Three weeks ago we had a destination wedding! Our San Miguel de Allende wedding was the most fun day ever of our lives with 30 of our closest friends and family surrounding us. Get ready for the longest post of all time because there will be tons of photos – by our amazing wedding photographer and other candid cellphone shots – and every single detail you’d ever need to know if you were a) a wedding-enthusiast who loves details or b) getting married in San Miguel and looking for recommendations.
Destination – San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
4 hours north of Mexico City and about 90 minutes from two different airports (BJX and QRO), San Miguel de Allende is in the center of the country in the state of Guanajuato. They call it El Corazon de Mexico, in fact! It’s a lovey and colorful colonial town with cobblestones and a bazillion cathedrals. San Miguel and Guanajuato were at the center of the Mexican revolution so there is a lot of historical significance to the town, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
We have a history with San Miguel and have visited many times. Getting married there was our dream come true!
Ceremony – Short and Sweet
We knew one thing from the start: our ceremony would be super-short. We wrote it together after studying a bunch of different options we collected from online and from friends. In it we honored Evan’s father who passed away, the joining of our two families with a candle ceremony, and our friends who make up our village of support. It wasn’t just about us. It was about all the parts that make us whole. My bestie from college Dina was our officiant! Thank you, Dina!! And a ginormous special thank you to our maid of honor, my sis Claire, and our best man, Evan’s brother Matt, for bearing the rings, the witness, and the love on our special day!
Other details – I wanted a giant flower arch! And maracas on the chairs that people could shake at the kiss. The flower petal aisle was a surprise that I didn’t know about and they were perfect because they look like they are coming right off my dress.
After we had a short serenade by Mariachis, sipped on sangria, and took a few photos before heading out for our Callejoneada.
Parade – Callejoneada
Callejoneada is a tradition in San Miguel where you parade around town with your guests, a big band (Banda de Viento), giant puppets that dance around (Mojigangas) and a burro that carries tequila. Everyone wears a cup around their neck and waiters follow around pouring tequila. It was a blast and one of my favorite parts of the wedding.
We’d seen it done in San Miguel on our various trips there in the past so when we decided to get married here, it was one of the first things we asked for because it looked like so much fun!
Ours was especially fun because we went to a few parts of town we didn’t expect, including beautiful Juarez Park where we danced in a gazebo! I’ll never forget it. After the music stopped, we strolled back to the venue for cocktails, music and food!
Dinner, Drinks, Desserts – Ruby Joy’s Catering & Cafe Frida, San Miguel de Allende
After the parade, dinner and dancing moved up to the roof of our venue. Chef Ruby Joy knocked it out of the park! We’d met her and our amazing mixologist Derek back in June and loved everything about the Mexican-style food and drinks (and them!). We had omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan choices with all the sides served family style. My faves were the chicken mole and the chiles rellenos! And our cocktails were Derek’s amazing creations with the blackberry mojito and the cucumber margarita being my top two!
Our desserts came from Nico who owns a lovely little café called Café Frida in San Miguel that is covered in pictures of Frida Kahlo. He made the most amazing mini Tres Leches cakes, filled churros, chocolate mousse and fruit tarts. I tried one of everything (of course), and they were unbelievable. We put this little statuette of a bride and groom Calavera in a car on top of one of them to eat together. The car is significant because one of the lines in our vows was ‘until this wheels fall off’. I found it in town a few days before and it was perfect!
Flowers – Renata Floral and Event Design, San Miguel de Allende
Renata nailed our vision, which was color, color, color. We had a flower arch over the door of the venue, small bouquets on the ceremony chairs, longer arrangements on the dinner tables and then a number of corsages and boutonnières for family members. I went with a white bouquet so as not to detract from my dress, and we had a matching white boutonnière for Evan.
Band – TimKa, San Miguel de Allende
TimKa – OH MY GOD!!! They rocked us all like a hurricane. This Colombian duo (based in San Miguel) brought the thunder and our guests LOVED them so much. TimKa plays a mix of their own songs and popular, traditional Latin American tunes. They have amazing energy, beautiful voices and welcoming smiles that really added such an air of excitement to the event. Also, they are both extremely attractive so everyone had enormous crushes on them.
We also had a DJ for later in the evening to play all our fave 80s, 90s and today songs for when the drunken dancing began.
