Most all-inclusive resorts in Mexico will indicate that a “wedding planner” or “wedding coordinator” is included in your wedding package or wedding collection but there’s often confusion and even frustration when you learn that this role is not exactly what you have come to expect from a true wedding planner. Couples planning in the US will typically expect a wedding planner to talk them through a number of wedding planning details, give them vendor recommendations, review contracts, help them with design & décor ideas and other elements of their weddings, plan and execute their wedding rehearsal, be with them throughout their wedding day, create a comprehensive timeline, and much more. Unfortunately, this is not what your resort’s included wedding planner/coordinator offers and this can be very upsetting for couples to learn when you’ve secured a wedding package and assume that your resort’s included coordinator is the same thing as the type of wedding planner that you would expect in the US.
The destination wedding planning process usually starts with the couple booking their wedding by contracting a wedding date with their resort of choice and then contracting a destination wedding room block with us for their guests. After that, most of our couples are excited to immediately get started with their wedding day planning details, but then run into frustration when their resort’s wedding team now takes days or even weeks to respond. So, we’re going to explore what you can expect from your resort’s wedding planning team, so you can walk into this with more realistic expectations about the destination wedding planning process.
First, a little behind the scenes of most wedding planning teams at the resorts. Most of these teams are small, compared to the number of weddings that their resorts allow each year. For example, there is one resort that we work with in the Riviera Maya zone that allows approximately 750+ weddings a year. Their entire wedding planning staff consists of only 12 people – 6 wedding coordinators and 6 back end staff. That’s 125 weddings a year (about 1 every 3 days) per wedding planner! That is A LOT OF WORK for only 6 people. Though this is one of the more extreme examples, it’s sadly not abnormal for the resort’s wedding planning teams.
Can a true wedding planner effectively “plan” 125 weddings a year? No, they cannot! It’s for this reason that I normally tell our couples that the on-site wedding planner that’s included in your resort’s wedding package should be viewed more as a “wedding order taker” or “wedding day facilitator” and to think of them this way throughout the planning process. They may initially give you an overall proposal of costs but they are there to make sure that you follow the flow of THEIR process, to take your order for your wedding items, and to make sure that the resort staff fulfills their contractual obligation to you and your wedding on your wedding day. Beyond that, they aren’t often able to provide a great deal of assistance that would resemble a true wedding planner.
You will realistically not receive much direction or communication from your resort’s wedding staff until 2 – 3 months (60 – 90 days) before your wedding. At some resorts, a wedding planner will not be assigned to you until 1 – 2 months (30 – 60 days) before your wedding. You may start the wedding date reservation process by talking with or emailing someone in the wedding department, but this is rarely the person that ends up being your “wedding coordinator”. The person that you initially speak with in the wedding department at your chosen resort is the wedding salesperson. Their job is to assist you in securing your wedding day contract and answering initial contract specific questions. From there your wedding may be turned over to another team member or coordination staff after you’ve completed your wedding day contract.
Once a wedding coordinator is assigned to you and you are within that 2 – 3 months zone before your wedding you will then be contacted by the planner/coordinator. They will normally send you some planning documents or excel spreadsheets and ask you to add your details, make selections that are within your current wedding package, and select any additions you’d like to make to your wedding. They’ll also assist with finalizing any payments that are due for the items/vendors you’ve chosen.
*Side notes – If planning all of your wedding details 60 – 90 days prior to your wedding makes you feel absolutely nauseous, it may help to reframe the situation. First, you are planning a destination wedding in Mexico. Mexico timeframes and customs are not US timeframes and customs. I would recommend that you unsubscribe from all of those The Knot and Emily Post type emails, for your own sanity, because what we are used to in the US is simply not the norm in Mexico and all of these emails/planning templates are going to make you feel like you are so far behind and provide you with endless anxiety. Those wedding planning timelines that all the wedding planning websites in the US are going to send you are not in line with what is realistic for Mexican resorts.
Second, YES, the resort really CAN knock all of this out in 60 – 90 days. They have systems in place for this planning timeline and will totally be able to get all of this accomplished for you in a very short planning window.
Third, this will provide you with a much calmer planning process – IF YOU LET IT – because you won’t need to stress over details for a year. You’ll just need to convey your wants to the resort a couple months prior to your wedding and it will be all wrapped up nicely.
While you may be interested in planning portions of your wedding well in advance, most wedding decisions will not be made and finalized until 2 – 3 months before your wedding.
