Read these 19 Destination Wedding Arrangements Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Destination Weddings tips and hundreds of other topics.
There are many ways that you, and your wedding guests, can save on destination wedding accommodations. If you choose to have your wedding in the “off season” (a less popular time of year to travel to your destination), you can often save almost half of the cost of full rates. Booking large amounts of rooms at the same time can also save you money - you or your wedding planner can negotiate a group rate for your accommodations, making the cost per room less for your guests. Another way to lower your accommodation costs is to have wedding guests stay at a cheaper (but still nice) hotel or resort that's nearby. If you want to stay at the four star resort you're holding your wedding at, you can choose to have your wedding guests stay at the two or three star hotel next door. It's also nice to give your guests a choice of rooms; that way, they can decide how much they want to pay for their accommodations. Remember, your destination wedding is a vacation for them as well!
Having your wedding on a cruise ship can be a great way to book an all inclusive wedding. If you choose to get married at sea, the accommodations and dining costs for each guest can be easily decided on when you pick which cruise line and destination you want. You can limit the cost of the wedding accommodations (included in the cruise price) by choosing a shorter cruise (such as a three day versus a seven day cruise). You can also decide on the deck you'd like to stay on, or give the choice to your guests so that they can choose how much to spend.
If you decide that using a destination wedding coordinator is the right idea for you, there are some easy ways to find a coordinator that you will feel comfortable with. One of the first things you can do is ask around. If you know other couples who got married at your destination, or if you find someone on-line who did, ask which coordinator they used. Another way to get a wedding coordinator referral is through a destination wedding planner/travel agent. These sites help to book travel plans and stays at your destination, and they can also put you in contact with wedding planners in your area. For example, if you're planning a Costa Rica wedding, a travel company specializing in destination weddings can help you to book your trip as well as find a wedding planner in Costa Rica. A third way to find a wedding planner for your destination is to look at bridal planner associations, and get referrals that way. A good one to use is the Association for Wedding Professionals International (http://www.afwpi.com/).
Sometimes, it's better to book the rooms at a separate venue from your wedding destination. This can happen for many reasons – if you're holding your wedding at a location that isn't attached to a resort, you'll have to choose a hotel or resort close to the wedding spot for your stay. Another reason to book separate accommodations is if you are holding your wedding at a resort, but it's very expensive. Often, these resorts may charge so much for their accommodations that it's prohibitive for guests. You want to be able to have as many people as possible attend your wedding, so reserving rooms at an affordable hotel can be a great way to encourage people to come. A final reason may be that the resort your wedding is being held at doesn't have enough rooms for you to reserve for your guests. In this case, you'll also want to choose suitable accommodations elsewhere, but nearby. Remember that the cost of the room and travel to your wedding is the responsibility of the guest, so if you want many people to attend, you'll want to make their stay as frugal as possible.
One of the most popular reasons for having a destination wedding is that you can combine the wedding ceremony with your honeymoon. This is especially true of destinations in exotic locales, such as in the Caribbean, Europe or Hawaii. Choosing a wedding honeymoon combination can be made even easier if you choose to get married in the Caribbean, where many resort chains offer these combos. Sandals resorts even trademarked the term “weddingmoon” for their honeymoon and wedding ceremony combos, where the wedding comes free (limited amenities) with a seven night stay. Other resorts that offer similar treatment are Breezes and Grand Lido Resorts throughout the Caribbean and Secrets Resorts in the Dominican Republic. These combinations make it easy to plan your wedding and honeymoon all at one time, at one location.
There is a general consensus among wedding etiquette writers that no matter where a wedding is held, the guests pay for their own accommodations. This would hold true whether your wedding will be in your hometown or at a destination such as in the Caribbean. Of course, with a destination wedding, this may feel a bit different, as the guests are also going to be paying larger travel expenses.
It is, however, proper etiquette for the bride and groom (or their parents, depending on who is throwing the wedding) to pay for the rooms and other incidentals of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. The wedding attendants are responsible for their own travel expenses, such as airfare.
