Congratulations! You’re getting married and you’ve opted for a destination wedding. However, holding the ceremony and celebration away from home requires almost the same amount of thought and planning. And, in some ways, it is more worrisome because you cannot physically oversee the plans step by step.
With plenty ahead of you to figure out, you could probably use some pro tips. So, we have consulted two seasoned travel agents that specialize in the field of destination weddings and we’re sure you will find their input helpful.
CHOOSING THE LOCATION AND DATE
Take some time to think about your destination. Don’t jump the gun and name the first place that comes to mind, nor should you choose a location merely based on knowing someone that got married there. Make sure that your chosen location means something to you. There are many places to consider but the most popular include:
- Bali, Indonesia
- Cancun, Cozumel, and the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. Los Cabos on the Pacific Coast of Mexico is also popular.
- Caribbean – several of the Caribbean islands cater to weddings, the most popular of which include Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Caymans, Jamaica, St. Barts, St Lucia
- French Polynesian (Bora Bora, Fiji, Tahiti)
- Italy – mainly the Amalfi Coast, and Lake Como
- Spain, mainly southern regions
- USA – California (in particular, Coastal California); Florida (Miami and The Keys); Las Vegas; and Hawaii
While all these locations sound wonderful and are certainly scenic, bear in mind that the destination you choose, if too distant, expensive or exotic, might deter guests from joining you for your big day.
Take dates into consideration. If you are requesting the presence of families, especially those with school-aged children, be prepared for them to decline the invitation unless the wedding is held during the summer months when the kids are on vacation. Also, give some thought to the time of year and expected weather, and then weigh the pros and cons. For example, you might want to avoid a summer wedding in Cancun, Cozumel, or the Mexican Riviera due to extreme heat and humidity, and fall is considered the rainy season. Perhaps a spring wedding would be the best for this destination, even if it means guests with children might have to opt-out.
GET TO KNOW YOUR DESTINATION
If you are already familiar with your chosen destination, and perhaps even the coordinator and staff you will be working with, the planning will likely go a little easier. However, if you’re not already familiar, do your homework! Learn as much about your chosen location as you can. This includes where your wedding will be held and all the details of how it will be set up, but also includes information about the resort/venue hosting your wedding and the surrounding area. Not only will this help you with planning; it will also assist with answering any questions your guests might have. If your wedding is being held at a National Park or at a golf club, for instance, research all hotels and resorts in the vicinity. Inquire about group rates to save your guests some money, etc. If you and your guests plan to stay at the destination longer than just a day or two for the nuptials, research local attractions, sightseeing, dining, etc. in the region so you can keep everyone entertained.
If it’s possible to visit your chosen location in advance of your wedding, to conduct a walk-through and discuss final arrangements; don’t just consider it, do it! This will help you to go over last-minute questions and instructions, correct any miscommunication or mistakes, and put your mind at ease. If distance or budget does not allow you to visit ahead of time, ask for a virtual reality experience if available. At the very least, request visuals in the form of photos and video, and Zoom meetings so you can get to know your coordinator. Never leave everything up to email communication because they are too easy to misinterpret, especially if your destination does not speak your language.
HARMONIZE WITH THE DESTINATION
Consider your chosen place and the type of wedding you would like to have and then try to make them match. For example, if you’re having a beachfront wedding in the Caribbean, choose décor and bridal party attire in materials and colours that complement the location. Dark colours and heavy fabrics would simply look and feel out of place. Conversely, if you’re having an autumn wedding on Lake Como, the temperature will be cool so your choice of dresses and suits will need to adjust.
In that realm, give your guests some guidance. Don’t expect them to dress in ball gowns and tuxes if your chosen destination will include a party atmosphere like Las Vegas, or a beachfront wedding where the weather will be especially hot and humid. Conversely, if you want them to wear dresses and dress pants for photos, don’t give the impression that the wedding will be super casual otherwise you run the risk of guests showing up in shorts.
AT ALL TIMES, REMEMBER YOUR GUESTS
If you had planned your wedding at a local hotel or golf club with a reception hall, you would likely be spending your evening circulating around the room and thanking everyone for coming. The same courtesy is expected at a destination wedding. In this case, everyone has come a long way to be with you so don’t forget them.
Before you go, be as helpful as possible when it comes to making their travel arrangements. Provide LOTS of advance warning, look into discounts or group rates, and be patient with questions and concerns. Be sure to get any necessary information for guests with special needs, such as diet or a mobility-friendly room. And when you arrive, be sure to set aside time to spend with everyone.
Booking group travel arrangements with a travel agency sometimes results in credits to the soon-to-be-weds. For example, a vacation supplier might offer a $500 credit for every 10 or 20 people booked into the group, or a $1000 for every 30 people, etc. This money comes back to the bride and groom in the form of a credit that can be used at their discretion. Some couples choose to use the credit toward paying for their own trip, which is perfectly acceptable. However, keeping the guests in mind, we would recommend a different approach such as — you can spread the credit equally among your guests to help reduce the price of their bookings or, if the vacation supplier offers tours, you could use the credit to prepay a sightseeing tour or attraction for all your guests. This would give everyone something to do together, besides the wedding, during your time at the destination.
Finally, don’t expect wedding presents. Expecting guests to lay out hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for travel to a destination wedding is enough to ask of them. Expecting them to buy and travel with presents as well is simply too much to ask.
BOOK WITH A LICENSED AGENT
Before you do any of the above, we highly recommend seeking the help of a licensed travel agent. It’s best if they specialize in destination weddings, but even if they don’t, they can still assist far more effectively than an online booking company. Travel agents can negotiate the best price available or work their magic to get extras or upgrades included in your package deal. They often have special contacts or access to resort reps that can offer extra assistance. And since travel bookings are what they do best, you can count on them to handle the bookings for your guests and assist with any travel issues that arise along the way.
Having a professional on your side will alleviate a lot of the stress. They will have plenty of ideas and extra tips not covered here and are skilled at turning your destination wedding booking into an unforgettable experience.