A Review of Riu vs Sandals for Your Destination Wedding

It’s good to depend on a reputable brand when you start planning your destination wedding and honeymoon.

We’re dedicated to bringing you detailed reviews, photography guides, and ceremony and reception inspiration at Wedding Pioneer. Consider us your mobile or laptop wedding planning assistant with helpful tips just a tap or click away!

Today, we’re reviewing and comparing Riu Hotels and Sandals Resorts for wedding couples based on their similarities and differences. 

We learned a lot about Riu in writing this article, and there are many quality features that Riu and Sandals share!

This makes us confident that you will choose a reputable brand when you plan your big day at one of these super-special resorts.

Six Similarities Between Riu vs Sandals

As Sandals specialists, we were excited to learn more about Riu’s long and successful history as an international hotel chain.

Let’s start with the best and most notable things that Riu and Sandals share in common:

Family-Owned Brands

Sandals Montego Bay long beach

Riu stands for the Riu family, who founded their resort brand in Spain in 1953. Riu is now owned by the family’s third generation, and approximately 70% of Riu hotels are all-inclusive.

Sandals is also family-owned and is the Caribbean’s leading all-inclusive resort destination, having begun in Montego Bay over forty years ago.

Since 1981, Sandals Montego Bay has been hugely popular with destination wedding couples and honeymooners, and the resort has been extensively renovated. 

Destination Wedding Friendly

Sandals South Coast Wedding Chapel

Sandals and Riu both offer destination wedding packages! 

We’ll compare how the wedding planning service compares between Sandals and Riu Resorts so you know what the process is like online and via email.

World-Class Resorts in The Bahamas and Jamaica

Sandals Montego Bay beach

Riu has destination wedding resorts in Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios, and Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas.

All seventeen Sandals resorts in the Caribbean offer destination weddings, including seven award-winning Sandals in Jamaica and two Sandals properties in The Bahamas.

We have extensively reviewed Sandals Resorts in Jamaica: check out our Sandals Montego Bay review and our Sandals Royal Caribbean review.

For your Bahamian wedding adventure, check out Sandals Emerald Bay for Your Golf Honeymoon.

Guest Benefits

Sandals Royal Bahamian Airport Transfers

Travel rewards and membership benefits can make a difference when you’re planning a destination wedding

Sandals and Riu both offer membership benefit programs for guests:

  • The RIU Class program has special offers and the ability to accumulate points for future stays. You may also enjoy further benefits like free WiFi for one device or free airport transportation (selected destinations only).
  • Sandals Select Rewards offers member benefits before you even book! Additional benefits come with your first visit and subsequent stays. 
  • Sandals also offers “vacation inclusions” with every booking (complimentary airport transportation to every Sandals resort, watersports, land sports, and a state-of-the-art fitness center always included).  
Sandals Royal Bahamian Gym

Sandals and Riu both have a reputation—and that’s a good thing!

What sets these brands apart from the competition is their renowned all-inclusive programs.

All-Inclusive Amenities

Beachfront Skypool Butler Suite With Balcony (Top-Tier, Love Nest)

Not all Riu resorts are all-inclusive or adults-only.

Still, if you’re looking to check those boxes for your destination wedding, Riu clearly marks its all-inclusive, adults-only properties on its main booking website.

Sandals sets the bar for luxury included destination weddings and honeymoons.

You can easily find information at your fingertips for gourmet dining and premium beverages, and there’s even a link to help you select your dream honeymoon suite

Comparing Riu and Sandals for Destination Weddings

If you’re looking to The Bahamas or Jamaica for your all-inclusive, adults-only destination wedding and honeymoon, we’re getting to the really good part!

Let’s compare the features and benefits between Sandals in Jamaica, Sandals in The Bahamas, and the Riu hotels available in those two island nations. 

Here are some differences between Riu and Sandals:

Location of Resorts 

Sandals Grande Antigua

Riu has hotels across Europe and the Caribbean. Their tropical destinations include the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico.

