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Wedding Guide

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Wedding Planning: Managing Unsolicited Advice

You’ve got that jewel on your finger and then a Dazzling smile on your face.  You’re engaged!

Bride and groom in romantic moment at destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

Soon after the warm hugs and congratulations from excited family and friends will come the unsolicited advice.  From subtle suggestions to boisterous opinions, you’ll hear it all.   It’s inevitable.  The good news is that you can be proactive about managing it while protecting family relationships and your own sanity in the process.

Set Wedding Boundaries.

Before talking to anyone else about the actual wedding celebration, talk to each other.  Discuss and create a very specific set of priorities and non-negotiables for your experience.

From the onset of wedding conversations, this list will guide you in understanding the areas in which you can show flexibility as well as the areas in which you will remain firm in your decisions.

You are combining families – sometimes from different cultures, religions or backgrounds – and certain elements of the wedding may mean more to some than to others.  

Bride and groom exchange rings during a destination wedding in Punta Mita Mexico.

Talk through family traditions that you would like to honor and those that you will respectfully forego.  Will children be invited to the celebration?  Discuss your dream of tacos and your parents’ dream of a formal four-course dinner.  Will you incorporate cultural wardrobe?  Are you open to prayer during the ceremony?  Identify all the potentially challenging situations and create a united front before discussing the topics with family and friends.  

Consider this active communication a perfect opportunity to practice for a healthy marriage.

Be Authentic.

Social media is full of unsolicited wedding ideas and advice.  Your signature color has always been lilac, but after scrolling through ten events featuring Illuminating, Pantone’s gorgeous yellow tone of 2021, you’re feeling, well, illuminated and considering an epic yellow wedding. 

Push PAUSE on social media for a minute.  Allow your authenticity to guide wedding decisions.

Bride and groom kiss on the beach after their destination wedding ceremony in Punta Mita Mexico

Brainstorm your vision of the wedding event before BFF-ing with Pinterest and Instagram.  Think about your personal style, the Hell Yes’s in your day-to-day life and the places, elements and influences that play a part in your love story. 

If you wake up every Saturday morning and hike four miles to the best nutella croissants in town, then skip the wedding cake and serve nutella croissants!  

Do you get all scratchy just thinking about sand sticking to your feet?  Then, no matter how beautiful the photos are of beach ceremonies, definitely choose a garden or patio venue and stay off the sand!

The vision you create for yourselves, before following all the wedding hashtags, will serve as an arrow that points you in the direction of an authentic celebration.

Assume the Best.

Advice – even the unsolicited kind – is most often given from a place of love.  When you find yourself on the receiving end of suggestions and opinions you have not asked for, assume the person has the best intentions and then choose how to react with love.

Bride and groom after their wedding ceremony in Punta Mita Mexico

Here are a few ideas to be prepared:

Kindly reassert your boundaries.  

Share that you are currently considering all options as a couple and will make a decision that feels best and aligns with who you are once you are ready.

State that you have already made your decision based on how you choose to begin your new life together.

Say “Thank you for the enthusiasm.  We can’t wait for you to experience everything we have carefully selected for our wedding.”

Ask for a rest.  Wedding planning often becomes the topic of conversation and you can simply request an afternoon free of wedding talk!

Smile and nod and let it go.

Provide a gentle reminder that your wedding is a celebration of love and decisions made are often based on practicalities and principles; they are not meant to be hurtful to anyone involved.

Allow your love story, your own values and integrity guide you in creating an authentic experience!

10 Tips to Practice Wedding Day Gratitude

Did you know that every experience I provide through The Dazzling Details is blanketed in gratitude?

Gratitude is an important part of your wedding day!

Your experience Dazzles with an extra dose of good karma because I cover them in gratitude before I serve.

Practicing gratitude increases positive emotions, the ability to savor experiences, deal with adversity and build strong relationships, to mention a few.  

Rolling your wedding experience all up in a gratitude burrito is my jam. 

Wondering how you can actively practice wedding day gratitude?  I’ve got some ideas.

A bride sits with her girlfriends soaking in the beauty of destination wedding day in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

1. Be mindfully present on wedding day.

Shift worries by being thankful for what surrounds you at every moment – family and friends showering you with love, a stylist enhancing your natural features to make you oh. so. drop. dead. gorgeous.  Delight in the bubbles of the champagne you sip.  Record in your heart the sound of laughter around you. 

Take a moment to be alone. Be in the moment; notice the little things.  Wedding day gratitude will flow. 

A bride gets her makeup done by a professional at her destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

2. Give back to the community where you say “I Do.”

Participate with your family or wedding party in a local charity for a few hours on a day leading up to the wedding.  Ask each of your guests to bring a piece of clothing to donate to a local orphanage or a children’s book in English to donate to the local library. 

Simple acts of kindness strengthen a feeling of connectedness and belonging which is incredibly powerful cross-culture.

3. Say “Thank You” for the little things your loved ones do. 

Your head will be spinning with your extended tribe all in one place, and people will kindly dote on you.  Someone will offer to run to your room for that item you’ve forgotten.  Someone else will make sure you have your coffee in hand in the morning and your favorite cocktail ready as you slide up to the bar in the afternoon.

The list of small kindnesses that will help you get through wedding week is infinite.  Stop the spinning long enough to offer a genuine smile and “thank you” to everyone who is keeping you sane and smiling.

4. Think of any challenges as an opportunities to grow yourself and your relationship.

That one groomsman shows up at the airport with his suit and tie (whew!) but without a valid passport.  It happens.  Take a deep breath. 

Rain is falling at your destination and your planner wants to talk tenting and alternate plans.  Take a deep breath.

Are these setbacks to your original vision?  Absolutely.  Its ok for your heart to take a dive when you check the passport expiration date or see the rain clouds floating in. 

Feel it, mourn the shift of your vision, but also know that its impossible to get wrapped up in the negative when you focus on what you feel grateful for. 

Cry it out, then look around at the other three groomsmen who DO have passports and be thankful that they’ll stand by you on wedding day.  Cry it out, then look away from the clouds at the beautiful group of people who gathered, despite rain, to shower you with love.  

