What to Expect: Guadalajara is a modern metropolis with an international flair that very much retains its colonial traditions. Less than an hour away, the town of Tequila is a World Heritage site with what is quite possibly the most famous name in all of Mexico.
Wedding Bells: Guadalajara can be all about “bright lights, big city” or intimacy with a colonial flair—the city is home to modern skyscraper hotels as well as a number of gorgeously restored historic mansions and nearby haciendas.
Claudia Saldaña, owner of the eponymous Claudia Saldaña Logistica en Eventos (claudiasaldana.com), is certified by the Association of Wedding Consultants and is known for her beautifully staged events both in small venues and large cosmopolitan hotels. For a recent event at the sleek RIU Palace Guadalajara (riu.com) she transformed a blank-slate ballroom into a formal wedding extravaganza with hundreds of yards of white fabric, crystal chandeliers, masses of white flowers and a salsa band backed by a lighting and sound system that would put any nightclub to shame. Another special touch? Her own patented Barmacia: a bevy of “nurses” and “doctors” that show up in the wee hours to keep the party going with carts full of “revitalizing” cocktails.
Tucked away in a hip, upscale neighborhood within walking distance from restaurants and shops, the four-diamond, 10-suite Villa Ganz (villaganz.com) is known for having the most personal service in Guadalajara, which naturally extends to weddings. Railings are draped in fresh flowers and giant bouquets adorn the entrance tables, fresh margaritas (lime, mango and tamarind) are served during the cocktail reception to the strains of a live bossa nova group, and the restaurant and gardens are lit by dozens of candles in glass lamps hanging from the trees, while the guests dine on a 4-course meal to lounge music courtesy of a DJ. If all this sounds out of their budget, keep reading: “At Villa Ganz foreigners don’t have to pay the 16 percent tax imposed on the usual hotel bills,” says owner Sally Rangel. “All you have to do is present your immigration slip, a copy of your passport and pay the bill with a non-corporate credit card issued anywhere but Mexico.” Room nights start at $375.
Clayton Szczech, owner of the award-winning Experience Tequila (experiencetequila.com)—think tours, tastings, events, education and consulting—is an excellent resource for agents and brides looking to marry in this quaint—and very celebrated—village. “Tequila is a charming, friendly colonial town dating from the 1530s and is quite romantic,” says Szczech. “This type of wedding wouldn’t be for everyone, but those people know who they are. We offer a great mix of fun, sun, culture and hospitality in the birthplace of the famous agave elixir.” He can tap local service providers to create a sophisticated destination wedding that can include a ceremony in the local 18th century village church, an all-night reception at a historic tequila estate and a brunch the following day at another equally enchanting estate. He also arranges transportation logistics, lodging, daytime activities for guests and even travel insurance. Packages from $10,000.
Tequila’s history comes alive at Los Abolengos Grand Class Casona Hotel (losabolengos.com), a 19th century ranch home that was converted into one of the best hotels in the area. Intimate weddings are a specialty in this 20-room property, though they can work with neighboring properties and host events of up to 400. Its tequila cellar, La Cava de los Abolengos, displays some the area’s finest—ask about a tasting. Room rates start at $135.
Sightseeing: Considered by its citizens as the “most Mexican”of states, Jalisco is the homeland of tequila, mariachi music and charros, or Mexican cowboys. Guadalajara, the capital, is as proud of this heritage as it is of its magnificent historic center. Best viewed by horse-drawn calandria, it can take you down the Paseo Morelos from the Plaza de Armas past the towering cathedral (the interior is even more breathtaking) and the impressive Palacio del Gobierno (stop in to view the splendid mural by the famed Jose Clemente Orozco) to the Plaza de los Mariachis and the vast Hospicio Cabañas, home to the Cabañas Cultural Institute. The monuments are too many to mention. Count on tour operators such as Tapatio Tour (tapatiotour.com) to be your guide, and ask about nearby attractions such as Zapopan, Tonala and Tlaquepaque, where couples can buy everything from jewelry, ceramics, wrought iron, earthenware, and papier mache items to lovely rustic furniture (they ship).
The charming town of Tequila is located roughly 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara. The rolling, bucolic hills are covered with fields of blue agave, whose heart and nectar eventually produce world-renowned tequila. Today, visitors can explore the National Museum of Tequila, stroll the streets, enjoy the shops and experience life in a Mexican pueblo. For many years, though, Tequila and the surrounding area were relatively undiscovered by tourists, but in 1997 the Tequila Express (tequilaexpress.com.mx) brought things to life. A fun 2-hour train ride that begins an 8-hour tour, the Tequila Express departs from Guadalajara, taking passengers past towering red rocks into the fertile farm lands and magnificent working haciendas that produce over 20 million gallons of tequila a year. It stops in Amatitan, where travelers can visit Tequila Herradura’s La Hacienda de San Jose del Refugio (herradura.com.mx), one of the world’s largest distilleries, as well as take tours to nearby Tequila.
The only train that runs directly from Guadalajara into Tequila, the luxurious Jose Cuervo Express (josecuervoexpress.com) runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and brides can now rent a private coach for their wedding event. Upon arrival in town, they can go on to enjoy a sit-down dinner at Mundo Cuervo (mundocuervo.com)—part distillery, part museum and part elegant event venue. If the train doesn’t appeal to your clients, check out the guided tours by the state-sponsored Ruta del Tequila (rutadeltequila.org.mx), which includes visits via air-conditioned vans to distilleries such as La Cofradia (tequilacofradia.com), where couples can stay at its boutique hotel.
Weather: Very mild summers and winters, with afternoon rains from June through September.