Completion of review...
So, now I'll focus on our wedding day and hopefully share some helpful tips for future GS brides.
Elizabeth Miranda was assigned as our wedding planner and we were so lucky to have her on our team. Everyone adored her and she certainly went out of her way to make our day extra special. She loves her job and it shows! I, like many of you, got frustrated with the lack of communication/accessibility of the WPs in the months leading up to the wedding. At one point I just gave myself a reality check...decided what ABSOLUTELY needed to get done (book the palapa space, make sure we were confirmed for the full two weeks in the Presidential Suite, book the photographer)...and our TA helped us with that. Things really kicked into high gear about a month before the wedding though and Aracely and I had lots of communication back and forth. These ladies are very skilled at pulling off fabulous parties and they work incredibly hard to make sure everything is done the way you envision. I wouldn't worry again about sending a whole bunch of "inspiration pictures" ahead of time...it drove me crazy trying to figure out how to send the photos so they could open the documents up on their end.
Palapa/Beach Wedding Area
We loved this space and I would highly recommend it to any brides considering the GS. The week after our wedding we walked back out one morning...took lots of pictures and tried to take it all in again (the wedding day goes soooo fast!).
Our package included 45 minutes of live music...I think the options were violin, mexican trio or saxophone. I had always wanted to have a classical or spanish guitarist play during our ceremony. I researched ahead of time and found one particular gentleman who plays in the area...booked him via e-mail and had him all lined up to play. However, when I mentioned his name at the wedding office during our first meeting, I kinda got the low-down on their previous experiences with this fellow and it didn't sound great. So, I promptly sent him an e-mail, telling him we would be utilizing the resort's musicians instead.
Well, the guitarist they were able to secure actually played during the ceremony to recorded instrumentals...and the pieces he played did not really correlate with my original request for soft, pretty classical/spanish guitar music. He was an extra expense for us as we had also asked for the mariachi trio to play when we returned from taking photographs and before dinner was served. Apparently they don't get a lot of requests for guitarists to play...which was disappointing because I would think in that area you SHOULD be able to locate some amazing guitarists...go figure!!!
The mariachi trio...they were FANTASTIC...the photos we have of them and everyone dancing around them are sooooo awesome! They asked for requests, played a mix of slow and fast songs...really entertaining!!!
Food and Beverages
Our menu for the night:
Mixed Salad Greens (tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil)...It was delicious...fresh and tasty.
Cream of Asparagus Soup...seasoned to perfection...everyone raved about the soup!
The majority of our guests pre-selected the steak and lobster and those of us that did were not disappointed. My steak was done to perfection and the lobster had a bit of a delicious char from being grilled (and I don't eat seafood!). My friend from Portugal is a MAJOR seafood eater and she said it was the best lobster she's ever had. Some of our guests had the grilled salmon and the reports were very positive. The rest of the adults had the cheese and spinach ravioli...we had tried it at the buffet a couple of times and it was delicious. My Dad said he found his on the cool side and undercooked the night of the reception. We selected chicken nuggets and fries for the kids and their meals were cold. They set up a mobile kitchen at the palapa and I'm guessing that some items like the kids meals and the pasta were cooked somewhere on the resort and brought over for us. My advice would be to keep it to two entrees (and pick the grilled options) as they were fresh and hot.
Brownie and Ice Cream...the disappointment of the meal as the brownie was dry. It is pretty much the same brownie they served us at the Brazilian Restaurant the night before for the rehearsal dinner (which was equally dry). Had we known that, we would have picked another option.
I didn't drink a whole lot that night...but the waiters were great and did some fun little activities with our guests...like one danced around with a tray of shots on his head. No one went thirsty and champagne was readily available for toasting.
I knew from reading this thread and seeing the cake options in the GS powerpoint slides that our cake would be pretty basic. We asked for a three-tier cake (one layer chocolate, one vanilla, and one strawberry)...there was no chocolate layer...and to me the only difference between the strawberry and vanilla layers were tiny bits of strawberry in the filling between the layers. The cake was very light and moist...but flavour and texture-wise it was exactly like a lot of the desserts that get put out at the buffets each day. Elizabeth ordered a small fresh flower topper for the cake and we brought our cake knife and server, platter (which I love that we still have) and bride and groom calacas that we had ordered online (the one and only thing my FI requested in the process of planning our wedding). We also took cake boxes and plastic-wrapped disposable spoons so that each guest could take a slice of cake back to the room.
