Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Considering a Destination Wedding

I was recently asked by a young bride-to-be about the advantages of a destination wedding over a traditional wedding. This is a hard question because it is ultimately a very personal decision.

Here are a few key reasons to have a destination wedding:

1) You Actually Spend Time With Your Guests - At a destination wedding, your guests typically stay a day or two, so there is more opportunity to interact and spend time with them compared to a standard 5-hour hometown church wedding. And because of costs, you will typically have fewer guests. We understand work and family pressures to invite certain people for "political reasons." But if your company or your family isn't picking up the cost of the wedding, they really don't get a say.

2) Cost - Destination weddings are not as expensive as you might think. In fact, most destination weddings are considerably less expensive than traditional weddings (assuming you are not paying for travel for your entire guest list).

3) Every Wedding Requires Travel Now - When was the last time you went to a wedding and nobody had to travel? For us, our wedding party and immediate family spanned four time zones. No matter where we held our wedding, over half the attendees would have to travel somewhere. So why not have everyone travel somewhere fun? The location for your wedding shouldn't just be where it's convenient, it should be just where you want to get married.

4) You Like To Travel - If you are a person that wants to see the world and travel, why not make it a part of your wedding? It's a natural fit.

5) It Minimizes Tensions - Once you've made the big decision to have a destination wedding, everything else is easy. There's less to fight about with fiancé or parents or future in-laws. Really. I promise.

So, my recommendation to everyone is to have a destination wedding. Just do it. Go anywhere – the U.S. or abroad. Just go. And be prepared to have the most amazing day of your life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jamaican Destination Weddings

I always encourage young couples to go and visit the country and sites in advance. If you’re considering a destination wedding or a wedding in Jamaica, there’s an upcoming opportunity that you might want to consider. Online “experience seller” Rue La La is offering an upcoming package to Jamaica to stay at Half Moon in Rose Hall, Jamaica. I’ve seen this property several years ago and it is beautiful. This could also be used as a “home base” to look at other properties in Jamaica and make your selection.

If you are a member of Rue La La, the experience goes on sale on Wednesday, January 5th at 11:00am ET. If you’re not a member of Rue La La or are considering another country, now is the time when Spring deals go on sale, so start searching for deals so you can do a site visit.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Legal Considerations

The first question we had in planning our destination wedding was whether the marriage would be legally recognized in the United States.

The U.S. State Department website is a good resource for U.S. citizens interested in getting married in a foreign country. Basically, the short answer is yes, it is legally binding in the United States.

In order for your marriage to be legal, you must follow the local laws and procedures of the country where you will be married. Most countries have residency requirements (the length of time before the wedding you need to be in the country). In the Bahamas, the residency requirement was one day. However, Tahiti has a residency requirement of 30 days, essentially eliminating it as a potential location for destination weddings.

In nearly all cases, you will need to produce legal documentation (usually your passports), but could also include birth certificates, death certificates (widow/widower) and/or divorce decrees. We got married in the Bahamas, which also required that we had to go through a brief interview with a local official (about 10 minutes). We did not need to do a blood test, which can be a major issue for some people getting married in some countries (including Mexico).

Couples can encounter difficulty when returning to the United States if their marriage license is not in English. To be valid in the U.S., you must have an English translation of your marriage certificate. If you get married in a former British colony (Bermuda, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, etc.), that won’t be a problem. However, if you get married in a country where the official language is other than English, be sure to investigate what it will take to get an official translation.

Also, before leaving the wedding site, you should consider getting multiple official notarized copies of your marriage certificate. When you get home, you’ll need extra copies of your license to change your name.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shameless Plug: Nominate Us for the Best Destination Wedding Blog

This is a shameless plug to our readers. Have you enjoyed reading our Ultimate Destination Weddings blog over the last four years? Have you found it beneficial in planning your destination wedding?

If so, why don’t you nominate us in for the Best Destination Wedding Blog? We’d be very grateful!


Nominate me for the Bridal Blog Awards!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Making Green Wedding Plans

Couples want to make a statement about who they are and what they stand for, especially when they're planning a wedding. Whether it's about printing the invitations on recycled paper or opting for an exotic location that stresses nature for an alternative wedding, there are a ton of ways to plan a green wedding. One of the smallest ways, yet one that can make a statement for years to come (even when the wedding is over), is the bridal jewelry chosen for the occasion.

