Destination Wedding Photography: Tulum, Mexico

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I had the opportunity to photograph a destination wedding at Dreams Tulum in Mexico in November and it was a beautiful experience! This was the second wedding I photographed and I was thankful the bride and groom put their confidence in me to capture their special day. I wanted to share some of my favorite images from the day and a little commentary/tips based on what I learned for anyone looking to do destination wedding photography in the future.

Here are some of my favorite moments of the day . . .

Dreams Tulum was a great place for a destination wedding. I would highly recommend it to those wanting to travel for their wedding. It was large enough that you could have privacy if you wanted it, but small enough that you could travel throughout the resort pretty quickly to go from the spa to the beach to your reception.
The first part of the day was spent at the spa with the women as they did hair and make-up. This is an image of the mothers checking out the wedding bands.
This was a personal favorite photo of mine — because this is the bride’s mother and step-mother. One of the unique parts of photographing a wedding is getting to see a family in action and watching two families become one . . . and I thought it was really special that a mother and step-mother would have this moment when no one else was looking.
The mother of the bride while writing a letter to the bride and groom in a journal that was passed around.
The bride’s family speaks English as a first language, and the groom’s family speaks Spanish as a first language — this is the bride translating her vows to Spanish (which made me want to cry during the ceremony when they said their vows in both English and Spanish).
Putting on the final touches.
Beautiful! Her dress and hair were perfection!
The rings!
I cannot describe how perfect the weather was, how perfect the time of day was, and how perfect the spot on the beach was where the ceremony was held. The resort has a spot on the far end of their resort where ceremonies are held, and while you do get the occasional vacationer walking by, it generally is very low traffic and angled in a way that you feel you and your guests are the only ones there.
We stayed in Mexico for a few days (Chris traveled with me) so I had a chance to see a couple weddings going on beforehand (that we slighly stalked so I could get an idea of how things run there) and the cool thing is each couple can customize a lot of options. For example, the bride and groom went with these gorgeous flowers on the top of the canopy which was very different than the other weddings. It looked SO good! Even better, it was removed after the ceremony and used for the reception center-piece.
The ceremony
When you do wedding photography, you want to focus on getting all of the traditional and expected shots as a basic rule, but I personally treasure and take pride in capturing the emotion. This was somewhere between me almost crying and remembering I had to actually take photos. 🙂
Parents of the groom
They’re hitched!
Right after the ceremony, we moved to a spot down the beach for family photos. It was golden hour and I couldn’t have paid money to have the sun in a better location in the sky.
This is the bride and her son and I love the way they’re looking at each other.
After family photos, it was time for bride and groom photos before joining the reception. Chris met up with us during this time and got the bride and groom waters, helped carry my gear around, and helped to direct people out of the background of my shots.
This resort had so many good locations for photos!
I love the pops of color at the different locations! This is a small chapel that could be used as a back-up location if a beach ceremony gets rained out.
I love the cactus framing them.
The beauty of a cool Mexican resort is the chance to do some fun photos you can’t get anywhere else!
My very favorite set of photos are on these rocks. It was the last set of couple photos we did right before the sun went down. It was one of those situations where it would’ve been easy not to do because climbing on rocks in formal-wear could deter someone . . . I’m so glad they had this location in mind. So cool!
The dinner table at the reception (with the flowers as seen above from the ceremony). I loved everything about their table setting (and check out that view in the background). The reception was held on a rooftop that allowed you to see over the ocean.
They had a mariachi band playing during cocktail hour . . . I couldn’t have loved it more!
The cake!

It’s hard to pick just a handful of photos to share because the whole day and location was so beautiful!

*****

Tips if you’re a photographer

Every time I do a shoot, whether it’s a small and quick family photoshoot or a 10-hour day of a wedding, I always learn something. If you’re a photographer and dreaming of venturing into wedding photography . . . here are some things that I learned or that helped me along the way.

-If you’re doing a destination wedding and do not have a second shooter flying with you, having a second camera on you is key. If you can’t afford a second camera, you can always rent the same model you have so you know your lenses work on both, and then you can switch back and forth throughout the day without reacclimating to a different type of camera. I kept a wide angle lens on one camera and a 35mm prime on the other and switched back and forth depending upon how close or far I was standing.

-Take back up batteries and memory cards. I started shooting around 11 a.m. and finished around 9:30 p.m. and my batteries and cards lasted me the full time. One card was full and one battery was ready for charging by the end, but I had back-ups of both in my bag.

-If you can have someone join to assist you after the ceremony during formal family photos, even just a family friend if you don’t have an assistant (or you can identify a wedding guest who is not a family member) to help gather the family — it will help tremendously. You will have a short window of time to get approximately 10-20 people together and looking in the same direction and everyone will be excited to get to the cocktail hour.

-If you’re shooting in a public place, you will need to constantly be aware of your surroundings. This particular wedding was at a resort where family photos were taken on a beach, which meant there was the occasional vacationer in the background. I either moved myself to get an angle where they weren’t in the shot by moving right or left, or at times I would squat down and shoot at an up angle. If you can’t move or really want the sun in that location, just remember to plan for plenty of time for edits on the backend.

-Plan for a change in lighting from the ceremony to the reception. Most receptions will be at night time or in a venue where it’s lower lighting provided by the DJ so you’ll want to consider adding a flash or positioning yourself by the best lighting if you have that option.

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Photographing this wedding was the highlight of my photography experiences thus far!