So, what should you (or can you) do leading up to 2 – 3-month zone? The most important thing that I would recommend doing, once you’re contracted your wedding date and wedding room block, is booking your wedding photographer and videographer (if you’re choosing an off site vendor), since they tend to book 9 – 12 months in advance. From there, you can probably wait it out on the specific décor details until 3 – 6 months prior to your wedding.
Also, an area that surprises most couples is that wedding hair and make up teams book far in advance – as much as 9 months or more in advance for busy weeks/weekends, so this is something that I would work on securing as soon as you have a wedding date and feel confident that you’ve found the right hair and make up team for you.
Consider these tips for communicating with the wedding department, to receive a better response –
- Keep all your email communications in ONE email thread. Your email thread is going to be SO SO long by the time you get to your wedding date, but this is the best choice. Don’t send lots of individual emails with different titles. Most of the wedding departments will want you to send all emails under the one email thread with the same email title, which typically includes both marrier’s names, your wedding date, and a confirmation number that was assigned to you (if you are getting married at a resort that assigns this number).
- Ask all your questions in one email. Don’t send multiple emails, each with one question. These will often get overlooked. It sounds silly but use as few words as possible in the most simple way to ask your questions – keep it specific and direct. Numbering each item in the email and/or using a different color to respond to each item helps as well.
- Send pictures! If you want a specific bouquet or bouquet style, for example, send pictures of that exact bouquet. Given that most of the resort’s wedding planners do not have a lot of time for each wedding, they will not have time to “dream and design” with you. Pictures are also the best way to ensure that you will receive exactly what you’re asking for, given that you may be working with somewhat of a language barrier at times, and some of the words we use to describe design details don’t translate well. If you don’t feel you’d be able to articulate very specifically what you want for décor it may be best to hire a full-service destination wedding planner or designer from the local area.
- Clearly communicate your spending plan (either overall or more specifically, for each vendor group) to the wedding planner when asking for quotes for specific items. Saying something like, “my maximum budget for all my wedding flowers is $7,000. Here is the list of items that I would like to include within this budget. Can you tell me what (or if) I can get within this list for the spending plan that I have?” will get you so much further along so much faster than throwing out pictures and giving the resort no idea of overall budget.
How long should you wait to check in on your email that has not received a response?
I normally recommend 1 week to 10 days before following up on an email, if you’re far out from your wedding date. For responses within that 2 – 3 months before the wedding zone I would recommend following up in 3 or so days, if you don’t receive an email response.
I do not recommend reaching out to your resort wedding planner by WhatsApp unless they tell you that you can do so. I have seen many Facebook groups recommend that couples ask their resort wedding planner questions on WhatsApp and then listing their past coordinator’s Whatsapp publicly. Please do not so this! In most cases, this is their private/personal WhatsApp (much like their private cell phone number) and it is not appropriate to contact them personally unless they say you can do so. Some wedding planners will give you their WhatsApp details about 1 month before the wedding date and tell you that you are welcome to begin contacting them there, so they can quickly respond to you. This is perfectly acceptable, but not until they have offered this to you.
What can you do to help the wedding planning process?
Keep all your details and files organized. There are many resources for wedding planning software and systems online that you can use for this.
The reality of hosting a destination wedding and working directly with the on-site wedding planner staff is that you will likely experience delays in communication and you will likely not receive consistent service levels until you are close to your wedding date when more of your final decisions need to be made. Mexican culture values relationship but does not have the same cultural expectation/value attached to rapidly responding to emails. However, most of the resort’s on-site wedding planners and wedding coordinators are the nicest most hard-working people you will ever meet. They sacrifice so much of their personal time to stay late and work extremely long hours for you and your wedding. But there are only so many of them at each resort, and they are receiving literally hundreds of emails a day from around the world in many languages, so please keep this in mind when you’re communicating with these lovely people.
If you feel like you are not going to be comfortable with leaving the details to the last few months before your wedding, will want more consistent and regular communication with your wedding planning team, will have a lot of wedding details for your wedding day, or will be planning multiple days of events, I would HIGHLY recommend hiring an outside wedding planner that is not connected to your resort’s in house planning staff. You’ll have a more consistent planning experience and will be able to plan at your own speed earlier in the process.
If you are one of our wedding couples we are happy to refer you to an amazing local wedding planner that knows your particular resort well. Just ask us and we’ll email you some great options!