Are you ready for the mega huge post today? This is going to be a long one but I’ve gotten a few people asking me to help them with more info about having a destination wedding here in the Puerto Vallarta area.
I was thinking of putting all of this into a really nice PDF and sending it out into the world for all to have and share. But who am I kidding, that takes time and design and honestly, with a toddler and potty training and work, I just don’t have the time. Maybe in the future I’ll make a more comprehensive guide but for now, grab your coffee, tea, or whatever because this will be a long one!
Quick disclaimer: I’m only providing you with personal experience as a wedding photographer and by what I have noticed, learned, heard, and witnessed myself. So please leave a comment if I’ve gotten something wrong or am misinforming people! Other than that, enjoy!!!
Okay, when it comes to destination weddings here in this area, there are really two main types of weddings to choose from. The first is having your wedding at a hotel. The second is having your wedding at a private location, be it a private villa, Airbnb home, or a specific wedding venue with no room accommodations.
I’m sure I’ll get some planners who will cringe at what I’ve just typed, but these are the two main options that I’ve personally photographed here in the area. Of course, you can always talk to a wedding planner or someone you know who can help you with more options if there are any.
Let’s dive into the hotel option.
Now, I don’t know much about the planning process since I usually show up to take photos, however, I do know that many hotels offer options where you can cut costs if you book a certain amount of rooms.
Some include other upgrades and such, it just really depends on the hotel. There are hotels expanding a huge area, of which we’ll get into a little bit later, and so that can also determine what your wedding will look like.
Hotels have wedding coordinators that will help you to plan your wedding from afar. This is great because they have all of the options already set for you as far as linens, centerpieces, and food. They also have vendor lists where you can choose from your pick in dj, photographer, videographer, etc. Even Mariachis. These are people they have a long working relationship with and all of these vendors just know how things roll on the day of the event.
However, you have to be watchful because sometimes the staff moves around or changes and this can leave some things by the wayside. But in my experience, every wedding I’ve photographed at a hotel always goes off without any problems! This is because no matter who is working your wedding, they all know how things work.
Another thing that the hotels have in their favor is that most have their own beach. This is especially important if you’re looking to have sunset photos or a ceremony on the sand.
The best thing, but really this goes for any options, is that your guests will be able to book 3 days minimum at a hotel (which is the norm) and have a mini vacation. Or they can book the whole week and really go all out. Many hotels are all inclusive which also cuts down costs when you factor in food and other expenses. Essentially, you don’t even have to leave the resort.
And, depending on where you chose to have the wedding, if you’re closer or in the heart of Puerto Vallarta, everything like restaurants, nightlife, adventure, is literally walking distance. Or at least accessible close by, such as the tours to the Arcos or the famous hidden beach, Isla Marietas.
Word to the wise: Some hotels will charge you if you choose a vendor outside of the ones that they provide. This can include food, dj, or photographer. There is a loophole with photographers, as I have been known to use it ;). If you are serious about a destination wedding and would want to know the loophole, contact me and I’ll share the secret!
One con to hotel weddings: is that many have more than one wedding at a time. You may run into another bride or cross paths with other guests from another wedding. This isn’t really a problem but if you want exclusivity, private would be the better option. Or choosing a date that is not really popular.
Private destination wedding options
Ok, so the private options are very similar to a local wedding in your city. This means that you’re choosing the venue because you personally love the location or want something a little more exclusive and personalized.
For example, booking a private villa along the Conchas Chinas highway is very private and exclusive. You will be the only wedding there overlooking the ocean. It is not for large weddings, yet you will be able to enjoy your first dance around the pool, or if the villa has a private beach, on the sand.
Many villas have 6 or more rooms and can accomodate your family and closest guests. This can also lower the cost since you’re sharing the whole villa. Some have private wait staff and a chef. It all depends on the villa you choose, of which, there are many!
