The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Destination Wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Choosing Puerto Vallarta as our wedding destination

The same day Jim proposed to me, we had already decided we’d be having our wedding in Puerto Vallarta. This was a place we’d spent a few months working from and really loved the vibe of the city.

We both agreed it would be a great location for a destination wedding:

  • It’s beautiful, with lively beaches that look out onto a sparkling sea, framed by green mountains.

  • The city itself has countless beautiful restaurants, bars and cafes; with great food and a solid tourism infrastructure.

  • There are hotels and resorts in every price range to accommodate guests.

  • An international airport makes transportation convenient for friends and family.

Is it the “real,” authentic Mexico we both had grown to love so much? Mehhh, not exactly. But everyone would be safe, comfortable and sure to have a great time. 

Views from VIlla Azul, in Conchas Chinas

Views from VIlla Azul, in Conchas Chinas

We kept our decor rather simply, so the stunning views could shine. Photo by Julien Leveau

We kept our decor rather simply, so the stunning views could shine. Photo by Julien Leveau

Picking a date for a destination wedding

Straight away, we got to planning. Since it was October already, we both decided the end of March would be the best date to book. Primarily because of unfavorable weather conditions in late summer and Autumn, and factoring in a few of our family members work schedules, Spring, specifically the end of March, was our final decision. 

If we had been willing to wait over a year for our wedding, we likely would have tried to book our wedding in late April or May, so as to avoid the Spring Break rush. That being said, we encouraged our guests to book early and nobody seemed to have issues finding a hotel. 

High season in Puerto Vallarta is December through mid April.

During this time of year, Puerto Vallarta is much busier, and often prices are higher. Villas and hotels are far more likely to get booked and rates will be higher. However, this is also the time of the year with the best weather–little to no rain, sunny skies, lower humidity, It’s gorgeous. 

If you want to save money and make it easy for your guests to get good hotels, book during the shoulder season. Late April until early June would be a great time. However keep in mind it may be more humid and rainy this time of year.

August through October is hurricane season in Puerto Vallarta. 

Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

Photo by Cristheell Bernal

What to do first when planning your wedding?

I’d recommend picking a general date such as late April or early June, etc. In the beginning stages, if possible, keep it semi flexible but have a timeframe in mind. We knew we wanted to have our wedding in late March, or around the time of Spring Break for the teachers in our family.

The next thing we did was book our villa. If I’m honest, we actually started looking for a villa the night we got engaged! However, I don’t recommend this. 

FOR GOODNESS SAKE, HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER …

Before you waste your time with planning, you’re going to want to know your options. For this, I highly recommend hiring a local wedding planner. Though we tend to be DIYers, the thought of planning a wedding in Mexico on our own was overwhelming and stressful. If you plan to have a very simple, small gathering and you speak fluent Spanish, by all means do it on your own. 

Hiring a wedding planner was the single best decision we made when planning our destination wedding.

We hired our planner Tania Arreguin of Magnifique Weddings after a recommendation from a friend who had used her to help them plan their own wedding. I had no idea how to plan a wedding, let alone a destination wedding in Mexico, and Tania made everything easy–from choosing our theme, deciding on vendors such as catering, photographers and a DJ, to choosing our signature cocktails. We were very happy with her and found her to be professional, accommodating and affordable. 

If we were to do it again, we definitely would have hired a wedding planner before booking a villa.

Other wedding planners that were recommended to us were Vallarta Vows, Vallarta Weddings, The Dazzling Details. We ended up choosing Magnifique Weddings because of price, style and communication. 

A wedding planner will be able to give you all the best options for wedding venues in Puerto Vallarta, in your budget. While we absolutely loved our venue, it was not a venue specifically for weddings and for this reason, it was more complicated to plan and manage vendors. A wedding planner will be able to help you with these important early decisions. 

We choose a tropical theme so we could use local flowers and local flavor. Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

We choose a tropical theme so we could use local flowers and local flavor. Photo by Cristheell Bernal

Our Destination Wedding Timeline:

Because of the factors listed above, we decided March would be the best month for our wedding. Ideally, it would have been a bit easier and a tad less stressful if we had more time, however, overall things turned out great and I’m not sure if having more time would have changed much of anything.

From the time Jim proposed until the time we walked down the aisle was 6 months. 

Keep in mind, most of these were coordinated by our wedding planner, who kept us posted on the status of each and sent regular reminders. Another reason, why having a planner is so ideal. The pickier you are, the further in advance you should plan.  

6 months out: 

  • Early October - Proposal

  • Mid October - Decided on location, booked wedding venue, paid deposit 

5 months out: Early November

  • Hired wedding planner and had first meeting, shared wedding vison

  • Sent out Save the Dates

  • Wedding planner visits venue to get dimensions etc. 

