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Riu Palace Riviera Maya - June 5th, 2010 wedding review.

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Ladies below find my review. We got married in Riu Palace Riviera Maya on June 5th! It was absolutely wonderful, there were a few hiccups related to cocktail hour and dinner ( I debated if I should write about them or not, but wanted to make this review as honest as possible so did end up writing) but I won’t focus too much on that because at the end of the day everything still turned out great  I am going to try and break the cost down for you ladies too. My husband whom I called the Groomzilla (as a joke) helped write this review too! He has helped with all the planning and in some cases done more than me 

Mexicana Airline – A++
Cost - $296 (including taxes & fees)
We had a direct flight from Washington DC (IAD) to Cancun. The airline people were super helpful. We upgraded to first class the day of our flight the upgrade fee was $150 per ticket (the reason we did this is because we had six suitcases and it was cheaper to upgrade than paying for the extra baggage fee. Our bags were super heavy). We went to the airport the day before our flight (we dropped off two friends who went down a day before) and asked about how to transport the dress and deal with our extra suitcases. The agents at the desk and the cabin crew were very helpful and laid my dress in two seats. We asked even if we didn’t fly first class they would have still let me carry my dress by hand and they would have hung it up for us.
Overall the flight experience was great for us and all of our guests. We had 53 guests and 90% of them flew Mexicana Airlines.

Travel Agent – A++
We used Wendy Hicks whom we found in the BDW site. I don’t have enough good words to say about her! She always answered all our queries on time. Made sure that our guests were on the same flight, etc. She also did a price adjustment for us and our guests whenever the price dropped which was a nice surprise and everyone appreciated. She was able to price match Expedia, Orbitz etc. Below find her contact info. Please note that there is no charge to you for using a travel agent.

Wendy Hicks C.T.C. (Certified Travel Consultant)
Wright Travel Agency
Phone: 707 794-9671


Riu Palace Riviera Maya Resort – A++
The resort was gorgeous, the staff super helpful, the staff at the front desk, restaurant poolside treated us like royalty and bent backwards for us. We, of course, told everyone we ran into that we were there to get married and I think this was partially why they treated us extra special. The beach is impeccable and there were always beach chairs available unlike many of the all inclusive resorts that we had been to before. The food was also very good at all meals.

It’s important to mention we tipped everybody in two weeks we probably tipped over $500. I am not saying that you need to tip so much but they are just so helpful plus we found out how much the waiters in the resort make, its about 50 mexican pesos a day which is equivalent to $4.50 a day!! So we couldn’t help but tip them as well as we could. And it showed in their service too, they took extra special care of us and all our guests. A few days into our stay many of the waiters remembered us by name and always moved us to the prime seating areas, gave us even better service, etc. It’s well worth it to show your appreciation and give tips to the staff.

I believe because of the tips too we were able to get the fine dining reservations for ourselves and our guests every night we wanted and basically for as many guests as we wanted. We ate in all the restaurants and our favorite is the Japanese restaurant (Yashima) and Krystal. The least favorite food quality wise is probably Botafogo (which of course is where we had our wedding reception).

Below find the names of few staff members who were superb!
Lilis & Xavier – Front Desk
Rosario - In charge of Yashima or Chilis at night and Don Manalo during the day
Panuncio – In charge of Krystal at night.
Juaqin (“J”) – Waiter at Botofogo
Veronica – Waitress at Dan Monolo.
Rene - In charge of Chilis and Dan Manolo
Charlie – Waiter at the pool side.
Note that some of the waiters work at different restaurants on different nights so you can ask where they are working to go to their workplaces. A few times at the “reservation” restaurants we were able to literally go to the door at seating time and be seated since we knew the waiters (many people make reservations then never show so there is a good chance there will be a few seats available).

Our Room – A++
We got the external Jacuzzi suite with the spiral staircase, Our room number was 2066. This was not ocean front but set back closer to the main lobby of the hotel. We liked it fine. We looked to change to a room closer to the ocean but it was over the Chilis restaurant so it had a food smell which we did not like. The cost of the room for 10 nights (June 1st – June 11th) was $1,828.90 a person. So in total $3,657.80 for the two of us. I highly recommend this room as it came very handy the day we got ready and it was big enough for 15-20 ppl to hang out.

We never used the external Jacuzzi though since it was so hot and humid outside.
Our room got cleaned within an hour of us putting the “clean room” sign! And we always were greeted by towel animals, roses in our bed. Again, we tipped the cleaning staff every day (left a few dollars on the bed) and I think this helped with service. Note too there is 24hr room service and you can order champagne any time! We ordered 5 bottles at a time for 15 people we had in our room and they hotel didn’t mind at all.

