My review - sorry its a bit long winded!! Hope its helpful and gives a view that we had the best day of our lives! If you have any questions at all though please don't hesitate to ask!!
Yasmin & Daniel ~ Wedding 7th August 2013 ~ Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort & Spa
Review of resort and wedding
We knew we wanted to get married abroad straight away; itâ€™s always been my dream. Once weâ€™d decided on Mexico because of the beautiful beaches and amazing selection of resorts, we started our resort selection. The Grand Sirenis was actually one of the top of my list from the beginning and I was so happy when we managed to book it, and for a pretty good price. It looked to have everything we were looking for, gorgeous beaches, lovely rooms, lots to do (we had a party of 34 including 4 children so needed variety!), and it delivered on all of those!
The Resort itself:
Check in was great, we arrived about 8pm and did get our personalised check in, and everyone was brought a cocktail. Marcela (our wedding coordinator) came to say hi and introduce herself and give us some resort info as well as when our meeting was etc.
The whole party loved the resort, the rooms was lovely, spacious and spotlessly clean. The beach was great (we spent most our time there), the beach bar and staff great â€“ cocktails delicious! The only issue we experienced was that the air conditioning didnâ€™t work in my brotherâ€™s room and after 5 days of failed attempts to fix it we got involved and made them change their room. Other than that none of us could fault the resort.
The buffet restaurant is really good, great selection of food â€“ obviously not everything is going to be to everyoneâ€™s taste but everyone thought it was great and always found something delicious. We tried a number of the a la carte restaurants â€“ the Cajun, Steak House, Mediterranean, Brazilian, Italian (and French with our wedding package). Cajun and Steak were ok but not fantastic. The others were amazing!
All of the staff were brilliant, so friendly and helpful. A special mention to Gabriella on concierge (block 18) and Juan Carlos (steak restaurant / wedding waiter).
All the facilities were great too, lots to do. We had 4 kids in our party and they loved the painting and activities. Pools were good, we tended to avoid the main pool with pool bar as this had a lot of the â€˜forced funâ€™ activities and was a bit loud, preferring to just chill by the beach playing volleyball etc. But we did go to the pool bar some days late afternoon for a few chilled cocktails and really enjoyed it!
Wedding planning: From the resort side of things - mostly great. Perfect Weddings Abroad however, who are the Weddings Abroad Specialist travel agent â€“ awful! Terrible service, nothing was made clear (so lots of expensive surprises when we got to the resort), flight seats were messed up and just generally a huge disappointment, so any UK based brides looking at weddings abroad â€“ do not go with them, go directly with the agency (Thomas Cook, Thomson). Unfortunately I think Thomas Cook are no longer working with the Grand Sirenis and so you would have to go through Thomson, which is a shame as we were with Thomas Cook Signature which meant the flights were with Virgin which were a lot better than the usual Thomson / Thomas Cook for long haul! But honestly the ease of going direct instead of through another party provider will be 100% better! (But I wonâ€™t dwell as this is more about the resort and the day itself!)
Initially I made contact with the weddings team through their generic email address after we had booked the holiday and wedding. We had to book the base package through our travel agent but upgraded to the Presidential Package through the resort directly as it worked out cheaper, and was a LOT easier liaising directly through the resort. My initial contact was with Yeni, then Fernanda, both were very helpful with all queries and concerns I had. Yes there were a few mis-communications (between what the travel agent and weddings team were telling me), but the weddings team were more than understanding and really helpful. I was emailed by Marcela, our wedding coordinator about 2 months before we came, and she was fab!
My main concern, as I know with a few of you, was that we were paying a lot of money for the Presidential Package and not guaranteed the Presidential Suite. Because of what we had booked the package based on I did push a bit and was told before I went that I would get the suite for at least a week (we were there for 12 nights), however they did tell me that they are changing this and going forward from 2014 the suite will only be guaranteed for the wedding night, which I think it a real shame as it is such a perk, and honestly having to swap rooms for 1 night on your wedding night just seemed like too much of a hassle. We got lucky and had the room for our whole stay, and I do think the weddings team do their best to get you the room, but like I said really added to our holiday & wedding having such a fab room (see photos). However we saw a few of our guests rooms and they were all lovely with nice big beds & baths etc.