5. Start your wedding day with meditation and movement. 

Both exercise and meditation raise your vibration creating space for you to be present and positive as you walk into an incredibly momentous day.

Take a few quiet moments to meditate on your intentions for the day, then enlist a group of friends to get active with you and break a wedding-day sweat!

6. Smile and set the tone.

The bride while getting ready with her wedding dress hanging in the background at this Sayulita Mexico destination wedding
Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

Your guests will follow your lead.  When a couple is stressed, everyone else nervously scurries around feeling completely on edge. 

Its simple to grin when everything goes according to plan, but a genuine smile when things go awry makes you the ultimate trendsetter for your guests.  They’ll have an incredible time because they know YOU are having an incredible time. 

No nervous scurrying needed here. We’ve got wedding day gratitude.

7. Begin wedding day with a gratitude circle. 

Invite your wedding party and/or closest family to participate in a beautiful ritual of sharing thankfulness.  Say what you feel grateful for and listen to each other’s blessings; create a collective positivity that will carry you throughout the day.

8. Write thank you notes to your guests.

I can’t think of anything more personal and beautiful than a hand-written note.  When was the last time you received one?

Jot a note to each of your guests on his/her place card sharing why you are thankful to have them in your lives. The effort won’t go unnoticed.

9. Show thanks to the people who made it possible.

Extend your thanks to the vendors who participate in your wedding.  Couples often generously tip certain wedding vendors while others go unnoticed.  I would assert that every person involved in your wedding is an important part of creating a beautiful and cohesive experience. 

Cover them all in your thankfulness.  They work long hours on weekends to ensure that your celebration is Dazzling. Divide your gratuity investment between all the vendors. 

If budget is tight, a genuine thank you note with a Starbucks card for a single coffee goes a long way as a gesture. Or simply look them in the eye and say THANK YOU before they leave your event.

10. Take your guest book to the next level by adding gratitude.

On the morning of your wedding, write down 5-10 things you are each grateful for on the first page of your guest book.  Then during the event, ask guests to write a note and include something they are grateful for.  What a beautiful tribute to your wedding day reading everyone’s well wishes that include gratitude!

What other ideas do you have to feel extra grateful on wedding day?

How to Plan a Successful Destination Wedding Scouting Trip

I always love that first moment, meeting an excited and radiant couple ready to take on the wedding world and dying to get their destination wedding scouting underway.  These days are golden.  They are filled with energy, all the positive vibes and so much hope! 

excited bride jumps up and down at this luxury destination wedding in Punta Mita Mexico
Photo by Eva Sica

Scouting Trip Timing

I am often asked in Dazzling consults with couples, “When should we plan to visit and how many times will we need to come.”  The answer is simple.  Now and once.

A scouting trip is an investment –  airfare and hotel at the minimum – so invest wisely.  Visit once.  Conquer tasks that are challenging to achieve in the virtual world. Then, rather than visiting again, save those funds to book something extra and amazing at the actual wedding.

Get Help

A scouting trip is always, without exception, more successful when guided by a professional.  If you are considering a private wedding planner, hire that person to lead your scouting exhibition.  If you are thinking about utilizing the already-on-site hotel planner, contact each one you are considering in advance.

Couples often make the mistake of jumping on a plane, then in a rental car and attempting to venture on their own to locate and visit venues (that aren’t easy to locate or visit).  I know this because I get calls from these couples on their second-to-last-day of scouting, when they are feeling desperately disappointed and defeated. 

Photo by Jess Leigh

Steps to Plan a Successful Scouting Trip

1.  If you are considering a private wedding planner, speak with a few.  Check references.  If you find someone that you click with immediately, hire that person.  The scouting trip planning will be done for you. 

If you aren’t sure who is the right wedding planner for you, set up several appointments to meet with them.  You still need a guide, so choose only ONE planner in advance to hire to organize your scouting trip.

YES.  I’m going to say it.  A scouting trip costs money.  It is money well-spent. 

The bride and groom pose for a photo at this luxury villa destination wedding in Punta Mita MExico
Photo by Eva Sica

2.  If you are NOT considering a private wedding planner, do your due diligence prior to your trip.  Make ALL the appointments.  Get specific instructions for how to arrive, who to speak to, who to call if you get lost.  Ask ALL the questions. 

3.  Set realistic expectations.  If you don’t have a venue yet, don’t worry about what silverware will play a part in your glorious place setting.  If you don’t have a caterer, don’t be concerned with the shape of the centerpiece vase.

Five Goals for Destination Wedding Scouting

1) Meet with your planner (OR if you haven’t selected one yet, meet with several and choose ONE).

2) Visit at least three – five pre-selected wedding venues that fit with your vision, budget and ideal date.  Pro tip:  Nearly every location has a name sign posted somewhere.  Take a photo of that SIGN as you begin your tour of the location so that, later on when you are scrolling through the hundreds of venue photos, they are easily divided.  It seems silly, but after you’ve seen several, the info can begin to jumble in your brain.

3) Schedule a catering tasting (or two).  It isn’t nearly as fun to choose your menu via ZOOM.

a delicious molcajete entree served by waiters at this Punta Mita Mexico destination wedding
Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

4) Visit at least two – three locations for any additional events that apply:  welcome party/rehearsal dinner/brunch location.  This is sometimes the same hotel where guests are lodged OR a nearby restaurant. 

5) Visit and tour at least two – three pre-selected nearby hotels for guest lodging.  Ask about the room block process as well as minimum number of rooms and nights required by the hotel to ensure special rates.

Villa La Estancia Wedding Hotel and Venue

With some foresight and planning, you sweethearts should be able to board that flight home with all the information to make final decisions on the above.  It always makes for an interesting plane ride!

Pros and Cons of Villa Weddings in Puerto Vallarta

Explore the pros (+) and challenges (-) of private villa wedding venues in Puerto Vallarta, Punta Mita and Saylita to help you determine if a villa wedding may be the right fit for you.

Privacy +

Having a wedding space entirely to yourselves is one of the most valued advantages of utilizing a villa for your venue.  From the moment guests arrive on site until the moment they depart your event, the service and celebration is for your group only. This creates a feeling of luxurious exclusivity. 

couple stands on beach at private villa wedding in Sayulita Mexico
Photo by Tom Moks

Exception: All beaches, even those in front of private villas, are public. If you decide to say I Do on the sand, then be prepared for passers-by to witness the celebration.

