If you’ve always dreamed of saying “I do” in Mexico, look no further than Hotel Esencia, a stunning 29-room resort situated on a mile-long stretch of white-sand beach between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Go down the Instagram rabbit hole and you’ll soon discover swoon-worthy posts from Emily Rajatowski’s recent beach getaway and fashion designer Jason Wu’s April 2016 wedding to longtime love Gustavo Rangel at the resort.
The property, formerly the residence of an Italian duchess, is now owned by media entrepreneur Kevin Wendle, the producer who helped found Fox Broadcasting Company and E! Online, and who led programming development for TV hits like “Beverly Hills 90210,” “The Simpsons” and “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” After months of renovations, Wendle transformed the residence into an exclusive five-star resort that’s hosted honeymooners aplenty, in addition to celebs like Uma Thurman and fashionistas like Linda Fargo.
Each of the spacious rooms and villas has whitewashed walls, a private plunge pool and luxe bath amenities made from locally sourced, natural ingredients (be sure to sneak a bottle of the hair and body oil in your carry-on before check-out). Rooms also come with an iPod and built-in sound system to blast tropical vacation playlists curated by French producer and DJ Michel Gaubert — the man behind the music for fashion shows by Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. (Karl Lagerfeld refers to him a “sound stylist,” which we promise will make sense once you listen to Gaubert’s jams.)
A stay at Esencia will not only have you never wanting to leave — it will also have you thinking about planning the perfect destination wedding in Mexico. And that’s easily done, thanks to a skilled event and food and beverage staff, who customize everything for couples and who have worked with top wedding planners like Colin Cowie to pull off dream weddings.
Groups of 60 or more guests will be required to buy out of all 29 rooms (there's a three-night minimum during low season, May 1 to December 20, and a five-night minimum during high season, January 5 to April 30), which you’ll want both for privacy and the ability to host a beach ceremony and seated reception on the resort’s lawn with twinkle lights overhead (as Wu and Rangel did). While large wedding parties won’t all be able to stay on-property, Esencia also manages two private villas down the beach from the main hotel that accommodate 21 and 10 guests, respectively, and can arrange room blocks for spillover at Al Cielo, an adjacent resort.
Catering for weddings at Hotel Esencia is all done in-house, and menus feature dishes like Yucatan lime soup, red snapper with rustic tomato salsa over potato and rosemary gratin and ancho-and-coffee-rubbed beef tenderloin served with gilled baby onions and local sweet potato purée.
For desert? A wedding cake, of course... or, our pick for a more out-of-the-box idea: small fried bananas served over housemade banana-nut bread. Your guests will no doubt wash it all down with a Margarita Esencia, a delicious (but deadly) mixture of house tequila, Cointreau, grapefruit, rosemary and ginger.
After the wedding’s over, the best way to recover is by hitting the hotel spa, which sells products by natural lines like Davines and Tata Harper, and features treatments inspired by Mayan culture, like the purifying Lime Ritual, where a fresh lime is actually used to massage the body (ancient Mayan healers believed a lime could absorb illness and harmful inner body heat). It may sound weird, but trust us and just go with it!