When I got the opportunity to shoot this magical Tulum destination wedding, I was filled with inspiration. Each destination wedding is a chance to embrace a cultural pocket of our big, beautiful world and the people in it. In order to authentically capture a location, it’s important to get immersed in its essence, which is why I typically transform a destination wedding shoot into a trip with some days off. This approach has allowed me to better seize and reflect the magic of the moment, time, and people in the unique setting. Here’s how it happened in Tulum.
Adrian (my husband and talented videographer) and I were hired in November 2021 by the coolest couple, Nicolle and Diego, to shoot their Tulum destination wedding in Sian Ka’an. We spent a total of five days in Tulum, arriving three days before the wedding in order to settle and get oriented. This extra time also provided a buffer in case of unexpected delays.
In this travel blog, you will find:
To skip to the wedding day, go to Day 4.
Wedding Day: November 13th, 2021
Travel Dates: Nov. 10 (1:40pm) – Nov. 15th (3:30pm)
We used taxis and scooters. Taxis are EXPENSIVE. Expect to pay $25USD minimum for any trip, even for short distances.
To get from Cancun to Tulum, there aren’t many options—you can either rent a car, take a bus, or hire a private taxi. We opted for a taxi because parking is a headache and expensive, roads are very bumpy in Tulum, and you need a specific car insurance to be able to rent a car.
The other common mode of transportation in Tulum is scooters. If you plan on drinking, etc., I don’t recommend it as your primary way of transportation. You can probably split between scooters and taxis, depending on the nature and distance of your excursions.
Accommodations: MISTIQ Tulum
Payment: Have cash! A lot of places are cash only.
Pro Tip: Withdraw from your US bank directly from ATM machines; you’ll get better rates than exchanging in the US.
🌮 Food Tip 🌮 Check out this Google map with all of the restaurant recommendations given by our hosts! None of the restaurants we went to throughout the trip required reservations. All of the places we went to were recommended by our AirBnB host and were excellent. Having these recommendations was very practical, as the variety of options in places like Tulum can get overwhelming.
We arrived in Cancun at 4pm, and it took an hour to get through customs. It was very crowded and the line was long. We then waited another hour for the taxi to come pick us up (even though they promised the driver would arrive in 10 minutes). When you first get out of the airport, you see tons of people holding taxi signs trying to get new customers, but unfortunately not all of them have cars ready to go, and you might have to wait for drivers to come back from their trips. We ended up paying $83USD in a private taxi because we got a roundtrip deal to and from the airport. Not too bad.
Pro Tip: Skip the cloud of taxi-sign-holding companies and go straight to the area that has all the cars ready. Pick a taxi company that has cars ready to go to Tulum. Do this especially if it’s towards the end of the day, because a lot of drivers are just tired and don’t want to go all the way to Tulum and back.
In the early evening, we arrived at our apartment at MISTIQ Tulum, a beautiful luxurious condo building and resort that we booked through AirBnB. The condo is conveniently located between the beach and the pueblo (town), in the middle of a developing area. There is a delicious French bakery, “La Baguette” (where we had breakfast every morning), and a convenience store around the block, but almost nothing beyond that, since the surrounding area is under construction.
Pro Tip: Pack shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. The roads in this area don’t have asphalt and sidewalks are not common, so expect a lot of dirt (and mud if it rains).
MISTIQ felt like a little oasis with lush tropical greenery inside the compound. There was a concierge available 24/7 with taxis on demand within 10 min. Staying in the pueblo is not as nice and staying at the beach is more expensive, so this was a great solution.
Pro Tip: If you’re able to financially, book a hotel or AirBnB on the beach; that’s where you’ll experience the most Tulum-y vibes.
🍤 Food Tip 🍤 For our first night, we had dinner at a “hole in the wall” type of place that has the most authentic tacos in town: Antojitos La Chipalena taquería. Delicious, and a must!
On day two, we checked out the MISTIQ beach club since the resort had a free shuttle there. We were personally underwhelmed by the bohemian style of the beach club, but decided to stick around, especially because it began to pour. First, we opted for some pop-up beach massages (a little mediocre but did the job), and then we had some hookah. We eventually took a—very muddy—beach road to Ziggy’s Restaurant, stopping by other hotels to take some photos.
🍍 Food Tip 🍍 Ziggy’s Restaurant has a very chic Tulum vibe and the best shrimp tacos we have ever had in our lives.
We returned to MISTIQ via the same free shuttle (which probably saved us $50USD on this day alone). After a shower to wash away the mud, we headed to dinner.
🍝 Food Tip 🍝 Mezzanine is a gorgeous Thai restaurant. We were seated at a romantic candlelit table under the moon and stars, facing the ocean. The food was delicious.
After that, we went to Casa Jaguar to experience the Tulum nightlife (a $40USD cover per person—cash only).
On Friday, we went to the Gran Cenote, one of the most popular cenotes of Mexico. I brought my camera but unfortunately they don’t allow professional equipment, so we shot photos with our iPhones and also used our gimbal. The Gran Cenote is half covered and half open. The water is fresh but not too cold, crystal clear, and we swam in both the uncovered and covered areas. In the covered areas, there were hundreds of bats flying over our heads. It was pretty badass. On our way out, we did end up sneaking in some photos with the professional camera.
After that wild adventure, we had lunch pizzas in the pueblo, then chilled by the pool at MISTIQ.
🍋 Food Tip 🍋 For dinner, we ate at a gorgeous restaurant called Mi Amor which was part of a hotel that had an impressive architecture. The food was delicious (croquetas of ribeye and risotto, goat cheese ravioli, you get the gist).
That night, we took it easy and prepared for the wedding the next day. We spent an hour prepping our gear, double-checking we had everything because the destination wedding location was complex to get to.
