I just had my dream beach wedding at Azul Beach Hotel on September 22nd with 30 guests. Still waiting for pics from my photographer but Samuel Luna's photos are a great indicator of how amazingly beautiful this place is. My husband (still getting accustomed to that!) and I had visited the resort before and decided it best suited what we wanted in a wedding.
I haven't read through all the posts on this thread but I wanted to give you a general idea of what we did/liked/disliked/etc. and then you can feel free to ask questions!
I would say my least favorite part of the entire experience was dealing with the off-site wedding coordinators in Miami. We found it difficult to get straight answers and I felt like information was only provided when we directly asked for it. For instance, I didn't know about the Lomas Travel website that lists your options until a couple months into the process! I agree, they do nickel and dime and it's frustrating that this website only provides small pics and doesn't have all the pricing info on it. But that's what you have to work with so make sure you check it out! http://www.weddingsb...l.com/planning/
We were at the resort Wed - Mon and the wedding was on Saturday. Guests arrived starting on Thursday, so that gave us the chance to have our meeting with the wedding coordinators and work on organizing during the first day there. As much as you may feel frustrated with the Miami wedding coordinators, once you are at the resort, you are in great hands. The on-site coordinators are extremely organized and will do whatever they can to help make your wedding what you want it to be. I would recommend bringing photos, descriptions, information that you can provide to them as they didn't have all the info they were supposed to....and it helps ensure things turn out how you envisioned them. They were helpful answering what was necessary/not needed and I didn't get the sense they were trying to rack up expenses. One tip, though: We brought welcome bags for our guests. They won't hand them out to guests as they arrive but will deliver them to each room....for $4/person! Instead, we made a list of when we expected people to arrive and tried to meet them in the lobby....and told them ahead of time that if they didn't see us, find out where the main bar is and they could find us there! ;-)
We chose to have our rehearsal dinner as a Beach BBQ Buffet and brought our own decorations. The food was awesome and the setting was fantastic. We started at sunset, which provided a beautiful backdrop. We chose not to have any additional lighting as the prices for tiki torches, etc seemed ridiculous. They ensured us that the lighting they provide was sufficient - unfortunately it was not and this would be my only other criticism. They provided one double floodlight which cast a blue tint on the tables and only lit up 2 of the 4 tables so some people were pretty much eating in the dark. The light also went off twice. I don't know if they have a second light they could set up or what the other options are, but do not believe that the one light is enough! As for music, my brother made a reggae playlist with his iPod and we brought our own iPod dock from home - it was sufficient to provide background music for the occasion.
I ended up having my hair and makeup done by one of the girls from the spa. I wanted to get ready with my friends and the staff were extremely accommodating - the hair/makeup person set up in my room so I could spend time with everyone! Again, definitely bring pictures - she was great but barely spoke English so the visuals were vital to making sure I looked the way I wanted for my wedding day! The flowers are absolutely gorgeous and incredibly fresh. My dress had a watermelon/fuschia colored sash, so I wanted flowers to match. I chose bouquet BB-32 and paid for the ribbon to cover the holder - it was worth it. The groom had a single rose (B12) which matched the flowers in my bouquet perfectly. I also had a gerber daisy in my hair, which was also a perfect color match.
We did the spiritual ceremony and kept the setting simple - why over-decorate in such a gorgeous setting? We had the wooden aisle runner, uncovered white chairs and had two white sheers on the canopy. We looked into bringing our own sheers as we thought the price for the rental sheers was ridiculous. It ended up not being cost effective and we couldn't find them in the length we needed - so we instead brought other things and paid for the sheers. The wedding coordinators kept everyone on schedule, which was great since the ceremony was at sunset. I know many of you asked about whether there is only one wedding per day - that used to be the policy but they now allow two per day. You may want to check a few months before your wedding day to see if there is another scheduled for the same day and if so, what time. I did that and was lucky since we were the only ceremony scheduled.
We were supposed to have our reception dinner in the Blue International. They had finished repairs from the hurricane, but a big rainstorm two nights prior had caused water to POUR into the restaurant and caused them to close it again. Things happen, so we went with the flow - they offered a few alternates and we chose to have the event in the Latino restaurant, which they closed for the occasion. It turned out to be everything I could have hoped for. We brought a photographer from home and, as others have mentioned, if they stay for a minimum of 3 days, you don't have to pay the ridiculous outside vendors fee. We also brought our own iPod playlists from home for the reception and rented a speaker and microphone. We didn't have dancing (wasn't a dancing crowd) so this was sufficient to play the music we wanted and have a mic for speeches, blessings, etc.
Other thoughts: we had our breakfast in bed the morning after the wedding - it was really delicious and we enjoyed it on our patio. I would highly recommend the couple's massage in the cabanas over the water! We had one the morning of our wedding day.....perfect to help relax and prepare for your big day and spend some alone time as a couple during a period where you are so busy entertaining everyone else. And lastly, even if you don't purchase a wedding package that includes the romantic dinner on the beach - pay for it in addition, it was TOTALLY worth it! We had an amazingly delicious, romantic dinner on the beach....just the two of us and an awesome waiter. I don't want to ruin the surprises, but just believe me when I say it was worth it!
I hope this helps some of you! I know I wanted as much information as possible before making my decisions....I tried to hit some key points but if you have other questions, let me know and I will try to answer them!
Best of luck in your planning.....I hope your wedding turns out to be everything you dreamed it could be.