Friday, December 14, 2007

Preview: Cruise Ship Weddings

Nearly all of the major cruise ship lines offer weddings these days. We briefly looked into this for our destination wedding, but had trouble with the logistics (too many family members coming from too many different places) to make it work.

But Ultimate Destination Weddings will be taking a much-deserved multi-week holiday cruise in December! We’re going to be scoping out cruise ship weddings, ports of call and reporting back in early January! Watch for more details.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bachelorette Parties – Cooking School

It’s another bachelorette party – dressing up, wearing the mock veil, getting drunk, going bar hopping and feeling bad the next day. But that’s not what you want for your bachelorette party. You want different. You want fun. Sure you want to drink, but don’t want to get out of control. You want the kind of bachelorette party where you can take your mom and your 16-year-old niece. And did we say you want to have fun?

Try this on for size: Cooking School. It’s not some stodgy cooking school, we’re talking fun, wine and fantastic food you’ve cooked yourself. You bring the girlfriends, they provide the chef to teach you and the food to prepare. It’s a blast (and you even get to keep the apron).

We’re in love with the Viking Cooking School. For a bachelorette or bridal party, contact them directly for a Special Events Program.

We’ve done it several times and absolutely love it. We’ve taken the Basic Knife Skills class and the Date Night – Lobster Bisque and Steak. We’re already booked into the Indian Dinner for the spring.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Destination Weddings for Dummies

I found another video on YouTube (originally from Brideorama). This one features Susan Breslow, author of Destination Weddings for Dummies.

She offers three tips for people planning destination weddings:
  • Find out the local marriage laws – residency requirements vary by country (for example, France is 40 days)
  • Prepare for the weather – Breslow says, hope for sun, but be prepared with a backup venue inside
  • Have a fun party at home – We agree on this front. See our previous entry Advanced Topics – The Welcome Back Reception.
The Susan Breslow video is here:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tourism Websites

When it comes to destination weddings, many local tourism or convention & visitor’s bureaus offer good websites that can help you with the planning process (some even special destination weddings sections).

In the Caribbean, nearly every country has a site. Here is a comprehensive list of Caribbean tourism and convention and visitor’s bureau websites:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wedding Wine Choices

Wedding wine and cocktail selections are not something you usually have control over. However, cocktail and spirit selections are a reflection of your personality. This is a point that you should try to negotiate with your venue.

For wedding wines, try to find something unusual and memorable (both for you and your guests). Many venues will give you one white and one red. Your will be a chardonnay (maybe a pinot grigio if you're really lucky). Your red will be a merlot or possibly a Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are the same ones that are served at nearly every event known to man - from boring work receptions to the woman down the street's wedding. Not very fun, creative or inviting. Why not spice things up a bit? Or at least dare to be different!

We’re white wine drinkers, but are on an ABC kick (“anything but chardonnay”). Consider a Riesling (Chateau Ste Michelle from the U.S. or just about any riesling wine from the Mosel-Saar region in Germany) or a Gewurztraminer.

Instead of champagne, find a different sparkling white wine. We’re big fans of Prosecco and Franciacorta from Italy. (see Wedding Toast, Part I).

On the red wine front, why not a nice Côtes du Rhône or Chianti?

Finally, if you’re having a tropical destination wedding, consider doing cocktails instead of wines (your venue will definitely accommodate this, and frankly will love you for it…they make more money). We did this for our wedding and opted for Pina Coladas and Bahama Mamas.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sandals Honeymoon Test Drive

A recent comment on our blog by Amanda W. asked about Sandals Weddingmoon and the “Test Drive your honeymoon.” She’s reluctant to sign up and asks if we know anything about the “Test Drive” because it seems like a timeshare sales pitch.

The answer to the question is an honest one – we don’t know. We vaguely remember hearing something about the “test drive” some time ago, but we didn’t do it (although we did consider Sandals). The trips are one day (out in the morning, back in the evening) and are only offered from a limited number of east coast cities. Sandals adds the normal conditions (space is limited space, subject to availability, etc., etc.). Cost for the day trip is $99 and includes airfare.

So Amanda, for $99 and one day off of work, you can have a one-day trip to Jamaica, see the resort and know exactly what you’re getting into. (We did this with the Westin Our Lucaya in the Bahamas, but had to pay the full amount and made a long three-day weekend of it). If you do the test drive and then book a honeymoon, Sandals will apply your $99 to the honeymoon package. Presumably they would do the same thing for a Weddingmoon, but the website doesn’t actually say it (best to call and ask some specific questions. Actually, you should definitely call since there aren't many specifics on the website).

It’s a brilliant piece of marketing for Sandals – give your target audience a sample your resort. The cost of $99 essentially covers the airfare, so the company isn’t out anything except for lunch and a few fruity drinks. Now, if the Sandals resorts really wanted to sell their packages, they would charge couples $200 and let them stay overnight for free. Now that’s a test drive!

Fair disclosure: Despite all of our travels, we’ve never actually been to a Sandals resort (although we’ve been thinking about one of their places in St. Lucia-see picture)…so, we can’t actually recommend them (we can’t dissuade you either). So Amanda W., you’re on your own with Sandals. If you decide to do it, I hope you’ll e-mail us and tell us about your experience.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Destination Weddings in Barbados

Barbados has got its act together!

One of the most difficult things about planning a destination wedding in another country is getting quality information (including reliable information about license requirements, etc.).

The Barbados tourism office has launched I Do Barbados, a website resource to learn everything about this island nation and having your destination wedding there. And we mean everything. This website is a one-stop-shop for everything you need.

Barbados is one of the few Carribean destinations that we haven't been to yet. So we may need to move this up on our list.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Our Honeymoon – The Atlantis

We were married on Grand Bahama Island, but decided to go to a different island for the honeymoon. Based on a recommendation from a coworker, we chose to go to The Atlantis resort on New Providence and Paradise Island.

I guess we bought into the hype – the website, the marketing materials, etc. It seemed so adult and romantic. After a week with our families, we thought it was exactly what we wanted.

What we found was a HUGE resort that was wall-to-wall children. Atlantis is Disneyland on the beach. We estimated the average age at the place was somewhere south of 14. Not what we were looking for. We ended up spending a fair amount of time down the beach at the One And Only Ocean Club (where Lionel Ritchie was staying and we bumped into him several times).

We tried to get off the Atlantis property as much as possible. We went into Nassau for a day. And another day, we went to the other side of the island for scuba diving with Stuart Cove’s. This is a big dive outfit, but they do a good job with personal service. The Hollywood Bowl dive site is fantastic and we got to have a close encounter with some live lobsters.

We also spent a fair amount of time in the casino, where Laura played the roulette wheel with our wedding date and it hit. So we made a fair amount of money in the casino. But the other facilities, namely the restaurants, were very over priced and were of disappointing quality. Lance had to send his lobster back to the kitchen at the Bahamian Club because it was overcooked and rubbery (and then we got attitude from the staff for complaining about the inferior quality). We loved the food at Fathoms, but were disappointed in the large numbers of screaming children. The restaurants in the Marina Village were better, both in terms of quality and price. Our favorite was Carmine’s – one of our favorite restaurants back in New York, so we enjoyed it here.

In addition to honeymoons, The Atlantis also does destination weddings. We saw several weddings going on while we were there. The weddings were held out in the common areas, so you’re still dealing with lots of gawkers and people walking very close by, so think carefully about this one. At one wedding, a group of young girls in bathing suits decided to join right in on the wedding. There’s nothing inherently wrong with lots of children, it’s just helpful to know that’s what you’re getting before you show up there. If you want a “family friendly” wedding, this might be your place.

