Wedded Bliss in Paradise

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Bridal suite at Paradisus Playa del Carmen.
Bridal suite at Paradisus Playa del Carmen.

Tell your clients to start their married life together with a splash of paradise amidst Mexico’s gorgeous landscapes—from Cancun to Puerto Vallarta. Travel advisors, romance specialists, and tour operators fill us in on why saying “I do” in Mexico is such a grand idea.

At last month’s Romance Travel Forum, which took place in Jamaica at the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, it was reported that $16 billion is spent annually on destination weddings; that the destination weddings market is expected to grow by 20 percent in the next 10 to 15 years; that 24 percent of annual weddings are destination weddings; and that the average size of a destination wedding is about 48 guests booking about 24 rooms. All this was explained to a group of top travel advisors who attended an Ask Me-hosted luncheon during the Romance Travel Forum (information was gathered from The Knot wedding stats). Marilyn Cairo, managing partner/co-founder of Ask Me, led the lunchtime discussion, and went on to point out that 68 percent of couples book their destination wedding/honeymoon with a travel professional; and that 74 percent of destination weddings last 3-plus days, although 33 percent last more than five days (think South Asian weddings). That last bit is important, because when you book a destination wedding, it’s not just about the ceremony and the reception—it’s about booking excursions, sunset sailings, rehearsal dinners on a moonlit stretch of shoreline, or a brunch the day after. In other words, you need to up the ante and sell an all-encompassing experience, not just the wedding day festivities. Remember, today’s Millennials—the very clients who are getting married and coming to you for recommendations—want to have an incredible destination wedding experience and are yearning for individuality; throw in unique extras and that’s what will set you apart. And consider this: Make one couple happy, and many of the soon-to-wed best men and bridesmaids are going to want to come to you to create a memorable experience for them on their own
special day.

Another point that was brought up was that all-inclusive resorts are the most popular for international destination weddings, with 70 percent of ceremonies taking place on the resort grounds. According to Melissa Varela, owner of Modern Romance Travel, and a destination weddings specialist, “The wedding team at all-inclusive resorts can make planning a destination wedding stress-less and easy for the couple. All-inclusive resorts offer wedding packages in a variety of styles, and group room rates at different price points—all for one set total cost.

“Planning a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort is very simple, as all of the wedding collections and options are already created,” says Varela. “That said, many of the all-inclusive resorts allow you to customize your celebration, and what is included varies from resort to resort. All-inclusive resorts come in every size, shape and style. There are all-inclusive resorts that focus on cuisine, luxury, family, adults-only, and health and wellness. There is an all-inclusive resort that will fit any experience the couple is looking for. In fact, anything is possible when it comes to destination weddings at an all-inclusive resort.”

She adds that, “a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico is much more affordable compared to the traditional weddings at home. Many of my clients are paying for the wedding themselves so they want to make sure it is something they can afford.”

Let’s jump into the myriad offerings available in Mexico for destination weddings, shall we….

All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels
For clients who can’t get enough of wedding designer Colin Cowie, let them know that the partnership between the All Inclusive Collection and Colin Cowie has been renewed for another three years (so if your clients are a long-term planners, no worries that things will change from get-go to big day). This extended partnership comes with three new customizable Colin Cowie Wedding Collections, available starting Jan. 1, 2017. These packages are complete with every detail handpicked by Cowie himself with the opportunity to mix and match, upgrade and customize to create exactly what couples are looking for and with all amenities included. The final cost (starting at $2,500) is set up-front, and the Collection designs include a Complimentary Collection, which offers couples a no-cost option. Additionally, couples that marry at the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels get the complimentary With Love honeymoon package, which includes a mini-cake; honeymoon dinner; in-room breakfast; jacuzzi experience and welcome note from Colin Cowie.

Barcelo Hotels & Resorts
Barcelo Hotels & Resorts is the perfect combination of romance and luxury,” says Janessa Lopez, romance manager, Barcelo Hotels & Resorts for Latin America; Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic. “[We are located in] some of the most idyllic destinations, such as in Cancun right on the Hotel Zone; in Riviera Maya close in distance to Fifth Avenue; in Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta for world-class sportfishing; in Cozumel for the ultimate dive experience; and in Los Cabos only 1.5 miles away from San Jose del Cabo, a colonial town well-known for its cultural ambiance and varied gastronomical offerings.

