Colorful Florida Destination WeddingWords by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of TRK Photography
Kaitlyn and Jon are travel lovers who wanted to embrace their sense of adventure and love of nature when planning their destination wedding. “I think destination weddings by nature give you more flexibility to make your wedding how you want it – and you can have a little vacation built into a sometimes stressful event,” explains the bride. “It also allowed us to have a level of intimacy with our family and provide a good wedding experience for them.” The lovebirds knew they wanted to host a wedding away for a long time ahead of getting engaged, so started saving well in advance and were sure to give their loved ones plenty of notice.
Finding the perfect location was slightly more difficult than their initial destination wedding decision. “We wanted a destination wedding in the U.S. to make it more accessible to guests, but a lot of the places we had been before either didn’t fit what we wanted or were beyond our budget,” says Kaitlyn. “We decided we would have our ceremony in a place we knew would have everything we desired in a wedding destination, but also a place we had always wanted to visit.” This turned out to be Marco Island, Florida. Thankfully, the couple’s guests were on-board with the location and idea of a destination wedding – with a few exceptions.
“The only negative thoughts expressed were how we had to cut our guest list very short (25 people), due to budgetary reasons,” says the bride. “We did have to leave out people that we would have invited to a bigger wedding, which probably hurt some feelings. But, most everyone expressed that they understood and we provided supportive family members with personalized ‘thank you’ cards, pictures and honeymoon souvenirs.” The couple also helped out their guests whenever possible; working with them on travel logistics and even picking up some basic resort costs on their behalf.
In the bride’s opinion, another hidden perk of hosting a destination wedding is that it takes stress off of parents and loved ones. For example, instead of dealing with vendors and loads of houseguests, like with a local wedding, her parents spent their wedding time relaxing at the beach like all the other guests. In another effort to alleviate stress, Kaitlyn and Jon hired a local Florida wedding planner. This, in their opinion, was a key to success.
“The main issues all revolved around the fact that we were planning a Florida wedding from Illinois,” explains the bride. “Picking venues, vendors, etc. required a lot of research and trust. We were able to secure an amazing wedding planner who worked out pretty much everything for us. We worked together through our ideas and vision and she corralled the vendors to make it happen.”
While pulling off their sunset-inspired nuptials wasn’t without its stresses, Kaitlyn and Jon have no regrets regarding their destination wedding and, once again, credit their wedding planner with keeping them focused and on track. “I feel like all wedding planning has its challenges and they are all different,” says the bride. “Either way, destination or no, at some point you will get stressed out about something. Wedding planners are key, especially if planning from afar. I don’t know a single friend who had a destination wedding that didn’t ultimately get a planner. If you don’t, trying to get everything together yourself across multiple states or countries is going to make your experience much harder.”
When it came to finances and budget, this couple was particularly astute and understanding. For example, they understood different guests’ financial positions and worked with everyone to make their experience affordable and comfortable. “Some guests did not have the money to stay at the resort the entire time,” explains the couple. “We made sure we were very clear when they had to be at the resort for events, and then worked with our guests on securing cheaper flights or alternate arrangements. For example, four of our single guests rented an Airbnb together and shared the cost, then came to the resort to relax at the beach and attend our events.”
Kaitlyn and Jon also knew they wanted to pay for their wedding themselves, as much as possible. “From my research and experience, you need to be realistic about how much you can afford,” says the bride. “Setting up an approximate budget is best and then save up as long as you need to in order to get what you want. I found, through the mistakes of others, that having family pay for most of the wedding led to a lot of drama. So, we just asked for their input [in areas where they contributed financially] and we had the ultimate say in the rest of the matters and could have the wedding we wanted.”
The newlyweds summed-up their destination wedding decision by describing how a hometown wedding would have differed. “It would have been larger, less intimate, and more generic by nature. We would still have had a non-traditional ceremony, but ultimately there are a finite amount of venues in a given city and we would have had to change our theme to make it more appropriate for the venue. Having it away from home not only made for a more fun wedding experience for us, but it also allowed us to be creative and bold in our choices without reservation.”
This savvy bride has some final words of advice for other couples currently planning or considering a destination wedding. “Relax on the day-of…this is all about you two. Let people do things for you. This is the time your guests can fawn all over you and be super supportive of your relationship. You can make reasonable requests to have things like you envisioned – just be respectful. If you need something done, your team is there to do it and will be happy to do so. It’s okay to pre-plan like crazy, but take your wedding day off to just soak in the love and to create a happy and memorable time for yourselves.”
Vendors: Photographer: TRK Photography, Wedding Planner: Carrie Darling Events, Ceremony/Reception Site: JW Marriott Marco Island, Florist: Silver Leaf Flower Studio, Cake: Sweetified, Hair & Make-up: The Salon at JW Marriott Marco Island, Gown Designer: Wai-Ching, Ceremony Music: Jade Strings & Officiant: Travis Koneschik
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