Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Paying For Your Wedding (Recession Blues)

We were recently contacted by Tammy in Bristol, TN about saving for a wedding. Given the state of the economy, she is questioning if she should delay her destination wedding until the economy improves.

This is a really personal decision and we don’t feel comfortable telling people what to do. However, we will offer some really broad advice.

First, you could think of a thousand reasons to delay your wedding – finances, family drama, apathy to planning (the engagement bliss period), etc. If you are unemployed and are in financial difficulties, you might consider it. On the other hand, you could always find a reason to delay.

Second, allow us our Suze Orman moment. It’s really not worth beginning your new life together with a lot of debt. If you are fortunate enough to have parents who will pay for your wedding, congratulations! If not, you’re like most couples these days and are paying for it yourselves. If you are in the latter boat, you should try to save the money and pay for it completely – and not go into debt.

Finally, the wedding is a special day, but is only one day. Would you rather spend an extra $5,000 on the wedding, or would you rather take another vacation?

Get married, but be wise about it financially.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dance Lessons

It’s your wedding and you want to put your best foot forward. It will be more fun for you and your guests if you feel really comfortable on the dance floor.

We are not big dancers, so we did not do dance lessons prior to our wedding. While we danced a little at our wedding, I think we would have danced more had we felt more comfortable.

As our friends have gone through the wedding process, many of them have opted for lessons. There is a proliferation of dance studios like the Fred Astaire Dance Studio and independent studios that can provide dance instruction at relatively reasonable rates. Make sure you tell your instructor about your destination wedding plans so you can receive instruction in local dances.

Dance lessons are one more thing for you to consider in your wedding planning process.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our Destination Wedding Ceremony

A few weeks ago, we were at a wedding for one of our co-workers. The Catholic ceremony was almost two hours in length and typifies everything we despise about big church weddings.

Coincidentally, we were cleaning some files off the computer and found our wedding ceremony. At about 20 minutes, it was short and sweet! (and left plenty of time for partying with our guests).

Here is the ceremony:

Friends, we have been invited here today to share with [bride] and [groom] a very important moment in their lives. In the years they have been together, their love and understanding of each other has grown and matured, and now they have decided to live their lives together.

This celebration is but an outward sign of an inward union of the heart. [Bride] and [groom], it is this day you take a giant step of courage and commitment to love, understand and grow. You are now taking into your care and keeping the happiness of the one person in all the world whom you love the most. You are adding to your life the affection of each other, companionship and a deep trust as well. You are agreeing to share strengths, responsibilities and love. You are agreeing to take your journeys together as husband and wife.

Giving in Marriage
Who gives this woman to wed this man? Bride’s grandmother - "Her family and I."

I Corinthians 13: 1-13

Pablo Neruda- Sonnet XVII

Vows/ Exchange of Rings
You will now re-dedicate your desire to be united in marriage by joining right hands.

[Groom], do you take [bride] to be your wife? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to live together in marriage, forsaking all others so long as you both shall live? [Groom] - "I do." [Bride], do you take [groom] to be your husband? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to live together in marriage, forsaking all others so long as you both shall live? [Bride] - "I do."

May I have the rings please? The wedding ring is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two loyal hearts in endless love.

[Groom] place the ring on [bride’s] finger and repeat after me " I, [groom], take you [bride], to be my wife, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever. I will trust you and honor you. I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will love you faithfully through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy. What may come I will always be there. As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep. With this ring I thee wed."

[Bride] place the ring on [groom’s] finger and repeat after me " I, [bride], take you [groom], to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever. I will trust you and honor you. I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will love you faithfully through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy. What may come I will always be there. As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep. With this ring I thee wed."

Signing of Marriage Register
By Bride, Groom and 2 witnesses.

Pronouncement of Husband and Wife
And now that you have stood before me and exchanged these rings and these vows, and have agreed to be married according to the laws of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. With the authority invested in me as a Marriage Officer of these Islands, it gives me great pleasure to pronounce that you are husband and wife.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Destination Wedding Decoration Ideas

One of the most enjoyable aspects of planning your destination wedding is planning all the fun, festive theme items that accompany it. Your options are compounded exponentially if you are doing a beach wedding or a wedding in the tropics.

From cake toppers to table decorations there are so many options to choose from. This is really an area where you can let your creativity take over and let your personality show through. It’s also a place where you completely break your budget by going over the top.

I wish we would have found this short YouTube video when we planned our destination wedding. I literally spent months going through bios on The Knot and pulling together some of the best ideas – many of which are reflected in this video.

While this was developed by a vendor (The Wedding Bella), our recommendation is always to shop around for the best deal and do it yourself if possible. The end of summer (i.e., RIGHT NOW) is when many stores put these kind of “summer items” on sale. So if your wedding is this fall or even in 2009, you might consider buying things now cheap and holding onto them. If you do decide to go with Wedding Bella, just take note that they are based in Canada (and prices are in Canadian dollars and shipping is higher than you might expect within the U.S.).

[Note: The audio has this grotesque repeating seagull, so consider watching this video with the volume muted.]

Monday, September 1, 2008

Economics Favor U.S. Destination Weddings

It’s no secret that the U.S. has been leading the global economy into a worldwide slowdown (or recession). As such, the U.S. dollar is at near lows against other major world currencies. So how does this impact destination weddings?

The first impact is that it is much more expensive for U.S. couples to have destination weddings overseas, or at least in countries where the currencies are not pegged to the U.S. dollar (like the Bahamas, etc.). If money is a consideration for couples, they should think about having their destination wedding here in the U.S.

But the good news (at least for wedding vendors) is that this makes the services of wedding providers in the U.S. much cheaper for those in other countries. We were returning from Europe at the end of June and there were several women on the plane coming to the U.S. to buy wedding dresses. European couples can also stay in the U.S. and have a very economic destination wedding.

Your wedding is one of the most important days in your life. However, financial considerations do impact your wedding decisions, so plan carefully.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crate & Barrel Hosts Wedding Party

Crate & Barrel is hosting two wedding parties in September for brides- and grooms-to-be to learn about registering with Crate & Barrel. They are plying brides and grooms with food, drink and entertainment.