In addition to Jamaica and The Bahamas, Sandals offers award-winning resorts in Saint Lucia, Antigua, Curaçao, Grenada, and Barbados. Check out our Best Sandals Resorts for the Beach!

Golfing 

Golf course Sandals Emerald Bay

We managed to find a link on the Riu website for golfing destinations. That was of interest to us because Sandals is renowned for its championship golf-included resorts (check out our review of the Best Sandals Resorts for Golf!).

Some RIu hotels appear to be located near a golf course, with golfing available at an additional charge and advance reservations required.

Scuba

Montego Bay scuba diving

Sandals is renowned for its PADI-certified scuba diving program (always included for certified divers), and if you’re new to diving and want to dive together as newlyweds (highly recommended!), that’s available to you at Sandals for a really reasonable cost. 

Check out our 11 Best Sandals Resorts for Scuba!

We did locate information on the Riu website, which states that an introductory scuba lesson is available in resort pools at their all-inclusive properties.

However, excursions and additional training sessions come at an additional cost at Riu.

Butler Service

Butler Elite Sandals

Riu does not appear to offer in-room butler service or beach butler amenities.

Reviewers do note that a lack of butler service can be inconvenient, especially when there’s no assistance with luggage delivery to your suite and no food and drink service available when you just want to relax together under a beach cabana.

An amenity that is exclusive to Sandals is its Butler Elite room category which offers the ultimate in luxury included honeymoon pampering:

  • Luggage delivery to your Sandals suite
  • Private in-suite check-in
  • Resort orientation and restaurant and activity reservations
  • Lunch service on the beach or by the pool
  • In-suite dining available in selected suites

This is only a brief description of the outstanding service you can receive from your Sandals butlers, who are proud members of the Guild of Professional English Butlers.

Exclusive Stay at One Exchange Program

One of your privileges as a Sandals guest is the Stay at One Play at All exchange program, which entitles you to enjoy all of the amenities at nearby Sandals resorts with round-trip transfers included!

Hotel Riu Palace in Jamaica does offer free admission for guests to enjoy the highly rated “RiuParty” events at Hotel Riu Montego Bay.

We found reviews stating that guests at Riu’s all-inclusive hotels in Montego Bay have access to all Riu hotels in the area, but we wish that the main Riu website included more because we couldn’t confirm the accuracy of reviews or what this exchange program includes.

Comparing Destination Weddings at Riu and Sandals

We enjoyed doing a little experiment—choosing two all-inclusive, adults-only resorts in Jamaica to test the wedding planning services offered by Riu and Sandals.

If you’re wondering how this “experiment” will work, we couldn’t have made it any easier to compare because Hotel Riu Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean are located side-by-side on the beach in MoBay!

Getting to the Resort

Riu Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean are located a two-minute drive apart, and both resorts offer easy access to Sangster International Airport (selected honeymoon suites at Sandals include round-trip transfers from the airport in a luxury BMW). 

Riu Montego Bay Description

Hotel Riu Montego Bay – All Inclusive Hotel Mahoe Bay

Hotel Riu Montego Bay is a stunning tropical paradise nestled on the beautiful shores of Montego Bay, Jamaica. Immerse yourself in luxury as you enjoy spacious accommodations, exquisite dining options, and a wide range of exciting activities. 

This large resort features 800+ rooms, five pools, and a pretty cool feature: the Splash Water World water park, which looks like a lot of fun!

While there is no beach butler service at this Riu, a private guest area is available on the beach for your enjoyment. 

Dining options include buffet breakfasts with live cooking stations and buffet lunches and dinners. Many reviewers rate the authentic Jamaican beach BBQ as the best food at this Riu resort.

Amenities are available at an extra charge, including Renova Spa treatments, Montego Bay excursions, and watersports like diving or kayaking through independent tour operators.

