Regulation Begins for Wedding Industry
By Jesús Aguado
“Shocking, flamboyant, or simple” is how those who eat, breathe, and dream weddings qualify them and, one way or another, they get an economic benefit. This year, it is projected that more than 650 weddings will be celebrated in town, bringing in revenue of 3,500 million pesos, US$166,270,783.85.
The success San Miguel de Allende has garnered in the last 15 years as a wedding destination is now to be regulated. Wedding planners have accepted the new rules that will benefit them as well as locals who have been complaining, not just about the traffic caused by the callejoneadas (processions with the bride and groom, featuring live music, giant puppets—mojigangas—alcohol, and guests).
Why Get Hitched in This City?
San Miguel is the city of love. It is one of the favorite destinations for getting married. In fact, electronic pages of laplaner.mx rank this town in third place on its list of Nine Top Places to Get Married in Mexico. On the blog Mexicodestinos.com, San Miguel is in the sixth position after cities like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancún. International site Theknot.com has a list of 50 countries to get married in. In the Mexico section, San Miguel is the first option. The site also recommends having a wedding during the spring. It is “one of the best times of the year because temperatures are moderate, the flowers (azaleas and dogwood trees) are in full bloom, and the colors of the foliage make for a picture-perfect setting.”
But, why get hitched here? The same pages provide information to the internet users remarking that “for old-world charm and romance (narrow cobblestone streets, red stucco walls, and Spanish colonial-style architecture) with a mountaintop backdrop and year-round sunny temps,” San Miguel is the place. The site also states that the city is far from new, and visitors will find more historic buildings and monuments, including old churches, and Spanish style courtyards, than modern mega-resorts.
Who Gets Married in San Miguel?
Recently, Guadalupe Álvarez, owner of Penzi Weddings, was sworn in as president of the Asociación de Bodas y Eventos de San Miguel de Allende (Association of Weddings and Events), an organization that is relatively new. It was formed in 2010 with just eight members, and now it has more than 30 partners. Álvarez told Atención that the wedding industry in San Miguel started taking off 15 years ago, but it was just a destination for people from other countries until “Mexicans discovered the city.” The organization emerged because the planners wanted to be more professional.
Guadalupe Álvarez started working as an event planner for the Lili Ledy toy company in Mexico City. Then she came to San Miguel and became involved in weddings with Alma Caballero. With her, Álvarez started Los Secretos, a company that dissolved a few years later. Now Guadalupe has her own company with a team of 40 people, and she also represents this industry that yearly brings more than 3,500 million pesos to San Miguel.
From Álvarez’s experience, weddings have changed a lot in 15 years. In the past, the brides just wanted a good fiesta. Now they require a super production with super decoration plus a good party, and the most demanding brides are Mexican. “In their organization everybody—members of both families, the bride and groom—makes decisions, even the parrot,” she said smiling. The less demanding are those from the United States. She noted, “The bride is the only one involved. She knows what she wants, and she is willing to pay for it.”
President Álvarez said that the Asociación de Bodas has its own records of the nationalities from people who say yes to San Miguel for the wedding party. At Penzi, they have worked with people from 59 countries: Korea, Chile, The United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, China, Russia… “So many people come to San Miguel to get married,” she stated.
The most common complaints about the weddings go from the noise to the traffic caused by the callejoneadas and, lately, the possible benefit the local administration is giving to the industry by pedestrianizing the streets. On the topic of pedestrians, Álvarez remarked, “We are not politicians. We are not specialists in traffic or anything that has nothing to do with weddings. We know weddings.” She remarked that the brides know how difficult it is to walk on the cobblestone streets, so guests bring comfortable shoes for themselves and the guests, especially for the callejoneadas.
Álvarez asked for patience from all the complainers. “I understand that everybody complains, but when they can pay their children´s tuition, they are happy. I ask patience and understanding. Also, all the planners have the commitment of fulfilling the new regulations.” Finally, Álvarez said that the industry provides employment to waiters, stylists, taxi drivers, artisans, cooks, baby sitters—to everybody.
Mayor Ricardo Villarreal acknowledged that the wedding industry in a smashing success in town and confessed “that success should be regulated.” Therefore, the city council passed an agreement with the criteria for the use of public spaces. With that document, he said, “We want to regulate, among other things, the callejoneadas, the noise, and the schedules that sometimes make the citizens complain.”
The document is public, available on the web page of the local administration, and came into force on January 1 of 2017. This is a summary, put together by Atención.
Public spaces (streets and plazas) Priority for its use will be as it follows: first, civic and religious events; second, ceremonies and events of the public administration followed by cultural events; finally touristic events, like weddings and reunions.
Schedules for noise: In open public spaces, music will be allowed until 11pm; in private spaces until 1am. If the noise is controlled and does not impact the neighbors, the permits could be extended until 3am in public and private spaces.
Tents and safety: If tents or canvas are used at events, the color should be sepia or ochre, preferably with no advertisements. The structures cannot be tied to public buildings or trees, and the passageways for pedestrians must not be blocked. Finally, there should be a person in charge at all times to solve any contingency.
Callejoneadas and alcohol: The permits will be issued by the Traffic Department, and the organizers should hire private security. People in charge of the procession must wear uniforms authorized by the local administration. The limit of alcohol consumption by the participants is 100 milliliters. The musicians playing during the route of the callejoneada must stop playing when the procession arrives at its destination, which should be a bar or a home.
Local services: Wedding industry organizers must use at least 75 percent local services for the event.
Fines: Event planners—locals or from other cities—could be punished with fines from 10 thousand to 30 thousand pesos if they do not respect the agreement. If they violate the regulations on three occasions, permits could be permanently denied to them.
Beautifying the Bride, Serving the Politicians
André López is a 25-year-old professional stylist. For the last four years, she has worked in the wedding industry: making up, and styling the brides. Sometimes, the service includes manicure and pedicure.
André never thought she would make a living from this profession. “The truth is that I studied this as a hobby. My mother was studying in Celaya on Saturdays. We have a house there, and I accompanied her every Saturday, and I wanted to take advantage of my time, so I decided to study this.” Now she can work beautifying up to 20 women in just one day.
López, who also studied pedagogy, said that she works with her clients all week because she meets the brides or bridesmaids during the weekdays to define and check the style that they want. Then the civil ceremony is on Friday, and the religious celebration is on Saturday. “I am working all the time, and I love it.” She said that even if she does not speak their language, sometimes there are interpreters, and they can exchange their cultures. She has worked with people from the Philippines, Russia, Venezuela, The United States, Brazil, and Mexico. Every week she can earn up to 4,000 pesos.
Iván García is a 20-year-old waiter who works for a hotel here. He has been at weddings that had 900 guests and at events that require from 20 to 150 waiters. He has been to the weddings where federal politicians are the guests of honor, actors, “and people from almost all the social strata,” he said.
García has worked 36 hours in a row; however, he knows that in the end, he can make 3,500 pesos weekly, including tips. “Once, at a table, they gave me 2.000 pesos in tips, but it also depends on the service that I provide.”