The wedding party is being held on September 7 and 21, from 9:00-11:00am. The event is not held at every Crate & Barrel, but maybe there is a location near you. Found out more on the Crate & Barrel website.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review: Our Lucaya in The Bahamas

In previous postings (see Our Destination Wedding), we discussed the specifics our destination wedding experience, but never really reviewed the venue – the Westin/Sheraton Our Lucaya resort on Grand Bahama Island.

Our destination wedding decision was driven by several factors. We knew we wanted a tropical island. We knew we wanted a place that had fantastic scuba diving. And we knew it needed to be economical for our guests. It took us months of going through various venues in The Bahamas, Mexico, Cayman Islands and Aruba. After much discussion, we settled on Our Lucaya Resort in The Bahamas. (See Making Our Ultimate Destination Wedding Decision)

Early on, we contacted the Our Lucaya Resort directly and found out they had wedding planners onsite called Seashells Weddings Our Lucaya [Note: The company appears to no longer be in business or affiliated with Our Lucaya Resort…which means our information is very dated. So take our comments as a historical perspective.] Unfortunately, we found the folks at Our Lucaya/Seashells to be terribly unresponsive. By coincidence, we found that there was an independent wedding planner through someone on The Knot message boards. We reached out to Janet at And The Two Become One, an independent wedding planner on Grand Bahama Island. Good thing we did, she was fantastic. Because of this experience, we’re big fans of hiring local wedding planners to help you in the process (see Covering The Basics – Hiring a Local Wedding Planner).

Despite this rather rocky beginning, we absolutely LOVED the Our Lucaya resort. We stayed on the Westin side because it was a little nicer. A few guests stayed at the Westin, but most of our guests stayed at the Sheraton. No matter where you stay, you’ll have the run of the property…and the quaint little Lucaya village across the street (which is more like a golf cart crossing that an “street”). There are about 5 or 6 restaurants on-property (which can be expensive) and quite a few across the street, which are more reasonable.

Recently, we found a video on YouTube from the Our Lucaya Resort. Believe it or not, we actually think this video does a pretty bad job selling the property. The resort is extremely beautiful and has many, many wonderful wedding sites, including the gazebos, the Great Lawn and the beach. The inside locations are nice, but if you’re in The Bahamas, don’t you want to get married outside?

Again, while we found the Sheshells wedding contractors at Our Lucaya to be unresponsive, it seems like things have changed at the resort.

Here’s a little more on the Our Lucaya Resort on Grand Bahama Island where we got married:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sandals Honeymoon Contest

We don’t often post or promote specific vendors, but we occasionally make exceptions where there is a clear benefit to our readers.

Sandals Resorts is offering some lucky couple the chance to win a Dream Honeymoom. Good luck with the contest!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not All Destinations Are Equal

In our recent article Domestic Destination Weddings, we responded to a comment from destination wedding photographer Mary Basnight that our coverage has been almost exclusively focused on destination weddings outside the United States. She’s right.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve been doing some research on destination weddings in the U.S. and really thinking about this. Unfortunately, our research isn’t as clear cut as we hoped it would be. And as we mentioned in What is a Destination Wedding?, we have a very clear definition on it takes to be a destination wedding: the location and venue itself need to be an integral part of the wedding experience.

We have found some locations in the U.S. that qualify. But we’ve also found a significant number of places passing themselves off as “destination wedding venues” that really aren’t (at least in our book).

As an example of what we are talking about, we would like to discuss Foothills Wedding Chapel in Golden, Colorado. Foothills Wedding Chapel promotes itself as a destination wedding venue. With all respect to this establishment, it really isn’t. One wedding chapel is like another, be it in Golden, Las Vegas or Gatlinburg. To be sure, Foothills Wedding Chapel is probably far nicer than anything Gatlinburg has ever seen, but it doesn’t qualify as a destination wedding venue for us.

To be a destination wedding venue, the venue itself has to be a part of the allure. Golden, Colorado is at the foothills of the mountains, is home to Coors Brewery and the Colorado School of Mines, and has a truly charming main street with numerous excellent restaurants. The town is nestled beautifully at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and sits in a valley created by North and South Table Mountains. Beyond this, the town is unremarkable. We should know, my husband was born and raised there.

Our goal in writing this is not to downgrade Foothills Wedding Chapel in Golden. It seems to be a truly fine establishment and if this is the kind of wedding you want, I’m sure it would be nice. But it really is not a destination wedding venue in our book. It is an elopement venue. The venue of the chapel in downtown Golden is not the destination and can be recreated elsewhere. It’s proximity to the mountains would make it an attractive choice for couples looking to elope, but you wouldn’t necessarily feel the town of Golden is essential to the wedding ambiance in the way that other venues might be.

In thinking about our own wedding, had we wanted to do a very economical elopement from our east coast home, Foothills Wedding Chapel would have made an excellent choice (my husband still knows a few folks in the area and Colorado is lovely). But we wanted a true destination wedding experience – a beautiful place where we could gather with our friends and family from all over the world. We wanted an experience that would be another church wedding someplace, we wanted an event that friends and family members will talk about for years to come. That is the essence of a destination wedding.

We use the Foothills Wedding Chapel as an example, but there are thousands of places like it across the U.S. They offer “destination wedding” services, but the location and the facility don’t offer a true “destination.”

This is the difference between “weddings away” or eloping and a TRUE destination wedding. One is not necessarily better than the other, but couples need to truly understand what they are getting – a wedding away or a destination experience.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What is a Destination Wedding?

When we began this blog, we thought we know. After all, we had a destination wedding.

Destination weddings are getting married “away.” Right? But the more we’ve been writing about it over the last year and half, the more it isn’t that clear cut.

For us, a true destination wedding is a wedding in which the destination itself becomes an integral part of the wedding experience. The destination itself ties into the overall theme of the wedding. And the experience of the wedding could not be repeated in a different location.

