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Wedding Disasters -Averted

Words by Jennifer Stein
Ask the Expert:
Wedding Disasters – Averted
We caught up with Quentin Carmichael III, from DestinationWeddings.com to get some insight on how to dodge a destination wedding catastrophe. Let’s face it, regardless of where you hold your wedding (hometown or destination), you could be faced with something going wrong. Who better to conduct a Q&A with than a company that plans over one thousand weddings each year?
Q: Lots of things happen that are out of a destination bride and groom’s control, like bad weather or a public health concern such as Swine Flu. How can a couple handle a situation like that without ruining their wedding?
When planning a destination wedding, it is important to have a backup plan for weather, just like if you were planning at home. If it rains, does it ruin your dream wedding? Absolutely not! You should always have a backup venue to have your ceremony or reception if your first outdoor choice is not possible. Most resorts have great covered venues, and an experienced planner can help you find a location that has a great combination of the two, just in case. Even if your wedding day gets rained out, you can still go out on the beach for photos later in your stay.
In the case of a serious incident like a hurricane or health concern like the swine flu, you need to act fast. Keep in mind that when a large issue is affecting a destination, there are thousands of travelers who are now trying to change their plans, so getting the hotels and airlines on the phone can be extremely difficult.   
Q: In a situation where the above happens, what can a wedding planning company do on behalf of the couple?
In a dire situation like this, an experienced destination wedding planner really earns their keep and makes a huge difference. We had over 200 weddings scheduled in Mexico during the swine flu scare, which adds up to not only 200 couples, but approximately 5,000 guests as well. We immediately set up direct communication with the most popular hotels in other destinations like the Bahamas, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Because we plan over one thousand destination weddings per year, we have the relationships with the hotels and suppliers to get answers when others are getting a busy signal. Our specialists worked around the clock, some pulling 20 hour days, and by leveraging our relationships with the resorts, we were able to move every wedding that wanted to be moved. 
Q: What should a couple do if one of the vendors doesn't show up who is a vital part of the celebration (photographer or wedding officiant), or if they show up and aren't what they asked for? Can you give examples of situations like this and how it was handled?
We’ve seen it all; we should probably write a book. Here is a small sample of the messes we’ve helped our couples out of. 
·         One couple booked a religious wedding at a resort. Last-minute the resort on-site wedding coordinator told them they didn’t meet the pre-nuptial educational requirements for a religious wedding, although it was never mentioned before. The couple could have a symbolic wedding, but not anything recognized by their religion.  To resolve the situation, we worked with our supplier and had the resort make some concessions and the couple did a last-minute one day education session with their priest. In the end, the couple had their dream Catholic wedding.
·         During  a first meeting with the resort on-site wedding coordinator, one of our couples were told that they had to get married the day after they wanted to, because the resort double booked the date by mistake (no, this wasn’t a scene from Bride Wars). Half of their guests were leaving that day, so they would miss the ceremony. We were able to work with the resort and they brought additional staff on for that day and the couple had their wedding on the original date, with all their guests there.
·         One of our destination wedding couples was told their guests were going to have to stay at a sister resort that was 30 minutes away, because the hotel was oversold. We were able to work with our supplier and the entire wedding party stayed. The hotel transferred the next 50 travelers who came through the door…none of whom were our clients.
Q: How often do destination weddings go off without a hitch? Do you think that hiring a wedding planning company makes the difference?
99% of DWs go off flawlessly; it’s that one percent where experienced destination wedding planners really shine. Planning a DW isn’t rocket science, but there is a system to making it less stressful and more successful. With experience comes the ability to avoid common problems and fix those that come up unexpectedly. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and try to discover how to plan it yourself, there are experts that have “been there and done that,” thousands of times over. 
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