I became engaged in December right prior the holidays. It was a very exciting time for my fiancé and I to share with our loved ones and the perfect time of the year to relax and take in festivities of the holidays as we contemplated wedding planning. My husband and I knew we wanted a destination beach wedding and envisioned the sand between our toes and the crashing waves as we said our “I do’s”. Soon after the new year we began our journey of wedding planning and selecting the perfect location for our special day. We were total amateurs at wedding planning and had no idea where to start and felt like fish out of water. It became apparent right away that destination weddings are involved and require careful planning for all the details to fall into place. Like many people, my husband and I had a limited budget to plan our wedding but wanted our day to be all we had envisioned for ourselves and our guests. We learned a lot through the experience and in the end we ended up with the wedding of our dreams thanks to some great tips and lessons learned. Destination wedding planning starts with prioritizing your budget and here are some sage nuggets and helpful financial tips.
Hire a wedding planner
This will be the best money you spend on your wedding. Search for a planner who comes highly recommended via reviews and/or through word of mouth/referral. There is a saying, “it’s now what you know, but who you know” and we found that to be paramount with our planning. The WP planner is an expert at planning weddings in your chosen location. He or she has connected to various vendors and resorts and can set up meetings and help you secure the right vendors and location at a price that fits your budget. Depending on your destination, the language and culture may be different and the wedding planner can help navigate the details so nothing is lost in translation. Many vendors would rather work with a professional who knows the ropes on planning a wedding and in some cases, you may receive a better price than if you had sought them out on your own. The planner will also help you with the contracts and deposits and keep you on a timeline to ensure you enjoy your wedding and don’t leave out any important details. In the end, you will save money by hiring a planner.
Research and ask potential venues when “low” season is for them
Many resort destinations have a 2-3 week periods in between seasons where weather is great and vacancy is high. This offers a window where you can have your wedding and save money for yourselves and your guests on travel, accommodations and wedding vendors. Resorts want to fill rooms otherwise they lose money. It’s simple supply and demand.
Hold you wedding on a weekday
Consider having your wedding on a Monday or Tuesday. You and your guests are on vacation, therefore, your wedding doesn’t necessarily need to be on a Friday or Saturday. Many vendors are already booked on Friday’s and Saturdays as those are popular days to have weddings. You will have a larger choice of vendors and dates to choose from by picking “off” days as well as you may even get a better price.
Books your flights Tuesday – Thursday
Those days offer more flexibility for flights and are less costly and can save hundreds of dollars for your guests.
Use your connections/network
It’s not what you know, but who you know. Think about your network of family and friends and determine if you have any connections that may be helpful to your wedding planning. We were fortunate as my brother-in-law had resort connections which really opened up doors. Connections for lodging, travel points, and airline deals can be very helpful in planning.
Consider using guests for some of your services (i.e. Hair dresser)
Think about guests you are inviting and see if there is an opportunity to involve them in your wedding for services that you need to hire anyway. My hairdresser and make up
artist is a dear friend of mine and was a bridesmaid in my wedding. I hired her to do my hair and make up for the wedding and she styled doing other guests as well. This helped her offset trip costs and I reaped the rewards of her great services.
Flat per/person drink fee
The alcohol is a major expense at a wedding. Since you guests are on vacation and not driving home, the drinks will be flowing. Do yourself a favor and negotiate a flat fee per person with the caterer. This allows you to plan more easily in your budget and not have any surprises with the final bill. This eliminates the need to keep track the drinks throughout the evening which could lead to mistakes in accounting and overall increase in cost to you.
Consider newer, smaller, and/or independently owned resorts
This can create a win-win. You want a special place for your wedding and they need the exposure. Likely the resorts will not booked up because they are new and trying to get the word out, and they are hungry for business and will be more eager to put together the custom wedding that you desire rather than the “Plan A, Plan B” wedding packages that other established resort may offer. Offer to allow them to video and/or take pictures for promotional reasons in exchange for receiving the video and pictures. You will still want to get your own photographer for the “not to miss wedding poses” but you are likely to get some great pictures from a completely different angle that you would not have received otherwise.
Consider resorts that allow for outside vendors
You will be about to shop vendors and customize your wedding based on your preferences and this will save you money. You can pick can choose what types of services you need and negotiate you prices.
Negotiate a hybrid inclusive and transportation package
Be kind to your guests. They are spending money for travel and accommodations and likely using valuable vacation time to attend your wedding, Work with the resort to create a package for your guests that make them feel appreciated for making that trip. This could include including breakfast and/or a resort credit with the room rate or a special gift or tickets to an excursion along with transportation to and from the airport.
Host your own pre-wedding dinner
Rather than taking guests out to restaurant, host a pre-wedding dinners in one of the guest suites or coordinate with the resort to use one of the open penthouse suites or gathering rooms. Many resorts offer chefs and bartenders for hire. You can then save on food costs by going to Costco or another supermarket and buying groceries and liquor and then hire the chef to prepare the dinner and bartender to serve the drinks for your guests. Your guests will love the private and informal atmosphere that allows them to mingle and get to know other guests ahead of the wedding and it will save you money.
Distribute luggage amongst family and friends
You will have more luggage than normal, however, if your designation is out of the country, it is generally less expensive to take it all on the plane with you rather than ship internationally. In addition, you risk the package being held up in customs when you ship internationally. Most airlines offer low cost and/or free baggage fees with airline status. Ask guests that are traveling with you to check some of your bags in their name and spread them around to save on baggage fees.
These tips will help you stretch your money further for your destination wedding and still have some left over for your honeymoon and starting your lives together.