ASK ME’s Marilyn Cairo & Hilary Lanzer Talk Destination Weddings in Mexico

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Occidental Hotels beach wedding set up for the Extravaganza package.
Occidental Hotels beach wedding set up for the Extravaganza package.

We had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn Cairo and Hilary Lanzer, ASK ME’s managing partners and founders, about destination weddings in Mexico.

PVR: What makes Mexico such a popular place for destination weddings?
Hilary Lanzer (HL): The airlift and airfares really make Mexico irresistible. With the variety of resorts to choose from, there is something appealing to all tastes whether it be a small boutique hotel, a luxury resort or a fabulous all-inclusive resort. Mexico is also LGBT-friendly and that opens the doors to an often over-looked demographic. Physically, Mexico is rich in beautiful beaches, historic sites, quaint towns and cultural rich areas—all which make it a much desired location for destination weddings.

Marilyn Cairo (MC): Mexico is also a popular destination for weddings because there is so much to do in Mexico—and there always seems to be something for everyone in a group. Shopping, dining and historical tours are always popular. Adventure is always a big attraction from water activities like scuba diving and kite surfing to land trips from dune-buggy tours to hikes. On a personal note, I always find the Mexican hospitality is genuine and fantastic—they really appreciate the tourism and it shows.


PVR: What are some of the more popular spots for getting married in Mexico?
MC: The Caribbean coast of Mexico is a top hotspot to get married in Mexico. This coast is home to Riviera Maya and Cancun, which covers about 112 miles of palm tree-lined white-sand beaches sprinkled with charming resort towns and villages with good shopping and great restaurants and bars. The area is gorgeous.

HL: At Occidental Grand Xcaret, couples really look forward to tying the knot on the stunning grounds of this all-Inclusive resort that offers lush vegetation and Mayan ruins located beachfront and in hidden corners of the property. Since the resort is also located next door to Xcaret Ecological Park, family and friends attending the wedding can experience the hidden treasures there, many of which reflect Mexico’s Mayan history and integrate cultural traditions of Mexico. The park even has a hilltop chapel that has no wall where we can offer religious wedding services, too. It is stunning. Occidental Grand Xcaret is truly a special location for ceremonies.


PVR: Colonial setting vs. beachside wedding?
HL: Brides still want their feet in the sand, so that will always remain a favorite location for destination weddings.

MC: We have seen a small increase in requests to have weddings at cultural sites like the Mayan ruins of Tulum. However, the beach is definitely the most popular. It is accessible, fun and the photography really captures the beauty of the event, the couple and the setting. The beach being just steps away from the hotel and reception venue also impacts the site selection.


PVR:  Why are destination weddings, in your opinion, so very popular with North American brides?
MC: Destination weddings are popular with North American couples because they are cost effective, while still being able to offer a WOW factor. The destination wedding experience allows a couple to offer something different than your other family/friends who recently tied the knot. I believe we’re also dealing with a demographic of brides and grooms are were exposed to traveling from their parents and are not afraid to venture out, think outside of the box, and be different.

HL: We also find that couples who choose a destination wedding want the non-traditional experience.


PVR: What role do travel agents play in the whole destination wedding process?
HL: Couples gain a lot of advantages when they work with a travel agent to arrange their destination wedding. In addition to securing discounts, perks or special treatments, travel agents can share insights and information of destinations and hotels. Travel agents also have an incredible opportunity when working with couples on a destination wedding. In addition to gaining the bride and groom as new clients, they can gain the entire wedding party and help them plan independent or group trips in the future. Successful travel agents realize that booking the wedding is just one trip of many potential future ones.


PVR: What trends are you seeing in destination weddings?
HL: Destination wedding trends we are seeing in the first quarter and beyond for 2014 include more rustic decor that is simple and elegant. There are more guests joining the bride and groom and the wedding experience is longer—it is becoming a weekend experience rather than just one day.

MC: Clients are back to spending and splurging, especially as it relates to experiences for their guests (i.e., cocktail hour on a catamaran cruise, golf tournaments, performers at the reception, etc.). We are also starting to see clients who want to make headlines by doing something creative or unique (for example, we have a father and his daughter getting married same day at the same hotel).  We’ve also had several siblings have their wedding on the same day, at same location. Another trend for 2014 is that couples are planning ahead more often. Early bookings are back up, which means there’s buyer confidence in the economy.


PVR: What has changed in the industry over the course of the last few years?
MC: A lot has changed in the destination wedding industry over the last few years. The competition is fierce, as more and more suppliers realize the importance and potential ROI of destination weddings. There is great incentive to target the market. Travel agents are specializing in this market as well—by attending more training courses offered by hotels, joining loyalty programs, marketing themselves to consumers, and being more proactive overall. For those suppliers that have been ‘in the game’ over the last decade, they see the business still coming in based on referrals and overall length of exposure in the market segment.