An Authentic Mayan Ceremony in Playa del Carmen (4/40)
Wedding planning is a perilous enterprise; there are so many psychological landmines to navigate.
Eventually, you come to find out that your spouse is not really into burlap, and that is that.
You can’t live like that for the rest of your life.
So the wedding is off.
Of course, it was never about the burlap or the mauve napkins the supplier told my wife and me she could get.
But nothing is more dangerous than navigating the guest list.
If you get married where you grew up or close to it, then that list can be quite sizable.
It can come to include your little league soccer coach, all of your mom’s cousins you have never met, and that one bank teller at Wells Fargo who did not treat my mom well, so my mom is going to show her a lesson by inviting her to be a witness to one of the most intimate moments of my life.
My wife and I decided we couldn’t do it like that. So we went to great lengths to get married abroad.
We toured three cities in Mexico, Cabo, La Paz, and Playa del Carmen, to find where we would get married.
I shouldn’t say we; my now wife toured those places with my now in-laws. They love beach towns and beach weather, so they embraced the chance to go on these exploratory missions.
I only went to Playa.
We had already vacationed in Playa a few times. We usually would stay at this hybrid condo/resort called El Taj.
We even knew the property developer, who would still hover around the grounds in his flowy Hawaiian shirt and grab breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Indigo.
Once, I heard him tell the story of how he developed this place.
Originally from New York but unhappy with his life there — like most New Yorkers are. He visited Cozumel and fell in love with it. On the spot, decided to save money, come back, and build a hotel.
The day he returned, he missed the ferry that takes you from Playa to Cozumel. He couldn’t find anywhere to sleep, so he slept on an undeveloped portion of the beach. When he woke up, he thought, “Why not here?”
The rest is history.
History nobody knows.
But history, nonetheless.
The last time we visited, he had developed the complex beyond the original property and now had five adjacent buildings.
When we put Playa on the “maybe” section of the location list, we knew we didn’t know much about it.
All we knew was that we had been going to El Taj for a few years and loved the area.
We connected with a wedding organizer to show us a few places. She picked us up and showed us three places, but none felt right. We came back that evening, disappointed that nothing called to us.
When we got back to El Taj, one of the concierges knew we were location scouting. She approached us and invited us to an event they were hosting.
They were hosting hundreds of American and Canadian wedding organizers to display their grounds and, hopefully, snag a portion of the coveted international wedding market.
We loved the idea of hosting our reception here. We loved the service staff. We have never found friendlier people anywhere we’ve been. Kiki being my favorite one to talk to. He was about my age and of Mayan descent. It was really easy to talk to him, and I loved hearing about his fishing escapades.
We were tired but decided to check it out.
One of the very first things we saw was a Mayan ceremony. Two Mayans, a priest, and a priestess, were performing. I was mesmerized, and so was my wife. There was dancing, chanting, a giant conch horn, rose petals, and tobacco smoke.
So many Mayan things!!
We loved it.
I was ready to fork over a few thousand dollars more for an authentic Mayan ceremony. When I looked at Kiki, who was standing next to us, he was shaking his head, LAUGHING!, and then told me, “I don’t know what that guy is speaking, but he is not speaking Mayan.”
I learned that day something true for all tourism: experiences sold to us as authentic are only authentic because Americans and Europeans have the purchasing power to pay for them and not because they are authentic to the culture.
We got married in Playa, surrounded by Kiki and the rest of the staff. It was a magical experience to be surrounded by a few friends and family and our friends at El Taj.
We did not opt for the Mayan Ceremony option and decided, instead, to do a medley of poetry, stories, and a Celtic handfasting officiated by someone really close to us.
We were the first couple to marry at Indigo and also the last one. The owners of the restaurants did not know what it took to do a wedding reception and, after our event, decided that one was enough.
A cousin visited El Taj recently and told me that the beach where we celebrated our reception that night was wiped out by the most recent hurricane.
I blame the Mexican actors for impersonating Mayans. The Mayan gods do not take that lightly. They want nothing to do with weddings. Weddings are hard.