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Ask the Pros: Destination Weddings

December 2nd, 2015 by Jeannine

 
Ask the Pros: Destination Weddings

This year, Vancouver was blessed with an extended summer and excellent wedding weather. That’s not the norm, though… it can get pretty crummy and a lot of couples tend to fly south for their weddings, where the sun is more reliable. But how do you decide where to go? Is it even worth it? I decided to go straight to the source and asked the fabulous ladies of Marsha Steeves Destination Weddings to get some much needed destination wedding tips. Led by Marsha Steeves, her team is comprised of very dedicated destination wedding planners who have been helping couples plan weddings, union ceremonies and vow renewals for the last 30 years. I had a chat with destination planner Caroline Belgrave and she gave loads of helpful information and advice.

Why should couples consider destination weddings? How does it help save money?

“A destination wedding saves money for the couple and anyone who would traditionally help pay for the wedding (i.e. parents), but for the wedding guests they go from paying for one of four waffle makers in the traditional wedding scenario to a full on vacation package – there is a significant monetary increase in sharing in a couple’s special day abroad. Therefore it is imperative that for couples considering a destination wedding/union or vow renewal to really look at all a destination and hotel has to offer. This is where your destination wedding specialist has invaluable knowledge to help match you with a resort that fits your budget, desire and needs – yours and your guests.

When consulting, the word ‘budget’ is subjective to each couple’s circumstances.  For one couple, looking at a maximum spend of $10,000 including flights, the wedding ceremony and honeymoon. For another couple it could be $50,000 for the exact same things. Not many destination weddings EVER reach the price tag of $50,000, especially if we looked at the average cost of a destination wedding in 2014/2015 which was under $8,800 and the average number of people attending is 40 guests. Even with white horses, fireworks, 400 guests plus AND a dream honeymoon MOST destination weddings come in less than the average at-home wedding ceremony which across the nation has an average price tag of $31,000. Normally a destination wedding – the actually wedding cost excluding travel is 1/5th the cost of a local wedding.

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All-inclusive packages are a great bargain because for one fee, you don’t have to worry about anything else within the resort. I went to a friend’s destination wedding a few years back and it was a blast. It was a great vacation, we loved spending time with friends and other wedding guests, plus the only extra things we paid for were the excursions and souvenirs. It was a great deal. It’s tough to figure out whether you should go through with a destination wedding or not because you have to think about your guests too and accept that there will be some (or most) that won’t be in the right financial place to be able to attend. If it is really important for you to go away, just keep this in mind and celebrate with those who can make it. Maybe you can just celebrate with the rest when you get back? I recommend planning your destination wedding with a professional, like those at Marsha Steeves Destination Weddings. They know the ins and outs and finicky requirements that you may not realize existed.

“We not only assist our couples to work within their budget, but also to find cost saving perks that might include free seat assignment on the flights, extra luggage or guests, priority boarding, resort credits and excursion credits. All these little costs add up but when working with your travel specialist they can be significantly reduced if not free! Who doesn’t love something free! As a group, all of the guests are going to receive exceptional pricing on their travel package, saving at least 20-30% over a traditional travel package, but if you select an all-inclusive, guests can enjoy the extra amenities stress-free  i.e. unlimited Wi-Fi (which I cannot live without), bountiful food, fitness and activities.”

Where should we fly to?

Based on their experience, they found that West Coast couples love to go to Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Hawaii to get hitched. There is a very good reason why.

“We found most of our couples not only consider the budget, but the ‘convenience’ of getting to the destination, but other important factors such as the weather, inclusions at the hotels, and the all-inclusive experience. Despite the plethora of choices around the world, the appeal of being in a tropical haven within a few short hours makes countries such as Mexico, Hawaii and the Dominican Republic ideal for a destination wedding, which checks both boxes – convenience of location and budget.”

