Weddings and Honeymoons in Puerto Vallarta

Weddings and Honeymoons

Mexico is a growing wedding and honeymoon destination for Canadians and Americans. Many area hotels—from boutiques to internationally known brands—offer honeymoon packages and professional wedding planners. Although there's an obligatory civil ceremony that must accompany the Big Event, you can get married in a house of worship, on a beach, at a hotel chapel, or on a yacht or sailboat.

The Big Day

Choosing the Perfect Place. Puerto Vallarta—including resorts to the north along the Riviera Nayarit and south along the Costalegre—is one of Mexico's most popular wedding and honeymoon destinations. Many couples choose to marry on the beach, often at sunset because it's cooler and more comfortable for everyone; others chuck the whole weather conundrum and marry in an air-conditioned resort ballroom.

The luxury of enjoying your wedding and honeymoon in one place has a cost: You may find it hard to have some alone time with your sweetie with all your family and friends on hand. Consider booking an all-inclusive, which has plenty of meal options and activities to keep your guests busy. This will make it easier for them to respect your privacy and stick to mingling with you and your spouse at planned times. Among PV's best options for on-site, catered weddings are the Marriott CasaMagna, the Westin, the Villa Premiere, and Casa Velas. Le Kliff and El Dorado restaurants offer stunning views from their wedding-reception areas; Las Caletas offers unique beachfront weddings accessed by boat through Vallarta Adventures.

Wedding Attire. Some women choose a traditional full wedding gown with veil, but more popular and comfortable—especially for an outdoor wedding—is a simple sheath or a white cotton or linen dress that will breathe in the tropical heat. Some brides, of course, opt for even less formal attire: anything from a sundress to shorts or a bathing suit.

Weddings on the beach are best done barefoot, even when the bride wears a gown. Choose strappy sandals for a wedding or reception that's not on the sand, and forget the notion of stockings—it's usually too hot and humid. Whatever type of gown you choose, it's best to both purchase and get any alterations done before leaving home. Buy a special garment bag and hand-carry your dress on the plane. Don't let this be the one time in your life that your luggage goes missing at great personal cost.

Time of Year. Planning according to the weather can be critical for a successful PV wedding. If you're getting married in your bathing suit, you might not mind some heat and humidity, but will your venue—and your future mother-in-law—hold up under a summer deluge? We recommend substituting the traditional June wedding that's so suitable for New England and Nova Scotia with one held between late November and February or March. April through mid-June is usually dry but extremely hot and humid. Summer rains begin to fall in mid-June. Sometimes this means a light sprinkle that reduces heat and humidity and freshens the trees; other times it means a torrential downpour that immediately floods the streets. Although hurricanes are rarer along the Pacific than the Caribbean, they can threaten September through early November. For an outdoor wedding, establish a detailed backup plan in case the weather lets you down.

Finding a Wedding Planner. Hiring a wedding planner will minimize stress for all but the simplest of ceremonies. A year or more in advance, the planner will, among other things, help choose the venue, recommend a florist, and arrange for a photographer and musicians. The most obvious place to find a wedding planner is at a resort hotel that becomes wedding central: providing accommodations for you and your guests, the wedding ceremony venue, and the restaurant or ballroom for the reception. But you can also hire an independent wedding coordinator; just do a Web search for "Puerto Vallarta wedding" and you'll get tons of hits. Unless you're fluent in Spanish, make sure the person who will be arranging one of your life's milestones speaks and understands English well. Ask for references, and check them.

When interviewing a planner, talk about your budget, and ask about costs. Are there hourly fees or one fee for the whole event? How available will the consultant and his or her assistants be? Which vendors do they use and why? How long have they been in business? Request a list of the exact services they'll provide, and get a proposal in writing. If you don't feel this is the right person or agency for you, try someone else. Cost permitting, it's helpful to meet the planner in person.

Requirements. Getting a bona fide wedding planner will obviously facilitate completing the required paperwork and negotiating the legal requirements for marrying in Mexico. Blood work must be done upon your arrival, but not more than 14 days before the ceremony. All documents must be translated by an authorized translator from the destination, and it's important to send these documents certified mail to your wedding coordinator at least a month ahead of the wedding. You'll also need to submit an application for a marriage license as well as certified birth certificates (bring the original with you to PV, and send certified copies ahead of time). If either party is divorced or widowed, an official divorce decree or death certificate must be supplied. The bride, groom, and four witnesses will also need to present passports and tourist cards.

Jalisco State has additional requirements; for this reason some couples choose to have the civil ceremony in Nayarit State (Nuevo Vallarta or anywhere north of there) and then the "spiritual" ceremony in the location of their choice. Since church weddings aren't officially recognized in Mexico, even for citizens, a civil ceremony is required in any case, thus making your marriage valid in your home country as well. Another option is to be married (secretly?) in a civil ceremony in your own country and then hold the wedding event without worrying about all the red tape.

The Honeymoon

If you've chosen a resort wedding, you and many of the guests may be content to relax on-site after the bustle and stress of the wedding itself. Puerto Vallarta has a huge variety of accommodations, from name-brand hotels with spas and multiple swimming pools to three-bedroom B&Bs in the moderate price range. Many properties have special honeymoon packages that include champagne and strawberries on the wedding night, flowers in the room, spa treatments, or other sorts of pampering and earthly pleasures.

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