Gift Bags, Party Favors and Guest Gifts — Color de Nacional and Artisans Market, San Miguel de Allende
Color de Nacional is a wonderful little gift store in San Miguel near the Fabrica Aurora that has many traditionally Mexican trinkets and fun items. In our welcome gift bags were mini-tequila bottles and a shot glass, paper flowers, an itinerary for the weekend (critical), a Loteria board game, locally made soaps, snacks, hand-painted magnets and fringey ornaments. They were colorful and I hope set the tone for a fun weekend.
At the wedding we also passed out maracas, flower crowns and luchador hats to wear and carry for the parade as fun little favors. On each place-setting, we placed a little hand-painted clay animal as a memento guests could take home with them. These we bought from the Artisan’s market in town.
Next-Day Brunch – El Zaguan Bed & Art, San Miguel Allende
This is our favorite little place in San Miguel. Alfredo and Isabel are the wonderful owners who make the most delicious and simple breakfasts and they went above and beyond with setting up a lovely little celebration for us the next day, complete with music, lanterns and amazing food. I highly recommend eating here if you visit San Miguel!
Day Trip – Los Senderos, San Miguel de Allende
After brunch, we all hopped into a couple vans and went to Los Senderos to drink away our hangovers with even more margaritas and to swim in thermal pools for the afternoon. This spot is new-ish to San Miguel so there were no other guests there. You can swim, drink, eat, get a massage, paddleboard and sunbathe all day. We had the whole place to ourselves and it was the perfect way to round out our weekend of festivities. San Miguel is not near a beach so Los Senderos is a great way to get the beachy feel that a lot of Americans expect when they hear “wedding in Mexico.” The hospitality was spectacular, too!
Design – Evan Bivins, My Husband!
Evan is a graphic designer by day, so we didn’t have to look far at all for all of our printables, our invite and the other graphics around the venue. We went all in on all the colors in our design, and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out. Our invite is a play on papel picado, a traditional Mexican paper flag decoration, and the little angel you see in some of these graphics is Saint Michael or San Miguel! You’ll see him sprinkled all over town in various signs, doorways, carvings and churches. We thought it was a subtle way to pay homage to this beloved town!
Other fun facts – we printed out our invite on a 18×24 watercolor-paper poster and had guests sign it so that we can frame it as a memento. And the menu boards were designed by Evan and painted by one of Dahlia’s local wedding miracle workers!
Wedding Planner – Dahlia Bastien, Eventia, San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel has several wedding planning companies that offer various levels of service for various prices – some more popular than others. Dahlia and Eventia came recommended to us by a friend (my hairstylist below, Emily!), which helped us sift through the many options. We felt like a recommendation from someone you know when setting up a wedding in a foreign country was a good place to start.
Dahlia exceeded all our expectations on the big day and leading up to that. She will not disappoint you. Dahlia is fully bilingual, grew up in San Miguel (and lives there now) and also spent time living in the states. I’m telling you this because this combo means: a) she understands American wedding customs and expectations, b) she knows all the best vendors in town and can get amazing prices on everything, c) can problem-solve locally when things go wrong, and d) can easily communicate with you when you aren’t there and when you are.
Dahlia is a miracle-worker. She pulled off our vision perfectly – simple, colorful, traditional meets untraditional, and respectful of Mexican culture and customs. Oh and within budget (mission-critical!). She advised us on what made sense, what was going to make our guests happy, what was going to be cheesy in a good way or tacky in a bad way, what elements we needed to make the event flow well, and on and on.
The bonus is that Dahlia became our friend! We could never, ever thank her enough but we can definitely sing her praises until the cows come home. If you’re considering a San Miguel de Allende wedding and need a wedding planner recommendation, contact me at [email protected] and I’ll tell you all the ins and outs of hiring Dahlia Bastien of Eventia SMA.
Photographer – Nathan Baerreis Photography, Atlanta
Nathan is the MVP of the entire wedding weekend and our dear, dear friend and guest! He gave us the greatest gift of all, which are the photos of our weekend – many of which you see here! Given Nathan is a professional wedding photographer, he gets weddings in a way we didn’t. He was able to explain why we needed certain things to happen in order to allow for flow of the event. He showed us how to posture so we put forward our most flattering angles. He captured the joy and color and uniqueness of the event. And most importantly for me, was a calming presence throughout the entire time – particularly during the times I was inclined to freak out or go bridezilla ballistic. Nathan knows when to put on your dress, when to let a mix-up with a vendor go, how to move family photos along quickly, and how to give the bride and the groom a break before the big event. We couldn’t have pulled this off without him.
