Are Local Regulations Driving Away Lucrative Destination Weddings?
By Jesús Aguado
In 2018, as many as 800 couples celebrated their weddings in San Miguel de Allende, resulting in over four billion pesos—roughly US$207 million—in direct and associated revenue for the city. But longer term, that revenue is threatened, say wedding planners—and some say already decreasing—due to local government regulations directed at weddings in public spaces.
The State Secretariat of Tourism shared those numbers at a recent local workshop for event planners, “Certification as a Romance Destination.” At this event, created by the state secretariat in conjunction with the San Miguel Tourism Council and the Association of Events Planners, organizers said the couples came from México City, Estado de México, Monterrey, and Tamaulipas in Mexico, as well as from Texas, California, New York, Florida, Canada, and Europe. It is estimated that each of these weddings averages 200 guests.
Guadalupe Álvarez, owner of Penzi Weddings, is one of the main wedding planners in San Miguel. She believes that the current number of weddings is actually higher. She knows of 20 wedding planners in town, and each schedules more than 80 weddings a year, she says. But, she says, she is seeing signs of decline as her prospective customers become disenchanted with San Miguel’s regulations and take their wedding elsewhere.
“Inflexible” local government?
In Álvarez’s opinion, the “extreme” (her term) local government regulations should be more flexible. For example, the callejoneadas are not as interesting as they were in past years, she says.
A callejoneada is a wedding tradition local to the state of Guanajuato in which the bride and groom and the wedding guests move throughout the streets in an informal procession, sometimes accompanied by a group of musicians dressed in traditional garb. It often involves alcohol consumption by guests and onlookers. Once spontaneous events, callejoneadas these days must be scheduled ahead of time with the city government and must begin and end at a prescribed time.
Now people have to move along on a schedule, observed Álvarez, “and that is good. The inspectors are doing a good job. But one time, we had to begin our callejoneada without the newlyweds, who arrived five minutes late. The government needs to be more flexible,” she said.
Alcohol consumption is one of the main elements of a callejoneada, but Álvarez says it is now very regulated in San Miguel, reducing the spontaneity of the procession. The routes are selected by the government, and the groups cannot stop in public plazas and enjoy the city as they did in the past. Álvarez says she has lost 10 weddings due to the regulations.
“People decide to go and get married somewhere else because they can have a better experience elsewhere. We have many administrative obstacles.”
Álvarez isn’t calling for an end to regulations on weddings, but said more flexibility is necessary.
In early 2017, when Ricardo Villarreal was mayor of San Miguel, he acknowledged that the wedding industry was a huge success for the city. However, he added, “That success should be regulated.”
It was that sentiment that led the San Miguel City Council to pass an ordinance regarding the criteria for the use of public spaces in January 2017.
“We want to regulate, among other things, the callejoneadas, the noise, and the schedules [of these events] that sometimes make the citizens complain,” Villarreal explained at the time.
The 2017 ordinance is available for viewing on the local government’s web page. What follows is a summary, put together by Atención:
Public spaces (streets and plazas) Priority for their use will be as follows: first, civic and religious events; second, ceremonies and events of the local government, followed by cultural events; and, finally, touristic events, such as weddings and conferences.
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 neighbors, permits could be extended until 3am in public and private spaces.
Tents and safety: If tents or canvas structures 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 resolve any problems.
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 government. The limit of alcohol consumption by the participants is 100 ml per person. The musicians playing on the callejoneada’s route 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 an event.
Fines: Event planners—locals or from other cities—can be punished for violating the ordinance with fines ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 pesos. Three consecutive violations can result in permanent denial of permits to the planner in question.