Mayan structure in Mexico. Stacked stones and blue sky.

It has been said that once the dust of Mexico touches your soul, you will never be the same. This couldn't be truer - especially in 2012. This is a very symbolic year in the Mayan calendar, a year of renewals and new beginnings. To honor this historic event, couples seeking a truly spiritual experience should tie the knot amid this enchanting culture in some of Mexico's most sacred places.  It goes without saying that the scenery and locales will leave you mesmerized, but there is something to be said about saying "I do" in the shade of ancient Mayan ruins or being married by a Shaman in a traditional Mayan wedding ceremony.

Here are some tips for couples looking to add an exotic twist to their special ceremony:

Traditional Mayan Ceremony

To the Maya, a wedding ceremony is a rite of passage, a ritual of purification, connecting a couple's spirituality with the natural world around them. The couple is surrounded by family and friends who form a circle of energy around them. Candlelight and the smoke of sacred copa incense, create a magical and mysterious atmosphere. Calling upon the four elements as witnesses, the Shaman calls forth: water, air, earth and fire. Ancestral instruments accompanied by traditional chants, replicate the sounds of the ocean, wind, birds and trees. A colored cloth placed on the couple unites them, symbolizing the start of their new life together.

Love Among the Ruins

Combining tradition, mystery and tranquility, the seaside Maya city of Tulum is a quiet place where the warm white sands and Caribbean breeze, lull you into a state of serenity. Here, the sacred ruins can be the backdrop on your special day or you can exchange vows at nearby mystical cenotes (underground sinkholes). The impressive temples of Coba offer another magical setting for your not-so-traditional nuptials. Tulum is the only known archaeological site located by the sea and it is easily accessible from the popular Riviera Maya "corridor". Boutique hotels, rustic beachfront cabanas and private rentals provide a great alternative for those seeking a more low key experience.

A Colonial Affair

Beautifully restored 18th century haciendas are the settings for weddings in Merida, located about three hours west of Cancun's Riviera Maya. Home to some of the world's most ancient archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, the Mayan culture is very much alive in this corner of the Yucatan peninsula. This romantic, colonial city offers a fresh alternative to popular beach destinations, promising unique hideaways and world class accommodations. Couples can exchange their vows in elegant cathedrals or in quaint colonial chapels, followed by outdoor receptions set in lush garden settings and haciendas, evoking the grace and elegance of "old" Mexico.

Traditional Mayan Healing Rituals

The practice of healing through pre-Hispanic indigenous rituals is still very much a part of the Mayan culture today. These ceremonies have tremendous spiritual and healing power. Laying the groundwork for mind and spirit to become one, many couples incorporate these traditions into their experience. Through the years, Maya have employed different practices for healing - massage being one of them. Natural therapeutic clay is applied to couples during the popular Mayan Clay massage, while ancient ritual chants ask the gods to give the newlyweds a long life of happiness. A Temazcal (indigenous sweat lodge) is another unforgettable group experience. The native people of Mexico have been practicing this purifying steam bath ritual for hundreds of years. Based on traditional healing methods that incorporate the properties of fire and water to purify mind, body and soul, this has been a popular treatment with honeymooners and couples the night before their wedding ceremony.

Staying Safe

Mexico is a land of many colors and the Mayan culture is a fascinating one that begs to be explored. Sadly, recent media reports and travel advisories have made travelers wary of heading south of the border. Most people who travel to Mexico have a fabulous time and don't have any problems. However, crime is a fact of life everywhere and one should exercise common sense wherever they travel. Before traveling to Mexico, research your destination. Websites such as The Safe Traveler or the US State Department provide up- to-date information regarding safety issues for travelers. When packing, valuables are probably best left at home. Once you're down there, ask the hotel if there are any areas you should avoid and when getting around- make sure to use an official taxi. Don't hail one on the street. Airports and hotels have authorized taxis or look for ones marked "Taxi Autorisado" or "Transporte Terrestre". Don't carry large amounts of cash with you and keep your passport and extra money in your hotel safe. Again, use common sense when exploring and try to blend in with the locals.

Author info: Guest blogger Kimberly Richmond is the founder of Runaway Bride Destination Weddings. Regarded as a Mexico travel expert, Kimberly founded her company to meet consumer need for a boutique website specializing in a handful of unique destinations. She frequently travels throughout Latin America, continuously expanding her portfolio of destinations to share with her followers.

Looking for places to stay during your travels? Check out our destination wedding packages and venues.