When we arrived at the resort we met with Marcela on our second day (she had a wedding on our first day) and had a very long meeting (about 3 hours to my hubbyâ€™s horror!) but very useful as we covered everything. They could have been a little more prepared i.e. having documents printed, but no major complaints.
Wedding â€˜Extrasâ€™: It is worth getting the extras price list well in advance and being prepared, we had to make compromises, i.e. I would have loved to have had the bridesmaidâ€™s hair done but it was a fortune in the spa! Having my wedding hair and makeup included in the Presidential Package was brilliant. Other extras we opted for were different colour ribbons on the chairs (I think only blue were included), flowers in the back of the chair ribbons, petals down the aisle, button holes for everyone other than the groom (we had 4 extra), bridesmaids flowers, and we felt that having guests only have 1 glass of fizzy wine at the â€˜cocktail receptionâ€™ wasnâ€™t really going to keep them going while we were off for photos so we decided to bite the bullet and paid for extra bottles, I think it was $150 pesos a bottle. So the presidential package is great, and does include a lot but there were a lot of extras we wanted so it did tally up!
Rehearsal Dinner: This is included in the presidential (and possibly some other) packages, and well worth it! We had quite a large party (34), so I had it all planned out â€“ we arrived late on the 1st August so wanted our rehearsal dinner on the 2nd so it could have the dual benefit of giving everyone the chance to get to know each other, and it happened to be our 5 year anniversary of when we got together so quite a special day for us. This was the only real mess up we experienced, the wedding team had messed up our booking and booked us in for the 6th (night before our wedding) so the whole party showed up to the Mexican restaurant dressed up nice on the 2nd to have no reservation. The concierge staff in the hotel were amazing â€“ they canâ€™t be faulted, and did their best to help. Marcela was at a wedding, and after checking back in the office and confirming it was their mistake could only apologise. At the time I was obviously very frustrated, but not wanted to let it ruin my night, some friends of mine did a great job and headed to the buffet to get us a table of 34 ready, which they did and provided us great service! Whilst I was mad at the time, when we did eventually have our rehearsal dinner on the 6th, it was perfect! Everyone knew each other a bit better; the mood was fantastic with everyone being excited for the next day. So, yes a mess up by the wedding team, but â€“ it did work out for the best in the end.
Wow â€“ what can I say; it was everything we dreamed of and more!
Before the ceremony: Our ceremony wasnâ€™t until 5pm so me and Dan had allocated room slots so we didnâ€™t see each other. I spent the morning on the beach trying to chill out a little, and then was picked up to go to the spa at 12:30. I had my nails done (French polish & they did a great job) then hair and make up from 1.30pm. My mum stayed with me for a bit keeping me company before she had to go and get ready. I was a bit worried about sitting in the spa on my own and getting nervous but it was fine, I was done by 3/3.30pm. Marcela came to see me while I was getting ready and brought me my bouquet to have a look at. Isis in the spa did an amazing job on my hair and makeup, I was so pleased especially considering I had decided against a trial (because of the cost) I didnâ€™t really know what I wanted to gave her a general idea and did it perfect first time!
Location: Although we had the presidential package, and therefore could have the private ceremony by the Palapa, we actually decided after visiting both the palapa and the main beach wedding sites (which the wedding coordinator will take you to during your meeting) that we wanted to go for the main beach location. The palapa beach section is pretty, but it wasnâ€™t the picture I had in my head of white sand down to the ocean. The palapa spot is a bit rockier, and has a rocky shore line (you canâ€™t walk down to the sea) again, still beautiful, but not what I had pictured. This did mean that we had some other hotel guests around watching the ceremony, but it really didnâ€™t bother me, it was actually quite nice â€“ everyone clapped and cheered along with our guests and it only added to the atmosphere. Marcela and team did a good job keeping people away from the actual ceremony set up, but there were a few people around the edges and a few snorkelers etc, but the photographer did a brilliant job making sure they didnâ€™t get in the way of photos, and actually they dispersed after the ceremony and honestly I barely noticed them.
