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Destination I Do

Expert Advice on Planning Your Wedding From Afar

Words by Jennifer Stein
Planning your destination wedding from miles away can feel like a daunting task. You want to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, but sight-unseen, you may not know what you’re in for until it’s too late and you’re standing at the altar. In order to avoid any location snafus, we are answering some of your location related questions so you can plan your wedding away with easy and peace of mind.


Q. Any specific questions I should ask about the ceremony and reception sites if I can't personally scout it out?

A. Asking pointed questions such as, “Is the wedding gazebo right next to the main pool?” or “Are there any other function spaces near where I’ll be getting married?” can help steer you and your wedding clear of location problems. Everything looks good online. But if you get there and people are everywhere, volleyballs are bouncing by you while you say “I do” or garden areas that are surrounded by main walkways to/from the beach, etc. equals bad news. You also don’t want to be peeking in on another couple’s wedding reception because the other function space is right next door. Making sure your ceremony and reception sites are somewhat private is key to making your experience is as great as it should be.

Q. We want to stay in the same destination for our honeymoon. What should we look for if we want to remain at the same resort?

A. If you plan on saving money by staying at the same resort for your honeymoon it pays to pick a resort where you can shift yourselves over to another area of the resort so you can get away from it all. It’s not possible at every resort, but is doable if you plan right and know what to look for. Ask if they have a quiet honeymoon wing or a separate casita area that’s in a more remote part of the hotel. Another good idea is to upgrade the category of room for the honeymoon portion of your stay. Nothing is worse than spending your final days in a room that wasn’t as nice as the wedding part! This is your last memory of your big trip – end it in style!

Q. How important is the wedding department to the success of my event? Should I rely on them to handle much of the coordination?

A. A resort may look great, and have everything you are looking for, but if the wedding department stinks, then bye-bye dream destination wedding. That’s why it’s important to work with someone who already has a relationship with the department – so they can not only vouch for their performance in the past, but also to step in, in case anything starts to go wrong during the planning. Hiring a wedding specialist or coordinator who has worked with the hotel in the past is a huge help.

Q. Is a destination wedding specialist totally necessary and how do I go about finding the right one for me who is trustworthy? 

A. You can plan a destination wedding on your own, it’s not rocket science. However, I’m always amazed that couples want to reinvent the wheel. There are already a handful of specialists out there that do a ton of destination weddings per year, and don’t charge any fees. So why risk it? If you are going with a specialist, ask how many weddings they do per year, are they accredited with the BBB, etc. 

Q. How do I scout out the other vendors that I will be working with? Is there a resource I can go to, to find them?

A. Most resorts have pre-set packages that will probably meet 90% of your needs. You will most likely only be adding on additional elements, or upgrading certain parts. For my own destination wedding in the Bahamas we added a professional photographer package, and the resort already had that contact. It’s in the resort’s best interest to make sure that you are happy with your wedding. If you are upset with your photos, chances are you are going to be upset with the resort at the end of the day, so they usually make sure that they are only bringing on reputable local professionals. Trying to scope out vendors from far away is usually a more dangerous option – the resorts have done most of the work for you already.

Q. How can I determine the ease of traveling to the location if I've never been to the destination before? How important is that for guests?

A. The easiest thing is to look at flight time. I can’t tell you how many brides have asked me about Fiji or Tahiti, while their guests are coming from the east coast. Even if it’s convenient from the couple’s home airport, if you’re guests have to take 10 days off from work to get to your destination because of a 12 hour+ flight, chances are that it’s not a good choice! Also, find out the proximity of the wedding event location and accommodations from the resort. If you do have a long flight, tacking on another 3+ hour drive might be too much for some people. Be conscientious of your guests and think about their situations while you plan. Happy guests = happy bride & groom.

Q. How can you figure out what excursions are available in the area or at the resort that aren't the really “touristy” things to do? Are there things I should consider when booking for a group?

A. You definitely want to make sure that you deal with a specialist that is familiar with group agreements. They can get very technical, and almost always have dangerous and scary things hiding in there like cancellation penalties, reduction policies, etc. Sometimes you can negotiate them out of the agreement, but if you can’t, an experienced specialist will be able to help you make sure that you don’t get bitten by one later in the process. Experience is the biggest thing when choosing an excursion – much like hotels – everything looks great online. You have to rely on the experience of somebody that has helped many couples with the exact same question. It can come down to really little things – like making sure you book your tour in the morning, and not on days that a cruise line is docked at the destination – when several thousand people get off that boat, you can bet they are looking for something to see – and could turn your fun pre or post-wedding tour into a circus!

Image courtesy of V.Sattui Winery

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