Another great advantage to going the private route, whether villa or at a private restaurant/venue, is that you are able to decorate as you wish! Have the centerpiece of your dreams, the dance floor you always envisioned, and catering the exact food you want your guests to enjoy.
However, your remaining guests will have to book a hotel nearby in order to attend and you’ll have to arrange transportation for them to arrive at the villa. This is where a wedding planner/coordinator comes in and can help exponentially with the logistics of your wedding day.
Not all private weddings have to be in a villa though, you also have the option of having your wedding at smaller wedding venues right on the beach. I’ve seen many rent an airbnb for the weekend and set up the ceremony right on the beach with the reception around the pool area or at a local restaurant. Definitely for smaller weddings with about 50 guests or less.
There are many venues that have beach front access and can provide catering for your wedding. These require more research on Google but they make for the most private and relaxed weddings.
For locations like Sayulita and San Pancho, including the town that I live in, Bucerias, the private home beachfront wedding is perfect. Some smaller bed and breakfast hotels can also accommodate your guests.
Hire a planner
As I said before, I would strongly advise that you get a local wedding planner to help you set up and create the most beautiful wedding of your dreams. They can help you from the most simple like renting chairs for the beach ceremony to hiring the best caterer in the area. Planners know their stuff and can really give you the best options depending on what you’re looking for.
Planners also help you to set up meetings or get you in touch with vendors so that you can personally get a feel for who they are and how they work. And because they know that you are planning from afar, they are really great at moving things along and taking care of all the small details that arise during the planning process.
Honestly, they are worth gold and you’ll thank the stars that you hired someone to help you. Especially if you go the private route. Since you’ll have to essentially plan every single detail.
If you need referrals, email me and I’ll send you a list of planners that I have had the privilege of working with and are great people!
Best areas in Puerto Vallarta for weddings
Each hotel and venue is different and each of you are planning a different wedding. So rather than put the links to hotels and such, I think what serves you better is to get a better idea of the different areas in and around Puerto Vallarta so you can narrow down the look and feel of the wedding you are envisioning!
You can choose the area that best speaks to your kind of wedding dream and you can start looking in those areas rather than searching the entire area and being overwhelmed.
The Riviera Nayarita is north of Puerto Vallarta. We’ll start here and work our way down. This area encompasses the following areas:
Punta Mita: This is semi private as it’s at the tip of the bay. It is also a little higher in pricing as far as I know. The most prominent hotels there are: St. Regis, the W, and Four Seasons. It also has lots of time shares and private villas inside of gated communities. There is one venue that I know of which sits on Destiladeras beach to the side of Punta Mita called Nahu’i. It’s absolutely gorgeous, private, and is used specifically for weddings.
Sayulita: This famous town is the epitome of surfer in the area. It is a little hippy mixed in with a little hipster. Lots of b&b’s and cool shops. It is what you would think of when in Mexico. Here there are lots of private options but definitely more options as far as accommodations for guests.
San Pancho: This is next to Sayulita and less famous and a bit more quiet. Lots of private options for weddings here and places to accommodate guests.
Bucerias: I love my little town! There are both hotel options and private options. Lots of private homes and condos with a beach front for weddings. It’s a small town but close enough to Puerto Vallarta so that you can get in a taxi, public transportation, or Uber and be there in less than 30 minutes. There are a couple of all inclusive hotels but mostly condos and homes for rent. There are plenty of restaurants and the beach is considered one of the cleanest in the entire area.
Nuevo Vallarta: This is closer to Puerto Vallarta’s airport but more secluded. There are many more hotel options here like the Hard Rock, The Grand Mayan, Vidanta Group, Marival, etc. It is modern and close to the marina as well. This is a great option for those who want to be a little removed from the hustle and bustle of a tourist town but still close enough to all the good stuff. You’ll also find big chain hotels that offer all inclusive and non all inclusive like the Marriot. Here you can rent condos as well to accommodate guests who want a different experience than staying at a hotel.
Okay, so the zones in Puerto Vallarta include the following. All a little different depending on what you’re looking for.
