Hi team BDW,
BDW was really helpful to me when I was planning my wedding (successfully executed on April 20, 2012), so I wanted to share what I did and what I learned â€“ hopefully it will be helpful for someone who is in the beginning or middle of the process like previous BDW advice was for me. These are the highlights (believe it or not), but if you have any questions, Iâ€™m happy to get even more into the details.
Selecting a Venue â€“ Le Reve
Choosing where we wanted to have our wedding, even after settling on a destination wedding, and even after picking some pretty specific criteria, was by far the most time consuming task for us. Itâ€™s possible that I have checked out the website for every hotel in the Mayan Riviera, but that might be an exaggeration. This is what we were looking for from a reception venue:
- A relatively small resort, so even if it wasnâ€™t only our group there, we would make up a good chunk of the guests.
- Really, really, very excellent food. Food is so important to us, there are no words.
- A Catholic church or chapel nearby (which you can find pretty much everywhere in Mexico)
- A wedding coordinator who seemed well liked, and who would be helpful for two people who live far away and who work basically all the time.
We didnâ€™t have time to take a trip to Mexico and set a date on the timeline that we wanted so we ended up basing our decision entirely on word of mouth (and pictures). No one had anything bad to say about Le Reve, and even more importantly, no one described their food as mediocre or worse. Going in blind could have been a disaster, but it really worked out for us. Le Reve was exactly what we were looking for, and we had a great time. I will write a full review of Le Reve with more details on the resort when I have more pictures, but for anyone looking for some or all of our criteria, I definitely recommend it.
As an aside, we also recently went to a wedding at Ceiba del Mar, nearby in Puerto Morelos, and that place also meets all of our criteria (I can only say this as a guest, but from my perspective everything went smoothly, the staff were nice, and the food was good). We wanted to do something different since we had just been to a wedding there, but I would recommend checking it out too if you have similar interests.
We decided to get married in the tiny chapel in downtown Playa del Carmen â€“ La Capilla de Nuestra Senora del Carmen. The chapel is adorable, and is right in the middle of everything, which we really enjoyed (itâ€™s a really vibrant area, and we liked that it made the experience less formal). If you consider having your ceremony here, you should be aware that because it is located on Fifth Avenue you will quite possibly/very likely have some ceremony crashers, and they may or may not have come straight from the beach. If you are looking for a Catholic ceremony in Playa that is more away from the center of it all, the main church, Nuestra Senora del Carmen, is a few blocks away but not on Fifth Avenue, and is much bigger but still very pretty.
(This is the chapel)
All of our coordination for the ceremony with the church in Mexico and the home church went surprisingly smoothly. If you have any questions about those logistics let me know and Iâ€™ll be happy to help.
We used Mayan Hospitality for transportation for our guests to and from the airport, and to go to and from the church on the wedding day. I can tell that they did a great job because I never heard a word about transportation from anyone â€“ they were always there when they were supposed to be, they had the right number of seats for everyone, and the drivers were courteous and helpful.
Vanessa Jaimes did all of our flowers â€“ bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces and decorations for the aisles for the church. I was particularly unhelpful in this part of the planning, because I donâ€™t know much about flowers and only knew the general idea of color that I wanted (without really knowing which flowers come in that color) and that I really didnâ€™t want anything to be ugly (duh). I particularly loooved what Vanessa did for the bouquets and for the groomâ€™s boutonniere.
This is a bridesmaid bouquet (the parrot was added by a guest, not Vanessa, but it works!). I told her I was going for dark coral, and she did a great job deciphering that.
The centerpieces for the cocktail hour were exactly as we discussed, and the aisle decorations and the centerpieces for the reception were a little different, but still fine. I would say that Vanessa is very good at going with it, which we needed, but if you have a strict idea in your mind of what you want (or donâ€™t want) you should be very clear about it, because otherwise you might get something in the ballpark, but not exactly the same. I also didnâ€™t ask for a sample of anything in advance, so doing that, if you are really particular about your flowers, I think is a must.
We used Planner 1 for all of our non-flower dÃ©cor (except for the pool candles, which Le Reve did). This included things such as the cocktail tables, tiny lanterns and strings of lights on the bar and palapa, and candles lining the stairs of the resort.
Planner 1 was nice and fine to work with, but a few things were not like we requested. I think it retrospect, I would have just worked with Le Reve to do the rest of the dÃ©cor, because our relationship with the wedding coordinator (Arlenis) was much closer, and it would have been easier to tell them how we wanted everything set up, or for them to tell us if something wasnâ€™t workable. At the time of planning we werenâ€™t really sure what Le Reve could and couldnâ€™t do, so we went with Planner 1 because their proposal was easy to work with from afar and we were not motivated to figure anything else out. To Le Reve couples in particular I suggest setting aside some time with Arlenis to make sure you know what the hotel can do, and getting an estimate from them for things up front.