For metro Atlanta wedding photography, look no further. He is based in the southeast region and his website can be found here at Nathan Baerreis Photography.
Dress – Marchesa
Remember I said I wanted a non-traditional wedding dress?! Well, it doesn’t get any farther away from ‘bride’ than this amazing Marchesa dress, which believe it or not I bought online from Lord and Taylor. No joke! Marchesa is by far my favorite in gown design, so I feel tremendously lucky to have worn one of their dresses for the big day. It was playful and whimsical and colorful and covered in hearts and flowers – all the things I wanted. The gown itself is navy blue with a lighter blue embroidery which matched Evan’s navy and lighter blue plaid suit (from Indochino) perfectly. We chose coral accessories (Tie Bar) for him to bring out the coral accents on my dress that were buried among two other shades of pink flowers and hearts.
And yes, Evan DID see my dress before the wedding. He helped me choose it in fact! After a debacle with the original dress I’d purchased, I was searching for a new one and showed him all the options. I’m not particularly superstitious so I didn’t care that he’d seen it and it didn’t take away from the excitement on the day at all.
For shoes, I chose a pair of Badgley Mischka rhinestone silver stilettos and a pair of Kate Spade for Keds glitter sneakers for the parade and dancing. All of my jewelry were vintage rhinestones, most of them from my aunt’s costume jewelry collection. She passed away when I was quite young, so it was important to me to honor my dad’s family with these mementos.
Hair & Makeup –Emily Theis & Jimena Tamayo, San Miguel de Allende
Jimena came highly recommended from my hairstylist and friend Emily. She is the makeup artist for American brides in SMA. She understands the cultural aesthetic and does beautiful work. She also works on TV shows in Mexico City as a fun fact, and is a super-calming presence on your wedding day. Don’t shop around – just book Jimena with confidence that she’ll get it right.
Emily is our friend and our stylist in San Miguel. She is from the states, Vidal Sassoon trained, and highly skilled. When I told her Hollywood glamor, she knew exactly what I needed – a pin curl set! I also sent her Pinterest photos, of course. Emily was such a gift on the big day. We chatted and relaxed like it was any other hair appointment, listened to all my fave pop songs, and she also did my sister’s and my mom’s hair, too. Emily and Jimena work together on weddings often, so they made a great team.
Lash Extensions – ReeDawn Rose Beauty, Atlanta
Ladies, this is the number one beauty must-have for any and every bride which is why I’m calling it out in a separate category. Lashes make all your photos pop and really help define your eyes and face in the pictures. Also, lash extensions are a great way to go rather than a strip of lashes because they give a more natural effect.
ReeDawn Rose Beauty of Atlanta is really the only name you need to know here in town. Her placement is perfect, the lashes felt comfortable, and the directions for how to take care of them are very clear. A set of wedding lashes will run you about $300 but this is honestly the best money you will spend on beauty for the day of. DON’T SKIMP ON THE LASHES. I went in a week and a half before the big day because we were leaving for Mexico but I would’ve waited until a little closer to the time if we had stayed here in Atlanta for the wedding.
Alterations – Gizelle James, Atlanta
There is no one else in Atlanta to alter your dress. Gizelle and her team are 100% the best of the best. They advised me on what to do to make my dress fit well and they also made suggestions for which shoes to wear with the gown and even suggested I add a crinoline to the dress for extra volume under the gown. The crinolines made the shape flow so much better!
So here is where Evan and I messed up. We didn’t put together a registry because we weren’t comfortable asking our guests to travel miles and miles to a foreign country and then have them feel like they had to give us anything. Their presence was present enough. We’re also older than a lot of newlyweds which means we already have most of what we need to stock our home.
But we learned that a registry is helpful for your friends and family! It turns out that people want to contribute to your life together, and so do your parents’ friends, your colleagues, and the guests who couldn’t make it to the wedding. Many people also prefer shopping from a registry over giving cash, so it’s better to have one. We simply didn’t know!
Zola is integrative and easy-to-use platform that we ended up using to put together a very small registry after the fact. You can link to other sites and even make bigger ticket items group gifts so that many people can contribute. They offer a 10% discount on gifts after the big day passes and even have tools that help you put together an appropriate mix of price points and items that your guests can purchase. Here’s a look at ours if you’re nosey and interested in our home décor color palette and preference of can openers and ice cube trays.
Thanks for making it all the way through this long post and for being here for our Happily Ever After. I’m so lucky to have all of you to share my joy!