Zona hotelera: This is the hotel zone. You will find a hotel probably every 10 steps, ha! But really this is the heart of Puerto Vallarta. Here you’ll be able to find a huge range of options from all inclusive, Airbnb, and large hotel chains. In this area, your options are pretty endless as far as price goes too. This area can accommodate any type, size, and budget for weddings. This area is also closer to the famous oceanside boardwalk and nightlife, restaurants, and shops.
Old Town/Barrio: This is the older part of Puerto Vallarta down by Los Muertos Beach and the huge spiral pier that is often seen online. Think of the historical district in your town and this is very similar. The buildings are a bit older, the streets a little more narrow, and lots of small shops and local restaurants mixed in with the modern. You’ll find lots of hotels and condo options here too.
Conchas Chinas: Going further south of Old Town, you’ll find yourself winding towards Conchas Chinas. This is probably my favorite area because of the jungle that surrounds both banks of the highway’s winding road. Lots of large hotel chains like the Hyatt, Costa Sur, Fiesta Americana, Grand Pelicanos, and more line the highway beachside. Here is where you’ll find all of the private villas too! I’ve photographed at a couple and they are absolutely beautiful!
Mismaloya: This is really the last point of the Puerto Vallarta map before going further south into another state. This is a rural town with private options like private homes. Really only one hotel, Hotel Barcelo, which sits at the bottom of the valley on a private beach. I believe it’s all inclusive. I’m not really sure of many more options but this is a great option for guests to stay at if you have your wedding at a private villa minutes down the road.
Those are the main areas. Of course, if you research deeply into the area, there are lots of great options that I myself even aren’t aware of! But at least this can give you a bit more insight as to the areas and perhaps the look or feel you are going for for your wedding.
For example, if you want something more secluded out by the jungle with access to the beach, Conchas Chinas is perfect. If you’re looking for something closer to the boardwalk and nightlife and major points of interest, then the Hotel Zone is more for you. If you’re looking for something private but close enough to the city on the beach, maybe Sayulita and Bucerias are for you.
By the way, Sayulita is not the same as Sayula. Different places. Just fyi when you’re doing your research.
Also, Nayarit and Jalisco are two different states but there is no problem going from one to the other. They are basically connected through tourism and so it’s not far nor a problem going either way.
Best time of the year to have your destination wedding
This should have been the first point because it can determine the entire outcome of your day! There is definitely a high season and a low season.
High Season is between end of October to the end of May. These are the months after the rains and are usually the cooler months out of the year. Also, the most expensive as far as hotel pricing and hotels get booked really quickly.
If you are thinking of having your wedding during those months, plan at least a year in advanced as most venues and vendors will be booked.
Low season is between June and September. During these months it’s really hot and humid and rainy season begins around July. It rains every day which means you’ll have to speak with your venue about different options for your wedding.
Some hotels have indoor reception areas and some have tents for when the weather is not ideal. Ask before booking, you won’t want to be caught off guard if you book during rainy season and there is no indoor space or tent!
Can I still have a church wedding?
Of course! The process for church weddings is a bit different depending on which church you decide to get married in. I have photographed many Catholic ceremonies at churches that are both close to the wedding location and available to hold the wedding ceremony.
Just like planning a wedding at home, it’s crucial to begin the process early, as in a year in advance because dates fill up pretty quickly and you may want to make sure you have the date and time the church can hold your ceremony available.
Having said that, I do know that Catholic churches also need some time for a transfer of the ceremony from the corresponding church to the new location which also takes time so just plan for that.
That was a super long post but I hope that I covered most of the information! I get asked often about destination weddings and how to go about planning, having one, and other recommendations.
Puerto Vallarta is a top location for destination weddings in Mexico, and it truly is a one of kind experience to have your wedding set against the most beautiful backdrop of the pacific ocean. Even more magnificent during sunset ;).
Leave a comment below if you’ve had any experience with destination weddings, I’d love for more brides to have all the information out there available!