Sam and Katy met in college at A&M and she instantly became part of the fam! Over 4 years ago now she started helping me with DUB and has been by my side ever since. We’ve become so close over the years and I was so honored to be asked to be a bridesmaid in her wedding recently! Ted and I were there when her now husband proposed and I’ve been watching her plan her Tulum wedding over the past two years, so I thought she was just as good of an expert as any to give y’all all the details and answer your questions about what it’s like to plan a destination wedding!
Sam & Matt’s Wedding
- Location: Tulum, Mexico
- Guest Count: 61 (no kids except for flower girl and ring bearer)
- Bridal party: 6 bridesmaids, 6 groomsmen
- Vibe: Beachy, boho
- Ceremony Location: Casa Malca
- Reception Location: Akin Beach Club
Why did you pick Tulum over Cabo?
Katy and I always say we’re both having beach weddings but they are so opposite lol. I’ve always wanted a boho, no shoes on the beach in the jungle vibe for the wedding and thats what Tulum is all aboutl I think Cabo is more of the really pretty and classy boho desert vibe with stunning mountain views. Both are amazing I think it just depends on what your vision is!
I will say that Tulum is more of a party destination and less kid friendly than Cabo, so would keep that in mind for your crowd—we only had 2 kids that were our flower girl and ring bearer so that wasn’t as big of a concern for us.
Did you work with a wedding planner?
Yes! I started out thinking I wouldn’t need planner and could do everything myself, but discovered it was so needed since we were planning an international wedding. I started running into a lot trouble actually getting ahold of venues throughout the day and had a hard time communicating when I did since I don’t speak Spanish fluently.
To find a planner, I searched on The Knot and Wedding Wire to find Riviera Maya-based wedding planner and started reading reviews on there and then cross referenced work on their Instagram. If you’re planning on having your wedding at a resort instead of an outside venue, a lot of resorts actually have a planner on site and you can usually work through them instead of hiring someone!
Once I narrowed it down, I started interviewing. Here are some of the things I looked for/asked:
- Ask what their planning process is – do they use any systems? (ex: mine shared google sheets with me where all info with details, budgets, notes, etc. was all updated realtime), how often do they communicate with you?
- Ask them what day of wedding support includes
- What’s their rate? You’ll typically pay a flat fee instead of paying by the hour. Ours was a flat rate with payments 3x/year up until wedding
- Told them my inspo and asked if that as something they had done and had vendors/venues in mind that would align with my vision
- Asked if they coordinate travel/hotel logistics for guests – this was really important to me because I didn’t want to be stressing about this on top of planning wedding
Where do you even begin to start planning Mexico/destination wedding?
First determine your budget, then hire your planner if you’re using one. Once I hired my planner, I shared my Pinterest board with her, and started getting a list of places/venues narrowed down and reviewed the pricing and details of those with her.
Next was scheduled time to go to Mexico to visit a few venues we liked (about a year in advance). The amount of times you have to go to Mexico before your wedding is really dependent on how involved you want to be with the small details and what you want to take care of while you’re there (food, cake tasting, seeing florals, etc.) We only cared about the venues so we only went down there once!
Once you find a venue you like, my best advice is to ACT FAST! I lost my original wedding date at Casa Malca because I didn’t sign the contract fast enough when I got back to the us after visiting – would secure this ASAP at your top pick for venue.
Where did you and your guests stay?
Tulum is full of really small, boutique hotels downtown and has very few all-inclusives which I knew I wanted for me and my guests. We decided to stay Dreams which is the closest all-inclusive to downtown (still 30 min bus ride but our planner helped scheduled transportation for all guests). It is a little older, but staff was super nice and did the trick for us!
My wedding planner also hired on travel agent (I didn’t have to pay extra for this) who coordinated all guest travel. She worked with the rest resort we all stayed at to secure a hotel block and contract, and also coordinated transportation to and from the airport for guests. My guests booked travel on our wedding website that was all coordinated through her!
One thing we wanted to have for our guests were welcome bags in their rooms! We were told these were great to have ready in all the rooms for the hotel block with an itinerary weekend, but we ended up arriving after other guests arrived at resorts, so had to bring to rehearsal dinner for guests instead haha. Here are some of the things we put in them!