The easiest way to get the perfect accommodations for yourself and guests at a destination wedding is through a planner. Whether you choose to use a private wedding planner at your location or a travel agent that specializes in destination weddings, you can be sure that he or she will get you the best deal out there. Choose a wedding planner that comes recommended - either through personal channels or on-line. Referrals are a great way to find the perfect wedding planner, and in turn, they will be able to refer you to the best resorts.
When booking a location for your destination wedding, there are many things you must consider. If you're planning to have a wedding at a resort, make sure that you find out whether or not the ceremony is included in your resort stay, where you can get married on the resort, and who can attend (if children are welcome). If you're planning on a different sort of location, such as a hotel or a chapel, make sure you contact the site to find out particulars such as the size of the location (how many guests can be present) and the facilities available. Find out about details such as décor, catering (in-house, or can you use your own), and even seemingly obvious things such as parking. It may be a bit harder to judge whether your chosen location is perfect from long distance, so it can help to have a “local” in the area scout the sites for you, or better yet, hire a local wedding planner.
You've got the dress, the site, the food and the flowers... what else could you need? Well, you'll definitely need an officiant for your destination wedding as well! Many of the resorts in the islands of the Caribbean offer total packages for your wedding, which include the “use” of a non-denominational minister. Other places throughout the world may require that you be married by specific clergy or government officials, so it's important to find out the regulations at your wedding destination. At other sorts of destination wedding locations, such as chapels and in Las Vegas, there are also other officiants that are legally able to marry couples – and are often included in wedding packages. Specific denominational religious figures may not be available to marry you at specific destinations, so if you have your heart set on a Catholic wedding, be sure to find out if that's possible first.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when making destination wedding arrangements is your timetable. You will need to start making reservations and plans to visit the destination (if possible) about a year in advance. About nine months in advance of your wedding date, you'll want to reserve your wedding location and accommodations for guests. Four to six months in advance of the date, you'll want to send out "save the date" cards, in addition to or instead of traditional invitations. This way, you can give your wedding guests plenty of time to make their arrangements for travel to your destination.
As with all aspects of a destination wedding, you have choices as to how you reserve your (and your guests') accommodations. You can go through a planner or other agent, or you can book the rooms yourself. Making the reservations yourself can work, but you'll need to do some preparation before you make that phone call. Make sure that you research the resort thoroughly, and request your rooms early; nine months in advance is a good time frame. A good tip if you're not going to use a planner is to find someone who is local to your destination to scout the resort or hotel for you, so you know exactly what you're getting into. Also, when booking a large quantity of rooms, be sure to ask the hotel for a group rate – and don't be afraid to negotiate. You may not get the lowest rate available (these are often reserved for travel agents), but you will definitely get somewhat of a price break.
It's important to realize that when you choose to have a destination wedding, you'll need to abide by the rules and regulations of that country or state regarding marriage. In some instances, you will need to complete extensive paperwork, have it translated into the native language of that country, and even complete a residency requirement. You may have to “live” in the country you choose for days or even weeks before you can get married there, as is the case in France and many other European countries. Some of the United States require different blood tests and other screenings as well, so you'll need to find out the legal arrangements needed before your wedding date. Las Vegas probably has the most lenient policy regarding legal requirements, you needn't take a blood test and you can get your marriage license just before the ceremony. The marriage license office even stays open until at least midnight every day! Be sure to research thoroughly the legal requirements of your chosen location, either on the Internet, by contacting the country directly, or through a wedding planner.
If you've decided to have your wedding at one of the larger resorts or resort chains, often they will have a wedding planner at your disposal. Some examples of this are Sandals and Super Clubs. Both of these resort chains, which are located throughout the Caribbean, make it easy to get married while at the resort as a destination. There are wedding planners available to assist you with planning the ceremony, as well as the honeymoon afterwards. Sandals' wedding planners have even developed “signature weddings” that you can choose from, with different themes and costs for any taste. They even can assist you with your wedding gown! If you choose to use the resort's wedding planner, you'll be sure to have the assistance of someone who's very experienced with performing weddings at that particular destination, which is also a plus.
