have to look at the pictures! For any of you ladies who are worried that he wonâ€™t be able to get you what you want, just tell Marialma and Edith exactly what you want and have faith... he will get it done!
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:19 PM
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:24 PM
I highly recommend using the company that the hotel recommends. We met with Leo, one of the managers at the company during the site visit, and quickly nailed down what we would need as far as music and equipment for the wedding. Everything went very smoothly. Right after the site visit, we exchanged emails and signed contracts.. Then, sometime in February we sent Leo a list of about 200 songs we wanted played at the wedding so that he could download them in time for the wedding. With the exception of a few Hebrew songs, his DJ found every single one and had it available at the wedding. We met with the DJ on that Thursday and confirmed all the detailsâ€¦ no fog machine, no YMCA, etcâ€¦ I couldnâ€™t ask for more. Our guests still rave about how cute the DJ was at the wedding and how great the music wasâ€¦ he even tolerated our drunken friends wanting to play DJ at random points in the night!
Aside from a DJ and music equipment, we also needed a projector and screen for the rehearsal dinner slideshow. When we arrived at our rehearsal dinner Saturday night, I was shocked to see the size of the projector screenâ€¦ it was HUGE (see pictures) and our guests were blown away!
Mariachi band â€“ we had a mariachi band for the cocktail hour at the wedding. I didnâ€™t even know they were there until after their set was over because I was too busy running around saying hi to everyoneâ€¦ Still, all the guests thought they were fantastic and I am happy we had them.
Generally - The one good thing about OGX is that because of its size, there is a huge variety of food. Even the pickiest eater could find something to eat. If I had to give the food at the resort a grade, I would say B- â€¦it was good, but nothing to get excited about.
Reception â€“ Being from NY, food is a HUGE deal at a weddingâ€¦ normally people donâ€™t even eat the food at the reception because the cocktail hour is so ridiculously good. I had stayed at other Occidental hotels in the past, so I didnâ€™t expect to be blown away. During the site visit, the food manager â€“ Jean Baptiste (he is VERY French!) â€“ had set up a tasting for us. We tried 15 hors d'oeuvres, 2 salads, 1 soup, 4 entrees, and 3 desserts. I was happy with the quality of the foodâ€¦ much better than what was available at the buffets around the resort! For the wedding, we went with a vinaigrette salad, cold asparagus soup, choice of lemon chicken, mahi mahi, or surf and turf, and a duo desert of chocolate lava cake and tiramisu. I canâ€™t remember eating any of the food at the wedding, but I remember seeing it on the tables and it looked really niceâ€¦ all the guests said they liked it (especially the chocolate cake).
Rehearsal dinner â€“ I wasnâ€™t terribly concerned about the rehearsal dinner food because I figured the focus would be on all the speeches, music, and slide show. We went with the Mexican Buffet and everyone loved it. I was worried that it would be just like the food at the buffets that everyone had been eating all weekend, but it was definitely a lot better! Oh, and I have to tell you to check out the tres leches cake in the picturesâ€¦ itâ€™s in the shape of Chichen Itza!
I know most girls wouldnâ€™t give this its own category, but it was important to us so I thought I would share my experience. OGX serves â€œpremiumâ€ (Absolut vodka, Jose Cuervo, Johnnie Walker Red) liquor throughout the resort and at weddings, but you have to specifically request it when ordering. For the wedding, we wanted certain top shelf liquors, so for an additional $15 per person (per hour), the catering manager added Crown Royal, Kettle One Vodka, 1800, Johnnie Walker Black, and other bottles to the bar. We didnâ€™t realize the upgrade was PER HOUR, which was a bit of a shock the next day when we were reviewing the bill. No one kept it from us or anything â€“ I think we just didnâ€™t realize... anyway, it definitely makes a HUGE difference so if you decide to upgrade remember that!
We also upgraded the wine, which we had to buy â€œper bottle.â€ They had bottles ranging from $10 -50, and we chose accordingly. There was a minimum number of bottles we had to pay for upfront (which was based on the size of our wedding) but then any amount after that was based on consumption. I didnâ€™t try the wine at the wedding, but I know we got our moneyâ€™s worth in liquorâ€¦Every wedding is different, but we knew our guests liked to drinkâ€¦ and everyone really appreciated the upgrade!
Just another testament to how the staff at OGX, at the direction of Marialma, went all out for us. Despite the ridiculous temperatures, I decided Steveâ€™s wedding surprise should be a giant ice sculpture of the University of Florida Gator. Apparently his brother had a huge ice sculpture of the Duke Blue Devil at his wedding a few years ago, and Steve had always wanted one at his own. So before we arrived, I had sent Marialma a few pictures of the Al E. Gator, Floridaâ€™s mascot, and she said: â€œit could be done, but I am not sure how long it will last.â€ I donâ€™t think I need to tell you how quickly that poor alligator melted, but the look on Steveâ€™s face when he saw it was pricelessâ€¦ he couldnâ€™t believe I got him an ice sculpture at our Mexican wedding!