Some guy from the entertainment crew at the resort who, quite frankly, was terrible with his own music selections. I had to ask Elizabeth twice to go over and tell him to refer back to our list of songs on the iPad we gave him. He did not interact with our guests, he did not respond to requests from our guests...he should have been sent home.
At the end of the night...
In order to not spoil the surprise, I'll just say that we came back to a beautifully decorated suite and fantastic treats. Our marriage certificates were in a folder on our bed when we returned.
Our package included a special room-service breakfast which Elizabeth booked for us. However, it did not arrive the morning it was supposed to...but the next morning instead...and it was nothing to write home about. Elizabeth told us that it was a "continental" breakfast...which it was...a small pitcher of orange juice, a plate of fresh sliced fruit for each of us and a small basket of croissants and mini-pastries.
So, a few "bumps", but a fantastic wedding and great time was had by all!
I'm going to finish by pasting here my contribution to another thread..."what I would and wouldn't do again"...as I make specific references back to the GS:
Things I would do again (besides marrying my best friend and true love!):
1) Stay a second week at the resort on our own.
OHHHH YES, DO IT!!! That first week with everyone was so busy...if I had had to leave with everyone else I would have been miserable. Honestly, that first week was no holiday for me!
2) Get a bit of a "base" before I left for the tropics.
I had never tried a tanning bed before, but after seeing a friend's wedding pics (she's fair like me...and had some bad tan lines which I also knew I had...eeeep...no thanks!!!) I decided it was time to try it out. I started three months before the wedding...didn't do it to "tan" but just to get a hint of colour and even everything out. It was slow and controlled...never a burn...just 2 or 3 times a week. No one ever commented before I left or asked "have you been tanning???" which was good. I got a tiny bit more colour before the wedding when we were on the resort, but I'm super happy with my skin colour (i.e., lack of tan lines in my strapless dress!) in our photos.
3) Beg my FI and his daughter to NOT get sunburned before the wedding. They listened...enough said.
4) Hand out the wedding week survival (OOT) bags ahead of time, but save a few special things to give out at the resort. We had so much stuff to take with us, there was NO WAY I was dragging all of that other stuff down.
5) Use 3 large (72L) Rubbermaid containers (sealed well with packing tape!) to transport our wedding stuff down to Mexico. The airline didn't charge us for the excess luggage...the totes were super sturdy and cheap ($3.99 on sale) and we just left them behind.
6) Arrive at the airport well before everyone else (almost 3 hours) to get rid of all the luggage and be free and breezy to greet and help our guests as they arrived!
7) My FI was happy that we spent a bit of extra money for private vans (USA Transfers) to transfer us from the airport to the resort, rather than using the transfers included with our Sunquest packages. We got to the resort quickly and didn't have to make X-number of stops on the way down to drop people off at other resorts.
8) Have a Mexican trio or Mariachi play during the cocktail hour when we returned from our photos. One of our favourite memories of the wedding day is making our way back to the reception after photos and finding three large Mexican men all dressed up, getting out of their 20 year old white Chrysler sedan in the parking lot, straightening themselves out and putting on their hats. They actually played us back on to the beach...their timing was perfect!!! It was sooooo fun and festive!!!
9) Splurge on an awesome photographer. I will never regret the money we spent on photos!!!
10) We decided, at our photographer's encouragement, to see each other before the wedding and take photos. That was, HANDS DOWN, the best moment of the entire day...it was just us and the photographers. I can tell you all that if it was up to us, we would have just eloped...we wanted to be married but we didn't want to have a wedding. In the end, we had this wedding for our parents. But...when we were alone to see each other for the first time...that moment was just for us...it was so emotional and spectacular! I can't wait to see the photos : )
11) NOT wear a veil! It was quite windy the day of the wedding and that thing would have been whipping everyone in the face had I worn it. I did have a really inexpensive one that we used for the TTD the next morning. But honestly, the photos of me wearing that veil are my least favourite...it just wasn't "me".