This was just my personal preference of the â€˜lookâ€™ versus privacy, if you really donâ€™t want to be seen by other guests then the palapa beach spot would be perfect. I also preferred the walk way for the main beach spot, itâ€™s really secluded â€“ guests literally canâ€™t see you till the last minute as itâ€™s so sheltered.
Flowers: The flowers were beautiful, I took my inspiration from a previous bride on this site (thank you!) and sent Marcela the picture of the flowers which she replicated and I had a slightly different bouquet. I had Stargazers, Orange Lilies and Orange Roses, and got the bridesmaids White Lilies with Fuchsia Pink ribbon. However the quality of my bouquet was really not good, some of the flowers started falling out within minutes, we tried our best to keep piecing them back together, but when I threw my bouquet (at the very end of the night so it did keep going till the end) it was completely destroyed (quite funny actually!) â€“ That was only my bouquet, all other flowers were wonderful, and still in good condition decorating my room 5 days after the wedding.
Table set up: Since we were paying for bridesmaids bouquet, and only had 23kgs weight allowance for the flight I doubled up my bridesmaids bouquets as centre pieces (another stolen idea from this site), they looked really effective too. I brought some bags of pink and orange table sparkle/diamond decorations which I was really pleased with and were mega cheap from ebay. And my favours were again online cheap deals â€“ key rings (flip flops for girls and shark bottle openers for boys) engraved with our names and wedding date (these went down really well!).
We had 32 guests so had 4 tables, 2 of 9 and 2 of 8. The guest tables were round and we had one long top table for me and my hubby, his parents and my parents (2 sets). I really liked this set up, it was formal but still quite relaxed and casual enough with the buffet for people to get up and mingle as they wanted.
Dinner: For the wedding meal we opted for the buffet as I didnâ€™t want to have to choose one meal for all guests knowing all had very different preferences, the buffet had great variety and was really good food! Many of our guests said it was the best meal theyâ€™d had! It was all ready for us when we arrived so no problems for us there.
Our main waiter, Juan Carlos, was our waiter for the rehearsal dinner and wedding dinner, he was great! Really attentive and funny, my glass was never less than half full, and he kept my guests well entertained joining in with dancing.
The cake: SO good! Being a complete chocoholic I opted for chocolate sponge and it had white icing and it was delicious, one of the best cakes Iâ€™ve had! We had 3 tiers (at my request) however our cake topper (we had a clay topper made to look like us) was a bit heavy for the cake and it fell off and both mine and my hubbyâ€™s heads fell off. Marcela was horrified, I actually found it funny â€“ if something has to go wrong on your big day then it could have been a lot worse. Marcela sent it off to be fixed with glue, and fixed the cake back up a treat.
The venue: The palapa is a fantastic venue for the reception, so pretty! Marcela had given us the lanterns and tikki torches free as compensation for messing up on the rehearsal dinner date and these really added to the effect. We also got lucky as they were trialling a new lighting company so the palapa lit up in blue, then purple, white etc â€“ gorgeous! And I really hope this is something they keep in place as it really added to atmosphere! The sun was just setting at the start of our reception (about 7.15 and it was beautiful). This venue was even better than I expected and well worth using!
DJ: See my comments previously, but not great â€“ although could have been worse. I had read the reviews that the DJ wasnâ€™t great and so had asked each of our guests for a favourite song which I sent to Marcela and put on a CD which I took with me. The DJ either didnâ€™t have, or decided not to play our list. And apparently the CD didnâ€™t work. We managed to get most the list written up as requests but his song database was a bit lacking, but we managed to get 3 hours worth of music which kept everyone (including us) very happy and dancing, and in end we took control of his laptop searching for and playing what we wanted. He wasnâ€™t too happy, but I didnâ€™t care! If music is important to you, consider external. But it in no way ruined our day, we had good music on the whole (perhaps due to us) but everyone was happy and dancing.
