By Judy Waytiuk

BR001Mexico Tourist BoardDestination weddings account for $18 billion a year in Mexico tourism dollars. Honeymoons tack another ten billion onto that figure, and most couples who love Mexico enough to marry there will return over and over again. It’s the fastest-growing romance travel category, according to the Mexico Tourism Board, where weddings can be had for as little as $400 or up to $26,000 or more – or even for free, with accompanying accommodations booked for differing minimum stays and numbers of rooms, depending on the resort chain.

But when weddings at home can be just as pricey, why not make the whole thing one big holiday treat for the couple and their guests? Sure, you can get married at home. But you can't go swimming with a dolphin afterwards.

A Rash Of Romance

BR027Mexico Tourist BoardThere are now so many choices for Mexican destination weddings and honeymoons that the MTB offers three annual “Love Mexico” events, two in the US, one in the Riviera Maya, where agents can learn about hot offerings (e-mail for info) and how to sell them. A new Destination Weddings in Mexico online training program is now available as part of the Magic of Mexico learning program, reachable by registering (it’s free) through

Transat recently jumped on the trend with its launch of the Transat Holidays and Nolitours new Wedding Collection. Its 2012-2013 brochure covers four exclusive destination wedding packages (Joy, Bliss, Euphoria and Passion), and a range of others at 54 resorts in the Caribbean, including a number in Mexico.

Hacienda weddings offer the most high-end nuptials: dozens of colonial (haciendas host weddings and offer on-site planning is the first spot to start looking). A few even offer traditional Mayan wedding ceremonies – and since the required prior civil union is the legal one, there’s no reason why a couple seeking a profound form of authentic Mexicana couldn’t do that.

In Cabo San Lucas at the Cabo Azul Resort, lovers can drop US $26,000 for the Platinum Wedding Ceremony with 50 or more guests (guest accommodations not included, but the honeymooners get two free nights in the Presidential Suite). At VisitLosCabos.Com, there’s a list of more than 30 resorts offering wedding packages.

Two new Paradisus Resorts in Playa del Carmen offer four Romance by Paradisus wedding packages. Iberostar resorts give away free weddings to lovers with enough friends to book anywhere from five to 20 rooms, depending on the resort’s location. Palladium Resorts offer a free room to the bride and groom with a 10-room booking minimum, and Oasis Hotels & Resorts gives away the wedding when 25 or more room nights are booked by the wedding party and guests. Palace Resorts will fork over a $1,500 resort credit to couples booking weddings, and now offer customized “Colin Cowrie” weddings with a la carte choices for everything from flowers to cake.

At the El Dorado Royale, Casitas Royale and El Dorado Seaside Suites, free weddings apply when requested and confirmed at least 30 days before the ceremony date, and when the wedding couple books in one of the designated room categories and has another five rooms booked for three nights or more by wedding guests.

Wedding guests not staying at all-inclusive resorts where the ceremonies take place will likely need to fork over up to $100 for a special resort day pass.

Ploughing through the fine print can be maddening, but well worth it, with agents getting around 20 per cent commission on wedding packages in addition to their usual room-booking commissions, and free rooms for their own holidays.

Details, Details

BR017Mexico Tourist BoardBut if planning a wedding at home is challenging, Mexico destination weddings can be even more so – which is why most major resorts have wedding planners right on staff. Adventurous couples may opt to go off-resort and use local wedding planners to assemble their dream nuptials, perhaps on Passion Island just off Cozumel, or on the beach at the Mayan ruins of Tulum. But such independently-assembled off-site weddings can create a whole other layer of possible problems, with no fall-back team of on-resort experts instantly there to tie up unanticipated loose ends.

The image of the on-impulse beach wedding has faded dramatically in recent years, though, if that’s the couple’s style, a resort can whip together a virtually guest-free, very basic wedding in just a few days. It won’t be legal, but it’ll be lovely.

bouquetphotosincancun.comOne of the first things the planner will tell the couple is that only civil marriages are recognized in Mexico, so, to be legal, that glorious sun-washed barefoot beach ceremony must be preceded by the civil union at a local Registro Civil (these civil unions are recognized in Canada). The planner can arrange it, but the couple must be at the resort at least three business days before the wedding (Saturdays, Sundays, and Mexican national holidays aren’t business days). Blood tests done locally, usually for a fee of about $125, are required, as are four legal witnesses. If other guests have not yet arrived, resorts can usually provide witnesses, for a per-witness fee, generally around $20.

Both bride and groom must be armed with passports (which have to be valid for at least the ensuing six months after the wedding), the tourist visas vacationers usually receive on-flight, the marriage application form from the civil registry, and if either party is divorced or widowed, authenticated copies of the divorce decree or deceased spouse’s death certificate. A birth certificate is required for the bride, if she is divorced and her passport is not in her maiden name.

Witnesses not from Mexico must have proof of citizenship or two photocopies of an original birth certificate, and two photocopies of a valid passport or driver’s licence.

BR047Mexico Tourist BoardResort wedding planners are well-versed in coaching couples through these details to get to the day of their dreams, and working with one of these resort-based planners is, in many respects, no different than it would be with a planner at home; advance organization is key. Most resort planners want to see the couple start at least a year prior to the big day, and strongly recommend a pre-visit about 12 months before the event, to block out the basics and get rolling on the “I do” details.