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Fronted by an unreal stretch of white sand, 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Mediterranean-style Hotel Esencia couldn't possibly possess a better location. Whether you trade I dos with your toes in the sand or surrounded by tropical gardens, this resort has got what you need.
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Bold decor and even bolder flavor await you and your posse at Yaxche Restaurant (pronounced "jag-shey") in the heart of Playa del Carmen. This bustling hot spot pours up a mean margarita, so greet friends and family with pitchers of different flavors before bringing on the food. Mayan cuisine is what's on the menu, and the cochinita pibil (marinated pork baked in plantain leaves) and tsic (ceviche-style shrimp and fish on fried tortillas with avocado and tomatoes, pictured) are to die for.
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Twenty-five minutes north, Tulum is one stunning mashup of natural and man-made beauty. Apparently the Maya, who started constructing this city in the 12th century, appreciated oceanfront property -- as will your guests. The epic ruins sit on a cliff right at the water's edge, so there's plenty to entertain the history buffs and beach bums in your life.
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If you've headed down to Mexico, you probably want to tie the knot as close to the ocean as possible without actually getting wet (though some couples do opt to stand ankle-deep in the shallows). So, say hello to the beach. Esencia can pull off a killer surfside ceremony. Consider setting out buckets of flip-flops so guests don't get their nice kicks sandy.
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A Garden Ceremony
If you're not too keen on standing right on the sand but want the same seascape vistas -- hey, we get it -- Esencia's lush grounds are your answer. The beach is just beyond the manicured lawn, so your guests will still get to gaze out at that unforgettable view.
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For escort cards that will have your guests all shook up, borrow this idea from Nina and Jon's wedding. Have guests' names calligraphed on tags before you leave, and the hotel can help you source local maracas (that will double as favors) so you don't have to bring them along. The instruments can be shaken as a signal that a toast is forthcoming (rather than the typical clinking of glasses) or as a send-off when you make your escape as the night's winding down.
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Infuse your bash with a sense of place by swapping out the Champagne for a splash of local tequila jazzed up with sweet-and-sour flavors. After one of these honey margarita shots, the fiesta will kick up into high gear -- guaranteed.
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A Swinging Souvenir
The Yucatan is all about sun-soaked, chilled-out days. A great way to take a little sliver of this lifestyle home with you is by picking up a Mayan hammock, like those strung up all around the hotel (pictured). They come in every color under the sun and can be purchased from both cute boutiques and streetside vendors.