Since we paid for our external Jacuzzi suite, we didn’t need any room upgrade (the caprice wedding package offers the bride and groom upgrades if there are rooms available). Instead we asked for room upgrades for our immediate family and three of their rooms were upgraded to a senior suite. This was before we dropped a single dollar for a tip and was very nice of the hotel front desk staff (thanks Lilis!)

In addition all our guests for the most part our given rooms in the same side of the resort as us, so that we could all be close. The hotel changed some guests room too if they wanted a better view.

Ceremony – A++

We got the Caprice wedding package the cost for that was $2,355, you can check in the resort website what that includes.

We had our ceremony at the gazebo at 5:00pm , we had the harpist play during the ceremony.
Cost of the harpist = $370.

We had our own chair sashes, different shades of blue and they were set up very nicely with the help of our friends.

We had to pay $55 for the set up fee but if you can please assign a friend or a family member so that they can check that things are set up they way you want them (this is a important note – see more on this below….).

We had the symbolic wedding, and we told the minister to talk only about love, marriage & family and that’s exactly what he did! We had written mini vows for each other too. The ceremony was about 20 minutes and seemed to be just the right length.

Also we had personalized fans in each chair and if you are getting married in the summer months, please invest in the fans it was super hot and every guests used those fans during the ceremony.

Cocktail hour at Lirico – B
We are giving this a rating of B because few things didn’t go as expected.…

The cocktail hour started at 5;30 pm and ended at 7:30pm.

We ordered the upgraded appetizers per person (the cost for that was $14 a person). The appetizer was delicious and plentiful.

We had the Mariachi band during the cocktail hour and they were awesome. The cost for that was $556 for 45 minutes). However we ended up paying $1,112 as they played additional 45 minutes for us. (I will write the reason for the additional play time below).

We had two tables set up one with a picture of us and the guest book. And other one with cigars and personalized matches.

Now as for the stuff that didn’t go as planned.

1. There was no ice available during the first 35 minutes of the cocktail hour, hence no drinks available. The staff at Lirico were working diligently to try to find a solution but this should have been sorted out long before our guests arrived at the cocktail hour (Me and Philip were out taking pictures with the hotel videographer on the beach). A few friends who we had assigned to help make sure everything was expected looked for Nancy (the new wedding coordinator) to inform her but were not able to locate her (she told us later she was in Botafogo setting up the reception - but this was at 5:30pm – we had expected she would be making sure everything was going well at our cocktail hour).

2. We had cigars for our guests but they were not put out on the tables. When one of our friends asked where they were they were informed there weren't any. Our friend went to the clearly marked suitcase we provided and they were clearly in there. The staff did place ashtrays and our matches on the tables, just no cigars. We clearly stated we had cigars that we also wanted incorporated.

3. Once Mariachi band left after their initial session there was no music in Lirico. When we met with our coordinator the Weds before our wedding we were assured that there will be background music at Lirico. We asked the bartender about music and she said it was coming. A few minutes later we asked again and she said it was still coming. Soon after someone did come but could not get the sound system to work (the screen was just flashing multiple colors). It was very awkward and uncomfortable for a long period while our guests waited and wondered what was going on. I announced we were having technical problems and would have it resolved shortly. As our guests were just sitting there wondering what to do out of desperation we asked the Mariachi band to continue to play. If we had not we would have sat in silence for the remaining 1.5 hours of our cocktial hour. It was very awkward without music. The technical person never got the sound system to work. We do not believe we should pay for the additional time of the mariachi band as this was the hotels mistake, someone should have checked and confirmed the music system was functional prior to our event, or at least before the mariachi band was over. Additionally the Mariachi band was a little late (not a big deal but we would have liked them to be on time). We were told to keep to a very strict schedule and we did but the vendor did not.

4. Initially there were no napkins available for the appetizers but this got sorted 20 minutes into the cocktail hour.

Apart from the items mentioned above things went well!

