Thursday, October 12, 2017

Entertainment Ideas Non Resort Wedding Venue in Vallarta-Punta Mita Area

Amigos I would like to give you some ideas on how to entertain your guests during your wedding in Mexico. The pictures you see here are from one single wedding. Ceci and Jimmy really had an amazing fun entertaining wedding. If you want to have something similar please, read on.
The most important distinction between a custom private wedding and a resort wedding is having so much privacy. Privacy, in turn, gives you a chance to customize and bring in vendors that would not be welcome inside a hotel and also, it allows you to extend the hours of service as well, so you have more time for fun entertainment.
Usually entertainment is one of those services first sacrificed when budgeting weddings. There are tricks on how to customize the wedding in order to maximize your budget. We do not create small budget weddings in Martoca; However, we do offer a lot more value for the investment than some Mexican resorts, and certainly offer more value than weddings in the USA or Canada. So take a look and see all the entertainment you can have in your special day, which include these most popular items such as, food, bar, music, shows or photo booths, among others.
A Foodie’s Dream
Surprisingly, sometimes the most fun entertainment in your wedding  can be something as simple your food choices. The food can be served as an action-station with fresh on-site made guacamole, or a taco stand, or a very creative Churros combined with a photo booth. It is just a matter of how you present these services to your guests. Converting necessary services (food) into entertainment converts a necessary item into a featured item. This is one of the ways we can enhance your wedding without breaking the budget. Utilize your catering as a main feature in your wedding. Just sprinkle in some accents and a few surprises for guests, and you will have a fun and successful wedding that will be packed with entertainment.
Costs for catering are so varied that I rather not get into this part in this post. Since we are not a catering company per se, we focus on a more macro view of the wedding. We are a more complete service venue and our specialists are the ones who dive into detail for catering. Of course, we help you select menu and cost them for you once we are more in tune with your specific needs. I can tell you however what fun catering ideas you can have in Martoca Beach Garden or other venues we have access to as well.
*See below for some of our most very popular catering ideas for entertainment/food service for weddings in Martoca Beach Garden.
  • Welcome Aguas Frescas and Street Snacks (Botanitas)
  • Passed Appetizers (Served during cocktail lounge)
  • Market Style Food Stands (Mexican Market recreated live as in an authentic downtown market)
  • Formal Dinner (Traditional West Coast dishes presented authentic style or formal)
  • Designer Wedding Cake
  • Dessert Bar (assortment of Mexican candies or cupcakes etc)
  • Real Churros Stand (Doughnut dough fried Mexican style)
  • Real Ice Cream Vendor (Street style Ice Cream stand)
  • Taco Stand (All types of tacos. The fave  is Al Pastor which is awesome for pictures by the way)
  • Authentic BBQ Pit cuisine (BBQ Mexican or USA style)
Los Novios Cantina
As with the food, the bar* services can and should also be converted into a feature. A great way to do this is by offering specialized His and Her drink served during your cocktail hour. In fact, the cocktail hour itself is a feature. We of course could just have an open bar and simply serve drinks, but what’s the fun in that? We like to make a feature out of a necessity to maximize your value. Our drinks are served as a feature in a cocktail lounge or, as we like to cal it, our cantina. You can decorate the lounge as much or as little as possible but you should have one.
