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Destination Weddings

Dec 18, 2010 | Leave a Comment

One of the most watched trends in weddings today is that of the “destination wedding”. Today, destination weddings account for an estimated 10% of all weddings occuring among American, Canadian and British couples. This is pretty significant because just 10 years ago, the term ‘destination wedding’ was virtually unheard of. And there’s no reason to expect a cooling down of this trend any time soon, in fact, it’s just gaining speed.

Perhaps you’ve heard some buzz about destination weddings recently, but you’re still not clear on the concept. Destination Wedding essentially means “eloping with a crowd”. It’s a modern version of eloping. When a couple eloped in the past, they ran off alone together. Now they may still run off to get married, but they take their closest family members and friends with them to share in the celebration.

Destination weddings are sometimes also referred to as “Honeymoon Weddings” because they combine a wedding and honeymoon all in one. “Familymoon” is another term we are starting to hear used interchangeably with the destination wedding because it is, in essence, a honeymoon that the whole family (and often close friends) goes along on.

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Why is it Hot?

It’s hot because it appeals both to those who want to run away and get married somewhere exotic, as well as to couples who want to share a really memorable wedding experience with the people closest to them. Couples are grabbing hold of this idea because, instead of having just one day to celebrate their nuptials with their favorite people, they have several days of quality time together. Compare this with the traditional wedding, where often times the day speeds by in a whirlwind and the couple has only fleeting moments to spend with individual guests and you start to see the appeal of the destination wedding.

Another reason for the destination wedding trend is that re-marriages now account for 50% of marriages in the US and Canada. While a conventional or traditional wedding is perfectly acceptable for a remarriage today if that’s what the couple wants, some couples just aren’t comfortable with a lot of hoopla when its not their first trip to the altar. Some prefer something a little more low key or quiet, with just the people closest to them in attendance. The destination wedding is perfect for this.

The internet is also a huge faciliator where destination weddings are concerned. The internet makes the world a much smaller place. Through online research you can explore geographic locations, tour resorts and hotels, read menus, look at cakes, and view examples of a photographer’s work or a hairstylist’s updos. Planning a wedding from afar is no longer the scary and risky proposition it once was. You can make contact with resorts and vendors, including wedding coordinators, in the destination of choice via email, and have information, price lists, and contracts sent back to you in a matter of moments. Its also much more affordable to enter into diagloue with service providers via email than it would be if you were racking up long distance bills along the way.

How Many Guests?

Curious about the number of guests typically attending these destination events? You may be surpised to hear that it is approaching 50. That’s significant, because just 4 or 5 years ago the typcial destination wedding had a guest list of just 10 – 20 people.

You can invite as many or as few people as you want to your destination wedding. Just keep one thing in mind: There are likely to be people on your guest list who will be unable to attend due to the expense involved or the logistics of arranging a jaunt away from home. People have limited vacation time, they may need significant lead time to book their vacations, or they may not be able to arrange to be away from home on the dates you’ve selected for a wide variety of other reasons. Also keep in mind that your idea of the dream destination may not match theirs, so if you are expecting them to pay their own way, they many not be willing to invest their limited vacation budget into the vacation of your choice. And that’s perfectly valid and entirely understandable, so don’t hold it against them or take offence.

Before you get too far down the road in planning your destination wedding, ask yourself if you are still going to be happy if some of the people on your guest list are unable to attend. What is none of them decided to come – would you still be happy if it was just you and your sweetie celebrating your marriage alone together in that exotic locale? Be prepared for these possibilities before proceeding.

Research Required

Before you get your heart set on any specific destination wedding plan, its super-important to do your research and determine whether what you have in mind is feasible. Not only do you need to investigate costs, but you will also need to carefully determine what the requirements and regulations are in regard to saying your “I dos” in the destination of your choice. Some countries only allow citizens to marry on their soil, others may have a residency requirement whereby you have to live in the country for 30 days, 6 months, or a year before you are eligible to marry there.

