Puerto Vallarta Destination Wedding Guide: Menu & Flowers (Chapter 7)

A wedding menu with a seashell that says "Groom"

The wedding menu and flowers are the cornerstones of your wedding reception. This guide shows you how to hire your dream caterer and florist, along with questions and sample contracts.


In this article:
I. Sit-Down or Buffet?
II. Finding a Caterer
III. Finding a Pastry Chef
IV. Finding a Bar Manager
V. Finding a Florist


The focal points of your Puerto Vallarta wedding reception are the food and flowers, offering the essence of your celebration through their visual appeal, fragrances, and flavors. The key to crafting the menu is to please the guests, infuse your own taste, and include regional ingredients and recipes (especially if having a destination wedding). The secret to orchestrating the perfect floral decor is bringing your vision to life without going into debt. Flowers are expensive and it’s easy to get carried away with thousands of floral arrangements.


Sit-Down or Buffet?

If you’ve opted for a dinner reception, the first thing you’ll need to determine is whether you’d like sit-down or buffet. We’ve seen both options done beautifully – but each option sets a different tone. As you ponder your choice, consider space limitations and your guests’ preferences.

Sit-down dinners will create a more formal, elegant atmosphere. It also makes things a bit easier logistically as guests can pickup their table number and know exactly where to sit, and caterers will know exactly how many meals to serve (keeping your expenses lower). This is also an ideal option for limited spaces as there is no need for a long buffet and serving stations. However, you’ll most likely need to increase the number of waiters. Also, guests will need to provide any dietary restrictions on their response cards so you can plan.

A buffet offers a more casual, lively atmosphere as people can eat and dance throughout the dinner service. You can have multiple stations offering different kinds of cuisine. And more than likely you’ll save on staff. However, you won’t be able to control portions so you’ll have to order more food than usual. Keep in mind, buffet stations take up a lot of room so ensure you have the space, and also be mindful of long lines; you want guests to enjoy themselves, not stand around with empty plates.


Alternative Options

Your wedding doesn’t even have to serve dinner! While dinner is the most common meal, it’s also the priciest. Here are four alternative options to a dinner:

  1. Cocktail Reception: Offer small plates or “tapas” during the reception.
  2. Brunch: Consider having an early afternoon wedding and serve brunch with mimosas, Bloody Marys, or Bellinis.
  3. Afternoon Tea: Again, if having an afternoon wedding, you can offer finger sandwiches, scones, and petits fours along with tea, coffee, and champagne or sparkling wine.
  4. Dessert Reception: This can be a magical end to an evening wedding where guests can taste the crepe buffet, ice-cream sundae bar, and pie and cookie stations with coffee and regular bar service.


Finding a Caterer

Many wedding venues in Puerto Vallarta offer catering and bar services in their wedding packages. For example, when searching for our wedding venue, our top three choices were Tierra Tropical Beach Club, Tonati Beach Club, and Terra Noble. Tierra Tropical Beach Club quoted us $245 USD per person for a 3-course meal and 6 hours of open bar. Tonati Beach Club quoted us $4,000 USD which included the venue, a buffet-style dinner and open bar for 40 people, and waiters and bartenders. Terra Noble quoted us $4,907 USD for the venue, furniture rentals, and catering for 40 people. Working with an in-house caterer can simplify and streamline the process, however, you may feel pulled toward working with a particular chef in the area. For our wedding, we hired a local Mexican-French chef who crafted the perfect buffet-style dinner. His name is Massi from Cosmica Cocina if you want to check him out (he’s the best!). He brought in only two other staff since our wedding was small – a bartender (also the best) and an assistant. Whatever you decide, make sure you are both on the same page as the caterer will be responsible for the wedding’s culinary experience!


Here is a list of questions to ask your potential caterer:

  • How large is your staff?
  • How will the waitstaff be dressed?
  • How many weddings have you done?
  • Have you done events at my reception space? (If so, they’ll have suggestions about what works best)
  • When do you need the final headcount?
  • Am I limited to sit-down or buffet service?
  • Can I provide my own alcohol? Is there an uncorking fee?
  • If it’s an off-site wedding, does the site impose any limitations on the menu? Where will they set up the kitchen?
  • When will the tasting be held?
  • Do you provide decorations for the bar or buffet stations?
  • What is your suggested ratio of waiters and bartenders to guests? How does that number affect the cost?
  • During cocktail hour, how many waiters will be passing hors d’oeuvres?
  • What do you provide in terms of china, flatware, glassware, and linens? May I see a setup?
  • Do you bring chairs and tables? What style do you offer?
  • Do you have a pastry chef who makes wedding cakes? If I bring an outside cake, is there a charge to serve it?
  • Can you provide an estimate for the number of rentals needed for place settings?
  • How much of a deposit is required to hold the date? When is the balance due?
  • Are you licensed by the state? Do you have a health certificate?
  • How much liability insurance do you carry, and does it include liquor liability insurance?
  • Is insurance for china and glassware breakage included?
  • How much is the charge for service, taxes, and gratuities? (Expect 25%)
  • When do overtime charges apply? What are overtime rates?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • How much time do you need for the setup and breakdown?
  • Are setup and cleanup fees included in the estimate?