*Open Bar costs vary according to decor and number of props and signage, sofas etc. Depending on the set up of the “Cantina” and the brand selection for the alcohol, and the guest count: An unlimited bar can cost as low as 30 USD for just drinks, and goes up to 100 dollars per person for a top class lounge cantina and his and her drinks and other tricks we use to make the bar service a top class feature. Bar options for entertainment are listed below:
  • Welcome Barrel of Coronitas or any beverages
  • His and Her specialty drinks
  • Tequila poppers with or without engraving
  • Cantina style lounge set up
  • Mexican Coffee station
  • Satellite bar (Second bar if larger wedding)
  • Bottle per table service
  • Champagne service
Live Music
Music* is an obvious entertainment feature. You can choose pretty much any type of live music band you like and/or DJ. Anything except Banda music (Live traditional regional Mexican music). Sorry but that is way to loud for our venue. The drums and horns and sheer amount of musicians are too loud for our neighbors, unless you want to have them early before 10PM. However, most couples want la banda for late night. So other than banda, we can arrange for the following live music up until 1AM (on Saturdays).
  • Cover bands
  • Tropical Cumbias and Merengue bands
  • Mariachi (10 piece Mariachi with horns and actual sombreros that are great photo props)
  • Trio
  • Jazz
  • String quartets
  • Brazilian drummers (Batucada like in Carnavale)
  • Cuban Salsa
  • Argentina Tango music and dancers
  • Flamenco guitarrists and dancers
*Usually a live band will cost between 400 to 1,500USD per hour, depending on who you hire.
Featured Shows
A show can be any performance art or artist vendor. You can hire from many performers for 15 minute to one hour shows to entertain guests. I have seen anything from fire dancers to horse dancers. Here are a few we see most often in action in our weddings:
  • Acrobats
  • Fire dancers
  • Fireworks
  • Horse dancers
  • Rope rodeo dancer
  • Dance floor carnaval (Circus entertainers during dancing)
  • Circus performers
  • Iguanas for pictures
  • Cigar roller
Photo Booth and Other Ideas
Decorations are beautiful and entertain the senses on their own. However combining decorations with features, as mentioned above such as churros and photo booth, this creates wonderful entertaining opportunity. The photo “booth”, more like a photo-set actually, is another form of entertainment that is one of the smartest way to get more out of decorations and necessary services. Photo booths can be set up with a photographer on staff or, have a decorated area where people can take selfies and leave a video on their own.
Here are ideas on how to maximize “shows” or entertainment ideas as photo props or a “booth”:
  • Sombreros or musicians themselves for photos
  • Churro stand photos
  • Taco stand photos
  • Fireworks or sparklers for pictures
  • Lawn games
  • Souvenirs (Maracas, umbrellas, engraved glasses, sunglasses, sandals, etc)
  • Actual photo booth of course
If you combine your decorations with these features in your wedding you will have an amazing fiesta. Guaranteed. We all wish we could have a live band, and all the services in our wedding. I also know most couples have to decide between selecting the churro stand or the taco stand, such a tough call. I will leave you to it amigos what to select or eliminate from your wedding.
There are certain services that are a must such as food and bar and music and decorations. Even if you have to go with something basic, they have to be in the wedding. We suggest you follow this advice in this post so you can combine the necessary expense with what can be an actual original fun feature for your guests. As we say in Martoca, just getting out of the hotel and not eating a buffet is already a plus 🙂 compared to staying in hotel But extra surprises are key as well.

