Destination Wedding Advice
Why have a destination wedding?
Destination weddings have become increasingly popular in recent years as a growing number of couples say they’d like to celebrate their special day in an exotic or unique location. These days, between 7% and 10% of all weddings take place in exotic locales — be it a Caribbean island, Mexico or Hawaii. For many couples, the major appeal of destination weddings is financial ~ and fun. Destination weddings can be significantly cheaper, since the guest list is often considerably smaller, but are a life-long memory for all guests, as opposed to the typical open house or reception.
The cost of a ‘weddingmoon’ can be much lower–starting at $2,500 for a three-day weekend, including airport transfers, accommodations, food, drink and everything you’d need for the ceremony and reception. Guests pay an average of $900 for their accommodations – and have a ball at the same time.
And having a desination event has become much simpler. In recent years, the number of resorts and hotels offering one-stop wedding shopping in such popular easy-to-get-to tropical destinations–Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean islands, and Mexico–has grown exponentially. The idea of the destination wedding is a movement that’s grown up out of the disintegration of the nuclear family with family members scattered all over, and not necessarily living the same town. Why not have the travel and have a vacation in addition to attending the wedding?
“We chose to do a destination wedding for a number of reasons,” says Alison Hayward who married her husband Brent in Ensenada, Mexico a few years ago. “Instead of just the four to five hours spent at a normal wedding, our good friends and families really got to know each other, and most stayed for three or four days and we had a blast with them.”
I am LDS. Can I really do a destination wedding with the temple?
Absolutely. Quite a few couples choose Hawaii, for example and following the sealing (which is free), they have a ring ceremony sea-side with a luau dinner and dancing to follow. Others choose San Diego and following the sealing in the La Jolla temple, they head to the beach or resort for a simple ring ceremony and and a night filled with food and fun. Again, since the cost of the sealing is free, the only real costs are those of the resort and travel, which again start around $1500 for the couple and a few hundred dollars in travel for the guests which accommodates not only their attendance at your wedding, but also fun at the hotel or resort and fun around the area.
How much do Destination Weddings usually cost?
Many resorts include wedding accommodations for free with the purchase of a minimum package. The following rates were quoted for the night of Jun. 24, 2009, a time of year that’s typically considered the high season (with Spring and Autumn dates costing much, much less). Here’s a sampling:
- Putero Vallarta; $277 per person per night; value of free wedding package $750-$2,000
- Belize; $168 per person per night; value of free wedding package: $750
- Bahamas; $266 per person per night; value of free wedding package $750-$2,000
- Jamaica; $282 per person per night; value of free wedding package: $1,700
- Montego Bay; $125 per person per night; value of free wedding package $850
Of course, these are not your only options; some resort offer weddings at cost and then offset the extra price with lower nightly room rates. For example, the Westin and Sheraton at Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island has multi-featured packages starting at $1,500, along with such extras as steel pan player, breakfast in bed for the newlyweds the morning after, and a press release with the marriage announcement for your home town newspaper. Perhaps best of all, its rooms are under $200/night (based on availability Jun. 24-27), and it’s a very easy flight from the US, with most airlines flying there nonstop.
If mega-resorts are not your style, then you’ll want to look into individual properties. For $1,500 you can be married on the beach in Mexico with margarita in hand; the price covers the officiant, flowers, champagne/tequila and two hours of live guitar music. For $40 per person, you can have a traditional Mexican dinner with drinks and cake to top the evening off.
There are also options for the true budgeteers out there. The sweet 28-room Emerald Escape Beach Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica has a low $65/night room rate. Marriage licenses go for $6. And, locally, you can order a sampler platter for four of traditional Jamaican specialties such as curry, jerk chicken and escabeche fish for $23/person. If that’s not an affordable destination wedding, we don’t know what is.
What advice would you offer when it comes to planning a destination event?
Consider Your Destination
This sounds obvious enough, but choosing the best destination ultimately depends upon a variety of factors: Where do you and your fiancee want to get married? Who among your friends and family do you want to attend? How long of a trip can your guests take—both in terms of distance and duration? Choose a place to get married in that was meaningful to both of you, but which is also not so far-flung that guests would feel the journey was cost-prohibitive.
Put your dream, and a budget, on paper.
Weddings, regardless of whether they’re in your home town or far away, can become very expensive very fast. For destination weddings, what are the non-negotiables of your dream wedding and what extras are you willing to sacrifice? Once you have those down on paper, start developing a budget and be sure to factor in easy-to-overlook items such as local taxes in the place you’ve selected for your wedding.
How local can you go?
Get a few things taken care of locally. When it comes to perishable items, such as flowers and cakes, shop around at the location. Many couples find a local baker who can make a simple, one-tier homemade cake, which can be decorated with native flowers.
Guide your guests.
The more exotic your destination, the more your guests are likely to be excited— and anxious, especially if they’re not as seasoned in travel as you. Help build the thrill and contain the worries by providing your guests with guides every step of the way. Start an e-mail list or blog and send regular updates about wedding plans. Send out packages with maps, biographies of your guests (so they’d know a bit about each other before the wedding), a short history of the location, and a card with all of our contact information, as well as information about the airport, weather, and suggested items to pack. If you’re traveling to a place where your guests won’t know the language, you may want to include a small phrase book. Your guests will really appreciate your planning and thoughtfulness, and your preparation will make the on-the-ground experience of the wedding much smoother.
Make the wedding a vacation.
Inite friends and family to join you a few days before the big day for fun and relaxation; rent a few local rental houses and let guests know they’d be welcome to stay as little or as long as they can prior to the wedding day. Stock up on food and just have a great time.
If you’ve dreamed of a flawless fairy-tale wedding, then a destination wedding probably isn’t for you. With even the best planning, there are likely to be variables you didn’t anticipate and that are beyond your control. Realize that no destination wedding goes off exactly as planned. Keep your expectations realistic and go with the flow.
Create and share memories.
For many of your guests, your destination wedding will be the memory of a lifetime. Keep that good energy going after the wedding by sharing mementos of your time together. Create a DVD of the experience and send it to your guests after the wedding. Share photos nd written memories about good times you had together.
Don’t forget your honeymoon! While many couples who have a destination wedding may choose not to take another trip after the wedding (some call destination weddings a ‘weddingmoon’ for that reason), the stress of planning a wedding–even a fun destination wedding–may leave you feeling like you need a honeymoon. If you’d rather have your guests help fund a honeymoon rather than give traditional wedding gifts, check out the Honeymoon Registry, which allows your guests to contribute to a fund for your honeymoon.