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!