General note (from Groomzilla): Given the amount of coordination necessary to pull off a wedding just as YOU like it and the communication challenges and items that are lost in translation I would do the following if I could go back in time and do this again: Assign a friend (or 2) who will essentially go to each event (ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception) and make sure everything is just how you want it. This should occur probably 30 minutes prior to each event. This person should be able to sternly inform the staff that things are not correct and tell them to fix it and stay there until it is done right. We literally made a list of how we wanted each aspect of event (ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception) – how chairs should be set up, how bows at ceremony should be alternating colors, how we wanted a picture of us put out for cocktail hour, how we wanted cigars on each table, how we wanted the lanterns we brought down with us set up at each table for the reception dinner, etc., etc., etc. – and still the instructions were not followed by the hotel staff. This is an important day and you want it to be done right. There are no do-overs. Don’t expect your wedding coordinator to do this for you or be on top of things - we couldn’t even find ours at certain critical points when we needed her (like when the sound system wouldn’t work during our cocktail hour). I would have your Helper keep the wedding coordinator by their side at all times. This is the coordinators job but it doesn’t always appear that way. Ours seemed to disappear for long periods during our ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. Also don’t assume the obvious like that ice and drinks will be ready. I would make a general checklist for each event outside of your “wants” list – like: Does the sound system work? Is the bar ready with ice, is there a bar tender at the station, is the DJ ready, is the band there on time? Are the tables set up correctly, etc. I would also find out who the floor manager is for each event and let him/her know what you want and that you aren’t leaving until you get it. This may sound harsh but this is an important day you don’t want to risk mistakes or oversights. This potentially means your friend will miss certain aspects of your wedding while they are running around making sure things are how you want it, and this will probably be true, so you will owe this friend big time. Also, one thing I wish I had brought with me that would have helped was a set (probably 4) off those walkie-talkies you can get that work over long distances. The resort is huge and if the bride needs to be told to wait 10 more minutes before coming down to the gazebo (or wherever your ceremony is) it is almost impossible to contact them any other way. It’s also helpful if you’re running from event to event to keep in constant communication.

Dinner at Botafogo – A

We had the private dinner with DJ at Botafogo. The rental cost of the restaurant was $500 and the cost of the DJ was $1200.

We had bought a lot of table decorations with us and the hotel along with the help of one of our friends set them up exactly the way we wanted it to be. (Groomzilla note: I went down myself 60 minutes then again 30 minutes before our reception to make sure everything was set up correctly. It was mostly okay but I’m glad I went down to make a few adjustments. See my note above on having a helper. You don’t really want to spend your time doing this kind of thing on your wedding day).

The quality of the food at Botafogo is okay, but it didn’t matter as people were having a good time dancing.

There was two mishap, we had paid for an additional open bar the cost was $9 a person. But no open bar was set up so all our guests could order was soda, beer and wine. The guests didn’t notice this or complain but we did. (see Groomzilla note on checklists above and visiting the event prior to the start to make sure EVERYTHING is what you expect. I didn’t even notice the lack of open bar – I didn’t have a checklist).

Number 2, they didn’t set out a dessert table so all we had for our dessert was our wedding cake. (Groomzilla note again above….)

Nancy the wedding coordinator apologized later and said it was a mistake of the food and beverage department’s fault! (Groomzilla note above – wedding coordinator disappeared at certain key times and did not take care of everything as we had hoped. If you want it done right you have to do it yourself….)

But overall the reception went fantastic!

We had the place till 11:00 pm and paid additional to stay till 11:45 pm. I wish we could have stayed longer :- ) But a lot of our guests went to Riu Tequila (10 min walk) to party later. Maybe see if you can get the place until at least midnight – I wish we had.

Wedding Cake – A++

We got the wedding cake that was included in our package, we paid additional for a fresh flower cake topper. The cake was delicious we had the vanilla cake with strawberry filling and it was super moist and yummy. No complaints at all!

Wedding Coordinator – Nancy Hernandez - B

We want to first say that Nancy is a very sweet person. However I believe we were one of her very first weddings. The last wedding coordinator left the resort few weeks prior to our wedding and she was the one we were communicating with for one year.

On our wedding day Nancy was there to make sure everything was going okay but I really think the resort should have sent Pamela (her supervisor) or somebody else with some experience to help her out. Nancy also was incognito at certain times which we did not appreciate. She should have been there every step of the way.

For instance the additional $565 that we were charged for the mariachi, we had to ask the mariachi to stay late because the music at Lirico wasn’t working which was a hotel mistake (noted above). Nancy told us if we didn’t pay then she would have to pay out of pocket so we didn’t disagree any further and paid. But she said we will get a refund for the open bar and some other refund because of the dessert table missing etc and that the hotel manager Aniliu would contact us the day before we leave.

Riu Palace Riviera Maya hotel Manager Anilu Garza – C

I feel horrible writing this but Aniliu was probably one of the meanest and worst hotel managers I spoke to in my life (Groomzilla seconds his – I’d be happy if she was fired and I never say that about people). She calls our room and said that we needed to come down and pay the additional $556 for the band and then they will refund us $441 for the open bar. When we asked her what about the other refund due to the other mishaps? She said “sorry” contact customer service, we said Nancy had told us Anilu was aware of our situation and was working on the refund.

