Destination Wedding: Tulum & The Mayan Riviera copy

My friend Natalie always has the best travel suggestions. She routinely goes to some of the most beautiful places in the world to work with people on (the most incredible) weddings and then extends her stay to play tourist! 

When I introduced her here a few months back, I mentioned that I was hoping she might share her expertise in a few different ways: first up, a mini-series called Designing with Flowers; second, I’ve convinced her to weigh in with some event-specific destination tips. Because here’s the thing: Natalie travels all the time. And because it’s 

So this series is not just for those who are planning a wedding at a beach in Mexico (though these are some great tips if you are), but also for anyone invited to one or planning a trip to the region—because Natalie has agreed to share some of her picks for best places to stay, eat, and play at these romantic (wedding-worthy) spots.

As always, and selfishly, I hope that if you’ve been, you’ll add your suggestions to the list in the comments. copy

Tulum & the Riviera Maya
by Natalie Bowen Brookshire of Natalie Bowen Designs 

One of the most wonderful aspects of my job is that I get to travel. Being a traveling florist is something that I have seen become more common as destination weddings have been something that more and more people do. While I absolutely love to travel for work, it is not for the faint of heart. It is the ultimate test of both being an incredible planner and then also being able to let go and roll with the changes. Most travel destinations are remote and it could be two hours to the closest store. The packing, shipping and planning process is all done with the expectation that it will be different than it is at home, and that things will happen. Because, things do happen.

I’ve done three weddings in Tulum and the Riviera Maya and working in Mexico has taught me so much! I don’t speak Spanish (a crime, I know!), so simply communicating can be difficult. Time is also something that is so different there: “We’ll be there at 9am” can really mean, “we’ll be there before noon.” I’ve had great success pulling off some beautiful weddings, but it was nothing that I thought it would be going in. I once ordered hot pink ranunculus and what arrived was a white ranunculus with a bottle of hot pink spray paint. (I am not joking!)

When planning a wedding or party in Mexico, I think the best thing a person can do is to visit the location before you commit. The physical space really needs to be experienced in person to get a feeling for its energy. Photos are wonderful, but how do you know if it is really the place for you? This will also give you the experience of what it will be like to plan your event. If you can’t relax in to the pace, then choosing a destination which allow you to have more control is probably the better choice for you.

Here are my top tips… 

Don’t complicate the view.
I love nature and hate to mess with a beautiful view. This has been my philosophy with designing for weddings and especially when composing a ceremony look. I really feel it is important to just let the natural backdrop speak for itself—especially when getting married on the beach. The ocean is the perfect backdrop. And with the addition of a little fabric and a few pillows to anchor the space, it is the perfect look for a beach wedding. copy

Chose local food and music so guests remember where they are.
If your guests travelled a long way to be there for your wedding, they want to remember where they are. If you are in Mexico, focus on local, fresh cuisine—ceviche or taco appetizers and maybe a little popsicle dessert station. Getting a mariachi band can be very inexpensive, and is the perfect way to set the mood during cocktail hour. Their festive outfits and fun music are the perfect way to add a touch that you really could not do at home. (By the way, if you want a planner that knows Tulum better than anyone else, hire Alison Events.) copy

Use non-floral elements to beat the heat.
The number one question I get when I tell people that I do weddings in Mexico is about how I source the flowers. There in one boutique importer that I know of and she has prices to match. All flowers in Mexico come through their market in Mexico City; and agriculture will not allow me to ship flowers from San Francisco, which means I have to use what I can get my hands on. Many of the flowers I order are not the same quality as they are in the States and the high temperatures make most anything other than a palm leaf wilt. For this reason, I don’t suggest relying on flowers for your only decor. This is bad for business, but I truly believe that any chance you have to bring in non-floral design elements, you should! copy

Look to textiles to make a color statement.
Following my above tip, I suggest creating a look that is not dependent on flowers alone.Of course, I think you must have some flowers on the table, but custom linens—either rented or made specifically for you—are a great alternative. Pashminas and pillows also work well. And since getting specific floral varieties can be so hard in Mexico, it’s best to stick to white and green and neutrals: You can easily get the perfect shade of pink with fabric but not with flowers.

Natalie Tulum

Check out my favorite places on the Mayan Riviera:

If you like it modern with a little NY vibe stay here.

If you love the boho LA vibe with handsome Italians and the best garden in town eat AND stay here.

If you like to be away from everyone and just relax, and are not afraid of iguanas stay here.

If you are on more of a budget and want the same vibe, stay here.

Wait in line to eat here. It really is that good.

For authentic food in one of the oldest restaurants in town, eat here.

Om yourself here.

Thank you so much, Natalie! See her work at Natalie Bowen Designs. 

P.S. Our road trip around the Yucatan peninsula with stops in Merida, Campeche, Tulum, and Isla Mujeres. 

[Top photos by Jesse Leake | Bottom collage photos by Button Up]

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