Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Meet the Expert: Lara Weiss

In this week’s Meet the Experts column, we interviewed Lara Weiss, the Managing Director of K Hotels. As a veteran in the hospitality industry, Ms. Weiss directs operations at this collection of boutique hotels around the world – many are popular with couples having destination weddings.

What trends do you see in destination weddings?

Destination weddings are small, around 40 people, and currently I am seeing a lot go to Costa Rica. Previously Mexico, Puerto Vallerta and Cabo, were the hot spots but with the negative publicity Mexico is receiving, Costa Rica’s popularity seems to be growing. Also flights to Costa Rica are at a great price point for the attendees.

How have the needs of engaged couples changed over time?

Couples seem to be older now, late 20’s early 30’s and now they don’t want a huge extravaganza, but rather close friends in a amazing location. Luxury at a value is very important.

From Greece to San Francisco and from Brazil to Bali, K Hotels has luxury, boutique properties all over the world. Which K Hotel locations are the most popular for destination weddings?

Costa Rica, we have amazing hotels in several cities all over the world but the majority of our clients are US based and for the US traveler it’s not feasible to do a wedding in Bali with the cost of flights, but Costa Rica, on the other hand, is a great value for an incredible destination. Puerto Rico is another popular destination.

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

How many guests they really want at their wedding, but making the decision to have a destination wedding you significantly cut down on your guest list. Couples should also consider, flights, hotel accommodations, distance from airport, because then the guests will have to rent a car, or hire transportation. All in all it comes down to who you really want at your wedding, and making it as easy as possible for those that do make the trip. At K Hotels we are happy to assist from the moment each guest lands in their preferred destination to the moment they leave. We work with world class concierges and have partnerships globally that allow us to offer first class service to our clients.

What is the typical size of a destination wedding at one of your properties?

About 40 is a typical wedding.

In light of the economic climate, how are couples adjusting their destination wedding plans to cope?

Destination weddings typically are less expensive for the bride and groom because the guest list is significantly smaller, however the cost falls to the attendees. In my experience, I have seen several attendees make the destination wedding the family vacation as well, to help justify the cost, and the hotels are always willing to work with the guests offering the discounted group rates pre and post.

What is the next big thing in destination weddings that you see couples doing? (spas, themed weddings, etc.)

Destination Weddings seem to take a more modest approach. Barefoot on the beach, tan suits instead of tux’s, casual meals, a more relaxed and inviting environment.

What is the single biggest piece of advice you would want to give couples prior to their destination weddings?

Think of your guest list, who do you really want to share your wedding with, and know that destination weddings will generate a lot of “no responses” to RSVP’s. Pick a destination where someone can turn it into a vacation.

What do you wish couples who contact your firm would know about working with a wedding location?

Be specific with what you want, and be willing to go out early and check out the location, I do not recommend planning wedding based on photos. Interview vendors, florists, photographers, and be sure to see examples of their work at your specific property and be open to working with the on property team, they know their hotel better than anyone and will be honest with their answers.

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