Themed Weddings Offer Best Opportunities

Having a beach wedding? Why not dress the bridesmaids and bride in shell and bead jewelry? Mother-of-pearl shells are translucent, ethereal, and natural. Pearls also make a great accent for beach weddings. Other themed weddings might include a garden setting. In that case, the jewelry can opt for natural motifs, like leaves and floral patterns. Real flowers are always a great way to dress up a wedding, and a bride, and they are renewable resources. If you are going to pick real jewelry for the bridal party as favors, opt for an organization that gives some of its proceeds to charities that help to save the environment. When you are ready to give the jewelry away as a “thank you,” your bridesmaids will be thrilled to know that a part of the cost went to help out a worthwhile cause.

When Choosing The Rings

Green couples prefer conflict-free diamonds and recycled metals for the jewelry they pick. The first is a matter of social responsibility and ethics and the second choice helps to save the world's precious resources. Another great way to reduce the impact of the occasion on the world's resources is to use a heirloom ring that's been passed down within the family. If you have a creative bent, you can even have old jewelry that you both have lying around recycled into new rings or bands.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cruise Ship Wedding Resources

As a resource for those who are interested in cruise ship weddings, here are the wedding websites for a number of cruise companies:

There are also all-in-one companies that coordinate your cruise ship wedding experience. Most notably is The Wedding Experience – which boasts that it is the exclusive wedding service provider for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises and Holland America (in Europe), as well as select ports for Carnival Cruise Line. The Wedding Experience also boasts that it does over 10,000 weddings a year, so we have to wonder how much individual attention you’ll really receive (again, the “wedding-in-a-box” approach seems to apply here).

As we previously covered in Cruise Ship Weddings, cruise ship weddings can be convenient if you’re looking for a wedding-in-a-box (perhaps for a second wedding after one or both you have kids, etc.). However, if you are looking for a customized experience or a higher-end experience, cruise ship weddings may not be for you. We could be wrong and we'd love to see it if it exists, but that's our take.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cruise Ship Weddings

When we initially planned our destination wedding, we initially considered a cruise ship wedding. In theory, cruise ship weddings offer the best of both worlds – the ability to get away, while still having all the convenience of a wedding back home.

As we conducted our research, we were extremely disappointed with the options available from the cruise companies. Most cruise lines don’t want you to be able to get married “on board,” instead they offer packages before you leave (before the boat leaves home port) or during the voyage on their private island. We also found it difficult to get information from the cruise lines and nearly impossible to get someone to actually answer questions. But that was our experience.

If you are not dissuaded by our experience, the recent wedding of Andrew and Emily Pidgeon of Palm Bay, Florida should be required reading. You can read about their “wedding experience” on the Carnival Cruise Lines Sensation boat in The Sun Sentinal newspaper. If you’re considering a cruise ship wedding, read the article.

We’ve never actually seen a cruise ship wedding and can’t speak from personal experience. We wanted to write about cruise ship weddings in 2007 and contacted a number of cruise lines, but weren’t able to get a response. Perhaps in the future we’ll have the ability to see one and write about it firsthand.

In summary: Cruise companies are willing to accommodate your wedding…for a price. However, cruise companies are not set up to really cater to your specific wedding needs. Cruise companies can give you a wedding-from-a-box experience, but you need to ask yourself the question if that is really what you want.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back for Wedding Season

Sorry for the radio silence the last few months. We were on vacation in South America. We’re back!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hilton Wedding Contest - Best Brides Forever

Hilton has got a deal for you! Hilton is offering a contest for brides to win the destination wedding of their dreams called “I Do Times Two” at the The Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii. But it’s a double win – a destination wedding for you…AND your best friend: one week, two weddings and one big party.

It works like this, two brides get together and submit in the essay contest. The contest will run through February 22, 2010. Hilton will judge the essays and a pair of brides will win the package of an all-expense paid wedding package, including airfare, for both couples. As a huge bonus, Hilton is putting up 15 guest rooms for BOTH brides (30 rooms total). This is HUGE because this one area where brides can help their family.

Both brides will have their wedding on the same trip sometime between Jan. 1, 2011 and March 31, 2011. Why not have your destination wedding at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Valentine’s Day 2011?

We’ve never been to the Hilton Waikoloa Village and can’t personally vouch for the property, however, it looks terrific on the website.

Update 3/22/2010: And we have a winner!

Hilton Worldwide has named Chelsea Jones from Boulder, Colorado as the winner of the contest. She and her sister Hillary will get married over Valentine’s Day weekend 2011. The sisters are best friends and inseparable, despite problems brought on by Hillary’s health issues. Complete details on the winners are at the contest website.

