What's the best way to save money when planning a destination wedding? For example, is it key to book a hotel during off-season?
There are 2 ways to look at this: Cheaper for the hosts or cheaper for the guests.
If you want to make it cheap for your guests, plan during the non-peak weeks. Meaning, avoid spring break (including Easter), the winter holidays (Thanksgiving thru New Years), and the summer holidays (Memorial day 4th of July, and Labor Day). These are times when a longer length of stay is required and flights cost more.
To save yourself money, plan a mid week wedding when you’ll be able to save on site fees, music, and possibly photography.
Also, choose a destination that is easily accessible for travel. Locations that can get a direct flight are big cost savings.
In Florida, if you plan your wedding in January, February, Late June, July-September, you will save oodles.
What are some of the major pitfalls that couples run into when planning a destination wedding? What are some ways to avoid them?
A big thing is travel and accommodations. There are some really fabulous places to get married, but if there’s no where for people to stay close by, you have big issues.
Also, marriage rules vary drastically. In some locations you have to reside in the area for up to 6 weeks before you can legally marry. Then with traveling anywhere outside the continental US, now you have to have a passport. That’s a new change many people don’t know yet. Yep, even the Bahamas. This can be a big hassle for your guests. So really important- find out all the rules before you decide on a location!
But the biggest issue, finding the perfect location and then finding out that it can’t accommodate the number of guests you want to have. So before you do anything at all, decide what is more important, your guest list or your dream location. To avoid all these issues, start with a destination wedding planner who can do the legwork for you and narrow down your options to places that will suite your celebration.
How important is it to scout out your location beforehand? And if you can't, what are some important questions to ask?
Very very important. I can’t stress it enough. As wonderful as the internet is for researching, websites can be extremely deceiving. What looks great on the net, does not always give the full picture. “Hmmmm, I wonder what’s behind that building? Is that a water treatment plant?”
Something that I find that really throws people off is reviews. You might come across one bad review and cross a location or venue off your list and really, that isn’t fair. There could be 250 fantastic reviews to that one bad one from a guest who came down with chicken pox the week of her friends wedding and held a grudge because she couldn’t go in the pool. Again, call and talk to a local wedding planner. It’s worth it to pay for a 1 hour consultation and get the truth before you waste $1000 traveling to a venue that would never work.
Do you recommend using a travel agent? Why or why not?
If the majority of your guests are traveling from overseas or going to be traveling out of the country, then yes. Also, if the majority of your guests are not internet savvy, or you’re planning a big wedding, take this route. However, if you are having a smaller wedding (under 50 guests) or planning in a major metropolitan city that is easily traveled to, your guests should be fine without a travel agent.
I know that planning a wedding in Italy is especially difficult. Do you have any advice for folks who'd like to get married there?
Italy. So gorgeous, so complicated. With Italy not only are you dealing with legal issues, but also complicated travel issues, and let’s not forget language barriers! Not to keep coming back to the same thing- but you would be insane not to hire professional help with planning a wedding in Italy. But you know what? Italy is totally worth the hassle.
Where are your top three picks to have a destination wedding and why?
All 3 for the same reasons. They all have amazing local sites, great food, and provide equal amounts of romance and fun.
1. Captiva Island, Florida
2. Tuscany, Italy
3. Paris, France
Where can folks go to learn more about planning a destination wedding? (Besides your website of course; Are there any good resources out there?)
I like DestinationBride.com for a website resource. Also be sure to hit chamber of commerce sites for cities you’re exploring. There are some great books out there too. Hit the travel section at Barnes & Noble, and then go to a travel agent and grab all their books on the locations you like best. You can get a really good foundation to start with from these resources. Then, go to www.wpja.com and look for photojournalists in the area you’re considering. Look at their wedding pictures to see what the weddings in the area actually look like! Also hit the local wedding planners galleries, so you can see what some of the venues look like in a real wedding. Just keep in mind that not everyone’s vision of a beautiful wedding is going to be like yours!