My husband and I have just returned from our wedding in Puerto Vallarta, and I wanted to share my experience as I struggled to find much information for a non-hotel wedding in Puerto Vallarta .
Neither of us had previously been to Puerto Vallarta, and as we live in China, a look-see before the wedding was out of the question for us. We were initially tossing up between Cabo and PV but finally decided on PV…and are so glad we did. It is a beautiful town and the tropical feel was stunning.
RECEPTION VENUE – MARTOCA BEACH GARDEN (www.martoca.com)
After originally planning on doing a villa reception to avoid curfews and to have more control over the vendors etc, we came across Martoca’s website and requested some more information. Jimmy responded immediately and from then on communications were always responded within a day – unlike many other potential vendors we had contacted. Jimmy was flexible to our needs and we decided to go ahead with this venue. We had only seen photos on the internet so were slightly worried that when we arrived we would be disappointed, but it was the complete opposite. The venue is BEAUTIFUL. We were blown away when we went for our tasting (so with no décor set up) and when we entered on our wedding day once everything had been set up, it looked simply magical, and all of our guests agreed.
Our contract with Martoca provided all of the services (wedding planner, photographer, hair & make up, musicians etc) so luckily we didn’t have to research and contract these ourselves, saving us a lot of time – the only things we had to worry about were the menu and the decor.
We went down to the beach to take photos, and whilst there were a few people who passed by, it is relatively private. The only downside is that you cannot see the end of the sunset as the sun disappears behind, so whilst we got mid-sunset photos, we missed out on the final moments.
Whilst we haven’t received the photos yet, we were extremely happy with the photographer (Ulises Guerrero) and the hair and makeup (Joel Salon) were also great. For music we had a 3 piece for the church and mariachis, solo guitarist and dj for the reception – they were all fantastic but unfortunately I don’t have the details of any of them.
We would definitely recommend Martoca for your wedding!
CEREMONY VENUE – OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE CHURCH
The church is beautiful. One thing to consider is that it is one of the major tourist spots of the town and always has people visiting/worshipping so if you do not like the thought of strangers watching you both in and outside of the church, you may want to consider a more private church. This wasn’t really an issue at all, just a bit awkward when we had a stranger pushing in front of our guests to receive communion during our service (which was private, as opposed to being during a normal church service).
Luckily my husband is friends with a Mexican priest who was willing to travel to PV and marry us, and he took care of most of the communication (along with our wedding planner) with the church so I cannot comment on how difficult it is to arrange the ceremony with them.
We had a slight problem with our bouquets- they were meant to be waiting for us when we arrived at the church, however once we arrived there was no sign of them, and we had to get the photographer to find them, and after a few minutes two of our guests ran out with them…this was a shame as it caused some last minute stress!! I would recommend ensuring you have them before going to the Church – we also missed out on taking bride and bridesmaid photos with the flowers which was a shame, as the bouquets were beautiful.
WEDDING PLANNER – KELLEY KARHOFF (http://youniquevallartaweddings.com/)
Kelley was provided to us through Martoca, and she was an absolute godsend throughout the entire process.
From the beginning emails were always responded to in a day or two, and leading up to the wedding within hours (which was a real feat given the time difference). We only needed to do one Skype call with her and she never made us feel like we were bothering her with our annoying emails which intensified in the final weeks.
Throughout the wedding week she was on hand to help with everything and she attended our welcome dinner and farewell drinks to make sure everything was going as planned. On the wedding day, she was at the reception the entire time and helped out with a few things to ensure everything ran to plan.
I would definitely recommend Kelley, she did a fantastic job with EVERYTHING and responded to all our requests, right up until days before the wedding! She even took us to Walmart to get candy for the pinata
ACCOMODATION – DREAMS VILLAMAGNA, NUEVO VALLARTA
The majority of our guests stayed here which was great for impromptu lunches/dinners (You cannot make reservations, but we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes). The grounds are amazing with different temperature pools. We originally had the junior suite, but upon checkin upgraded to the presidential suite. The only major difference was that the upgraded room was much larger and perfect for getting ready in the day of the wedding. There was also a larger tub in the room. Another benefit of this floor is that there are drinks and food outside of the rooms all day, so if you want a quick snack/beverage without going downstairs, it’s very convenient.
We hired a car for about $55 a day from the hotel, which was handy after we realized how expensive going to and from Puerto Vallarta was. We never had any blinding hangovers, so the alcohol was all good quality.
