RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas
Royal Wedding Package
54 Guests (50 adults and 4 children)
Wedding: January 2015 - Gazebo
Reception: Poolside Baja Norte
I got most of my wedding information from this site or the wedding coordinator (once I received info about about 6 weeks before the wedding) and thought it may be helpful to provide a post-wedding summary. I planned on writing a brief summary, but once I started writing it…well it is a little long. If you have any questions about information that I did not cover, let me know.
I was at the resort for 12 days, so I also had the opportunity to see the set up for a few others weddings, so I’ll add commentary from those too when appropriate.
Our wedding was on a Monday and we arrived late on the Thursday before.
We had our meeting with the WC on Friday morning. Unknown to me until that morning, my WC was no longer with RIU, so we met a new WC. However, thanks to the excel spreadsheets and the fact that all our communication was via email, the new WC was up to speed. The meeting wasn’t very long – the main purpose of the meeting is to confirm all the details in person and then pay! However, I highly recommend bringing print outs of the important information such as tentative balance, seating chart, meal list, etc. We also gave her a CD with our songs for the ceremony and we could (but weren't prepared yet) given her all our items for the reception (e.g. favours, etc.).
Since we planned a rehearsal dinner in town, we did not use the semi-private dinner included with the package. [I should note this dinner could come in handy even if you don’t need it for the rehearsal or wedding, since when you make A La Carte reservations at the resort it can only be up to 12 people, but the dinner included in the wedding package is up to 20 people]. However, we did request to have a welcome dinner at the buffet for 45 people. Even though I requested it, and we discussed it at the meeting with the WC, I had a feeling they would not have anything set up. I kept joking with my guest that “If you are the first one there, ask for a table for 45”. Anyway, as expected there was no table/section set aside, but thankfully I just started pointing at tables and asking the host if we could have them, and we ended up with about six tables all together.
Since we did the Symbolic Ceremony, we did not need to get blood work done. However, for other reasons, I do know where the doctor’s office is located, and it is very close to reception. So it shouldn’t take very long to get blood work done if you opt for the Civil Ceremony.
Instead of a traditional rehearsal dinner, we opted for a family dinner since we had some family members which were staying at a house not on the resort. We had our dinner at Hacienda Cocina and it was fabulous! Since we were a larger group we had to pre-order the appetizers and desserts, but everyone really liked it. To be honest, there was so much food. Probably could have skipped the desserts (or only had a few churros to share). Many of our guests went to this restaurant on their own throughout the week, and everyone had great things to say. P.s.the calamari is fantastic, but apparently only available for dinner.
Monday – Wedding Day
My husband dropped off our favours (which doubled as name cards), our seating list to be displayed for guests, guest book, music list (does and don’ts) to the WC in the morning. I headed off to have my hair and makeup done at Suzanne Morel. I do not know the names of the women who helped us, but they were great. There was one woman who was coordinating and she took our instructions in English and also dealt with all the payments/receipts. The other two women did not seem to speak very much English, but the information was well relayed as they did a great job with our hair and makeup. My hair did not move from noon until I took my bobby pins out at 2am! We were six people getting our hair done, but five also got their makeup done and we arrived at 10:00am and were out by 1:00pm. As a forewarning the store front feels like it is in an industrial area, but we didn’t have a problem finding it, and the taxi ride was about 5 minutes.
Once back at the resort, we had selected the 5 hour photographer package, therefore our photographer did “getting-ready” picture with my husband at 3pm and then came to meet up with me from 3:15-3:30pm, before our 4:00pm ceremony. The WC requested that all guest meet in the lobby bar for 3:30pm and she would walk them down to the gazebo. The WC then came to meet up with me, my bridesmaids, flower girl and father. We took a long walk around to end up outside but out of everyone’s sight. The bridesmaids and flowers girls were sent ahead to wait for their music. Then once they were finished the WC had my father and I move ahead to wait for our song to start. Once you see the gazebo you will realize that the path down to the gazebo is quite long, which is why it is a two stage approach.
The gazebo was great! It was really pretty and very private! It is at the corner of the property and there isn’t too much on the other side of the Riu Palace. As I mentioned, we did a Symbolic Ceremony, which was essentially a regular ceremony but not legal. I had exchanged some emails with Rev. Marco before going to Cabo and he sent me some example texts for the ceremony. I edited and added some items and sent that off to him. Honestly, he was great! Everyone really liked him – he was a great mix of humour and serious.
After the ceremony, we had the champagne toast, did some group pictures then sent the non-wedding party guests to the lobby bar while we went to the beach to take some pictures. The pictures turned out really well. It is a beautiful spot. In hindsight I would have taken some pictures with my husband somewhere other than the gazebo or the beach.
After we finished up with pictures we met up with our guests at the Lobby Bar for about 15 minutes before having everyone head to the reception by the Baja Norte pool. We had considered doing a private event between the ceremony and reception at the La Plaza bar, but decided against it in the end. Again, in hindsight I probably would have done it, but no one who attended the wedding knew the difference. I have no issue with the Lobby bar, except it is busier than you would expect, and if there is a sporting event (e.g. college football game on a Saturday) it will be packed.
Next stop was the reception by the Baja Norte pool. This is by far the nicest venue at the Riu Palace, but does come at an extra cost as you need to pay a site fee, pay per plate, and pay for open bar. Even though we didn’t see the sunset from the reception, the area is well lit, and looks great. The default for table set up was to offer us a sweetheart table, but we opted to sit at a round table with our wedding party. The food was really good! In my opinion it was the best food I had at the resort. I was a bit nervous about it, since unlike other wedding venues you don’t get to sample the food before picking, but it worked out.
