DISCLAIMER: This is way too long and overly detailed, so Godspeed if you plan on reading it all! It started out as my wedding review of the Now Jade, but turned into me unpacking and reliving the best day of my life.
We stayed at the Now Jade Riviera Maya from Sunday, June 14 - Sunday, June 21 with 55 guests (57 including us). Our wedding was on Wednesday, June 17 on the pergola. We had our cocktail hour at the mix bar, and our reception at Castaways. My husband and I then went to the Hard Rock Rivera Maya for four days, until Thursday, June 25.
Pictures by Photos in Cancun: https://www.facebook...=1&l=d36589a522
(Keep in mind that none of these have been edited yet)
Trash the Dress: https://www.facebook...=1&l=0de529af7e
Slide Show (a nice highlight of all the best parts of the day): https://animoto.com/...1lA?autostart=1
Sunday, June 14:
Check In: When we arrived Sunday, the Riviera Maya was at the tail end of a big tropical storm from the week before and it was raining, so the lobby was pretty crowded when we got there. We had a total of 55 guests (plus the two of us) and almost everyone came on the same flight and took a big bus to the resort, which made it even more crowded. It made me feel a little stressy, so I was VERY thankful when they whisked us, my parents, and one other couple from our group to the preferred lounge to check in, which was a breeze. I can’t speak for how check in went for everyone else, but I didn’t hear any complaints. We were a little early and all had to wait a little while for our rooms, but everyone walked around and got a bite to eat, so it was no big deal.
Cocktail Hour: I requested to have an area blocked off for our cocktail hour in the evening but that didn’t end up happening, which really didn’t matter since it had stopped raining by then, and everyone just congregated in one area. We had servers bringing us drinks all evening, which was nice, and some people bellied up to the bar. I handed out our welcome bags and everyone was so surprised! (As destination wedding brides, I think we all think that people expect to have a welcome bag, but they really don’t and think it’s so awesome when they get them!) I included tumblers, aloe, SPF chapstick, playing cards, a key card holder, bubble bath, emergency kits (made for me by the wonderful Stacey, who I met on this site!), and the itinerary for the week. I don’t know how many people used most of the stuff, but the tumblers and the key card holders were a big hit, based on how many people I saw with them around the resort. A lot of people aren’t sure if they should get wrist coils or lanyards, and based on how I saw everyone using them, I would recommend wrist coils.
Monday, June 15:
Wedding Coordinator Meeting: I got an email from Pilar several weeks before saying that my wedding coordinator would be Carla, but it turned out that Pilar herself was our actual wedding coordinator. I’m not sure if they just switched things around for scheduling purposes, or if someone asked Pilar to take care of us personally. (Long story short, my dad produces a local entertainment TV show in Cleveland, and they often take viewer trips to different destinations where people get to go on vacation with the hosts and they do an hour long episode all about the resort. They did one at the Now Jade a year or two ago, so they always try to schmooze us a little when we’re there, so ANYWAY, I think that could be why we ended up with Pilar). We brought all our decorations with us and showed her what we had for each part of the wedding, went over the bridal party order and who would be walking with who, reviewed the script a little, talked about chair bows and the table setup, yadda yadda yadda. It was very easy and made me feel a lot better, since I was worried that I was underprepared - she asked questions, I answered them, and everything was settled. Piece of cake.
Tuesday, June 16:
Rehearsal: As I mentioned, there had been a huge tropical storm the week before our wedding. Other than when we arrived on Sunday, the weather was gorgeous for us the entire trip - not a drop of rain! There was, however, a TON of seaweed on the beach from the storm. I’ve been to the Now Jade several times and the beach has always been lovely, but it was literally covered in 6 inches of seawood all the way down the coast. They had begun to clean it that day, but I was still a little nervous since we were supposed to have our ceremony on the beach. We had our rehearsal there anyway, with our whole bridal party, ring bearers and flower girls, and parents. She walked everyone through how to walk and where to stand and all that jazz. Being there made me a little nervous about the location, though - beside the seaweed, the beach location was RIGHT in front of the adults only pool. I was worried there would be some drunk idiot watching our wedding from the bar screaming stuff at us or something. Definitely not a lot of privacy.