We also had guests stay closer to the reception venue at Punta Esmeralda and Vallarta Gardens. These are both villa complexes and we heard great things. If you aren’t into the all inclusive thing, we would recommend both of these complexes (Punta Esmeralda in about a 5 minute walk from Martoca, and Vallarta Gardens is about a 5 minute drive). Only downside is its quite far away from Puerto Vallarta so you may want to hire a car to save on all the taxi fares if you plan on going down there.
We did have lunch at Grand Vellas (some family were staying there) and whilst we didn’t see the rooms, the food and grounds were amazing, so if you can afford to splash out, I would recommend it (in hindsight, instead of upgrading our room at Dreams, we should have just stayed there!!)
WELCOME DINNER – DAIQUIRI DICKS
This place was great for our welcome dinner, which consisted of an open bar and canapés for 3 hours. We did not want a sit down dinner as we wanted people to mix, and this place was great for that purpose, and of course there was plenty of seating for those who wanted to sit. The only downside is it is even further down PV than the church, so if you’re staying in NV or North, it is a bit of a trek.
REHEARSAL DINNER - BARACUDA
We asked reception to recommend a restaurant where our family (around 12 people) could enjoy a meal the night before the wedding, and they gave us Baracuda. It is a casual restaurant and the appetizers were all amazing but the mains fell a little short, and a few people complained of blandness. All in all, a pleasant dinner, but I wouldn’t necessarily return.
DAY EXCURSION – CHICA LOCCA TOURS
We decided to do a private hire of the Chica Locca catamaran and it was amazing. We had around 40 people but it would fit 50+. The drinks were flowing throughout the day and lunch was provided which was a yummy sandwich and pasta salad.
The took us to Las Marietas Islands but unfortauntely there were jellyfish in the water which scared some of us from going in the water – there were kayaks to take people in though, and I think the jellyfish disappeared toward the end of our stop there.
Because we did a private hire, we were able to chose the times, which we did 1pm-8pm to watch the sunset. It departed from La Cruz but on the return they kindly did two drop off points (Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz) seeing as so many of our guests were staying in NV.
The only negative thing I have to say about this was at the end of the cruise, they asked everyone for tips. Whilst I have no problem with them passing around a jar, but they were quite antagonizing when my (now) husband had no cash to give them after we paid the photographer $120 for the photos, leaving us with no cash. We had paid over $2500 for an ‘all inclusive’ cruise for our guests, so hadn’t expected this. Not saying they didn’t deserve a tip, but the cost was supposed to include the tip.
DAY AFTER PARTY - ADRIATICO
We help our day-after party/farewell drinks at Adriatico - a bar/restaurant in Bucerias. We wanted to just buy a bunch of beers and wine along with appetizers, but they insisted on a charge per person for 3 hours of open bar and some food (most places our wedding planner contacted had the same approach). This ended up working out fine, although more expensive than we planned. They put us in their garden at the back of the restaurant which was really nice, and there was a musician for some of the time which was great.
Whilst I would recommend the place, we are still trying to resolve an issue whereby they took a deposit from us, and when we paid the remainder, they did not deduct the deposit, meaning we paid an extra $3700 pesos. It has been two+ weeks and we are still trying to get our money back…
Puerto Vallarta doesn’t have many options for hiring nice cars (we saw a couple of antiques, but not what we had in mind), so we ended up just going in a normal shuttle and we hired a Mercedes for the bride and groom to go to the reception. It was nothing fancy and in hindsight we should have just gone in a taxi, which would have been a lot cheaper. You can hire plain car taxis so whilst you don’t have any photo ops with them, they aren’t tacky.
Martoca provided a bus service which picked up our guests from Dreams Villamagna to transport them to the church. The bus ended up being 20 minutes late to the church and unfortunately this meant I arrived before all of our guests (luckily I never got out of the car and we quickly realized!). We have heard different versions of why it was late, but I recommend that if you use a bus to transport people, make sure you have someone in charge of the bus who knows who should be on the bus and who can tell the bus driver when to leave. Apparently the driver was waiting for people and didn’t leave until one of our guests told him to…20 minutes too late. It was no biggee, but just added both my groom’s stress (he was waiting at the church for everyone to arrive and mine (we ended up parking up nearby).
Another small issue with the bus was that on the journey from the Church to Martoca, beers were meant to be provided for the 45 minute ride, which ended up not being provided. This was a communication problem between the wedding planner and the venue, so just make sure that all details like this are confirmed beforehand. The guests were none the wiser so it wasn’t a problem at all, but was one of the selling points of the venue given it is quite a way from Puerto Vallarta.
I think I have covered everything, feel free to ask anything if you need more info!