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Tips for planning a Destination Wedding


Is a Destination Wedding for you? I know exactly what you're envisioning – a gossamer white veil blowing gently in the wind, the scent of tropical flowers and coconut oil wafting through the air, your guests smiling sweetly as you float effortlessly down the sandy aisle towards your future husband. I know because I WAS a Destination Wedding bride, and I had the very same vision! Since my own wedding, I have been lucky enough to send a lot of happy couples away to tie the knot in tropical destinations. My experience has taught me that there are a few need-to-know points that could help you understand whether or not a wedding away is truly for you.

Here are some typical bride personality types and the various concerns they may face:

The “Control Freak”: Now I don’t mean this as an insult because I AM ONE! Not in a bad way, but in that “I don’t want any surprises and please don’t mess with my vision” kind of way. Aren’t we all? The issue with being a CF and choosing a destination wedding is that you truly DO have to let go of the reins a bit and trust that both your travel agent and the wedding coordinators on site are going to do everything possible to make your day perfect. And for those of us who expect and appreciate daily updates, this is just not possible and/or necessary with many of the more popular Destination wedding resorts. They DO have everything under control. They have weddings down to a science – and even though it may feel like your world is going to end if you don’t know all of the different colours of chair sashes currently on hand at the property, the wedding coordinators on site will respond - Oh, they WILL respond, but as we all know from experiencing a Caribbean holiday, NOBODY is in a rush! Keep in mind that perhaps that very same wedding coordinator is tending to another bride’s vision for her wedding that is actually scheduled that day. When it is your wedding day, you will also appreciate his/her full attention. Trust me when I say that your requests are being noted, but more importantly you will have an opportunity to sit down with your wedding coordinator on arrival and go over all of the finite details of the wedding. Just breathe….it’s all being taken care of.

The “Uber Planner”: This bride is the one who wishes to plan EVERY single moment of the entire week for the EVERYONE in the group. I understand. I truly do! As destination brides, we seem to feel more responsible for our guests’ enjoyment because not only did our guests spend a significant amount of money, but also had to use their valuable vacation time to join us in our chosen destination. For these very reasons, you should keep in mind that this is a vacation for your guests as well as your wedding. Allow them the luxury of some free time to wander off and take in excursions or just unwind on their own. Many brides go so far as to try to plan every meal together as a group and this can quickly become daunting when it comes time to try to reserve those a la cartes for all of your guests. Not to mention that some resorts may charge for any special meals when you refer to them as “Welcome Dinner” or “Rehearsal Dinner” and your guests may simply prefer to make their own plans. My suggestion is to locate a central meeting place: the lobby bar, an outdoor terrace and let your guests know that you will be meeting here each evening at a specific time to discuss the next day and share tales of the day’s adventures. Try to make it a time just prior to or after dinner in the evening. Of course always make it optional! This is a way for any guests who DO wish to share activities to make arrangements without having to run around a large resort trying to locate everyone. Planning one excursion for the entire group is a lovely way to thank them for joining you. Many couples will include a note in the Save the Dates, itinerary or Invites saying that the guests are invited to join them on a catamaran excursion (for example) – details to follow. Then just contact your travel agent to book the excursion of your choice. You can even have your TA work the cost into the group rate! One couple I worked with sent out a multiple choice excursion card to all of their guests with their invites – whichever excursion received the most votes is the one they selected. Have fun with it and give your guests options!

The “Substituter”: This is the bride who insists on changing every little detail of the packaged weddings offered until it no longer resembles the original package. Some brides will even create their own wedding ceremony venue on the resort. Again, this is your wedding and I do understand – but keep in mind that any deviations from the resorts’ wedding packages will almost certainly result in higher cost to you. This is the perfect reason to thoroughly investigate the wedding packages offered at each resort – not only the resorts themselves – until you find one that really does fit your vision (and your budget) as closely as possible. If you have your heart set on a particular property, but are not thrilled with their wedding offerings, consider an off-site wedding. This will offer you exclusivity as you won’t be the second of four weddings performed each day and you won’t have to contend with curious onlookers in speedos showing up in your treasured photos. Off-site weddings will also cater your wedding to fit YOUR vision with everything from décor to dining to dj’s and many even offer transportation for your guests to/from the venue. Be prepared to pay a bit more for these ‘private’ functions, but for those brides who truly want to be the only ‘belle of the ball’ the off-site wedding will definitely fit the bill.

