Thursday, April 16, 2009

Meet the Expert: Donnie Brown

In this week’s Meet the Experts column, we interview Donnie Brown – wedding expert and host of the Style Network show Whose Wedding is it Anyway? Donnie has planned and executed more than 2,000 weddings, including many destination weddings.

How have the needs of engaged couples changed over time? What are they looking for now that they weren’t looking for a year ago?

A year ago people were less worried about the economy and their wedding expenses. They are definitely looking for better deals now than they were then. Everyone has had to pull back their budget due to the fact that so many people have lost money in the stock market. Therefore, good deals are at the forefront of their minds when planning their weddings. Last year it was about saving the ecology. Now it is still about green but more about leaving some green in their pocket.

What trends do you see in destination weddings for 2009-2010?

a. If you are getting married in a non-English speaking country, in order to forgo any hassles, consider getting married legally at home perhaps with a justice of the peace and then get married symbolically at your destination wedding.

b. There is a resort in Fiji that has been built totally underwater. You can actually reside at the upscale resort called Poseidon and get married 40 feet under water. There are 24 underwater suites as well as event venues.

If a couple is on the fence about having a destination wedding, why should they consider it?

Couples are opting for destination weddings these days due to the economy and their personal wedding budget and its limitations. When you do a wedding at a destination, you can generally control your guest list by virtue of realizing many of the guests that would have come to your wedding had it been local will not be able to pay for the extra related expenses incurred by traveling to a location. Many couples are alleviating the large cost by doing the wedding in the Caribbean or Mexico so that it is not so far for them, and the immediate family and closest friends will hopefully still be able to make it. If they go abroad for their nuptials, they may find that they have limited themselves to only a small handful of people.

On the show Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?, we see a lot of wedding drama and weddings are notorious for drama. What is the single biggest source of wedding drama that you see and how can couples minimize it in our destination wedding planning?

Many couples have problems making decisions about how many people to invite to their wedding. It is a real source of concern because the more people you invite, the more the wedding will cost. They are concerned about diluting their wedding funds with guests that they have never met or perhaps seen since they were very young. There are some things that cost the same whether or not you have a large guest count or a small one such as attire and entertainment. But the big ticket items such as floral/décor and food and beverage can increase greatly for every person added to the list. Another good reason for destination weddings. The one thing to note here is that you can lose a cherished family member by doing a destination wedding such as a grandparent who cannot afford or is unwilling to travel a long distance. As for the drama; I have seen more family and couple fighting over the guest count and budget than any other component of the wedding. It all boils down to the budget.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a wedding coordinator for destination weddings?

When you plan a destination wedding there are many cultural and communication difficulties depending on where you plan your event. A wedding planner who is up to speed on these issues can alleviate the problems by cutting through the difficulties and ensure a trouble-free and perfect event. You don’t always have to hire the local wedding planner to travel to the wedding site and oversee the wedding implementation. Often, if the wedding is planned for you by your coordinator, you can then rely on the wedding expert at the destination to pick up the ball after the planning is complete and carry out your wishes with perfection.

What is the most interesting and unique destination wedding you ever planned? What made it so memorable?

I very much enjoyed the wedding we did on Married Away Season one. It was in Jamaica at Half Moon Resort and that is one of my favorite places on earth. It is a lovely location with people that treat every single person on property as if they were royalty. Celebrities flock to this resort every year because of the expert staff and incredible customer service. I recommend anyone looking for a tropical wedding to look into this resort. It is situated on 450 acres of private and secure land and has spared no expense in creating the perfect vacation and wedding location site for adults or families. And being in Jamaica, it is near the US and convenient for travel.

Destination weddings tend to be a little smaller than traditional weddings. In your opinion, what is a good size to strive for in a destination wedding?

Most destination weddings that I plan have between 25 to 40 guests including the couple. However, I have planned destination weddings with up to 175 people. It has everything to do with the couple, their guests, their pocketbook and their willingness to travel to be there for the wedding.

What is the next big thing in destination weddings that you see couples doing?

I think that more couples will be doing weddings on cruise ships. The cruise lines are becoming more interested in creating packages for larger groups that make the ticket price more affordable. As well, you can actually plan your wedding on one of the destinations the ship has scheduled on its itinerary. You can have your ceremony on the beach on a remote island all created and conducted by the cruise line’s personnel. Then, you can have the reception on board the ship. It is also a wonderful way for people to be able to be together when they want and have separation from the rest of the group when they want.

As a vendor with Donnie Brown Weddings & Events, what is the single biggest piece of advice you would want to give couples prior to their destination weddings? What do you wish couples who contact you would know about working with a wedding vendor?

A wedding planner is a must. You need a planner to insure your dreams are carried out perfectly. Don’t try to do this on your own. As well, try to have a list of questions pre-prepared for every person you are hiring to implement a component of your wedding. It is critical that you know everything you need to know about every vendor and insure that nothing slips through the cracks. I once had a local vendor on an island arrange for a disc jockey to supplement the steel drum band to cut costs. The DJ showed up with a two CD changer and no music. It was fun to run around finding music to actually have something to play for dancing. The African-American couple had Michael Buble for their first dance. Probably not what they had in mind, but in the end it worked.

1 comment:

outdoor adventure said...

These days destination weddings are big. For those more adventurous couples who like a bit of adrenaline. Try a destination wedding in South Africa. Not only will you have a memorable wedding, you can also go on some great adventure tours.

Plan a safari trip for you and your wedding party, or go on a sunset boat ride. The list is endless.