Sunday, December 6, 2009

Destination Weddings in Mexico

These past 4 days I have been on a familiarization (FAM) trip in the Riviera Maya area outside of Cancun in Mexico. The trip was put together by Love Mexico , a company dedicated to getting the word out to the world about how incredible the destination wedding market is, the Mexican Tourism Board, the Association For Wedding Professionals International (AFWPI) , and the Barcelo Mayan Palace, the UNBELIEVABLE resort that hosted us. Wow, wow, wow, was this resort beyond spectacular.

Along with these companies listed, I was able to go on site visits of some of the other resorts and meet with local vendors and suppliers in Mexico. I now have the tools to plan a fabulous wedding in Mexico. Of course, it was not all work, two of my colleagues and friends from LA, Heather Ham of Events by Heather Ham and Lina Wallace of A Stunning Affair  traveled with me and we had a fun girl’s trip. I also got to reconnect with some of my internet buddies: Linnyette Richardson-Hall of Premier Event Management (and “Who’s Wedding Is it Anyway” fame) from Baltimore, MD and Shayna Weddle Walker of Williamsburg Wedding Design  in Williamsburg, VA

Because this blog post could be the length of a dictionary if I went in to everything, I’m just going to bullet point the things that I learned in the Riviera Maya
  • In order to be legally married, the bride, groom, AND their 4 witnesses must arrive in Mexico 3 days prior to the ceremony to fill out the proper paperwork and have blood tests.
    • In order to be legally married in Mexico by the Catholic Church, the bride and groom must do all of the above plus 60 days prior have the following filed with the Mexican priest: a letter from your home priest allowing you to marry, copy of your pre-cana certificate, copy of birth, baptismal, and confirmation certificates. For couples who want to be married in the eyes of the Catholic Church but also have an outdoor/open air wedding ceremony, Mexico is a great place.
    • The all-inclusive resorts are like cities and your guests would never tire of things to do. Unlike Hawaii, where there are no all-inclusive resorts, these resorts have thought of everything and you and your guests can stay and play together. Most of the resorts will provide your wedding free of charge if you have a high enough room block booked. Keep in mind that these weddings are basic, basic.
    • Direct flight into Cancun from LA = 4.5 hours and $350. Direct flight from LA to Hawaii = 6 hours and $650. Dear Hawaii, consider this our breakup letter.
    • These resorts all have guard gates and I am pretty certain that those guards are packing heat. I felt pretty darn safe.
    • If the mega resorts aren’t your speed, smaller towns close to historical sites with boutique hotels can pamper in a more intimate and natural setting. Even more intimate: Haciendas can be rented and private chefs brought in to provide an all-inclusive feel without the hoopla of the mega resort.
    • Chivari chairs cost the same to rent here as they do in Los Angles ($5-7 on average). If you don’t rent chairs, the resort gives you white chair covers with organza bows. In my opinion, white chair covers with organza on the beach is a sin.
    • Pina Coladas taste so much better when you swim, rather than walk, up to the bar to obtain them.
    • The all-inclusive resorts are not happy with you bringing in outside vendors such as photographers and videographers, so if you’re flying in your photographer, they need to be a “guest” who happens to have $15,000 worth of camera equipment with them.
    • Synthetic materials should not be brought to tropical and humid climates. This goes for wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and suits. Veils are not a good idea either as it will be stuck to your lipgloss in .02 seconds. Your call.
    • Women should work with their hair in tropical climates. If your hair curls up in the humidity, work it, girl! My hair falls limp like a rag doll, so I rock it with Heidi braids or buns. Do NOT fight your hair in a humid climate. Period.
    • S**t Happens. “Plan B” is so important and I felt the results of it. One night our gorgeous Mayan wedding reception on the beach was rained out. The decor was spectacular and it was destroyed immediately. Granted, there was no warning of rain, so even if there had been a Plan B the decor would not have made it in time. But had there been a Plan B we would have still been able to have dinner somewhere else. As it was, I ran across the resort barefoot in the rain (still clutching my wine glass!) and found a buffet to eat at.
    • I still can’t stomach the sight of men in speedos.
    • Since about half of the people on our trip were travel agents, I learned a lot about the travel industry and the value of a good travel agent. Booking your flight on Expedia and then calling yourself a travel agent is the equivalent of planning your own wedding then calling yourself a wedding planner. These people know the ins and outs of their industry.
    • If you are going to have a formal wedding of any sort (as in, you are having escort cards) I highly HIGHLY recommend an American wedding planner brought in to handle things for you and work with the on-site staff. With the language and cultural barriers, the process of getting a wedding done the way you want it will be challenging even with your American coordinator (but she’s the one that is dealing with it). If you’re ok with the chippings falling where they may, you can swing this without your own coordinator.


    Shayna Walker said...

    Awesome recap Amber - I think you may have been awake for a lesson or two I missed. I agree though...Mexico has thought through this wedding thing in a way Hawaii sure has not! Let's do it again soon!

    jeffhendlinbg said...

    Hi Amber. Jeff Hendlin from Bridal Guide magazine here. I enjoyed reading the recap of your experience at the Love Mexico event. It was great meeting so many passionate weddings planners like you who truly love what they do. The positive feedback Jenna Mahoney (Bridal Guide's Travel Editor)and I received after our presenations have been overwhelming. In the end I feel it has been huge win for Mexico and those selling the product.

    Carmen Laborin said...

    Dear Amber, I definately loved your post, so thanks!

    On the other hand I don´t think you went on to check out our property scheduled on Route 2, The Grand Velas All Suites & SPA Riviera Maya ( )and I really wish you have done, maybe considering you now broke-up with Hawaii "officially" trough your break up letter (LOVED IT!!!) we might have a chance to meet again soon.

    On the other hand, food for thought everyone, how would you like attending the next Love Mexico at our hotel?...

    Amber, thanks again for putting out there -and in a great way- the name of Mexico and the Riviera Maya, I dare to say it´s well derserved.

    Thanks again, and see you soon

    Carmen Laborin, wedding Manager for Grand Velas Riviera Maya
    (FACEBOOK: Carmen Laborin /SKYPE: carmenlaborin)

    Juliet Douglas said...

    Amber, I just LOVE your blog! Thanks for sharing your experience in Mexico and what you've learned!

    Kartin said...

    Hi Amber!

    I am a wedding planner in NY & have done destination weddings before but not in Mexico!

    I certainly enjoyed your take on the whole experience, it seemed like you had a blast & at the same time made some wonderful discoveries.

    I would love to give it a whirl!

    Thanks so much for all your insight...