Wow Factor +

The WOW factor simply refers to an element that surprises and enchants guests. Its that special something that will have them talking about your celebration for years to come! 

What I love about a private villa venue is that the venue itself becomes a WOW factor!

The bride posts in front of a stunning villa at her destination wedding in Punta Mita Mexico
Photo by Jillian Mitchell

When guests arrive to a private villa venue just before the event begins, they are welcomed into a new and exciting wedding wonderland. Everything about the property and ambiance is a WOW.

Incredible dessert prepared by a private caterer at this destination wedding celebration in Punta Mita Mexico
Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

Food Quality and Options +

Food quality/options is another primary reason to select a private villa for your wedding venue.  Due to the multiple catering options in Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding areas, selecting a company that offers an enticing menu and the level of quality that aligns with your taste and standards is simple.  From classic surf and turf to traditional Mexican, upscale gourmet to laid-back family style, your dining options for an event at a private villa venue are endless!

Freedom to select Vendors +

Similar to choosing your wedding caterer, when getting married at a private villa venue, you have complete freedom in selecting each of your wedding vendors – ceremony officiate, live musicians, florist, DJ, wedding planner!  This freedom allows you to bring an authenticity to your wedding as you select services that reflect your vibe.

guests mingle and sip cocktail while mariachi on stilts entertain them at this Punta Mita Mexico destination wedding
Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

Noise Regulations + / –

Noise regulations and mandatory end-time of the event varies with each villa. In certain areas of the Bay where villas are in close proximity, the government strictly enforces curfew as noise levels can be a nuisance to nearby properties. 

Throughout the area, the noise restriction of 11pm is most common. There are a few more isolated villas and private venues that allow parties later into the night.

When searching for a private villa venue, make sure to ask about end time restrictions!

Guests mingle during cocktail hour at this destination wedding in Sayulita Mexico

Convenience + / –

To keep logistics as convenient as possible for guests, provide transportation to and from the wedding.  Choose one departure and drop-off point and communicate all transport info to guests. After dinner and a bit of dancing, offer an early-departure option for any guests who need or would like to depart before the end of the event.

If budget doesn’t allow for contracted transportation, provide your guests with small cards with the address of the villa and a phone number to reach.  These cards can then simply be handed to a taxi driver!

Talk to your wedding planner or the villa concierge about end-of-the-night transportation options to ensure that guests aren’t stranded at the villa.

The bride and groom pose for a photo at this luxury villa destination wedding in Punta Mita MExico
Photo by Ave Sol

Lodging Requirements / Event Fees –

Most private villas will require a minimum number of nights lodging in order to host an event on site.  Depending on the time of year and individual villa policies, a minimum of 3-7 nights may be required

In addition, all private villas will charge an event fee on top of the nightly lodging fee.  Although the fees vary, the most common event fee is the equivalent of one night stay at the villa.  For example, if the villa rental fee is $1500 USD/night, you will be charged an additional $1500 USD as the event fee. 

These fees cover wear and tear on the house and a minimal staff on site.  This staff does not usually provide service during your wedding. Their primary responsibility is to care for the actual property and be on site in the event of a villa-related emergency (plugged toilet, lightbulb out, etc). 

When considering villa venues, inquire about lodging requirements and event fee as well as what is included.

Questions?

What other questions do you have about private villa wedding venues? 

Pros and Cons of Hotel Weddings in Puerto Vallarta

Wondering whether a private venue or hotel venue is the best fit for your Puerto Vallarta wedding?  You, my friend, are not alone in this conundrum. 

There is often not a simple answer to the common debate of private vs hotel. There are, however, a few things to know in order to evaluate your priorities within the context of each venue option. Then you can determine what works best for you.

A beautiful NUevo Vallarta Mexico hotel is home to a destination wedding group.
Photo by Jorge Kick

The Advantages + Challenges: Hotel Venues

You’ll learn all about the pros (+) and challenges (-) of hotel wedding venues to help you decide if a hotel wedding is right for you!

Convenience +

This is the most obvious advantage to a hotel wedding, and it has absolute merit.  Guests retain a level of independence and are able to pop down to the celebration at the last moment. They can also pop back up to their rooms for a quick shoe change, to freshen up, to use their private restroom, if desired, and to depart the celebration at any time.

Minimal or No Space Fees +

Most hotels offer a variety of spaces – from sandy beachfronts to spacious gardens to pretty patios.  The majority of these possible venue spaces are available to you for free or for a minimal cost when lodged at the hotel. 

Exceptions do occur, so make sure to ask about space costs when considering a venue.

The bride and her bridesmaids look out over the balcony at this beautiful hotel in Nuevo Vallarta Mexico, home to a destination wedding group.

Back Up +

Back up space, back up staff, back up everything.  Well, maybe not everything, but I’m referring to an overall sense of support in the case that something goes unpredictably wrong. 

A hotel is prepared to service hundreds of people in varying situations 24-hours a day.  This means there is on-site security, multiple first aid kits, large covered indoor spaces, extra veggies in the fridge, bellboys at the ring of, well, a bell.  You name it. 

Don’t get me wrong.  These resources are not all at your wild whim simply because you are the bride. In the case of a true emergency, though, the infrastructure of a hotel can provide valuable support in executing solutions.

The groom poses with hotel guests enjoying the whirlpool before this Puerto Vallarta Mexico destination wedding.
Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

Noise Regulations + / –

The topic of party end time can shift between pro and con depending on the individual resort and its regulations.  When common areas are utilized as a wedding venue, curfews are often enforced quite strictly as noise levels can be a nuisance to other hotel guests. 

In Puerto Vallarta, the noise restriction at hotels is most commonly set at 11pm.  There are a couple hotels that call the party as early as 10:30pm and just a few with areas far enough away from hotel guests that the party can extend later into the night.

