A sun-soaked Mayan Riviera destination wedding 

By Robin Schroffel

At first, a destination wedding was out of the question for Josie Storbakken. But seeing one in progress while vacationing in Costa Rica with her then-fiancé, Shaun, changed her mind. Now, she looks back on their wedding in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico, as the best decision they could have made.

Around 60 family members and close friends joined the couple at the Grand Bahia Principe Akumal last May for a seaside ceremony on the sand, held under azure skies in the late afternoon sun, with waves crashing in the background. A family friend presided over the nuptials, keeping things short and sweet. Immediately afterward, resort staff served glasses of champagne while an acoustic Mexican trio serenaded the newlyweds.

Travel had always played an important role in Josie and Shaun’s relationship: they started dating eight years ago while in Grade 9 and backpacked through Europe together after high school. But the wedding was Josie and her family’s first time in Mexico – and their first time travelling together. “It was kind of an opportunity to get my parents out of the country and have everyone go on a trip,” she says. Although she wasn’t intimidated by flying thousands of miles to get married, working with a wedding coordinator who was so far away took a leap of faith. But AMA wedding specialist Cristina Fedor worked hard to get the answers the couple needed. “She was really good, and kept on top of everything. She kept me calm the whole time,” Josie recalls.

AMA’s destination wedding specialists work with couples like the Storbakkens throughout the planning process, helping them select a wedding venue based on their country of preference, budget and group size. From there, they handle all of the event bookings, plus the guest travel, accommodation and insurance, along with any group tours or bookings the couple might want. To sum up: pretty much anything and everything required to make a group trip, and a wedding, as memorable and stress-free as possible.

“We’re here to guide couples through the minefield of things to do,” says Fedor. “Lots of people don’t even know where to start when planning a destination wedding.” The specialist can be as hands-on with the wedding details as the couple wants, adds Fedor. Some are happy to have AMA handle all of the planning, while others prefer to jump in and communicate directly with the resort staff.

In the end, relaxing and going with the flow paid off for the Storbakkens. The special treatment their party received was more than Josie had expected. Fruit baskets, champagne, small gifts and thoughtful notes seemed to appear in the couple’s suite every time they entered.

“We felt like royalty,” she says. “Everyone knew that we were getting married, and every time the staff would pass, they’d say congratulations.”

The experience left lasting memories of time spent with loved ones. “Not only was it our wedding, but we got to experience going on a vacation with everyone. It was really surreal to wake up in the morning and go get breakfast and see all of our best friends and family there,” says Josie. Looking back, she says she knows getting married in Mexico was the right choice, especially when she compares the wedding with a reception and dance the couple later held back home in Killam. “When we were doing the dance in Killam, it was about organizing and getting everything in order, whereas in Mexico, I didn’t have to worry about a thing; everything was already looked after. We had more time to think about why we were getting married and focus on why we were there,” she says. “It was a lot less stressful and much more meaningful.”

Members Shauna and Sunil Patel merged traditions for their Puerto Vallarta beach wedding

Shauna and Sunil Patel had planned to marry in Edmonton, but when the logistics and the guest list grew too big to manage, the pair opted to take things abroad. AMA wedding specialist Cristina Fedor made travel arrangements for around 60 of the Patels’ friends and family members, who gathered at Now Amber in Puerto Vallarta last April. Shauna booked a Hindu pandit, or officiant, who flew in from Pennsylvania to conduct a graha shanti – a traditional Hindu pre-wedding ceremony – and Hindu wedding. A Western beach ceremony and reception followed. The resort’s wedding planner went above and beyond to accommodate them, says Shauna, including sourcing two drummers and providing dinner for a group that was largely vegetarian. “All I had to do was tell her what I wanted and she did it,” Shauna says. “Afterward, when I saw the pictures and the video, it was so beautiful. It all turned out perfectly.”

Let AMA’s wedding specialists sweat the small stuff fur you. We offer exclusive destination wedding packages you won’t find anywhere else. Talk to a destination wedding specialist today at 1-866-989-8435.

Published in Westworld Alberta, Spring 2015


Westworld is the award-winning magazine of the Alberta Motor Association. It offers a mix of travel features, auto trends and special member savings.