“Our exclusive resorts can cater to your clients’ every need, and our experienced wedding planners will help you tailor your clients’ special day to be seamless and memorable from the moment they book their wedding—whether it be an intimate ceremony for two, or an occasion to include the entire family.”

At Barcelo Karmina Palace Deluxe in Manzanillo, for example, the wedding packages have catchy names like Mint Breeze and Chocolate Sensation, with rates starting at $2,304. The higher the price, the more extras, of course, such as an upgrade to a Master Suite, romantic dinners, mani/pedis, special spa treatments (think Chocolate Body Wrap), and a beachside candlelit dinner, among other can’t-live-withouts. Wedding packages come with decorated seaside wedding locations, as well as all the usuals such as open bar, bridal bouquet and groom boutonniere, flower arrangements, etc. And with Occidental Hotels now part of Barcelo, you have even more options for your soon-to-wed couple, including the white-themed Diamond Romance package for up to 16 guests, starting at $2,199, and available at Occidental Grand properties such as Occidental Grand Xcaret. A Diamond theme comes with white sheer draping and seashell garland; ceremony table with white table cover; white garden chairs; and an aisle with a tall white pedestal with glass cylinders, white silk flowers and crystal beads.

Excellence Group
“The key selling points that make us different from other resorts,” says Adriana Echegollen, groups & weddings sales executive, Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts, which includes Excellence, Finest and Beloved properties, “are that we offer American standards and preferences, with a local flavor; expansive and elegant suites, filled with amenities like full-size bottles of liquor; special suite features for an upgraded experience; international-gourmet dining, including unlimited lobster; premium brand liquors throughout the resort; no simultaneous wedding ceremonies (at Beloved only one wedding per day); a complimentary Excellence Wedding package; and rental wedding venues waived.”

The Excellence Wedding package Echegollen references is suitable for up to 10 guests, with a rate of $850, but is complimentary when couples ask for a room upgrade, book a certain number of nights, or book a certain number of rooms with the wedding party at either Excellence, Finest or Beloved resorts (details differ by brand). Of course, couples can expect the services of an onsite wedding specialist, cake, standard ceremony decor, and the customary wedding day must-haves, but there’s also a 15 percent discount on all spa treatments, complimentary suite for the groom the night before the wedding, and a honeymoon package thrown in. Or, you can recommend the Excellence of Love Wedding package, with a rate of $1,500, as well as the Gold Excellence Wedding package, at $2,400; both packages are ideal for up to 20 guests. The Gold option comes with a Romantic or Caribbean music trio, for those who want to add a special touch to the ceremonies.

Hyatt Zilara & Ziva
Clients who want to keep the romance going can opt for complimentary vow renewals on their first anniversary at either Hyatt Ziva or Hyatt Zilara—that is, if they opted for a destination wedding at any of the collection’s properties in Cancun, Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta. And recommend couples who are thinking of choosing a Hyatt Ziva or Hyatt Zilara property for their big day to go for the 2-night Big Day Preview ($500) that includes a personal onsite wedding planner who will show them around the resort and provide optional special food tastings. Of course, if the couple then books the destination wedding at the property, that $500 will go toward their wedding package. Couples who like to keep the experience an intimate affair can choose the complimentary wedding for two so long as they stay at the resort for six nights, and for those who want to celebrate with a bang, packages start at $999.

Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas
This Cancun property offers the Standard wedding package, with the option to upgrade, but it’s the wedding venues that will have your clients swooning. There’s the Mirador Ocean View Terrace, the onsite Chapel of the Holy Spirit for Catholic weddings, the Garden Ceremony, which overlooks the ocean; the Chichen Itza ballroom, which faces the lagoon; and the Grand Maya ballroom, which features a replica of a Mayan temple wall from Palenque. Couples can choose from either a civil or religious (non-legal) ceremony, and they can go all out with the Upgrade Wedding package, which includes a room upgrade, mani/pedi, and one hour of cocktails with open bar and hors d’oeuvres, among other goodies.

