Destination Weddings in the Mexican Caribbean

Destination weddings in Mexico can be easy and romantic By: Irene Middleman Thomas
There are many different options for couples choosing to marry in Mexico. // © 2011 Claus Mikosch
There are many different options for couples choosing to marry in Mexico. // © 2011 Claus Mikosch

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Skip the post-wedding rush to the airport, the frantic worries about passports, paperwork and luggage and those tearful goodbyes to relatives and friends who flew in for the ceremony. Clients who choose to marry in the Yucatan Peninsula will leave the hassles of the trip behind them, and have the glorious honey-moon ahead. The Mexican authorities and the tourism board have made the process easy, streamlined and safe. And, yes, Mexican marriages are recognized and legal in the U.S.

The legalities for marriages in Mexico are simple and have not changed recently. All that is required is a passport and a blood test (recommended to be done in Mexico) from which a medical certificate can be obtained in one day, as well as some document translation from English to Spanish. Four witnesses, over the age of 18, are required. However, it is strongly advised to contact a professional wedding planner in Mexico well ahead of time.

Most large hotels and resort communities have professional wedding coordinators on hand. In most areas, there are several companies that can handle all wedding arrangements, including translations of necessary documentation, legal fees, site selection, scheduling a judge or a religious officiant and more.

Couples from the U.S. can select a legal civil or religious wedding ceremony, or even a traditional Maya wedding, which many hotels can arrange on-site or at some of the major eco-parks such as Xcaret and Xel Ha, which have authentic Maya wedding chapels. A local Maya high priest and Maya spiritual guide perform the ceremony -- in the Mayan language, if desired -- and provide all of the accoutrements, such as the bride's lavishly embroidered huipil, still worn daily by local Maya women, and a flower headdress. Some properties, such as the Occidental Grand Cozumel, even offer the unique feature of underwater scuba weddings. Many hotels have small wedding chapels on the premises, and most will set up exquisite beachside ceremonies, replete with flower-bedecked altars or gazebos and candles lighting nearby waves during evening weddings. For large or more traditional wedding parties, couples can arrange for lavish ballroom events or hold them in local churches.

Packages at hotels vary but, typically, include the ceremony setup, the bride's bouquet and other flowers, a wedding cake, the bride's hair and makeup application, a post-ceremony toast, photography, the official's fee, etc. At some resorts, if the couple books a block of rooms for the wedding party, the fee for the wedding and reception are waived.

Several honeymoon nights at the hotel may also be complimentary. If none of the wedding guests book rooms at the property, fees for wedding ceremony packages, usually including two- or three-night stays, can run from approximately $850 to $2,500, depending on the property. Fees for weddings at other locales, such as eco-parks or local churches vary and, again, it is recommended to consult a wedding planner in Mexico.

So where to tie the knot? The Mexican Caribbean is comprised of five main tourism destinations, as well as many other islands, small Maya communities and fishing villages, any of which might be your client's romantic dream.

Cancun offers an extensive hotel zone as well as a busy city center, both full of restaurants, clubs, modern shopping centers and every type of wedding venue imaginable, from intimate beachside palapas to large banquet halls.

Cozumel, reachable by ferry from Playa del Carmen or by air, is considered to be one of the safest places in Mexico since it is an island. Although a host to many cruise ships on an almost daily basis, visitors who stay at Cozumel's beachside properties will feel far from the maddening crowds. With fine diving and snorkeling in Cozumel's incredible coral reef, newlyweds can enjoy a variety of attractions and activities.

Isla Mujeres, a small island reachable by a quick ferry ride from Cancun, is considered to be one of the most romantic places in the Mexican Caribbean, where just about everything is reachable by bicycle or small boat. Numerous intimate inns and hotels dot the island. A beachside evening ceremony, with Cancun's lights across the sea, is incredibly beautiful.

Puerto Morelos has managed to retain its small fishing village ambience, although several huge resorts, such as the Moon Palace, are also located here. It is also a popular place for couples to visit a Maya traditional spa for a temazcal, a pre-Hispanic steam bath, which is a relaxing touch before the big moment.

Just south, the Riviera Maya boasts an 81-mile coastline lined with mangroves, and the lovely town of Playa del Carmen.

The area offers a wide variety of accommodations, and married couples can opt for large luxury properties, such as the Mandarin Oriental, the Fairmont Mayakoba or the Rosewood Mayakoba, or choose to stay at one of the many boutique hotels. Couples can also rent a private home or a condo for total privacy.