For example, a couple getting married in Jamaica with a reggae themed cocktail reception couldn’t have that same wedding in Mexico and have it make sense. Having a “Top of the Town” wedding in New York City couldn’t be repeated in Dallas and make sense. The destination is critical to the overall aesthetic of the wedding experience.

For us destination weddings differ from eloping because the venue itself is important. When eloping, the venue becomes secondary (or is not important at all). Historically, eloping meant getting married in secret. We don’t subscribe to that definition. For us eloping is just getting “someplace else,” but the someplace doesn’t really matter. It could be Las Vegas or some other city because it is convenient. It could be a neighboring town.

Is this just semantics or does it really matter? A bit of both.

The reason why we are clarifying this now is because we have several articles coming up in the next few weeks that depend on the clarity of this definition.

More on destination weddings to come…

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Second Marriages and Destination Weddings

It’s a sad fact that over half of first marriages end in divorce. But people don’t have to give up on love and many get remarried. And this has given rise to a boom in second marriage destination weddings.

Destination weddings are uniquely suited for second marriages. If you had a big church wedding for your first marriage (also known as “starter marriages”), you may be reluctant to have another. It can be awkward to invite people who attended the first wedding, and many people feel uncomfortable because of the “wedding gift” factor. Basically, having someone buy a gift for the first wedding and then getting a gift at the second one makes many brides (and grooms) uncomfortable.

Destination weddings offer a balance between the larger ceremony a couple may want with the elopement they feel they have to have.

In our quest to find destination wedding stories from real couples, we found a YouTube video that we’d like to share. This couple is sharing their story of a second marriage destination wedding.

Here’s the YouTube video:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Domestic Destination Weddings

Destination weddings can take place anywhere! That’s one of the best things about them. But for us, a destination wedding means more than getting married “someplace else.” It means that the destination becomes an important and integral part of the wedding festivities.

North Carolina-based wedding photographer Mary Basnight contacted us and pointed out an oversight on our part – all of our coverage has been about destination weddings in locations outside the U.S. She’s right and this has been a significant oversight on our part, which we will attempt to rectify.

Destination weddings can take place anywhere. From Catalina Island in California to the Hamptons of Long Island. From the sin city of Las Vegas to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Our blogging about destination weddings in the U.S. has been minimal (one post about South Padre Island, Texas). We’ve had the incorrect attitude U.S. weddings are really “Deportation Weddings,” not Destination Weddings. I guess we’ve viewed them as shotgun affairs that need to happen FAST (usually because somebody needs to leave the country in a hurry). This isn’t the aesthetic we choose to subscribe to. However, Mary Basnight is correct, there can be wonderful destination weddings within the U.S. and we haven’t given them fair treatment.

We’ll attempt to rectify this glaring omission in our blog coverage soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Our Story

We’ve had a number of e-mails lately asking about our inspiration and motivation for doing this blog. This blog is really for you – the future brides and grooms who are interested in destination weddings.

Several years ago, we were planning our own destination wedding and were disappointed in the resources that were out there. We spent hundreds of hours trolling The Knot message board and other websites trying to get ideas. We wished we had a coach or mentor to walk us through the process. With that in mind, we started the Ultimate Destination Weddings blog to be your coach.

It started simply. We were the first in our social circle to get married. We found ourselves spending a lot of time going through our thought process with friends or answering their questions. This blog became a way to disseminate information to them in an easy-to-use format. Somewhere along the way, it caught on and we now get a few hundred visitors a day. We don't try to be all things to all people. We just try to offer good, solid, unbiased advice on planning destination weddings.

We are definitely NOT wedding coordinators. It's funny, last week, a woman named Stacey in Maine wrote and wanted to hire us to plan her destination wedding in Jamaica. We are flattered, but we have jobs and this is a just a hobby for us.

We aren’t paid to do this. And we rarely recommend specific vendors and don't keep preferred vendor lists (we've thought about it, but don't think it's for us). If we recommend someone and it goes bad for a couple, we lose our credibility. We only recommend people we really have faith in. We don’t shill for anyone and aren’t paid to do this. We do Ultimate Destination Weddings because we love it.

We hope you enjoy the blog and find it useful in planning your wedding.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Destination Weddings on a Budget

Destination Weddings are now mainstream. Just as there has been an escalation in cost and extravagance for traditional weddings, we’re starting to see the same thing in destination weddings (driven particularly by celebrities and the wannabes).

Many couples, including us, were drawn to destination weddings because we wanted something less pretentious than a traditional wedding. We found destination weddings to be good value for the money. And they still can be.

We found this YouTube video from CBS’ Early Show on Destination Weddings on a Budget and thought it would be good viewing for our readers. In it, Julie Chen (the host) interviews Antonia van der Meer, editor of Modern Bridge magazine.

As a summary, Antonia van der Meer and Modern Bride profile three different locations that they think are still good values: Italy, Mexico and The Bahamas. We would certainly agree with the last two (probably why we got married in the Bahamas), but can’t fathom how anyone would think Italy is a good value right now. Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE Italy, but the exchange rate is absolutely punitive right now (and we travel to Europe frequently).

Now that we’ve imparted our advice, here is Antonia van der Meer and Modern Bride magazine on destination weddings:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wedding Seasonality

We wanted to talk for minute about wedding planning. And we want to emphasize planning. PLANNING. And we mean it.

Depending on the nature of your destination (a beach wedding, a wedding at an Italian villa in the fall, etc.) there will be certain items that are only available seasonally. Ever tried to find a bathing suit in November for your destination wedding in February? How about flip flops?

It can be incredibly difficult to find some items you might need/want for your destination wedding if it is out of season. These items can include:
  • Bathing suits
  • Groom’s suit (or apparel)
  • Shoes and sandals
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach bags for out of town bags
  • Beach towels
  • Sea shells or other table decorations

As the summer wears on, stores will be having sales on merchandise. If you have a destination wedding this fall, winter or even next summer, you might consider stocking up on things you might need/want for your destination wedding.

