Congratulations! You’re getting married! Over the next year you will be making a million decisions about your wedding and honeymoon, and hopefully the process will be as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. One choice that many couples are making nowadays is foregoing the traditional idea of a wedding – a local ceremony in front of 300 family, friends and random strangers – for an intimate destination wedding.
A destination wedding, labeled by some as a “wedding moon,” combines the wedding, reception and honeymoon together in one location. The destination wedding is held at a desirable site, sometimes tropical, other times exotic, allowing the guests to enjoy a relaxing, activity-filled vacation while spending more quality time with the wedding couple. The couple invites only their nearest and dearest to celebrate the union. All events occur over a long weekend, along with other wedding activities designed to bring the revelers together.
If it’s hard to imagine what a destination wedding is like, picture this: you and your partner are in a warm, tropical setting, surrounded by friends and family toasting your success. The sounds of music and ocean waves peacefully blend together in the background, and a feast is prepared in your honor in the local traditions. Every single detail, from the setting of the service to the flowers, has been effortlessly arranged to suit your taste. And after the ceremony, you won’t have to leave this breathtaking locale, for you’ll have your honeymoon there as well. To discover if a destination wedding is right for you, check out this advice from ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA travel advisor members know that a special destination can make a special occasion extra special.
The Beauty of Package Deals – Tourism organizations, resorts and cruise lines offer wedding packages to keep a destination wedding stress-free and simple. Some offer the complimentary services of their on-site wedding consultant to help coordinate the essentials, like your marriage license and an officiant. All you have to do is show up. Your travel advisor can sometimes expand these package deals to include fun activities for you and your special guests, such as sightseeing excursions, snorkeling adventures or shopping trips.
Avoiding the Awkward Invites – Because destination weddings are generally intimate affairs attended by only your closest friends and dearest family members, you can avoid being forced into inviting cousin Matt with halitosis or your best friend Jenny’s little brother you met once 10 years ago. You get to choose the level of intimacy you want for the ceremony and invite accordingly, or you can invite no one at all for a very romantic trip down the aisle.
No Reception with 250 People to Pay For – You do the math: 250 people, including co-workers and business contacts, at $75 a head equals too much money! A luxurious wedding weekend at a fabulous destination oftentimes costs less than a seated dinner at the local country club. Proper etiquette of a destination wedding calls for invited guests to pay their own airfare, while you’ll pick up the tab for the lodging, food and beverages. You can add a few perks for your guests if feeling generous, such as gift certificates to nearby spas. It’s smart for a couple planning a destination wedding to contact a travel advisor to negotiate a discounted rate for booking multiple rooms and group rates with airlines or cruise ships. If money is an issue, your travel advisor can steer you toward domestic locations or countries with a favorable exchange rate.
No Extra Traveling Necessary – Destination weddings are perfect for couples with families and friends scattered around the country or even the world. If a good majority of your guests would have to travel to your hometown anyway, then getting married in a desirable vacation spot will make many of your guests happy.
Long Distance Planning and Legal Red Tape – For those not getting married at a resort with a complimentary wedding consultant, you’ll have to juggle all the small details yourself long distance. You might experience complications when trying to get a marriage license in a foreign country or even another state. Many places require marriage fees and residency requirements. It’s wise to hire a coordinator who specializes in destination weddings to help you navigate the twists and turns. A good wedding planner, like a good travel advisor, can help keep costs in check by bargaining with vendors or utilizing professional relationships to obtain special discounts. The more exotic the locale, the more necessary the wedding planner becomes. If at all possible, hire a local wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings, and let him or her work with an onsite planner. This usually does not translate into double fees, for the services of the local wedding planner are generally included in the overall price.
Where’s Granny? – While exotic locales are a great way to keep undesirables from attending your special event, it may also have the reverse effect with loved ones who may not be able to attend due to the expense, physical limitations or getting enough time off of work. Think about all the guests who are truly essential before deciding on the location. If money is an issue for your guests, simply tell them that their presence is the only wedding gift you need.
No Room for Impetuousness – With a destination wedding, advance warning and save-the-date cards are crucial. Send them off as early as possible, preferably at least eight months in advance, for your guests will need to work the trip into their budget and work schedules. Also, many guests, since they’re suddenly planning to visit an exciting corner of the world, take vacations before or after the wedding. Fair warning gives them time to contact a travel advisor and plan the perfect trip.
Crowded Honeymoon? – With your family around, will you be able to enjoy a private honeymoon with romantic alone time? If you want alone time, you’ll have to schedule it. Arrive a few days before everyone else, which you may need to do anyway for marriage license requirements, or enjoy your honeymoon nearby on a different island or neighboring resort. If neither of these options is possible, plan fun activities, preferably of the all-day kind, to occupy your friends and family while you and your new spouse sneak away to a private beach or special restaurant.
Once you decide a destination wedding is right for you, then say “I do” to a travel advisor. Travel advisors excel at making plans for multiple people from multiple locations, oftentimes at special, discounted group rates. Planning for the most important day of your life will be a wonderfully crazy time for you, so finding someone you trust to aid in your decision making will be a welcomed relief.
A good travel advisor can save you money as well as time – two enormous factors for a couple planning their life together. Through their love of travel and reliable relationships with suppliers around the globe, travel advisors specialize in providing personalized suggestions to suit both your dreams and your budget. Some travel advisors can even set up a layaway plan, so you can make monthly payments for your special trip.
Wherever you decide to share your vows and spend your honeymoon, ASTA members want you to remember to pack a good attitude and simply enjoy your time together. With a little TravelSense, a few guidelines and some helpful tips, your destination wedding will lead to many, many destination anniversaries.