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:26 PM
Aside from saying â€œyesâ€ to Steve and picking OGX, Elizabeth was my very best wedding decision. In fact, I found Elizabeth right around the same time that I fell in love with a really beautiful but really expensive wedding dress. My husband told me I had to make a choiceâ€¦ I could either have my dream photographer or my dream dress. Needless to say, I went with Elizabethâ€¦ best decision EVER! From our very first conversations via email, she was so sweet and helpfulâ€¦ she even emailed me ideas she liked from other weddings! Before the wedding, I sent Elizabeth a long list of â€œimportant picturesâ€ and even though there were a lot, she said she would make it happen. On the day of the wedding, Elizabeth and Lindsey (her fabulous assistant) showed up on time and ready to work. Not including family, we had 9 bridesmaids and 9 groomsmenâ€¦ they definitely had their hands full! The entire time, they were completely professional and easy to work withâ€¦ our entire bridal party was amazed at how calm and collected they were despite the HOT weather and large group of (sometimes uncooperative) people.
We also did a â€œTrash the Dressâ€ shootâ€¦ what a blast! Once again, Elizabeth and Lindsey were such troopers, getting up at 6am to catch the sunrise. I am expecting my pictures any day now, and I am completely confident that they are going to be amazing.
I didnâ€™t really care about having a video of the wedding, but friends and family said I would want a video so I went along with it. We used Cancun Studios, which is located in the lobby of OGX. Although we had instructed him to â€œstay out of siteâ€ during the ceremony, our videographer stood right in front of us the whole time and was pretty much in every pictureâ€¦ in his defense, we had our guests arranged in a circle around the Chuppah, so there was no way to avoid him. I wish I had specifically told him to remain seated during the ceremonyâ€¦Elizabeth literally had to pull him out of the way so that she could get a few clean shots! I might change my after I see the video, but as of right now I wish we had skipped the video. Itâ€™s not really a reflection on Cancun Studiosâ€¦ for me, pictures were so much more important and the idea that he may have ruined them bothers me.
Thanks to the wonderful people on BDW, I had a million and one ideas about how I wanted my wedding to look. Unfortunately, making those ideas happen in a foreign country was the trickiest part of my wedding. If you are on the fence about going â€œall outâ€ with decorations, I would suggest thinking twice. I would do it all over again if I had the choice, but it was A LOT of work and stress. Long story short, I wanted 5 things: (1) Chinese lanterns across the ceiling at the reception; (2) tiki torches around my beach side rehearsal dinner; and (3) Christmas tree lights on the trees at the reception; (4) square vases with candles in them along the wedding aisle; and (5) white fabric to cover the buffet area of the Beach Club (where we got married).
We first dealt with a company called Sarao which was recommended by Marialma. As soon as I received an emailing quoting $17.50 per tiki torch (we needed 30), I knew they wouldnâ€™t work out! After months of back and forth, Marialma put me in charge with Zuniga, another company. They wanted $3,000 for the Chinese lanternsâ€¦ clearly that wasnâ€™t happening! After a lot of stress, Steve got Aldo â€“ a manager at Zuniga â€“ on the phone and he made everything work out. We ended up spending close to $2,000, but he was able to get me exactly what I wanted and I think everything turned out beautiful.
If you are determined, I would definitely recommend Aldo from Zuniga. After a few emails, he knew exactly what we wanted and had everything ordered for when we arrived. At our meeting on Thursday, we made some last minute changes and I couldnâ€™t be happier with how it turned out.
Hair and Makeup
I didnâ€™t use the spa at OGX for wedding hair or makeup because my mother in law brought her own hair and makeup people from NY, but I did go for some spa treatments. I had a body wrap the day before the wedding, and I didnâ€™t like it at all. After she applied each layer of â€œstuffâ€ the technician had me to go showerâ€¦ I never had a chance to relax because I showered 3 times during a 50 minute treatment! I did get a massage on the day of the wedding which I thought was pretty good. The only thing was, I was so busy running through checklists and to-doâ€™s in my head that I donâ€™t think I relaxed for one second! I also got my wedding manicure and pedicure. My only advice is if you choose to do this on the day of your wedding, make sure you plan on being there for a while. I think my massage, manicure and pedicure kept me in the spa for almost 3 hours!
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:33 PM
On a side note, I left linens and decorations stuff with Marialma and Edith, with the hope that they would keep it for future brides who might not be able to purchase and ship as much as me. If green and pink are your colors, there are 150 green sashes and 150 pink napkins just waiting for you! I also left huge silver chargers, candle holders, etc... just keep it in mind!
Oh, and feel free to PM me with any questions. I still have my binder of lists (I even have a list of all my lists) and information about the wedding!
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:53 PM
Oh and FYI.. everything looked FABULOUS.. you did a great job!
Posted 02 July 2008 - 03:56 PM
Posted 03 July 2008 - 02:43 PM
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