We are finally back from our wedding at the Valentin and finished with our AHR the week after we got back with FI's family. I'll try and review everything.. but if you have any questions, just ask!
Arrival & first day:
We left Montreal at lunch time on June 26th. We had 4 huge suitcases full, two carry-ons and my wedding dress in our arms. We had upgraded to club class on Air Transat and thank God we did because it allowed us double weight allowance. All in all, we were 1KG under the allowance and were very very lucky. We carried the wedding dress on with us and it fit in the overhead compartment on top of our carry-on bags, no questions asked.
We arrived in Cancun at around 4:30pm in a torrential downpour. Our private pick up was waiting for us and we were rushed to the hotel almost 30 minutes before our guests who were on a large tour bus. We were greeted at the hotel with sparkling wine, checked in and were given an upgrade from a silver suite to a golden suite (bldg. 6). LOVED this room, spacious and amazing quiet pool right behind our building. We even had time to bring our suitcases to our room and get a ride back out front to meet our guests arriving on the bus. Everyone got checked in and got to their rooms. The only downside of being upgraded for your wedding was that we were not in the same building as our guests. They were in building 2 and we were in building 6. Sounds close.. but we were really a far walk from the others and found this annoying because we were always running around looking for them (since everyone was close together except for us)!
Monday morning we met with our WC Ariadna and went over everything for the wedding which was the next day. Since it was raining and didn't look like it was going to stop, we had a plan A (ceremony, cocktail and reception) and a plan B in case of rain. We brought her a suitcase of decorations (paper lanters, fishline, candles, guestbook frame, decorative crystals for the tables, silk petals for the aisle, monogram letters for cake, etc etc.) and we went over all the options in our wedding package (Unforgettable). We brought down our photographer so she was with us to find out how the wedding day would go so we could work out picture options, etc. Basically, Ariadna is amazing and everything went perfectly. She is on the ball!
We didn't want to pay for a private rehearsal supper so Ariadna reserved us two tables the night before the wedding (it was a Monday). It was Mexican fiesta night and the hotel offers dinner and a Mexican show in the auditorium. Ariadna reserved two tables for my whole wedding group. We met in the lobby bar beforehand and we handed all our guests their OOT bags and them went for dinner and the show. There was tequila tasting and my hubby actually got up on stage and danced.. quite the party! I think it was perfect for a rehearsal supper since we were able to give the guests some verbal information in the lobby bar before dinner and their goodies, and then we got to eat and party afterwards at no extra charge!
Woke up, went to breakfast with my girls and mother, and we headed to the spa. I had makeup included in my package but not the hair, but I obviously paid extra to get it done. I loved the back of my hair (pinned up to the side, in a nice curly bun with a white flower clipped in) but I had issues with the front of my hair. I actually broke down crying. I wanted Itzel to do my hair but she was gone on maternity leave. I have a high forehead and thought the girl could have brought my bangs down a bit to hide some of it but it didn't work out. She kept saying my hair was too short (which is a load of bull...) but anyways, my maid of honor helped out and we managed to get it to look ok. I should have gotten a trial run done.. so I would recommend it! The spa has excellent makeup brands (MAC, etc.) but, they suck at applying it. If the makeup is not included in your package, DO NOT spend the big bucks for it. Go to a MAC store, get a trial done there and buy the makeup you will need in Mexico and do it yourself. You'll end up having good quality makeup for yourself and reuse it, instead of relying on someone who more or less knows anything about professional makeup application. I ended up having to do touch ups in my room...
Ariadna came to see me in the spa and told me it was sunny out to my surprise. We went ahead and had our ceremony at the gazebo, cocktail hour at the foyer (outside the auditorium hallway) and ended up having our private reception to the side of Le Marche restaurant. I was supposed to have our reception on the Mexican terrace, but we were scared it would have rained.. so we didn't take the chance. Unfortunately, it didn't rain, so we could have done it outside but oh well, what's done is done.
Wedding package & details:
We booked the unforgettable package. Since I brought down my silk flower bouquet, they credited me the bouquet in the package and applied it to a centerpiece. I had 3 tables at the reception and only paid for 2 centerpieces (50$ each). They were beautiful and I don't regret getting them at all. I was so worried about trying to figure out centerpieces from home, how to get them down there and everything, I'm so glad we decided to get them there. They were huge and had all white roses and other white blooms. We rented the sound system for 4 hours (500$) and hooked up my wedding playlist and my maid of honor took care of the songs playing during the evening. The microphone was handy for speeches and thank yous. The centerpieces, the stereo system and my hair are the only three things I ended up paying extra for the whole wedding.
I had given the WC tissue paper puff balls that I had made and they were put on the chairs at the ceremony and all my other decorations were hung and used at the reception. It was great! No complaints, they even used more candles then I gave them.