Later, my parents went to see Pilar to pay the bill for the wedding (God bless ‘em), and they told me she asked if I wanted to move our ceremony somewhere else. Ours was at 5, and she said that even though there was a wedding at 4 at the pergola, we could stil have ours there, as long as we didn’t mind if it possibly started at 5:15-ish. Me and my FI talked about it and decided that was the best choice. We were a little sad we wouldn’t have our toes in the sand, but I felt a huge weight off my shoulders as soon as we officially made the switch, since I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about the seaweed or the spectators. And even though we had already had our rehearsal on the beach, everything went perfectly smoothly at the new location.
Rehearsal dinner: I had planned to just have everyone meet in the buffet for an informal rehearsal dinner at 8 pm, but at our planning meeting, Pilar asked me if I wanted to move it up to 7 pm and have it in the ballroom off the lobby, where they were having a Mexican buffet. I said sure, and we passed the info along to everyone. It turned out to be amazing! There were all these lovely round tables set up with linens and centerpieces, an amazing and huge buffet, and the BEST mariachi band I’d ever heard serenading each table! Even though she reserved us six tables right up front, there was hardly anyone else in the room. I think people thought that I had planned that special for our rehearsal, and I didn’t correct them! It turned out to be such a blast. I know they do that every week (not sure if it’s always on a Tuesday like it was for us), but I’d recommend finding out when that is and having your whole group go - it’s great!
Wednesday, June 17 (The Big Day!)
I woke up feeling surprisingly relaxed and calm, and all by myself - my FI had slept in a different room, of course! One of my bridesmaids brought me coffee and we sat on the balcony for a while, and then all the bridesmaids and our moms (most of whom were there, my mom is best friends with all my best friend’s moms!) went to breakfast at the French restaurant on the terrace. It was relaxing and lovely. We had on our cute little matching tank tops, and my friend made us all “butt veils,” which were hilarious. At one point I saw my FI from behind, but he was far away and didn’t see me. That was the only almost run-in all day! After that, my friend’s mom did yoga in the pool with some of the girls while me and my sisters-in-law watched from our terrace, which was right over the adults pool.
Hair and Makeup: Okay, this is the only part of my entire experience that I can’t rave about. They brought me into the ‘bridal suite’ (which was just a little room) with my sister-in-law, while my other friend got her hair done in the outer room. The two stylists were talking to each other incessantly, to the point where I could barely get a word in edgewise to either her or my sis-in-law. It wasn’t an overly pleasant experience.
Three out of my five my bridesmaids got their hair done, by two different stylists between the three of them, and they all looked GORGEOUS. Their hair was absolutely fabulous.
I had a different stylist than either of them, and my hair was just okay. I didn’t feel like it looked very similar to the picture I showed her. Looking back at pictures, though, it photographed well, and accomplished my main goal, which was to have it securely up and away from my face so it wouldn’t be blowing around in the wind, so I can’t complain too much. I would HIGHLY recommend that all brides getting married outside near the beach have their hair up. I literally couldn’t imagine 1) how hot it would have been and 2) how much time I would have spent pushing it back off my face from the wind if I had worn it down. All my bridesmaids said the same thing. While long loose hair is pretty, it’s just not practical in the sea breeze!
Then there was my makeup - the same stylist who did my hair took me over to get my makeup done. It was just kind of a table in the middle of the room with random makeup bags and cases all over the place. It didn’t look very professional. I showed her a picture of Kim Kardashian’s wedding makeup and told her that’s what I wanted, and showed her all the professional makeup I brought from home (if you’re getting your makeup done there, I’d highly recommend bringing your own). She looked a little overwhelmed, and I was nervous to say the least because, not to be mean, but her own makeup didn’t look so hot - her own heavy black eyeliner around her whole eye in extremely jagged lines was stressing me out a bit. She went to work, and again, the whole time was conversing with the other stylist, who was just hovering around, but this time it was clear that the other stylist was instructing my stylist what to do every step of the way. I could hear them talking about colors a lot and she kept gesturing and pointing to show her what to do, and telling her what colors to use. Honestly, it seemed like she had never done anyone’s makeup before in her life, and the other girl seemed to know what she was talking about. I almost stopped and asked if she could do my makeup instead at several points because I was starting to get very nervous! She actually did take over at the end to put on my false eyelashes, and then seemed to correct and fix a few things when she was done.
