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!