4 months out: December

  • Agreed on wedding theme/decor board proposal, colors, discussed and decided on vendors

  • Sent out reminders to guest for booking accommodations and flights

  • Hired wedding photographer, paid deposit

  • Made decisions on party favors

  • Made arrangements to ensure our wedding in Mexico would be legal

3 months out: 

  • Decided on menu options

  • Had another video call meeting with wedding planner

  • Booked DJ, caterer, florist 

2 months out: 

  • Reserved rehearsal dinner restaurant and group catamaran excursion 

  • Created song list for DJ

1 month out: 

  • Paid deposits on all vendors; caterers, DJ, furniture rentals, etc. 

  • Sent emails out to all guests making sure no one had questions and including more detailed itinerary information.

  • Choose a baker for our wedding cake (we weren’t super picky)

  • First in person meeting with our wedding planner

  • Created final wedding day outline

  • Had a meeting with our officiant.

Overlooking the fabulous Banderas Bay, at our private villa in Conchas Chinas. Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

Overlooking the fabulous Banderas Bay, at our private villa in Conchas Chinas. Photo by Cristheell Bernal

Choosing a venue for a wedding in Mexico + destination wedding ideas

Get married in a private villa

From the beginning we had the idea of booking a large villa to fit our entire immediate family, where we would host them for 5 days during the time of the wedding. As digital nomads who spend 10 months a year out of the country, away from family, we loved the idea of our entire family together in one place. 

In Puerto Vallarta you have many amazing options for a wedding venue. You might choose to book a villa or private house like us. There are countless gorgeous homes for rent, especially in the Concha Chinas neighborhood, most of them with dramatic ocean views.

It’s not hard to find a home for $300-1200/night. Keep in mind, you must verify with your host before booking to ensure you’re able to hold an event in their rental. This is where a wedding planner can help you choose the right kind of villa for your dream wedding.

Check out Airbnb, Booking, VRBO or Luxury Retreats to assess your options

We originally found our wedding venue, Villa Azul, on Airbnb. However we searched for it and booked directly with the management company, Vallarta Shores, to save on fees. Vallarta Shores had another villa, Villa Azul Celeste that was closer to the beach and seemed even better suited for a wedding, however it was occupied during our week.

We ended up absolutely loving Villa Azul. It was massive, gorgeous and well staffed. It comfortably fit all of our immediate family, 16 people. It had 3 swimming pools, loads of seating space, the most magnificent views and a friendly accommodating staff including a private chef who cooked us all 2 meals a day.

We paid $1000/night, or $5000 for 5 nights, which made up less than half of our overall budget and included not only our ceremony venue but also accommodation for ourselves and our families. And let me tell you–those 5 nights in the villa were pretty amazing. 

The self serve tequila and mezcal bar, overlooking the bay at sunset. Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

The self serve tequila and mezcal bar, overlooking the bay at sunset. Photo by Cristheell Bernal

Get married at an all inclusive resort 

Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination wedding destination, with many people choosing to get married at a resort where you can purchase a package that covers all the details. Resorts including Casa Velas, Canto Del Sol Plaza, or Melia Puerto Vallarta (ADD AFFILIATE LINKS). These hotels offer wedding packages that will just about take care of everything.

This can be a great low stress option and won’t require you to hire a wedding planner.

Get married in a botanical garden 

Initially when Puerto Vallarta came to mind, we wanted to get married at the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden chapel. The Botanical garden actually has packages for weddings that include use of the chapel and a catered reception. However, as we did more planning, it seemed logistically challenging and over our budget. But we still feel this would be a fabulous option.

Looking back on it now, we probably could have managed this on our budget, however we weren’t crazy about the idea of transporting all our guests between the reception and the chapel. 

Get married in a gorgeous old chapel

The historic Hacienda San Angel, in Old Town, is a boutique hotel with their own chapel, available for weddings. The property has gorgeous sunset views of the city, ocean and perfect views of the iconic Renaissance style tower of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The place oozes romance.

Have an adventure wedding 

Vallarta Adventures, one of the largest, most well respected and professional tour companies in Puerto Vallarta also plans weddings. This would be perfect for anyone who wants to get married and have their reception on a secluded, private beach and want something gorgeous and memorable yet less traditional and more of an adventure!

A sailing trip in Banderas Bay gave our guests a chance to relax, spend time in the water and even see whales.

A sailing trip in Banderas Bay gave our guests a chance to relax, spend time in the water and even see whales.

Planning activities for the week of the wedding

We choose to plan a few activities for guests to join in during the days before and after the wedding. 

Snorkeling and Whale Watching Catamaran Trip

The day before the wedding we hosted a catamaran cruise in the harbor for anyone interested in joining us. We booked with Puerto Vallarta Tours who has a variety of boats for charter depending on your group size or budget. This tour included a staff, lunch and snacks, with BYOB.  We asked our guests to each pay $50 for a 6 hour tour that included lunch.

Rehearsal Dinner in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has so many restaurants choosing the best spot for our rehearsal dinner was a tough decision. Luckily our wedding planner, Tania, sent us a list of her recommendations for a rehearsal dinner venue. We ended up choosing, La Palapa, and had a lovely meal for 50 on the beach. It was gorgeous, delicious and perfect–though ended up costing us a bit more than we planned. No regrets.  Other venues we seriously considered for our rehearsal dinner included Hacienda San Angel, and El Arrayan.

