Getting Married in the Riviera Maya
After living in Mexico for more than four years (and after visiting for more than 20 years), we can answer most of your questions about getting married here. We not only live here, we had a destination wedding here, too. As Riviera Maya destination wedding photographers, we have lots of tips for you. If you are wondering about legal requirements for getting married in Mexico in Mexico, please message us.
The Riviera Maya is one of the most popular spots in the world for destination weddings. The reasons are many: world-class beaches and restaurants, a variety of man-made and historic attractions, diverse cultural sites, beautiful weather, the modern Cancun International Airport and the Caribbean Sea. In addition, the area is one of the safest in Mexico. For the past couple of years, the entire state has had lower crime rates than Wichita, Kansas. But, with more than 100 hotels and resorts spread along the 80 miles of coastline, with three distinct communities and two islands, where do you start?
Personally, we think you should spend a week visiting some towns and resorts and discover the place that fits your style. If you can’t do that, we’ll give you our impressions of the area and the way things work here.
Let’s tackle the big all-inclusive (AI) resorts first. They have unlimited food and drink, lots of activities, multiple restaurants, nice facilities, big swimming pools and access to the beach. Tons of things to like. Many couples think so, as evidenced by the hundreds of weddings along the coast every week. They make arriving with a large group easy, since you don’t have to be in charge of where people eat, drink or swim.
However, if you decide to get married at one of these resorts, chances are you will be a number, you will have your wedding (perhaps one of three that day) witnessed by lots of strangers in skimpy swimwear, and you might be ignored by the wedding planner once you have signed the contract. Ask a lot of questions, both of the resort and your travel agent. Some resorts offer generous commissions to travel agents, consequently, you may get steered toward a resort that might sound great, but does not end up being great. How many weddings do they allow each day? As protection, get everything in writing.
Most importantly, you should be aware that most resorts have contracts with vendors (one photography company, one florist, etc) and take a cut of their fee or mark it up. If you don’t want to use their vendor, then they charge you an extra fee. Some actually charge you as much as $800 USD for photographers to come on the premises and photograph your wedding. We know, because we have worked with couples who have paid it!
There are smaller boutique hotels and even a few resorts that will only book one wedding per day. The boutique hotels willingly work with independent wedding planners, DJs, photographers and make up artists. There are very talented people in the area and it’s not hard to put together a list of great service providers. With a little bit of research, you might discover that a wedding at a large, all-inclusive resort is not much differently priced than one held at a smaller, more intimate location. The size of your guest list will have a huge bearing on whether you choose AI or boutique.
When to Get Married in the Riviera Maya?
People don’t think we have seasons here, maybe because the leaves don’t change. How wrong they are! While we have a sub-tropical climate, there are seasons.
December through April: is the dry season with milder temperatures (70-80 during the day – maybe into the low 60s at night). But, we’ve noticed that March can be windy, it can be really hot in April and the daytime temperatures start rising in May.
June to September: will be hot and humid (high 80s – low 90s) and can be dry or wet. Often, the soothing oceans breezes go on vacation. Definitely be prepared by wearing cooler clothes, staying hydrated and scheduling your wedding late in the day.
October 2013 set the record for the most rain in one month in the Riviera Maya, but we photographed one wedding that had four straight days of sunny weather in the middle of the month. So, you never know.
Officially, hurricane season is July – November. You might find discounted prices, but make sure your resort will have a sheltered space for you if there is rain on your wedding day. If they have scheduled three or even four weddings, someone is going to get wet.
Regardless of when you choose to have your destination wedding, we suggest that you time your ceremony to end around 45 minutes before sunset. Your guests will be more comfortable and we’ll have better light for your photos.
Where to Get Married in the Riviera Maya?
Isla Mujeres: a lovely little island with a beautiful beach, some nice hotels, a very cool downtown pedestrian street lined with good restaurants, and off-shore there is decent diving. We love visiting and working here. The vibe is definitely small town and laid back – think Mexico 1970s. Isla is probably not the best choice for the late-night party, clubbing group. We think Privilege Aluxes is one of the best resorts with one of the best planners in the entire Riviera Maya.
Cancun: the hotel zone is a massive strip of land with exclusive hotels, all-inclusive resorts and one of the nicest strips of white sand in the world. There is so much beach, that weddings here surprisingly tend to be more private than beach weddings in Playa. Our experience has been that the beaches tend to be more sparsely populated when late afternoon weddings take place. For a non-AI experience you’ve got the Ritz-Carleton and JW Marriott. Cancun is the opposite of Isla Mujeres.
Cancun to Playa del Carmen: This strip includes the real little fisherman’s village of Puerto Morelos, which is becoming a little more sophisticated with some good places to eat. The town has mostly small hotels and condos, but a nice beach and the reef not too far offshore. Making your way south are lots of all-inclusives (A-I) and exclusives, including some of the better run places: Azul Sensatori (high vendor fees), Now Sapphire, Mayakoba and Grand Velas. However, the beaches in this stretch sometimes suffer from excessive seaweed and seagrass. Check them out before you book if the beach life is important.
Playa del Carmen: is hip, international, sophisticated, and has something for everyone. Boutique hotels, A-Is, gelato, Argentine Parrillas, all-night discos, a wide sandy beach and an hourly ferry to Cozumel. We like Le Reve, a small boutique hotel just north of town. 20 years ago Playa was a small beach town, but today the concentration of hotels and beach clubs in centro means that beach weddings in central Playa can be a spectator event. The Viceroy is an outstanding luxury hotel and it is close to central Playa.
Cozumel: is our home. It is has some of the best coral reefs in the world, one of the longest unspoiled beaches in Mexico and the nicest people you can imagine. There are several good beach clubs, hotels and A-Is on the island. Like Isla Mujeres and unlike the mainland, the island has a west coast for cool sunset pictures. Check out Hotel B Cozumel, Occidental Grande and Nachi Cocom beach club as possible venues.
Playa to Akumal: One of our favorite stretches of the Riviera Maya has a couple of all-inclusives, features several world class cenotes along the highway, and has two very special boutique hotels. The beaches are great, there is very little seaweed and a small reef is just offshore for good snorkeling. The very posh Esencia resort is a former private property that now has very upscale villas and cabañas. On the same bay a little south is Al Cielo, a boutique hotel that blends Caribbean funky with Italian style.
Akumal: Quite possibly one of the hidden gems on the Riviera Maya (if it’s possible for anything to be hidden on this coast). This small community is predominantly villas, condos and a couple of small hotels. There is a nice bay for swimming and snorkeling, a nearby lagoon that is pristine, and small restaurants and bars.
Puerto Aventuras: Mostly for the yachting crowd, due to the man-made large marina, there are a few all-inclusives with a nice beach area. Like Akumal, there are large all-inclusive resorts to the north and south of the central area.
Tulum: Small, intimate, new-age, super-hip, eco-lodge, and great beaches are all superlatives that apply to Tulum. There is a Dreams resort to the north of the Mayan ruins, but the coast south of the ruins is dotted with small, boutique hotels of varying sizes and price ranges – almost all off the grid. Ana y Jose Charming Hotel is one of the best locations with a great beach club separate from the hotel. Both are great places for a destination wedding. Las Ranitas and Be Hotel are both worth a look.
If you want more ideas, or suggestions for different venues and vendors, contact us.
Author: Mike & Jennifer Lewis
Michael & Jennifer Lewis are happy to serve client’s with amazing Cancun destination wedding photography and are highly recommend as Cancun’s Best Wedding photographers on Wedding Wire.