We’ve got a special treat in store today! Our friend, Jennifer Stein, editor-in-chief of Destination I Do Magazine stopped by to share some expert insights on planning the perfect destination wedding weekend. With a brand new website loaded with ideas and insights, somehow she found the time to stop and chat with us. So, what was on her mind? How to find the perfect place and plan for an idyllic weekend of cultural experiences for you and your guests!
JF: What should couples consider before they book the destination?
JS: They should consider the following:
- Where is it in relation to the couple? Are they living in NYC and want to travel to Maui? That’s pretty far! So consider the distance they would need to travel. If the couple really wants to scout something out or make a couple trips before W-Day, that could get expensive – so maybe select something closer to home. If they don’t want to visit beforehand – it may be a non-issue.
- Where is it in relation to their traveling guests? Cost and time to travel will factor into their loved one’s decision to attend the wedding.
- What do they want to do while they’re there? If they are looking for kid-friendly itineraries, maybe forgo Napa and visit a place like Rosemary Beach, Florida. Or if they want to celebrate sans the kiddos, perhaps a private island would be better than a Disney cruise.
- How many people are traveling and once they have that number – what accommodations are available in that area? If there are 125 guests attending, there will be an assortment of budgets – some may want to stay at the Ritz-Carlton, where others may need something more affordable. If they have a group of 20, they could forgo the hotel altogether and rent a big beach house so everyone can stay under one roof. For example, there are some really beautiful “sandcastles” on the beach in the Outer Banks which offer luxury, ocean-front homes for groups up to 30 for less than what it would cost to rent a Motel6 for that many people.
- Is the destination they are considering known for being wedding friendly? There are two situations couples may want to avoid. One – the “wedding mill.” This is when a property or vendor is known for booking multiple weddings in one day and really packing them in. Most couples want to feel like it’s their special day and not want to share that with a stranger who also wants to have their own secluded experience. Therefore, it’s always best to ask how many weddings they have booked on the same day.
- The other thing a couple may want to avoid is a place that really doesn’t have experience in weddings. Perhaps the closest bakery is on the other side of the island, there is only one steel drum performer for the area and only one minister. Depending on the size of the destination and if they regularly perform weddings, a couple could get in over their heads here.
JF: What are some ways couples can get the most out of their destination experience?
JS: When it comes to a couple planning a destination wedding – I would tell them to coordinate a few group outings. For example, let’s say they are getting married in Puerto Rico. There are countless things to do there. The bride & groom should evaluate the general interests of the group – are they able-bodied and willing to get a little adventurous? Then a nighttime kayak tour through one of the bioluminescent bays would be really fun. In case you’ve never heard of a bioluminescent bay, it’s like a scene out of Avatar – it’s pretty darn cool. Or maybe a hike through the El Yunque rainforest to a waterfall may be up their ally? Embracing the area – the culture, the food and all the reasons they were drawn to it in the first place, will help a couple maximize their time. Next I would tell them to tack on extra time before guests arrive to the destination. They may have the need to meet the wedding planner or finalize the menu and it is best they get the “to-do’s” out of the way before guests start arriving.
If the couple is planning a honeymoon, I would suggest they plan a few things ahead of time they know they will want to do, but get suggestions from locals to fill up the rest of their stay. Locals know the best “non-cliché” touristy things to do. Sometimes the reason an activity or place is touristy is because it’s a must see. Locals will know which ones are worth seeing and which ones aren’t. They also know the best places to eat and “off-the-beaten-path” activities to enjoy.
One other thing I would suggest doing (I do it anytime I’m given the chance) is rent bikes to ride around the destination. It’s the best way to really see and appreciate your surroundings…plus, what could be more romantic than a leisurely bike ride?
JF: What’s one of your favorite places to go to fully immerse yourself in the culture?
JS: Favorite activity? My favorite place, without a doubt, would be Thailand. I loved everything about it – the food, the people, the culture, the diverse landscapes. It was one of the most exquisite places I’ve ever been. We were there for 18 days and traveled to a total of six places. The northern part of Thailand fascinated me. Visiting all the Buddhist temples, the tribal villages and the markets will be an experience I’ll never forget. And my favorite activity? Riding an elephant was pretty killer. And swimming with sharks in the Bahamas was up there too.
The latest Destination I Do issue comes out today so be sure to pick up a copy and get more great ideas from Jennifer and her team! And stay tuned for part two of our chat with Destination I Do tomorrow!