Autumn is in the air, and that means many of you are busy planning destination weddings for the Spring and Summer of 2012! So we though this would be a great time to interview Jeff Copeland, destination wedding expert and owner of Simple Weddings in St Petersburg, Florida, for some tips on planning the perfect destination wedding.
1. Planning a wedding in your hometown is hard enough. Planning one from hundreds of miles away must be daunting. What are some tips for communicating with destination wedding vendors? The key here is finding someone who is responsive. Your vendors should answer the phone when you call during business hours, and return your emails within one business day. And if they aren't doing this right off the bat when you initially contact them, that's a major red flag. Beyond that, it's about finding someone you're comfortable with and who suits your style and budget. Another tip here is to minimize the number of vendors you work with. Many destination wedding planners will have packages that include your ceremony, photographer, and even the reception. That way you only have to establish that relationship with one vendor, instead of five or ten!
2. What are some of the best ways to personalize a destination wedding? Three things come to mind: the decor, the music, and the ceremony itself. The colors and style you choose should reflect your personality, as should the music. And these are great ways to put your personal stamp on a destination wedding experience. And perhaps the best way to really personalize the wedding is by adding some special touches to the ceremony itself - have a friend or family member do a reading or prayer, have your children or other family members participate in a part of the ceremony such as the unity ceremony or ring exchange, or write your own personal vows. I've even had couples write the entire ceremony - you can't get much more personalized than that! Again, your planner should be able to help with all of this, and if they shy away from letting you personalize the experience, then look for someone else.
3. In general, can you plan a destination wedding for less than a traditional wedding? Where can you save most with a destination wedding? With either type of wedding, you can spend as much or as little as your budget ans style allows. In my experience, destination weddings tend to be smaller, because not everyone who might attend your wedding back home will be able to travel to your destination wedding. A smaller guest list usually means a smaller venue and a lower catering bill, but then you do have to pay for food and lodging, so things have a way of balancing out. We can plan a destination wedding and reception on a very reasonable budget - ultimately, it just depends on what your vision is for your wedding and what your priorities are. My favorite thing about destination weddings is the "vacation" feel. Once you get away from the stresses of home and work, you tend to relax. I think as a result you kind of savor the moment and end up enjoying the experience more.
4. What is your single best piece of advice for destination wedding brides and grooms? It's kind of two-fold: 1) Choose your planner carefully. As I mentioned before, make sure they are responsive and make sure they fit your style and budget. Read their reviews on OneWed and other sites, and make sure you're comfortable with them, and 2) Once you choose a planner you trust, listen to their advice. They know the area and the vendors, and they do this all the time. Make sure they understand your vision, then let them do their job. You'll end up much happier!
5. Is the stationery timeline and etiquette different for destination weddings? If so, share the scoop. The actual etiquette is the same, but you should allow as much time and be as specific as possible so your guests can make travel arrangements. A good rule of thumb is up to a year (or as early as possible) for save-the-date cards, and at least six months for the invitations. Find additional invitation tips HERE.
6. Is a wedding planner necessary when planning a destination wedding? Yes and No. Yes because planning a destination wedding can be almost impossible to do by yourself from far away. You definitely need some guidance and some local expertise. No because you may not need a traditional "wedding planner". Some companies (like ours) specialize in destination weddings, and while we certainly do plan your wedding, we provide many of the services (like photography, officiants, decorations, music & sound, etc.) "in-house", rather than hiring outside vendors like a traditional wedding planner might. So it's kind of a mix between wedding planning and providing the services directly. The bottom line is finding someone you're comfortable with and having a clear understanding of their responsibilities.
7. Share a few favorite details, moments or personalized touches you’ve seen at destination weddings. No two of our weddings are alike, and every couple has a unique style. I've seen everything from tuxedos to shorts and flip-flops. I did a wedding once where everyone wore "Wolf Pack" t-shirts (from The Hangover movie), and another time I had a best man actually take off his clothes after the ceremony and dive in to the water! We do everything from very elegant and formal, to extremely casual, and I guess that's kind of the point - we plan the wedding of your dreams, not some pre-scripted package deal. We get to know our clients and they're like good friends by the time the wedding rolls around, and that makes all the difference in the world!
8. Since destination weddings are planned from afar, should detail-oriented brides who like to have control shy away from planning a destination wedding? Not necessarily. You can still have control of all of the important details. The key is to work with someone you trust and make sure they understand your vision and style. One thing I would recommend against is choosing a company that offers very rigid pre-planned packages. While we offer packages for pricing purposes, all of the important stuff is very much personalized.
9. How many times should I visit the venue before pulling the trigger and booking it? Once the venue is booked, how many times should I visit and check in before the wedding date arrives? Usually, once is enough. In my experience, you know as soon as you walk into a place whether "this is it". My advice is to book the venue and the date as early as possible so you can move on and start planning the fun stuff. There's nothing worse than agonizing over a decision and then finding our your date is no longer available because someone else beat you to it! That being said, many of our clients book their wedding and reception sight unseen - it's not always possible for them to take a trip months in advance of the wedding to look at venues, so we guide them through the process and point them in the right direction based on their needs and their budget. Any good planner should be able to so the same.
10. What are the top weather and nature-related things to consider when planning a destination wedding? Two things: 1) Know what the weather is like at your destination and plan accordingly. Florida is boiling hot and humid in August, and San Francisco can be freezing cold even in the middle of July. Do a little research and plan ahead, and 2) Always have a backup plan for outdoor events. We work with our clients who are having beach or outdoor weddings to reserve a suitable indoor space in case Mother Nature doesn't cooperate on the big day. You have to be flexible and roll with the punches, and a little planning goes a long way!
Simple Weddings is a two-time (2009 & 2010) "Best of OneWed" award recipient for both Wedding Photography and Wedding Planning specializing in Florida destination wedding and reception packages. Learn more on their website at http://www.simpleweddingsflorida.com!