You get the DJ for 3 hours. You do have the option of hiring him for additional hours, but you also have to hire private bar etc per guest per hour, so gets pricey! Itâ€™s worth thinking carefully about the timings of your day, but we decided to not start the DJ until after dinner (although we had to start his time from speeches as we needed the microphone). One of my bridesmaids made us an amazing playlist of chilled out songs for dinner music and brought her wireless ipod player and ipod with her, and this was perfect for us.
Timing: The timing of our day was -
1:00 â€“ Spa for me (hair and makeup)
3:30 â€“ I was back to my room where bridesmaids joined me to get ready
4:00 â€“ Photographer arrived for some get ready photos
4:30 â€“ Guests ready in allocated lobby (all our guests were in block 17 so this was easy) for pick up (I wasnâ€™t there but think they had to do 2 or 3 trips)
4:50 â€“ Pick up for me, my parents and bridesmaids (although we were running a bit late!!)
5:00 â€“ Ceremony
5:30 â€“ â€˜Cocktailâ€™ reception
5:45 â€“ Mariachi band arrived
6:30 â€“ Start guest transportation from main beach up to Palapa (we were busy with photos)
6:45 â€“ Open bar at Palapa starts (4 hours open bar)
7:00 â€“ Transportation of me & groom to Palapa
7:15 â€“ Buffet dinner
8:00 â€“ 3 hours of DJ starts
8:00 â€“ Speeches
8:30 â€“ First dance
8:40 â€“ Cutting of the cake (I donâ€™t think this actually happened at this time, but canâ€™t fully remember, we fit it in at some point anyway!)
10:45 â€“ Open bar closed (and guests were encouraged by us to grab a drink or 2 to keep them going for a bit!)
11:00 â€“ DJ finished
We realised at this point that I hadnâ€™t thrown my bouquet so did it right at the end of the night. We then had the golf buggy for transport back for a few trips, we had thought about the disco but weâ€™d had such a perfect day we decided to finish off with a couple of drinks in the lobby bar. Me and my hubby stayed for a couple, and were the first of the group to leave around midnight and when we did we had a cheer from the whole lobby bar, it was like nothing else, such an amazing feeling!
Our Room: Amazing getting back to our room, it was so beautiful, really made us feel special!
After reading reviews about the resort photographer (who are called Adventure Photos) â€“ and not being able to find any good photos online I decided wedding photos were too important to me to risk, so we went with an external photographer. We used BlueLensCaribe, and our photographer was Niccolo, and while they werenâ€™t cheap (compared to UK prices), they were 100% worthwhile to me â€“ incredible photos and Niccolo was great! We did keep the resort photographer as we got 10 free photos and thought might as well get them, and it was fine as in Niccolo didnâ€™t let him get in his way, but after seeing and choosing our 10 photos I was extremely grateful we went with BlueLens.
The cost to the resort was $300 USD (which BlueLensCaribe went half with us on) plus $650 Mexican Pesos day pass which we paid. We opted for one of the cheaper packages with BlueLens, but ended up upgraded to a bit of a compromise package (no prints, but we got 166 edited photos and 500+ originals). Again, not cheap, but for me it was well worthwhile. Marcela did also say to me that BlueLens are one of two better photographers in the area for external use (I canâ€™t remember what she said the other company was called!).
In summary, amazing! It was the best day of my life, everything we dreamed of and more and we wouldnâ€™t have changed a thing!!
Wedding set up with guests -
Wedding set up -
My dress, a couple of bridesmaid dresses and the flowers in my room -
The walk way you come through at the beach location (not visible to guests yet)
Some ceremony pics -
Me helping the bridesmaids get ready -
Some post wedding pics -
Some pics from the ruin -
Pic from the ruin with the ceremony set up in the background -
The table decoration -
Our entrance into the Palapa -
Our cake & cake topper -
Tables set up and the palapa -
Table places and guest book -
The buffet set up -