- Itinerary for weekend
- Advil/hangover kits
- Water bottle
- Bottle opener – can also get cute personalized ones on Amazon if you order far enough ahead of time!
Can you share details on your venue?!
We saw 6 venues while in Mexico planning. We had very specific vibe in mind but went and saw a few venues that were different from what I thought I wanted just to solidify my vision. Once we saw Casa Malca, we knew that was the one! We loved how unique it was—it was so stunning and felt extravagant and delivered on all the things on our list. I was familiar with the venue’s history (used to be Pablo Escobar’s mansion) but it’s currently a hotel and art exhibition and located on the beach!
The only drawback was having the reception at Casa Malca wouldn’t have been as private as we wanted and it was very $$$. This is why we chose to only do ceremony there and then had the reception somewhere else. Since Casa Malca is a hotel, it wasn’t private which we knew we wanted for our reception.
We chose to have our reception at Akin. This beach club/wedding venue was voted a top place for Tulum weddings and we loved that we could rent out the whole place for the reception!
Akin had us pay per guest – the fee included alcohol and corkage (wedding planner buys liquor and the place charges fee to serve)
How do you choose a photographer?
My photographer was suggested by my planner. Usually they can give you a list of people they recommend or have worked with in the past. I looked at the websites of the photographers she suggested first and then looked at their Instagram to decide which one I wanted to go with. He was based in Mexico so just met us at our venue the day of!
Can you link your bride and groom travel outfits?
I made both of them! I got a plain white sweatshirt from Hobby Lobby and ironed on letters like these that spelled out BRIDE and my skirt was Amazon! For Matt, I got him a black pocket tee from H&M and ironed on the letters to the pocket.
Rehearsal dinner details and outfit!
We decided on casual cocktail hour at the resort we stayed at vs. a formal dinner. The space we used was written into contract that the travel agent drafted when booking our hotel block. Outfit details below:
- Showop Fringe Set: ordered a size 8 in this set—the top was a little big, but the skirt was hard to get over my hips – had to put over my head to get on lol but thought it was flattering once I got it on! Will also say it ran a little long (I’m 5’2ish) The quality wasn’t amazing, some of the fringe came off and running as I wore it throughout the night, but overall such a fun outfit and got so many compliments!
- Beaded Mrs. Clutch: Katy got this for me, but I think I linked one that looks just like it!
- Wedges: I think these are the newer version of my Steve Madden wedges
Who did you hair and makeup for your wedding?
My planner sent me some options for hair and makeup artists in Tulum but I didn’t really love any so I had my friend who was invited to the wedding do my makeup and then another friend did all of our hair!
PLEASE share your getting ready outfits!
We got ready at Casa Malca before the wedding (we had to book a room here and asked for late checkout so we could use the space the day of. Would see if your venue has this available in the cost so you don’t have to buy separately!)
I’ve had the idea to take pictures in feather robes on the beach in my mind for a while so got all the girls outfits to make this happen! The robes I originally wanted to buy on Amazon were a little pricey when buying so many so I bought these instead and then bought and glued feathers from Hobby Lobby along the edges of our robes! These were ones I found that weren’t bad if you did want to purchase instead of spending the time glueing on feathers. This saved me $ but did take a long time…I did this the night before we left for our wedding lol would not recommend procrastinating this project. These were my white pjs, the black pjs they wore underneath their robes and the sunnies I bought!
I bought my dress from Impression Bridal in Houston – when I picked out my dress, the veil I had on looked so similar to the one I ended up wearing. I got mine from Amazon for $20 instead of $200 from bridal store. Such good quality – would totally recommend doing this to save some $$ if you can!
The grooms wore these linen pants and jackets for our wedding! I took a long time to find linen suits…a lot of places said they were backordered so started looking on Macy’s – had them buy thus suit and get altered vs. renting.
Seating Chart/Table Name card details
We used a wall of coconut water in real coconuts for our seating chart. Each coconut had this piece of acrylic on it with the name and table handlettered on them. The acrylic pieces came as a pack of keychains (those were best price I could find for quantity I needed). We tried to print on clear adhesive paper but ended up having Ariel handletter them instead and tied to the coconut with twine! Each place setting had the guests’ names handlettered on these acrylic palm leaves.