March 31, 2011

Is a Destination Wedding Right for You?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a destination wedding? Most people will picture sun, sand, secluded beaches, flowing chiffon wedding gowns, etc. I was no different - and boy was I wrong! I'm not saying that those things aren't a reality for destination weddings but they most certainly are not everything. A destination wedding is defined as a wedding held somewhere other than the couple's hometown and for which the majority of guests will have to travel far enough to require overnight accommodations. Technically, this means a wedding within the couple's home province could be considered a destination wedding. If a couple were to live in Vancouver, for example, and they were getting married in Tofino, they'd be having a destination wedding. While some people are happy to elope and just have a simple ceremony on the beach I've come to learn that the majority of people who do have a destination wedding, especially at a tropical destination like the Caribbean, have anywhere from 20-100 guests. Yup, you read right - up to 100 guests! It is well known and widely accepted with most destination weddings that guests are responsible for their own travel and hotel costs. With that in mind, I just cannot imagine having a guest count at the 100 mark! Maybe that's just me...

One of the biggest hurdles that couples considering destination weddings face is having family and close friends upset and/or hurt by their decision to go away. It is challenging for the couple to inform their loved ones that it is something they've always wanted and that they understand and accept that not everyone will be able to make it. To some couples, like my husband and I, having a destination wedding was worth it, even though it meant a much smaller guest list. When it comes to inviting people, sending out Save the Dates stating you'll be having a destination wedding as soon as possible ensures that people will have ample time to plan vacations, babysitting, and save up. Follow up with formal invitations once you have all the details pegged down, as early as 6 months before the wedding is acceptable in this case. You shouldn't wait any longer than 3 months to the wedding to send out your invitations. As for the wording, you should add a little note explaining you understand if people cannot make it. You'd be surprised how many people will hesitate from RSVP'ing because they think they'll hurt your feelings by responding 'With Regrets'.

Picking the location carefully is very important for couples choosing to have a destination wedding. They'll need to make sure that they have proper documentation for a legal wedding at their destination of choice, and that their guests can easily obtain visas if required. The couple should be mindful of the fact that they are asking a lot of their guests. A destination wedding, while less expensive for the couple, carries a heftier price tag for guests when compared to a traditional at home wedding, and typically requires guests to use up vacation time. Etiquette is quite fuzzy for destination weddings so I strongly suggest being upfront with guests regarding issues like gifts, etc. My husband and I both agreed that having our friends and family attend our wedding was the greatest gift they could give us and made sure to let our guests know that. Most still chose to give us a wedding gift, which completely surprised us. Regardless, transparency with guests, especially members of the wedding party, is paramount. Let them know of the costs that they are required to cover, such as flights, accommodation, attire, etc as far in advance as possible. 

There are many advantages to having a destination wedding. One of the top sellers is the fact it’s incredibly easy to organize if you get a package deal at an all-inclusive resort or aboard a cruise ship. Details like flowers, cake, photographer and decorations are all taken care of, and many resorts also have wedding planners on staff to help coordinate all the details and ensure the big day goes smoothly. A couple can simply show up a few days before the wedding, make a few choices regarding flowers, etc and spend the rest of their time vacationing with their guests. Some locations may have a few legal issues that need to be addressed before the wedding but that is easily taken care of. Some resorts will even throw in a basic package for free if the couple stays for six days or more, or books a certain number of guests. This means a frugal couple could have an entire wedding for the cost of a honeymoon. Letting someone else plan the wedding doesn't mean you'll be compromising on style either - many resorts have set packages and themes that you can choose from based on your budget. These can range from a very simple ceremony on the beach to a very elaborate ceremony and reception with many options for flowers, cake, decor, etc.

That being said, destination weddings are not for everyone. It's not a good idea if the couple doesn't enjoy traveling, or have an important family member that either cannot afford to or cannot physically easily travel. Destination weddings also require a sense of adventure - unlike having a wedding at home, where you can taste the cake beforehand and meet with the photographer, you’re likely to be using some vendors at a destination wedding that you won’t meet until the day you arrive. Control freaks beware! This was certainly an issue for me - anyone who knows me knows that I like to be in control of things at all times. I wouldn't call myself a control freak but I'm not exactly a 'go with the flow' type of gal either. I'd say I'm a happy medium between the two, and I'm content with that. However, for my wedding I wanted to have more control over the planning process. I didn't like the idea of just showing up and having someone put everything together for me. I'm much more hands-on, especially when it comes to planning parties (which I love to do). And let's face it, this was THE party for my husband and I! Well, the good news is that, with destination weddings gaining such popularity, there are many options and resources out there for brides like me. You don't have to pick a package and settle for whatever is available at the destination. There are many options to customize your wedding package but they do come at a cost. I found out very quickly that the resorts are not always accommodating to outside vendors and in many instances will charge you a hefty vendor fee to have an outside vendor come in and provide a service that the resort itself also offers. 

I'll get into more details about the various resources for planning a destination wedding in a future post so stay tuned!

March 10, 2011

The Art of Marriage

This is a poem that I think should be read by anyone entering into marriage. It is also a good read for those who are already married, whether they are newlyweds like us or have been married for 25+ years.

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.

A good marriage must be created.

In the art of marriage the little things are the big things...

It is never being too old to hold hands.

It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day. 

It is never going to sleep angry.

It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.

It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.

It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.

It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude
of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.

It is speaking words of appreciation

and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding and a sense of humour.

It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.

It is finding room for the things of the spirit.

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,
dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.

It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

It is discovering what marriage can be, at its best.

- by Wilferd Arlan Peterson

February 16, 2011

Save the Date - Officially Dilannis

Once we had the resort and dates pinned down, we had to decide on the actual wedding date. We decided to go with Friday, November 26th. Our travel dates were November 21-28 (Sunday to Sunday) so the Friday just seemed to be a good date.

