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San Miguel's Weddings: Imported or Domestic?
San Miguel's Weddings: Imported or Domestic?

by Joseph Toone

When my daughter was a child we lived on a remote island in the Atlantic, only reached by boat. Every Saturday the island was a bride magnet. While her baby brothers napped we’d sit our front deck and watch the parade of brides go by via golf cart. She got apt at spotting the differences between a barefoot bride in a simple Vera Wang strapless for a beach ceremony versus a gal in cowboy boots and rhinestones that Dolly Parton would envy for a hoe-down reception at the clubhouse.

Years went by and as a teen, ten years ago, my daughter did much the same in the Jardin here in San Miguel. San Miguel was enjoying what was then the start of being the “It” city for the destination marriage market. She then pointed out to me when it was the wedding of a politician’s child or telenova star by the “hidden” security forces. She’d point out folks with no obvious connection in the Jardin that spoke into watches and arranged the security forces for the upcoming wedding party.

Silly me thought my daughter had a real future in security, instead she became a wedding photographer.

These days I’ve had many a destination wedding party on my tours. They’ve run the gamut from elaborate and elegant affairs to the happy and zany couple insisting that all guests attend the wedding with gifts purchased from the Tuesday Market.

This led to a fascinating chat with Guadalupe Alvarez Brunel, owner of Penzi, a full service provider for destination weddings. I learned our wedding market is about 50-50 foreign to domestic with Americans outnumbering Canadians, and folks from Mexico City trumping those brides from other areas of Mexico.

About half want mass in a church prior to the reception with the iconic Parroquia being a fan favorite. Then comes St. Francis, the Immaculate Conception Church (Las Monjas) and St. Anthony’s.

Costs vary wildly depending on size, accommodations and such, though normally it runs about one third the cost of a comparable wedding in the US, according to Guadalupe Alavez Brunel. Economic rewards for the local economy come from: lodging, meals, cakes, chair rentals, all way down to the tiny world of walking tours, dance lessons and sales of my books on local history and culture. Wherever the guests’ interests lie, destination weddings are big business for our town.

Brides choose San Miguel for its inherent charm, romance and inability to take a bad photo; also, when they desire several days with loved ones versus just the day of the wedding itself.

Destination weddings are the ones you see that have the flower-strewn mule leading the way as the guests enjoy tequila shots and the dancing grace of the huge bride and groom papier-mâché puppets.

Local weddings I’ve attended tend to be much larger with receptions held in local party halls or out in the countryside where there is plenty of room for both the Lady Gaga-sized concerts and seemingly endless supply of food.

Recently passed was Mexican April Fool's Day, Day of the Innocents. If I play a trick on you and you catch me at it, I exclaim "innocent" in honor of all the innocent baby boys King Herod killed because the joke was on him, Jesus escaped. Invited to a wedding on Day of Innocents for a Mexican couple, now in their 40’s that had dated since they were teens, I assumed it was all a hoax.

The joke was on me. I was wrong. It was a lovely wedding.

Following the travel, tequila shots and wedding day activities foreign guests are ready to call it a day. Following the ceremony the local wedding guest is right ready to cut loose until the wee hours. So much so, I often have seen wedding party members stocking up on tacos in the Jardin knowing that following a wedding mass in the afternoon it may be a bit until the wedding reception meal.

Living here or visiting, being a wedding guest is always great fun. I’m sure it is for the bride and groom also.

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Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact toone.joseph@yahoo.com or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or JosephTooneTours.com, also on FaceBook.

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