Have fun planning or shoot us an email to and we will hook it all up. We are fun and easy to work with and want to see you very happy. Like Ceci and Jimmy here pictured here on the left 🙂
Happy planning!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Custom Build Your Wedding "package" in a Mexico Private Venue: Easy Steps To Do So

Congratulations amigos. You are on your way to wedding planning in Mexico bliss. You found the most perfectly located private large beach garden in Banderas Bay. Now it is time to learn how to create your wedding with
Martoca Beach Garden (only 20 minutes from all hotspots in the Banderas bay is the only stand alone (Non Villa or resort) locations available to rent for creating an original customized wedding in the Vallarta or Bucerias area. Most other locations are either hotels or villas that make you rent their rooms. So you found the perfect location. Now what? Well, we need to build your wedding proposal or “wedding package”. So you need to do your pre-checklist and then a checklist for your wedding services. For a pre-checklist, please visit the next post here in this blog where we discuss this in detail. I am assuming you have a budget, location, date, guest count and over all style in mind, this is the pre-checklist, so now we need a checklist for the actual services you will need in your wedding.
Popular Wedding Services that our couples enjoy in their weddings are varied. They depend on their budget and guest count and style. Even the date plays a role; For example you would not have a tent necessarily in March however in June you are more likely to have to have a tent. Like this example there are many others as to what services you may need or want in your wedding. Here is a list of the most requested services and items or vendors you can request for your original custom wedding in Martoca Beach Garden. Remember since we are not a hotel; So, we do not have so many restrictions and we do not have a large staff so we subcontract many services from local vendors. Therefore you are much more free to choose vendors of your liking.
Below is a list of the most (not all) requested services for Mexico weddings when you have a private wedding venue location:
Wedding planner
Make-up and/or Hair Stylist
Bridal party florals
Welcome pergola (hostess area and table assignment)
Welcome drinks and snacks
Cocktail lounge with his and her drinks
Passed Apps in Lounge
Open Bar unlimited
Entertainment Music and Shows ( Mariachi or live band for the dancing or other shows like fire dancers)
Decorations of all kinds (ceremony, tables, venue, lighting, flower walls, souvenirs, etc)
Dance Floor
Taco Stand
Churro Stand
Coffee Stand
When we create your wedding, we will basically select the “must have” services from this list according to your taste and budget. Some items and services are unavoidable such as venue and wedding planner and decor of some sort. As well as catering and bar services. Usually a ceremony is requested as well. After confirming your must have services (more on this in other posts here on this blog) you then may proceed to add to your list of services and make your wedding more fun and more decorated.
Like I mention a lot in our posts, it all depends on your taste and budget. The more budget you have to play with, the more services you will be able to include. If you need to cut back to adjust to  a tight budget, we of course would not recommend having a string quartet for example. Dj will do just fine. However, if you love Jazz and have the budget, then you probably will request a jazz band and a lot of fun vintage props. Does this make sense?
If you read my blog here which are full of insight, in all modesty, you know I like to include the following services for a basic wedding. I call them our 7 core items for a wedding. You want to spend about 70% on these 7 services. It is my 7 on 7 rule.  I have not seen many weddings in 7 years that did not include at least these following seven services:
Venue (lighting and accent props included)
Wedding Planner (included with our venue)
Welcome Pergola (hostess table assignment)
Ceremony (on beach or grass)
Cocktail Lounge (sofas on garden)
Catering and bar
DJ and Dance Floor
If you simply had the above services then you would have enough for a fun wedding that anyone would love and enjoy. Of course, all brides and want at least some entertainment like Mariachi band or fire dancers for example. Many need transportation. Some want hair and make up and bouquets assistance. Others need photographer and videographer. So there are many more services we may need. But at the very least I believe the above services will get you through the pinch if you have a tight budget. Just think of these 7 core services I listed above as a building base for your wedding pyramid.
I hope this helps you for planning and building your wedding. If you want our help just email me to and I would be happy to send you a proposal for the services you request. Just list the services you believe are a “must have” for your custom wedding and we will get to work on a quote for all the services and the venue. Remember to have a budget in mind and a guest count and a date in mind first.
We look forward to helping you create a magical Martoca Wedding amigos…

Saturday, August 26, 2017

In Search for Wedding Venue in Vallarta? This Pre-Wedding Checklist is a Must for You

Every bride (wedding planner) has a vendor checklist for their wedding day in Mexico; Bridal bouquet: Check. Photographer: Check. Timeline: Check. Catering: Check, and so on.  The list can include up to 20 or 30 vendors. However, most brides do not know about the pre-checklist that will save them time and stress. The list before the list if I may. Unknowingly they skip this step and then lose time by backtracking in the planning. What is the point of looking for vendors if you do not have a location first? Couples should have a list of factors ironed out before the actual wedding list is even in play in order to help brides figure out what to look for, and what they need to know to make their search more efficient and save time and reduce stress. The most important factors to consider in a pre-checklist are budget, guest count, location, date and wedding concept.