The wedding dinner was sooo good! We chose the caesar salad, the asparagus soup and the beef tenderloin/medallion with potatoes and veggies. I loved everything and so did all my guests. I really had a hard time to eat all my steak since I was so full from everything before. Dessert was the cinnamon chocolate mousse which was to die for. Our cake was beautiful!!! It was a 3-tier tres leches cake and we were even delivered two huge pieces the next morning to our room with coffee right before our trash the dress session.
As for the food during the rest of the trip, I wasn't THAT impressed. It was good, but not amazing. We were at the Royal in Playa del Carmen last year and the food was much better. Almost everyone (give or take 3-4 people) got the runs during the week at one point or another. I can't blame it all on the food, it could have been because of drinks and the heat, but the food just got an "ok" from me.
OH, by the way, there is no buffet at night available. We found this sort of annoying. Sometimes the restaurants were so full, they'd have over an hour wait. Sometimes you don't want to wait that long so a buffet would have been smart, but there was none, only a-la-carte restaurants. If you want to have a table with the hibachi chef in the Japanese (Ginger) restaurant, be at the door at 6pm and give your name in asap or you'll never get that experience while you're there! It's a room behind closed doors in the Ginger restaurant and they do a little cooking show and you eat a set menu of meat, rice and veggies. Very good, and worth it, but your whole group needs to be there at your reservation time or you will lose it within 5 minutes.
Since I brought my photographer down with me, I saved my photo session with Blue Lens for the second week we were there and had Ashley take pictures of hubby and I around the hotel grounds for a little over an hour. I had a little white dress on and he put on black pants and his wedding shirt and tie. Mirko met us the next morning in the lobby with about 56 edited pictures ready on a CD. Since I didn't want any printed pictures, he gave us the edited pictures and that was it! We weren't charged for it since it was included in our package (we swaped the printed pictures for the CD and I can print them in any format I want).
Overall hotel comments:
We were treated very well, the service is excellent pretty well everywhere on the resort. We definitely tipped wayyyy more than we thought we would (leaving 1-2$ at breakfast, 1-2$ at lunch, 3-5$ at dinner, 3-5$ a day for the maid, and then tipped for drinks during the day). It was crazy! I felt bad tipping too much because I knew it was costing a fortune on top of what we paid for the wedding and vacation, but then felt bad because most workers only make 5$ a day!!! I would say, don't go crazy but tipping is sort of expected and necessary in my opinion. Some of my guests tipped a lot, others not that much so it really depends what kind of person you are.
The French restaurant was our favourite, but as soon as our waiter found out we spoke French, he was talking French to us all the time (the same 2-3 phrases for two hours...) and that got annoying, even after we switched back to speaking English! haha! But it really wasn't a big deal. We didn't really attend any evenings in the plaza (casino night, bands, shows..) because we we either out on excursions or at Coco Bongo in Playa del Carmen (really cool and worth it at least once!). The Michael Jackson show is great, but the singer needs to improve on his lip syncing!
We had a massage at the spa, it was great, very professional and no problems getting that booked, Ariadna did it for us! We had a fruit basket delivered to the room and breakfast in bed the week after the wedding, very good as well. They cleaned my wedding dress for 55$US which was a STEAL.. I was so incredibly happy because it was black black black and turned out pretty well perfect!
If I was to do it all over again, here are some things I'd keep in mind:
- I wouldn't have stayed 14 days, ten days would have been plenty. We were twirling our thumbs the last 3-4 days, counting the hours until our flight.. it was just too long at the same resort. We should have changed hotels.
- Do makeup myself with good quality products. They're too rushed at the spa (6 girls to do and it was too much in too little time) and have no professional courses for makeup. I'm picky about this, so maybe someone else wouldn't care!
- I should have not picked a wedding date in June. It was SO HOT, my guests were sweating bullets dancing, our makeup disappeared as soon as we all sat down to eat at the reception. It must have been about 45 degrees that night. That being said, I'll never go back down south in the summer!
- No regrets about bringing my photographer. I will only have my pro pics in September but I already know she'll do an excellent job. I can't say I liked Blue Lens, we paid for pictures with animals we got taken around the resort and the pictures were never developped. I had to email them twice when I got home and they finally sent me the digital prints through email...
- Go to Coco Bongo with your friends, it was a blast! We got a deal including transportation to and front the hotel (see Ernesto at pool) for 60$ each! I told them it was my wedding and he shaved 10$ off everyone's entrance fee! We by-passed everyone outside in line and had a VIP booth and open bar. It's worth it to go at least once!
- Do an excursion during your week with friends/family. We booked with Yucatreks and did their Tulum & Beyond tour. It was amazing! We had a full day excursion including a visit to Tulum ruins, swimming in two different cenotes, a stop at a private beach spot in Tulum and a beach picnic with BBQ chicken, gucamole, salsa and chips, fruit, etc.! It was the highlite of our week (besides the wedding of course).
I guess that's about it. I'll post pictures soon.. I have to organize and upload some of them before posting! Please feel free to ask any questions.. it would be my pleasure.
Have a great day everyone!