Once you’ve decided on your caterer, you’ll move forward with the proposal outlining the details of your menu. Be sure to check if tax and service charges are included in the price. If you approve the proposal, you’ll be asked for a deposit. You may want to be sure the following points are included in your caterer contract:

  • Cost per person with detailed descriptions of what’s included in each course
  • Estimated alcohol charges
  • Staffing charges
  • Power charges (for an off-site reception)


The Food Tasting

Now that we have the nitty-gritty details behind us, let’s move on to the fun part: THE TASTING! For many couples, this is the highlight of wedding planning. A tasting is normally included in the catering fee. If you’re working with an in-house caterer, make sure the catering manager is there. Also, be sure to allow for time for a second tasting in case you want to change a dish. If you opt for a dinner reception, normally three courses are served: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. We recommend food that will satisfy your guests without putting them into a food comma. You want the dance party to be lively! First plan the main meal and then craft the other dishes. Listen to your taste buds, but also be mindful of the following details:

  • How does each dish look on the plate? Take a photo of each course.
  • Is the portion size not too big and not too small? Make sure you are receiving the same portion size as what they will serve at the wedding.
  • How does it taste? Does it appeal to the taste buds without overwhelming them? Be mindful of seasoning, salt, and oils.
  • How long does it take to serve each course? This will help you plan the reception schedule.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions, and request alternatives. This is your day 🙂


Finding a Pastry Chef

The wedding cake is one of the couple’s biggest splurges. The good cake makers book up fast so make sure to reserve six months in advance. Most hotels and resorts will have a pastry chef on staff, allowing you to meet with him or her beforehand. If opting for a less expensive option, consider local bakeries. If you’re bringing in an outside cake, ask about cake-cutting fees as many venues impose fees, such as $1 to $8 per slice. We recommend staying in-house, or if you’re working with a caterer, ask if there’s a pastry chef on staff. Feel free to show them photos of cakes you like, but also ask for photos of cakes they’ve baked for other weddings. One might catch your eye! Here is a list of questions to ask your cake maker:

  • Are you available for my wedding date?
  • How long have you been baking cakes?
  • When do you actually bake the cake? How many days before the wedding? How do you keep the cake fresh?
  • What ingredients do you prefer to use?
  • Is there a delivery charge? Plan your budget so you can get the cake safely delivered to the site.
  • Is a deposit required? What are the terms? When is the final payment due?
  • How is the pricing established? Is it strictly a per-slice charge, or are there extra charges for certain designs?


Discuss the following with your baker, pastry chef, or caterer and get their answers in writing:

  • The date, time, and location where the cake is to be delivered. There is often a two-hour window for delivering the cake.
  • A sketch or photo of your cake and a written description of both the interior and exterior, including cake, filling, icing, and decoration.
  • The number of people the cake will feed.
  • The fee for the cake, along with deposit and final payment information., Outline in writing
  • any circumstances under which you would get a refund.


Finding a Bar Manager

When planning your bar setup, you’ll typically have two options: a bar package (open bar for a number of hours) or a consumption bar (you’ll be charged per drink or per bottle). Selecting a bar package is a good choice if your guest list is filled with enthusiastic drinkers. Another option is to serve a signature cocktail instead of a full bar and it will help keep costs down. For our Puerto Vallarta wedding, we served Palomas, which had high-quality tequila, lime juice, and fresh grapefruit juice (yes, we had a lot of grapefruits!) Keep all of these ideas in mind when you meet with your bar manager. Here is a list of questions to ask your bar manager during your meeting:

  • If necessary, how long does the staff need for turnover? This will affect the length of your cocktail hour.
  • How many bars and bartenders will be in place?
  • What is your usual bar setup? May I see samples of the glassware? If ice will be stored in view, how will it be housed?
  • How will l be charged for sodas, juices, and bottled water?
  • How will l be charged for opened bottles of liquor?
  • How will bartenders deal with guests who have had too much to drink?
  • How do you usually handle gratuities for the bartenders? Stay away from tip jars. Guests shouldn’t feel like they need to tip every time they get a drink.
  • How much does the venue or caterer carry in host liquor liability insurance? You may need to take out an additional policy.


