Top 10 Tips for Planning Your Destination Wedding
Consider the Time of year
- Because of trade winds, Caribbean islands can actually be cooler than the mainland during the hot summer months.
- The further south you go in winter, the greater your chances of avoiding a cold snap
- Hurricane season is June-Nov. There are great rates to be had, but for those who don’t live on the edge, it may not the best time to plan a trip involving lots of guests and moving parts. If it’s just a few people, trip insurance can take care of any risk involved.
Research Your Potential Locations
- Make sure your destination is easily and affordably accessible from your guests’ hometowns. Not all major airlines fly to all islands and some islands require multiple plane changes or overnights between plane changes.
- Choose a resort which is easily accessible from the destination airport. You may be staying a week and feel your remote resort is worth the two hour drive from the airport, but if your guests are staying three days, is it fair to make them spend 8 hours of those three days driving over bumpy roads?
- How many weddings does the resort allow per day? Luxury resorts may limit weddings to one per day, but it’s very common at many all-inclusives to have several weddings a day. That’s their bread and butter and most do it very well, but will it bother you to know you’re sharing your day with other brides? It’s important to know.
Check Out Marriage Requirements
- Before choosing a destination, find out how long you’ll need to be in the country before you get married. In some countries, you could be half-way through your honeymoon before you get married.
- Make sure you know the requirements for marrying in the countries you’re considering. Do you really want to deal with a blood test in a third world country during the most romantic trip of your life?
Research Legal & Religious Requirements
- Do you want your wedding documents to be in English? Then get married in a country where English is the official language.
- A large country (e.g. Mexico) is more likely than small islands to have Catholic chapels on resort property. Their cities are also more likely to have Rabbis and Hindu priests.
- Check with your county office before planning your wedding to make sure they’ll recognize your foreign marriage. Destination weddings are very common, but you’ll need to take your documents to your county clerk’s office to receive your marriage license. A foreign document does not a legal marriage make.
- Many couples choose to simplify the process with a simple courthouse civil ceremony, a then have a symbolic ceremony at their chosen destination. Check with your resort, though. Some resorts are very strict about offering their free wedding or wedding perks for actual wedding ceremonies only.
Ask About Resort Requirements
- A couples only resort is romantic, but will they allow your widowed grandmother or single friends to stay on property at your wedding? Most will allow a small percentage of your guests to be single, but the room rates are based on two guests. If your single guests aren’t willing to share a king-sized bed, this can get pricey at an all-inclusive resort.
- If you choose an adults only resort, guests under 18 won’t be allowed to attend, even for the day. Honeymooning at an adults only resort is great, but you might want to consider to having your wedding at a family friendly resort and saving the adult resort for after the wedding.
- Many couples have been burned by hotel attrition clauses. This means you’re guaranteeing that a certain number of rooms will be booked in exchange for being guaranteed a specific room rate. If your guests don’t come through, you could be on the hook for their rooms.
- All-inclusives generally don’t have attrition clauses. You start from zero and the more rooms your guests book, the more wedding freebies you get. Much less stressful!
Ask About Custom Options
- Are you limited to resort vendors or can you hire your own vendors?
- What are you custom options as far as chairs, linens, flowers, etc?
- Is it legal to bring US photographers and planners into the country you’re considering? Usually, it’s no problem, but some countries do have strict laws.
- Does your resort allow you to bring in your own vendors? Some have no problem and some don’t allow it at all and some will allow a photographer or videographer if they’re part of the guest room block
Avoid Unexpected Expenses
- If you don’t have a wedding planner, choosing an all-inclusive or a wedding package can really simplify the process.
- Make sure you inquire about custom options, since some resorts have very limited choices and very strict rules.
- Be prepared that if you book a pricey resort, you may have guests who book their own lodging elsewhere. If you’re at an all-inclusive, you’ll end up having to request (and pay for) day passes for these guests.
Adjust to Island time
- Be flexible
- You’ll be in a different country with a different culture. “No problem, Mon” may be a charming saying, but the flipside of that laid back attitude is that they may not grasp the importance of what matters to you.
- You’ll be on island time and everything may not flow on a tight schedule like it does in the states.
Inform Your Guests
- Give plenty of notice – up to a year for save the dates and as much as three months for invites
- Have a website with all necessary details – rooms cost, length of stay requirements, time of ceremony, welcome reception, information on airport transfers, etc. Book your wedding through a travel agent, then give your guests the agent’s contact number to call when they have questions. This will help make sure your guests follow the “rules” and book their rooms under your wedding group. It’s not uncommon to have guests “go rogue” and book rooms on their own, out of the wedding block.
- Booking your wedding through an agent or destination wedding planner will give your guests a designated information resource so they aren’t contacting you all the time. They’ll appreciate having one person handling their arrangements and helping them plan a trip specific to their needs.
Entertain Your Guests
- Your guests will spend a great deal of money to travel to your wedding, so it’s important to thank them and take care of them. All-inclusives are great for entertaining wedding guests. Since food, drinks and entertainment are included, there’s plenty for them to do without you having to pay for it. With enough guests, you can earn extra perks like private welcome parties or rehearsal dinners.
- Plan any welcome or departure festivities well in advance, so they’ll know about them when making their airline reservations. Let them know how far the resort is from the airport. You’ll want their flights to arrive in time for them to travel to the hotel and freshen up before your welcome party starts.
Let’s Get This Party Started!
If you’re intrigued by the idea of a destination wedding, email or call me at 865-622-2093. There’s no charge for having the comfort and peace of mind to know someone is looking out for you. Besides, it’s just one less thing to coordinate!