Destination Wedding Tips From Top Travel Agents

 

Dunn’s River Falls
Romantic sites such as Dunn’s River Falls help make Jamaica a top favorite for destination weddings.

 

If you are serious about selling destination weddings and honeymoons, you’d better be tech savvy and prepared to work on relatively short notice. But you probably won’t have to dig too hard to find acceptable locale—just think tropical.

Jacque Miller of Active Travel offers this caveat, however: “Newlyweds do not want to honeymoon where their friends honeymooned. They want a more exotic location to top their friends.” And they’ll probably go on Twitter and Facebook to gloat about it.

“Newlyweds today are very social-media savvy,” Miller says. “To reach my clients I find myself communicating with them via e-mail more than on the phone.” The use of social media in the planning process is growing too. “Brides turn to all these different profiles for reviews and information,” says Emily Fisher of VIP Vacations. “Pinterest is probably the best tool for the bride-to-be. You can find so many different ideas [there].”

Besides their obvious romantic appeal, destination weddings have a practical application. Kristy Melse of Pose Destination Weddings + Travel finds that most brides- and grooms-to-be live away from family, “so a destination wedding is usually the most convenient way for family and friends all to meet and have a vacation together.” She also observes that most couples “tend to get engaged and contact us straightaway and usually plan to be married within one year of their engagement.”

Popular Destinations

According to 2012 Destination Weddings Study put out by The Knot, the top international destinations are the Caribbean, the favorite of 39 percent of respondents, and Mexico, at 24 percent. Hawaii, which The Knot categorizes as international, is at 20 percent. Jamaica receives more than one-third of the Caribbean’s destination weddings, while in Mexico the Riviera Maya tops the list at 32 percent.

The agents we spoke with tend to concur with these findings. “Our most popular destinations [for weddings] last year were Jamaica and Riviera Maya, Mexico,” Miller tells us. Concerning the latter, Melse is most enthusiastic: “Riviera Maya is the No. 1 wedding destination for our clients. Not only are the resorts absolutely breathtaking, but the prices are great too. The resorts also have perfected the wedding package and are used to dealing with thousands of weddings per year.”

A new option to consider in the Riviera Maya is Palladium Hotels & Resorts, which has partnered with wedding planner Karen Bussen to create packages at Palladium’s resorts there and also in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The wedding packages all include the essentials, from a marriage officiant to flowers and decorations in the couple’s chosen palate, sparkling toasts, wedding portraits and the cake. Couples can add specific decor accents such as parasols, sea glass centerpieces and more.

In addition, they may choose to include a separate themed event in conjunction with the ceremony, such as a “Forever Sand Ceremony” to blend the two families, “Sunset Wine and Cheese for Two,” private beach after-party; a bridesmaid tea party; and “Honeymoon Sunrise” champagne breakfast in bed.

Among the myriad options in Jamaica, four new weddings and vow renewal ceremonies have been created by Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts, which have a combined six properties in Jamaica and seven others in Antigua, Bahamas, St. Lucia, and Turks & Caicos. The extensive menu of WeddingMoon options range from a wedding toast and pre-wedding dinner celebrations to commemorative gifts for each member of the group. These special amenities can be arranged for wedding groups that book five rooms or more. With 10 bookings, the group also receives a pre-wedding celebration dinner.

After the ceremony, newlyweds will receive honeymoon accommodations, which include a complimentary room category upgrade and a private dinner with white-glove service.

Throughout Hawaii, Aqua Hotels offers the “No Commitments Wedding Guest Accommodations Program,” designed to make planning a Hawaiian wedding easier by eliminating contracts, minimums and hassles. Aside from standard cancellation policies, wedding parties aren’t bound to minimum room counts or contracts. Aqua will work with a wedding party of any size, and all guests can easily book through the website. In addition, Aqua provides discounted group rates with an array of complimentary and customized services and amenities.

 

Champagne Bar onboard Royal Caribbean
Enjoying a romantic moment at the Champagne Bar onboard Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas.

 

Pleasant Holidays has Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico covered—along with Costa Rica, the South Pacific and major U.S. cities—in its new Special Occasions brochure for the romance travel market, featuring travel plans for weddings, honeymoons, vow renewals, civil ceremonies and anniversaries. It includes resorts in the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, Costa Rica, Caribbean, South Pacific and major U.S. cities.

Jack E. Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays, tells Travel Agent that the brochure’s new activities page will include tours and excursions for each of the destinations.

“Travel agents have found it beneficial to pre-book activities as it allows for a more fulfilling experience, while at the same time, allows for the agent to secure reservations for the most popular activities and excursions and earn more commission,” he says.

The publication does not include pricing, which can vary greatly depending on travel time, number of days and so on. Richards says that the publication is intended to be used as a sales tool for travel agents to discuss a variety of possibilities with their clients and assist in creating the ideal romance vacation experience that is best suited for them.

However, a complimentary flyer with sample land-only pricing is available in the agent resource center on PleasantAgent.com.

Nuptials at Sea

New on the nautical front, Royal Caribbean International is offering wedding and vow renewal ceremonies through its new Royal Romance program. The Commonwealth of the Bahamas has cleared the line to conduct legal weddings aboard its ships while at sea.

Royal Caribbean ships can offer a “multi-destination” wedding and facilities that can cater to large parties or intimate gatherings. To celebrate the new program, the line is offering the Sweethearts at Sea promotion, available to be booked for cruises starting January 1, 2013. The package includes a ceremony performed by the captain, photography and more, when booking 12 or more staterooms.

The line will offer a Royal Romance team of wedding specialists to assist couples with wedding planning services, including pre-departure legal requirements, as well as onboard logistics.

Royal Romance also offers customized proposal packages. Royal Caribbean’s Honeymoon Registry allows friends and families to contribute to a couple’s honeymoon cruise.

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