Hi Everyone â€“ I might have gone a bit overboard with this review, and figured it might be most helpful to you 2012 brides so I hope it helps!! (An abridged version of this is also posted on the GCR's vendor page).
We were married at the Gran Caribe Real on 11/22/11. Our ceremony was in Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel, the cocktail hour was at the gazebo, and the reception was at the gazebo beachâ€¦ it was all perfect, despite a few glitches and a rain cloud during our reception.
152 people flew to Mexico for our wedding (we both have really large extended families), which is out of the ordinary for a destination wedding, but I think a lot we experienced could be helpful to you all.
Everything went really smoothly. It was a beautiful ceremony right at sunset (4pm). We met with the priest (Fr. Eugenico) a couple days before and he was lovely to work with. We let him know the readings we selected and he went through the chronology of the mass with us. Since we had a large group, we asked one of my aunts to be a second Eucharistic minister, which helped expedite the communion process.
We didnâ€™t pay the extra money to have the wedding coordinator (Diana) at the rehearsal. I had my Matron of Honor do the run through with our really large wedding party the day before the ceremony, and that was fine. Just note that youâ€™ll have to find out when the chapel will be free since there are usually a lot of weddings going on. I used the tool online to find out of the chapel was available:
Welcome gathering/â€rehearsal dinnerâ€
Again, because we had such large group, we opted out of having a formal rehearsal dinner. Instead, we had all our guests gather at the Trade Winds Beach Bar around 8pm. Itâ€™s largely empty at night so we had the space to ourselves (even though other hotel guests could have popped in if they wanted to). During the event, we had a couple of speeches, and then everyone hung out and had some (included!) drinks.
Cocktail hour â€“
The food at the cocktail hour was delicious (possibly better than the reception, but then again, I didnâ€™t eat much at the reception, see below). We had a very small window to eat, but what we had was really good and our guests said the same as well. Had an array of beef skewers, coconut shrimp, and a lot of stuff I donâ€™t remember. The beach gazebo was nicely decorated and it overlooked the reception area which was nice.
Our guests seemed to like all the food at the reception (we had the avocado stuffed with crab, choice of beef fillet or salmon, and the hazelnut mousse). I was too excited to eat too much, but what I had was good. The dessert was definitely the best part! Our cake was two flavors â€“ chocolate/raspberry & tres leches. I didnâ€™t eat much of either because after the main course was served and most of our guests ate, it starting POURING. My husband and I were about to panic and find Diana, but we saw that a bunch of our guests were already dancing so we joined in and the rain turned out to be a pivotal moment of the reception that made it so perfect and memorable. The DJ played â€œUmbrellaâ€ by Rihanna, which was perfect for the moment, which only lasted for about 5-10 minutes before the rain stopped. After that, all of us were having such a fantastic time â€“ the DJ kept playing (thank goodness Alan and his staff had a hood for the equipment!), and no one sat down the rest of the night.
Diana came to us just as the rain was stopped to see if we wanted to move inside, but we were staying put.
We had all this done through the hotel because I didnâ€™t want to worry about coordinating with an outside vendor. All the flowers were just lovely with the exception of the centerpieces â€“ they definitely were not worth the price we paid for them.
Wedding Coordinator â€“ Diana Rodriguez
Overall, Diana was very helpful to us.
Here were the positives:
Initial meeting - We met with her when we arrived and went over everything for the wedding from the order of how everyone would process in to the times of my hair appointments. She was able to accommodate my last minute changes (a couple cancelled last minute, 2 people in my wedding party decided they wanted to get their hair done at the salon after I made the appointments etc). We also gave her all the items that needed to be set up (champagne flutes, table numbers, menu cards etc) and she & her staff took care of all of that.
Details â€“ sheâ€™s been coordinating weddings at the GCR for years and was able to coordinate details that I didnâ€™t even realized need to be done. For example, we ordered decorations for the chapel, and since our package already included one set of flowers for the alter, she had that one used to decorate our table at the reception.
Fixes â€“ since it rained during our reception, two minor mishaps occurred â€“ we didnâ€™t get to have any cake (beyond the bite we took during the cake cutting) and our favors werenâ€™t put out for our guests to take when they left the reception. Diana offered to send us a new mini cake for us to our room a couple days later (but we forgot to call and tell her when we wanted it) and had the staff deliver the favors to each guests room.
Availability â€“ once we arrived at the GCR, Diana was always available when we had any questions or concerns. We were able to either call her or stop by the wedding center. If she wasnâ€™t there because she was at a wedding, the other planners were able to tell us when we could best contact her.
Attitude â€“ from what I can tell, Diana was genuinely happy to help us with whatever we needed. She often gave us helpful suggestions and you can tell that she enjoys her job.
Advocacy â€“ sometimes the hotel staff could be hard to deal with (largely because of language barriers). Diana was able to intervene on our behalf, especially one night when guests services messed up our dinner reservations â€“ we ran into her in the hallway, and she made a few calls and was able to get us a reservation at Chefâ€™s Plate at the Royal, which are not open to GCR guests (even though we had the presidential suite) and often need to be reserved 3 to 4 days in advance.
Communication - it was usually hard to communicate with her via e-mail before we arrived â€“ some days she was more responsive than others. I figured out that it was best to call using the toll-free number that you can use to contact the reservation desk/initial wedding coordinator (who was Elsa for me). Since Diana and the other coordinators (Elizabeth & Flora) donâ€™t have a toll-free number to access them the reservation desk can transfer you to them.