The “Martha Stewart”: This is the bride who really is quite talented and wants to put her own touches on the wedding. This is understandable and not a bad thing at all – until that same bride is bringing suitcases of extra décor down to the resort to complete her grand vision. Remember that all airlines have weight restrictions and that extra luggage can be quite expensive and even if you do bring down your own décor it may not end up where you had initially planned! (This happened to me at my wedding reception.) Less really is more when it comes to Destination Wedding décor – after all, you have the lovely azure blue sea, palm trees and sand as a backdrop – what could be lovelier? For those brides who are considering bringing wedding favors for their guests, perhaps consider a local souvenir. Not only are you avoiding having to transport the gifts, but you are also supporting the local economy. Make your own favor tags at home and bring them along to place on your locally purchased treasures. Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness and the memento from their trip. Alternatively, consider something that your guests will use during their stay like a beach towel or Bubba Mug – but to save again on your luggage costs, plan a ‘ticket party’ where you can hand them out before you leave and the guests can pack them in their own luggage! If you do bring down any of your own décor, consider leaving it with the wedding coordinator on site to be used by future brides. Not only will they appreciate the gesture, but you will have the pleasure of knowing that a small piece of your day is being enjoyed by brides for years to come.


There are certainly other personalities, but most brides will fall into one or more of these categories at some point during the planning process. Let’s be honest, planning a wedding from thousands of miles away may not be for everyone. However, if you have even considered a wedding away, there are SO MANY REASONS to pick a Destination Wedding.

Here are just a few:


First and maybe foremost is the fact that the cost of a Destination Wedding is a fraction of the cost of putting on a wedding here at home with the same inclusions.


Sharing a week with friends and family is the perfect way to introduce two extended families to one another – and where better than in a sunny climate with everything included? The bride and groom can relax and truly enjoy their guests in an unhurried, care-free atmosphere.


Depending on the time of year that you book your group, you are almost guaranteed lovely weather for your wedding day. Let’s be honest, we can’t always say that here in Canada! Keep in mind that it DOES rain down south from time to time. Be sure to research the best times to travel to avoid the rainy or hurricane season. Prices will be lower during this time, but so will your chances of a guaranteed sunny wedding day! Always purchase travel/cancellation insurance and urge your entire group to do the same. Weather is simply unpredictable and flight delays or cancellations could quickly derail what is meant to be the most memorable trip of your life.


You can combine your wedding and honeymoon! Many couples opt to extend their wedding week and stay an additional week either at the same property or at an alternate resort. This gives the couple that much-need time alone to start making memories of their own.


As a Destination Wedding bride, I could go on and on with advice. Here are 10 TIPS from which any destination bride should benefit: 


Start planning at least 9 months to a year in advance. This will give you time to thoroughly research any properties that interest you and it also gives you time to get the necessary information out to your guests so that they can budget accordingly and request vacation time


Don’t expect everyone that you invite to be able to make it. Please don’t take it personally! Not everyone can commit to a week away for various obvious reasons and it is not a reflection on how they feel for you. Hosting a party on your return for all of your guests who couldn’t make it gives you the opportunity to relive the highlights of the week with friends and family.


Be specific if you do not want children at your wedding. The best option for this of course is to choose an “adults only” property. It’s also important to be sensitive to your guests’ individual situations.


Be aware that most resorts – even though they are all-inclusive – will charge per person once you surpass their maximum allowable guests for that specific wedding package. Many brides don’t consider this until they realize they are paying hundreds of additional dollars – even for the FREE package.


Be sure to select a wedding gown that fits the venue – light fabric, not too heavy and in a fabric that travels well.


If you are opting for a veil, consider purchasing veil weights to keep it in place and lipstick free during photos


Speaking of photos, be sure to spend some time with your photographer BEFORE your big day, going over possible locations for shots, family dynamics, etc. With the limited time available between wedding and reception, it’s important to communicate and utilize the time wisely. Consider a “trash the dress” session on a day following the wedding or a trip into town for some stunning local shots.


Rethink those Manola’s when it comes time to choose your wedding shoes – especially if you are getting married on the beach. Remember, your feet will swell in the heat of the day and none of us want to look like we are grimacing in pain in our wedding photos! Perhaps consider flats or even flip flops on the beach (often the sand can be too hot for bare feet) and then once the sun goes down and it’s time to dine and dance, whip out those lovely heels.


Meet with your hairdresser at home to discuss options for a humid, possibly windy climate. Practice some hairstyles at home before you take those photos down to the resort hairdresser. Bring your own hair appliances, lots of bobby pins and hairspray and always have a plan ‘B’.


Be prepared to change venues quickly in the event of bad weather – even with all of our best efforts, Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and you must be prepared to be flexible and toss aside the vision of being married on the beach for a less windy or wet option. All resorts will discuss alternative venues with you at your initial consult.

The most important advice I give to any couples considering a Destination Wedding is to RELAX. One of the biggest reasons couples choose a wedding away is to enjoy a stress-free celebration. Go with that….and remember that the small things that brides seem to fret about will not be what you remember about your wedding day. It will be the love you feel for your new spouse and the wonderful time you had with friends and family. 


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Kelly Neonakis-Morash is an award-winning Travel Agent specializing in Destination Weddings and operates Sunshine Vows, a Destination Wedding Travel Company.  You can also find her Company Facebook Page here and 'Like' it to see more Destination Wedding posts in your feed!


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