The end result was...not good. They only used some of my makeup, and what they used of their own was very coppery and brassy, not at all what I wanted. I went back up to my room, where all my bridesmaids were waiting, and was like “Guys, this looks awful, we need to fix this.” In true bridesmaids fashion they all started gushing about how beautiful I looked, but I told them this wasn’t the day to lie to make me feel better! Then I got “Welllllll…...maybe we need to take off some of this brown eyeliner….” and then we went to work. Basically I just went over their makeup with my own, and it turned out fine. All in all, that was the biggest “crisis” of the day, and it wasn’t a big deal, so I can’t complain!
To summarize, I think most of the stylists do a great job with hair at the Now Jade. Makeup...I can’t really be sure. If anyone can think of a polite way to request NOT to have someone, I would try to avoid Gina for hair and makeup.
Flowers: I LOVED my bouquet and my bridesmaids’ bouquets. I know nothing about flowers and wasn’t really picky about the type, so I just sent Pilar a picture of the colors I wanted, and they turned out perfectly!
The Ceremony: The ceremony started around 5:15 instead of 5, as Pilar said it might. The setup was so incredibly lovely. I loved the rose petals in our colors along the aisle! The only decorations were our chair bows (which I just rented from there - I know they’re too expensive, but I just didn’t feel like dragging them down with me), the aisle flower petals, the flowers on the table at the front, and a seashell garland I brought from home. They also added some lanterns along the aisle that I didn’t rent, so that was either from the ceremony that happened right before ours, or maybe they just always use them to hold the aisle runner down. I was worried about not having enough ceremony decorations before we left, but I loved the simplicity of it, and with the gorgeous pergola and the ocean in the background, there’s really no need for a bunch of other decorations to make it look wonderful.
Both of my parents ended up walking me down the aisle (although the aisle was actually very small, not even really big enough for two people, so I kind of had to walk ahead). I was planning on having just my dad walk me down the traditional way (we’re extremely close and I’m a total daddy’s girl), but my mom told me just a few minutes before we were to head to the lobby, he asked her if she’d walk with us since they raised me together and did such a good job...and then started crying and had to walk away! I think he was just too emotional to do it all by himself! My mom wanted to make sure I was okay with it and said she wouldn’t mind at all if I wanted it to just be my dad, but of course I didn’t mind, and I’m really glad we did it that way and that they gave me away together.
We had the violinist as our musician. I honestly never even laid eyes on her, but she sounded lovely!
Our officiant was adorable, although honestly, I’m pretty sure he had never read our script before right then. We realized we had made the first part waaaaay too long - he read it extremely slowly, and with his thick accent, some of it was hard to understand, but even though it dragged on a little long at first, I really didn’t mind. It gave me some time to calm my nerves, gaze at my almost-husband (who was GLOWING, so cute!), and look out at all our friends and family. Plus, it’s just a quirky little part of getting married in Mexico.
We read our vows from small Moleskine notebooks in our colors (pink for me, orange for him) which was a semi last minute decision for me, but I think it ended up looking nice.
We each wrote our own vows, and while I thought mine were okay, my husband’s completely blew everyone away. There was truly not a dry eye in the house, especially my own. He told me later that he had only finished them the night before...typical!
Cocktail Hour: Right after the ceremony we went down to the beach bar and everyone got their glass of champagne as they walked down the stairs (they even had shirley temples ready for the kids).
I got to hug everyone as they walked by, which was really nice.
I saw the food off to the side and the signature drinks floating around, but after that we went off to the garden area to take pictures. The beach was still overly seaweedy for the pictures to look pretty so all of our family and bridal party shots were in the grass, but that’s okay.
Photography - Photos in Cancun: This is the part that I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about. I hired Photos in Cancun for our photographers. They’re a husband and wife team who live in Cancun - Lorena is from Mexico, and Dereck is from Canada. I picked them because a) they were by far the most reasonably priced I had seen during my research they had wonderful reviews about how fun and easy they are to work with and c) they give you EVERY SINGLE PICTURE on a USB right at the end of the night! How can you pass that up?