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If that doesn’t narrow down your choices, it’s recommended that you speak to a destination wedding coordinator to help give you some focus. After all, there are 195 countries to choose from! Trained planners, like those at Marsha Steeves Destination Weddings, continuously visit properties and build relationships in order to stay on top of what’s new in the travel industry. No matter what the budget or style, they believe there is a destination just for you. I asked them what hidden gems budget couples should consider and here’s what they said…

Gran Bahia Principe Akumal beach

Eiffel Tower at Paris Hotel in Las Vegas “Mexico and the Caribbean are those go-to destinations for good reason, however, for couples who want to think outside the box seeking unique experiences, Las Vegas might be the destination that offers endless possibilities. Just think – if you can’t make it to Paris, France or Venice, Italy – in just a 2 ½ hour flight and taxi ride, you could be having great photo op’s at the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Hotel or gondolas at the Venetian for a third of the price of a destination wedding to the aforementioned countries. For an intimate, rustic and boutique-like experience in this oasis in the desert, the 5 star Cowboys Dream in Alamo, Nevada is stunning! The love story behind how this B&B came to be will make you fall in love with it. David Lusvardi of Nevada tourism recommends holding the ceremony in the beautiful hills of the Kershaw-Ryan state park and I absolutely agree! Not hidden, but an exciting new development at El Dorado Maroma with Karisma hotels & Resorts in Mexico, is the Overwater bungalows opening in December 2015. It is a quasi-like Tahiti Overwater bungalow-getaway without the Tahiti price tag or travel time! Another exotic destination but with that Mexico price tag is Bali, Indonesia. For example we have a Wedding/Honeymoon package that includes the air AND hotel plus wedding perks for the couple and guests from under $1,900 per person plus the taxes.”

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Marienplatz, Munich But what about Europe? If you’re like me, you love the romance and history of countries like France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy… and we all know that Europe is not cheap, especially with the Euro being so high. According to Marsha Steeves, a European destination wedding is twice the price of a destination wedding in Mexico or the Caribbean. The appeal is definitely there, though, particularly in Italy where more celebrities have been flocking to tie the knot. (George & Amal Clooney are one such couple). A location they recommend is Puglia in southern Italy, which offers beautiful landscapes, culture, and a foodie’s paradise. They do have some important advice if this is the route you’re taking though.

The challenge with Italy is the multiple steps, paperwork and getting said paperwork approved, ie the Nulla Osta – can’t get married without it!  The Italian and French Riviera are gorgeous, as are the coastal areas of most of the Mediterranean, with just a hop skip and a jump to a fabulously romantic honeymoon in Morocco!  However, as soon as you say ‘hot’ and ‘Europe’ in the same sentence, you are speaking of peak season for travel to those regions. From May to September, the prices go up for travel to Europe from Western Canada, and, you will see a big influx of tourists from around the world. In addition, visiting Europe after September may hold some uncertainty regarding the weather, very much like our West Coast Fall/Winter season – rain.. rain and a little bit more rain. If Italy or any of the European countries are a couple’s dream destination for their wedding, I recommend planning at least 12 months ahead to allow guests to budget for the trip if planning during peak season (May to September) and to work with a planner familiar with your chosen destination.

Sunset at Tofino

If getting on a plane is not in the cards for you, something in our backyard perhaps? They recommend Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet.

“The hotel can accommodate up to 140 guests for a wedding on the beach, the Fetch patio or, if you are having an intimate celebration of 40 people or less, consider the unique location of their wine cellar. It is a truly romantic spot for the ceremony, reception or cocktails with views of the surge channel and Pacific ocean. Guests can stay for 2-3 days for a cost of $300 per person including the cost of travel. Couples can be creative with the assistance of their wedding planner, like our on-staff specialists, to keeping costs down as well.”

Thank you so much, Caroline, for all your great advice. To find out more about Marsha, Caroline and the rest of the team, please visit their social media links below:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Photos from Shutterstock and Vancity Bride

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