From the sultry beaches of Tulum to the cobblestoned streets of San Miguel de Allende, it’s easy to see why Mexico is such a popular wedding destination. In addition to endless jaw-dropping locales, Mexico is home to some of the most dazzling wedding venues in the world. The warmth of the people, delicious cuisine, vibrant culture and ease of accessibility are just some of the reasons why Mexico is one of the top five international destinations for weddings. That said, there are certain nuances for wedding planners to keep in mind and critical things to know before planning a wedding in Mexico.
There are three types of weddings that are recognized in Mexico and varying layers of paperwork depending on the type.
A civil wedding (boda civil) is the only legally recognized wedding. Being a resident of Mexico is not a requirement for a civil wedding, but couples do need a tourist permit in addition to additional documentation which includes: a valid passport, marriage application form, birth certificate and divorce decree or death certificate if either person was married before. It’s important to note that for Mexican officials to recognize foreign-issued legal documents, the documents must be apostilled, or notarized.
Blood tests, which need to be done in Mexico, are required with some states also requiring chest x-rays. It’s important to keep in mind that these tests must be done within very specific timeframes which vary by state. Additional details and further information can be found here.
Once all the necessary paperwork and official documents have been obtained, the marriage license fee is approximately $30.00 USD and the waiting period can be anywhere from 30 minutes to several days, depending on the state. The ceremony can take place at the Local Registry Office or for a higher fee, you can arrange to have the ceremony take place at the location of your choice. While a certified copy of the marriage certificate (Acta de Matrimonio) will be recognized worldwide, get it apostilled in Mexico just to be safe.
Insider Tip: For a more seamless planning process, recommend that the couple get legally married in their hometown and have the religious or spiritual ceremony in Mexico.
Mexico is home to some stunning chapels and churches and while a religious ceremony is certainly possible for foreigners, there is legwork involved. Documentation such as baptism certificates, confirmation letter (optional) and an authorization letter from the couples’ local bishop will be required. For Catholic weddings, a premarital wedding course is mandatory with a letter certifying that the course was completed. Once all the requirements have been met, a letter certified by the couples’ hometown archdiocese will need to be sent to the parish in Mexico, authorizing the celebration of the nuptials. Additionally, a donation fee to the Catholic church is also required. The amount varies depending on the location.
The third type of ceremonies really encompass everything else, from spiritual to non-denominational and other cultures, traditions, and religions. These truly are much more straight forward and do not require any paperwork or legal documents to satisfy Mexican laws.
One of the things to love about planning a wedding abroad is incorporating the local culture into the event. Mexico has some unique, special traditions that can easily be woven into the ceremony and events. One of the more popular ones is the tornaboda, or after party, that follows the reception. It includes the entire guest list and involves late night bites such as chilaquiles, churros and tacos al pastor. Another very important part of any Mexican wedding ceremony is that of the lazo, a ribbon adorned with flowers or a rosary is placed around the bride and groom after exchanging vows to symbolically join them together. Another classic Mexican wedding tradition includes the money dance. Guests present the wedding couple with cash in exchange for a dance.
Favors and Flavors
One of the most compelling things about Mexico is its cuisine and incorporating it throughout the weekend is easy and fun. Whether greeting guests with Chaya Mojitos upon check-in or including artisanal candy and local snacks in welcome bags, this can be a playful way to incorporate the many unique flavors of the country. Cuisine differs greatly by region, and wedding planners are encouraged to incorporate the local flavors into at least one of the events. Oaxaca, for example, has one of the richest pre-Hispanic culinary cuisines in all of Mexico. Ancient ingredients include things like huitlacoche (a corn fungus) and draw upon bygone techniques to make their world-renowned mole. Another idea might be to schedule a Mexican cooking class as part of the itinerary or have a mezcal tasting kick off the weekend.
The Mexican snack scene is not to be overlooked and is another easy way to incorporate local flavors into the weekend. Traditional Mexican snacks are rooted in the essential flavors of chamoy, tamarind, lime, chile, salt and caramel. Artisanal candy, salty cacahuates (peanuts), local handicrafts and regional gifts are definitely a great way to achieve this goal.
Understanding and Embracing the Culture
The biggest piece of advice for anyone planning a wedding in Mexico is to practice being patient. The Mexican culture is extremely laidback, response time isn’t always immediate, and things can get lost in translation. This is all part of the process and something that should be communicated to couples ahead of time. It’s important to recognize and respect that certain things are done differently. Wedding planners who aren’t very experienced with planning weddings in Mexico should consider working with a local planner. The knowledge and resources that a local planner has will be invaluable. Carats & Cake is one resource. A local planner will have relationships with trusted vendors, be able to assist with navigating the unchartered waters of a new culture and be able to be your “boots on the ground” at all times.
When and Where
With an abundance of varying locales such as the rugged cliffs of Puerto Vallarta to the ancient ruins of Tulum, deciding on where to focus can be almost as challenging as the planning. The great news is, there truly is something for everyone. Direct flights into Cancun from most major U.S. cities makes the Riviera Maya a great option for couples who don’t want their guests to play the “trains, planes and automobiles” game. Destinations like San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, a town named after the patron saint of travel, is perfect for couples who want to feel as if they’re stepping back in time. Understanding what makes the destination unique, knowing what time of year is best to go and having a grasp on what venues and vendors are available are all going to be key. Research is paramount and having the right contacts is important. The International Association of Destination Wedding Professionals (IADWP) is a resource for connecting with planners, venues and other wedding professionals in Mexico.
So, whether it’s the warmth of the people, the endless jaw dropping locales or the allure of the culture that have you homing in on Mexico, the options and opportunities are endless. Keeping the above tips in mind, connecting with the right partners, and doing your homework are all designed to help make the planning process seamless and fun.