By Judy Waytiuk
Pick a spot – any spot. Beachside romantic, colonial elegant, chic city style – there is a Mexico wedding to suit every couple and every budget. There are even websites devoted entirely to Mexico weddings and honeymoons: theknot.com and destinationweddings.com are two with great resources.
Cancun, north of the Mayan Riviera, is probably the hottest marriage location choice. With about 5,000 weddings conducted annually, most are done through all-inclusive resorts. Many of those resorts offer free wedding services, but even the priciest off-the-shelf marital package will run a couple less than $2,000. Couples can book standard packages or use on-resort wedding planners to customize nuptials; most resorts now keep wedding planners on staff, and they earn their pay. Some can facilitate half-a-dozen nuptials in a day.
Pending brides and grooms who aren’t familiar with locales – and even those who are – are usually wise to fly down for a location-checking weekend up to a year ahead of the big event. Often, hotels knock down the price of the actual wedding stay by the amount that weekend costs.
Other major destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco, Ixtapa, Los Cabos, Huatulco, and Cozumel all offer numerous all-inclusive resort wedding packages as well.
On Isla Mujeres, Papillon (Spanish for butterfly) Weddings & Events’ Juliette Franzé organizes weddings at any one of more than a dozen locations, some uber-high-end (like Playa Secreto in the Mayan Riviera mainland side or secluded Su Casa Beach Cottages, 10 people maximum, on Isla Mujeres), others more suited for serious partying, like Buho’s on Isla Mujeres’ North Beach. She’ll even do a cruise boat wedding aboard one of the Caribbean Carnival Group Cruise vessels – for up to 450 people. She’s found most people use their weddings as a jumping-off point to travel elsewhere nearby for their honeymoons – Tulum, the Mayan Riviera, Belize, or Cuba.
Love In A Colonial Context
Then there’s the historic side of Mexico: the Spanish colonial cities, fairly dripping Old World charm and elegance with their 17th-century stone buildings and cobblestone streets, chockful of charming spots to say “I do.” Professional wedding consultant Alicia Vilar runs San Miguel Weddings from World Heritage Site city and arts and cultural centre San Miguel de Allende, and will plan weddings.
“I do the style of wedding that you want in San Miguel, or in other cities –Guanajuato, Queretaro, or Oaxaca,” said Vilar. “But we concentrate in San Miguel, which has that unique combination of factors.” Old mission churches and colonial backdrops combine with the dash and colour of the Mexican culture for genuinely unique ceremonies. Vilar, like other destination-located wedding planners, offers a set of standard services: helping select ceremony and reception locations, finding an appropriate official to conduct the ceremony, arranging legal paperwork and religious requirements, transportation, accommodations, menu planning, music, decorations and flowers, photography and video, cake, tenting and party rentals, favours, welcome gifts for guests, printed programs and menus, and the flair of local traditions and amenities. She offers modern Mexican menus either as buffet or served dinners. Other Mexican touches can include mariachi bands, fireworks, giant papier-maché puppets on parade, and tequila shooters at the reception.
Vilar recommends planning start six months to a year before the wedding – the longer in advance, the better, to get exactly the venue and ancillary aspects the couple may want. She’ll handle accommodations for guests as well as the bridal party, and, like other planners, can block rooms at a hotel at better rates.
Up The Scale
And then there are the high-end locales with high-end price tags.
Los Cabos-based planner Sarai Flores, who runs Signature Weddings, says weddings in the glitzy Cabo area can cost upwards of $15,000 and go all the way to $30,000, with the guest list often as small as just 40 people. Destination weddings can pare a guest list right down to those who are genuinely most important to the bridal couple.
But even at those prices, many hotels offer added frills or discounts on some services. About 40 per cent of her clients never see the spot where they’ll marry until they arrive for the wedding. “It is do-able. We work a lot by e-mail and send pictures back and forth. But if possible, I do suggest they come,” said Flores. Lately, there’s been a lot of “last-minute intensive planning. I think because of the economic situation, couples are leaving it until the last minute.” A lot of couples she’s worked with take their destination wedding as a short honeymoon, saving a longer one elsewhere or later, she added.
Guests also use the opportunity for at least a mini-vacation in the area, Franzé added. And virtually all hotels will offer wedding guest discounts, especially smaller hotels where the wedding party’s taking over most, or all, of the hotel’s rooms.
Ramping up the romance – and price tag – factor is the intimate hacienda wedding. Dozens of old Spanish colonial haciendas around Mexico offer full-package wedding services. Hacienda Xcanatun, on the outskirts of central Yucatan colonial city Merida, made the list of 150 hotels worldwide on National Geographic Traveler´s Stay List for 2008, and can accommodate up to 34 guests plus bride and groom. Xcanatun co-owner Cristina Baker organizes smaller weddings herself, and finds from 60 to 80 guests the best size for her facility.
Unique to a hacienda wedding, said Baker, “is the sense of place. It's really different to be married in a place so unique that there’s nowhere else like it anywhere.” The ability to completely take over the entire hacienda for the wedding party offers an additional sense of exclusivity. “I don’t do cookie-cutter weddings, although I do have a package available. I much prefer to set up the wedding with the bride and groom,” Baker noted. She recommends reserving the date as far in advance as possible, to ensure the entire hacienda’s available. February and March is the busy time of year for local weddings, so photographers, florists and music groups get booked up.
Honeymooners here get their seventh night free. If they come down the year before to scout the facility, Baker applies that stay as a credit towards their wedding.
But then, on the biggest day of a newly-married couple’s life together, who’s gonna be pinching their pesos?
Related content on Canadian Traveller