You’ll also be required to provide various forms of documentation in order to marry in another country, and you need to know what specific documentation is required for the country in question. In some cases, the law of the land requires that you also have the documents translated at your own expense, in advance, into the official language of the country in question. These are merely examples of the types of red tape and hoops you may be required to jump through, so careful investigation is paramount.

Another important part of doing your research has to do with determining whether there are any travel advisories or weather concerns for the area you’d like to be wed in. Use the same percautions you would when planning any other vacation. Check weather conditions for the time of year (avoid planning your wedding in the middle of hurricane season, for example), check with US Department of State to ensure that there are no travel advisories for the area in question due to polital upheaval, cival war, or terrorism.

Flexibility a MUST

Its also really important that you be fexible when planning a destination wedding. You may have ideas in your head about what you would like your wedding to look like that simply aren’t compatible with the destination you have chosen. For example, maybe you’ve been dreaming of a gown with layer upon layer of crunchy taffeta since you were a little girl, but if you wear that at an ocean side wedding in the tropics, you’ll pass out from the humidity and heat exhaustion before you make it half way down the aisle. You’ve heard the expression “When in Rome do as the Romans do”? No where is that more applocable than in the destination wedding scenario. Tailor the details of your wedding to the destination. Follow the recommendations and suggestions of the local pros – they know what’s doable and appropriate in their local area. No point in swimming against the tide.

Control Freaks Beware

Some brides (or couples) like to persoanlly oversee each and every little detail of their wedding plans, and have personal involvement at every juncture. If this is you, think carefully before proceeding with a destination wedding. Unless you plan to make one or more trips to the destination before the wedding for planning purposes, which can get quite costly, you are likely going to need to put a lot of the details in the hands of someone else – proabably a resort event coordinator, wedding planner, or travel agent who specialized in destination weddings (or a combination of the above). The logistics simply don’t allow for you to have close control. Make sure you are cool with that or you may be in for more stress than you bargained for.

Who Pays for Guests Accommodations and Travel?

This is the big question that everyone is asking. There is no rule of etiquette that requires the couple to pay for guests travel and accommodation expenses, however, it is certainly hospitable of you, and a real treat for your guests, if you can cover some of all of their costs. Some couples do this, others do not. If possible, you might consider covering a portion of your guests expenses, say, just their airfare or just their accomodations.

Obviously, if you are picking up some or all of the tab, you’ll increase the likelihood that guests will be able and willing to attend.

Paying for Bridesmaid and Groomsmen Expenses

The couple is, however, responsible for covering the accommodation expenses of their bridal attendants, in otherwords, the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and honor attendants. This rule of etiquette applies for all weddings, not just destination events, any time an attendant will have to travel to participate as a member of the wedding party. If your budget is tight, keep this in mind before selecting your attendants and perhaps limit yourself to just one honor attendant on each side.
Easy on the Expenses

Whether you have decided to foot the bill, or at least part of it, for your guests, or whether they’ll have to pay their own way, try to reduce the costs as much as possible by looking into group rates on airfare and hotel rooms. American Airlines has a program whereby they will provide a group discount if 10 or more people are flying to attend the same event. It doesn’t matter if the cities of origin are not the same, as long as everyone is headed for the same destiantion. Other airlines may be willing to discount tickets when a group is travelling as well, so try to negotiate the best rates possible for you and your guests. (It’s possible to do this yourself, but a good travel agent or wedding cooordinator will be skilled at getting the best rates for you).

Similarly, hotels or resorts will often discount room rates when you are booking multiple rooms at a time. Have the resort reserve a block of rooms for your party. When guests call in to make their reservation, they simply mention that they are part of your party, and they will qualify for the group rate. Make sure you tell the hotel or resort to keep all the rooms on the same floor – that way guests can be cozy and can interact with one another.

If you have chosen a particularly posh hotel or resort, you might also want to source out alternate accommodations that are close by but a little easier on the wallet so guests can have budget alternatives. Make guests aware of all of their accommodation options so that they can select that which best fits their budget.
Get Professional Help

If this is all sounding complex, overwhelming, and time consuming, truth be told, it can be. Some couples think that running away to get married will simplifyy their wedding plans, but depending on the destination you are running to, and the type of event you are planning, it may just introduce a different set of complexities.

To ensure that all goes smootly when planning your destination event, its best to work with a travel agent or a professional wedding coordinator.

If using a travel agent, try to find one that specializes in destination weddings if possible, as they’ll have experience in not simply arranging your air travel and accommodations, but also some of the other details and logistics. For instance, they’ll know which resorts specialize in catering to destination weddings and which ones offer free wedding packages and the like.

If you are going to use a wedding planner, you can either select one based in your own home town, or find one who is located in your destination. In either case, once again, its best to look for someone who specializes in destination weddings. This is particularly true if the consultant is your own area and will be coordinating this event from afar. To find a wedding consultant who can assist, you can request a referral to a SuperWeddings Certified Wedding Consultant through The International Institute of Weddings. This will ensure that you are dealing with a qualified, serious professional with solid credentials.

Start Early

The key to success in planning a destination wedding is to start as early as possible. As mentioned before, you’ll need time to do your research about what will be required to get married in the destination of your choice. You’ll also need time to talk with the people you intend to invite to get a rough idea of what dates would work for them.

Once a firm date has been set, you need to get busy making decisions early on in the process. All the details, from the biggest the smallest, need to be considered and decided upon. This way you won’t end up scrambling to make important decisions under the gun because time has run out — that is the best way to make the worst decision.

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A Whole New Industry

The popularity of destination weddings has grown so rapidly that its given rise to a whole new industry in an of itself. Today entrepreneurs and exisiting companies are spotting the enormous opportunity in this hot trend and are finding ways to cash in on it. More and more resorts are now specifically catering to the destination wedding crowd. Airlines and hotel chains are developing special programs specifically for the destination wedding market. Cruiselines are getting in on the action, as is one of the most successful companies in the world, the Walt Disney Company. With its destination wedding packages, Disney World has become the second most popular destination in the US for destination weddings (following Las Vegas). Even some entire cities, towns, and countries are discovering that they can profit substantially by making destination weddings their focus. The Carribbean islands, for instance, have in the last number of years further eased their requirements for non-residents to marry on their soil, in order to incourage the influx of destination wedding couples. Some cities and towns in the US and abroad are now putting effort and investment into marketing themselves as wedding destinations because they realize the powerful potential it will have on their ecomonies. The websites of more and more Chambers of Commerce or Visitors and Tourists Bureaus are heavily focusing on the destination wedding aspect of their cities as a means of attracting more tourism.

In addition, many business-minded individuals are recognizing the opportunity for them to do well in the wedding consulting and coordinating business by specializing in the destination wedding market. With so many couples trying to plan weddings at a distance, the demand for coordinators who can assist them in taking care of these details is quickly on the rise, and its spurring more interest in the wedding consulting field. Individuals who want to learn more about breaking into the business of wedding consulting can read about it here. As well, many existing and established consultants are taking note of the additional opportunity available to them by marketing their services at the destination wedding market. Established consultants who want to learn how to become destination wedding specialist and capitalize on this powerful indistry trend can request more information here.

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Linda Kevich is the creator and editor of SuperWeddings.com, and the Director of The International Institute of Weddings. A professional wedding consultant for nearly 15 years, Ms Kevich is a highly regarded wedding expert and is frequenty quoted by the national and international media. She was recently cited as an expert source in a USA Today article on destination weddings. She is the developer of one of only a handful of distance learning training programs in the world for professional wedding consultants, and has persoanlly trained and assisted hundreds of wedding consultants internationally in launching their careers. Members of the media may contact her to request an interview.

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