This article is based on my experience of planning and celebrating a Mexican wedding in Guadalajara, Jalisco. I am from the United States and my wife is from Mexico and we have attended plenty of weddings in both countries. When it came time to plan our own wedding we chose to have it in Mexico because you get to have a much bigger party for the same budget.
I remember reading this article about the costs associated with weddings in the United States and being very happy with our decision to have the wedding in Mexico. Our budget wouldn’t have allowed us to have the same event in the United States.
Mexicans know how to have fun. You get to throw parties in 17th century cathedrals and haciendas. There is legendary natural beauty, some of the world’s most famous beaches, and an events industry that rivals anything on the planet. Mexican weddings are massive productions where the music doesn’t stop until breakfast is served the next morning.
There was a point at the beginning where I suggested we look into having the wedding in the United States. My wife introduced me to the events planner who showed us photos of her insane portfolio of weddings all over Mexico. After looking through her portfolio and listening to her philosophy on weddings, there was never a second thought about having a destination wedding in Mexico.
Choosing An Amazing Mexican Wedding Planner
Marta Praticia Bribiesca is an amazing human being and wedding planner. Her vision of the world, and more specifically, her vision of México will inspire you. Mexico has a lot of beautiful venues, historic properties, and experiences that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Our amazing wedding planner grew up in the business, has decades of experience, and knows the absolute best venues in this part of Mexico. She will listen to your ideas and she will respond with inspiring options.
There are two main reasons you want to hire an independent wedding planner: price and choice. An independent wedding planner is going to listen to what you want to do and get you the best deal on all the vendors. If you book with a hotel, you will be working with all of their in-house vendors which are more expensive and may not be able to accommodate a gluten sensitivity or similar petition. A good wedding planner has a deep contact list and can quickly solve challenges.
The religious ceremony, the civil ceremony, and the party
When people talk about a Mexican wedding, there are actually a few distinct events. Depending on your situation, you may not need to partake in all three but it is good to know the difference between them during the planning process.
Civil Ceremony Wedding in Mexico
Depending on where you are going to live it may be easier to have a civil ceremony in the home country to avoid translating documents. We were going to be living in Mexico so we decided to have the civil wedding ceremony in Mexico.
Typically, you will talk to a lawyer who will help you with the documentation and schedule the municipal clerk to officiate the ceremony and sign the documents. In Guadalajara, Mexico you need birth certificates (apostilled if foreign), HIV tests, a doctor’s check-up, and a discussion about the institution of marriage.
We were running around like crazy the day of the civil ceremony to get all of the documents. My wife had a fresh birth certificate brought in from the next state over. We found the only clinic open on a Saturday that could do a rush order on HIV tests and got the doctor’s note from a local pharmacy. I don’t know why, but I just happened to have an apostilled copy of my California birth certificate. The apostille is kind of a pain in the ass. It required a trip to Riverside County for a fresh birth certificate and a trip to Downtown Los Angeles to apostille the document at the California Secretary of State.
The government employee who came to officiate the civil ceremony was amazing. He was gracious, funny and did a lovely job of celebrating our civil wedding. We celebrate the civil anniversary and the religious anniversary. They were very different events but they both hold an important sentimental value.
A few months after the civil ceremony I took the certificate of marriage to the Instituto Nacional de Migración to process a temporary resident visa. The only documentation that was required was from the civil ceremony. The documents from the religious ceremony are not recognized by the federal government.
Religious Ceremony Wedding in Mexico
Many of the Mexican wedding traditions are rooted in religion and the catholic temples are breathtaking. There is a lot of history throughout Mexico. Weddings are an important part of a culture that places a high value on the institution of the family. There is some bureaucracy involved in reserving a church for a wedding but the experience is worth it.
Note: A religious ceremony in Mexico is only recognized by the church. For a government to recognize the union there must be a civil ceremony too.
My wife is catholic. I went to catholic school but had never taken the first communion classes. Before we could be married in a Catholic church I had to take first communion classes, obtain baptism records and attend interviews with my family. Lastly, there is a retreat or a series of seminars with church elders who talk about the institution of family. You have to put some time in but if you plan early it is rather easy.
The priest we asked to officiate our wedding teaches the first communion classes. He is bilingual, got to know us and did an amazing job bridging the English speaking family with the Spanish speaking family.
The biggest and most beautiful churches are in the highest demand. You need to be very proactive in the reservation process and make plans as soon as the church opens the dates you are looking for.
Remember, there are a lot of people competing for the prime wedding dates and churches. Start planning the religious ceremony early.
