Celebrate 5 Tips for Selecting a Destination Wedding Venue
By Aimee Monihan of Tropical Occasions
We specialize in events all over the world. With offices in both Costa Rica and Colorado, we work with clients seeking very different weddings. With the world as your oyster, narrowing down a destination wedding venue can be challenging, albeit exciting. It’s my job as a destination wedding planner to help our clients see their vision come to life in a setting that’s perfect for them. Over the years, I’ve created a formula for getting us to the right place. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be celebrating in paradise in no time!
First, take a breath. Family and friends are likely putting on the pressure with questions about where the wedding will be had. Don’t let this experience overwhelm you. A destination wedding may inadvertently bring about anxiety when it comes to picking the perfect place. Even if you’ve narrowed down a destination, country or city, the choices within the region can still seem like a lot.
When we start to work with our clients on finding that perfect location, I start with a metaphor that tends to put couples at ease. I remind them of the great choices many were given when deciding which college to go to. When making such a big decision, people often lose site of the beauty of having a choice– life has given you this great gift of being able to go to college, afford college and have options. So, while it may seem daunting, it is a huge blessing. Just as one chooses their university of choice and all falls into place, the same will happen with their wedding. So enjoy the process, get excited about it, and remember that this is about celebrating your magical next chapter.
Second, give yourselves a quiz. We have had clients come to us and describe that they would be happy with every type of setting our globe has to offer. “I love the beach, the woods speak to me, I love the views from mountain tops, we are big wine drinkers so a vineyard would be amazing…” All from the same client! So I start with an exercise to determine the setting they can afford (a big deciding factor!) and how to lessen the big list to a smaller one. Some of this is simple and practical while other elements are more emotional. Ask yourselves the following questions:
- How far do you want your guests to travel via plane?
- Once your guests arrive, what is the longest distance for ground travel you’re willing to ask them to go?
- What price range would you want airline tickets to stay between?
- What is the temperature you are imagining? Can you handle tropical heat with humidity? Do you need AC when in the tropics?
- If outdoors how cold are you willing to go or how hot?
The answers to these questions will help you shrink the globe to a proximity within reason to you and the majority of your guests. If your answers have no limits on cost or travel time, then you may be tempted to start on the other side of the earth and explore more exotic spots like Fiji, Italy or the south of France. This can make your choices even tougher, so ask yourself this next series of questions:
What is the setting you imagine yourself in? Which of these you would want or not want to be experiencing?
- Walking barefoot on a beach
- On a cliff setting overlooking the ocean
- Amid mountain range vistas
- In a beautiful palace-like setting or ballroom
- Strolling through a vineyard with beautiful rolling hills nearby
- Surrounded by jungle and emerald green tropical flora
- In a chic upscale hotel
- Getting married in a church, preferably one with an old, historical charm
Once you can see yourself in a style of destination, look at the calendar. When do you want to get married? If you want a wedding in a tropical location, but only have the summer months to say “I do” and that location has an opposite season, the weather might not be so inviting. Look at the season in the destination you’re considering before you select a date.
Now you’re starting to shape your ideal destination and venue, factoring in the logistical limitations you or your guests may have.
Then, it’s onto cuisine.
- What type of dinner and food do you want on your wedding day?
- Are you very selective about the food you eat?
- Do you expect gourmet cuisine or prefer local street food?
Now you have a good idea of what you want and don’t want. The third step is to think of your guests. Do any of your important guests have special needs and what are they? Are wheelchair accommodations needed? Are children invited to the wedding and if so, is it kid-friendly? Keep in mind that without the people that matter most to you in attendance, a destination wedding won’t be what you dreamt it to be.
Budget comes next. One big misconception in the wedding industry is that a destination wedding cost less. So once I’ve gone through this question and answer process with our clients, we have to talk numbers. Any seasoned wedding planner, and even more so a truly experienced destination event planner, will be able to help you look at destinations from a monetary standpoint. We try to examine destinations on an average per person cost to help our clients see the big picture. So, while you may want a wedding with 80 guests, we show our clients that a wedding in St. Barth’s has an average of $1,500 per guest and that same wedding would be around $1,000 per guest in Cabo San Lucas and $500 in Costa Rica. This allows our clients to really to choose locations that they can ultimately afford.
If you want to keep costs down, consider the destination and the guest count. The only factor that helps a destination wedding cost less is typically change to fewer people go or are invited. So, having an idea of what a per person average is, is very important to how you create your guest list and keep the guest list in line with the budget you have.
By now, hopefully you have a strong sense of your size, region, weather, and style of destination wedding. Now comes the fun part.
Once the area is identified, the venue and lodging selection begins. This will also be contingent on the budget, but more so how you see your week unfolding. Do you have a big house or villa in mind where all guests come hang out or do you prefer a smaller boutique hotel for a buyout and private setting? Perhaps you want a large all-inclusive resort with other guests on property. There’s no wrong answer; what is right for you and your group is all that counts.
Once all of these factors are considered, it’s important to stick to your plan and not invite outside opinions into the conversation. If a couple welcomes ideas from friends and family, that overwhelming feeling can creep in again. As the Beatles famously said, you can’t please all the people all the time.
No matter what destination wedding venue you end up choosing, remember the absolute most important choice you can make has already been taken care of: who to marry and spend your life with. While your utopia may be hard to find, just remind yourself of that. Having found one another, whatever setting you stand in on your big day will feel magical across from the one you love!