The bride and bridesmaids walk into the hotel lobby on their way to the Puerto Vallarta Mexico destination wedding ceremony
Photo by The Uttkes

Food Quality + / –

Foodies and all cuisine-lovers, take this advice to heart.  If considering a wedding at a hotel, ALWAYS request a food tasting to experience the quality and presentation of the meal you serve to guests.  While you may be pleasantly surprised at certain hotels, others will leave you wishing for street tacos rather than the “gourmet” plate in front of you. 

If food is a wedding priority, make sure that you understand and are comfortable with the dining experience the hotel offers. 

If you are unable to make a trip for a tasting and food is a high priority, request photos of the plate presentation and even ask for a reference to speak to another couple (or two) about their experience. 

The beach lounge area set beneath the hotel tower at this Puerto Vallarta Mexico destination wedding
Photo by Jillian Mitchell

Customization + / –

Hotels have a bad rap for cookie-cutter wedding packages. Many hotel planners coordinate hundreds of weddings a year which means, quite frankly, that they are simply unable to customize every single detail of every single wedding. Thus the infamous “package.”

As the wedding customization culture grew over the last decade, hotels have needed to shift slightly to accommodate. While it won’t happen at every hotel, and you most likely won’t get every t crossed and every i dotted like you would with a private planner, hotel planners are now much more in-tune with helping couples semi-customize, so don’t be afraid to ask!

If you are interested in a highly-elevated wedding design but prefer the event take place at a hotel for the convenience, hire a private wedding planner (like me!) who works well at the venue.

External Vendor Fees

Most hotels require couples to utilize a specific list of vendors for their weddings.  A deviation from the vendor list results in a hefty fee paid to the hotel in order to provide access to a “non-authorized” vendor. 

While there are a few hotels that are an exception and allow you to contract your own vendors, ensure that you understand all vendor policies before signing a wedding contract with a hotel to avoid any misunderstandings during the planning.

The bride walks down the aisle as hotel guests look on at this Puerto Vallarta Mexico destination wedding

Privacy

This may very well be the biggest disadvantage couples face when selecting a hotel venue. While a few hotels have completely private spaces, the majority use common areas within guest view for wedding events.

Choosing a hotel means sacrificing privacy. Period. As a bride, you will walk through hotel hallways in your dress on the way to the ceremony. You will have onlookers (even if peeking from around a palm tree) when you say I Do. For some couples, the idea of uninvited observers is a nightmare, for others, it’s part of the experience.

Guests attend a beach ceremony at a Puerto Vallarta Mexico destination wedding

If this doesn’t sit well with you, ask questions about what measures the hotel takes to protect your celebration. Many will place PRIVATE EVENT signs in the area. Often times a security guard will stand at the event entrance to provide additional support.

Mentally prepare yourself for a few curious stragglers trying to catch a wedding peek. Don’t allow them to become your focus or distract from the people who are actually there to celebrate you!

Questions?

Are you considering a wedding at a hotel? What other questions do you have about hotel wedding venues? 

11 Essentials for Welcome Bags to Mexico

After a flight, an airport (or two) and a taxi ride, who doesn’t love a little pampering?  You can kick off your guests’ WOW destination wedding experience in Mexico with these 11 essentials for your welcome bags!

1. A Bag.

This may seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway.  You need a bag, people.  The other 10 essentials need a home, and the options are endless as you all know via a simple google search – personalized, canvas, paper, woven, recyclable.  You get the picture. 

My authentic Mexico pick:  bright colorful market bags!  They are inexpensive, come in different sizes and are perfect for carrying wet towels (and other goodies) to and from the pool. The first and most important of the 10 essentials!

authentic colorful market bags are a great option for welcome bags

2. Welcome Message + Itinerary.

Include important information about events, locations, transport times and even remind guests of dress code!  Don’t forget contact information for you or your lead person so guests know who to contact in the event something important happens . . . like they lose their flip flops at the pool (Destination Wedding Travel Tyke Syndrome). Finally, don’t forget to include a little hi, welcome and Thank You for being here message!

3. Headache + Tummy Meds.

I may be stating the obvious, but I’d bet that more than a few guests will have a headache the day after your wedding bash.  Give them some Tylenol so they can get to brunch.  And let’s be honest, it doesn’t hurt to include supplies for the tummy. 

The old stories of Montezuma’s revenge are SO out, but there’s a lot of quesadillas and cocktails goin’ down, and sometimes the stomach just needs some extra help when breaking out of its normal healthy habits.  These meds tend to be more expensive in Mexico, so think about buying some travel packets at home and popping them in your suitcase to bring with you.

4. Snacks.

Even if you are staying at a round-the-clock all-inclusive resort, there will be a moment (most often at 2am) when you just need some snack supplies, and waiting for room service is just not gonna cut it. 

Include an old favorite – a bag of Cheetos or some salted popcorn – and balance it with something new – maybe some chili-dusted dehydrated mango or spicy Takis! 

Just stay away from chocolate delights; they melt in the heat before they ever make it into the mouth!

My authentic Mexico pick:  sweet roasted nuts (nueces garapinadas).  So delicious and made locally! 

Sweet roasted nuts are a great addition to a Mexico welcome bag!

5. Antibacterial gel.

Of all the essentials for welcome bags, this one is non-negotiable. Know that the bacteria in a foreign country is no better or worse than the everyday bacteria you face at home, but it IS different.  Your immune system simply isn’t prepped for every little bug you may meet in Mexico, and if you’re planning to be snacking on chips and guac (which we all know you are), your hands need to be clean.  Enough said.

6. Hydration.

Most of your guests may still question the water situation in Mexico, and let’s be honest.  Bottled is best.  Stick a bottle or two of water in the bag so they can refill and go! 

I don’t think I have to remind you how important hydration is when spending lazy days in the Mexico sun!  If you’re not picky about water, you can buy the bulk bottles at Costco.  And if you want to be really cute, order customized labels and wrap them around the bottles for a total Wow.

7. Map and City Guide.

Always provide guests with a simple map and points of interest around town – restaurants, museums, clubs, tours – whatever works for your group. The easy way? Grab some maps and/or city guides from the tourist office of your destination. The creative way for the extra-achieving DIYers? Create your own with a designer!

Puerto vallarta street with papel picado and the famous church

8. Deck of Cards.

Skip the trinkets and give guests something they’ll actually take home and use. Order customized decks of cards and watch people have fun around around the pool; I guarantee you’ll spot them in their homes years later as well!

