Planning your wedding at a destination locale can be the best decision you ever make, but it requires more than just booking a plane ticket. Recent bride and Lighthouse Media Solutions social media manager Allie Herzog and Connecticut-based wedding planner Sarah True share their tips on how to plan for a destination wedding and how to keep your big day hassle-free.By Juliet Pennington
When Allie Herzog and her fiancé, Frank Fusco, started planning their destination wedding on Block Island, they knew that holding their nuptials off the mainland would add items to their to-do list. The Rhode Island couple did not take planning lightly, especially since their guests would be arriving by all means of transportation.
“We did a lot of planning beforehand, which was helpful,” says Herzog. “But there were times we found ourselves in travel agent mode, coordinating planes, trains and automobiles—and boats, of course.”
For the couple, who live in Newport, it was important for them to have a wedding weekend rather than a single wedding day.
“We wanted to spend time with everyone and make sure that the two families and our friends all got to know one another, so we did things like invite most of our family members to the rehearsal dinner—rather than just the bridal party and immediate family,” Herzog says.
“A WELCOME SURPRISE”
Herzog and Fusco reserved the 21-room Atlantic Inn. While the inn did not offer the couple a group discount, they did block off the entire vicinity so that guests could stay together. And when friends and family arrived, they were given “welcome packets” that included an itinerary of weekend events as well as suggested island activities.
Wedding planner Sarah True, who is based in Westport, Conn., says that providing out-of-town guests with gift bags when they check in to their lodging is a definite “Do” when it comes to the dos and don’ts of destination weddings. “Include a letter to each guest telling them what you love about the area,” she suggests. “They’ve made an effort to come, and it will make them feel welcome. It will also get them excited about the event.”
CHOOSING THE RIGHT VENUE
“Couples are spending more time on the property than they used to and so are guests,” says Khele Sparks, general manager of Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, Vermont. “We want to make sure there are plenty of things for them to do. And we have five golf courses within a 10-mile radius that we can shuttle guests to and from.” In addition to kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding on the lake, the Inn has hiking trails and tennis courts, as well as horseback riding, clay-bird shooting, volleyball and lawn games. A Nordic Center offers snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating in winter.
It’s important, True explains, for those planning destination weddings to think about the comfort of guests in the early planning stages. Brides and grooms should think about working with hotels to get a group discount and arrange transportation.
“The couple is not responsible for transportation to and from the destination, but once guests arrive for the weekend, guests should not have to worry about getting to and from planned activities,” True says.
AVOID THE CROWDS
While getting married in Vermont in the fall or on Cape Cod in the summer may be on a couple’s wish list, True recommends avoiding peak seasons—especially over long holiday weekends—at popular destinations. “Not only will the prices be higher, but often there is a three-night minimum stay,” she says. “That might not fit into some guests’ budgets.” She also advises against having holiday destination weddings, since guests will likely have family plans and traditions that they don’t want to miss.
Sparks says that while weekends have traditionally been the most popular times for weddings at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort, more couples are choosing midweek weddings. Not only does this make for substantial cost savings, but guests will pay up to 40 percent less for their rooms, he says. It is important, he notes, to give guests plenty of notice—at least a year—so they can make necessary arrangements, like taking off time from work.
INVEST IN SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THE ROPES
Since planning a wedding by yourself can be daunting, True says it’s often worth outsourcing to a wedding planner. Having someone from the industry help couples navigate all of the details of a wedding—especially a destination wedding—provides peace of mind and usually saves time and money, since planners have relationships with vendors and can get the best pricing.
READ THE FINE PRINT – OVERSEAS AND EXTRA FEES
True advises that those planning an international wedding need to make sure they know all of the laws of the land at the destination of choice, from wedding certification specifications, to customs and practices, to potential additional fees. “And this isn’t for just those getting married in the Caribbean or internationally, but for all couples: It is incredibly important—especially when it comes to the venue and food and beverage—to read the contract and to know where additional line items can occur,” she says. “Weather is probably the biggest shift in some of those extra costs. For example, adding heaters at the last minute can elevate the price point.”
As a final suggestion for destination weddings, True advises that those traveling on airplanes be extra safe with their luggage. “I highly recommend packing your carry-on with your wedding-day essentials so that you can be sure if all else is lost, you will still have the necessities you planned [for] and invested in for your wedding day,” she says. “Things to remember: dress, veil, special undergarments, shoes and jewelry. In addition, pack a small tote with your favorite perfume and products for your face and hair.”
AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY – ENJOY!
Herzog says that while her Block Island wedding required a few extra steps of planning, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “We had so much fun and people loved it,” she says. “It’s more than a year later, and [the guests are] still talking about it!”