To plan the perfect destination wedding, work with a dedicated team—or bring your destination closer to home.
When it comes to your wedding, you want every detail to be perfect, from the bride’s dress to the place cards at the reception.
Many brides and grooms have an idea of what their perfect wedding should be like, so getting the details right naturally creates a lot of stress and anxiety.
And, with many couples opting for destination weddings, that stress goes up exponentially, since you’re dealing with getting married hundreds – sometimes thousands – of miles from where you live and you may not know the lay of the land or even how to make your perfect vineyard wedding, or beach wedding, come off without a hitch.
Enter Ed Cotton, chief of operations for Destination Weddings.com, a full-service wedding coordination company specializing in all facets of destination weddings.
“Every bride has a dream of what her wedding should be,” says Cotton. “And we work at making that come true.”
Cotton and his team of more than 200 specialists in the U.S. and Canada are dedicated to helping couples have the fantasy wedding they’ve always wanted. He and the rest of the Destination Weddings.com team members encourage couples to talk to them about what they envision when they think of their wedding: is it on a beach or in a mountain retreat? How many people do they want to be there? What do they want in terms of food and music?
“The truth is many people think, ‘Oh, I go online and I book a vacation, I can book a wedding online, too,’” says Cotton. “The reality is, booking a wedding isn’t the same thing.”
So Cotton encourages his clients and his employees to discuss expectations and needs in order to make sure couples get to the right destination and have the best time. He says that one of the first things you need to think about is the cost of the wedding, both the cost you are willing to pay yourself and what you think your friends and family members might be willing to pay. A couple may have a romantic image of getting married at sunset on the beach at a high-end resort in Fiji, but he cautions that your family and friends may not feel comfortable with the expense it would cost to get there.
“Somewhere, at some point, you’ll have to compromise,” he advises. “Maybe you have a wedding with a dozen of your closest friends and family at the Ritz, and you discover that’s the best decision you ever made, instead of feeling disappointed that the 300 you invited can’t come. Or, perhaps you discover in talking with your wedding professional that there is a place with similar ambiance that costs less, and you’re able to share your day with more people.”
Cotton tries to take as much anxiety as he can from the couple’s big day. He and his team stay on top of what resorts are under renovation, what’s happening with new management contracts at properties, and which places have hands-on wedding coordinators on site to work with you on issues like the menu, accommodations, photographs, etc.
He also recommends looking at all-inclusive resorts. While that might sound obvious, Cotton says it’s much more about being convenient than it is having all the costs included. Many of those resorts have staff available who are used to handling weddings and larger out-of-town parties. Having people who regularly deal with what you’re planning to do means that you can relax, knowing you’re in good hands.
Cotton says by far the biggest request he sees in destination weddings is that of the beach weddings, but he notes that weddings with cultural themes – think Indian or Chinese, for example – are also on the rise. He estimates that’s because the American-born children of Asian and Indian immigrants are looking for ways to accommodate their American ideals with the heritage of their family.
“The destination wedding isn’t just an alternative anymore,” says Cotton. “It’s now one more choice that people have as they go about looking at how and where they want to get married.”
He also notes that when couples choose to go away for a wedding, they’re looking at turning the wedding into a multiple-day event, with activities for their guests, whether it’s a day of golf for the groomsmen or a spa day for the bridesmaids, to all-out tours and excursions for guests. Those sorts of additions are reasons he recommends working with a professional destination coordinator, someone who knows the lay of the land and can ensure that arrangements are made for your guests.
The bottom line on weddings, he says, is that they ultimately be what a couple wants.
“When you find the perfect place for you, then it turns into your perfect wedding,” he says. “And that’s the best destination of all.”
INDIA COMES TO AMERICA
“There’s a Hindu tradition of decking out the bride and making her look spectacular,” says Simi Saxena, a 28-year-old CPA who married Shaleen Patel, a 29-year-old oil and gas corporate development and finance officer back in April. “And everybody participates, whether by helping to paint the bride with henna or giving her jewelry or even wearing henna themselves.”
Simi’s wedding took on both destination and cultural overtones, as she and her now husband incorporated the Hindu tradition of hospitality into a lavish affair in her parents’ backyard.
“Simi grew up in that house,” says her father Dhiren Saxena. “And it was very important to her that her wedding be there.”
“My father spent so much time making our backyard someplace where we could relax and enjoy ourselves,” says Simi. “And he worked to make it a really beautiful space, so the biggest thing I wanted for my wedding was for it to be there.”
Working with wedding coordinator Therese Cole-Hubbs, who’s handled hundreds of Indian ceremonies, Simi, Shaleen and their families turned the yard on Red Carriage Court into a happening space for both the ceremony and reception.
“In Hindu tradition, a marriage isn’t just about two people, it’s about two families coming together,” says Simi. “So it was important to Shaleen and I that our guests feel at home, that we have a wonderful party atmosphere that embraced our Hindu spirituality and our idea that everyone should have a great time.”
Simi and her mother traveled to New Delhi last year to bring back stunning outfits in reds (the traditional color for a Hindu wedding) and golds for the whole family. The result was a day of festivities that perfectly captured Simi’s idea of her perfect day.
“I was a little nervous at how it would work out,” says Dhiren.
“Everyone was super skeptical about a backyard wedding,” agrees Simi. “But my coordinator and our decorator were so fantastic and helped with so many details. It was so much more than I ever dreamed. We wanted people to dance and drink and feel like they were at a multiple-day wedding in India. And we completely succeeded.”
Therese Cole-Hubbs: 281-705-9929 http://electric-karma.com/
Beach weddings are big. From a lavish affair on the sands of Mexico to a secluded ceremony in Fiji, there’s something about the islands that’s awash with romance.
For this writer, nothing was more romantic than a little sliver of sand on Maui, tucked in between the hustle of Ka’anapali’s resorts and Kapalua’s rolling hills called Napili. With its views of two islands, golden sand beach and a feeling that you’re away from it all, Napili Bay instantly calms my stress and makes my soul feel like it just came home.
Several condominium resorts dot this crescent-shaped bay, but we love the hospitality and aloha spirit of the Napili Surf Beach Resort. Perfectly situated and reasonably priced, the one-bedroom and studio units here invite you to sit back and relax. Lush, green lawns overlook postcard-perfect vistas and the unhurried pace is restorative. Wedding packages include use of the resort, room upgrades for the bride and groom, and a discount on rooms for your guests. The helpful team at the Napili Surf will also put you in contact with Maui-based wedding coordinators to help you secure everything from photographers to someone to hold your ceremony.
On the other side of the bay lies the Napili Kai Resort, with sloping Polynesian-frame buildings, an open-air lobby with sweeping views of the bay and a restaurant where a bartender named Darlene makes a killer Kona Breeze. The resort offers several locations on its grounds for island weddings, and packages that help fulfill your dining and accommodation needs.
When my husband and I married last October, we were disappointed because our schedules didn’t allow for a Napili wedding. (We did, however, honeymoon at the Napili Surf). But when we renew our vows, that little sliver of sand with its clear, blue water, views of two islands and aloha spirit will play a starring role.
Napili Surf Beach Resort; www.napilisurf.com (wedding packages for $300)