Step back and really plan out your wedding. Think about everything you will need. You can save money and ensure you have access to things you might want by buying at the end of the season. But don’t wait too long or you might be out of luck.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weddings in Paris

We spent our second anniversary in Paris (See The Anniversary Trip). It gave us an opportunity to scope out weddings in Paris.

We couldn’t imagine going to Europe and getting married in a stodgy old church (although there are tons of cool churches in Paris). What Paris has to offer is some of the most romantic spots in the whole world.

If you consider a destination wedding in Paris, you might think about a wedding cruise on the Seine. We don’t know if you could do the actual wedding on the boat (although we bet it is possible; more on that below), but you can certainly do a nice reception. You and a handful of guests can take a Seine river cruise and, after you exchange your vows, party the night away. There are several cruise vendors, so check into them carefully. You want to find a small boat that you can rent out (so its private). Check with Bateaux-Mouches or the nice company that operates from the Pont Neuf bridge. There also seem to be several other luxury providers that you might want to check into. A local wedding coordinator may prove valuable, unless you speak French.

As part of your romantic Paris wedding, you might want to take your own wedding photographer with you. Paris offers stunning vistas and charming little lanes to take photos. We thought the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, The Trocadero and The Louvre would all make nice backdrops. After a day of photos, you could have your rehearsal dinner at a restaurant in Le Marais.
Not to be a total downer, there is a residency requirement for getting married in France. It's either 40 or 60 days (there is conflicting information on the internet). means you need to be in country for a while. This may or may not be a problem for you. If it is a problem, consider getting legally married in the U.S. (rather easy to do) and then do your ceremony abroad for you and your family. We think this kind of defeats the purpose of a destination wedding, but know other couples who do it to get around ridiculous regulations in countries like France or Mexico. While this takes the romance out of Paris and France as a destination wedding location, depending on your personal tastes, it may still work for you.

Paris could be a wonderfully romantic wedding destination to begin your new life together. And since you are already in Europe, you might consider honeymooning there as well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Anniversary Trip

Greetings from Paris!

When we had our destination wedding, we immediately decided that we would take a trip for our anniversary. So this year’s trip is Paris, France.

If you are considering a destination wedding, you obviously love to travel. You should also consider taking an anniversary trip. It was been a wonderful tradition for us.

We’ll write more when we return!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Selecting Your Destination Wedding Photographer

Selecting your destination wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you can make. There’s no “do overs” on your wedding photos. And, unlike catering, there’s less margin for error. So, you really only have one shot of getting it right.

Adding to the complexity, chances are very good that you won’t find the resident talent that you are looking for in the wedding destination of your choice. We’ve blogged on this before in Covering The Basics – Photographer, but you should count on hiring and bringing your own photographer with you.

Today on WeddingBee, Joe Milton of the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers has an interesting posting on Top Five Questions to Ask Your Photographer. Now, one thing we’ve learned is that there are more “wedding photography associations” than you can shake a stick at. Some reputable, some not – so do your homework.

But Joe Milton poses some very good questions (these are his questions, but our commentary):
  1. Can I read through the contract? – If not, run far and fast. The contract should be clear and articulate what is expected of both parties…including deadlines! Photographers are notorious for getting you to sign the contract and then take FOREVER to deliver the goods.

  2. Can I see some sample albums of complete weddings? If not, run far and fast. Every photographer can get a good picture or two, but you want to see the whole process. Any good photographer should be able to show you lots of quality work.

  3. How much experience do you have? The more weddings they’ve done, but the better they will probably be. This is crucial in destination weddings as many “native” photographers are just Sunday afternoon amateurs. You want a pro.

  4. How much direction or posing do you do during the day? Some photographers are photojournalist only. Some only do posed shots. For us, we liked the mix. Of our favorites, they were “posed.” Or rather, our photographer gave direction (walk up this staircase, walk down the beach this way) and then she captured the moment. Those were our favorites. But some of the most meaningful “moments” were the candids (the bride’s grandmother walking her down the aisle because she is now paralyzed).

  5. Do you have insurance? Any decent photographer will, so this is not the definitive question that many might think.

This is a good list. But after reading it, the questions seem very elementary. They will only help you rule “bad apples” and will do nothing to help you select from a small pool of 3-5 truly professional photographers. To this rather basic list, we have added our own list of “must ask” questions:

  • Can I speak with a couple who’s wedding you have shot in the last six months? – If a photographer is unable or unwilling to provide a list of references for you to check out, this is a problem. It also surprised us that this should be “in the bag” for the photographer. Yet, we had photographers provide us with references that were negative, so it’s worth going through the process.

  • How much experience do you have with the location/venue/type that I having? - No wedding photographer will have done exactly what you are doing, but have they done something similar? If they haven’t done a Jewish ceremony or a beach wedding, it might be a problem for you.

  • What is your typical method? – In our professional capacity, we both hire a lot of vendors. We are a big fan of asking very broad, open-ended questions like this. It gets the photographer talking about his/her work broadly. The good ones should be able to string together a story that makes sense. Those new to the business or who are “weekend warriors” will stumble on this kind of broad, open-ended question.

  • Do you bring an assistant? – This is useful to know. Will they be doing all the work themselves, or farming it out? If bringing an assistant, try to get a clear picture on what that person’s role may be. And remember, this will also increase your cost factors.

  • How many different cameras do you bring? – In other words, will they be switching back and forth and might miss the moment. Or, will they have back-up with them in case something goes wrong? It’s important.

  • Film vs digital? – In this age of digital everything, there are some photographers that sill do film (believe it or not). So ask.

  • How long before we see proofs? – This is self explanatory.

  • How long before we get our actual album? – Also self explanatory.

  • Who covers your expenses? – This is a point of negotiation. Ideally, it’s better for both you and photographer if you cover the expenses. It’s better for the photographer because they are not out of pocket on anything. It’s better for you because the photographer will probably charge a mark-up fee (some percentage of the actual cost; so a $700 airline ticket to the Bahamas marked up 15% will actually cost you $805).