The Party: A Mexican Wedding Reception
A wedding reception is where most of the budget will go. There are a lot of things to consider between the venue, decoration, food, beverages, entertainment, photography, videography, transportation, and the weather. This is why you need to get a good wedding planner who can stick to a budget and knows how to manage costs.
Mexico Wedding Venues
I think the most exciting part of planning a destination wedding in Mexico is looking at all the venues. There are so many different types of experiences that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Our wedding planner told us stories about her favorite wedding venues in Mexico and showed us pictures of some recent events she had thrown.
We considered Mexican wedding venues in the beach-towns of Cuyutlan and Puerto Vallarta. We looked at outdoor wedding venues along Lake Chapala and indoor boutique hotels. In the end, we chose to stay in Guadalajara. There were a large number of guests traveling from other parts of the world and we wanted to reduce the travel time and let them see where we would be living.
Casa Pedro Loza is a 19th-century mansion in Downtown Guadalajara that has been remodeled as a boutique hotel and events space. The San Diego de Alcalá Temple is an 18th-century church that is two blocks away from the reception venue. Our wedding party was able to walk from the church to the reception in less than five minutes.
Downtown Guadalajara has a lot of history. From the rooftop patio at Casa Pedro Loza you can see the bell towers of a dozen Spanish era churches. The sunset toast was a very romantic touch and a testament to the planning that goes into a wedding that starts on time.
Marta told a story about a wedding she threw a few years back. Her company threw a party for a client of Mexican descent who had grown up in the United States. The event was held in the main plaza of a small town where the client’s mother and grandmother were from. The event was a massive block party decorated with the traditional Mexican colors of papel picado, whitewashed adobe walls, and very old trees. The small-town culture in Mexico is magical and makes for a pretty incredible wedding venue.
Transportation and Hotel
You need to consider how the party is going to intertwine with the religious ceremony and your guests. While some people may be local and have transportation it is likely that this will be a destination wedding for many guests who will need transportation. Mexican weddings last late into the night or early into the morning and usually involve copious amounts of alcohol. Arranging transportation is a good thing. I personally picked up almost all of my guests from the airport and received the ones that I didn’t drive to the hotel. Much of my family doesn’t speak Spanish and I wanted their first impression of Guadalajara to be easy going.
Casa Pedro Loza, the venue for the reception, is a small hotel and didn’t have enough rooms for all of our guests. We reserved a block of rooms at the RIU Hotel in the Chapalita neighborhood. The RIU is one of the nicest hotels in Guadalajara and was even the tallest skyscraper in town for a few years. The rooms cost just over US$100 per night. Everyone there speaks English and it is centrally located for the different tours we had set up. A similar hotel in California would easily cost double or more. Between the flight and hotel it was not an incredibly expensive wedding for our guests to attend.
Catering and Entertainment At a Mexican Wedding
Tendenza Eventos works with a number of talented chefs so planning a gluten-free menu was easy. We had two tastings with different themes and deciding was difficult. Everything was spectacular.
Marta suggested a great DJ who asked that we select some of the music that we would like to hear and he would make suggestions after that. Our first dance was to a León Larregui song that we both treasure.
One of the many highlights of the wedding was the live music by a trio of incredible musicians called Trioker. Tibu, the saxaphone player is one of Guadalajara’s favorite local musicians. He knows how to get everyone on the dance floor. The photos of my mother-in-law doing the twist to his music are priceless. It was a beautiful event.
I think it is an understatement to say that we were happy with our wedding photography. We were thrilled, amazed, blown away by the moments that Gonzalo García captured. He has a classic style, is easy to work with, and delivers ahead of schedule. Gonzalo is a professional photographer who, in addition to weddings, works for big-name events like the book festival and movie festivals. Look at his Instagram feed. He knows how to tell a visual story.
The Conclusion of a Mexican Destination Wedding
I like to think that the wedding was a huge success with one minor caveat: we should have invited more people. We should have gone just a little bit bigger considering how much money we saved.
The best part of the wedding was watching the two sides of the family mingle. There is now family from Mexicali that hangs out with family in San Diego and San Diego family traveling to Mexico City. This event was truly the union of two families. Watching my father drink tequila with my father-in-law and my mother-in-law dance with my mother was a special moment that I will always treasure.
The experience of celebrating a Mexican wedding in a historic old mansion and an 18th-century church was more affordable than you could imagine. I recommend you get some price quotes for venues in California and then come spend a weekend in Guadalajara talking with a Mexican wedding planner. The numbers will make a lot of sense and the experience is something you will always treasure.