We’re glad we did it once (been there, done that). Had we done more research, we probably would have gone someplace else with a more romantic and sophisticated atmosphere.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Preston Bailey on Destination Weddings

Wedding guru Preston Bailey, who partners on destination weddings with the Sandals Resorts, has an interview up on YouTube (more on destination weddings at Sandals next week). See the Preston Bailey interview:

Preston Bailey’s tips for destination weddings include:
  • Use the natural scenery
  • Use local vendors
  • Flexible activity schedule
We would agree with each of these.

One of the advantages of destination weddings are that the scenery (oftentimes a beach or a castle) forms the backdrop for your wedding. This means you can get away with less decorations, but can also use decorations that are native to the location where you are having your wedding.

Bailey recommends using local vendors. We would agree, but with a caveat. Using local vendors takes the hassle out of shipping lots of stuff. However, the caveat is that you might not always be able to find something you want in your location. For our Caribbean wedding, we took some tulle and ribbons from a local Michael’s craft store, but otherwise used the ocean as our backdrop.

Finally, have a flexible activity schedule. This is key. We found that having both flexible options and lots of options was important for guests. We had a couple of defined events (a welcome reception the night before, the wedding, a post-wedding cocktail party and then reception were all carved in stone). Then we had other events (renting wave runners, bar hopping in town, etc.) that were optional/elective events for those who wanted to participate.

These are great tips from Preston Bailey.

Note: We found this on YouTube and it was posted from something called Brideorama (a bridal video community). We’ve never used Brideorama, so can’t recommend it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Environmentally Responsible Weddings

Weddings in general, but especially destination weddings, can have a significant environmental impact. Sad, but true. It is important to try and minimize your environmental impact, both for your own personal satisfaction and for future generations.

One way to do this is through carbon offsets or carbon credits. According to Wikipedia: “Carbon credits are a key component of national and international emissions trading schemes… There are also many companies that sell carbon credits to commercial and individual customers who are interested in lowering their carbon footprint on a voluntary basis.” Carbon credits have received some criticism lately (and there have been some scams), so it’s important to do business with a reputable firm.

Essentially it works like this – you pay a little money to a company or nonprofit group to offset some aspect of your life (your car, your household energy use, etc.). The company or nonprofit uses the money to fund projects that generate environmentally-friendly power (i.e., wind power, methane, etc.) – these are projects that aren’t likely to be built, except with the support of people like you and us. The carbon credits are relatively inexpensive and range from $2-15 per month, or $25+ per year.

We are fans of two groups offering this service. The first is a non-profit organization called They also offer a special ZeroCarbon Wedding – an 8-ton carbon offset, for $44. This is tax deductible. The second company is Native Energy. They are for-profit company, but specialize in building new projects (and actually offer specifics on the projects they fund).

We fully appreciate that weddings are expensive and this is probably one time in your life that you don’t have extra money laying around to buy carbon credits. Doing this is important. Please consider it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bridesmaid Dresses – Spring 2008 Collections

The Spring 2008 collections are out. After the fall collections (god, they were ugly), spring is a refreshing change.

A good friend of ours has been looking a for a nice navy blue bridesmaid dress at a reasonable price. Well, she’s in luck! Ann Taylor Celebrations collection has added some new colors, including navy blue. The “Cornflower Blue” color is still a favorite of ours…and very popular with people having destination weddings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Honeymoon Strategies

Since a destination wedding, by default, includes some sort of travel, couples are inclined to tack the honeymoon onto the wedding. Sandals Resorts calls them a Weddingmoon. And there is some appeal in doing this since it minimizes time away from work and maximizes your travel budget.

However, if you have guests coming, you don’t really want them around on your honeymoon. You can either tolerate some guests hanging on (as they inevitably will be one or two who will) or you can think of some other options.

There are two strategies to cope with this:
  • Continue with the trip, but go to another location. This is what we did with our destination wedding in the Bahamas. We got married on one island, but then went to another island for the honeymoon. A friend of ours got married in France with a large entourage of family, but then went to Spain for their honeymoon.
  • Come home and take a separate honeymoon a few months later. This way, you get two trips for one occasion! This is definitely more expensive, but is nice to space out the festivities.

The right answer is the one that works for you!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dominican Republic Travel Warning

Two friends returned from the Dominican Republic with a sobering tale.

They were drinking in the resort bar two nights before they left. Several drinks in and that is all that they remember. They awoke the next morning, in their room, their cash was gone. And in the 9 hours of their drug-induced slumber (they were slipped something in their drinks), the robbers had maxed out their credit cards in the hotel casino. They never left the resort and the only people with them were hotel staff. This was an inside job.

Unfortunately, the hotel management and the local police were not very receptive and didn’t even want to take a police report. They seemed more interested in getting rid of my friends, didn’t want to take a police report and really didn’t want them to talk to any other guests. They were able to contest the charges via the credit card company (who reports a substantial increase in credit care fraud in the Dominican Republic).

If you are considering a destination wedding at one of the resorts in the Dominican Republic, we would urge you visit the State Department’s website for Dominican Republic Travel Warnings.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Reception Seating Anxiety

There are few things that can cause more drama and angst than seating arrangements for the wedding reception. It’s a balancing act that can require tact, diplomacy and hard choices—especially if you have family drama.

We’ve seen a number of approaches that have worked well. If it is a larger sized wedding, you can assign guests to a table and then let them chose their own seats. If you have a mid-size wedding, you might assign seats at all the tables.

For us, we selected one very large family-size table (for about 20 people), but had reserved seating and name cards for the guests to find their assigned seats. This mixed up our families (and ensured the bride’s parents, no divorced, were not seated together).

Image source:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wedding Flowers for Destination Weddings

Flowers can easily be one of the most expensive and headache-inducing parts of the wedding. It's not just a question of what kind and how many, but what's in season, what will last the length of the ceremony or reception, what's right for the location and more.

More often than not, having a destination wedding makes these questions a little bit simpler because most of the decoration and ambiance comes from the location. The other good (maybe?) news is that certain flowers are extremely difficult to get in the islands, so your choices are narrowed for you. Plus, there are typically a wide variety of beautiful indigenous flowers available, so you can incorporate the flavor of your location relatively inexpensively.

For our wedding, we spent numerous hours combing through photos on The Knot and elsewhere looking for beautiful bouquets that incorporated a little bit of blue to fit with the color of the wedding. In the end, we decided that nothing was completely perfect but it was all likely to turn out well anyway. We gave a few pictures to the wedding planner and crossed her fingers. Once again, the planner came through with two beautiful bouquets for the bride and maid of honor and lovely boutonnieres as well.

For people having a destination wedding in the US, there are nearly unlimited options for variety, price and number of flowers. Two relatively simple and budget-conscious options are Costco and Most people think of bulk mayonnaise and giant vats of tomato sauce when they think of Costco, but the truth is that the warehouse chain has slowly but surely been becoming more upscale, and the flowers are quite beautiful (they even offer bulk and special occasion options). Proflowers offers an even wider assortment of colors and varieties for bouquets and centerpieces. If the quality is at all comparable to their normal flower service, they're likely to be very nice.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Venting on Wedding Etiquette

There’s the tendency for the wedding couple to become so self-absorbed and consumed with the details that skip on etiquette. This is bad form…

We were recently invited to a wedding that starts at 4:00pm on a Saturday. The reception starts at 6:30pm and there is NO dinner! Only appetizers. Now we can graze with the best of them, but it really is bad form not to have a dinner.

To top it off, we only received the wedding invitation three weeks before the actual wedding. (We’d received a save the date about 6 months out)

Folks, have some courtesy. Think about your wedding as if you are attending it as a guest. Think about what you would expect. Your guests are giving up a lot to be there with you and share in your special day. Show them some respect.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

10 Things Your Wedding Planner Won’t Tell You

An article by Renee DeFranco in Smart Money called “10 Things Your Wedding Planner Won’t Tell You” really caught our eye!

