Riviera Maya tops list for Canadians marrying abroad

So you’ve decided you want to have a destination wedding — but how will you choose where to go?


Paul Linetsky of Redtag.ca, a national travel agency, has booked oodles of destination weddings in recent years for couples hailing from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. He says when couples initially contact him, they’re usually most concerned about one of two parameters. “A lot of people look for price,” he says. “For other couples, it’s destination.”


Plenty of couples are looking for a locale that’s easy to fly to, and that they have a certain comfort level with, so they have an idea of the type of experience they can expect. It may be somewhere they’ve been on vacation before, a spot where they’ve attended a friend’s wedding, or even a place where they got engaged.



riviera maya

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is hands-down the top wedding destination for Canadian couples. “It’s easily accessible for anyone in Canada,” says Lurdes Balfour, who heads up the wedding section at Vancouver’s Absolute Travel, www.absolutetravel.ca/weddings. “There tend to be direct flights.”

And it’s likely the couple has been to the region or to another part of Mexico on vacation, so they have an idea of the type of experience they’re signing up for.

Linetsky notes that the Riviera Maya also boasts plenty of four- and five-star resorts — lots of destination wedding parties like to go high-end — as well as guaranteed good weather and plenty to do.

As another plus, he says that couples don’t have to pay translation fees to have documents such as birth certificates rendered in Spanish.

However, Linetsky says that many couples do balk at the mandatory blood testing they must get done in Mexico if they want to be married there. The solution??Couples usually get married in Canada, then do a vow renewal at the destination, and nobody in the wedding party knows they’re already married.

dominican republic

The Dominican Republic is the second-favourite location choice for Canadian couples, again because of comfort level and ease of travel. “The Dominican Republic has become so accessible with charter flights,” observes Balfour.

Linetstky says the price will probably be better than in the Riviera Maya. On the other hand, there’s more paperwork involved, because couples must get documents translated.

However, the effects of the recent fraud scandal remain to be seen (see p. 6 of Destination Weddings).

south pacific

While hawaii has a reputation as a wedding paradise, Balfour says that, in fact, it’s not a great wedding destination because resorts there don’t tend to offer all-inclusive pricing, something that’s important to many bridal parties.

So couples from Western Canada tend to think of the South Pacific instead. Of those, most would really like to get married in Tahiti, says Balfour, but once they find out how expensive it is, they opt for Fiji instead. “(Fiji) is one of the exotic requests that’s the most popular,” she says.


Another popular wedding destination is Jamaica, says Linetsky, though he notes it can be pricier than other locations.

He’s also partial to the Bahamas, and says while the destination can also be more expensive, the Bahamas Tourist Board in Toronto has a staff member who is dedicated to helping Canadians who want to get married in the Bahamas.

In turn, that person can deal directly with wedding planners in the Bahamas, so you can go outside a resort for the actual ceremony — increasing the chances you might find a stretch of relatively unoccupied beach. The likelihood of that also increases if you skip Nassau and go for one of the less touristy islands.

choosing a resort

Once a couple has picked a geographical destination for their wedding, how do they choose where to stay?

  • Lurdes Balfour of Vancouver’s Absolute Travel says couples look for all-inclusive resorts (with at least three to four stars), and then consider factors such as whether they want a kid-friendly resort, what sort of activities and atmosphere it offers, and whether it’s near a shopping area. Generally, couples will stay on an extra week after their guests.

  • Balfour also says couples consider the type of wedding packages a resort offers. Most resorts throw in the ceremony for free, but charge for options such as cakes, flowers, archways and chairs on the beach.

  • Paul Linetsky of Redtag.ca says some couples book at hotels that will hold only one wedding per day, so the bride feels special. If you want that kind of resort, expect to book a year ahead. Linetsky says the wedding market has boomed so much in recent years that many resorts can now give bridal parties pricing far in advance.

Important to do some research before you leave

Destination weddings have become big business around the world — but it’s important to know all the rules before you pack up your bridal gown, flip-flops and sunscreen:


Cost: $250 licence application fee.

Documents: Applications can be submitted from applicants’ place of residence through a Belize wedding planner or obtained in Belize on arrival with certified copies of identity documents, such as a birth certificate.

British Virgin Islands

Cost: $110 in BVI Postage Stamps if BVI resident for three days; $50 in BVI Postage Stamps if BVI resident for 15 days or more.

Waiting period: Three days.

Documents: Passport and date of arrival in the British Virgin Islands. Apply for licence at the Registrar General’s office in Tortola on same day of arrival.


Cost: $112 for marriage licence and $187 for declaration that must be made before a Commissioner of Oaths on the island.

Waiting period: Two days.

Documents: Birth certificate and proof of citizenship and an application form from the Ministry of Community Development.


Cost: $32.

Waiting period: Minimum of three days.

Documents: Passports and original birth certificates of both parties. Deed Poll if either party had a name change. Resorts include legal fees in their wedding packages. Parental consent is needed if bride or groom are under 21.


Waiting period: Must be in residence at least one month prior to wedding day.

Documents: Birth certificate (or copy with raised seal). Residency card. Medical certificate (including blood test) issued within three months of marriage date. Legal documents must be translated into French.

Trinidad & Tobago

Cost: $51.

Waiting period: Three days after arrival.

Documents: Both parties must be non-residents. Passport and airline tickets.

Turks & Caicos

Cost: $100.

Waiting period: Must be on the island 24 hours, two to three days to process paperwork for marriage.

Documents: Passport and original birth certificate. Letter stating: Occupation, marital status, present address, and father’s last name. Parental consent needed if under age 21.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Cost: $50 application fee, $50 for licence and $200 fee for ceremonies performed in the court by a judge. There is a $150 surcharge for being married on a Sunday or holiday

Waiting period: Eight days.

Documents: Applicants are required to appear in person before a Clerk of the Court or their designee to be examined under oath.

• The rules and regulations listed above are subject to change without notice. For more, visit www.doitcaribbean.com.

Puerto Rico

Cost: $30 for licence stamps.

Waiting period: Licence has to be acquired from the Puerto Rico Demographic Department up to 10 days before the wedding.

Documents: Picture identification. Blood test — no older than 10 days by a federal certified laboratory. Health certificate from a resident practitioner in Puerto Rico.


Cost: $25 for the marriage certificate and $56 to $278 for the wedding package.

Waiting period: Three days residency, written registration at least two months prior with choice of two wedding dates and times.

Documents: Witnesses from home need to apply for temporary residency.