Hotel recommendations in Puerto Vallarta for wedding guests

About 4 months prior to the wedding we sent out reminders for our guests, encouraging them to book their hotels. On our wedding website, we included information about the neighborhood the wedding would occur, the areas they should look for hotels, and a few specific hotel recommendations. We included a map on our website highlighting these areas. 

Because of our own travel style, we also included a wishlist featuring airbnb villas and rentals in this recommended area, encouraging our guests to get a group together and rent a badass villa or house. Many of our friends and family members choose to do this. We predicted this would encourage a more festive trip/experience–and it did. 

For guests who prefer a nice hotel, we offered a few choices here too. 

We recommend:

$$$$ - The Grand Miramar Resort
$$$ - Hacienda Escondida 
$$ - Cinco 22 
$ - Hotel Belmar Galeria 

The full live mariachi band took up a decent chunk of our budget–and was ultimately a favorite detail of our wedding day. Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

The full live mariachi band took up a decent chunk of our budget–and was ultimately a favorite detail of our wedding day. Photo by Cristheell Bernal

Our Wedding Details: 

Venue: Villa Azul
Wedding Planner: Tania Arreguin, Magnifique Weddings
Theme: Tropical Chic, Green/Eco Friendly & low waste
Guests: 50 people 
Food: Buffet style featuring grilled fish, coconut shrimp, ceviche, salad, roasted vegetables 
Cake: Absolutely delicious homemade tres leches cake made by Sweet Love by Kyre
Drinks: Palomas, mezcal old fashions, tequila Mojitos and beer 
Fun stuff: DJ, Churro Maker, Fresh Coconuts, Tequila/Mezcal Bar, Mariachi Band
Wedding favors: engraved bamboo straws in eco friendly bags, & clay shot glasses 
Photographer: Cristheell Bernal

Fresh coconuts with our party favor–engraved reusable bamboo straws. Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

Fresh coconuts with our party favor–engraved reusable bamboo straws. Photo by Cristheell Bernal

What was our total budget for our destination wedding?

When all was said and done, we spent just under $13k on our wedding

Including wedding planner, venue, all vendors including catering, booze, + five nights accommodation for ourselves and our families, etc. This included everything but the rehearsal dinner and travel costs.

I feel with good planning and flexibility, it’s possible to have a nice wedding in Puerto Vallarta for a minimum of around $7,000. 

Here’s the wedding budget breakdown: 

Venue (5 nights): $6,000
Catering for 50 people: $2100
Photography: $850
Wedding Planner: $850
DJ: $800
Furniture rentals: $600
Flowers: $535 
Full Live Mariachi Band: $450
Alcohol: $450
Fresh Churro maker: $100
Fresh coconuts: $60
Extra Staff: $90

Charming downtown Puerto Vallarta

Charming downtown Puerto Vallarta

Things to do, see, eat in Puerto Vallarta 

We wrote an entire featuring all of our recommendations for getting the most out of a Puerto Vallarta visit. Check it out here: Jim & Lindsay’s First Time Guide to Puerto Vallarta

Honest reflections on our destination wedding

The Good Part:

Looking back, I loved our big day. It was beautiful, emotional and fun. The venue, overlooking the ocean, shined and all the details we’d been planning for 6 months came together almost perfectly. Having our closest friends and family come together in such a beautiful place made the already special occasion extra special. 

We both loved that we were able to spend 5 days in a villa with both of our families–an experience we aren’t sure we would have otherwise had.

Whenever we run into our wedding guests, we often get comments about how much they enjoyed our wedding. How it encouraged them to travel to place they hadn’t considered or even get out of the country for the very first time! As people who highly value travel and paying for experiences over possessions, we think that’s pretty amazing.

Photo by  Cristheell Bernal

Photo by Cristheell Bernal

The Bad Part:

It was definitely more stressful than I predicted it would be. This was likely because we both felt a little overwhelmed by the fact that there were 50 people traveling, taking time off and spending money to come be apart of our wedding day. We both felt largely responsible for their comfort and happiness during this time. 

Something to keep in mind when planning a destination wedding is that not everyone you’ll invite will be able to attend. Just over 50% of the guests we invited accepted our invitation. Unfortunately many of our older relatives were unable to attend. This was a big bummer for us, however we compromised by having an additional smaller party planned back home to celebrate with relatives unable to attend. 

A norovirus outbreak left several people in our family with a terrible case of the flu the days leading up to the wedding. Several of our guests experience significant travel delays. Our bartenders didn’t know how to make our requested drinks.

Final Thoughts

Was it perfect? Not exactly. But we both feel this is ultimately an unrealistic expectation to have surrounding your big day. In the end, we had a beautiful day we will never forget, and it was perfect for us! Our guests had a great time, and everyone came back with a great story to tell. In the end, we have few regrets, and even if we were to do it again, we’d change very little…

Planning a destination wedding in Puerto Vallarta
Destination Wedding Tips Mexico