Planning Destination Weddings

Happy #WeddingWednesday, Planner Friends! February has quickly come and gone, and that means that warmer weather is soon to be peaking over the horizon. As a wedding planner, often times when we think of warmer weather we think of gorgeous destination weddings in tropical places.

Today on The Bridal Society‘s blog, we have another guest post from destination wedding expert Will Medina of Destination Weddings Expert and Love Shack Vacations. If you’ve ever dreamed of dipping your toes into the destination wedding market, this blog post is for you!


Planning Destination Weddings

Here is a scenario:  You have received a new inquiry. You review the email and discover that the couple is interested in a wedding abroad. They found you on Instagram and want to hire you because they like your style. Does this sound familiar to you? This is a very common scenario in my world as a Destination Wedding Specialist.

First, let’s define the term. According to Google, a destination wedding is a wedding that takes place at least 100 miles from where the couple currently lives. Most wedding planners are willing to travel a few hundred miles to coordinate a wedding, but the moment of panic usually comes when a couple wants to hire you to travel abroad to plan their destination wedding. Let’s break this down so you feel better prepared to assist this couple and grow your business by taking on this new type of event.

Destination weddings to Mexico and the Caribbean are on the rise, and couples are looking for more personalized experiences and design instead of the rigid packages most resorts offer. The challenge for you as a planner with no experience with weddings abroad is that your most precious and powerful asset (your preferred vendor list) is out the window.

Since some resorts offer commissionable rates for booking weddings through them, it might be tempting to send all your couples to these venues without considering if they are the right fit.

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Here are five things to keep in mind when working with destination wedding couples:

1. Most of the time, your couple might not know what they really want. This is more true with weddings abroad than any other type of event. 90% of the time, after the initial consultation, a couple will end up with a completely different island—one that is better suited for their needs—than they originally had in mind.

2. Without exception, every destination couple I have worked with has been concerned about how much their guests have to spend in order to attend the wedding. No couple wants their wedding to be a financial burden for their guests, even if they have a healthy budget for the wedding itself. Prepare yourself to help your clients’ guests with their travel plans; simply sending guests a generic link to book their stay and leaving them to find their own flights and other transportation is not a five-star experience, and doing so would be a disservice to your clients.

3. Not all wedding packages are created equal. While a particular resort may have great packages for 40 guests, a different resort may be better priced for 80 guests. It is also important to consider things like food quality, as well as whether the current state of the resort matches its marketing pictures.

4. When you work with a destination wedding couple, they expect you to take care of their guests as well. Unlike planning a wedding at home, where you are primarily working with the couple, you are working with every single guest on the couple’s guest list when you plan a destination wedding. This means that planning a destination wedding will require a lot more of your time and energy than normally would be expended while planning a local wedding.

5. Watch out for budget leaks. Hidden fees—such as outside vendors, legal papers for marrying abroad, shipping, and luggage—these fees can add up quickly. Keep your eyes open and your clients informed.

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Photo Credit: Karisma Resorts

Remember that a destination wedding is not just a one-day event like your average local wedding. Most guests travel for three to five days to attend destination weddings, so every part of the experience counts.

While the end goal for the couple is to get married in the sand, and your goal may simply be to take on a new client, the initial challenges of becoming a destination wedding coordinator are real and can drain your mind and profit with expensive mistakes and the extra time it takes to handle the guests’ travel plans.

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Over the years, I have coached dozens of planners getting started in the field of destination weddings. My recommendation has always been the same: if you are looking to add this niche to your business, you must dedicate yourself to it. Affiliate yourself with a reputable travel agency and seek out continuing education. Become a certified travel agent and go on site inspections—known as ‘fam trips’—for the agency you align yourself with. Otherwise, it is in your best interest to partner with an already-established professional travel agent and let him or her guide you and your clients through the destination selections that best fit your couples’ needs, while you go shine with your amazing planning and design services.

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