Our photographer was Del Sol. We selected them because they had a nice promotion with Le Reve and their work looked great, so we didnâ€™t check out any other photographers. That said, I found that throughout my planning experience I started to have an unhealthy obsession with looking at other peopleâ€™s wedding pictures due to the amazing photojournalistic style that is taking over wedding photography right now. I seriously could not get enough of it. Everything that Iâ€™ve seen so far from Del Sol (and as I mentioned, Iâ€™ve seen a lot) makes me really excited to see our pictures when they are ready. Once we have some pictures from them, I will put up a full review of Del Sol too.
Le Reve suggested Karine Asatryan, a violinist, for our ceremony (she has a few videos up on youtube if you want to see her play without going to Mexico). She learned two songs at our very late request, and was extremely nice about it. I definitely recommend her if you are looking for something simple but live for a ceremony in Playa del Carmen.
There was a mariachi band at our cocktail hour (pictured below), which Le Reve coordinated for us. Despite my insistence that I would enjoy my cocktail hour and would not be off taking pictures or fixing my dress, I did not experience the cocktail hour because I was off taking pictures and fixing my dress. The guests loved it, though.
The mariachi band that I didn't really see
We didnâ€™t have a Mexican theme to our wedding per se, but we decided in the end to incorporate a few elements of Mexican culture (see more on this below re: tequila and maracas) because, well, we were in Mexico. Those things ended up being some of my favorite parts of the whole event â€“ they just made the party feel fun and unique, and gave everyone a chance to try something new. One of our goals was to make people feel like they were on vacation (with parties!) and these touches made that work.
We used Plug In Audiovisual as the DJ for our reception, which was highly recommended by Le Reve's wedding coordinator, and since we had no idea how to assess Mexican DJs, we took her word for it. These guys were awesome. They accommodated all of the requests (even ones like â€œexcuse me, can you please play all of â€œBaby Got Back?â€ after they mixed a few seconds of it in with other songs) and respected the groomâ€™s One Serious Requirement (no line dances), and managed to keep people dancing basically non-stop for several hours (the tequila might have helped too, but they really were good at it). Most of the music was current top 40 type dance music, but I got the feeling that they took our pre-submitted song requests and tried to figure out how to extend that into more songs we would like. It was very well done.
Other fun things
Out of Town Bags
We ordered these bags, which I love, from etsy.
The bag was canvas material, not huge but a good beach bag size!
When we got to Playa del Carmen, we made a Walmart run, and filled the bags mostly with snacks and other stuff we found there. It was extremely convenient (we had rented a car too), and pretty affordable. We also asked the wedding coordinator to buy us some mini bottles of mescal for the group, which were not available at Walmart. As a result, we carried very little with us to Mexico to fill the bags, and that was awesome. In case the goodies werenâ€™t impressive enough, we wrote a killer welcome letter (with clip art!) for our guests with wedding details and some tips for the rest of the vacation. I am attaching it here, because if you would like to give similar information about sites to see, it might save you some research.
Tequila Tasting, Maracas, and Mustaches
We ordered maracas from Mishka Designs for the table gift for the guests, and Mishka was awesome â€“ super patient as we tried to make up our minds on color combos and designs (we also ordered our place cards and menus from her, and they were great). She took care of shipping everything to Le Reve directly, and it arrived exactly as we asked, on time, and perfectly packed.
The guests had a blast with the maracas during dinner. We later realized that we were fools to not expect that maraca-shaking would replace the traditional glass-clinking for a kiss (it did), but like I said, the guests had a lot of fun with it and it made for some lively banter between the tables.
After dinner we set up a tequila tasting table with 3 tequilas, a mescal, and sangrita. We did some research beforehand and made signs explaining each type of drink and a brief history. Not surprisingly, this was a huge hit. I also think that our percent of liquid spilled on the dance floor was drastically lower than the average wedding â€“ everyone was drinking tequila instead.
Tequila tasting set up!
Finally, we wanted to spice up our guest book, so we brought an assortment of fake moustaches and a Polaroid camera and let people go wild. Everyone loved the moustaches, and we got some great pictures in our book. Fake moustaches happen to be a personal favorite of ours, so weâ€™ll really cherish that forever.
The staff at Le Reve was fantastic - and they totally agreed with us that the only thing better than a real mustache is a fake mustache.
Hope this helps! Happy planning, everyone!