9. Coin Satchels.

I LOVE these.  Ever get home from a Mexico trip and find you have more pesos in your pockets than quarters and dimes?  Help your guests keep their spare change separated and readily available as they peruse the market stalls! They are also great for stashing other supplies . . . like the headache meds just in case!

My authentic Mexico pick:  embroidered coin clutches from Chiapas!

Handmade coin purses from Chiapas are perfect for keeping pesos separated from other change

10. Pashminas.

This really only applies to you if your Mexico wedding is scheduled from December through February when late-nights and early mornings can be chilly!  I love including a neutral-toned pashmina in the ladies’ bags so they can wear those cute sundresses even when the temps dip low for Mexico!

11. Tequila or Mezcal

I mean, really.  Are you actually even in Mexico if the welcome committee doesn’t include an iconic beverage? I literally can’t think of a reason NOT to include them!

individual tequila bottles are great for welcome bags or party favors
Photo by Tom Moks

A couple extra notes.

Sunglasses and sunscreen are almost always at the top of my clients’ list of must-haves, but at the bottom of mine.

I suggest staying away from the gimmicky sunglasses because, aside from a brief photo moment, guests will wear their own designer shades, and your creative investment just won’t make the impact you were hoping for. 

Honestly, any guest who plans to wear sunscreen will undoubtedly bring their own.  I see so many travel size sunscreens tossed aside!  Scrap the Banana Boat investment and focus on the other essentials for welcome bags listed here!

Mexican Fiesta Cookies

If you need a really special extra, why not try these amazing Mexican Fiesta cookies?! Guests love them, and they are a perfect way to set the fiesta mood!

Any combo of these items, and your guests will feel pampered and pumped for their destination wedding experience!

3 Destination Wedding Tips to Bypass Stress

Planning a once-in-a-lifetime celebration in a foreign country for 100 of your nearest and dearest?  If that sentence alone doesn’t cause you just an itty bit of anxiety, then you, my friend, are rock solid. If, however, it made you suck in a deep stress breath, then keep reading for destination wedding tips to bypass stress in three unexpected areas of planning!

As a planner, I am able to alleviate a great deal of your anxiety because, well, I know what I’m doing, so what would cause you momentary panic is already second-hand to me. I’d be lying, though, if I let you believe that there won’t be bumps along the way. 

I know exactly where you’ll hit those bumps. Often times, they come during the most unexpected parts of planning.  More importantly, I have destination wedding tips to help you bypass them quickly and get back to wedding-planning bliss.

Two marriers walking on the Beach in Mexico the day of their destination wedding with palm branches and rocks in the background

1. Don’t Become a Travel Agent

I’m not sure why it happens, but it does.  As soon as that coveted Save-the-Date arrives in the mail, an otherwise intelligent, independent wedding guest transforms into a type of travel tyke who requires an innate amount of hand holding.  It sounds harsh, I know, but I’ve seen it happen again and again.

Maybe its because they think you’ve got it all figured out and are just dying to help them find a flight, book their room and research snorkeling trips all while searching for the perfect dress, flowers and flatware.

Perhaps its because they believe you have miraculously turned into an overnight expert on Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, despite living thousands of miles away. 

Whatever the justification for calling you to ask where to go for a tequila tour or how to get from the airport to the hotel, I beg you friends. Don’t jump on that travel agent train.

What to do instead.  

Provide your guests with easy information. Set up a system in advance that provides guests with all the resources they need to handle their trip without ever having to contact you directly.

  • Work that wedding website or send out a virtual Save-the-Date with ALL the pertinent links and info.  Include the airport code (PVR = Puerto Vallarta) so flight search is easy peasy.
  • Include the name of your recommended hotel/s and ALL the booking info  (online link or email address, phone number, group block name, discount code, etc) so that reserving a room is a piece of cake. 
  • Provide links to recommended tour companies and a list of amazing restaurants so guests can scroll and reserve without any complications. 
Destination wedding fashion! Photo by Taryn Baxter
  • Tell guests what you want them to wear.  I promise you, they want to be told.  Your high school friend doesn’t want to worry about whether the bright yellow sundress is acceptable or if you’d prefer glitzy sequins.  Tell them what kind of shoes to wear.  No one, I repeat no one, want to show up in stilettos to find out they will be dancing on the sand. 
  • Most importantly, choose an informed point person, preferably someone with undying love for you (as that love will be tested over the course of the following months), and list their contact information on correspondence so guests know who to contact with any remaining questions.

    Bless that human – be it your sister, best friend or bossy Aunt Pam – because this point person is going to save you a world of wedding stress.  And then don’t forget to buy them a really nice gift.

2. Don’t procrastinate on important song selections.

Its wedding morning and my phone dings repeatedly as I drive to the venue.  The groom is texting me about the dance song with his mom . . . for the fifth time in 24 hours.  He’s finally decided on THE song and wondering if a special edit can be made so they don’t end up awkwardly slow-circle dancing for more than a minute and a half. 

I mean . . . it might be possible, but let’s be honest, it is far from anyone’s version of ideal to be requesting and editing a song on the very day that momentous dance is to occur. 

Groom’s dance with his mom. Photo by Jess Leigh

What to do instead.

  • From the moment you get engaged, start a Spotify song list (or lists)!  Save any song you hear, absolutely LOVE and can’t imagine not hearing at your wedding. 
  • Create categories:  ceremony songs, first dance, parent dances, introduction songs, dance party, etc. Its really quite simple and will save you So. Much. Heartache later on.
  • Wherever you are, whenever you find yourself tapping your toe, swaying your shoulders or whipping your hair around to a song you love, save it in your Spotify list. 
  • If it’s a song you can imagine dancing to with your dad, add it to the parent dance category.  Do the lyrics remind you of your love story? Save it under first dance.  A melody that makes you feel triumphant? What about for the ceremony kiss!  Jumping out of your chair to shake your body? Put that jam in the dance party category. 
Guests Dancing at a mexican destination wedding planned by The Dazzling Details based in Puerta Vallarta
Dancing the night away! Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

When it comes time to choose those musical selections for key moments of your wedding, the list will make your job SO much simpler.