Ahhh, finally, THE WEDDING DAY! Here are some quick details.
Guests: 50 people
On the morning of the wedding day, we went to the furthest hotel along the Tulum beach stretch, by the entrance of the Sian Ka’an reserve, and were picked up by a private car. The roads are extremely rough and no taxis are allowed in the reserve.
When we finally arrived at the venue after a shaky drive, our jaws dropped. The bride and groom had rented a magical, magazine-worthy villa in the middle of the Sian Ka’an reserve, with very exclusive access to a virgin beach.
As soon as we got there, it started to rain. It was a tropical, soft rain that instantly transformed the mood into a cozy, free-spirited and wild atmosphere. The raindrops were small but present. We were all shoeless and moving indoors/outdoors throughout the day, bringing the rain into the house and the house into the rain.
Despite the rain, which some might interpret as bad luck, the day was magical because Nicolle and Diego were incredibly cool about it. The couple was just so happy to finally get married after having a child together and changing wedding plans over four times in two years. Their wedding day was long overdue, and nothing was going to stop them from celebrating their joy surrounded by loved ones. Even after Nicolle’s makeup and hair stylist friend was unable to come, she didn’t let that spoil the vibes. This goes to show that your wedding day can be as good as your attitude.
The ceremony, which was originally going to be at the beach, was moved to the house. The ceremony was a Mayan ritual led by a shaman. Guests stood in a semi circle around the couple and the altar, which was adorned with colored flowers, cocoa, and coffee seeds, corn and fruit. The shaman led the ceremony with sound baths and shell horns. We were all deeply moved by his words, his energy, and the vibrations created by him blowing on the shell were so powerful it gave us goosebumps.
Everyone felt connected and present in this special moment. At one point, we were all asked to close our eyes and focus on the couple, and on wishing them well. Her parents, his mother, and Nicolle and Diego’s son all contributed to the ceremony. Each one blessed them by throwing petals of a different color, and each time, the couple was asked to rotate 45 degrees, until they made a full circle around themselves.
The shaman had done some spiritual rituals to clear the rain, so after the indoor ceremony ended, we all went to the beach to continue the second part of the ceremony. There, we witnessed beautiful colors as the sky started to clear up. At the beach, the couple threw red petals in the ocean, and dug a little trench to plant seeds into the earth, symbolizing their new growth.
As a chef himself, Diego wanted his wedding day to be filled with good, authentic Mexican street food. To that end, cooks were present the entire time, from prep to the end of the party, serving tacos from the same taqueria we went to on our first day. This was unique, practical, and absolutely delicious.
From the getting-ready moments to the last minutes of the party, Adrian and I felt part of their intimate group of family and friends. We connected so much that we felt we captured their day from the point of view of their loved ones.
When you hire a photographer for a destination wedding, it’s often a good idea to get more pictures than just those of your wedding day. For Nicolle and Diego, the day-after shoot was a half a day experience and it was split in two parts: the AirBnB/villa in Sian Ka’an, and a private cenote.
We first met up at Nicolle and Diego’s villa again to take drone shots that we were unable to take on the day of the wedding because of the weather. We also took a few more portraits in a more relaxed setting. So yes, we had to endure the challenging route to get there once again, but on our way back it was more fun because we traveled as a group on scooters all the way to the second location: a privately owned cenote.
At first it was sunny, but on our way to the cenote it started POURING, so we had to stop at a gas station and wait about 30 minutes for the storm to pass through. We were navigating with the GPS to find the very specific coordinates of the secret place. Its entrance was along a highway and could be easily missed.
We had the guests who tagged along on the journey walk before us so then Nicolle, Diego, and I took our time to capture dreamy pictures while we hiked in the misty tropical forest and talked about life. It was still raining very lightly, but the sun was shining through the droplets. It was the true definition of “liquid sunshine,” as they call it in Hawaii and Jamaica. The more time passed, the more the couple felt inspired to try different editorial styles and artistic poses, so we had fun as it felt like a fun collaboration.
We finally got to the most magical, gorgeous, remote cenote and we were the only people there. I remember thinking back to our Gran Cenote experience, which was full of people and where I couldn’t use my camera. Now, it was a completely different, exclusive experience of enjoying a private cenote all by ourselves.
Adrian was ahead of us, and shot establishment shots of the cenote with the drone and GoPro. Nicolle and Diego both got in the water with their wedding attire and it was incredible to see them floating in the crystalline water. When our session came to an end (because the sun was setting and we all had to head back), they both didn’t want to stop! I love it when people value photography and enjoy the process.
It was precious and special that we shared an experience with the couple as part of their Tulum destination wedding, instead of just showing up at a place and shooting for an hour. For both Nicolle and Diego, the day after their wedding was their favorite part of their weekend, as they got to have fun in a more relaxed setting in a sunnier condition.
Soon after, we parted ways and Adrian and I concluded our trip with one last Mexican meal in Tulum, with a couple of beers to celebrate a successful destination wedding!
As soon as we got back to our AirBnB, we backed up EVERYTHING and had a good night’s sleep to catch our flight the next day.
The next day, the taxi we had ordered from the airport showed up on time, picked us up, and we got to the airport in time to catch our 3pm flight.
Check out the wedding film Adrian created for Nicolle and Diego!
Feeling inspired to plan your Tulum destination wedding (or somewhere else)?
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My husband and I have our bags packed and are ready to meet you wherever!
And, yes, we practice what we preach. Check this blog post to learn how we planned our own destination wedding in Spain!
On top of our love and passion for documenting your special day(s), we absolutely LOVE traveling, researching, and planning an itinerary in advance. We are the kind of people who have an intensely pinned Google Map, with a full itinerary. All that to say, we do not take this job lightly!
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