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 Mexico Wedding Articles & Stories

4/10/08 - Exotic I Do's; Sunsets, Tequila pour on Mexico Weddings
By Traci Carl, The Associated Press

TULUM, Mexico -- I was never someone who dreamed of a big wedding - or any wedding, for that matter. My motto: Give me the honeymoon and spare me the frothy, white dress.

So when my husband proposed, I said yes - on the condition that we spend an afternoon with a judge and just a few close friends, then run off for a week at the beach.

He wanted something a little more formal.

In the end we compromised. We got married at the beach, with 70 or so guests, in an event that ended up being cheaper and easier than a traditional wedding but still unforgettable - with fireworks, mariachis, even a cake fight.

Two years later - as my husband and I traveled to Tulum, south of Cancun, to witness two friends tie the knot on a secluded strip of white sand - I realized I was attending more and more weddings that felt like vacations.

In fact, 10 percent of the 2 million American couples who marry each year plan so-called "destination weddings" - a 200 percent increase in the past decade - according to Conde Nast's Bridal Group Infobank and Modern Bride magazine.

I can understand the trend. Watching the sun set on the no-fuss ceremony in Tulum - carried out by one of the couple's close friends - I realized there is no better vacation than watching two people start a life together, then celebrating in a setting so spectacular you don't even need to decorate.

Lots of tequila doesn't hurt, either.

I thought my wedding was memorable only to me. But friends and family who attended still talk about the weekend at the clifftop Los Flamingos Hotel in Acapulco, where we watched whales swim out to sea over breakfast, then spent the reception dancing on a terrace overlooking the Pacific.

After attending the Tulum wedding as a guest, I realized destination weddings can be a gift for those invited.

We used our friends' celebration as an excuse to piece together a much-needed vacation. The weekend at the Maya Tulum Wellness Retreat and Spa, where the wedding was held, turned out to be much more enjoyable than the following rain-soaked week in Belize (we drove there after the ceremony).

Between a welcome barbecue and the reception, we snorkeled, napped on the beach and mingled with other guests. Toward the end of the reception, with everyone sweaty from dancing, several guests went for a midnight swim in the ocean.

That's the great thing about weddings in unexpected places: Unexpected things happen.

At our wedding, a Mexican tradition of having the guest of honor take a bite directly from the cake, usually ending up with a face full of frosting, became an excuse to begin hurling bits of chocolate on the dance floor.

I left the party for a few minutes to wash my face and returned to find most of the guests covered in cake, and heading to the pool to both cool off and wash up. (A waiter was able to save what remained of the cake, which we devoured the next night.)

While some people might be mortified by the thought of a food fight at a wedding, it was clear from the beginning of our ceremony - when I walked down the aisle to Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never" - that our wedding wasn't exactly traditional.

Which brings me to the next benefit of marrying in an unusual setting: It's easier to get away with doing things your way. The event we attended in Tulum was the first big wedding the resort had hosted, and the staff was more than willing, at the request of the couple, to cater a vegetarian buffet and even arrange yoga classes between events.

In both weddings, acquaintances who happened to be ordained clergy performed the ceremonies, which made the events both casual and personal.

The drawback was that Mexican law does not recognize religious wedding ceremonies; I ended up getting my afternoon with a judge after all.

The other advantage of a "destination wedding" is that requiring the wedding party to fly to another country will likely trim your guest list to the friends and family you really want to invite.

And you get to spend a long weekend - not just an evening or afternoon - catching up with the people you love the most.

Many hotels will plan the entire event for you - right down to music and food. Some will even give you a weekend free to come down and discuss plans. We spent about two hours giving instructions to our hotel, then spent the rest of our free weekend reading in a hammock.

In Mexico, especially if you stick to the smaller hotels, you can put together a spectacular wedding - one that would cost tens of thousands of dollars in the United States or Europe - for less than $5,000.

Your guests pay for airfare and their room. You pay for food, drinks, music and decorations. I went down to the local flower market a few hours before the ceremony and spent $20 on flowers.

The hotel usually throws in a few extras and gives your guests a good rate. In our case, in exchange for filling Los Flamingos' rooms for a weekend during the slow season, hotel management didn't charge us for use of the terrace where we held the ceremony and even threw in the so-called "honeymoon suite," actor John Wayne's old room at the hotel.

I initially felt bad about asking people to fly down to Mexico. But I sent out e-mails with suggested vacations they could tack on before or after the wedding, and everyone seemed happy to have an excuse to come down to the beach for a long weekend in November.

The best part was that, blaming the climate, I got away with wearing a simple evening dress - instead of a frothy, white gown. I didn't even wear shoes.

If you go
Hotel Los Flamingos In Acapulco; Regular rates start at $65 a night, Dec. 15 to April 15 (otherwise $50).

Maya Tulum Resort
Near Cancun; (888) 515-4580. Click on "Packages" for wedding services. Regular rates start at $85 a night, June to September ($115 a night October through May).

Destination wedding tips
Try to fill the hotel. It will help you negotiate better rates and you won't have other guests complaining about the loud, late-night reception. In Mexico, you'll get cheaper rates May to November - but you risk rainy weather.

Check local marriage laws. In Mexico, for instance, you aren't legally married until you visit a judge, so many Mexicans have two weddings, one religious, one civil. Some hotels can arrange for a judge, and most foreigners can have a Mexican marriage certificate authenticated for use in their home country. But it may be easier to just get married again at home, by a local judge. Using a translated, foreign marriage certificate might work at embassies, but you'll get blank looks from most other government officials.

Consider alternatives to the beach. A friend was married at a small hotel outside of Guanajuato in central Mexico. The nearby artist enclave of San Miguel de Allende would also be great for a ceremony. Haciendas, with their sprawling grounds and crumbling, stone buildings, also make good settings.

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