You’ll narrow down those key-moment song selections without having to recall on-demand every song you’ve ever loved. The rest of the songs on your list will be an amazing guide for your DJ to keep the dance floor lit.

Choose all of your songs well in advance.  Consult those who need to be consulted. An hour before the rehearsal dinner is NOT the ideal moment to introduce your mom to Spotify and try to nail down THE perfect song that encompasses all her feelings about motherhood and marriage.  Please, just trust me on that one. 

3. Don’t underestimate the dinner seating task.

Weddng dinner place setting. Photo by The Times We Have

Feasting your eyes on that dinner layout document in your Inbox – the perfect graphically-designed round tables and tiny little square chairs – makes the approaching wedding day oh-so-real and the prospect of arranging your dinner guests oh-so-exciting.  Until you start to place 100 real people with real problems into those seats. 

Is Uncle Howard speaking to cousin Jane after their argument last Thanksgiving?

It might be just a bit uncomfortable for your bestie Emily to sit next to Mark after that awkward vodka-induced kiss last summer. And so it begins…

What to do.

There isn’t a magical equation for creating perfect conversational dinner table groupings, but there are a couple destination wedding tips I can share with you to make this task simpler. 

  • First, be flexible if your layout allows for it.  You absolutely need a table for 11 guests?  Don’t squeeze an extra chair at a 10-person table.  No one wants to eat their neighbor’s elbow for dinner.  Agree to a different size table, if the layout allows for it, to accommodate that particular group of guests. 
Wedding dinner table fun! Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd
  • If an alternate table isn’t possible, split friend/family groups between tables and pair them with other sub-groups. I promise no one will absolutely die if forced to spend an hour – a good portion of which time they are chewing – at a table without ALL of their BFFs. 
  • Get started on the seating plan as soon as you have a layout in your hands and a final guest list in front of you.  It will take longer than you expect, and you don’t want to be juggling dinner seats while at your final dress fitting. 
  • Finally, don’t concern yourself about Uncle Howard and cousin Jane’s Thanksgiving rift nor the awkward liplock between Emily and Mark.  Let’s presume that we’re dealing with adults who will pleasantly chat and enjoy their dinner under the magical lights and let bygones be bygones, at least for an hour.  

    Do try to avoid any guest pairings that touch on serious traumas and that may provoke a flying plate, but beyond that, place guests where you think they best fit and be done with it. 

Ok, you’ve got the inside scoop on three unexpected but daunting tasks and, more importantly, the destination wedding tips to bypass them!  Treat yourself to a cocktail – maybe my famous sangria!

What other stressors are you feeling while planning your destination wedding?

The Ultimate Idea Guide for Small, Intimate Weddings

From Birthday Bash to Tea Time

There I sat at the round, pink-draped banquet table surrounded by 80 other people at similar round tables.  Peppa pig cut-outs were tucked amidst delicate floral centerpieces and balloons danced overhead.  All I could think was what in hot hell is happening? 

It was my first time as a guest at a birthday party for a 5-year-old in Mexico, and I was learning a valuable lesson in Mexican culture. 

When it was my kiddo’s turn, I quickly adapted to the social rhythm of these all-out-bashes, although my family back home could never quite comprehend the idea of an 80-guest party for my little tot.   It’s just how things are done here, I awkwardly reasoned.

Therefore, I wasn’t a bit sad when my daughter turned seven, declared boys were yucky, and opted for a tea party event with just five friends.  In fact, it marked the moment I fell in love with an intimate, curated celebration. 

I immediately got to work, planning little heart-shaped tea sandwiches, a jewelry box painting activity, summer hats for the girls.  My heart swooned as I discovered that, when I didn’t need to feed 80 people, my investment went so much further. 

Cheers! Photo by Socorro Sandoval

After all was said and done, it was the Tea Party of the year, and everyone (including myself) went home with a smile. From that moment on, I embraced the concept of providing a high-quality experience for a small, intimate guest list. 

That concept is as true with a wedding as it is with a tea party.

From Tea Time to Intimate I Do’s

A smaller, intimate wedding presents a unique opportunity to really pamper the guests that attend.  Here are a few of my favorite ideas to make an intimate wedding oh-so-incredible:

  • First, create welcome bags that go beyond the typical trinkets and delight your loved ones with a thoughtful care package that shows you are truly grateful they are present.
  • Choose a cozy venue setting.  You won’t need a massive space, so select a venue that feels intimate and incredible.
A magical dinner space at an intimate wedding. Photo by Jillian Mitchell
  • Incorporate magical decor and curated details that enhance the experience.
  • Invest in live performances – musicians, dancers or a live cooking experience will keep the energy high and provide a unique opportunity for guests to participate in the destination’s culture.
  • Spend quality time with every guest.  You have the luxury of time. Show your gratitude for their presence; write a personal thank you note to each of them.  Create moments and memories. 

It sounds fantastic, right?  It will be, I promise.

But what should you do with all those “leftover” guests back home?

First, be creative. There aren’t strict rules. Give them an opportunity to celebrate and honor your love. (Don’t worry about perfecting the details or serving heart-shaped tea sandwiches to them all).  Host a backyard picnic!  Throw a pool party or hold a drop-by cocktail hour at your home.  Don’t forget the chips, salsa and margaritas!

How to Plan a Mexico Destination Wedding (+ Sangria)

Saying I Do in Mexico?

Are you, your bestie, your daughter or anyone you love thinking of saying I Do at a gorgeous Mexico destination wedding?  If so, stick around. I’m about to make your life so. much. simpler. 

Four thousand seven hundred forty-five.

No, its not the number of gelatos I would have eaten in Italy in April 2020 had COVID-19 not sabotaged that plan. 

No, 4,745 is the number of hours I have spent pouring my heart into planning curated Mexico destination weddings which, in total transparency, at times equates in excitement and stress to hanging from the edge of a cliff.

Kristin Crawford, wedding planner in action! Photo by Alex Good

Needless to say, I’ve learned a few things in those four-thousand-plus days, and I’m ready to divulge.  I want you, friends, to know what I know about planning a celebration in Mexico.  I want to share what I have learned by trial and error through 15 years of professional event planning

Why?  Because I truly want to help make your planning experience simple and much less stressful than that cliff scenario above. 