You can read the full article, but here are the 10 things with our commentary:

  1. “Something old, something new – and everything over the top.”—This is the bigger-is-better idea. Although, the article seems to paint the need for a wedding planner as a negative. We don’t see it that way. We’re busy professionals and needed the help.
  2. “You say you need a reference? Well, you’re looking at her.”—This one is true. We found a number of self-proclaimed wedding planners. Some seemed great. Others just seemed clueless.
  3. “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you calm, cool and oblivious.”—This is the best. A good wedding planner can insulate you from the drama. Chances are good, there will be enough drama (between families, etc.)…you really don’t need any more.
  4. “I won’t necessarily be there on your big day.”—And this is a big mistake. If your planner intends to phone it in, find another planner. And “venue coordinators” were completely worthless for us. Venue coordinators were the whole reason we hired a planner in the first place. We were going to a luxury destination thousands of miles away, we couldn’t hold their hand.
  5. “Congratulations, Gloria and Bill…um, I mean Marcia and Tom”—There’s no getting around the revolving door, especially at destination resorts. However, you planner should absolutely focus on you and make sure the resort does. Again, another vote against venue coordinators and for wedding planners.
  6. “Mixed marriage? Ka-ching!”—This is interesting, but wasn’t really relevant. We are from very different religious backgrounds, but religion wasn’t very important to us. However, it may be different for you.
  7. “The early bride gets the worm.”—This is where traditional weddings and destination weddings differ. In the destination world, planners and venues don’t really want to work with you over a year in advance. We found one that did. We were worried when she seemed a little unresponsive a few months out, but needed to take a few deep breaths and realize she does this all the time. We’re glad we relaxed!
  8. “Getting married in Hawaii? I’ll bring the suntan lotion!”—Destination weddings are big business. This one discusses hiring planners local to you to plan the destination event—not really a good idea. Find a planner that is local to the destination since they will have the contacts. Also, there is a flawed premise here that destination weddings are somehow more expensive. We could not disagree more!
  9. “Custom silk wedding fans, anyone?”—Sure there are vendors who will try to push stuff on you. There always are. You still need to make the event your own.
  10. “You don’t really need me.”—True, you don’t NEED a wedding planner. But it sure made our lives easier.

This short little article is well worth the read!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Wedding Toast, Part II

The wedding toast is an integral part of the wedding reception. The toast is the opportunity for all guests to raise their glasses, join with you and extend their wishes to you for a long, happy and prosperous life.

In The Wedding Toast, Part I, we discussed the various beverages that could be used for a destination wedding toast.

However, the couple will also have to make the decision who they want to do the wedding toast. Traditionally, the toast is usually done by the Maid of Honor and the Best Man. For us, our wedding was a bit less traditional. We had toasts from the grandmother of the bride, the father of the bride, the sister of the bride, the brother of the groom and the best man. Five toasts are a bit much. You really should try to only have two or three.

However, it is best if you let those who will be making the wedding toast know well in advance. We did not do this and had some interesting toasts! (more like a roast!)

Do not underestimate the importance of the wedding toast, since it will be one of the most memorable parts of your wedding day!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Wedding Toast, Part I

The wedding toast, traditionally with champagne, leaves other options for couples having destination weddings. Sure, you can stay traditional and have a champagne toast. Or you can spice things up a bit.

At our destination wedding, guests could choose between Bahama Mamas, Pina Coladas or Goombay Smashes. These proved to be wildly successful. Most of the guests made a full tour, sampling each of the three specialty cocktails.

If you want a more traditional toast with bubbly, but without the bite or dry taste of champagne, another suggestion could be Italian Prosecco or Franciacorta (which are both white sparkling wines, but are milder than French champagne). We became big fans of Franciacorta when we toured the Berlucchi winery in northern Italy in May.

You can also do both—have specialty cocktails throughout the reception and dinner, while saving a nice Prosecco for a formal toast.

A final word on wedding toasts – Regardless of which beverage you chose for your wedding, please use crystal or real glass. Nothing says tacky like those plastic champagne flutes. Yes, even if you are having a beach wedding, use real glass. Most caterers can accommodate glass for the wedding toast and use plastic for everything else.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Back Online

We’ve been terribly negligent in keeping up with the blog with our trips to Europe and the beach. But we will be getting back on track now. Thanks for sticking with us.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Destination Wedding Make-up

One of the biggest fears have is not looking absolutely perfect on their wedding day. Given the nature of destination weddings, most brides don't have a professional there to do their makeup for them.

In this case, you have a few options—

  1. You can find a spa or salon in your destination location. Since you are not from the area, you will have to judge the quality sight unseen. And if it is in a resort location, this can be a very expensive option.

  2. You could fly in your favorite makeup artist to do you up! This will guarantee the quality...and a rather large expense.

  3. Or you can do the do-it-yourself approach. For this, you should seek out a professional consultation several months before going and then practice at home. Most quality department stores and MAC stores will do these consultations for you.

No matter your option, you should remember that water-based makeup looks the best and most natural in your photographs...however it can smear if you cry.

You should probably pick up a range of products before you go—

  • Liquid foundation & concealer

  • Loose or pressed powder

  • Eye shadow

  • Waterproof Mascara (especially important if you are a crier)

  • Supplies like Lash Curler, brushes, sponges, etc.

  • Lipstick

  • Gloss

  • Lip Pencil

When applying the make up, put on a button up shirt first! And when you put on the dress, be sure to put a towel over your face. Be very careful if you add any touch up makeup in your dress. We almost had a disaster spilling lip gloss on the dress...but our photographer came to the rescue and got it out just in time!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Italian Weddings – Overview

Few things in this world could be more romantic than a destination wedding in Italy. The country's natural beauty, rich cultural history, and fantastic food lend itself perfectly to a destination wedding.The country is quite easy to navigate, but having a specialist assist you could be a tremendous assistance, especially working with vendors.

Planning your season is crucial. We were there in early June and it was already starting to get warm, especially in the South. By July or August, we imagine it could be unbearable. But late Spring and early Fall would be particularly nice.

Italy has a rich and varied geography. Do you want a mountain wedding in the lake region or Dolomites? Or is a quiet Tuscan villa more your style? Do your research carefully and pick the style that suits your personality best.

We will review specific regions in future postings.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

European Destination Weddings

We have been quiet over the last few weeks because we have been in Europe investigating destination weddings there.

We will be posting more information about European destination weddings in the coming days.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

European Weddings - An Overview

When some people think romantic destination weddings, they look to European locations like Tuscany, France and other areas. Getting married in a beautiful hillside village can provide a memorable start to your life together.

We are currently in Italy learning about European destination weddings. This type of wedding lends itself to eloping or very small groups (just parents and siblings, etc.). European weddings are very different than a resort in the tropics where your guests are catered to. Logistics and language considerations can present major challenges.

For these reasons, it is also very important to engage a local wedding planner (again, this is a local planner, not a tour operator). The planner can help arrange the details with caterers, cakes, decorations, etc.

We will review specific aspects of European weddings in the future.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wedding Websites, Part 2

Several readers posted comments to my previous entry Customized Wedding Websites that I thought deserved a reply.

Bridezilla noted that if you do make a wedding website, you should include a enclosure card with the invitation so your guests know about it. I wholeheartedly endorse this and we did this for our wedding. We’ve heard of couples actually printing the website on the invitation. In discussions on some wedding boards, this is generally viewed as bad form and a bit tacky (even for a destination wedding), but I’m not convinced. The decision really needs to flow from your personalities.

