As a travel manager and former Wedding and Entertainment Sales Director at the luxury One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos, Mexico, I have worked directly with many wedding planners and anxious, excited brides.
Destination weddings can be very stressful, but if you follow a few key steps, there is no reason why the vision of your perfect wedding can’t come to life, with ease.
With my experience and knowledge in booking individuals, social groups, and weddings worldwide I wanted to share some of these important steps for a destination wedding and to provide proper etiquette for inviting guests.
Getting married away from your hometown requires preplanning, and the possibilities are endless.
Deciding on the location
Is there a place that holds special memory to you? The city where you met or the first time you exchanged the “I love you” words or where he proposed. Food for thought: do you have a certain budget, can guests travel there easily, will the cost inhibit your guests from coming, what type of hotel – all inclusive or non, who’s paying, and does it require a passport? Are there any language barriers? Keep in mind the convenience and consideration of those coming to celebrate and support you on your special day.
If you’re thinking that having a destination wedding will save you money, because you’ll have a smaller guest list, you may be right about the party size. But having a destination wedding can cost you just as much, if not more, than a celebration in your hometown.
Remember to factor in the extra expenses of visiting the destination/hotel site typically, at least two times, prior to the wedding. This includes airfare, transportation, and accommodations, of course. If you’re not happy with the recommended local photographers, djs, or videographers options, you might have to fly someone in and provide lodging. You may have to ship certain items in as well.
Most destination celebrations are generally three or more days, which means you’ll be entertaining guests and hosting a few parties (a welcome reception, rehearsal dinner, wedding day ceremony, reception dinner and I typically arrange a departure brunch as well). Keep in mind, you may need to pay for travel or accommodations for some of your guests (such as your parents, best friend, and maid of honor, who may be on a very tight budget). Be sure to create a realistic budget that allows for extra expenses. Another consideration, if you are planning on having a large wedding, you can have two host hotels nearby, one that offers a higher room rate and another hotel that offers a lower rate, not everyone attending has the same income or demands.
When hosting a wedding away from home, you may want to hire a wedding planner or have a dedicated close friend who can assist with researching and handle any issues leading up to your wedding. This person will be your right hand person to help make things go smoothly so that you are stress-free on your big day. From coordinating activities to sorting out gift bags, the wedding planner is key. You can hire someone local or if your wedding takes place at a resort, most likely, the resort will have an on site wedding coordinator, usually at no cost). If you do decide to use a planner from back home, be sure he/she is experienced and expect to cover their transportation and accommodation costs for planning visits and the actual wedding.
Weather and Season
The best weather in popular vacation destinations always tends to be high season which means higher price rates, limited availability (especially if you wait last minute to plan), and are more crowded. Preplanning and checking availability for room and function space, with any type of group travel, you will need to secure a room block (allureplus.com can help you negotiate the best rates for your group.) Six months prior is good amount of time, or earlier, to start checking and planning.
Shoulder season are the months between high season and off-season, this is a great time to travel, usually with good weather, and can save your guests (and yourself) a little money. With off-season, when rates are usually the lowest, the weather can be a gamble and certain destinations close during certain months, so it’s always best to research and consult with a travel professional.
Location Site Visit
There will be lots of decisions to be made – from flower arrangements, linens, table settings, menus, an outdoor or indoor wedding ceremony and reception, where and what time your activities will be, etc.
Set up appointments and have any preliminary meetings by email or phone before traveling. If you are unable to travel to the property beforehand, you will need to trust the people you are working with.
Creating the vision and atmosphere for your magical wedding
Speak with your planner or venue about lighting. Whether it be hundreds of candles, lamps or lights. Also talk about seating arrangements and table settings. Consider lapel mics, and make sure the DJ or band has enough equipment (and power) to entertain all night as well. Check on curfews with the function spaces you are considering.
Legal wedding or minister wedding ceremony
If you would like your wedding union to be legally recognized, you will need to have a judge officiate the ceremony. Some destinations require the couples to come in a few days prior to your ceremony to have blood tests and fill out paperwork. In some cases, if your time does not allow you to travel earlier, consider getting legally married in your hometown, by government standards, before you travel. You will also save money as there will be no need for a judge. You can then book a minister to officiate the wedding ceremony. Many couples I have worked with have written their own vows to each other.
Information for your guests
However you chose to do this – whether it be an email, letter, personal wedding website – provide thorough information with important wedding details for guests, ie: how to get there, where to stay, and an activity itinerary. Also suggest clothing attire, where to go, what to do, and contact numbers they will need upon arrival.
Arrival day of your wedding
Since many of your guests may be arriving at different times, you will want to say hello to everyone the first day to show your appreciation. Arranging a welcome reception or a place to meet is a great way to start the festivities. A welcome bag full of treats is always special too.
Your magical memories from that day forward will live on.
For information on individual or group/wedding travel contact: [email protected]
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