Selling Weddings: The Main Event

Proposal trips, dress shopping getaways, bachelor and bachelorette parties -- it's all led up to this. It's time to pull together a dream destination wedding.

Perhaps the most compelling advice we gathered on this topic comes from Jenna Mahoney, travel editor with Bridal Guide Magazine, who suggests clients do not get legally married abroad. Instead, Mahoney suggests tying the knot at home and then having a symbolic nuptial abroad.

“You want to enjoy yourself on this trip and getting legally married in another country can be a lot of work,” says Mahoney. “Different places have different restrictions. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, for example, you have to fill out all paperwork online, download it, and print it out; you have to be in the islands a certain amount of days before; and you have to go to the court house. And they have a strict dress code. So, I always tell people to get legally married at home and then have a symbolic ceremony in an exotic destination.”

Nikki Miller, owner of Travel With Nikki, agrees.

“Many international destinations have very strict rules and requirements for legal wedding ceremonies,” says Miller. “Save yourself the headache of having to comply with another country’s rules and get married at home before or after your symbolic ceremony. No one even needs to know.”

As far as the hottest trends in destination weddings go, Mahoney says personalization is all the craze. She tells Travel Agent that many of today’s brides and grooms are shying away from tired traditions and are instead customizing their wedding to include unique, creative twists.

“Every bride wants the wedding to be personalized,” says Mahoney. “Decades ago, everyone had a champagne fountain or everybody had the tradition of throwing the garter. There were just certain customs that everyone would do. Now, it’s all personal. For example, a couple might have interactive cigar rolling at their wedding or a taco truck.”

Mahoney says one tradition that is rapidly fading is having a destination wedding and then a separate reception at home for those family and friends who couldn’t make the trip abroad. She says destination weddings have become “wedding weekends,” a four-to-five day getaway to an exotic location followed by a mini-moon, where a couple will stay a few days extra after the wedding.

“After four or five days in a beautiful Caribbean island or wherever, no one wants to then do a big party at the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars].”

But making sure no one is left out of the celebration may not be as big of an issue anymore because, Mahoney says, more people are attending destination weddings than ever before.

“What happens with these destination weddings in the Caribbean or Mexico or Hawaii, you have a group of about 65,” says Mahoney. “About 10 years ago, these were made up of about 30 people. But that has gone up. People don’t take vacations as much anymore, so a destination wedding to the Dominican Republic might be their only vacation of the year.”

But how can a bride and groom have a truly intimate, romantic experience at a luxury resort while their relatives are there?

“What you’ll see couples doing is picking a brand that has a family section and a couples section,” says Mahoney. For example, she notes that the Hyatt all-inclusive brand in Jamaica has both the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall for families and the adjacent, couples-only, Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. “The couple will have a destination wedding on the family side and a honeymoon on the couples side. They are usually going for about four or five days.” (Hyatt Ziva Cancun, which recently opened Turquoize, a new adults-only resort-within-a-resort, could serve such a purpose as well.)

Selling Weddings: The Main Event

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