HamiHarri replied that she made a website for her traditional wedding. These websites lend themselves to destination weddings because of all of the logistics involved (not to mention the beautiful destination photos).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Customized Wedding Websites

One of the most challenging aspects of a destination wedding is keeping your guests informed of the planning of your wedding. To keep everyone up to date, we recommend developing a small wedding website.

Thankfully, there are number of vendors that provide easy-to-use website systems for reasonable prices (less than $75 for a year). If you can write an e-mail, you can do a website with these companies. Some good vendors are:
On your wedding website, you can tell your guests important details of your wedding including:
  • Travel information
  • Hotel booking
  • Photos of venue
  • Ideas of other activities in the area (golf, scuba diving, sightseeing, etc.)
  • Engagement photos
  • Links to registries

Now, many people use blogs for this purpose. However, your guests don’t care about all the details and don’t want to sort through the blog chronologically. These websites make it much easier to present the information topically.

Do your guests a favor and make a website!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Covering the basics – Hiring a local wedding planner

Planning a wedding, especially a destination wedding, can be very difficult. Usually, you are not familiar with the location and local vendors, so having someone to assist can make a world of difference!

By wedding planner, we don’t mean a wedding vendor or tour operators—these folks usually just package hotels, airfare, and ground transit. We mean a true wedding planner who will help with flowers, cakes, logistics, negotiating and securing contracts with hotels, arranging music and handling all your needs.

Some hotels and resorts have their own on-site planners, some don’t. In general, we found these on-site planners to be only moderately helpful. They were responsive to get you to sign a contract, but not helpful to answer your detailed questions. We started to feel like just a number—something we definitely didn’t want for our special day.

We quickly learned that there are a number of independent destination wedding planners in several locations. These folks are local and know the good, the bad and the ugly about local vendors. Since they are not affiliated with the hotel/resort directly, they have more freedom in recommending good vendors, not just the ones that have contracts with the resort.

We also learned that finding these independent wedding planners is a bit of a needle in a haystack. We found our planner, And the Two Become One in the Bahamas, through a review that someone had posted in the Knot Bios. Seeking out reviews or friends who have utilized their services can be very helpful.

To get an idea of all of the things that an independent wedding planner can do for you, check out the website for Ceremonies of St. John. They help with everything from coordinating the marriage license to making sure the color on the cake is right.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Dress

Ah, the dress. For most brides, the dress is the most important part of the wedding. It sets the tone for the festivities, and, let's be honest, the dress gives every woman the opportunity to be a princess for a day. However, dresses for destination weddings can be more complicated than dresses for traditional weddings because of two particular factors—traveling with the dress and dealing with the weather and location at the destination.

The actual act of getting the dress from point to point is not as difficult as one might imagine. Most airlines are very willing to help brides transport their gowns safely, and flight attendants will often do their best to make room in the first class closet. It can help to approach the gate attendant before the flight boards and/or to speak to the flight attendant as soon as you step on the plane. (And it should go without saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.) Our experience - and we ultimately flew with the dress four times - was seamless, even on Bahamas Air, which didn't even have overhead compartments large enough for standard sized carry-ons. Some people find it useful to take a steamer with them or utilize hotel services once they arrive at the destination to take care of any wrinkles. Laura had a somewhat "poufy dress," so we didn't encounter any wrinkle issues.

The weather and physical location of the wedding can also be significant factors in deciding on the dress. If your destination is often very warm or humid, you're probably better off with a gown made of lightweight fabric that doesn't have a lot of underskirts or netting. Brides getting married directly on the beach may want to avoid long trains simply because of the messiness of sand getting caught in the dress. All these considerations are important, but the decision is completely individual. If a bride has had her heart set on a "big dress" with a train for years and that's what makes her feel like a beautiful bride, a little sand getting in the way won't particularly matter.

Popular dress brands include: Amsale, Alfred Angelo, Vera Wang, Jim Hjelm, Maggie Sottero, Watters & Watters, Melissa Sweet, Priscilla of Boston, Reem Acra and Monique Lhullier. Two very popular discount bridal stores with very positive reviews: Pearl's Place and House of Brides.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Advanced Topics—Airfare Considerations

One of the most important considerations in selecting your destination wedding location is the travel logistics you will encounter. If you are eloping (i.e., a guestless wedding), it really doesn’t matter. But if you are having guests, you will probably have to take this into consideration. We briefly touched on this in Choosing your Dream Location.

In our planning process, we needed some place that was easily accessible from Pennsylvania (where we live), Dallas and Denver. This became a tall order as we selected locations. You will need to decide on the critical guests on your guest list (the people you can’t live without) and what their budget constraints are.

Given the expense of airfare, most of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean became out of range. This included—Aruba, Bonaire, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Cayman Islands. We were able to find reasonable airfare to Cancun and Cozumel in Mexico, the Bahamas and Jamaica.

There are a number of websites that we checked (frequently) to try and find reasonable flights:
  • Expedia
  • Priceline
  • (offers some unusual flight combinations)
  • Also the airline websites themselves can offer some good flight deals
You will also need to decide how far in advance you start communicating details with your guests. We established a website for them and every month or so posted prices that we had researched from airports where they would be flying. As we noticed that airfares had started to bottom out, we sent out special e-mails to everyone on our guest list letting them know. It’s more work for you, but the extra effort was very much appreciated.

Finally, we did talk to a travel agent about package deals, but our guests were coming from so many different locations that this was not practical. However, this could be an option for you if your guests are coming from a similar geographic area.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Destination Wedding Magazine Showdown

Recently, someone emailed us a question on what the best magazines are for destination wedding planning. We thought we would review them for you.

Destination I Do
Rating: 8
Cover price: $4.95 U.S.
Pages: 122
Comments: The newer of the two magazines, this one is definitely different. First, it’s not as polished (and that’s a good thing!). Second, they use heavier paper, so it feels more like a book/album than a magazine.

It also features a “4-1-1” call out box with details on actual weddings profiled (photographer, officiant, wedding planner, florist, cake designer). This is a fantastic idea! It eliminates the, “yeah, but does anyone actually do that” thought.

I liked that it had ads for smaller, independent and more unique vendors. I wished the articles were just a little “meatier” (but not much more).

The magazine was difficult to obtain (I guess it says something for the quality). All the stores near us were completely sold out. However, it was easy to order through their website,

Destination Weddings & Honeymoons
Rating: 7
Cover price: $4.99 U.S.
Pages: 130
Comments: This “feels” like a traditional magazine. This is more of a traditional wedding magazine that features some (but not all) destination wedding content. You still find spa tips, cake ideas, etc. (and not all of them are destination wedding appropriate).

I really liked the use of charts to compare venues in articles (e.g., article comparing the destinations of Treasure Beach, Negril, Monetgo Bay and Ocho Rios in Jamaica). These charts are great idea!

This has a lot more advertising…mostly big splashy ads from destination resorts. This is not necessarily a problem as these ads can give you different ideas.

Overall—We can’t recommend just one. In planning your destination wedding, at least buy both once. They each offer something different.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Out-of-Town Bags

Out-of-town (OOT bags) are a great way to welcome guests to your wedding because they are often left in guests' rooms when they check in or are otherwise distributed early in the wedding weekend. The items inside typically reflect the location or a thematic element of the wedding—we once arrived at a cousin's Kansas City wedding to find a bottle of BBQ sauce waiting in the hotel room—or they may be useful at the wedding itself.

We began to think about OOT bags nearly a year in advance to take advantage of end-of-season sales. We were lucky to find some great waterproof beach bags that solved the dilemma of what container to use for the favors. The question of what to put in the bags, though, was a bigger, much-debated issue. We considered a wide variety of items: personalized beach towels, mini martini shakers, cocktail mixes, various kinds of food, and more. In the end, we were constrained primarily by space because whatever we bought, we would need to bring with us to the Bahamas...along with our luggage, scuba gear, Wedding Dress, etc. We opted for several small items that we could carry easily, including aloe, inflatable pillows, Chap Stick and miniature fans, and we bought granola bars and water bottles at a small market when we arrived.