They came up to the room around 3:30 as we were getting ready. Immediately I noticed that there were three photographers instead of just two. Dereck introduced himself, and informed me that he had accidentally been punched in the eye by his poodle (true story!), and showed me his eye, which was very red. He said they had brought along a third photographer who they work with all the time, just in case he had to give his eye a break, to make sure they wouldn’t miss anything, at no charge at all to me. I was impressed right off that bat! Despite his eye injury, he was taking pictures every time I looked at him, so I basically just got a third bonus photographer!
They were taking pictures constantly in our room, and we have a ton of adorable candids.
Throughout the entire ceremony, they were so discreet that I didn’t even notice them, but they captured so many amazing pictures. They even took a picture of virtually every person in the audience, which I thought was a really nice touch.
Taking pictures with everyone during cocktail hour took a really long time since we had such a big group, and my mom was pretty insistent on getting a ton of family pictures since there were so many of us there. It turned out we only had 10 minutes left for bride and groom pictures, which kind of bummed me out, but I thought we still got some nice ones so I tried not to worry about it too much.
I had a 7 hour photography package, so they were scheduled to stay for some of the reception but not all of it. I was rushing at one point to find my husband to take some pictures of him taking off my garter (which we did off to the side) before they left, and Dereck stopped me and said “Don’t worry, we’re in no hurry to leave, take your time.” I’m not sure exactly what time they left or how long they were there, but I’d say it was definitely longer than 7 hours! Again, I barely noticed them the whole time they were there, but they captured EVERY moment. The candid reception pictures are some of my favorites.
As they were leaving, Dereck told me that they felt bad that we didn’t get to take many couples pictures (even though it wasn’t their fault at all), and asked if they could pick us up later in the week to take more pictures! WHAT?! I couldn’t believe it. We communicated a little over the next week, and they ended up driving all the way out to our honeymoon resort, the Hard Rock Riviera Maya, the following Monday. They live in Cancun, which is about 30 minutes from the Now Jade, and the Hard Rock is about 40 minutes even further than that, so they drove at least an hour to come get us. Then they drove us all the way back to a beach in Puerto Morelos (30-40 minutes) to take pictures there, then drove us into Playa del Carmen to that beach, and took some pictures in the shopping area in Playa. They got some amazing and beautiful shots, and worked SO hard - it is very clear how passionate they are about what they do.
You can see 1000 (out of the 2500 pictures they took!) here. Keep in mind that these haven't been edited yet (and they don't even need it, they look amazing!) We get to pick 180 pictures for them to edit. https://www.facebook...=1&l=d36589a522
(Keep in mind that none of these have been edited yet)
Here's a slideshow they made for me too that highlights the best parts of the day, if you don't feel like slogging through 1000 pictures!: https://animoto.com/...1lA?autostart=1
They took pictures of us for over 3 hours, and then bought US a beer after! Are you kidding??! They worked for free for us for hours, and then bought US a drink! I still can’t get over it. As we were walking back to the car, they were just expressing how much they love what they do, and how the most important thing for them is making sure that their client’s have the best experience possible, and that it’s not just about a set number of hours or buying a set number of prints. Dereck also explained why they give you ALL you photos at the end of the night - “There might be a picture of you and Uncle Bob that’s a little out of focus so I delete it, but maybe you haven’t seen him in 10 years and that would be an invaluable memory for you. Why should we decide what pictures are worth keeping?” Their attitude towards their work is truly inspiring. At the end of the night when they drove us back to our hotel, my husband tried to give them an envelope that had an $100 tip that I had brought with me (although honestly at that point after all they had done, I was embarrassed that I hadn’t included more), but they even tried to refuse that! They just kept saying that it was their pleasure and how much they enjoyed spending time with us. But we insisted, and they gave us huge hugs goodbye, and told us to call them next time we were in Mexico to have dinner with them.
I could go on and on for days about how amazing Dereck and Lorena were. They were one of the very best parts not just about our wedding day, but our entire vacation. If you have yet to hire a photographer, stop looking right now and hire them. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The Reception at Castaways: If any of you have seen some of my posts during the last year of planning, you might remember that I was constantly worried that I wasn’t going to have enough decorations. I was an extremely low-maintenance bride (or maybe just lazy). I am not a DIY person AT ALL, and just don’t have an eye for those Pinterest-perfect itty bitty details. Being on BDW and seeing all the adorable decoration projects everyone was doing always kind of stressed me out and I always felt that I should be doing more, but it just wasn’t my thing.
