Destination I Do Magazine Expert Advice – Part One

Destination I Do Magazine

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!

Grand Velas Riviera Maya honeymoons

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.
  • Tulum honeymoons

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?

Thailand honeymoon locations

{Photo: Chiva-Som}

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!


6 Questions to Ask Before You Book Your Destination Wedding Location

palmilla weddings

 Searching for that perfect place to say “I do?”  That oh-so special destination wedding location that doubles as a perfect paradise for a vacation too?  Well, before you pack your bags, we’ve compiled a list of six must ask questions before you begin your planning journey.

destination wedding locationsdestination wedding location

 1.  Can you legally wed there?  What are the residency and legal requirements of that country, county or location?  Some places will require paperwork back home and on location, while others require an extended stay on arrival before you can wed.  Be sure you have all the legal wrinkles ironed out and that you’re willing to jump through those hoops before you say I do to that location.  And, if the place is a must but the paperwork is too much, then consider a symbolic or spiritual ceremony while you travel but make it official back home.

 2.  Can your important guests get there?  How expensive is it to get to during the time of year you’ll be traveling?  Can Grandma make the distance you’re asking?  Do you have small children participating?  Is it kid-friendly?  Consider not just your budget and personal needs but those of your most cherished guests so no unexpected surprises arrive when receiving your RSVP’s.

mexico wedding locationsdestination weddings

3.  What’s the weather like when you want to go?  Our summer is Australia’s winter.  Rainy season in the Caribbean can mean hurricanes too.  While we can’t predict the weather down to the minute, you can prep and plan accordingly to avoid travel delays and reduce the risk of moving your ceremony inside at the last minute.  An affordable time to travel is right at the beginning or end of the location’s off season.  Chances are you may still see great weather while costs are down.

4.  What local support will you have once you arrive?  Picking a venue is not the only thing to think about once you’ve selected a city or country.  Who are the local vendors that will produce the rest of that wedding?  What’s the talent pool like on location and do they offer what you need?  Do they speak your language or vice versa?  And if not, what plan will you put in place to ensure miscommunications in the planning process are little to none.

destination wedding photographercabo wedding locations

 5.  What are your real costs?  Planning a destination wedding budget isn’t just about the ceremony and reception.  Chances are you’ll want to host a rehearsal dinner for all your guests, possibly a welcome event and send off or post-wedding brunch, and maybe even an excursion or two.  Then add in the cost of your travel and shipping anything to the location and now you’re looking at the real wedding budget…once you’ve checked the currency conversion of course!

6. Can you honeymoon here?  I highly recommend leaving your wedding location for your honeymoon.  It gives you that real chance to disconnect and get away from the group that may be staying on for a little vacation time.  If going to a different part of the world is out of reach, then can you transfer to a different part of the island?  Is there another hotel in the area you’d love to stay at?  What are your options for getting ‘out of town’ while staying in the region if need be?

We hope these tips will help you think through your destination wedding options while you hunt for the perfect place!

All Photos by Robert Evans.


Picking a Destination Wedding Location

So you’ve decided to host a destination wedding with friends and family. Congratulations!!!  Now…how many friends and family? How much will it cost them to get there? How will the two of you decide on the perfect place? When choosing your destination wedding location, there are many more factors to keep in mind than if you were planning a wedding at home. So for those of you newly engaged, we’ve assembled a quick list of key items to keep in mind as you discuss your locale options. We suggest sitting down together as a couple and making a list of your wants and needs, then listing places that match and begin to eliminate and narrow the field from there. Or, if you prefer, make a list of must-haves individually and then compare notes. Be open to new ideas, new places and perhaps you’ll experience something spectacular together for the first time!

destination wedding location{Photos: Left: Elizabeth Llyod Photographer via Style Me Pretty, Middle: Martha Stewart Weddings, Right: Bride & Joy}

1. What climate, view, and atmosphere do you have in mind? Do you want to wed on a beach or sit high above in the mountains? What type of weather do you envision and style of dress? From winter cabins to island weddings and everything in between, you’ve got options!

2. What activities do you want to partake in? Perhaps you and your fiancé have different feelings about the view but what about the things to do? Do you want to surf or ski? Stay at a swanky city hotel or live it up on a ranch and ride horses? Think about all the activities you and your guests will be doing on location and narrow your choices.

3. Time of year, the seasons, and the weather. Are you hoping to get married next summer? Some parts of the world will be mid-winter then, so consider the season at these places and the time of year you want to wed. Avoid holidays in those countries and keep in mind the stateside calendar for guests. And of course, do your best to plan for optimal weather when traveling and hosting outdoor events.

4. What’s your wedding budget? Your honeymoon budget? And your travel budget, if that’s separate? Where can you afford to go and how strong is the dollar in that country? On a smaller budget? Consider a nearby destination wedding that only requires travel by car but you still get to experience a weekend away with your loved ones. Living large? Head to the Maldives for your honeymoon and stop in Singapore or London for your destination wedding along the way.

London wedding{Photos: Top Left: Pinterest, Right: Love My Dress, Bottom Left: Flickr, Bottom Right: Oh So Beautiful Paper}

5. What’s their budget? How many guests do you want to attend and what budget constraints do they have for travel? Keeping in mind, the further away from home you get, the fewer people will travel. And once your friends and family have committed to attending, what accommodation and travel options are available for them? Are there a variety of hotels, villas, resorts, and places for guests to stay at a variety of price points? Are you able to get a package by traveling as a group or is your venue all-inclusive? Keep in mind how important your loved ones’ attendance is when booking your venue and price point.

6. Are there travel requirements to enter the country? Do you and your guests need visas, passports, vaccinations and much advanced notice to legally travel to your destination?  Find out first!

destinatoin wedding photographers{Photos: Left: We Heart It, Middle: Robert Evans Studios, Right: A Cup of Jo}

7. Can you legally marry there (or does that matter to you)? Many countries require marriage applications be submitted months in advance, while others require a certain length of time spent in the country before you can legally wed. What legal restrictions are you faced with and does your timeline allow for them? If not, is a ceremony and reception sufficient on location and will you choose to legally wed back home?

8. Do you and/or family speak the language? Do you have means to communicate to avoid any mishaps along the way or can you hire those to assist you?

9. Local vendors or travel with your team? We love a destination wedding that works with local companies to create an authentic experience and supports the community. But what kind of talent can you find locally – do you have options?  And that being said, are you able to bring your photographer and destination wedding planner with you? If you can travel with a small stateside team, you’ll ensure a more perfect execution and save yourself many time difference, language barrier, and other wedding planning headaches along the way.

destination wedding ideas{Photos: Left: Gina Kolsrud Photography, Right: Pinterest}

10. Honeymoon and destination wedding in one or do you have other ideas? Don’t forget about time away for just you two! Where will you honeymoon? Does the location have options for you to get away from the group when the time comes or do you plan to take a separate honeymoon? Keep in mind your honeymoon needs and wants when landing on a destination wedding location!

And once you’ve selected your favorites, double check they aren’t currently listed with the State Dept as destinations to avoid. Better to be safe than sorry!

Happy Globetrotting!