  • What is your mark-up fee (both for out of pocket travel and also for stock/equipment)? – The photographer should be absolutely honest about this up front. In our experience, too many photographers use this as a “back end” profit center and you have no idea how bad you will get hit until the final bill arrives.

Finally, it’s not a question, but it’s worth stating: actually meet with your photographer once or twice before the wedding. It sounds obvious, but many couples have been known to hire a photographer sight unseen because they found them on some website and their work looked good. This is especially common where destination wedding photographers can live all over the country and fly into the wedding. Try to find a way to meet first and take a temperature check.
Photo credit: Julia Newman

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Holiday Weddings

Given the recent Memorial Day holiday, we thought we’d post about having weddings, including destination weddings, on holidays. It’s been a growing trend in recent and we’ve found ourselves invited to a number of them.

In general, having a destination wedding tied to a holiday is good for you and your guests because it means less time off of work for the wedding. And if your guests are making the trip to your destination wedding as a mini-vacation, this can work out well.

On the bad side, prices are typically higher at destination resorts during holiday periods, so you’ll pay – and it could be a LOT more. So you’ll need to carefully weigh the benefits vs. the costs.

But when considering holiday weddings, it doesn’t just mean U.S. holidays. If you are considering a wedding in Italy on June 1st, you’ll have to contend with Republic Day (and a nation-wide work stoppage). When planning your destination wedding and you are narrowing down the days, you should look carefully at a calendar to ensure that it is not a local holiday.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Destination Wedding Photography

One of the most important decisions you’ll face is photography. We’ve already covered this in previous posts, but want to revisit the topic.

First, we found a YouTube video (below) by destination wedding photographer Neil Cowley of Rochester, New York that should be mandatory viewing before you hire a destination wedding photographer.

Assuming you can’t find the talent you want locally (a pretty good bet), you’ll be bringing your own photographer. Let’s face it, it’s your wedding and you only get one shot at the photography. You’ll probably hire someone you feel comfortable with and bring them with you.

Neil Cowley’s video is from one destination wedding photography talking to another. But as a couple, there’s quite a bit for you to learn here.

There are really two kinds of destination wedding photographers:
  • Someone who is a wedding photographer, but loves to do destination weddings because it’s a mini-vacation for them (at your expense) and they tack on time before or after for their vacation.
  • Someone who is a seriously destination wedding photographer and it’s all about the business.
We prefer the former, but understand the need for the latter.

Regardless of which one, this is a business for them. Some photographers prefer to make their own travel arrangements and will charge you a mark-up (Neil Cowley charges 30%). That adds up fast. But…it is a business for them some kind of mark-up is reasonable. Unfortunately, some photographers use the mark-up principle to pad their profits.

We would recommend to couples that they work with the photographer to find a good travel schedule, but then the couple books it and pays for it directly. We’re not opposed to wedding photographers making a decent living…but there is too great an opportunity for some wedding photographers to abuse the mark-up principle as a way of screwing couples.

The other major issue in Neil Cowley’s YouTube video is the issue of documentation. He prefers to go undocumented. However, we had a friend who had a problem with this and couldn’t get her photographer into the country. The work permits aren’t all that expensive (certainly less than the mark-up on the travel) and your local wedding coordinator can often handle it for you. It is customary for the couple to pay for the work permit for the photographer. So, why risk your photographer being locked out of the country and you have to scramble for a “plan b” locally? Just get the permit.

Here’s Neil Cowley’s YouTube video:

Note: There’s also a video Part II, but it’s just him showing his cameras and you don’t really learn anything.

Suggested readings:
Covering the basics – Photographer

Monday, April 28, 2008

News Flash: Target Dollar Spot

News Flash: Target has all new inventory in the Dollar Spot! There are lots of new great new items including flip flops, lip balm, water bottles and other great stuff!

Longtime readers of this blog know that we love Target’s Dollar Spot as a cheap place to load up on great stuff for your out of town bags. (See Out of Town Bags)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reality Check – Too Much of a Good Thing?

You are engaged and want to share you joy with everyone. You’ve decided on fabulous destination wedding in some tropical, beach location or some other exotic spot.

And you’re thinking it would be a good idea to infuse the theme into [fill in the blank here.] It could your birthday, your holiday plans or just about anything.

There is too much of a good thing. Having a beach themed bridal shower/bachelorette party may intrigue you, but resist the urge. You are thrilled about your European wedding, but resist the urge for an Italian themed Thanksgiving. You CAN go over the top in theming.

This hit home for us recently when a friend invited us to a party. The party was, you guessed it, beach themed. The bride-to-be was so thrilled with her upcoming destination wedding in Jamaica that she decked out the party with reggae, Bob Marley, jerk chicken and about every other Jamaican cliché. It was a party, not her wedding.

The same can also be true at your actual destination wedding. Just because you’re in an Italian villa doesn’t mean everyone needs to act like extras in The Godfather. Just because your nuptials are on some tropical island, doesn’t mean that you need to decorate EVERYTHING in seashells.

Your friends and family are excited for you. And they want to be a part of your special day. Just keep your excitement in check.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Simple Destination Wedding

Until recently, we thought that everyone had the same idea when it comes to a destination wedding. A small group (i.e., less than 50) of friends and family join you for your special day and then you celebrate afterwards.

However, we found a YouTube video (below) for simple destination weddings (hat tip to LaQuinta South Padre Island, Texas). Slowly, it dawned on us that there is a market out there for very, very, very simple destination weddings. OK, we’re a bit appalled that the minister didn’t really have the bride and groom’s names nailed and seemed to stumble through the ceremony, but maybe that’s what this couple wanted.

In our book, this qualifies more as an elopement than a true destination wedding. However, we post it here because as we researched our own destination wedding, many resorts sold this kind of a wedding as a “destination wedding.”

Frankly, some were even worse…offering only a tape recorded ceremony that is played back with the appropriate pauses for the bride and groom to announce their names, etc. We find these kind of Vegas-esque “ceremonies” to be ghastly and appalling. And yet there is a market out there for them.