Here’s what I brought with me:
-Pink and orange chinese lanterns
-Seashell placecard holders and place cards
-Water beads and underwater LED lights (we rented vases and used the bridesmaids bouquets as our centerpieces)
-Seashell garland (from the ceremony but they moved it to the reception)
-Best Day Ever cake topper
-Mr. and Mrs. glitter block letters
We rented orange table runners from the resort, and they also included the lanterns from the ceremony, which I didn’t pay for.
Even though I didn’t bring a ton of stuff, everything was perfect and beautiful. The setup was totally perfect. In retrospect, I’m so GLAD I didn’t waste a ton of time and money on elaborate decorations. I barely even noticed half the stuff I did bring! I feel like a ton of decorations might be necessary to spruce up a big plain reception hall at an at-home wedding, but the open-air restaurant was so beautiful and awesome on it’s own with the ocean in the background that all the natural beauty was plenty of decoration in and of itself. So that’s another big piece of my advice for future brides - don’t stress out about the little stuff. Everyone is having too much fun to notice, and it will look beautiful no matter what!
Our bridal party danced into the reception and it was awesome.
My husband and I entered to cold fireworks, courtesy of Disco Movil, and were dancing, fist pumping, and twirling around. Everyone went nuts. It was epic!
Our first dance immediately followed, which I wasn’t expecting, but I ended up liking it that way. Our bridal party all stood off to the side which I really liked, too.
Then came the father daughter/mother son dances. The mother-son dance was hilarious - they danced to “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” and were just being goofy with it, and by the end they were all just conducting the whole room as we sang along. It was so precious.
Then came dinner, which was delicious, and served SUPER fast - I was very impressed by all our waiters. We had salad, lobster bisque, and guests could choose between beef and salmon, and chocolate souffle as the dessert. I would recommend any of it. They got all the kids’ meals right, and even met my request to give my sister-in-law just a plain chicken breast with a side (she has Celiacs and is gluten free), and she said even that was delicious.
After that we did speeches. My husband cousin and best man went first and gave a very warm and heartfelt speech. But THEN, my two best friends went up front to give their speech and made me come up with him. They grabbed the mic from the DJ and handed him and iPod and pulled out their scripts. They started with a speech full of funny and embarrassing stories (we’ve been friends since first grade, so there are a lot of them), and then the music to Copacabana started to play….they had written an ENTIRE song about us that they sang and danced to! The chorus went “At the Now Jade Riviera Maya, the hottest spot on the playa…” everyone was dying laughing. Then “Hot Hot Hot” started playing, which we had a dance routine to from cheerleading in 8th grade (!), that somehow I managed to remember most of, and we all danced together to it in front of everyone. It was incredible. I have the best friends ever!
The rest of the night we just partied the night away. We extended our reception by an hour, and even though it’s expensive (especialy for 57 people), I’m SO glad we did - three hours would have been way too short, and we were having way too much fun to leave at 10 pm! Most people were on the dance floor the WHOLE time just having a great time while the drinks flowed (and flowed and flowed) from the bar. I was having too much fun to even bother holding a drink - I had a glass of wine at dinner, and a lass of champagne for the toast, and that was it! I think I was definitely the most sober one in the room, and I’m so glad I did it that way. I can get tipsy any night, but I only get married once, so I’m glad I can remember every moment!
I LOVED having our reception at Castaways. The only ‘bad’ thing I can say is that it was very, very hot - but even so, everyone loved feeling like they were outside, even with the heat, and it just gave it such a fun, tropical atmosphere. I peeked at a reception at the bamboo room the next day, and while it was nice, I liked the vibe of ours so much better (plus it wouldn’t have been nearly big enough for the size of our group). So, if you’re worried about heat, don’t do Castaways, but if you don’t mind the heat and want to be outside, I’d definitely recommend it!
Our wedding day was truly one for the books. Obviously I hoped an expected that it would be fun and special, but it exceeded my expectations a million times over. Everyone had SO much fun that we still can’t stop talking about it. Everyone said it was by far the best wedding they had ever been to, and all my friends had made up their minds by the end of the night to have a destination wedding. Everything went perfect and I wouldn’t change one single moment.