As it happens with most things in life, the budget limits our freedom. There is no sense looking at 5,000 dollar purses if you have 500USD to spend; OK sorry, bad example, my wife does that; I'm in trouble. But seriously, unless you are one of those lucky enough to spend whatever you like, you are like the rest of us who have a budget to follow. This does not mean you cannot have a wonderful "dream" wedding. It just means your wedding requirements needs to be aligned with your budget. In our experience in Martoca or in venues in Vallarta area, we have created weddings with 20,000USD and 60,000 USD budgets; However, these couples who had the weddings with us were equally happy with their wedding choice. The budget does not guarantee you happiness or a successful event. Realistic expectations and your disposition, attitude and creativity do. So do not worry, your wedding will still be a smash hit regardless of the budget; You just need to plan for it properly.
So first on your list is agreeing on a budget. This will help you identify what is affordable. In a way it is liberating because it will free you from tough choices. For example the guest count must be reduced if the budget is lower. Therefore, you can eliminate the annoying cousin you have not seen in years, and not feel bad about it. Other examples of what the budget will determine for you is if you can afford a private wedding or must go with a hotel wedding; How far you can fly to a destination wedding or what location is or is not an option. Budget decides if you can afford a Saturday wedding or must do it on a Wednesday to save money. Every major checklist item is determined by what budget you have available.
Once you have a budget in mind the next important factor on the list is the guest count. Depending on the guest count, you will know if you need a villa or cheap hotel or an independent venue with private deluxe condos surrounding the venue. The guest count and the type of guests will narrow down the options and help you in your search. A destination wedding of a good quality level with many fun features will require about 550 dollars per guest. It sounds like a lot but remember, you are inviting fewer guests. This is why the guest count is tied closely to your budget restriction.
For example, you may have 130 guest count in your mind, but if you have only enough for 50 guests then you must either cut the guest count, or upgrade the budget or change location and the date, or lower quality of services. It is all tied together. Usually 60% of guests invited to a destination wedding attend the actual ceremony. So do not be too worried to begin with 100 guests because usually the real number will be closer to 60 guests. If you need a quick estimate guide for a destination wedding budget 550 USD per guest is about average. So whether you begin with your budget and then arrive to a guest count, or begin with a guaranteed guest count and then arrive at a budget, you need to have both in your list. Remember you can always add guests later. The guest count you need to budget is the absolute guaranteed count or, the ones you know are coming for sure and must be accounted for in your budget.
Checklist item number three: Location. Your guest count and budget will both play a part in your location selection. Once you have a budget and guest list, then you will know who you must accommodate with travel access. For instance, if your great-grandma is non-negotiable for your guest list and she has a hard time traveling, then of course for her sake you will not choose to be married in Thailand; You need a short direct flight. Location selection depends on a subset of factors like flight times, direct flight, accessibility, cost of travel,  or even safety concerns for guests or length of stay for guests.
Once these factors are determined, you then must dive even deeper in detail when you determine the town or area in town you want. If most guests are young and adventurous you may do a more risky proposition. Something with night clubs or nature hiking. However, if your guests are older or more conservative in their entertainment, you may want more traditional or family oriented destination. Some guests need a hospital nearby or some do not like mud or 4 flights of stairs to go up to the villa. So location selection involves a macro and micro analysis. Have fun debating!
Once you have the first three factors under control, the next big factor is coming up with the wedding date. You must have a list of dates that are compatible with the following: Guest schedules and accommodations, vendor schedules, best weather patterns, hotel rates or flight rates among others. A good date selection will accommodate as many of these factors as possible as well as fit within budget. When you contact the venue or hotel have a few dates in mind. For example, a weekday date is less expensive than weekend and a low season date is less expensive than a high season date. So now we have tied the budget, guest count and location along with the date. The pre-checklist is almost complete. Bonus tip, plan a year out at least for venues in high demand areas if you must have a weekend.
The final yet very important decision that must be accounted for in your pre-checklist is a bit less technical: The overall concept for the wedding. When you consider all the other items on the list, their combination should lead to a decision on the type or style of wedding you are looking to create. International or national wedding. Beach or mountain. An outdoor wedding or indoor wedding. Hotel wedding or private garden or villa. Casual or elegant. Intimate custom wedding or large cookie cutter wedding. It all depends on your specific needs and of course budget. You will never make everyone happy. But in group travel you must think in general terms; You cannot please each and every person. You have to think about the majority of the group in all these decisions.
You now have a list of the main tools you need to begin an efficient search for a successful customized destination wedding. Other minor details will begin to emerge as you begin your search such as, if you want buffet or not, or live music or DJ. You will have to decide if you want a venue that just does everything for you, including the planning and design like ours, or if you want DIY and so on. However, you will solve them much easier now that you have the 5 basic core items in mind. These fundamental building blocks will lower the stress and confusion to a minimum so you can have a wonderful wedding within budget, no matter the location or what style you decide on.