Popular sits for OOT bag items include:

The Dollar Spot at Target is also an excellent place to grab good stuff (for real cheap) for OOT bags.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Destination Wedding Invitations

Many people feel that invitations set the tone for the wedding because they're among the first pieces (or the first if you don't do a save-the-date) of information that guests receive about the wedding. While they mattered to us, we viewed them simply as a vehicle to get the word out about our wedding rather than as something very symbolic. As Lance said quite regularly throughout the process, "it'sonly paper!!"

When we first started looking at invitations, we naively assumed that they would be one of our easier decisions. So, we started the invitation process by going to our local Crane's store and hoping to hash things out in an afternoon. Who knew paper could be so expensive? For about 75 invites that weren't even in a style we loved, it was going to be several $1000s. There were also almost no options appropriate for a laid-back destination wedding, so we went back to the drawing board.

We wanted something a little beachy (but not over the top), possibly including blue that could be ordered in a relatively small quantity and wasn't too we probably weren't that easy to please. After much research, we couldn't find any designs that we really liked and that were in our budget. Unwilling to dedicate a larger chunk of money to paper, we decided to make the invites ourselves.

We found paper printed with blue seashells mounted on blue cardstock by William Arthur Invitations, which served as the main body for the invite. We found matching cardstock at our local Michael's store and ordered envelopes and ribbon from every DIY-bride's dream, Paper Source ( With materials in hand, Laura began the extremely labor-intensive process of making the invites - printing the main invitation, the reply card, the reply envelope, the outer envelope (front and back).

In the end, they turned out great, and we got numerous compliments. In retrospect, however, not being particularly crafty people or having a lot of extra time, we probably should have sucked it up and paid a little more money to have someone else make them.

There are plenty of stores and websites that will handle the invitations for you soup-to-nuts or just provide you with the materials to embarke upon your own DIY project. Some favorites among a lot of destination weddings brides include:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Disney Launches Wedding Gowns

Disney has launched a line of wedding gowns, which I have discussed in Fairy-Tale Wedding Dress? Disney Does Weddings back on February 22. Since I wrote on the topic, Reuters covered the story and has provided a photo (see picture below).

The "news" is that the gowns were debuted on Sunday in New York. The gowns will range in price from $1,500-$3,000.

According to the Reuters story:

The company was encouraged to delve into the high-end wedding business by the 2,000 weddings it hosts each year at its U.S. resorts — Walt Disney World and Disneyland — and its cruise line, according to McFann [Korri McFann, marketing manager for Disney Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons].

Disney hopes to capitalize on soaring demand for destination weddings, in which couples and their guests turn their nuptials into wedding-vacations that often take place at resorts in tropical locations.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Covering the basics – Photographer

When doing a destination wedding, the photographer can be a difficult decision. Should you bring your own or “go native?”

In researching photographers for our destination wedding, we really wanted something in a photojournalistic style. We quickly realized that there were only 1 or 2 local photographers, and wedding photography was something they just happened into. Most of them only offered staged shots and few candids. We felt like the quality was something that our parents could do, and we were looking for more.

The realization that we could not find what we wanted locally began a several month long process to find the photographer of our dreams! As a starting point, we began with the website of the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA). This is a really great website of dozens of wedding photographers that specialize in destination weddings. Some of these photographers can be quite pricey and offer very different styles.

From the WPJA website, we identified several excellent photographers (Leigh Miller and others), only to find out they were not available for an entire weekend in June. Finally, we did find one (Brian Tsai, Life Mosiacs in Austin, Texas), he committed to do it and promised to send a contract, only to back out. We’ve heard of others who have had excellent experiences with him (both before and after), but it didn’t work out for us.

In the end, we did not find anyone from the WPJA site that had availability for us. Ultimately, we found Julia Newman from New York who was available and willing to travel to the Bahamas.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Advanced Topics – The Welcome Back Reception

One of the drawbacks to a destination wedding is the necessity of limiting the guest list. There will be friends and family members who are not able to attend your wedding for personal or financial reasons.

For this reason, many couples limit the number of attendees at their destination wedding to a very small number. And then when they come home, their friends or families throw a small welcome back reception.

For us, it was difficult to have all of our family involved. The groom has a very large family in the Midwest and it was not practical to invite them to the wedding. Instead, his family welcomed us back with a reception over the 4th of July weekend with about 50 people in attendance. It was really more like a family picnic with good conversation (4-8pm, with BBQ sandwiches, coleslaw, etc.) than a formal wedding reception.

For those who could not attend our wedding, it was a nice way for us to share our joy with our family in a casual setting at home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Save the Dates

“Save the dates,” or STDs, are becoming increasingly popular for all weddings, but they can be particularly useful for destination weddings since guests may need extra time to make travel plans and take time off work. They are typically very brief, listing the couple’s names, wedding date and sometimes the location, simply informing guests to “save the date.” For traditional weddings, STDs are often sent out about four months ahead of the wedding. For destination weddings, timing can be as early as six to eight months in advance. We sent ours out about nine months in advance—September for our June wedding.

STDs can take a variety of forms and are often much less formal than a traditional invite. They are usually creative and designed to catch a guest’s attention. Options used frequently include: a photo booth-esque strip featuring multiple photos of the couple, a postcard or tourist guide from the destination, a card showing a week’s forecast of sunny skies, a passport holder, a luggage tag, or just about anything tropical one could imagine. Because we wanted something fun that would set the tone for our largely informal wedding, we decided to go with a magnet that showed a beach scene and all the applicable details for our wedding (same as the picture; although this is not ours). With the magnet, we included a card that listed the URL of our wedding website where guests could read more about the Bahamas and our hotel and get all the information they would need to travel to the wedding. The STDs helped build a lot of excitement in advance of the wedding, and it was a great way to let people know about the website too. Nearly a year after our wedding, people mention that they still have the magnet on their fridge.

Our vendor, Magnet Queen, came highly recommended from a number of other brides on The Knot. The magnets were high quality, and the company representatives were very kind and responsive, even going out of their way to let us know that they had miscalculated a discount, so we would be charged less than we thought. We had the opportunity to view a proof before the magnets were printed, and we were very satisfied with the service we received. Another very popular vendor among Knot brides is VistaPrint. Though we didn’t use them, we heard positive feedback about the quality of their products as well.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Passports Delayed

News reports are reporting that the State Department is running behind in processing passport requests. Passports are now running about three months to process. This is largely the result of the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which I have discussed previously.

So, if you are having a foreign destination wedding, you may want to reinforce the new passport rules for your guests. As a reminder, you now need a passport to go anywhere, including Canada, Mexico and Caribbean countries like the Bahamas and Bermuda.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Wedding Activities: Scuba Diving

Water sports are the most popular activities for destination wedding/honeymooners. For us, that meant scuba diving. If you’ve ever tried snorkeling, you might consider trying diving. If you think this is something you want to try, consider going to a local scuba dive center before you leave since most of them offer a Discover Scuba Experience. It’s a chance to try it (usually for free) before going.

If you like diving, you have several different options. Most of the resorts in the Caribbean offer “resort courses.” They will teach you to dive in a pool and then will take you out into the ocean. However, you are not a certified diver and if you ever want to dive again, you need to go through the process all over again.

Your other option is to become a certified diver. There are several different certification agencies that are recognized around the world, including: PADI, NAUI and SSI. Once certified, you can go diving anywhere you want. Certification involves class work, pool work and “open water” diving. If you chose to get certified, you have several options:

  • Do the class work and pool work at home before you leave and then do the “open water” diving work at the resort.