Trash the Dress: We used the hour of photography that came with the Divine package for a trash the dress session on Friday. I brought another dress (clearance at David’s Bridal) with me for that. Our photographer, Alejandro, was wonderful, and the pictures turned out great. An hour DEFINITELY wouldn’t have been enough for the day of, and the pictures weren’t quite as high quality as Photos in Cancun, so I’m glad I hired outside for our actual wedding pictures, but the hour of photography is great for a trash the dress!
(Pictures: https://www.facebook...=1&l=0de529af7e )
The Weather: My next big piece of advice - do not even bother checking the weather the week before you leave. The week before they had the big tropical storm, and EVERY DAY had a 90% chance of rain. I was totally freaking out. Turns out, we didn’t see a single drop of rain the whole time we were there, other than our arrival day, which no one really cared about anyway since we were busy getting settled. The weather on our wedding day could not have been more perfect. In a tropical location like that, the weather can change so quickly that the forecast is pretty much pointless, so don’t stress about your weather!
The Vacation: Our whole group had an absolute BLAST at the Now Jade and are already talking about going back next year. Even though we came with a huge group of people from different parts of our lives who didn’t know each other, everyone was great friends by the end! It was hilarious to walk by and see see my husband’s great aunt having dinner with my best friend’s mom. Everyone sort of hung out at the same spot at the pool, started up our own pool volleyball games, rubbed sunscreen on each other’s backs - it was so heartwarming to have so many people we love so much all in the same place having so much fun. Even besides the wedding part, the vacation itself will always be one of my most precious memories.
I know there are some bad reviews on Trip Advisor, and I have NO clue what any of them are talking about - I love that resort! It especially blows my mind when I read people saying bad things about the food - I think that’s the best part! All the restaurants are amazing, ESPECIALLY the Italian. I think the resort is the perfect size, too - not too big, not too small. It’s also great for kids - the four we had with us LOVED the kids club and all the activities, and went jumping on the big trampoline thing every day. The drinks are great, food is great, entertainment is great, service is great, rooms are great, pools are great, everything is great! When I read the bad reviews, I think people are just expecting something different….are there nicer hotels in the Riviera Maya? Yes...but they also cost 3x as much as the Now Jade! If you and your guests want a total luxury experience and money is no object for anyone, sure, you could go somewhere a little more upscale, but I think the Now Jade is a great price and a great value for a large group. When we first started planning, we expected to only have 30 guests, but when everyone saw how reasonable the price was, which included airfair, our number literally doubled! All in all, don’t pay attention to the bad reviews - the resort is great.
The Honeymoon: After seeing everyone off to the airport the following Sunday (which was so sad - I just wanted everyone to stay with us!), we headed off to the Hard Rock Rivera Maya. I don’t think that resort would be for everyone, but we absolutely loved it. There’s music playing constantly, live bands by the pool, and fun entertainment all the time. It’s definitely more of a party resort, so if that’s your thing (and it’s definitely ours) it’s great, but if you want something more quiet and relaxing, this place probably won’t be your first pick. The great thing about the resort is that you get a ton of resort credit, based on how long you stay, that you can use for a bunch of stuff, including the spa and excursions. You still have to pay 20%, so it’s almost like an 80% off coupon, but it’s still a great deal. We had $750 of resort credit, that we used for three massages (I got two in on our last day since we had so much left over), two deluxe pedicures, and hair styling at the salon (for my second photo shoot). So all in all, we paid $150 dollars for all of that. You can’t beat that! The food was great too, and we loved looking at all the memorabilia. We stayed there for 4 nights, so we were in Mexico for 12 days. I’m so glad we took the time to stay longer - it was nice to have some time to ourselves to unwind from the wedding.
At Home Reception: We had an at home reception on Sunday, June 28 - only three days after we got back. Crazy, I know, but we didn’t want to drag the whole thing out forever. It ended up being great. It was a casual, graduation party-type vibe, that lasted from 2-6, with chicken and brats (I’m Polish!) and cookout food, a live band (but no one really danced), with everyone just talking and mingling. Many people who came to Mexico were there, but not all of them, but it was a nice way to celebrate with the people who couldn’t go to Mexico.
IN CONCLUSION, I had the best wedding ever. Way better than I ever expected. I would give anything to do it all again!
Edited by rachelia160, 02 July 2015 - 08:28 AM.