So what does a big-time Los Angeles Wedding and Event Planner do when it’s time for her to get married? Elope. Well sort of… like many of the people in our industry, 10 years working the back end of elaborate and over-the-top weddings sort of takes the magic out of having your own. My fiancé and I decided that our wedding was going to be more of an intimate event about uniting in marriage as opposed to a big elaborate wedding… apparently this still meant 80 of our closest friends and family in Cabo San Lucas. I’d like to share the planning stages and what I learned about planning a destination wedding. This will be more relevant if you are planning to invite more than a handful of guests, and you have higher expectations than what you could throw together within a months time. And yes, we were planning a full Destination Wedding in Mexico, not just a $5,000 fiesta.
- First, I hired a planner. Jessica really knows the area, understands the all-inclusive hotel wedding market and the local wedding professionals. She is a native Californian who speaks fluent Spanish and lives in Cabo San Lucas. I found her in the same way that you might find a destination planner, on Google. Then I read her online reviews. If you would like to check her out http://caboweddingservices.com the company is run by Jessica and her Mom, Tammy and they have an office in Cabo. You need someone to really put in the time for you down in Mexico, unless you plan to make half a dozen planning trips yourself. The cost will run you a few thousand dollars in but will be well worth the countless hours that will be put in on your behalf.
- Here are the areas that you may find frustrating in planning your wedding. Much of Mexico is trying to increase floral exports. This means that you CANNOT bring flowers with you on a plane, and you cannot order most imported flowers. Local flowers in Cabo are limited and expensive. Expect tropical flowers, roses and orchids and to pay about twice the price that you would in a large city like Los Angeles. If you are from the Midwest, plan to at least quadruple your floral budget back home. I really liked communicating with Baja Flowers because they do a lot of big weddings and events, and have more access to a selection of different types of flowers than some smaller florists it seems.
Many resorts and restaurants will not allow any live amplified music outdoors. I found this sad, as I had always wanted a live band. A wedding planner is also important here, because unlike in the U.S. you may find that the power at many resorts won’t be sufficient for a full band and you will need a generator.
Churches and chapels are not easy to book. In order to get married in Cabo at one of these houses of worship, you need a signed document from your local clergy for both you and your fiancé. And that house of worship must be the same sect of Christianity in Cabo. This goes for actual Priests and Preachers as well. Many will not marry you at the beach or a resort, and you will have to find a non-religious minister or religious minister not affiliated with a specific church in Mexico.
In my opinion the photographers in Cabo that are $2,000-3,500 are not as skilled as I would have expected. This is one area where it might really be worth paying to fly in a photographer. The selction of wedding photographers in resort cities of Mexico doesn’t exist, so they can charge more based on the demand. Perhaps there are some great photographers down there that I didn’t find, but I bet they are pretty pricey.
- The pros and cons of the all-inclusive resort wedding. If you are like me, you planned to go to Mexico in order to save at least some money. Surely your guest list will be significantly smaller at least. What I found is that many of the non-inclusive resorts where you book a wedding regardless of who is staying there, were over $150 per person for food and beverage alone, and some are much higher. Also, Resort cities in Mexico have a tax rate of around 20%.
Therefore the least expensive option is to have a wedding at an all-inclusive resort. What this means is that you will pay a per person price for food, alcohol and cake that is based on whether each guest is staying at the resort or not, and whether they have an all-inclusive food and beverage package or not. You then encourage guests to book at the resort (or resort group) where the wedding is being held. As an example, the Villa Group has three resorts in Cabo, all near one another. and the per night cost for 2 guests to get a hotel room ranges from $125 (non-inclusive) to about $500 all-inclusive at the most elaborate resort of the three. Most of the time you have to guarantee 10-15 guest rooms, but guests call to make room reservations directly, through the wedding room block.
For the wedding itself to give an example, Villa Group for 2016 would charge you about $85 a head for guests who pay for the all-inclusive rate at the resort. This means that for those guests the wedding dinner, alcohol, cake, tables, chairs, basic linens, taxes and gratuity totals $85 per person. For guests who do choose to stay at a Villa Resort but do not pay for an all-inclusive rate, you pay about $125 per person for the wedding dinner, alcohol, etc listed above. And for guests who decide to stay somewhere other than a Villa Resort, you pay in the neighborhood of $160 per person for the wedding dinner, alcohol, etc listed above.
Find out if the resort allows you to use your own vendors. It could be that your wedding planner has a great minister for $400, but your resort will require you to use one of their ministers for $800. The resorts have the power to require whatever they want, so be aware of what you may be forced into before signing anything.
- I cannot tell you enough how important it is to read a lot of reviews, not just scan them but really read them. Trip Advisor, yelp and other online review sites, you should be able to find them for major Mexico tourist areas. I was very interested in a couple of wedding locations until I read from guest reviews that there had been quite a few cases of food poisoning in the past. A year ago, one of the high end Cabo beach hotels had a major Norovirus outbreak that lasted for months. In the U.S. that resort would probably have been closed down until this was cleared up. So do your homework.
In the end because of a turn of family events, we had to ditch the Cabo idea entirely and are have our wedding here in Southern California Wine Country. However I hope that my experience has helped you to gain some insight on having a Mexico Wedding. Happy Planning!