Caribbean Destination Weddings
Many people who have taken part in planning a Caribbean destination wedding say it is a lot less stressful than planning a traditional wedding.
By Maeghan Killeen
In order to keep that true for planning a wedding of your own, here is some advice from real brides and wedding planners who have planned destination weddings in the Caribbean.
Choosing your location
One of the first decisions every bride and groom has to make is the location for their destination wedding. There are so many possibilities that the decision can seem overwhelming. If you're looking to avoid language barriers and expensive travel costs, the Caribbean is a popular choice.
"The Caribbean offers gorgeous beaches, fabulous resorts and perfect weather. The cost of airfare was good compared to flying to Mexico or Hawaii and it was a short flight. It was an easy choice!" said Marcie Muensterman, a bride from Indianapolis, IN.
Once you've decided to marry in the Caribbean, there are still multiple locations to choose from!
"Every island in the Caribbean has such a unique feel and each offers something different. Are you looking for exciting nightlife, lazy days on beautiful beaches or adventures hiking through National Parks?" said Janelle Scott, a wedding coordinator in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. "I always encourage brides to get an idea of the ‘feel' they are looking for, what they want their guests to remember most, and to start planning based on that idea. It helps set the mood and pace for their destination wedding."
Making the date
The next decision in wedding planning is choosing a date. Remember to keep your guests in mind when choosing the time of year to host your wedding. You need to give people as much time as possible to plan for the trip. Try to schedule at least 10 months to a year ahead of time for best pricing and availability. Of course the weather should also stay on the top of your mind.
"We got married in February, so were out of wedding season and hurricane season, leaving us with few worries for travel or our plans being altered," said Muensterman.
The summer months in the Caribbean can be very hot. So if you're planning a wedding with full tuxes and a heavy wedding dress, winter may be a better season for you.
Get someone on your side
One of the most important things you can do when planning a destination wedding is finding a planner on-site or stateside (or both) that you trust to speak for you to local merchants and make arrangements on your behalf.
"Couples that try to be their own planner, travel agent, guess or assume a particular destination is right for them will nine times out of 10 end up extremely disappointed, unhappy, frustrated and stressed out!" said Hayley Whorrall, President of Beach Bum Vacations, Inc. in Fishers, Indiana.
A wedding planner or travel agent can be a great asset. They know the area and most likely have formed business relationships with local vendors.
"Using a travel agent was the easiest part of the whole ordeal," said Missy Mead, a bride in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. "We were able to go in and tell her what we wanted and the date and time and she made it all possible with the help of the resort. If we would have had to do it on our own, I feel that it would have been a lot more stressful and taken a ton of time."
The easiest way to find a reputable planner is to take recommendations from friends or check out customer comments about businesses on sites like CaribbeanEdge.com.
Booking the perfect spot
Once you've chosen the island and time of year for the wedding, it's time to pick the venue. The Caribbean has a wide array of possibilities, from large all-inclusive resorts to small private beach home rentals.
"We wanted a good price for our guests, a kid-friendly, all-inclusive resort. Beaches Negril in Jamaica fit our style and had everything we were looking for in a resort. They had great water activities, a seven mile beach, all inclusive food and drinks all day and a multitude of activities for children," said Muensterman.
If a bustling resort doesn't sound like your ideal location and you're looking for something more quite and private, renting out your own island villa is a great option.
"Private villa rentals used to be only for the sophisticated, independent travelers, but now they are becoming more mainstream and popular," said Robert Eastman, Director of Island Hideaways. "They are warm, unique, private, and offer a very different atmosphere that can bring a family closer together."
Villas can be rented for a party of any size, from just the bride and groom up to 100-150 guests, Eastman said. However, if you plan to rent a villa, make sure you work with a neutral party who's experienced in the process and not the homeowner. That way you can be sure to get the whole story on the property, positives and negatives included, and the best price as well.
Relax and have fun!
Once the plans have been set, it's time to enjoy the experience. A destination wedding is a once in a lifetime experience, so don't worry yourself with the details, try and go with the flow.
"Be laid back. There will be times when you feel like you have no control, but just remember, it is not supposed to be like the ‘traditional' wedding at home," said Muensterman.
The guests will usually follow your lead. If you stay relaxed and calm, everyone is sure to feel the same way.
"Don't get discouraged by people who look down on destination weddings. You might get some resistance at first, but once they are there, they will wonder why they didn't agree to it in the first place!" said Rachelle Magsisi, a bride from Centerport, NY.
A Caribbean destination wedding is a unique event that your guests are sure to remember forever. But above all else, it is your day, so be sure to make it special.