There was a podium for speeches, but we hired a DJ, therefore I’m not sure if that is the default. We debated whether or not to hire a DJ, but in the end I’m happy we did it. It made it less stressful and stopped people from running to the iPod and changing the song. I am a bit particular about music, so I did put together a playlist as a back up, provided him a list of those songs so he had a general idea of what music we liked and provided him with a “Do Not Play” list. Overall he was very good and people were dancing until they shut us down. Also, at this reception spot, you get access to the pool bar. The bartenders were great. In hindsight (another one), I would have brought some money to tip the DJ and bartenders, though my husband told me that our guests were tipping the bartenders throughout the night.
After the reception wrapped up around 11pm, some guests called it a night, while a group of us heading to the disco. The disco is not bad, better than discos I’ve been to at other resorts, but they play a lot of house music, which is great if you love that kind of music, but definitely not a crowd pleasure. The DJ adjusted the music a bit after we arrived, but didn’t really accommodate any requests. The disco is also really warm, especially considering we were there in January (when it isn’t too hot). We still had a great time, but in the end this is the one part of the night I would have changed, but there are really no other options, so not sure what we could have done differently.
More specific notes
As already stated we went with a 5 hour photography package. The day we met the WC, we also met with a representative from the photography company. The meeting was mostly about finalizing/confirming details. For our 4pm ceremony, the photographer arrived around 3pm to take “getting ready” pictures. She then headed to the gazebo to take pre-wedding pictures and then pictures throughout the ceremony. After the ceremony we got a few pictures with the champagne glasses, and then started with the group shots by the gazebo. After that we headed to the beach for wedding party pictures. The pictures on the beach are beautiful. It is a great spot, and I’m generally very happy with the pictures – I only wish there were more. Since the 5 hour package only brought us to 8pm, they gave us the option of doing the first dance while people were still eating dinner, but we opted not to do that. We did decide to cut the cake before she left, and she also went around taking pictures of all the guests at the tables.
I wasn’t very focused on the cake, but we ended up with a four tiered cake. We did not pay for fresh flowers or bring any decorations, and they improvised and used some of the flowers (I think from the gazebo arrangements, but I’m not sure). Honestly it ended up looking really nice, but they didn’t serve it, and I have a feeling they rarely do since the reception time isn’t very long, and you get dessert with your meal.
The flowers were beautiful. Included in the Royal Package is the bridal bouquet, groom boutonniere, two flower arrangements for the gazebo and a bag of petals for the flower girl. I also opted to purchase three bridesmaid bouquets. I ended up with pink and white lilies for my bouquet and white lilies for the bridesmaids (since their dresses were coral).
I know that some people take decorations very seriously, but I’m not one of those people. At an outdoor setting like the Baja Norte, you really don’t need very much – it is so beautiful already. So the tables wouldn’t look naked, weordered one centre piece per table from Alina, and opted for a simple one with a candle in a cylinder vase with rocks. I think they looked nice, and did the trick. Alina had many options available, and in the end I emailed her a picture of one I found online and she had no problem provided me with something very similar.
Off Site Guests
We had a few off-site guests that came to the wedding, and we did not have any issue getting them on site.We had to provide their names ahead of time, and then was given the option of either paying the day fee or having them pay when they arrived. We ended up paying to make it easier, but I assume since they have to get their bracelets at reception, it would have been easy enough for them to pay when they arrived. When they arrived they got day bracelets and were allowed on site any time after 9am until 11pm.
Keep in mind if you have guests staying off site that you need at least 80% of your guest to be staying at the Riu Palace. This is not a cost issue (as in you cannot pay to fix this problem) it is just one of their rules. There was a point when I wasn’t sure if we would dip slightly below 80%, so I booked a room in the name of a couple I knew was not staying at the resort, and I was going to accept the room rental fee as the cost of dropping below 80%. In the end we were safely above 80% so I cancelled the room.
While we were at the resort there were more weddings on the beach than weddings at the gazebo. I think it is a personal choice, but I wanted to provide some details so you can make an informed decision.
1) Privacy: The gazebo is at a corner of the resort and about as private as you can get on the property, the beach site is very close to the Baja Norte pool (quiet pool). If you get married on the beach, people in the pool will watch your wedding.
2) Sand: Please consider any guests that have mobility issues before making a final decision on the beach. I saw one wedding where a guest was using a walker on the sand, and it did not look like the safest situation. Also, the sand at the Riu Palace is fairly coarse and not always that comfortable to walk on.
Until a couple weeks before we headed to Cabo, I hadn’t thought about the fact that everyone staying at the Riu Palace gets a resort bracelet. One document (I can’t remember which one) that the WC stated that the bride and groom could remove their bracelets for free but there was a $50 fee for everyone else. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, so I never brought it up with the WC. In the end the people who cut their bracelets, but keep them, had no problem getting a new bracelet the next day. You need to go to reception with your old bracelet and ID. If you lose the bracelet there is a fee to get a new one.
Having had a destination/resort wedding I can say that people frequently think the destination weddings are free/not expensive. That is not really true. I believe certain resorts may have better deals, but at the Riu Palace you are paying for everything and everyone who attends. As with any wedding, there are less and more expensive options. If you have 20 guests or less and don’t mind having a semi-private dinner, it will be less expensive.
Overall I have to say it was a fabulous day! I would do it all over again if I could, but you only get the one shot, so make sure to enjoy!