Martoca James

Monday, June 26, 2017

Denver Broncos Cheer for this Puerto Vallarta Wedding in Martoca Beach Bucerias

The Denver Broncos Cheer for Christina and Jeremy’s Wedding in Bucerias, Mexico

We love creating custom weddings for all kinds of people and all countries. We
have hosted broadway and movie actors, rockstars, CEO’s, governors, business magnates, doctors and lawyers and sales reps and  students. But as a Broncos football fan that I am (NFL), I have to confess I had a bit extra excitement in my step for this wedding. I truly enjoyed hosting and creating this amazing fiesta for Christina and Jeremy. Christina was the captain for the Denver Broncos cheerleading team for a log time; So, it was a dream for us when she chose Martoca Beach Garden for her venue and our in-house Martoca Weddings team as her designer and planner staff; As we planned, we had a few trick plays in store for Christina!
First, in a process that took over 48 hours and 1,000 man hours, we wrapped her get structure with palm leaves and gave it a palapa look. Instead of just having white cloth covers. It would have maybe looked great at night but in the day time, our designer decided it was not good enough; So she decided to wrap the tubes with actual palm leaves! Amazing. It had never been done before. No one in town had seen this or anywhere else. But that is what happens in Martoca. We create. If the bride allows us freedom to do so, we deliver spectacular designs. Look at this transformation; From a normal tent into a marvelous lighting structure:

Then, after creating this amazing look you see above from scratch, we surprised Christina and the Broncos’ fans with ourMexican version of Thunder, the Broncos’ mascot.. And the crowd went wild!
Thirdly, although not our idea this time, the cheerleading team friends danced a routine for the bride and groom and there er fire dancers and fireworks and all kinds of fun stuff from then on. Take a look for yourself. I am not very good in describing weddings so I will just let the pictures describe the feelings and the scene. All I can tell you is that it was a wild ride! Go Broncos 🙂
Great night. Great new friends. We love our Martoca Weddings team and all our vendors. Martoca Beach Garden can host weddings that are this elaborate or something less spectacular; But we always have fun!
Go Broncos! Go Christina and Jeremy!
Martoca James

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wedding Planners Budget Tip for Weddings in Bucerias