So... the whole point of this posting is to be sure you really investigate that you are getting the kind of destination wedding you want. Don’t assume that the terminology means the same thing to everyone. Ask probing questions. And, if at all possible, try to do a visit of your destination in advance and observe someone else’s wedding.

This simple destination wedding could be what you are getting:

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Essence of Destination Weddings

I found this little gem of a video on YouTube. It was made by two young women in the Philippines for a school project. It’s kind of long at 8 minutes, but the first 2 minutes are well worth viewing…

Essentially, these young women capture the essence of a destination wedding. Do you want to get married in a stodgy church? Or do you want to do something fun?

View the YouTube video:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wedding Music Playlists, Part III

For our destination wedding, we took our iPods and portable speakers and played after the reception dinner (for background see To DJ or Not to DJ).

Here is the playlist for our wedding iPod (in random order):
  1. Reunion – Indigo Girls
  2. Beautiful Day – U2
  3. Take A Chance on Me – ABBA
  4. If I Had a $1000000 – Barenaked Ladies
  5. Stuck in a Moment (acoustic version) – U2
  6. Long Time Gone – Dixie Chicks
  7. Walk On (live version) – U2
  8. Listen to Your Heart – Roxette
  9. Friday I’m in Love – The Cure
  10. Kokomo – The Beach Boys
  11. Become You – Indigo Girls
  12. Yellow – Coldplay
  13. When The Stars Go Blue – The Corrs
  14. Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
  15. I Believe in Love – Dixie Chicks
  16. City of Blinding Lights – U2
  17. Anna Begins – Counting Crows
  18. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (live version) – Indigo Girls
  19. Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations
  20. Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad – Def Leppard
  21. The Boy with the Arab Strap – Belle & Sebastian
  22. Take On Me – a-ha
  23. Cherish – Madonna
  24. A Sort of Homecoming – U2
  25. Water is Wide – Indigo Girls/Jewel
  26. All You Need is Love – The Beatles

Also see Wedding Music Playlists, Part I and Wedding Music Playlists, Part II.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wedding Music Playlists, Part II

For our destination wedding, we took our iPods and portable speakers and played after the reception dinner (for background see To DJ or Not to DJ).

Here is the playlist for our wedding iPod (in random order):

  1. Sullivan Street – Counting Crows
  2. Big Yellow Taxi – Counting Crows
  3. With Or Without You – U2
  4. Nashville – Indigo Girls
  5. Calling All Angels – Train
  6. She’s Got a Way – Billy Joel
  7. 100 Years – Five for Fighting
  8. The Reason – Hoobastank
  9. Bad – U2
  10. She Will Be Loved – Maroon 5
  11. Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
  12. Stay (I Missed You) – Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
  13. Smooth – Santana & Rob Thomas
  14. Favorite Adventure – K’s Choice
  15. Jack & Diane – John Mellencamp
  16. Miss You In A Heartbeat – Def Leppard
  17. Tainted Love – Soft Cell
  18. Let It Be – The Beatles
  19. Drift Away – Uncle Kracker
  20. When You Say Nothing at All – Ronan Keating
  21. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
  22. American Pie – Don McLean
  23. Wild World – Cat Stevens
  24. Dancing Queen – ABBA
  25. U Make Me Feel Loved – Zucchero
  26. The Boys of Summer – Don Henley
  27. We Belong – Pat Benatar
  28. I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  29. Hold Me Now – The Thompson Twins
  30. Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles

Also see Wedding Music Playlists, Part I

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wedding Music Playlists, Part I

For our destination wedding, we took our iPods and portable speakers and played after the reception dinner (for background see To DJ or Not to DJ).

Here is the playlist for our wedding iPod (in random order):
  1. All I Want is You – U2
  2. Montpelier – Girlyman
  3. Somewhere Over the Raindow – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  4. Rain King – Counting Crows
  5. Paino Man – Billy Joel
  6. Only New York Going On – Francis Dunnery
  7. One – U2
  8. Someday – Nickelback
  9. Crazy For You – Madonna
  10. Clare Island – Saw Doctors
  11. Sweetest Thing – U2
  12. Let Me Go Easy – Indigo Girls
  13. When She’s Around Me – James Taylor
  14. Bitter Root – Indigo Girls
  15. Give A Little Bit – The Goo Goo Dolls
  16. Gone Again – Indigo Girls
  17. Meet Virginia – Train
  18. If You Could Only See – Tonic
  19. Fireflies – Lori McKenna
  20. Share The Darkness – Saw Doctors
  21. Come To My Window – Melissa Etheridge
  22. The One I Love – REM
  23. Point Hope – Indigo Girls
  24. Come on Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runner
  25. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
  26. Life Is a Highway – Tom Cochrane
  27. Amaze Me – Girlyman
  28. You’re Beautiful – James Blunt
  29. Postcards from Mexico – Girlyman
  30. My Girl – The Temptations

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Specialist Travel Agents

The video killed the radio star. And the Internet killed the travel agent. Or so, that’s what we thought.

Like most people, several years ago we gave up on the travel agent, the paper tickets, the hassle of telephone tag and the fees travel agents charge. Like most people, we moved exclusively to web-based services. And for a while, it worked real well for us. More specifically, it worked well for very simple travel plans.

Looking back on our wedding planning experience, our single biggest time investment was researching locations and travel logistics. Looking back, we should have brought in professional travel agent who deals in destination weddings to help simplify the process. We knew we wanted the Caribbean, but it had to have reasonable flights from New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and Denver (where most of our guests were coming from). A professional travel agent could have narrowed down the field considerably and then we could decide on the location from there.

Another challenge we had was all of the guests making their own travel arrangements. The bridge’s grandmother used her favorite travel agent – and despite the very specific wording on the invitation – the agent ended up sending her to Nassau, Bahamas instead of the correct location on Grand Bahama Island.

Our concern with utilizing a travel agent is that they push the venues and packages where they make commissions or where they are most comfortable…not necessarily what is in your best interest. So, it’s critical to find a vendor you feel comfortable with.