Why should you listen to me?

When I entered the Mexico destination wedding industry 15 years ago in Puerto Vallarta, I did so with limited knowledge, one very simple photo shoot under my belt and less than a year of actual real-life experience with another company. 

I was young, ambitious and just knew that there were couples out there who needed ME, my limited talent and my flourishing creativity to plan their wedding.  Bless my naive little heart. 

I’m glad, though, that I jumped in head-first and never looked back, and I am SO glad that there were couples who despite my lack of … well, pretty much everything, hired me anyway.  The learning curve was immense, but fast-forward to today. 

Kristin Crawford, wedding planner. Photo by Elizabeth Lloyd

My heart is still young(ish), my ambition runs wild, still have the thriving creativity, but NOW, I also have a playbook full of tips and tricks that I want to share with you, and this time, its backed up by a decade and a half of solid experience. 

Questions?

Have a specific question?  Do tell.  I’m an open book, and I’m here to serve.
Cheers to the next 4,745 days of sharing with you everything I learned during the first round.

*Cue the toast with my killer sangria. This is a celebration, after all! Sharing that sangria recipe below, (and I promise, it is the ONLY recipe I’ll share as I’m much stronger at wedding planning than I am in the kitchen.)

Dazzling Sangria for Wedding Planning Bliss

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 2 shots of rum or brandy
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • chopped strawberries, mandarins and blueberries (or any other damn fruit you’ve got in the fridge!)
  • lemon or lime slices
  • Diet Squirt

Muddle chopped fruit with sugar and rum/brandy shots in a pitcher to extract fruit juices. Add 1 bottle of red wine.
Fill glass with ice. Serve 1/2 sangria + 1/2 diet squirt and BLISS!

Kristin was our single most important choice.

Reflecting on the magnificence of all Kristin accomplished for our wedding, we settled on "she's a miracle."  Kristin was our...

Beautiful bride in white dress with sweetheart neckline stands on the beach with her bridesmaids and holds moody wedding bouquets at her destination wedding in Sayulita, Mexico

Yvonne + David

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:21:56+00:00

Yvonne + David

Beautiful bride in white dress with sweetheart neckline stands on the beach with her bridesmaids and holds moody wedding bouquets at her destination wedding in Sayulita, Mexico
Reflecting on the magnificence of all Kristin accomplished for our wedding, we settled on "she's a miracle."  Kristin was our single most important choice, and with her, we created a magical celebration that exceeded all of our expectations.

Kristin exceeded our wildest wedding dreams.

Kristin and her team pour their hearts and souls into everything they do and they exceeded our wildest wedding dreams.

Bride and groom stand hugging each other with palm trees behind them at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico

Natina + Eli

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:26:37+00:00

Natina + Eli

Bride and groom stand hugging each other with palm trees behind them at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico
Kristin and her team pour their hearts and souls into everything they do and they exceeded our wildest wedding dreams.

Kristin really has vision!

There are not enough words to describe how amazing Kristin and her team are. From the moment I inquired about...

Bride and groom pose with their wedding party holding moody bouquets at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico

Jenn + Michael

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:35:47+00:00

Jenn + Michael

Bride and groom pose with their wedding party holding moody bouquets at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico
There are not enough words to describe how amazing Kristin and her team are. From the moment I inquired about working with the Dazzlign Details down to the very last second of our wedding, Kristin really went out of her way to make sure everything was perfect. I tend to be extremely picky and from the beginning of the planning process, it seemed like Kristin could read my mind and ask me about a detail of the wedding before I even had to worry about it. She’s extremely organized and maps out a full planning timeline so you know exactly what needs to get taken care of by when so you’re not pulling your hair out (I will admit we fell behind schedule due to busy work schedules but Kristin was very good about sending us gentle reminders to stick to the agenda and we’re so grateful for it as it saved us loads of stress as we inched closer to the day of the wedding) a week before the wedding trying to scramble to finish up last-minute details. Besides being extremely organized and always two steps ahead of you, Kristin really has a vision for how to put the perfect wedding together based on your tastes. I always felt like I couldn’t put a cohesive vision together based on the jumbled thoughts I had in my head of my “perfect wedding.” But with her help, she pieced all of my random ideas together into the most beautiful wedding that my husband and I could’ve possibly imagined. All of our guests raved that this was one of the best weddings they’ve been to and we have Kristin to thank for it. The food/drink was amazing, the service was great, and the decor/ambiance was exactly what I had imagined. We’re so...

Kristin and team are phenomenal!

Look no further! Kristin and team are phenomenal! If you are searching for the perfect wedding planner....stop right now! You've...

Bride and groom exit their ceremony after the kiss at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico

Kristin + Brad

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:40:59+00:00

Kristin + Brad

Bride and groom exit their ceremony after the kiss at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico
Look no further! Kristin and team are phenomenal! If you are searching for the perfect wedding planner....stop right now! You've found her! Kristin is the absolute best, and made all of our wedding dreams come true. From the food, to the decor, the ambiance, the flowers, etc. everything turned out exactly as we hoped and imagined. We had so many friends and family tell us that our wedding was one of the best they had ever been to! Kristin did not disappoint in the flawless execution of our big day. I am an extremely organized planner myself, and throughout the entire process she was amazing to work with. Kristin was amazing with communication, in providing recommendations,  ongoing guidance and advice.  I actually miss her already and wish we could redo the wedding! She is absolutely amazing at what she does. Long story short, we were beyond happy with our wedding, loved every single moment, and can not recommend Kristin more highly!! She is hands down the most wonderful wedding planner and truly dazzling!!!

Kristin gave us the dream wedding I never knew I wanted.

The universe truly blessed us with Kristin and her team. She took most of the stress out of planning a...

