Mexico continues to emerge as a prime destination wedding locale. With romance in the air this month, Travel Agent caught up with some destination wedding experts about current trends.
“Mexico’s momentum is still very strong for a number of reasons. Great airlift is one. There’s a continuous stream of new resorts to choose from, and value remains a key factor,” says Lisa Sheldon, co-founder and executive director of the Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialists Association.
“Mexico is synonymous with amazing choices. The possibilities have really expanded there. But like any niche, it’s important for agents to learn the product carefully. Not every all-inclusive is alike, and brides today really want a personalized experience,” says Pamela Ott, director of romance for Wild Side Destinations in Colton, Oregon.
“That 'personalized experience' begins with choosing the right destination,” said Carmen Laborin, director of the consulting firm Bodas Destino Latinoamerica (Latin America Destination Weddings) in Mexico City. Laborin is the former romance director for the Mexico Tourism Board.
“Destinations such as Cancun and the Riviera Maya are growing by 20 percent. But other destinations are also growing, such as Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit. They offer the little surf villages like Sayulita, and high-end luxury settings such as Punta Mita,” says Laborin.
Colonial cities and their surrounding areas are increasingly popular as well. For example, Oaxaca and the quaint villages that surround it provide an authentic backdrop. Merida and its outlying areas in the Yucatan are also gaining in popularity.
“I spent a week in Merida recently and fell in love with it. It’s an amazing place. You can have an historic hacienda with a lit-up dance floor and images projected on the wall. All of the vendors you’d find in the States are there,” says Sheldon.
She adds, “More than ever, brides are looking for unique experiences. They may have friends who’ve already done the basic package wedding in Cancun. They’re looking for a boutique hotel to rent out for a small group of family or friends.”
Niche Within a Niche
On the other end of the spectrum is a surprising sub-category: Hindu weddings. Some resorts are actively courting that niche, and it makes sense.
“These are weddings that typically involve hundreds of guests in a multi-day affair. Can you imagine having it at a lovely new all-inclusive in Mexico? The cost is probably one-third of what it would be in the states. It’s no wonder wedding planners are starting to specialize in this,” says Sheldon.
Another market Mexico is reaching out to is the LGBT community.
“Mexico is already one of the top ten international destinations for gay travel. They’ve spent years attracting this market. What’s especially exciting now is that more states and municipalities are recognizing same-sex civil unions and marriages,” says Laborin.
“Compare the uptick in legalized marriages in Mexico to the Caribbean. It gives Mexico a big advantage, and it gives agents an advantage with the LGBT market,” says Sheldon.
Customization on the Rise
If there’s a consistent theme within the entire destination wedding market, it’s that brides want unique activities for their guests.
“It’s almost as if they’re more concerned with their guests having a good time than they are about the actual ceremony,” says Ott.
Fortunately, Mexico offers an almost unlimited range of cultural activities and excursions. Ott has planned tours of Mexico’s wine country for wedding rehearsal parties. Another enticing option: the Jose Cuervo train outside of Mexico City.
“Guests take a first-class train ride to the town of Tequila, where tastings and a cultural performance await them. Of course, the tequila flows all the way. It’s an amazing opportunity for a destination wedding excursion,” says Ott.
Adventure-themed options appeal to the prime millennial market. From underwater weddings in Cancun to zip lining parties after a wedding rehearsal (which Ott has arranged), choices abound.
“Waterfall rappelling is really big right now. Imagine a bride and ground rappelling and saying ‘I do’ at the same time,” said Ott.
Though not quite as adventurous, Ott has also arranged “Ports of Call” weddings for cruise passengers. Destinations such as Cozumel lend themselves nicely to beach ceremonies, followed by receptions on board the ship.
Mexico’s outreach toward the destination wedding segment continues to make strides.
“When I started doing this, resorts offered a very basic package. You worked directly with the sales manager. Now, most resorts have entire wedding departments and teams. It’s an a la carte environment where you can pick and choose what you want,” says Sheldon.
“I can’t speak highly enough about tourism officials in Mexico. They’ve put more and more resources into attracting destination wedding business. They make an effort to work with agents, and that makes a big difference,” says Ott.
For more information, visit www.visitmexico.com