Plan a Destination Wedding to Mexico... Do it!

This is a blog post of mine that was just published on

I recently photographed a destination wedding at the Hilton Resort in Cancun, Mexico. The wedding ceremony was set in front of the breathtaking Caribbean Sea and the reception party kept the guests rocking the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning. Most guests agreed: It was the wedding of the century!

The couple is not among the rich and famous as you might think. They are just like you and me. Which got me thinking, why doesn’t everyone plan a destination wedding? So I asked the couple, Steffan and Suzette, to tell me a bit about the pros and cons of planning a destination wedding.

CI: What made you decide to have a destination wedding?

S+S: We thought a destination wedding would be nice because it would give everyone a chance to take a vacation at the same time. We figured it would be less stressful for us and also more enjoyable. We thought it would be more intimate because everyone would have a chance to meet and mingle before the wedding day. This was definitely the case. We think everyone had a much better time at our wedding because people had the chance to get acquainted during the activities prior to the wedding.

CI: Why Cancun, Mexico?

S+S: Cancun has been a favorite vacation spot for us. Every time we have gone we have had an awesome time. We really like the beaches there. They seem to have some of the softest sand, most amazing clear blue water, and breathtaking sunsets. It is also a great place to party so we thought it would be fun for all of our family and friends. Traveling to and from Cancun is relatively easy and inexpensive. Flights are usually cheaper than flying to most other places in the states. This was important because we had family and friends traveling from all over the states and we wanted to pick an exotic place that was relatively cheaper and easier for people to travel to. We wanted to share this experience with all the important people in our lives so we wanted to make it desirable for people to come.

CI: What was the most difficult thing in planning a destination wedding?

S+S: Not being able to actually visit the ceremony and reception site and having to visualize the locations during the planning process. We had to rely on photos that our hotel wedding planner provided. We also were not able to sample any of the food or cake before hand. We had to select our dinner menu from the descriptions that the wedding planner provided and hoped that it was as delicious as it sounded on paper (which it was, luckily!).

It was also a challenge to coordinate the decorations, the DJ equipment arrangements, and the hotel accommodations for the guests. We had to do all this over email and phone. It would have been so much easier to sit down with a wedding coordinator and go through the details. Even though most of the staff were fluent in English at some times it was hard to communicate what we wanted.

We also decided to make a lot of the decorations ourselves. We made all the dinner menus and wedding programs by hand so they all matched our theme. We also wanted to provide our guests with welcome bags of goodies so we had to purchase everything beforehand. And for the favors, we found perfect little photo albums which were handed out to everyone at the reception with one of our engagement photos in each. The hardest part about these things was bringing them into Mexico! We ended up shipping all the wedding favors and packing an extra suitcase. Fortunately, everything worked out and nothing got lost during shipment or in customs.

CI: What was the best part of having your destination wedding?

S+S: Being able to relax, and enjoy time with our family and friends. We were able to do some fun things together like the Jungle Tour and the Mayan ruins.

CI: How did your invited guests respond to having to fly across the continent to attend your wedding?

S+S: One of our main concerns was the cost involved for our family and friends. However, everyone was excited to go to Cancun and make a vacation out of it. We understood beforehand that not all our guests would be able to attend, especially guests with medical conditions. Most importantly, we had the support of our immediate family with our destination decision.

We also made sure that we held the wedding at a resort that was not overly expensive. With our group discount, we had a block of rooms secured for about $150/night and flights were about $350 round trip from California so we did the best we could to make it relatively painless for our guests.

CI: Would you say your budget was larger or smaller than the average Californian wedding budget of 50K?

S+S: Our actual ceremony and reception expenses were definitely less than the average wedding. We outlined the big cost items first and based our decisions off of that. The cost of the reception itself was a lot cheaper surprisingly than most Californian weddings. The cost also included four hours of open bar and this was a big benefit. The food was excellent as well. We cut some costs on decorations and flowers by not paying for anything additional, and since our wedding package included standard white linens and tableware, we worked with that. Also, since it was a destination wedding, we expected the guest list to be a lot smaller than if it were here in the states. We had a total party size of about 80 guests in Cancun and we invited close to 200. We figured if we held our wedding in California, we would have had about 175+ people so we think destination weddings will for the most part be relatively cheaper due to the reduced size of the attendees.

So if you are even thinking about planning a destination wedding to Mexico I hope this encourages you to just do it!