Bride and groom exit their ceremony to a biodegradable confetti toss at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico

Mak + Yusef

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:43:47+00:00

Mak + Yusef

Bride and groom exit their ceremony to a biodegradable confetti toss at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico
The universe truly blessed us with Kristin and her team. She took most of the stress out of planning a wedding - something that I dreaded dealing with to be honest.  Kristin gave us the dream wedding I never knew I wanted... until it actually happened. She has this down to a science and is connected to the best caterers and other vendors you could possibly imagine. People have told us that this was the best wedding they ever attended, and that was 100% because of Kristin's immaculate planning, patience, care and attention to detail. Even our parents, who always have something to complain about, had nothing but kind words to say about her work. She handles any challenges thrown her way with so much grace and positivity. You won't be disappointed if you decide to work with her, truly.

Kristin has enthusiasm and passion for throwing beautiful weddings!

Kristin will make your dream wedding a REALITY! The best possible decision I made for my wedding (other than choosing...

Bride and groom exit their ceremony to a petal toss at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico

Melissa + Omid

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:47:31+00:00

Melissa + Omid

Bride and groom exit their ceremony to a petal toss at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico
Kristin will make your dream wedding a REALITY! The best possible decision I made for my wedding (other than choosing my wife) was hiring Kristin as the Wedding Designer/Coordinator. Kristin's enthusiasm and passion for throwing beautiful weddings made the entire process of having a destination wedding much easier to deal with. On the design side of things, Kristin listened to what we wanted even when we couldn't adequately put it into words. The end result was a wedding design that our guests still cant stop talking about till this day. It was both colorful and classy, and very creative. On the coordination side of things, Kristin is a superstar as well. I am extremely disorganized and somewhat of a procrastinator. Kristin had a very intuitive system for organizing all the tasks that we had with the varying deadlines that they needed to be done. She would also ever so softly nudge us when we needed nudging. When we had issues with the hotel room block contract, Kristin went above and beyond by stepping in to mediate and resolve any language barriers. Kristin works with only the very best vendors with proven track records of consistent quality. As a result everything from the food, to the flowers, to the DJ was simply incredible. On the day of the wedding, Kristin and her team were consummate professionals who ensured that our special day went off without a hitch. I can say without a doubt, that you will NOT regret making the decision to go with The Dazzling Details for your wedding!

I knew Kristin was the person I wanted to plan our wedding.

Kristin changed my view on a destination wedding as soon as we first spoke. I loved the idea of our...

Bride and groom hold hands during their wedding ceremony under a beautiful floral arch in Sayulita, Mexico

Caitlin + Jake

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:52:03+00:00

Caitlin + Jake

Bride and groom hold hands during their wedding ceremony under a beautiful floral arch in Sayulita, Mexico
Kristin changed my view on a destination wedding as soon as we first spoke. I loved the idea of our family and friends being together for a weekend and celebrating our marriage but I was worried we would end up at a big hotel that lacked the intimacy and character that really represented who we were as a couple. As soon as I spoke with Kristin I knew she was the person I wanted to plan our wedding. She was extremely organized, creative and seemed as excited as we were to plan the event which were all very important to us since we were planning a wedding in Sayulita while living in Los Angeles. Our wedding ended up far surpassing any of my dreams and all of our guests expectations. Not only were the design, lighting, flowers, FOOD!!!, and venue more than I had ever hoped for, Kristin was so amazingly on top of things and supportive on our wedding day. I truly can’t imagine going through the process with another planner. Thank you so much for everything you did for us Kristin. Our guests are still telling us it was the best wedding of all time!

Kristin truly listened to what was important to us.

Working with Kristin and her team is absolutely amazing.  She is so professional, has fabulous interpersonal skills, has incredible vision...

Bride looks romantically at her groom right after their first look at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico

Tracey + Eddie

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T20:57:33+00:00

Tracey + Eddie

Bride looks romantically at her groom right after their first look at their destination wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico
Working with Kristin and her team is absolutely amazing.  She is so professional, has fabulous interpersonal skills, has incredible vision down to every last detail. From the very beginning she combed though venues to find the perfect location for our sandy beach wedding.  Kristin truly listened to what was important to us on our wedding (food, people and music) and put it all together perfect. Our food service was ahhhhhmazing, dancing was perfect and most of all our friends and family said this was the best wedding they had ever been to. I wish I could go back to our wedding day and relive it! It was so stress free and laid back, but extremely well executed. Most of all, Kristin made us feel comfortable about our 7 month old who was going through his stranger danger phase during our wedding. We had all hands on deck for our little guy which really eased my mommy anxiety and let me focus on our wedding. I would hands down recommend Kristin to anyone looking to have their wedding in Mexico. No task was too small or big to be made perfect by dazzling details.

Kristin surprised me with additional details!

Kristin and The Dazzling Details team made our dreams come true! First, I want to start by saying that I...

Bride and groom have a first look beneath a beautiful tree at their destination wedding in Punta Mita Mexico

Koryna + Greg

The Dazzling Details
5
2020-05-14T21:00:42+00:00

Koryna + Greg

Bride and groom have a first look beneath a beautiful tree at their destination wedding in Punta Mita Mexico
Kristin and The Dazzling Details team made our dreams come true! First, I want to start by saying that I am quite wedding crazy and super into the details. I was very nervous that by opting to do a destination wedding in Mexico that I would have to sacrifice some quality or aesthetic that fell short of my vision. I can honestly say that not only did Kristin and her team deliver exactly what I envisioned, but they surprised me with additional details I didn't think of (didn't think this was possible!). Throughout the course of the 10+ month wedding planning process I probably emailed Kristin 2-3 times a week with all kinds of crazy questions, scenarios, what if's etc. and she not only walked me through every scenario but relieved my stress and gave me so many visuals so I could have a better idea of what to expect. She helped with getting a room block and communicating on our behalf when we requested her to, and always went above and beyond her contracted responsibilities. A lot of the visual details like flowers, tables, cutlery do not get decided until just a few months before the wedding so that was a lingering stress for me- however, wow did Kristin deliver! The flowers at both my rehearsal and wedding were exactly what I wanted and she captured my exact vision. The day of the wedding was seamless! Im fairly certain she probably got 2 hours of sleep between my rehearsal and wedding day. In fact we ran through a lot more tequila than anticipated at the rehearsal so instead of going home that night, she headed to the liquor store to get extra for the wedding day. The transportation was always early, the caterer she pairs up with is AMAZING...
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The Dazzling Details