So, we were pleasantly surprised when we discovered the Caribbean Journey Destination Wedding Blog. The woman, Laura Sangster, is a travel agent, but also planned her own Caribbean destination wedding. While, we have not actually used her to plan either our own destination wedding or any travel (so therefore cannot actually recommend her), we’ve been impressed with her thoroughness, aesthetic, and quality information. We are trying to get a scuba dive trip together for later in the year and may use her, so we’ll let you know how it goes.

When you are just starting the process, the idea of planning your own destination wedding can sound like a lot of fun – dreaming of all those fancy resorts and beautiful beaches. We thought so too, but the stress it caused between us was considerable. In retrospect, having someone help us and make the process much more manageable would have been a good idea.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Downside to Engagement Rings

Many single women dream for the day they receive their diamond engagement ring. Yet for many people, there’s a downside to the rings.

First is the cost. Diamonds are precious, but are far from rare. In fact, the price of diamonds is propped up through a legal cartel system where the supply of diamonds is artificially restricted (although the DeBeers cartel recently settled a class action lawsuit related to its price-fixing scheme). The leading force behind this is the DeBeers diamond cartel the world’s largest supplier of diamonds, which has a near monopoly throughout the world.

As we looked into purchasing our engagement ring, we wanted a diamond that did not come from the DeBeers diamond cartel. We didn’t want a “blood diamond”—a diamond that is mind for the purpose of paying for nasty civil wars in Africa.

You can also learn more at Stop Blood Diamonds.

You can also learn more about fair trade diamonds, diamonds that are not tainted through blood and murder.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Getting Your Documents in Order

After the glow of your honeymoon subsides, you need to settle into your new life together. You’ll likely name each other as beneficiaries on your 401(k)s or Roth IRAs. You might need to go through the process of changing your name (more on this in an upcoming post).

One important thing you will also need to do is get your legal documents in order. You should probably have a will, a living will and a power of attorney. A major health crisis in my family (my grandmother had a massive stroke) really brought this to our attention.

Having spent tons of money on a mediocre attorney in the past, I wasn’t anxious to do so again. After a lot of online research, I found LegalZoom, a cost-effective approach of fill-in-the-blank documents. There are other companies, both online and off-line, that offer this service (some are better than others). This one-size-fits-all approach probably isn’t going to serve you well if you have kids, complex estates, but if you’re relatively young and just starting out (like us), it should work for you.

If anything like what happened to my grandmother ever happens to us, I just wanted to be prepared. We waited almost two years after our wedding to do this, which was way too long. Shortly after your wedding, you should look into getting these legal documents in order.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Anniversary Trip

Doing a destination wedding was one of the best decision we’ve ever made. It was exactly our personality.

Couples who choose a destination wedding already have a love of travel (of some kind) and a desire to get away from the bland/ordinary. Why not keep it going and take an anniversary trip every year? That’s exactly what we did.

For our first anniversary, we took a trip to Italy and spent our anniversary in Rome. For next year (second anniversary), we’re looking at Paris. We tend to travel abroad and see next and exotic locations, but your anniversary trip celebration doesn’t need to nearly as elaborate.

This is a wonderful tradition we’re starting and looking forward to many, many years of anniversary trips!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Wedding Gift

In this age of couple’s paying for their own weddings, you don’t have a lot of excess money. We had agreed on not buying each other a present for our actual wedding day. One of us lived up to that agreement…

Mr. groom thought a surprise gift would make his bride happy. He brought (and snuck in his luggage) a beautiful pair of black Tahitian pearl earrings from Nordstrom’s for a wedding day surprise.

Doing something nice for each other on your wedding day is important! Even if it is a card, you should do something to start your new lives off on the right foot. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just meaningful.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Marriott Frenchman’s Reef, St. Thomas

I found an interesting YouTube video that I thought I would share.

The video is essentially a 1 ½ minute infomercial for the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. However, the wedding director there, Norma Kennedy, offers a couple of suggestions that are worth your time in watching the short video.

Namely, she counsels:
  • Get the right person at the hotel
  • Hotel must have a dedicated area for weddings

She also notes that the trend in destination weddings is being driven by economics. According to Kennedy, and depending on the time of year, couples can have their wedding and honeymoon at the resort for under $2,000.

Early on in the process, Marriott Frenchman’s Reef was one of our leading contenders. However, given where a lot of our guests were coming from (Texas and Colorado), the travel became quite expensive to get to the Virgin Islands.

The full Norma Kennedy video is on YouTube:

Our Policy on Vendor Reviews

As we start to review more vendors and companies, we thought it would be worthwhile to briefly discuss our policy.
  • We’re not wedding planners.
  • We don’t sell destination weddings.
  • We don’t have a financial interest in whatever you choose to do for your down destination wedding.
  • We’re just an ordinary couple sharing what we learned planning our destination wedding.
  • We do accept suggestions on vendors and locations to review from readers of this blog.
If we are ever given something in consideration for a review (i.e., free anything – hotel stay, trip, book…anything), we will disclose that. We don’t say nice things about companies just because they give us free stuff or pay us.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Atlantis (a video)

We found this YouTube video on The Atlantis resort. It does a great job of providing an accurate accounting of the resort and showing the pretty scenery. (It’s kind of infomercial for our tastes) Sure sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

It’s from a Canadian outfit called Romantic Planet. To be fair, nowhere in the video do they show a destination wedding at Atlantis in progress (something we had the opportunity to see). We didn’t find much, if anything, about The Atlantis to be romantic with all the young, screaming ultra-entitled children running around. (See previous post Our Honeymoon – The Atlantis) Although, we thought we would post this video here to give you some balance.

At the end of the video, Romantic Planet makes an excellent point – there are many islands in the Bahamas and you can surely find one your speed. For us, we were on our honeymoon and we wanted to enjoy each other (it’s a honeymoon after all). However, if you are the kind of people that need things to do and stuff to buy, go to Atlantis. However, if you can create your own romance by long moonlight walks on the beach, followed by cocktails and then heading back to your suite, you should probably look someplace else.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Engagement Gifts for Men

As the courtship comes to a close, it ends with a proposal of marriage. As a symbol of his love (and honoring tradition), the man presents a diamond engagement ring (thereby keeping the DeBeers cartel happy).