  • Do all of it at home before you leave. We choose this option because we didn’t want to spend any of our precious wedding and honeymoon time going through classes or getting certified.

Scuba diving was one of the highlights of our Bahamas wedding and honeymoon. We did one day of diving with UNEXSO on Grand Bahama Island before the wedding. Lance did a morning of diving before the wedding. Then, we did a full day of diving with Stuart Cove’s Dive Resort in Nassau.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Personalized M&Ms

Want to infuse some personal style into the wedding reception? You can order personalized M&M’s for favors or use them to decorate the table instead of confetti. We realize this isn’t new. And we realize that with celebrities buying them, it’s becoming follow the leader.

However, having been to many a reception where people play with the confetti, why not give your guests something different to play with on the tables? Best reserved for receptions in cooler climates.

You can order yours from The cost is $47.96 for four 7 oz bags, which is pretty expensive.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Menu Selection – Infusing Local Flavor

One of the most memorable (and important) decisions you can make is your menu selection. It’s your wedding and you should choose the food that you want to enjoy. Be mindful of your guests, but think of yourself first. Having local flavor was very important to us!

After the ceremony, we had a one hour cocktail reception on the terrace overlooking the beach. Our menu was:

  • Cheese plate

  • Seasonal fruit plate

  • Shrimp cocktail

  • And several specialty cocktails including BahamaMamas and Pina Coladas.

From the cocktail reception, we moved to dinner:

  • Wild Mushroom and Cheese Ravioli with lobster nage sauce and fresh herbs

  • Choice of Halibut or Herb Crusted Filet Mignon

  • Warm Pineapple Tart served with pina colada dressing

  • Wedding cake (chocolate)

Depending on the destination wedding you are planning (Caribbean vs. Europe) and the number of guests you bring, you may want to infuse local flavors and ingredients into your wedding. It will make your wedding more memorable.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dippin’ Dots

We found this recently and thought this is about the most amazing thing ever!

You can order your very own childhood favorite—Dippin’ Dots—for your destination wedding in your very own bridal colors. This could be extremely fun if you are having a warm summer destination wedding. These can be served with the cake or as a standalone dessert for the kids.

They come in 30-serving sizes and come packed in dry ice. (More on dry ice fun in another entry). Costs are $125 for 30 servings (a serving is 3.5 oz). http://www.dippindots.comIt is shipped UPS overnight, must remain packed in dry ice, must be eaten with a plastic spoon and a whole slew of fine print that you must agree to in order to purchase. Order yours at

We wish we had discovered this before our wedding! Although I don’t know if they could have shipped to the Bahamas, so it might only work for U.S. destination wedding. [Photo credit to]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Covering the basics – To DJ or not to DJ

If you’re having a destination wedding with guests, you might have a post-wedding reception. Some resorts cater to this better than others (more on receptions in another topic).

At our destination, we chose to have a seated dinner in a private room. One of the options was a DJ and this led to a spirited discussion “To DJ or not to DJ.” In the end, we decided against the DJ and did it ourselves. Laura brought her iPod and we purchased a Logitech mm50
speaker at Costco. The April 2007 issue of Smart Money magazine reviews five different speakers, with the Apple iPod Hi-Fi receiving top rankings (price is $350).

Depending on where you are going, there might be a reasonable nightlife where your group can go and save on the DJ. At the Westin Our Lucaya, the resort did not have a nightclub, instead they turned one of the restaurants into a rather sedate disco (fine by us since we wanted a laid back wedding). At the Iberostar Paraiso complex on the Mayan Rivera in Mexico, they had a nice little nightclub with a large dance floor where groups were welcome. It's best to check in advance on what the facilities are like at your location.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Bridesmaid Dresses

We had a very difficult time finding bridesmaid dresses we liked that were also affordable. Many dresses looked like cheap prom/homecoming dresses rather than a cute yet classy, beach-appropriate bridesmaid dress.

Hands down, the best dresses we found were the from the Ann Taylor Celebrations line. They make it easy by selling coordinated dresses, sashes, bags and accessories in vibrant colors. It’s also important that you don’t have to order them and wait a long time to get it. They also offer bridal gowns and even matching flower girl dresses. Last summer they had a beautiful light blue that was perfect for a beach wedding!

The disadvantage is that they only carry it at 40 select stores nationwide (thankfully the one near us carried it). You can order online, but this is the kind of thing you really want your girls to try on.

The runner-up was Jessica McClintock. While many of her dresses fell into the “prom” category, she did have several that made our bridesmaid Amanda happy and didn’t make her look like she was in high school.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Making our Ultimate Destination Wedding Decision

When we started to think about all the places where we could get married, the list seemed almost endless. There were so many things to consider, that we almost didn’t know where to start. So, while Lance enjoyed a Christmas cruise with his parents, Laura sat down in her mom’s living room and started making a spreadsheet. The categories included: hotel name/brand, location, wedding features (see previous post), hotel features, cost of rooms, activities, ease of reaching the country and various other notes.

We already knew that we wanted our wedding to be on or near the beach, so that pretty much narrowed our focus to areas south of Florida. We also knew we wanted a wedding that we could customize and love but that would be somewhat affordable. So Laura began the tedious process of combing through websites, perusing TripAdvisor, emailing the on-site wedding coordinators and sending away for every brochure she could get her hands on in order to find the perfect balance. A brief list of locations we considered: Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, the Atlantis, British Colonial Inn, Wyndham Sunshine Suites-Grand Cayman, Wyndham Condado Plaza, Westin St. John, Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, and the list went on…

Slowly, some hotels seemed to eliminate themselves. Ones that were located in town and away from the beach were the first to go, followed by ones with horrendous reviews and those over $300/night (not all-inclusive). Laura’s mom vetoed the Dominican Republic, and she focused on finding a place that we and most of our guests had not been before. When we realized that it was $800 to get to Grand Cayman from Denver (where many of our guests were coming from), that fell off the list too. The presence of good diving became a big factor, as did the wedding coordinators who would not respond or confused us with other people— NOT the kind of coordinators to whom we wanted to entrust my wedding.

As some hotels were eliminated, one began to rise to the top. Since we knew we wouldn’t be able to visit the hotel before we signed a contract, we wanted to select one that had a very good chance of being appropriately nice, and the Westin/Sheraton Our Lucaya fit the bill. It was also across the street from a great dive shop and other activities, and it was right on the beach. Though the hotel wedding coordinators were unresponsive, we found an independent planner who was great and offered everything we wanted. Even with a smallish wedding, we would still be able to have a private reception, and there was a salon and spa at the resort. Plus, no one in our group had spent much time in the Bahamas. It also didn’t hurt that it was close (only 50 miles off the Florida coast), reasonable to get there and stay there, and it was BEAUTIFUL.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Review: Macy’s Bridal Registry

As a follow up to the bridal registry overview, we wanted to provide a specific review on the Macy’s Bridal Registry experience.

Macy’s really markets their bridal registry to couples. Macy’s offers the Macy’s Wedding Rewards program where you receive 5% back on every gift purchased off your registry. You also receive 10% back on all your personal purchases (both off the registry and elsewhere), if you open a Macy’s card. And you receive a 10% wedding completion discount. A month or two after the wedding you are supposed to receive a gift card in the mail with your Macy’s Reward.

It sounds like a fantastic deal and we bought it. Unfortunately, there were problems. The biggest was that we didn’t receive the reward gift card after the wedding and we had to call several times to complain. During the course of the wedding, we moved houses and it was very difficult for Macy’s to update the address. Updating the registry from home through the WeddingChannel became a bit of a nightmare. And finally, it seemed like the in-store help had no idea what they were doing (at their NY store as well as several different Macy’s in Pennsylvania near us).