12) Ask the wedding planner to see the officient's ceremony "script" prior to the wedding. My FI wanted to keep things short and sweet, so we didn't add anything to the ceremony to personalize it (honestly, I wish we would have). But, besides that, the officient mentioned something about "raising children" and we have no plans to have children, so had I known that piece was in there I would have asked for it to be removed.â€¨
13) Sent my BFF out to the ceremony site prior to everyone arriving out there. We were running short on time and I told her "don't worry about it...I'm sure everything is under control". Well, our chair sashes were the wrong colour, and by the time she realized that, our guests were there already and it was too late to remove/replace the sashes.
14) Kept an ongoing master list of things to talk to the WP about...had I done that, I would have remembered to ask little things that had popped into my head as I went thru photos and reviews on BDW...like to ask the WP NOT to serve seafood canapes during the champagne toast...and to ask that they set the tables in the palapa with the white dishes and not the southwest-printed dishes that we ended up with. But I'm a type A...and a stickler for details...and I tend to over-analyze things to death...
Things I wouldn't do again:
1) Order maracas from a certain etsy seller. That was a waste of $300. They're still in my basement...smudged, wrong colour...soon to be thrown in the garbage. Take my advice and order from Amols!!! The same maracas on the Amols website were available in Playa del Carmen, but were really roughed up in these huge baskets the shops keep them in and customers rummage through. Amols has excellent customer service...one of my biggest regrets was not ordering through them.
2) Stress about what people think/do/say...I actually had certain people (who shall remain nameless) e-mailing news reports to my parents about things happening in Mexico (two thousand kilometers away from the resort that we would all be staying at). Shame on them! I wish I had had the guts to say, "If you have hang ups about your own personal safety, and your desire to never travel to X, keep it to yourself. Don't ruin this experience for the rest of us!!!" I am happy to report that all 32 of our guests left Mexico LOVING it and wishing they could have stayed the second week with us!
3) Not sit with my FI on the flight down. Yes, if you can believe it, the airline actually had us sitting 7 rows apart and the flight was totally full. Saaaaad...I felt like an idiot when the flight attendant announced "So, where are our brides and grooms to be? Hands up!!!" and the two of us weren't sitting together.
Things I wish I had done:
1) Spent time at Sephora (or a major department store) finding my perfect wedding lip colour. The girl that did my makeup didn't have a whole lot of options and we had to try 4 different colours before I found one that I kinda liked. But then I didn't have it for re-applying the rest of the day!!! I also wish I would have asked the girl if I could have applied my own mascara. I'm SUPER picky about my mascara and I HATE when it's clumpy (which it was...so I had to waste time working it out). Actually, I wish I had done a hair and makeup trial at the resort spa before the wedding...I think it would have been money well spent, especially when "glamour/updos/etc" is not my day to day look!
2) We hired our photographer for 8 hours on the wedding day and for a TTD the next morning. I only wish we had booked them to shoot for 10 hours the day of the wedding and start earlier. As hard as I tried for the day not to feel rushed, it did...and I think more time with a photographer before the ceremony would have helped that.
3) Get after the DJ to JUST play our playlist that we had spent hours compiling on our iPad (as it was I had to get after him twice!). Instead, he chose some HORRIBLE tunes and seemed to lack the intelligence/intuition that a DJ requires to look out at the dance floor and say to himself, "Huhhh, well that song isn't really working for anyone!". We should have sent him home and just played tunes off our iPad.
4) Trusted my gut more...when I did, things worked out great! When I left it to someone else, notsomuch!!!
5) Taken time one night before leaving for Mexico when I was by myself to compose a really nice letter to my husband to be. But I ran short on time and had to write him a sweet little note instead. It's amazing how people and events eat up your time once you get to the resort.
6) Found BDW earlier...a wealth of information...great resources...a big inspiration for me!
Best of luck to you all : )