Anilu flat out denied talking to Nancy and then she had the audacity to tell us “what about the free master suite you got” mind you ladies, we paid in full for our master Jacuzzi suite! I was really upset and said fine we will come down and pay whatever we need to and see her in person. Five minutes later we go down and she was no where to be found. So below find the timeline of our encounter with Anilu.

5: 15 pm - Anilu calls our room at 5:15 pm, and says we will be refunded $441 but we have to pay the $565 and that’s it. I asked her about the other refunds and she pretended as if she doesn’t know about any other refunds and as if she never spoke to Nancy that morning. I explained the entire wedding day situation day to her and all she had to say to me was that email customer service. Then she says “what about the free master suite you got” let me say we paid for our suite in full for the external Jacuzzi suite, even before our wedding, I always knew I wanted the external Jacuzzi suite and that’s what we booked. I was very insulted by her remark. Later she says she wasn’t aware we paid for the room and it wasn’t a automatic upgrade. So I tell her give me 5 mins we will come down and meet you.

5:20 pm – We come down to meet Anilu but she is nowhere to be found. It was obvious she was inside the office but didn’t want to meet with us. We waited 25 mins and the front desk people looked distraught and apologetic as they had to lie to us. They kept on apologizing. Xavier the front desk person went and spoke to Teo (Anilu over the ph had told us Teo was off today – which was a lie). Xavier then told us that Anilu will be back around 8:00 pm and Teo passed the message that she will surely meet us then.

8:00 pm – We came to see Anilu she wasn’t there.

8:45 pm – We came to Anilu again and she wouldn’t pick up her phone when the front desk people called her. It was very apparent she was avoiding us. The front desk people once again apologized and it was obvious from their reaction and that Anilu was in the office.

Ladies our wedding day was wonderful regardless of the minor things that happened and I wouldn’t cared about the refund or paying extra but Anilu’s attitude was so bad that I feel like I had to write it here! We will write about her to the customer service email address. But apart from Anilu the other hotel staff was nothing but wonderful and helpful.

Photographer – Daniel Aguilar – A++

Daniel was wonderful and I don’t even know where to start. I love his pictures below find his site. He flew to Playa, for one day for our wedding and I can’t wait to see the professional pics. We paid around $3,500 but pls do not quote me on this, pls email him directly his prices may have gone up or down. We plan to use him again for our reception in Toronto. We were supposed to have him for 6 hrs but he ended staying 8 hrs! he is the most down to earth and nicest photographer we have met in our life!!

Daniel Aguilar Photographer - Destination Wedding Photojournalist in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Texas and Worldwide


Videographer – Calypso – A+

We got the full video coverage from Calypso the cost was $1,200. We got 4 copies of the dvd 4 days after the wedding and it was very nice. The quality of the video is quite good and the editing is also top notch. The DVD has opening screens, chapters, etc. just like a normal DVD.

Only thing is the videographer wants you to pose and I hate posing (Daniel is more my style as he takes candid shots and I love that). But after looking at the dvd the posing did actually look nice 

Renova Spa at the resort A+

The spa was great, the massages were out of this world! I had my hair done there by someone called Elena, there was the language barrier but she still did a great job. I did my own make up. Just keep in mind they need to use a lot of hair spray because of the humidity.

In total I had 4 massages in 11 days and all our guests ended up getting a massage or two :-) the prices were extremely reasonable compared to DC prices.

If you have any specific questions feel free to email me (or Groomzilla) at samiraandphilip@@gmail.com

Below also find the link to some pictures that our friends took, I will post pics when I get the professional ones.

Picasa Web Albums - Timothy - Mexico Part I...

In summary minus the few hiccups everything went great and if we had to redo it we WOULD and choose the same resort 

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WOW.. fantastic review samira (and groomzilla) Loved reading it, sorry to hear about your few mishaps, but i am so so glad overall you both had a fantastic day :-) The pictures are great. Congratulations to you both on you wedding and becoming Mr. & Mrs :-) Once again thank you for a brilliant review :-)


IM SO EXCITED ............................



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Wonderful review. Sounds like you had a beautiful experience and congrats on your recent nuptials. 4 massages in 11 days....relaxing! Thanks for sharing as I am sure many brides will find this beneficial in their planning process.

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Hi Samira, I have been thinking about you and hoping the wedding went well! Thank you so much for the kind words! You were so lovely to work with! I am really happy that your wedding was all you hoped for!

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