Paradisus by Melia
Tell your clients to “book at least nine months in advance for best date selection,” says Cairo, who in addition to being a part of the Ask Me team is also Paradisus’ romance coordinator. “Last-minute planning can result in unexpected costs. Plus, make sure [your clients’] save-the-dates are in the mail well in advance to allow family and friends time to budget and plan.” She’s got other tips you might want to tell your clients, including that the best time “to travel to Mexico is the fall,” and that “most hotels will offer reduced rates, incentives and concessions for wedding groups who commit to a minimum number of rooms under contract.”

Other tidbits you’ll want to tell your soon-to-wed clients: Paradisus, which has properties in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, hosts only two weddings a day; all wedding packages include private function space; the wedding department is U.S.-based; and Paradisus offers a complimentary wedding website and honeymoon registry. There’s also complimentary event planning for all couples, and Paradisus pre-plans all events two to three months prior to couples’ arrival; and its Entice Me promotion offers reduced rates on select wedding packages that take place during certain months of the year. Of course, there’s an array of packages, including Chill Out Chic and Fantasy, as well as honeymoon and anniversary packages.

RIU Hotels & Resorts
If the names are any indication, your clients can be indulgent, capricious, live like a royal or go traditional with RIU Hotels & Resorts’ varied wedding packages. “We have five wedding packages to fit their needs, which could be customizable,” says Giovanna Alonzo Riveroll, wedding sales manager, RIU Hotels & Resorts. “Our booking process is very easy, and our prices are more than competitive.”

She adds that, “RIU Hotels & Resorts offers couples a great variety of resorts…. This gives us an advantage over our competition, as we have a wider range of options and backgrounds, depending on the couples’ preferences.”

In Mexico, RIU has resorts in Cancun, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Playa del Carmen, and Nuevo Vallarta, and specific destinations carry specific packages. For example, at the RIU Cancun, couples can choose from the Classic, Royal and Caprice packages, with rates starting at $1,185. Opt for the Classic and your clients will get, among other items, a wedding planner, 10 percent off all spa services for the couples and wedding guests, as well as a surprise gift for the couple. Go up to the Royal package and they’ll also get a complimentary room upgrade; on the Caprice, it’s that plus mani/pedi, late check-out, breakfast in bed, the works.

Sandos Hotels & Resorts
According to Martina Mairhofer, wedding sales manager, Sandos Hotels & Resorts, “Sandos offers very unique wedding locations. We offer 12 different wedding locations based on the incredible sceneries in Cancun, Riviera Maya and Los Cabos. In addition to all the beautiful beach set-ups, couples can say their vows surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of a natural cenote, on a private rooftop and penthouse terraces, on a cliff overlooking the marina of Cabo San Lucas, in very uniquely designed wedding gazebos or in our tropical and desert gardens.

“And travel agents earn 15 percent commission on wedding packages and 10 percent on many wedding enhancements, plus free nights for themselves with the bookings they make.” One more thing, she points out, is that all “four resorts in Mexico are proud members of IGLTA, and offer symbolic LGBT ceremonies, plus legal ceremonies are available at the Riviera Maya and Cancun resorts.”

Sandos’ wedding packages are designed for 30 people and the top-tier packages include private events with DJ, three-tier cake, flower decoration, hair and make up, etc. Additionally, couples will receive honeymoon amenities such as early check-in and late check-out, rose petals in the room on the wedding night, a breakfast in bed and a romantic dinner after the wedding, among other goodies; room upgrades and couples massages are also included in certain wedding packages.

And, Mairhofer points out, “wedding couples now receive up to a $2,000 discount off their wedding package based on the number of rooms they book at the resort—the more guests the couple brings to the resort the more fun the celebration and the more they will save on the actual wedding.”

Contact Information
All-Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels:
Ask Me:
Barcelo Hotels & Resorts:
Excellence Group:
Hyatt Zilara & Ziva:
Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas:
Paradisus by Melia:
RIU Hotels & Resorts:
Sandos Hotels & Resorts: