What makes an engaged couple good candidates for a destination wedding? Some brides and grooms just know from the very first moment they make the decision to get married that they don't want to get married at home, and a destination wedding is a better choice. Quite a few couples have discussed island weddings even before the engagement -- hey, it's a trend! Some brides have always known they wanted their toes in the sand when they exchanged vows, while many others picture a snow-capped mountain top. Lots of newly engaged brides and grooms research getting married at home initially and realize they're going to end up with 400 guests to keep their parents happy, especially if they're both from the same general area of the country. So they back up and punt, considering ALL their options.
Many of the potential clients who call me for a consultation, especially this time of year when so many couples have just gotten engaged, are just starting to consider an island wedding as an option. They've done their homework at home and now they're doing their homework on their destination options.
Frequently, my consultations are very educational for couples, even if they don't end up hiring me, they go away from our call knowing to watch out for fake wedding planners on all of the islands, and to realize that nothing is free. If they choose a big resort with a package that requires them to get a certain number of friends to commit to attending at the package rate they've established, they're actually getting their wedding guests to subsidize their entire wedding. Those resorts are all-inclusive so when they tell you they're giving you a free welcome party, don't be too impressed. You, and all of your guests, already paid for it. Not everybody knows to watch out for that.
A good consultation with an experienced wedding planner who is actually located in whatever destination you've chosen is exactly what you need to get you set on the right path, or at least get you the right information. Trying to use a wedding planner from a major city who claims to be an expert everywhere is a lot less satisfying, let me assure you. I've heard horror stories of planners who promised to have rental formal wear waiting for the groomsmen and nothing was actually available. Musicians who were recommended to your planner by a random concierge may not turn out to be exactly what you had in mind when you said "local music." Yes, there is such a thing as TOO local (nobody wants the island equivalent of somebody's garage band at their wedding).
Once you've done your homework (and researched the planner you're considering too, not just the destination), if you're still not sure, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Will the people who can and will accept my destination wedding invitation be the people who I most want to have at my wedding? If most of the people on your guest list can afford the trip, go for it. If you're using it as a way to eliminate a bunch of must-invites on your parents' lists, that's okay too. But keep in mind, you must be prepared for everyone you invite to accept the invitation (even though that's highly unlikely, you shouldn't invite anybody that you don't want to actually have accept the invitation).
2) Can you handle making decisions via telephone and the Internet, and giving up the ultimate control to somebody a few thousand miles away? If you can't trust the wedding planner you're hiring, the whole process will be a miserable one. You MUST listen to the planner's vendor recommendations or you're asking for trouble. If you know better, why did you hire her in the first place? And you need to be prepared to sit back and have fun when you get there because it's not your job to worry about anything - your planner will make sure that everything is ready for you before you arrive at your events.
3) Will you be able to stretch your wedding budget further by having a destination wedding? The answer is yes for most brides and grooms from major cities, but if you're from someplace less expensive, the cost may be a wash. Investigate thoroughly and if cost is your key decision-making factor, know your numbers before you make the decision.
4) Will your parents (either set of them) freak out if you don't get married at home? Is there an important family member with health issues who can't fly? Can you handle the blowback or will it cause a huge rift at the beginning of your marriage? Some brides and grooms use the destination wedding as a manner of choosing what they want for their weddings, rather than being stuck with the choices the Mother of the Bride forces down their throats at her local country club. But make sure you know the whole picture before you make a final decision.
5) What kind of destination do you want for your wedding weekend? A country inn, or an anti-bellum plantation, or a spectacular jewel of the Spanish Virgin Islands like Vieques and Culebra off the coast of Puerto Rico? Do your guests all have passports? If not, you'd better stick to Puerto Rico for a Caribbean location. No passports required here. If you're choosing a stateside reception venue, remember that travel to remote locations can often add up quickly and may cost more than flying into San Juan for a Caribbean wedding. Keep in mind where your guests are coming from and the time of year. Those snowcapped mountains may mean difficult travel up to your wedding weekend.
If you've asked yourselves all of those questions and you still believe getting married someplace else is the best decision for you and your future mate, start the planning! It's okay to send out travel information packets and save-the-dates anytime within two years for a destination wedding. Destination wedding invitations can be mailed to guests at the 12-month out mark -- and the RSVPs are still required within six to eight weeks.
Are you ready to start your destination wedding planning now? Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!