RIVERA NAYARIT, MEXICO - I’m having trouble catching my breath as I drag my body onto the white sand of Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach) — a.k.a. Hidden Beach — one of the lovely Marieta Islands that lie just off this romantic Mexican resort town.
It’s love at first sight as I survey the breathtaking volcanic island that looks like a giant domed stadium with a beach hidden under its open “roof.”
I’m not alone. As I marvel at the natural beauty surrounding this paradise that the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called one of the most beautiful places on earth, I see couples holding hands while walking along the pristine shore and others lovingly embracing in the shallow turquoise surf.
It’s impossible not to love this beautiful area that hugs Mexico’s Pacific Coast near Puerto Vallarta —where lots of marriage proposals probably take place every year and where many couples return to take their vows.
One of the most popular places to hold weddings here is Iberostar’s 5-star Playa Mita, a Mexican resort — it’s a boat ride from Lover’s Beach — that has few equals.
Iberostar Playa Mita has become one of the most popular locations for destination weddings and it’s no wonder — couples take their vows here surrounded by beautiful beaches, incredible ocean vistas, tropical flowers and a mountain backdrop that leaves most visitors breathless.
Destination weddings continue to gain favour with Canadians— last year, of the 165,297 Canadian couples that tied the knot, 12 per cent decided to do so in a foreign location, with Mexico topping that list.
Left: Canadian bride Fabienne looked radient on a Mexican wedding beach. Right: The relaxed beach atmosphere allowed the wedding party to have lots of fun.
Iberostar Playa Mita is well prepared to host them. In fact, during my stay I see a wedding ceremony taking place and I can’t resist taking pictures of the wedding party.
The bride, a lovely young Canadian named Fabienne, looks cool, calm and collected under the hot Mexican sun — her tanned skin compliments the strapless, long white dress she is wearing. With parents on each arm, she walks down the aisle as the groom, Tyler, and their 50 guests beam with delight.
“The thought of getting married on the beach at a beautiful resort by the ocean was exactly what I had always imagined,” says Fabienne, who has been visiting Mexico since she was 15.
Fabienne, Tyler and their guests travelled from British Columbia and Alberta to have their wedding at this enchanting Iberostar resort, which hosts dozens every year.
“We got engaged in San Jose del Cabo in 2014, married here in Playa Mita in 2015 and will honeymoon in Mexico as well. You can guess how much we enjoy Mexico,” smiles the lovely Fabienne.
Few places anywhere are as adept at hosting weddings as this Iberostar beauty.
“Storybook weddings are the stuff little girls dream of and that’s what our professional wedding specialists are here to do; help make (their) dreams come true,” Claudia Simon, Director of Marketing for Iberostar Hotels and Resorts tells me. “We want couples to have a memorable reception and begin their lives together in paradise.”
Fabienne says she couldn’t have had her “dream” wedding without the help of Samuel Barajas, the Wedding Coordinator at Iberostar, Playa Mita.
“It was nice to have the days leading up to the wedding to relax and not have to worry about decorating,” because Samuel had everything well under control, says the blushing bride.
Left: Where else can the flower girl has this much fun? Right: Getting to know local Mexican customs and traditions is all part of the fun of a destination wedding.
The resort has ample room to hold a destination wedding — its 452 spacious rooms offer elegant comfort and come with balconies or terraces that overlook one of the world’s most romantic destinations.
Couples can choose from a selection of venues for their nuptials at this resort — the beach, the pool, a Zen gazebo, or one of the property’s fine dining restaurants.
Fabienne and Tyler choose to have their nuptials in the Oceanview Pergola area — it offers more privacy, says Fabienne.
Iberostar Playa Mita even has a wedding “showroom,” conveniently set up on property where couples can discuss details of an onsite ceremony with a resident wedding planner.
While some resorts try to cram in as many weddings as they can in one day, Iberostar limits it to just one — the intimate setting is never compromised.
The “one wedding per day” rule ensures that all the resources and attention of the wedding planner is focused on the couple’s special day, according to Simon.
Attention to detail is of paramount importance to Iberostar’s wedding planners. Nothing is overlooked — even the property’s interiors and exteriors have been designed with brides and grooms in mind. Iberostar’s chief designer, Jose Deudero — no doubt a romantic — has incorporated lots of local details into each property so that couples can have an “authentic” experience in the destination they choose for their wedding.
In preperation for the Big Day, couples and their wedding party can enjoy a massage overlooking the beach in one of the tranquil pergolas, or dance the night away on the beach-inspired discothèque, complete with a Volkswagen surfer van.
You don’t have to travel far for a romantic dinner while staying at the Iberostar Playa Mita. The Pacific Express is a perfect spot to share a candlelight dinner with the one you love — the room, designed to look like a classic train car, offers an intimate atmosphere and the food is fine dining at its best. The Pacific Express is one of the all-inclusive dining options at the resort, which also features three other unique a-la-carte restaurants. There’s also lots of casual dining spots where you can kick off your shoes and relax over a beer and burger.
