Destination weddingzzzzzzzzz? How about a Mayan shaman?

Toronto Star Jan. 24, 2015: What a difference a few hundred centuries makes, Back when the ancient Mayans were getting married, parents and priests would negotiate who married whom, a matchmaker would check the horoscopes and the father of the groom picked up the tab for the whole shebang. The idea was to secure lots of children. The bride and groom often didn’t even speak until the day they got married. Love had very little to do with it.

It’s all a little more romantic now.

Every year, thousands of North American couples amp. up the amour by heading south for a destination wedding. So many wedding parties arrive in Mexico that the custom forms specifically mention “bridal trousseau.” A Weddingbells.ca survey suggests the number of Canadian couples considering fleeing the coop to tie the knot has doubled since 2009. Of the roughly 162,000 Canadian couples getting married in 2014, 15 per cent are having a destination wedding.

While that used to mean a beach, any bride worth her bouquet can tell you that’s only one of the choices now. You can get married in a private garden dwarfed by greenery, walk down the aisle in a pretty little Mexican chapel, or have a three-day South-Asian wedding with little gold elephants leading up to the henna tent. Or have a Mayan shaman on the beach.

Picking the spot to say “I do” is only one of about a zillion wedding decisions.

“Brides can have a hard time choosing,” says Amanda Davis, who knows because her title is product manager, romance for AMResorts, which prides, itself, on offering “full customization.” Any colour. Any flower. Any chandelier. (The Mayan matchmakers had it easy.)

The infinity of choices on show on the Internet has led some wedding planners and venues to start writing a no-changing-your-mind clause into the contract. Picking the spot depends in part on the number of guests. Generally destination weddings have fewer guests: 102 versus 142, according 2014 Brides American Wedding Study.

The average cost of a wedding in Canada is more than $31,500 and budgets for a destination wedding can vary wildly. But whether she is spending $5,000 or $50,000 (or more), every bride is looking for a personal experience. Such as a harpist playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” surrounded by a dozen parrots, including one that arrived with hurricane Wilma and has its own Facebook page. Or a few pink bows on a beach.

All couples have one thing in common: They’re generally advised to get married before they arrive at their destination wedding. Not only will a quickie ceremony at the local City Hall save the blood test, about $1,000 and six months of Mexican paperwork, getting hitched at home will — how to put this delicately? — make a divorce simpler if the happily-ever-after doesn’t quite . . . work out.

Divorce wasn’t a huge deal for the original Mayans; they could just up and leave each other because they “marry without love,” a Spanish bishop explained in the 16th century. And, if a spouse died, the remaining partner could remarry after a year with no repeat ceremony. The bishop probably wouldn’t approve, but second and third ceremonies and same-sex weddings are common now in Mexico.

There can be hundreds of weddings and vow renewals every day at resorts across the Mayan Riviera. The ancient Mayans would likely be pleased to know that at least a few of the ceremonies include a shaman who will drop a few seeds in the couples’ hands to bring hope and prosperity, and maybe a trip back to Mexico.

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