There isn’t a dedicated website link for this Riu property, although we did locate a basic PDF file with a rundown of the resort. 

Sandals Royal Caribbean

SANDALS Royal Caribbean: Beach Resort In Montego Bay

This luxury all-inclusive resort in Jamaica embraces the refined British heritage with a Georgian-style Great House, manicured gardens with roaming peacocks, authentic British Pub, and afternoon tea traditions. 

Sandals Royal Caribbean offers 272 classic rooms and suites set within a lush resort on 15 private acres. Click the link to view the dedicated website for this spectacular destination wedding and honeymoon resort.

Royal Caribbean is also famous for its private offshore island that is available for exclusive enjoyment by Sandals guests—click the link and start planning your romantic adventure!

You will enjoy nine gourmet restaurants at Royal Caribbean and twelve gourmet restaurants at Sandals Montego Bay—amazingly, that is 21 restaurant possibilities! (Click the link for delicious menus and gorgeous photos).

Sandals Royal Caribbean Spices

Royal Caribbean also holds a special place in the Sandals resort family for its truly breathtaking Over-the-Water Bungalows—click the link!

Overwater Bungalows: Sandals Royal Caribbean

Sandals always provides a wealth of information to wedding couples, including Red Lane Spa treatments with full descriptions and additional pricing, as well as Wedding Services and Wedding Photo and Video Services.

Planning a Wedding at Riu Montego Bay

This Riu Montego Bay wedding link provides a decent amount of information on planning your wedding at the resort, but it could definitely be more user-friendly.

Riu Wedding Ceremony

In a nutshell, there are two different types of Riu wedding ceremonies for couples marrying each other for the first time:

  • A “Symbolic” ceremony is not a legally binding ceremony, and you will not receive a marriage certificate.
  • Civil ceremonies are an additional charge, but this ceremony is at least legally recognized and performed by a wedding officiant.

Riu Wedding Venues

Again, we’d like to see more detailed descriptions and photos of where you are going to say “I Do!” on one of the best days of your life!

That said, Riu Montego Bay offers a “Beach” location and a “Gazebo” location for a maximum of 100 guests.

Riu Wedding Packages

Four “Wedding Packages” are offered at Riu, and a civil ceremony is an add-on to each package cost.

Because we couldn’t find additional details on their website, we’re assuming that accommodations are an additional charge too. 

  • Classic weddings start at a budget-friendly $1,500 and are meant for a small number of guests.
  • Royal weddings start at $3,000 and include a private reception (more details required).
  • Caprice weddings start at $5,000 and include a private cocktail party and reception dinner.
  • Indulgence wedding start at $8,000 and include a private cocktail party and a reception dinner (reception is four hours maximum).

Please review the Riu wedding link closely, especially the “general wedding policies” at Riu, because they seem to be pretty strict.

Okay, off to Sandals Royal Caribbean to explore your destination wedding location!

Planning Your Wedding at Sandals Royal Caribbean

Sandals Royal Caribbean Wedding

This birds-eye resort map of Royal Caribbean is the perfect introduction to your Sandals destination wedding resort!

Sandals is the leader in destination wedding planning, and you will receive a free tropical wedding at Royal Caribbean in Jamaica (or any Sandals resort anywhere!) with stays of three nights or more.

So click the link and have fun planning!

This is what makes wedding planning at Sandals so easy and so much fun:

Special Offers and Promotions for your Sandals Wedding

We can’t let you go without providing two special links:

  • Wedding Specials is your go-to for savings on a destination wedding at any Sandals resort!
  • Test Drive Your Wedding is as great as it sounds—you two get to experience your Sandals destination wedding resort (like a pre-wedding getaway!) at unbelievable savings.

When you’re ready to explore a Sandals destination wedding in even greater detail, they’ve made that easy too!

Check out Plan Your Wedding in 5 Steps, and you’ll be contacted by your complimentary Sandals wedding planner, who will be your personal guide during your entire destination wedding adventure!

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