Starting points for planning a destination wedding

Pineapple floaties bride and groom

Planning a destination wedding can seem like the ultimate escape from traditions. Exotic surroundings, smaller guest count, and the option to even go barefoot! But where to begin?

I would start with the question, Why?

My past destination couples have answered that it’s because they love travel adventures themselves and couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. Maybe your reason is different. Perhaps, it is just an escape from the norm. Whatever your reason, I’d love to help.

Destination

Just like planning a wedding at home, think of the overall feeling, style and look you both enjoy. Are you picturing a tropical destination, brimming with bright flora and fauna with the sound of the rolling ocean in the background? Or is it a cozy mountain top escape you see? Amidst a jaw-dropping vista view with an option for an evening bonfire surrounded by loved ones sipping Irish coffees.

Just dream. Who’s stopping you! What would be your ULTIMATE destination?

Be realistic

After that sweet, sweet, newly engaged, cloud 9 feeling week or even month, it’s time to get down to business.

You’ve decided on an idea of a destination but now it’s time to think of your guests.

Are there any cost parameters that you’d like to set for your guests? Or is it simply an open-invitation of whoever can afford and make it will make it? Is distance a factor you need to think about? It could be a restraint for older family members who might not be able to take a 12-hour flight. Creature comforts. Are most of your guests up for the adventure? Or would they feel more comfortable in a place that feels a little more like home?

Travel Agent

At this point, you should have narrowed down your search to a couple of destination options. Maybe it’s Mexico vs. Jamaica. Spain vs. the Azores. Time to get more specific and do your research! Talk to other brides who have had a wedding in these countries and most importantly, hire a Travel Agent who’s specialty is in Wedding Groups. They have the knowledge and expertise that can help direct you to a destination that mostly fits your group criteria.

All Inclusive Resort

All Inclusive resorts are safe and are prettily packaged! Everything is in one place, costs are mainly all up front. Your guests have no worries!

Again, just do you research. Resorts usually have a variety of wedding packages you can choose from that spans from intimate elopements to buying out an entire section of the hotel! Ask for the costs of all the bells and whistles you can choose from so that you can compare similar packages. Ask for all the extras even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Because honestly, you just might! Think AV costs, chair options, local entertainment. For example, a lot of these packages will say that it’s good for 20 guests. This means that if you have a guest count of 30, you’ll need to pay for 10 extra ceremony chairs – to start. Ask how much those extra chairs will cost.

Your wedding dinner can be either buffet or plated just like home. Semi-private dinner option, meaning your group is essentially sectioned-off in a restaurant where other guests of the resort can come through. There’s usually also a private dinner option, meaning you’d have the whole restaurant/area to yourselves. Read the fine print to see if buffet and plated options are available to your group as sometimes they require minimum numbers.

AV equipment comes at a premium at some of the resorts, even just to “plug-in” your iPod. Lastly, flowers. Since you have to go through the resort to book all of your wedding partners, I found the prices of flowers in particular to be kind-of outlandish to be quite honest! Keep in mind that some islands in the Caribbean have to import pretty much everything, so this is part of the reason.

The ease of having your wedding at an AI resort is incomparable. One-stop-shop and fairly affordable for most. When organizing a group booking for these resorts, you are usually given some freebies! I know so many couples out there who are simply overwhelmed with all of the options and details that wedding planning brings. This could be the perfect option for you! Having all your guests in one place, sipping from your personalized tumblers on the beach and not to mention, those amazing Caribbean sunsets!

Off-Resort Wedding

Not as prettily packaged as an All-Inclusive wedding but even more-so adventurous I’d say! I’d think of an Off-Resort Wedding as planning one just like you would at home, but in a completely different country. Most destinations, outside of the Caribbean, simply just don’t really have all-inclusive options. Europe, Asia, even just in our provinces here in Canada or states in America.

In this instance, you may want to visit your destination in advance, or have complete trust in the wedding coordinators for that venue.

For my very own wedding, I was lucky that I had been to the destination before. BUT I chose my venue completely from photos on the internet, luckily they also had a virtual tour of the property online, and that was it. I did not physically see the place until a week before our wedding when we had landed for preparations. Thankfully, mine was a success story but I realize not everyone is so trusting! This is where I would utilize other couples’ feedback, or trusted travel professionals.

Finding that off-resort venue, just like finding one here is the biggest piece of the puzzle. You also need to find some accommodation options in the area. You can grab deals that include flight and hotel for your guests as a group rate through your travel agent. I’d give guests this location as the main option but you can also allow them to find their own. Airbnbs are so popular nowadays and are EVERYWHERE. All around the world. Friends or family can even group up and find a great deal for themselves. I’ve had couples getting married in Niagara-on-the-lake who list Airbnb options for their guests! And that’s pretty local for us from the GTA.

The main difference in terms of wedding logistics that you’d need to plan out is transportation. How are your guests going to easily get from their respective hotels to your wedding? They’ve already made the trek to your destination, I think this is one of the best ways to show how much you appreciate them coming.

Now, off-resort doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going from one venue to another. There are some pretty awesome private villa options out there that can be your own “private resort”. I remember looking at an Inn that could house 30-something guests that also had a beautiful patio for a wedding. If your numbers were small and intimate, you could look into something like this!

Ok, so many options!

Budget

I guess the last “first step” in your research would now to lay these options out, and see what works best for you as a couple and your budget. I know, the worst! Again, just be realistic with yourselves but do the RESEARCH! An option you thought would be way off budget might just be perfect for you. Don’t forget to convert the currencies to reflect your own and have fun! Your dream destination wedding IS possible!

 

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