What’s New in Destination Weddings in the Caribbean

The Caribbean — especially Jamaica, the Bahamas, St. Lucia (pictured) and the Dominican Republic — is the most popular international destination for weddings.
The Caribbean — especially Jamaica, the Bahamas, St. Lucia (pictured) and the Dominican Republic — is the most popular international destination for weddings.

If you've been hearing wedding bells peal more often than usual, don’t be surprised. September and October have eclipsed June as the most popular months in which to get married — witnessing a combined 32 percent of all U.S. weddings.

This is just one statistic gleaned from The Knot’s latest Real Weddings Study, released in April, that you should bear in mind as you court clients who may be interested in booking a destination wedding. According to the study, more couples these days are spending money on professional services to help them plan a perfect day, and while it doesn’t mention travel agents, it’s an indication that they may be willing to enlist your help, along with those of a wedding planner, videographer and such, especially if they are considering a place far from home for their nuptials.

Better than one in five of couples opt to have a destination wedding, according to the study, with more than three-quarters of them doing so within the continental U.S. Among those who go international, (which for the purposes of study includes Hawaii or Alaska), the Caribbean is the clear favorite at 36 percent, according to The Knot 2016 Romance Travel Study, followed by Mexico (24 percent) and Hawaii (16 percent).

The Caribbean is also the most popular honeymoon destination overall at 30 percent, more than half again the number who spend their first vacation as a married couple within the continental U.S. Among the individual islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic were cited most frequently by far.

A new statistic from the Romance Study that agent should pay heed to is that 83 percent of couples take a trip together before their wedding. The majority of these are primarily taken within the U.S., with the Caribbean again getting the healthiest slice of the international pie.

Millennial Perspectives

Not surprisingly, the average marrying age in the U.S. (about 30) puts these target clients right smack in the Millennials demographic, so we revisited what some of our recent 30Under30 alumni had to say on the subject.

“More often than not, when I receive a new honeymoon client, it is because they were overwhelmed with the Internet and needed individual expertise and personal guidance,” Ashley Lancer of Valerie Wilson Travel told us.

Likewise, Mackenzie Melfa of Accent On Travel said that, “Millennials are savvy travelers, but even the most organized person can get overwhelmed when it comes to planning a wedding and a honeymoon. It’s amazing the amount of couples I work with who say something [like], ‘We never thought in a million years we would work with a travel agent to plan a trip, but it is so worth it.’”

Lindsay Barrie of Bliss Honeymoons remarked, “Our under-30 clients are most interested in being spoiled and getting the best value. Great food, rooms with interesting features, top-notch service, and especially, complimentary honeymoon packages are all at the top of the list.”

Along those lines, Kristin Bartkus of CTA Travel pointed to romantic, adults-only, all-inclusive properties as being popular with her peers, noting that, “Millennials are just starting their careers, so they appreciate the value that the all-inclusive properties offer, with food, drinks and many activities included in their price.”

Under the heading of “best practices,” D Tours Travel’s Sarah Bush said, “We charge a flat consulting rate of $300 for everyone [else], but we waive it for honeymooners. It’s a nice gift for them during such a special time in their lives, and it’s a great way to acquire new clients who have never worked with a travel professional before.”

Justine Sjurseth, who still plies her trade at Travel Leaders in Brookings, SD, said that having good online presence was key to her success: “I’m easy to find online. If you search for a honeymoon specialist in Brookings, SD, I will almost always come up at the top of that search.” (She told us that two years ago; we Googled that information for this story and her name was indeed at the top of, and all over, the opening page.)

Real Weddings Study

Here are some more key statistics that may come in to play for agents selling destination weddings and honeymoon travel.

* Average Wedding Cost: $32,641
(excludes honeymoon)

* Most Popular Month to Get Engaged:
December (16 percent)

* Average Length of Engagement: 14.5 months

* Most Popular Month to Get Married: October (17 percent), September (15 percent).