|“Seaglass” is one of nine Colin Cowie Wedding Collection packages offered at Hard Rock Hotels and Palace Resorts.|
The growing popularity of destination weddings is changing the optimum month for weddings to some degree. Couples can choose to tie the knot in destinations where warm, sunny climate is the norm, thereby making this a year-round market for travel agents to take advantage of.
More good news comes courtesy of the recently released TheKnot.com & WeddingChannel.com Real Weddings Study, which surveyed more than 17,500 U.S. brides married in 2012.
The study captured detailed information on wedding budgets and other key statistics related to the bridal demographic. Among the top wedding trends cited, here are a few of particular significance for travel agents.
Brides are spending more on their weddings. For the second year in a row since the economic downturn, the average wedding budget has grown. The 2012 figure of $28,427 is the highest since the pre-economic downturn year 2008. According to the study, fewer brides, only about one in four, say the economy affected their spending; only three years earlier it was one in three. The average spending per guest increased to $204, up from $196.
About one in eight are shelling out over $40,000 on nuptials, and nearly one in four say they didn’t have a budget.
Year of the guest: There’s also a definite trend toward couples providing additional entertainment for guests: one in four (27 percent) in 2012, up progressively from 2011 (22 percent), 2010 (15 percent) and 2009 (11 percent).
Honeymoon planning is less affected by economy. Amid the economic slump, increasing numbers of brides since 2009 chose to postpone their honeymoons. In 2012, 77 percent of couples took a honeymoon, the same as in 2011—the first time in four years that this figure did not decline.
Same-sex weddings: For the first time, the annual Real Weddings Study included statistics on same-sex weddings.
Interesting among the revelations are that same-sex couples have longer engagements and are older at the time of their weddings, compared to traditional couples. They’re more likely to have a casual wedding and report having fewer wedding guests. Same-sex couples spent slightly more on their overall wedding costs and more per guest.
Bear in mind that this demographic in general is an economic force to be reckoned with in the leisure travel market. At the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’s recent convention in Chicago, statistics presented by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed that the LGBT market in the United States alone is estimated at $55 billion and is growing at a rate three times faster than mainstream travel.
If you are serious about selling destination weddings to the LGBT market, one resource to consider is GayDestinationWeddings.com, affiliated with Vacation.com. Among its other attributes, it maintains “The G-List,” a gallery of hotels and resorts around the world selected not only for style, design and service, but also vetted to ensure that they go beyond gay-friendly and embrace the couples and their guests.
In the Caribbean, one supplier that has recently introduced same-sex wedding ceremonies is Occidental Hotels & Resorts. Gay and lesbian couples can tie the knot at the company’s hotels in Aruba as well as in Mexico and Costa Rica.
All couples, regardless of orientation, who book 10 deluxe category rooms for seven nights with Occidental qualify for a free basic ceremony.
Packages are customizable and include the assistance of a personal wedding coordinator. Newlyweds-to-be can also purchase more elaborate ceremonies.
More Caribbean Bliss
If you need a hook to get your couples to book a destination wedding in the islands, ask them if they have a favorite designer or planner. If they’re a fan of David’s Bridal, let them know that the St. Lucia Tourist Board and that popular special occasion authority have teamed up to promote St. Lucia as a preferred destination for honeymoons and destination weddings.
Couples also have the opportunity to win an all-inclusive honeymoon getaway to Cotton Bay Village in Saint Lucia upon registration at www.stlucianow.com from now until October 20.
If Colin Cowie is more their style, consider pitching a wedding at one of Hard Rock Hotels’ all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic or Mexico. The partnership has been a success: Hard Rock credits the Cowie connection for its hotels having surpassed previous records for destination weddings and for an encore is introducing “Harmony,” an exclusive honeymoon collection. Hard Rock Hotels is also on the aforementioned G-List.
Sandals, on the other hand, moving away from the name brand Martha Stewart Weddings, earlier this year introduced “Your Wedding. Your Style.” This destination-wedding concept allows couples to personally style and execute their dream wedding at any one of Sandals’ 14 Caribbean resorts. With an expanded color palette, wedding accessories and bespoke experiences, couples can select every aspect of their special day to create their ideal ceremony and reception.
Sandals also recently hosted a series of webinars to introduce agents to its new “ReTie the Knot” vow renewal program.