I didn't want to spend a lot of time (and money) doing up Save the Date cards so I just decided to send out a simple Evite. One of the many perks of having an intimate wedding with only closest friends and family is that you can send an electonic Save the Date! I wanted it to be short and sweet so I did a simple write up and customized the Evite with graphics:

A romantic affair...
something special is in the air!
Kindly save the date for
a tropical marriage celebration uniting
Dilara Hamid
Dennis Litonjua
in November 2010
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Invitation will follow

Et voila! Quick and easy... now if only the rest of the planning were this easy!
For those of you wondering about the Dilannis part - see here for the 411.

February 15, 2011

The Resort - Gran Porto Real Resort & Spa, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

After a lot of research and going back and forth we finally decided on the Gran Porto Real in Playa del Carmen as our resort of choice. We wanted a smaller resort so our guests wouldn't have to waste time looking for each other but also wanted to ensure that they wouldn't be bored. This resort fit our needs perfectly - 278 suites ensured an intimate experience and being steps from Quinta Avenida ensured our guests wouldn't need to travel far to experience life outside the resort.

I wish we had it in our budget to do a site visit before booking the venue for our wedding but our travel agent had personally visited this resort and highly recommended it based on our needs. I also chatted with a few past GPR brides who are part of Best Destination Wedding and they all had nothing but good things to say about the resort. Here are a few pictures I found online:

 View from Quinta Avenida

 Resort overview

View from the beach

Gran Porto Real combines an authentic Mexican ambience with a matchless location in downtown Playa del Carmen, just steps from cosmopolitan 5th Avenue. This elegant resort has been consistently recognized for its outstanding hospitality, the original d├ęcor in its suites, its bountiful array of restaurants, bars and lounges, the ample day and night activities program and its exclusive SPAreal. Gran Porto Real guarantees a memorable vacation experience for guests of all ages.

Caribbean breezes and impressive colonial architecture are complemented with unparalled Mexican hospitality to offer you an idyllic vacation in Gran Porto Real style.
You will find a special detail in every corner... and a flavor festival in every meal.
As you arrive… time seems to stop…

Gran Porto Real is located on the beach, in downtown charming Playa del Carmen, only 30 minutes from Cancun International Airport, 5 minutes from famous Xcaret theme park and a 45 minute ferry ride from Cozumel.

Gran Porto Real Resort and Spa
Av. Constituyentes No. 1
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77710
View Website

Location, location!

Picking a venue is important for any wedding but this is especially true for a destination wedding. Not only did we want to ensure we picked a beautiful venue for our wedding, we also wanted to make sure the location would be within our budget.

While we both wanted an intimate wedding, having our closest friends and family celebrate our union with us was of utmost importance so we decided to go with a November date (we began the planning process in January so that would give ample time for people to take time off, save up, etc.) That also meant we had to immediately nix the idea of getting married in Tahiti - asking our friends and family to spend approximately $3K each was not something we were comfortable with.

We started looking at locations in the Caribbean and found Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic to have very good resorts within our budget. We decide not to go with Jamaica because we wanted to ensure our guests would be able to leave the resort as they please and not have to worry about their safety. Nothing against Jamaica, but safety first. I was partial towards the Dominican Republic, more specifically Punta Cana, but our travel agent advised against it. The majority of our guests would be our age and would therefore get easily bored just sitting around the resort. The resorts we looked at in Punta Cana, while beautiful, are a bit secluded. Mexico was actually my last choice since both of us have been there to party with friends in our single days. I just didn't want to get married at the same place we partied. Luckily for us, neither of us had ever been to the Mayan Riviera. Perfect. We decided not to look at resorts in Cancun since people mostly go there to party. Playa del Carmen seemed to fit the bill - it was only 30 minutes from the airport and not as party centric as Cancun. The location was pegged... not to pick a resort!

February 14, 2011

Do it for Someone You Love

February is Heart Month so I chose to write this post on Valentine's Day aka Hearts Day.

The heart is such an amazing organ - just think about it, the average human heart beats 72 times a minute - yet we take this vital organ for granted.  My family has a history of heart conditions so I've been educated on heart health from an early age. My paternal grandfather and two uncles have all died of heart attacks and just last month my father underwent quadruple bypass surgery at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto. I am happy to say that he is recovering very well and that his surgeon, Dr. Robert Cusimano, is very happy with the results. That event last month gives me even more reason to write about Heart Month.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon hopes to raise awareness of heart health through various campaigns and promotions during the month of February. The website also provides recipes, fitness tips, and tools for healthy living. Please consider looking through this information - if not for yourself, do it for someone you love. Millions of Canadians are at risk of heart disease. More than 50,000 strokes, 75,000 heart attacks, and 40,000 cardiac arrests occur each year. Sadly, one in three deaths in Canada are due to heart disease and stroke.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation offers various events throughout the province. Check here for a listing.

I Heart You

Happy Valentine's Day lovelies! Wishing you lots of love, kisses, and chocolate! ♥

Words Ring True

Developing love and compassion and reducing anger and spite is a universal activity which requires no faith in any religion whatsoever.
One may practice religion or not, but so long as we seek happiness and continue to live in society, love and affection are indispensable.

- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? I wish that were the case... my husband and I are directly affected by religious bias and while we don't let it bother us now, it will get a little trickier in the future. I'm sure that once we decide to start a family our different religions will become a bigger issue with the grandparents. I am confident that we will get through it; it isn't something we take lightly and we have discussed it at length before taking the big leap into marriage.

The two quotes above ring very true to me; I take them to heart and plan on passing that wisdom along to my future children.