I have budgeted and quoted over 300 weddings in Mexico. People ask me many times how I budget the weddings. So I decided to share my knowledge about how money is allocated for your wedding vendors. By sharing  my world famous formula known as the "70 on 7" rule, maybe I can help you plan your budget distribution. I do not count the dress or anything that is not reception and ceremony related. Also, I ignore hotel costs in this budget because independent private wedding venues do not force you into a "package" or rent rooms in any particular location, or force you to use certain vendors. That is the point of an "Indie" wedding; You have the perk of the freedom to stay anywhere you like and hire anyone you like and other perks. So, how to budget your wedding? Well I like to call it my 70 on 7 rule. 70% of your budget goes for the 7 crucial and classic services of most any respectable wedding and the 30% you have left can go to minor and optional services and items, such as menu cards or signs, extra floral arrangements, fireworks and so on.
70 on 7 rule states that you should spend 70% of your budget on the 7 core items of your wedding. 
The 7 "must-haves" of a classy tropical Mexico wedding that is not held inside a resort are:
  • Venue and planner: Planning your own wedding is possible but not a good idea. You can use in-house planners or some venues allow outside planners.
  • Welcome hostess area: Receive guests and offer table escort and welcome drinks.
  • Ceremony and Bridal party care and accesories: Includes floral arrangements for bridal party, make-up and hair.
  • Cocktail lounge and tapas bar: Serve appetizers for guests while you take your pictures
  • Dinner and table-scapes: Table decorations and dinnerware and furniture.
  • DJ and dance floor: A must for fun factor.
  • Catering and Bar: Includes all regarding food and bar
These 7 major items listed above in my opinion are key sections in your wedding, and should be where you concentrate most of your budget in your wedding. I call these the core items of any wedding. 70% of your budget should go into these services. The remaining 30% of your budget should be applied to the other important features that are optional, yet, rarely ignored in any successful wedding.
  • Photo and video (In reality it is a must; if you want your wedding to live on forever in great photos)
  • Entertainment (Live band, dancers, fireworks etc)
  • Transportation 
  • Souvenirs
  • Taco bar or late night coffee service
  • Props and signs
  • Extra flowers
  • Extra Lighting
Well amigos, this is how I would approach budgeting your wedding, if I were you. Say you have 20,000USD to spend on the reception and ceremony, which is an average cost of a wedding in Mexico; 14,000USD should be allocated to the core wedding items, and 6,000USD should be assigned to other vendors you will need such as photo and video, entertainment and all extras. So just let your trusted wedding planner know your total budget for the wedding and sit back; Let them do the planning and budget distribution for you. If you want they can show you how much each section costs. But in the end, if they are under budget and provide what you want, does it matter what each vendor costs? Not really. Or, do it yourself and contact the vendors and you can have 100% control by using this advice. 
Although, in my opinion the DIY trend is not wise in destination weddings. Becoming an international wedding planner overnight is not a good idea in my opinion. A typical destination wedding in Mexico requires about 20 to 25 vendors. So if you call or email each one and put your wedding together on your own; You will need about 20-25 hours at least just to ask them about their services. That is if they all return your calls or emails promptly and speak English fluently. You will have to research each one of them and verify they are who they say they are and trustworthy. If you have that kind of time and patience, then go for it. 
However, we strongly recommend using an experienced wedding planner and let them do the planning. Make sure they have at least 25 reviews online and that they go back at least 3 years. Their reviews should not all be from the same time-frame. That may be a red flag. Why don't they have more than one year in reviews? Of course, it could be they just started in the business. But, it could also be they are all just fake reviews. Just be careful. Once you have a trustworthy planner, you must let go of control and put yourself in her or his hands. You have to trust they will provide you with a complete wedding within budget. That is their job. So you can relax and let them do the work for you. Your only concerns should be picking colors and flowers and furniture styles, etc. 
Controlling the budget is pretty much in the planners hands once you hire them. This is hard to forfeit this control. I know. You want to control the purse for each little item so that you can go and look for a cheaper vendor or maybe shave off some costs in flowers so you can have an extra hour of Mariachi band. But, if you trusted them to care for your most important day in your life, why not trust them to distribute your budget properly? Just tell them your budget limit. Tell them what your dream wedding would be like. Explain what features and services you want. And let them arrange it all and make it fit. As long as they do not go over budget you are golden. If there is an item that you want and it causes you to go over budget, the planner should let you know before you pay for it. Not surprise you later. If you know up front then you decide if you want to pay extra for it or eliminate it so you stay under the budget limit. 
So what if they charge for this knowledge and service? Believe me, they earn every cent. If they are any good, they will take your wedding personally. That is what you want. And that is what makes their job so hard and stressful because they are right there with you every step of the way. They feel what you feel. They are with you in that journey. Their job is actually to take the stress away from you as much as possible and take it in themselves. Selecting a wedding planner is the most important decision you will make in your destination wedding planning journey. 
There is always the "I can do that" or "I throw great parties at home" person, those who want to save of planner fees. Why pay 1,500-3,500 dollars to a planner? DIY is popular online. Can you plan a wedding yourself? Of course. Should you? No. It is like looking for apartments to rent: You can spend 3 weekends driving up to look for apartments in a strange city, or pay someone to find them for you in one day you have 3 or 4 proper apartments lined up and close on them in one day. Unless you really enjoy those 3 or 4 hours drives up to the city and getting lost and spending on gas etc. and those awful apartment tours; You will be happy you found a pro to narrow the search to what you like and close on the deal in one day. You will save time and money and yes, pamper yourself with amazing service. If they are any good, they obviously vetted the people they work with because their own reputation is tied to their recommendations.
Well, I hope this helps you know how your money should be distributed in your wedding. Decide how much you want to spend on your wedding and start your search: Either for a destination wedding planner or the vendors themselves and venue. Now you know roughly how much goes to what services. If you want any more advice just email me 
Happy planning!