After being at the GCR, I realized how super busy all the planners are â€“ they sometimes have multiple weddings in a day and have a lot to handle. This all made me realize why it sometimes took so long for her to respond to my e-mails or phone calls. However, like I said above, once we arrived, it was much easier for us to access Diana. With all the given constraints on their time, I think she did the best she could, and our wedding turned out perfectly.
Travel Agent â€“ Wendy Hicks, Wright Travel
Wendy is such a blessing. With our number of guests booking stays of various lengths, in different room categories, from all over the country/world â€“ she handled all the logistics effortlessly. There was even a point when my cousin found cheaper rates for the hotel, so Wendy was able to re-negotiate our group contract with the hotel and got our group rates lowered. She responds to e-mails really quickly and was so helpful to all our guests.
Photographer â€“ John Lauren Photography
Iâ€™ve already written a separate review for John & Lauren (a California based a husband and wife team) here but they donâ€™t have a vendor page on here yet so wanted to also give them a plug here because theyâ€™re awesome in every way. They shot all of the events during our wedding week and were so much fun to work with. Here is a link to their blog: http://johnlauren.com/blog/
Videographer â€“ Loyd Calomay Films/Red 5 Studios
Again, Iâ€™ve written a more detailed review that will be posted when Loyd has a vendor page, but wanted to write a note here to reemphasize how remarkable his work is. He really provided us with the best way to relive what was the greatest time of our lives. Throughout the event he made us feel so comfortable and is just an overall great guy. Much of the time we didnâ€™t even notice he was there, but he captured it all. Here is a link to our highlight reel: http://vimeo.com/32970125 which was ready soon after the actual wedding! The password is cancun.
DJ â€“ Neil Armstrong
Neil kept all of us dancing the whole night long â€“ there wasnâ€™t a moment where they dance floor wasnâ€™t packed, even through the pouring rain! He a NYC based DJ and founder of 5th platoon has a stellar reputation (including being the tour DJ for Jay-Z!) and the packed schedule that goes with it so we were lucky that one of our friends who is a DJ connected us to Neil. Hereâ€™s his website if any of you are interested: http://www.djneilarmstrong.com/blog/
Rental equipment â€“ Alan Alexandre, www.audiobalanz.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan and his staff were great!! It was kind of a difficult for him to connect with Diana, but Alan was very efficient and responsive. He came to the GCR a couple days before the wedding to check out the reception site and him & his crew stayed the whole time to make sure all the equipment was working. When it rained during our reception, Alan was equipped with a rain hood so the party could continue. He even added in fireworks after our first dance!!
note: we originally booked Doremixx to provide the equipment for Neil, but he was so hard to get a hold of. I had to use facebook after he didnâ€™t respond to my numerous calls (I actually bought a phone card to call Mexico!) and e-mails to all three of Doremixxâ€™s addresses. By the time we got in contact with him, the equipment we needed wasnâ€™t available and it was still such a hassle to communicate with Ivan so we decided to search out another vendor, which is how we found Alan. Even our WC from the GCR e-mailed Ivan with no luck. It was disappointing to have to pay the $350 outside vendor fee for Alan, but it was much better than having to deal with Doremixx.
Overall resort services â€“
The GCR was perfect for our group because our guestsâ€™ ages ranged from barely 1 to 75. The aunts and uncles enjoyed hanging out in the lobby/lobby bar area and the kids loved the pirate ship. A couple of my cousins dropped their kids off at the Oki Splash kids club, which was great for both the parents and the kids. The lobby bar was a great spot to hang out in the evening and we even brought down an ipod dock one night and did some dancing.
Unfortunately, one of our guests had items stolen from her room (that were not in the safe) and we are pretty certain it was one of the hotel staff, but since the items were not in the safe, there was not much we can do. The night staff (Lorena) was very difficult to deal with but her manager (forgot his name) was much more accommodating. Itâ€™s probably a rare occurrence (many of our other guests, including us, left ipads, cameras watches etc. out and nothing happened), but the lesson that it could happen and to use the safe.
Room quality -
Some of our guests had to switch rooms for various reasons (one room there was a leak, another family with small kids was given a room only accessible by climbing lots of stairs, some rooms didnâ€™t have enough light) which was kind of a hassle â€“ Israel & Hector were definitely the most helpful staff at the front desk.
Overall, the food at the hotel was what you would usually expect from an all-inclusive, nothing remarkably spectacular with a handful of really good dishes (guacamole everywhere - especially at Albatros, rib-eye at the Sushi Bar, octopus salad & fillet at Sunset Grill).
Helpful advice â€“
OOT bags â€“ the hotel charges $5 to deliver each OOT bag. Since we had so many guests, this was not an option. We distributed our bags at our welcome gathering, but because some guests were arriving days before that gathering, we were able to leave the welcome letters (5 x 7 cards) at the front desk that contained basic information, such as the schedule of events for the week, to be distributed when they checked in.
Sit down dinner for large groups â€“ like many others have said on this forum, the restaurants wonâ€™t accommodate groups of more than 10. What worked for us was to request tables of 10 close to each other and arrive right when the restaurant opens for dinner. For example, 40 of us went to Sunset Grill for â€œthanksgivingâ€ dinner. We arrived at 5:45pm, right before it opened, so they were able to sit us all in 4 tables of 10 right next to each other.