Liquor can be a major expense — be sure to get the following items outlined in writing:

  • Type of bar plan
  • Rates, whether hourly or billed on consumption
  • Number of hours the bar will be open, and the time the bar will close
  • Number of bars and bartenders
  • Date, time, and place of reception
  • Description of specialty cocktail, if providing


How Much Will They Drink?

At a typical reception, factor in one drink per guest per hour.
1 drink x number of guests x ___ hours = X


Finding a Florist

Flowers have always held great meaning across different cultures. Furthermore, flowers can be used to create an atmosphere of romance and hope. However, flowers come with a hefty price tag, so determine what is essential and if you’re willing to splurge on extra flower arrangements. Here are the most common flower arrangements to help you get thinking:

  • The bridal bouquet: Your bouquet should be in keeping with the style and tone of your wedding, and most important, your dress. Bring the florist a photo of your dress and a fabric sample.
  • Maid of honor and bridesmaids bouquets: These bouquets should be smaller than the bridal bouquet yet still reflect the same style. Be sure to bring the florist fabric samples.
  • Boutonnieres: The sleeker the boutonnière, the more modern and masculine the look.
  • Corsages: Mothers (and stepmothers) and grandmothers traditionally wear corsages.
  • Flower girls and ring bearers: Florists can provide rose petals for your flower girl to scatter, and your ring bearer will look so cute in his own boutonniere.
  • Aisle markers: Flowers can be placed on every second or third row, on chair seats, or tucked into the back of each chair.
  • Cocktail-hour flowers: I recommend keeping the floral arrangements to a minimum for the cocktail hour and going all-out for the reception.
  • Reception flowers: Tall arrangements create a formal atmosphere and work great with high ceilings, while low centerpieces create an intimate environment and cost less. Be sure that your centerpieces don’t block guests’ view of one another.


This is another highlight of the wedding planning process: visiting the flower shop. Bring photos of your dress, invitations, bridesmaids dress color, and any visuals that will help the florist envision your wedding. Remember, flowers are seasonal, so while you may love peonies, they won’t be in season in November. Have fun — floral arrangement options are truly endless! Below is a list of questions you can ask your florist:

  • Are you available for the date and time of my wedding?
  • Can you provide floral needs for my entire wedding party?
  • Would you mind meeting at my wedding and reception location? Would you need to do a walk-through before creating a proposal?
  • Can you provide flowers for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception? What about the rehearsal dinner and other pre- and post-wedding events?
  • Do you have a portfolio or book so I can see examples of other weddings?
  • What is the usual budget for a wedding of my scope and size?
  • Have you done other weddings and events of a similar size?
  • What’s needed to reserve the date? Do you require a signed contract or deposit?


Great, you’ve chosen your florist and moving forward with reserving your date! Some florists don’t require a signed contract, however, we recommend getting the following points in writing to ensure you’re on the same page:

  • List of all the arrangements they are providing, indicating the exact flowers and colors to be used.
  • A list of additional items the florist will supply (vases, candles, lanterns).
  • Arrival times for setup at the ceremony and reception sites.
  • Where and when personal flowers should be delivered.
  • Cost and additional fees including sales tax and delivery fees.
  • Deposit amount and due date; balance amount and due date.
  • Cancellation and refund policies.


Budget-Friendly Flower Tips

Here are a few tips to keep your flower decor costs down:

  • Local: Choose flowers from the region rather than shipping from across the country.
  • Simplicity: Choose simple and elegant arrangements.
  • Centerpieces: Pick low centerpieces over tall ones.
  • Date: Avoid flower-heavy holidays such as Valentine’s Day.
  • Creativity: Get creative with large candles, colorful fruit, or lush leaves and branches.
  • Prioritize: Decorating the altar will make up for a bare aisle.



Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I decide between a sit-down dinner or a buffet for my wedding reception?

Consider the atmosphere you want to create and the preferences of your guests. Sit-down dinners offer a formal, elegant vibe with precise logistical planning and dietary accommodations. Buffets provide a more casual, interactive experience with diverse cuisine options and flexibility for guests.

2. What are some alternative meal options besides a traditional dinner reception?

Cocktail Reception: Serve small plates or “tapas” for a social and interactive dining experience.
Brunch: Host an early afternoon wedding and offer brunch with mimosas or Bellinis.
Afternoon Tea: Create an elegant affair with finger sandwiches, scones, and petit fours, accompanied by tea, coffee, and champagne.
Dessert Reception: Delight guests with a sweet finale featuring a variety of desserts paired with coffee and cocktails.

