Karisma Hotels and Resorts recently announced the appointment of Faith Wishnie to the position of director of wedding services. Wishnie has coordinated more than 1,500 weddings at Karisma since her hiring in 2004.
"At Karisma, we really understand today's wedding couple," says Wishnie. "Traditionally, the wedding couple was very young and the wedding was planned by their parents. Today's couple is older and deeply involved in the planning of their own wedding."
Wishnie notes that the modern bride and groom are service oriented—they've researched the wedding in detail on the Internet and they know what they want. "We often see people combining their honeymoon with their wedding." says Wishnie. "We also see the groom becoming involved in the planning of the wedding—in one instance, I never communicated with the bride at all; just the groom."
According to Wishnie, the growth in the number of weddings hasn't been that great. "Instead, we've seen real growth in the size of the wedding and the quality of the experience," she says. "Unlike years ago, where it was the just the couple getting married, we now have destination weddings of a hundred people or more." El Dorado Royale's "Free Sweet Wedding Package"
In her new role, Wishnie will create promotional and marketing opportunities for all five of Karisma's all-inclusive properties: Azul Blue Hotel + Spa; Azul Beach Hotel; El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort; El Dorado Seaside Suites and Hidden Beach Resort. Karisma refers to their product as "gourmet-inclusive" in a bid to set their product apart from mainstream all-inclusive resorts.
"We don't do buffets—all of our restaurants offer à la carte dining," observes Wishnie. She points to Karisma's luxe touches, such as beach and pool butlers, and romantic dinners on the beach, and notes that Karisma has a 1.8 ratio of employees to guests.
"We don't want to be a wedding factory," says Wishnie. "At our Azul Blue and Azul, which are boutique resorts, we only do one wedding a day; at El Dorado Seaside Suites we do one, maybe two; and at El Dorado Royale we do up to four weddings a day—the property is large enough."
Wishnie draws attention to a potential problem that should be on agents' radars. "There's a shortage of judges in the Riviera Maya," she notes. "We've managed to solve this by hiring our own judges, so our guests won't encounter that problem."
Wishnie has advice for travel agents: "If you haven't worked with a hotel group before, get references and check them in advance. Wishnie spent two years fine-tuning the operational aspects of Karisma's wedding product. "We've created a turnkey operation for travel agents," she says.