But what does the husband get? What does the future bride offer her future husband?

In our family (and in many others), shortly after engagement, the woman purchases a nice watch for the husband. These are luxury watches, not a mall special.

For us, we fancied luxury, automatic watches. Watches like Patek, IWC and others are super high-end…and out of our budget. We determined that Raymond Weil (Don Giovanni line) offered the nicest watch at a mid-level price.

The watch is a tradition in our family going back generations. You should decide what you will do for your tradition.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

DeBeers Settles Lawsuit

If you bought diamonds in the United States, you may be entitled to money back.

This covers anyone who purchases a diamond in the U.S. from January 1, 1994 to March 31, 2006. It covers engagement rings, wedding bands, pave watches, earrings…anything with diamonds. The deadline to file a claim to be in the class action lawsuit is May 19, 2008. The final hearing for the case is April 14, 2008, so hopefully payments will be made shortly after that.

For more info, visit the class action lawsuit website.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Top 10 Destination Wedding Tips

Destination I Do, one of the destination wedding magazines out there, has a really good article that is a “must read” for anyone planning destination weddings – their Top 20 Do’s and Don’ts of Destination Weddings.

Below is their list of Top 10 Destination Wedding "Dont’s," but the commentary is ours:
  1. Sweat the small stuff – Quoting from Destination I Do, they say, “Things may go wrong with a hometown wedding or a destination wedding. Make sure to keep it all in perspective and enjoy the process every step of the way.”
  2. Wait to the last minute to send your invitations – This is really important. We sent out Save the Dates about 8 or 9 months in advance and then sent out invites out about 3 months in advance.
  3. Assume people know where they are going – OMG. Seriously. This is so true. Laura’s grandmother gave the invite to her travel agent. Instead of getting tickets to Grand Bahama Island, the travel agent booked them into Nausau. Once your guests arrive in the location, they will also need directions (either actual directions or explanations about getting cabs or ground transportation).
  4. Expect too much of others – Quoting again from Destination I Do, “Sure it’s ‘your big day’ but know that your bridesmaids, groomsmen and family members are not your temporary slaves. Sure you can expect them to help out, but keep it realistic, give others duties you know they can handle, yet still allow them the ability to enjoy your event too.”
  5. Let “Aunt Flow” pay you a visit – Proper planning will help you avoid PMS and menstruation during your wedding.
  6. Leave guests hanging – Have some activities for your guests, but don’t dominate their time. (See A Mini-Vacation for your Guests and Our Destination Wedding)
  7. Expect that everyone will come – This is very true. Remember, you are asking a lot of your guests. It’s a major expense and time out of people’s lives. Be understanding if not everyone can make it.
  8. Forget to check the average traffic flow in the area you will be saying “I Do” – Location, Location, Location. It’s really important to try and do a location visit so you can see the layout.
  9. Choose a dress because of what is “IN” – Enough said on this one.
  10. Haul your dress around with you on your honeymoon – This is helpful, but not critical. For us, we did carry the dress on the honeymoon. We live away from our families and guests, so we had nobody to bring it back for us. We carried it with us without incident. (See The Dress)
For the list of Top 10 Destination Wedding "Do" Tips, see Top 10 Destination Wedding Tips.

The full article from Destination I Do is worth the read.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Top 10 Destination Wedding Tips

Destination I Do, one of the destination wedding magazines out there, has a really good article that is a “must read” for anyone planning destination weddings – their Top 20 Do’s and Don’ts of Destination Weddings.

Below is their list of Top 10 Destination Wedding Do’s, but the commentary is ours:

  1. Select a destination that is easy to get to – This is key to making life easy for you and your guests. We covered this in Advanced Topics – Airfare Considerations.
  2. Carry on your dress – This is critical. We found the flight attendents to be very accommodating to our requests. (See The Dress)
  3. Create a wedding web site for your guests – For destination weddings, this is extremely helpful for your guests and can also be a lot of fun! (See Customized Wedding Websites and Wedding Websites, Part 2)
  4. Find local favors and gifts for your guests – We not really a fan of “favors” per se because they just seem very cheap. However, we are big fans of themed out of town gift bags. (See Out-of-Town Bags)
  5. Research the marriage requirements before you select your destination – This should probably be your starting point, even before picking a destination or researching travel. (See First things First – Is it legal?)
  6. Hire a professional wedding planner – And hire a professional local wedding planner. If it makes sense, also investigate the possibility of a wedding planner that is not affiliated with the hotel. This assures you get the best advice possible. (See Covering the basics – Hiring a local wedding planner)
  7. Hire a professional photographer and bring them with you – This is something you should consider, but was one of our most hotly debated topics of our entire wedding planning process. Ultimately, we did decide to be bring our own. (See Covering the basics – Photographer)
  8. Take a scouting trip prior to the big day – We’ve covered this in previous postings. It’s an extra expense, but is well worth it!
  9. Call hotels to see if you can negotiate group discounts – Ultimately, this wasn’t very fruitful for us. We had a small destination wedding (22 guests in about 14 rooms).
  10. Create an event that is unique to you and your fiancĂ© – This is the best advice. It’s your wedding. Do what you want.

The next Top 10 tips are coming soon.

The full article from Destination I Do is worth the read.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bridal Processional Music

In the past, your choice of processional music was Mendelssohn’s Wedding March and Wagner’s Bridal Chorus.

These days, tastes have changed. You have many more options than you used to. More contemporary music choices include:
  • Pachelbel’s Canon
  • Delibes’ Flower Duet
  • Verdi’s March (from Aida)
  • Vivaldi Spring (from the Four Seasons)
  • Handel’s Hornpipe (from the Water Music Suite)
  • Beethoven’s Ode to Joy
  • Bach’s Air on the G String
Now, if you have a destination wedding, you may or may not have a procession or music. This is something you need to consider and work trough.

For us, music was very important. We hired a local violinist to play for about a half-hour before the ceremony and about 10 minutes after.