The amenities at Iberostar are sure to please guests of every age, from bridesmaids to flower girls. Facilities include shopping, a state-of-the-art gym, library, tennis courts and splash park.
Above: The hidden coves and breathtaking Mexican scenery all come free at this resort.
The main benefit of holding a destination wedding here is that there’s lots to explore in this charming area of Mexico. Riviera Nayarit is littered with fabulous oceanside golf courses and offers hiking and riding trails that will appeal to the eco-adventurer in your wedding party.
“It was so nice to have an entire week with all of our guests, enjoying the wedding festivities, relaxing and spending time with everyone,” says Fabienne.
“It wasn’t all about the wedding — we also did fun things,” like explore the nearby beach town of Sayulita, where the couple and their guests enjoyed a relaxing day before the ceremony.
Sayulita is renowned for its local arts and crafts and its cool surfer vibe. Don’t be surprised if you see members of the Kardashian clan casually exploring and shopping the streets of this town — I did!
After the wedding ceremony, I watch the couple’s flower girls — Seydi, 6, and Lucy, 4 — still in their lovely gowns —frolic on the beach as the sun begins to dip into the Pacific. I see the newlyweds walking along the shore hand-in-hand as they begin their new lives together.
The perfect ending to the perfect day for Fabienne and Tyler.
“Looking back at the all the photos, I am reminded how beautiful everything was,” Fabienne tells me a few weeks after they return home. “Being by the ocean was exactly how I imagined my perfect wedding day to be.
“I am so glad we had a destination wedding. I wouldn’t have changed anything about it. I think anyone who chooses to have a destination wedding will have some of the best memories with family and friends.”
For more on what the Iberostar Playa Mita Resort offers wedding parties, go to www.iberostar.com/en/hotels/riviera-nayarit/iberostar-playa-mita / For information on the Riviera Nayarit area, go to www.rivieranayarit.com / To see regulations regarding destination weddings in Riviera Nayarit, go to www.rivieranayarit.com/getting_married / Vallarta Adventures offers outings to Sayulita and the Marietas Islands and can arrange day trips for wedding parties. Go to www.vallarta-adventures.com to find out more / 10 questions that need answering: 1- Does the facility hold more than one wedding a day? 2- What legal requirements must be met in order to get married in the area? 3- What are the local regulations regarding time spent in the country? 4- What kind of documentation do you need to bring home as proof of your marriage? 5- How private is the onsite wedding location? Will other hotel guests intrude on your big day? 6- If some guests are bringing children, what facilities does the resort offer to keep them entertained? 7- How flexible is the menu for dietary restrictions? 8- Is there a wedding planner who will assist you? 9- If you are planning a religious or civil ceremony, can the location accommodate your needs? 10- Are the local requirements required for marriage recognized in wedding as a member of the wedding party is an honour, but it can also be quite a hit on your finances. A recent TD Bank survey found that almost 40 per cent of Millennial and Gen X Canadians who have been in a wedding party say they felt pressured to spend more than they could afford. The amounts can be significant: half (50 per cent) of those surveyed said on average they spent – or plan to spend – between $200 and $599 to be in wedding party; and a quarter (25 per cent) said they actually spend $600 or more for the average wedding. “Most people can expect to participate in quite a few weddings throughout their lifetime, particularly when they’re younger and their friends or family members are getting married, so including the related costs in your annual budget is a smart thing to do,” said Raymond Chun, Senior Vice- President, Everyday Banking and Personal and Indirect Lending at TD. “Having a realistic amount in your budget also helps you stay within a spending range that you’re comfortable with and know you can afford.” Chun offers these tips to help prospective wedding party members prepare for the costs of participating in a friend or relative’s wedding: Set a realistic budget: Include all of the possible costs, including wedding attire, grooming, gifts (including a shower gift), the bachelor/bachelorette party and travel. For out-of-town weddings, remember that booking travel and a hotel room as soon as possible can often help to keep those costs down, and make sure to check if the bride and groom have volume discounts at the hotel. Establish a savings plan: Figure out how much time there is until the wedding and set up a regularly scheduled deposit to a Tax-Free Savings Account so you’ll be able to save to help cover the expenses. Choose a gift early from the bridal registry: There can be a wide range of gifts (and prices) in a bridal registry, with the less expensive ones often selected early, so don’t wait to choose your gift or you may be left with one that costs more than you budgeted for. For more expensive items, consider teaming up with another bridal party member to split the costs. Redeem credit card reward points for expenses: Depending on the type of credit card you have and where you shop, you may be able to use your reward points to cover the cost of a gift and your wedding attire as well as any hotel and travel costs. Shop around: You don’t have to buy the first bridesmaid’s dress, shoes or other accessories you find. Do your research online and in-store before making a purchase as many stores could carry the same designers at different price points.