I am no expert in destination weddings, but I thought that I’d try and help out the destination brides that are just starting out, and share what I’ve learned so far in my planning.
1. Communicating with your venue – Do not stress if the wedding coordinator/hotel does not get back to you in a day, or two, or three. This is really important because I know that we can start worrying when we don’t hear back from them, especially if you have an “urgent” question. The thing that I had to realize is, my venue is in Jamaica, and when people talk about “Jamaican time” they are not exaggerating. What I end up doing is if I send one e-mail and don’t hear back from them, I’ll wait about 3-4 days and just send another mail or give them a call. I usually get a mail back within the next week and everything is always taken care of.
2. Group Rates – Once you know your venue and your guest list, start scouting airlines for group rates. I contacted a few airlines that flew to Jamaica and the best deal I found was for American Airlines. They offer a 5% discount for groups of 10 or more. The best part is, you don’t have to be traveling on the same flight or even from the same airport. My guests just enter a special code that lets the airlines know that they are part of my wedding and they automatically give them the 5% discount. Many airlines require that to get the discount you must all be on the same flight. If that works out for you, totally take advantage of it, but make sure that you check out several airlines and what they offer.
3. Favors –
If you are like me and don’t like cheesy favors skip all the websites that say that they have “unique destination and beach wedding favors!” They are all really bad flip flop candles or some kind of weird starfish or seashell plastic thing. The thing that I always think about those things is if someone gave that to me as a favor, I would most likely take it home and then throw it away. J and I want to do something that all our guests will like and NOT end up throwing away. Some of the things that we are thinking about doing is customizing labels on Red Stripe beer (THE beer of Jamaica) that will be served during our reception, necklaces for the female guests that can be personalized to them, and customizing Sigg water bottles for the male guests. (If you haven’t heard, Nalgene bottles are out, Sigg bottles are the latest AND they’re ec0-friendly!)
We have some DIY ideas about how we will customize it, so if/when we get that project done, I will do a follow up post.
5. Photographer – So I, like a lot brides, think that photography is one of the most important vendors you will book for your venue. Do not think that you have to use a photographer in the area of your wedding. Do not be afraid of contacting photographers that you love and ask them if they will do a destination wedding. I’m in Seattle and my photographer is NY, but I fell in love with her work. She is worthy of her own post, so I will not go into too much detail here, but I was extremely happy with her price and package and think that it is one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in the planning.
6. Guests – First find out how many your venue can hold. My venue is small so if I wanted a 100 guest wedding, I couldn’t have done it there. Next, make your guest list and STICK TO IT. This is important to all weddings, but like for my hotel, they need to start holding rooms and such so they need the list early on. A lot of the caribbean hotels/resorts get booked out a lot earlier than typical stateside hotels because people like to plan their tropical vacations way early in advance to make sure that they get the room they want. You will also need to let your guests know that they will need to put a deposit down to hold the room so I believe in giving very advance notice (we told our guests about a year ahead although Save the Dates have yet to go out).
So, not a comprehensive list, but some of the top things that I’ve had to deal with. Hopefully somebody has found this helpful! I’ll do another “tips” post later on, as I can think of several more things that I have encountered but never knew until I started this process.
If you have tips, post them in the comments below, I would love to hear from other brides!
Please click on the pictures to take you to the respective websites.