3. What questions should I ask potential caterers when selecting one for my wedding?

Inquire about their experience with weddings and familiarity with your venue. Discuss menu options, dietary accommodations, and flexibility in service styles. Clarify logistics such as staff size, attire, setup, breakdown, and any limitations imposed by the venue.

4. What are some key points to include in a contract with a wedding caterer?

Specify menu details, staffing requirements, setup, breakdown, and payment terms. Include pricing details, including taxes, gratuities, and any additional fees. Clarify liability insurance coverage, cancellation policies, and any special arrangements for off-site receptions.

5. What should I consider when planning the tasting session with my chosen caterer?

Evaluate presentation, portion sizes, taste, and timing of each course. Provide feedback and discuss any adjustments to ensure the menu reflects your preferences. Confirm details such as menu finalization, pricing, and deposit requirements after the tasting.

6. How far in advance should I book a pastry chef for my wedding?

It’s advisable to book a pastry chef at least six months in advance to secure your preferred date and design consultations.

7. What questions should I ask a pastry chef before making a decision?

Inquire about availability, experience, and portfolio of past wedding cakes. Discuss the baking schedule, delivery arrangements, and preferred ingredients. Clarify pricing details, including any additional charges for custom designs or decorations.

8. How can I ensure the freshness and delivery of my wedding cake?

Confirm delivery time, location, and setup instructions with the cake maker. Ensure proper storage and transportation arrangements to maintain freshness until the reception.

9. What factors should I consider when selecting a bar manager for my wedding?

Evaluate bar package options, staffing requirements, and policies for alcohol service. Discuss bar setup, handling of intoxicated guests, and liability insurance coverage. Consider the overall budget and preferences of your guests when selecting bar options.

10. How can I estimate the amount of alcohol needed for my wedding reception?

Plan for one drink per guest per hour and adjust based on the duration of the reception. Calculate the total number of drinks needed based on the guest count and preferences for types of alcohol and beverages.

11. What details should be outlined in writing regarding the bar service, including rates and hours of operation?

Specify the type of bar plan, whether hourly or billed on consumption. Confirm the duration and timing of the bar service, including any specialty cocktails provided.

12. How can I keep flower decor costs down while still achieving a beautiful atmosphere?

Choose locally sourced flowers to reduce transportation costs. Opt for simple and elegant arrangements over elaborate designs. Prioritize floral elements based on importance and focus on key areas such as the bridal bouquet and ceremony decor.

13. What should I bring to my initial meeting with the florist, and what questions should I ask?

Bring visual references such as dress photos, color swatches, and venue images. Inquire about the florist’s availability, experience, and portfolio of past weddings. Discuss budget expectations and explore creative ways to maximize floral impact within your price range.

14. What details should be included in the contract with the florist to ensure clarity and agreement?

Specify all floral arrangements, including types of flowers and colors. Confirm delivery and setup details for each location. Outline pricing, deposit requirements, and cancellation policies to avoid misunderstandings.

15. How can I ensure the freshness and longevity of the floral arrangements on my wedding day?

Coordinate delivery times to minimize exposure to heat or sunlight. Use water tubes or floral foam to keep stems hydrated throughout the day. Communicate any special handling instructions with the florist and venue staff.

16. What factors should I consider when selecting floral arrangements for different parts of the wedding?

Match floral styles to the overall theme and aesthetic of the wedding. Consider venue size and layout when choosing between tall or low centerpieces. Balance visual impact with practical considerations, such as guest comfort and line of sight.

17. How can I incorporate budget-friendly floral elements without sacrificing style or quality?

Opt for seasonal blooms and greenery that are readily available and cost-effective. Repurpose ceremony flowers for the reception to maximize usage. Explore alternative decor options such as candles, fruit, or foliage to complement floral arrangements.

Taylor Wade headshot


Hi, I'm Taylor, the Creative Director at Chas Studios. I co-founded a matchmaking company at the age of 16 and have since amassed two decades of experience in the dating and relationship industry. My deep understanding spans critical areas, from the spiritual growth potential within relationships to navigating finances with your partner. In 2017, just two weeks after relocating to Mexico City, I met and fell head over heels for Diego, who was working in the fashion and editorial world at the time. We subsequently moved to Puerto Vallarta and launched Chas Studios, a photography and film house specializing in weddings and events. We also married in Puerto Vallarta in 2023 allowing us to offer our local knowledge and experience to our readers. 

Are you looking for a wedding photographer for your destination wedding in Mexico?

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