Joanna & Casey A picture-perfect “I do” in the Mayan Riviera

Bride Joanna Perron admits that she’s a pretty low-maintenance bride when it comes to wedding co-ordination. “I’m not a planner at all and always envisioned getting married by the beach,” she said, referring to her dreamy wedding escape at the Occidental Grand Xcaret. From the proposal to the discotheque dancing that capped off a picture-perfect “I do,” Joanna and her now-hubby Casey didn’t have a single tale of horror, disappointment, or even stress when telling the story of their destination wedding.

It began with a proposal in the Maritimes. Both Joanna and Casey were teachers and had met at their school. “We were   friends first for a long time, we dated for three years, and then he proposed when we were out in Halifax – we had gone to a cottage in Cape Breton that we go to every summer and we went into Halifax for the weekend,” she explained. “Casey had reserved one of the restaurants, called Chives Canadian Bistro and because it used to be a bank it has a private vaulted  room with just one table.”It’s also where the popular local restaurant houses its impressive wine collection. “He reserved that room, which was very cool, and we had dinner. The meal was amazing, and then we got on the topic of getting married and he said it would probably not happen for awhile. But then he flipped it into saying all these amazing things about me, reached into his pocket and got down on one knee and I was totally blown away. I had no idea because he was kinda sneaky about it. It was beautiful and just the two of us, and then the waitress came in and they brought us champagne. The whole experience was pretty special.”

The couple had a relatively low-key approach to their wedding: keep it simple and keep it beachy. Having gotten engaged in July, they got in contact with Pauwels Travel in Brantford, Ontario in October to start planning their destination wedding. “We had been to the Mayan Riviera and we knew that we loved it, so we were set on that destination, but we were wondering where we should stay,”Joanna said.

Their DestinationVows Specialist found them a few options, one of which was the Occidental Grand Xcaret. “Price-wise, it was the best. It wasn’t too big or too small, and it had most of the things that we wanted: very natural surroundings with a lot of trees and flowers. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a cookie-cutter box – there are monkeys in the trees roaming freely and all kinds of other wildlife. They had five à la carte restaurants with no reservations required and you could go anytime, plus late-night restaurants that were open until 2 a.m. They had lots of different pools and a swim-up bar. The pictures made it look great, and we didn’t know what to expect.

But when the time came and we arrived there, we were very pleasantly surprised. It was gorgeous.”Working with a DV Specialist streamlined the planning process from home turf, and then the resort’s experienced on-site wedding planner took care of the last-minute details after the couple and their 30+ guests had arrived. “Once we got down there it was so easy – we really hadn’t expected it would be that easy.

Their on-site wedding coordinator was great and was able to give us recommendations for all kinds of details based on what was best suited to us,” Joanna said. “We followed her lead and got married later in the day at the Mayan Ruins, so it was private and there was no one gawking at you. It’s not on the beach but looking out over the ocean and it’s so beautiful on the rocks. They put a canopy up for us and it was pretty perfect because no one else was around.”

The couple had chosen a wedding package ahead of time, the Simple Love package, but they had it catered to their own specifications. “We added a private dinner and cocktail hour, which really wasn’t that expensive to add on, and we had our own area and bartender for just our group – you’re outside on your own deck, and it was extra touches like that that made it special.” From the décor and getting the women’s dresses on time to being picked up in the golf carts, Joanna said  everything was done flawlessly without a single hiccup.

“They really knew what they were doing at the resort, and it made me much more relaxed.”One thing Joanna loved about her day was her flowers. “I absolutely loved them – they were beautiful. With the Simple Love package we got white canopies with the white chairs, and fuchsia and orange flowers that were stunning. They were definitely one of the most memorable details from the day.”A private dance reception that was extended to 11 p.m. was enjoyed by everyone, and the couple loved their private bartender for the evening (who was, as they put it, “awesome”).

“We went to the on-site discotheque afterward, which worked out really well –whoever wanted to leave could, but the majority of us went.” It was the perfect way to cap off the perfect day. The rest of the vacation was spent taking advantage of the incredible spa services of this Occidental property, as well as partaking in a wide range of local activities. “My husband and I went to the Xcaret Park, and that was fun, especially for people with kids – it was beautiful to see with lots to do, and learning about the Mayan history was really neat,” said Joanna.

“The hotel also organized a boat tour for the wedding party.”All in all, these newlyweds admit that their destination wedding was one to put down in the history books. From the ease of working with a DestinationVows Specialist to making all of the arrangements that could be done ahead of time, to sitting back while all of the last-minute details were handled by an on-site wedding coordinator, Casey and Joanna were able to start the first chapter of their lives together just the way that they had envisioned: surrounded only by their closest loved ones in one of the most idyllic places in the world.