When considering the reception for your destination wedding, think about this: Do you want to have your reception at the destination, or would you prefer a reception at home once you've returned? If you choose the latter, planning can be a bit easier. You can scout sites and choose a favorite local spot as your reception hall. If you'd rather have your reception in the same place as your destination wedding, remember to ask lots of questions! Find out if you can get married and have your reception right on the same spot, if you'd like, or if you can get married in one area and have a celebration in another. Some resorts, such as those in the Caribbean, offer beach weddings with a reception in a different location. Make sure you find out as much as you can about the reception hall/area before you choose one, and having someone who's able to take a look at the place for you can be a great help. A wedding planner can make this step easier, as he/she can also help you find caterers and other necessities for the reception.
One of the first decisions you'll have to make once you've decided on a destination wedding is whether or not to use a destination wedding planner or coordinator. Having the right person to plan your wedding and help you make decisions about your big day can make all the difference in your pre-wedding stress levels. The wedding planner will know the area, have a working relationship with wedding vendors such as florists and caterers, and will be able to be your go-to person at your destination. On the other hand, some people would rather go it alone. Planning a destination wedding without a planner can be done as well, and if you choose this route, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you've chosen all vendors, locations and resources by yourself. No matter which way you choose, feeling comfortable about the wedding you're planning is the most important issue you should consider.
After you've chosen the location for your destination wedding, you'll need a place to stay while you're getting married and possibly honeymooning at the site. One easy way to make sure you have accommodation arrangements for everyone is to reserve rooms at the resort or hotel where you're getting married. This should be done about nine months in advance of the wedding date, to make sure that you can book enough rooms. Ask the hotel or resort about a discounted room rate, or talk to your wedding coordinator about budgets and best prices. You might also want to consider paying for the accommodations of your bridesmaids and groomsmen, although this is not covered under strict etiquette guidelines.
If you've picked that perfect destination wedding spot, you might be wondering how to get there. Traveling with a large group, such as a wedding party, can be difficult even if you're not going that far. Experts state that you should make all your travel arrangements nine months before the wedding, so you can be sure to get everyone there in one group. The best way to get travel arrangements for everyone, however, is to use either a destination wedding planner or a destination wedding travel agent/service. These services have experience with booking flights, rental cars, taxis, limos and other transportation that might be needed for you and your guests. Also, they can often negotiate either wholesale or group rates, making the travel expenses a bit cheaper for everyone involved. Travel agents usually have access to rates that individuals can't obtain, so it's a good idea to at least consult one of these destination wedding services before booking your trip.
When booking your destination wedding, there are more issues to think of than just the ceremony and reception. A big part of deciding where to hold your wedding may come down to choosing the accommodations for the wedding party. When deciding on a resort or other location to have your wedding, make sure you plan for a place to stay as well. Depending on the number of people that you invite to your destination wedding, you may need to reserve quite a few rooms, or even find more than one resort to hold everyone. You can choose to look for these accommodations yourself, or go through a wedding planner or travel agent with experience in booking destination weddings, but you'll need to provide the right information.
How many guests are attending?
Are there any children in the party?
Does any one have special needs (ie, a wheelchair or other medical condition)?
Be sure to ask about the amenities included in the rooms, and at the resort, so that you'll be able to inform guests of what they'll need to bring with. If you keep all these things in mind, getting your destination wedding accommodations will go much more smoothly.
When deciding on where to stay for your destination wedding, you'll definitely want to take your guests' comfort and pocketbook into consideration. As the bride and groom are not expected to pay for the rooms of wedding guests, the guests themselves will be spending the money to stay at your destination. Choosing an all-inclusive resort for your destination wedding can be a great choice, as the guests will be able to pay one fee for their rooms, entertainment, food and beverages.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|