If we had it to do over again, we still probably would have registered with Macy’s for the rewards program, but we wished we would have known what a headache it would be.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bridal Registries

One of the best things about getting married is the bridal registry process. You can go shopping and you don’t have to pay for anything. It can be so much fun to dream!

But choosing the place to register is often one of the first decisions you’ll face. Most people pick one nice department store, one home store and possibly one specialty store. You should pick stores that have both an in-store and online purchasing capabilities.

Select stores that have a presence in areas where most of your family, friends and guests live. For example, there are not many Macy’s stores in places where some of family live. We registered at Macy’s and did not receive many gifts through them. (More on the Macy’s bridal registry in an upcoming blog.)

We registered with Crate and Barrel, Macy’s and Nearly every gift we received came from Crate and Barrel. We registered for flatware, glasses, small appliances, cookware, etc. People loved this store. At Macy’s we registered for our silver, our crystal and china. Finally, was nice for larger and more unusual items (scuba diving gear, furniture, etc.).

Our experience was that the majority of our purchases were made over the Internet, so make sure whatever vendors you use make easy Internet ordering (and returns) possible. Crate and Barrel was fantastic on all counts—even accepting a stoneware bake dish that was completely pulverized during shipping. was great for ordering, but returns proved impossible (time limits, items, etc.). Macy’s was great for in-store ordering, Internet was OK and returns were problematic (particularly if the item isn’t stocked and needs to be shipped).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

America’s Trashiest Weddings

Again, not destination wedding related, but you’ll love it! This show on Fox might better be called Poor White Trash Nation. But just like a car accident, you can’t avert your eyes.

Jesse and Greg in Lawton, Oklahoma featured a man-vs-camel drinking contest. Rich and Lawnie in Idaho got married on New Year’s Eve with a port-o-potty themed wedding. The cake was an outhouse and rested on toilet seats. They featured his and her strip shows and full on food fight at the reception. And then there was Matt and Heather in Illinois with their hunting-themed wedding. The highlight here was the bride and her sister bridesmaid slugging it out.

So, not matter how bad your planning is going, take comfort in knowing your wedding will turn out better than these weddings.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

MTV’s Engaged & Underage

This isn’t destination wedding related, but it is interesting. MTV is about six episodes into their new reality series “Engaged & Underage.”

From MTV’s website: “Who says you’re too young to get married? You think you’re ready. This is going to be the biggest day in your life—right? ‘Engaged and Underage’ is a new weekly series that follows young couples, between the ages of 18 and 22, during the last weeks of their engagement, as they crank it up for the big day. You’ll see all the drama…”

We thought it would be like most reality shows—you watch it to make yourself feel better since there other people with a life worse than yours. You think that you’re going to pity the sad people they profile. Naturally, you question if a marriage at 18 can really last. And being MTV, it is loaded with all the intense drama that you can pack in.

However, it also shows the real life struggles we all go through in planning a wedding – destination or not. The arguments over the wedding details are real (and we’ve all had them) and it is a humanizing process. It’s a nice diversion from the wedding planning process.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Travel Vaccinations

A small dose of destination wedding reality. Some of the places where people have destination weddings are in remote places in the developing world. It is often necessary (and a good idea) to make sure your vaccinations are up to date. The more remote your wedding and honeymoon locations, the more critical this becomes.

There’s good reason to do so, more than half of Americans traveling abroad will become sick. Of these, about 8% will need to see a doctor. The good news is that the most common illnesses are for diarrhea or skin conditions (rash, sunburn, etc.). Most major diseases can be prevented through vaccination.

All travelers (in fact all people), should be up to date on their normal immunizations, which include: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), pneumococcus, H.influenza type B, and the annual flu vaccine. Different countries might require additional vaccines: Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, typhoid fever and possibly rabies. Of this latter group, hepatitis A is the most important since it can be transmitted by impure food or water.

This shouldn’t scare or alarm you. Most resorts, even in the developing world, are very safe and should not concern you. However, it’s your wedding and honeymoon – do you want to take the risk? The vaccinations are good for many years (some for life), so the temporary discomfort and inconvenience is worth the risk to make sure you are protected.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Basics – You Need a Passport

If you are planning your nuptials abroad, let’s face it—you need a passport. The implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative has closed the loopholes for traveling abroad without a passport (including Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean). Whereas you used to be able to get by with just a driver’s license and birth certificate in the Caribbean (including Bermuda and the Bahamas), no more. More details on the WHTI and passport requirements can be found on the State Department website.

You need to get passport photos, which you can get about anywhere (we got ours at Walgreens for $7.99, but you can also get them at Costco, photo stores, etc.). New passports are $97 and renewals are $67. State department says to allow 8 weeks. Everything you need to know about a getting a passport can be found here.

Most importantly, if you have guests traveling to your destination wedding, you will need to let them know far enough in advance so they can obtain one.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Choosing your Dream Location

Choosing the dream location for your destination wedding is the single most important decision you will make. This decision will be driven by your personality, where you live and how many guests you will take.

Do you want a relaxing island wedding? Or is a Tuscan villa more your style?

Destination weddings usually imply going somewhere abroad. But you can also have a destination wedding here in the U.S. Popular domestic destinations include Las Vegas, New York City, Hawaii, the Florida Keys and the Rocky Mountains (Colorado and Utah).

Perhaps your selection of a destination will be determined by the number of guests. If you choose to elope, Hawaii might be in order. But if you have a large number of guests, the Florida Keys might be more realistic.

If you live on the east coast, Hawaii could be a very long flight. In that case, you might consider the Florida Keys or the Caribbean (Jamaica, Bahamas, Bermuda, etc.). But if you live in the western U.S., Hawaii could be a very good option.

Most importantly, it should be your dream location! So make yourself happy. More on our Bahamian destination wedding here.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Island Wedding Overviews

A destination wedding can be just about anything you want it to be from the two of you and an officiant on the beach to a full-scale church wedding complete with 10 attendants, a gospel choir and an opulent reception, or anything in the middle.

Many hotels and resorts in the Caribbean have wedding packages now, some of which even come free with a seven-night stay, such as Sandals popular Weddingmoon™. If that option isn’t enough, you can choose one of Preston Bailey’s four customized weddings that offer various provisions including specific flowers, table settings and aisle treatments. One hotel we considered, the Wyndham Bermuda Resort & Spa (now under renovation), offered decoration options up to $130 per table for linen overlays and a replica lighthouse. Wyndham has a great website to find out more information about its wedding offerings.

Many hotels offer a modest basic package which can be supplemented based on the couple’s preferences. When you are considering where to have your wedding, it is important to keep your options and preferences in mind. Some hotels require a minimum wedding size to allow you to have a private reception—if you have fewer than 20 guests, your reception may have to be in a restaurant on the property. Certain hotels may require that you use a staff photographer or contracted musicians whose work may not be what you would hope for. In some instances, an all-inclusive may also limit your options for food and location choices. Make sure to know your options and limitations as you explore where you want to get married.

When we were deciding where to go for our wedding, we knew we wanted a decent range of choices that we could customize to be appropriate for our tastes, our guests, the vibe we wanted and our budget. We wanted something that would feel like our wedding. After briefly trying to work with the unresponsive wedding coordinators used by our hotel at the time, we discovered an independent wedding planner who offered everything we needed and had the local resources to help us plan every aspect of our wedding the way we wanted. While some destination wedding couples have had great experiences with wedding coordinators at their hotels, working with an independent contractor (assuming that you have sufficient recommendations) may be easier because their reputation is at stake in the planning of your wedding, so they may be both more responsive and more flexible. Our great wedding planner on Grand Bahama Island is Janet Albury at And The Two Become One.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Destination Wedding

Choosing a destination wedding is a major step. We like to think you don’t choose a destination wedding as much as it chooses you. Chances are, you know already if it is right for you.

