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.