Congratulations to Chelsea Jones for winning the contest!

Photo credits: Hilton Waikoloa Village

Monday, January 11, 2010

Destination Wedding Dresses at Discount Prices

Few things cause brides as much anxiety as the dress. It has to be perfect. Some girls just know when they find “the one,” but others stress and labor over the decision.

I predict that 2010 will be the year of couture and homemade dresses. Why have a mass market dress when you can have something one of a kind?

Sure, there are ways to get couture designer dresses at less than couture prices. There’s the inevitable recommendation to hit up sample sales or trunk shows (ever tried to find one of these?). Of course, there’s the insanity of the Filene’s Basement “Running of the Brides” – then again, you’re shopping at Filene’s Basement and you have to go to Boston.

Then, there’s the recommendation (typically from your grandmother) that you should go to thrift shops or the modern version – Craig’s List. The idea of either of these just seems too much like being on welfare for my taste.

There are two other reasonable alternatives. The website has a page where brides sell their gowns after the wedding. This is like the thrift shop or Craigslist without making you feel cheap. And if you are more socially conscious, why not buy your dress and help a good cause? Brides Against Breast Cancer has sales across the country of great dresses at reasonable prices with the proceeds going to a good cause.

Finally, there’s one more great way to get a custom wedding dress without the hassle – Etsy. The crafty website Etsy and many of its artisan vendors sell couture wedding dresses. If Etsy isn’t your style, you can try custom dress shops in your area. In this way, you can get a handmade dress designed especially for you. What can make a girl feel more special than something one of a kind?

Happy dress hunting!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Location Report: The Biltmore in Asheville, NC

For us, when we think about destination weddings, they are usually intimate gatherings on some beach somewhere. However, one of the nicest wedding destinations we’ve seen recently is The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.

We went to The Biltmore in Asheville for some personal relaxation time, but while we were there, we observed several weddings. It dawned on us – wow! This place makes a great wedding destination.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate makes the perfect home base for your wedding. It’s on the property, offers stunning views of the Great Smokey Mountains, has several nice restaurants and offers all the amenities you’ll need for your wedding. The hotel is rather large, but has a quaint charm since it is decorated in this French renaissance style. The staff is quite friendly and attentive.

The Biltmore House is the main event. This was originally the Vanderbilt Family’s country estate and they advertise it as America’s Largest Mansion. It is a huge mansion, meticulously maintained and thoughtfully presented. As we took the tour, we were able to look out onto the grounds and noticed there were several weddings going on. It dawned on us – this is a very romantic spot for a destination wedding.

For your ceremony and reception, there are a number of locations on the property – the lawn in front of the house (where the Biltmore serves as the backdrop), a terrace just off the house (looking out on the Great Smokey Mountains) or down in the Walled Garden (where you are surrounded by immaculate gardens and millions of flowers).

There is one downside to a destination wedding at the Biltmore – it doesn’t appear that they close down part of the facility for you. So, as you’re getting ready for your wedding, you could have tourists gawk at you (just as we gawked at folks on our visit).

Now, fair warning, we have no idea on the expense of a destination wedding at the Biltmore. I’m betting those weddings cost a pretty penny. They are gorgeous, but surely expensive. They have a wedding website, but it doesn’t have much information on it.

For the day after your wedding, consider having a brunch for you and all your guests at the Deerpark Lodge on the Biltmore property. They serve a decadent brunch in charming converted stable. It’s both rustic and sophisticated.

The Biltmore Estate is a wonderfully beautiful place and would be a romantic place for you to tie the knot.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Travel Insurance for Destination Weddings

One aspect of destination weddings that people often neglect is travel insurance. Destination weddings involve travel and sometimes the worst case can happen – a trip gets cancelled due to weather, illness or something else.

Travel insurance can protect you from these cancellations and problems. If your trip gets cancelled, you can get a refund. If you should encounter a medical problem, most travel accident insurance can get you good medical care. Personally, we both carry International SOS coverage through our employers for emergency medical. However, that wouldn’t help us with the financial piece of a cancelled trip.

If you purchase travel insurance, make sure it covers trip cancellation, trip delay and medical coverage. Most insurance coverage also covers lost or stolen luggage and personal property.

Do your homework to make sure you’re getting a good policy. Be sure to read all the fine print and ask lots of questions. Also, make sure your policy will cover the wedding (or "event") portion of your trip, not just the travel part.

From our perspective, travel insurance is mandatory for a destination wedding. Given the amount of money you’re spending on your big day, it’s better than taking any chances.