There are several pros and cons you should consider in the process—


  • Cost – Destination weddings usually cost significantly less than traditional weddings. Given the nature of the event, you will have fewer guests and resort locations can cater to this, bringing down your overall cost.
  • Guests – Since you will have fewer guests, you will be able to spend more time with them. This could be a pro or con depending on how you feel about your family, but this was a definite plus for us.
  • Romance – Nothing screams romance like getting married on a beach with the sun beginning to set.
  • Weddingmoon – Since you will be traveling, the wedding itself can become a honeymoon. You can also stretch the wedding festivities out over multiple days. And you can go off on your own afterwards for a traditional honeymoon.


  • Imposition – For the guests who decide to travel with you, it is a major imposition for them. Be sure to remember the sacrifices they are making to be with you on your special day.
  • Sacrifice – There will be some who are unable, either financially or physically, to make the trip with you. It could be an aging grandparent, that friend in grad school or the couple with the new baby. It can be very difficult to not have them with you. We missed several of our closest friends who couldn’t make the trip due to finances.
  • Gifts – This was not a factor for us, but some newlyweds love their gifts. By having a smaller guest list and a distant wedding, our experience (and that of our friends) is that you receive less gifts and they are more modest in nature.

Keeping these in mind will also help you determine how you want to plan the event, including location, distance from your home and number of guests.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Our Destination Wedding

Well before we got engaged, we knew we wanted to have a destination wedding. But after the proposal and the ring, there were many questions to be answered—Where did we want to go? What did we want to do? What could we afford?

After months of research and decision-making (to be chronicled in this blog), we arrived on Grand Bahama the Wednesday before our wedding to do all the weddingy things—meet with our wedding planner, get the marriage license, have photos taken, etc. We handled the logistics, greeted our guests and snuck in time on the beach and scuba diving. After 1.5 years of planning (to the day!), the actual day came on June 10, 2006, on Grand Bahama Island.

With about 20 guests in attendance, we got married on a humid Saturday evening at the gazebo of the Our Lucaya Resort. The ceremony was followed by a cocktail hour and a three-hour dinner reception. We ended the night with our attendants and friends in the horizon pool overlooking the beach.

For the next two days, we spent time with friends and family who had traveled to the Bahamas to be with us. We went snorkeling and attended a bonfire and partook of lots of fruity drinks. By Monday night, it was time to say goodbye as our guests set off for home and we headed to Nassau to continue our honeymoon.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Mini-Vacation for your Guests

If you don’t elope, your destination wedding could be a mini-vacation for your guests. This can present several challenges to you in wedding planning since you’ll want to plan more events for your guests. About half the guests at our wedding turned the trip into a mini-vacation.

At our wedding, we had some set activities including the welcome cocktail hour the night before, the ceremony and dinner. We also planned events that our guests were able to participate in if they wanted, but didn’t feel forced into:

  • Visit to a local Bahamian market
  • Scuba diving trip the morning of the wedding for certified divers
  • Wave runner rentals the day after the wedding
  • Snorkeling trip
  • An informal breakfast the next morning

If you’re doing a destination wedding at a non-beach destination (like a city in Europe or New York City), you could have:

  • Welcome dinner
  • Theater/opera excursion
  • Museum trip
  • Walking/bus/bicycle tour

The possibilities are as vast as your imagination.

Friday, February 23, 2007

First things First – Is it legal?

As we planned our destination wedding, our first question was whether a foreign marriage was recognized in the U.S. Is it legal? Are we really going to be married?

The U.S. State Department actually has a website for U.S. citizens interested in getting married in a foreign country.

You need to follow the legal 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.

You will need to show legal documentation (usually your passports), but could also include birth certificates, death certificates (widow/widower) and/or divorce decrees. Since this was the first marriage for both us, we only needed our passports and copies of our birth certificates. In the Bahamas, we also needed 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.

The other major issue that people encounter is getting their marriage certificates/licenses translated into English (which is required for your marriage to be legal in the U.S.). The official language of the Bahamas was English, so we did not have any troubles.

We wisely obtained multiple notarized copies of our license, which has come in handy since we got home. We needed extra copies of the license for Laura to change her name with various companies, with the government on her passport, etc.

In the Bahamas, we received our official government marriage license, but we also received two copies of the ceremonial Bahamian wedding registry. The signing of the Bahamian registry is actually part of the wedding ceremony (see photo at right).

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we did not need to register our marriage with the state. We have had no problems buying a house, changing Laura’s name or changing our health insurance/401ks with our employers.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fairy-Tale Wedding Dress? Disney Does Weddings

Strange but true, the Walt Disney Company is now offering wedding dresses, as reported by the Wall Street Journal (2/22/2007). For between $1,100 and $3,000 you can have a Kirstie Kelly-designed Disney dress for your destination wedding. No word on what they actually look like or if the Little Mermaid dress will have flippers.

Fairy-Tale Wedding? Disney Can Supply the Gown
By Merissa Marr

Walt Disney Co. has made a fortune out of turning little girls into princesses. Now it plans to turn big girls into princesses, too.

In a move to expand the reach of one of its most popular franchises, Cinderella and her regal friends are moving into the bridal business with a line of wedding dresses and accessories. Disney has teamed up with couture bridal designer Kirstie Kelly to transform blushing brides into their favorite princesses, complete with billowing gowns and crystal tiaras. At a cost of $1,100 to $3,000 for each gown, brides will be able to walk down the...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Big Decision – How large of an event do you want?

The first big decision you’ll face is how large of an event you want. Will your destination wedding be just you and your fiancée or will it include your friends and family? The big caveat to this discussion is that if you have unlimited monetary resources, it doesn’t matter because you can go anywhere. But if you take a group, you’ll want to have the infrastructure to support the group at a price your guests can afford.

As we began our planning process, we started by looking at various islands in the Caribbean—U.S. Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, St. Lucia, etc. We knew we wanted to take a small group (less than 30 people), but the resorts had varying degrees of receptivity to us and they level to which they would accommodate us (private dining vs. the buffet line). Early on, we wanted an all-inclusive resort, but then quickly realized that most of the guests would not be staying a full week, so that option was abandoned.

Fairly quickly, airfare became a factor in our decision making process. It was very expensive to reach many of the islands and this would become prohibitive for most of our guests. With a smaller group, we would have more options.

In the end, we settled on a fairly small group:

  • Mother of the bride
  • Father and stepmother of the bride
  • Grandmother of the bride
  • Aunt and Uncle of the bride
  • Sister of the bride (bridesmaid)
  • Friends of the bride (2)
  • Parents of the groom
  • Brother and sister-in-law of the groom
  • Groom’s best friend (best man)
  • Friends of the groom (2)
  • Co-workers of the groom (2)
  • Photographer

This was a total of 21 (including us) and we found it to be the perfect size. We were able to spend ample time with each of our guests and made for a nice intimate affair.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Boudoir Photos – Reality Check

This is for anyone looking for a little entertainment and diversion from the wedding planning process.

First, it needs to be said that we did not get engagement photos. And Laura’s style is more Ann Taylor than Forever 21. We found this photographer and cracked up in hysterical laughter:

Of particular interest is the wedding boudoir photographs which was about too much for us:

A question, what’s with the models?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

About Us

We're not wedding planners. We're not in the business of selling destination weddings.

We are an ordinary couple who decided that a destination was the right thing for us (and a tremendous amount of fun). But when we were planning our big day, we were disappointed in the lack of quality information about destination weddings. The good information we found was scattered across the Internet.

This blog is everything we wished we had known before planning our destination wedding.

About us—
Laura and Lance live in suburban Philadelphia and work in healthcare. We had our destination wedding in June 2006 on Grand Bahama Island.